Our blog about books, authors and reading

March Books Plus

ImageOur March Books Plus will be special because Wendy Rubin will be leading a discussion on the book so many Bloomingtonians are reading, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Not only is it our 2013 One Book One Bloomington selection but it's a dystopian novel that focuses on the treatment of women.

This novel offers so many interesting questions to discuss, what makes a theocratic society, can women really be revered when they are policed by men, and how does dividing women into hierarchies based on their domestic tasks affect society. It's basically a book about good and evil. In one passage, Margaret Atwood said, "The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you've been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil." Read more »

Your Voice in My Head

Your Voice in My Head"Can I tell you what it's like to live inside Millais' painting of Ophelia"? asks Emma Forrest in her memoir, Your Voice in My Head.  Forrest is already a published author and journalist when in her early 20s moves from London to New York.  Her professional rise as a writer coincides with her extreme struggles with self-cutting, an eating disorder, mania, a suicide attempt, and depression. 

Forrest credits a lot of her survival to psychiatrist, Dr. R.  So when Dr. R dies suddenly, and then a famous Hollywood actor dumps her via text message shortly after, Forrest is left alone to pick up the pieces of her heartbreak and loss. 

This isn't the type of memoir I usually read, but I'm glad I did.  Forrest walks well the line of artistic genius and insanity.  You care for her, even when the choices she makes are hard to understand.  Rounding out the sympathetic characters are Dr. R, and Forrest's own parents who deal the best they can from London.  Read more »

A Cornucopia of Books

ISBN: 
9780061999840

If you look back to those long summer afternoons of reading during your childhood with longing, this book is for you. Three years after losing her beautiful and talented older sister, Anne-Marie, to cancer, Nina Sankovitch decided to do something she had long dreamed of doing, making books central to her life again. Of course as the mother of three teens and one preteen - all boys - she didn't have much free time. But from Oct. 28, 2008 to the same date in 2009 Nina read and read and read some more.

In the intervening years after her sister's death, Nina had kept fiendishly busy, driving, cooking, cleaning, heading committees, and organizing literary projects--all the myriad duties of raising a family and being involved in her Connecticut community. But each day she felt guilty to be alive because her sister had died. This lovely book is both a tribute to a sister, and a memoir of their relationship. It's also a narrative about how concentrating on reading finally healed Nina, so that she was eager to go forward again.   

Nina resurrected (reupholstered) the big purple chair that one of their cats had made its own by spraying on it. Here in this regal chair for two, three, even four hours a day, Nina both lost and found herself through books.

Besides telling Anne-Marie's story, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also relates the story of her father, Anatole, who lost three aunts and uncles in a shooting during WW II. All were shot in his family's kitchen in Poland while their terrified mother lay upstairs in her sick bed. Anatole also suffered from TB after WW II and spent over two years in a sanatorium in the mountains recovering after the war. Nina compares her year of reading to those years of rest and recuperation that her father experienced there. Read more »

Dear Life: Stories

ISBN: 
9780307596888

No other author manages to squeeze so much historical detail and under-the-surface emotion into her short stories as Canadian writer, Alice Munro. Her short fiction has enthralled me for years. Although she's written a novel or two, almost her whole output - 17 published books - is in the short story form.

In Munro's stories time is never strictly chronological. Munro artfully flits between the present and the past. She never loses control. Her transitions are seamless; the reader never has to search or root around for the correct time and place. Also, important to these stories is the emotional arc.

Dear Life is her most personal collection yet. To the ten stories included, Munro has added four memoir pieces that are not fiction, although Munro said that she fictionalized certain elements of them. If you've read the author's other collections, you'll recognize the farmland and small towns near Lake Huron, marked by poverty that Munro returns to again and again. There's also the young girl or woman breaking away from her family, seeking a better life.  Sexuality often becomes a main theme and the endings are seldom happily-ever-after, but more like life, both good and bad, always complicated. Read more »

The Lifeboat

ISBN: 
9780316185905

Charlotte Rogan's debut novel The Lifeboat restores your faith in 21st century writing.  In this historical novel, two narratives intertwine: the more dramatic one being the story of the shipwreck of the Princess Alexandria during the first months of WWI on a voyage from England to America.  The second story is about Grace, a young woman whose family has suffered a financial collapse. Suddenly, needing to make her own way in the world, Grace's choices are narrow:  to become a governess or find a rich husband, Grace being resourceful and not wanted to be tied down by a job with long hours and little pay chooses the latter.

She finds her husband material in an unlikely place:  the engagement listings of a London society paper.  Henry Winter, an American financier, is handsome and rich and works for a company rapidly increasing in power and influence. Amazingly, this part of the plan works. They marry and set off for America. On the ship, as a sign of her newly altered status, Grace and Henry are invited to sit at the captain's table.

But there Grace's good luck ends. For one thing, Henry has not cabled his parents about the marriage, and seems reluctant to do so. His parents send him telegrams about his former fiancee but does she even know that she's become history to him? In the middle of the night the Empress mysteriously explodes and the new bride finds herself the last person squeezed onto a lifeboat, and without her husband. Read more »

Local Reviews

Do you have a favorite book you'd like to share with other Monroe County Public Library patrons?  Impressed by the idea of a review that you wrote showing up in the library's catalog for other patrons to find and read? If you are the kind of person who doesn't just want to read good books, but also write about good books then we've got something new for you.

It is now possible for patrons who want to write reviews of library materials to do so.  Visit the Create Local Review page and let us know what you think of your recently read book or ebook. Maybe you listened to an audiobook, a music cd or even watched a movie you'd like other patrons to know about.  Write as much or as little as you'd like, and give a rating of 1-5 stars.  Once the reviews are published, they will show up in the catalog under the record for the selected title.  The complete list of local reviews can be found together on our website as well. 

Library staff will continue to write reviews here on this blog, but now you can share your voice too.  Happy reviewing!

February Books Plus

Silver Sparrow"My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist" is the shocking opening line of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. This memorable novel is set in Atlanta in the mid-80s and unwraps the themes of family, love and loyalty often with some painful results.  Two half-sisters are caught in the middle of the two families, one secret and one public. 

Books Plus has been on a mini-break over the holidays, but the first book discussion of the year will take place next Sunday. Please join us on February 3rd to discuss this raw and memorable novel.

 

Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.

No registration necessary. Drop in.

2 p.m., First Sundays Read more »

The Last Runaway

ISBN: 
9780525952992

In The Last Runaway (as in all Tracy Chevalier's historical novels), you feel as though you are living exactly in the time period that she is describing. Her combination of research, realistic dialogue, characters true to the day, plus her skill at capturing the myriad details of daily life make her writing very believable.  In this novel, Chevalier transports us back to 1850s Ohio to a small town at the edge of the wilderness. But first, we experience a grueling ocean voyage from Quaker Honor Bright's perspective.  

Honor Bright accompanies her sister to America where Grace plans to wed someone from their English hometown.  After Honor suffers terrible seasickness on the journey, she refuses to take the lake route to Ohio, so they proceed by train and carriage. However Grace comes down with yellow fever and dies on the trip. Not knowing what else to do, Honor continues the journey to Faithwell, Ohio.

She catches yellow fever also and stops in Wellington at a local milliner's shop. Belle Mills takes her in.  Unfortunately, she's already met Belle's brother on the journey. Donovan is a slave hunter and he has stolen the key to Honor's trunk after ransacking the carriage while searching for runaway slaves. Read more »

Travels in Siberia

Travels in SiberiaThis is exactly what I am looking for in a travel book. Frazier does an excellent job in combining extensive historical research and personal travel details and interweaves them into an immensely enjoyable book. Ignore the fact that Travels in Siberia is about 600 pages long, and travels to someplace you may never get to or wish to visit.

Frazier spent several years and several trips to various parts of Siberia, and this remains the main focus of this book.  The engaging factor is that none of these are just trips, and he allows for the Russian Far East to become part of his life, his passion.  Supplementing the daily details of the trips, including what they ate, where they camped, what they wore, and how they suffered the army of mosquitoes, is a rich history of Siberia and the overall international implications that stem from that vast region.  Read more »

2013 One Book One Bloomington Announcement!

Handmaids TaleEarlier this week, the 2013 One Book, One Bloomington Community Read title was announced on WFHB's Interchange radio program.  All of the nominated books for 2013 have been banned or challenged.

This year, the community voted for The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

In this dark vision of a future United States, the handmaid Offred is defined solely by her biological function as a child-bearer. Forbidden even to read, she tries to survive in oppressive and dangerous circumstances. The novel explores themes of power, gender conflict, the individual in society, language and  storytelling.  Have you read this dystopian classic?

Please visit www.mcpl.info/onebook for upcoming information on public book discussions and a related film festival. Or listen to the announcement and interview with MCPL director Sara Laughlin and MCCSC North High School librarian Kathy Loser on the Interchange radio broadcast on the WFHB website.


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