Our blog about books, authors and reading

Anna and the French Kiss

ImageDespite being short, Etienne St. Clair not only has amazing hair and slightly crooked-cute bottom teeth, but also is a perfect combination of French maturity and American goofiness - with a British accent! Does it get any better? Anna doesn't think so. But it could get worse. St. Clair (as everyone calls him) is taken.

Anna and the French Kiss, a recent Rosie Award nominee, begins with Anna's move for her senior year in high school from Atlanta to Paris. Anna's dad thinks it would be a good experience for her to attend the School for Americans in Paris and pulls some strings to get her into this exclusive school. It is tricky at first, because the school is small and Anna is the only new student (aaaand doesn't speak any French). Despite feeling homesick for her best friend, a new romance from her old job at the movie theater, and her little brother all back in Atlanta, Anna makes friends with her neighbor in the dormitory and starts hanging out with her and St. Clair's circle of friends. Read more »

A Story of New York City When Robber Barons Were Kings

ISBN: 
9780151014477

Mark Twain christened the years between 1877 - 1900 the Gilded Age. Through business enterprises such as, railroads, oil and real estate, families were able to amass enormous personal fortunes. This book is the story of a daughter and a son of two of these wealthy New York families, the Minturns and the Stokes.

Edith Minturn and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes were childhood friends. At age 28 Isaac convinced Edith to marry him. Neither one was particularly interested in wealth and making money. She worked as a social reformer. Isaac trained as an architect but was more interested in history especially New York City history. They were products of their time and environment and when the stock market crashed in 1929, they crashed with it. Read more »

Photographing a Vanishing America

ISBN: 
9780618969029

If you've ever seen any of Edward Curtis's photos of Native Americans, you cannot forget them. Not only did Curtis capture members of various tribes with respect but their individuality and humanity stares at you from the page. He also recorded many spiritual ceremonies and active shots that give us some insight into what daily life was like for these people.

This excellent biography tells the story of the famous photographer's life, how he came from utter poverty in Wisconsin, then provided for his entire family as a young teen-ager, to a hardscrabble existence fishing and crabbing near Seattle. But in his late teens, he buys something for himself - a rare occurrence. He purchases a lens for his dad's old camera. 

Soon he manages to round up $150 - a large sum for a young man supporting an entire family in those days--and buys into a photography business in downtown Seattle. In a mere two years, he becomes the most famous photographer in the Northwest, in high demand to immortalize society and business leaders. But though the work makes him rich and feted by society, it's the Native American culture that draws him. He realizes that the country has finished expanding, that the westward migration has ended, and that the native tribes will have less and less space to call their own. Curtis understood that their way of life-- the clothing, the hunting, and especially the spiritual ceremonies--will mostly cease to exist. Read more »

While You're Waiting for David Baldacci's The Hit

ISBN: 
9781455521210

If you're getting antsy for your copy of The Hit to arrive, don't fret, we have some other titles that will entertain you with spies, assassins, and fast-moving fiction. In The Hit--second in the Will Robie series after The Innocent--the U.S. government has hired Robie to track down a fellow assassin who has gone rogue, but in the process of searching for her, he finds some information about immanent threats that would prove very deadly should they occur.

Here are a few suspenseful, plot-driven novels that might keep you biting your nails and imagining dark scenarios while you wait for Baldacci's latest page-turner:

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.  If you like reading about cryptographers, mysterious secrets, and obscure organizations, try this one. The hero goes to D.C. to give a speech where he discovers that a good friend has been abducted. Follow him as he solves complex puzzles as he searches for his friend.

Lethal by Sandra Brown. There are easier people to run from them the FBI. But when suspected murderer Lee Coburn visits Honor Gillette to find an object left behind by her late husband, Honor and Lee fight a web of corruption to find answers. This fast moving plot involves the trafficking of guns, drugs, and girls. And yes, a romance develops between Lee and Honor. Who can resist steely blue eyes? Read more »

The Oxford English Dictionary

Meaning of EverythingThe Oxford English Dictionary is the premier dictionary of the English language.  It is famous for its easy-to-understand definitions and word etymology, which strives to record the earliest known usage.  The seemingly simple verbs set, make and put vie with each other for the longest entries - over 60,000 words each to describe all of the uses and senses!

The current editor of the OED, as it is commonly known, is set to retire later this year.  John Simpson was briefly interviewed on Morning Edition on NPR yesterday.  What makes his position newsworthy is that he is only the seventh editor of the dictionary since the project's beginning in 1879 and has been working in this high profile position of the world's most famous dictionary for more than 35 years.   

In addition to some specialized copies of the Oxford dictionaries for foreign languages and picture dictionaries, MCPL owns a compact version of the Oxford English Dictionary.  The print is so tiny, you need a zoom text reading machine (which MCPL also owns!) to really read any parts of this mammoth book. Read more »

A Conversation about Art: Writing Ekphrastic Poems

ISBN: 
0802141579

We're in the closing days of National Poetry Month, and this Sunday if you'd like to compose a poem of your own, we're offering a program about writing ekphrastic poetry in partnership with The Writers Guild at Bloomington. It's at 2 p.m. this Sunday in Room 2B. Call 349-3228 to register. The word ekphrasis comes from the Greek and simply means description. The original Greek root phrazein meant to point out or explain. An added meaning was to name an inanimate thing.

Many of the Romantic poets celebrated art including John Keats in his "Ode to a Grecian Urn." The list of modern poets who have worked in the form include W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton, Muriel Rukeyser, Greg Pape, and former poet laureate, Kay Ryan, among many others.

You can write about any art form in ekphrastic poety: sculpture, paintings, ceramics, prints, and photographs. Some poets describe the work in vivid detail; others just use the art piece for a jumping off point. This is especially true when an abstract painting is the subject of the poem as in the example I've included below. Read more »

New Rosie Award Nominees announced

ImageEach year, high school students across the state of Indiana read from a list of around 20 nominees for the Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award (or the Rosie, as it's known). These books are rated by the students, who then vote through their high schools. With voting winding down for the 2012-2013 award, many people are looking forward to spending some time this summer getting to know the new nominees for the upcoming 2013-2014 award.

This new batch of nominees has something for just about everyone. Veronica Roth's Divergent is a dystopian take on Chicago in the near future, where teens are forced to choose one of five factions to spend the rest of their life in and face a deadly initiation. Romantic titles are well represented in Stephanie Perkins Anna and the French Kiss and Sarah Tregay's Love and Leftovers, a novel-in-verse. Fantasy (Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns), historical fiction (Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys and In the Shadow of the Lamp by Susanne Dunlap), and inspirational fiction (There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones) also make appearances on the list. Read more »

Shakespeare's Birthday and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Will in the WorldToday is Shakespeare's birthday and to celebrate a Goodreads contributer created a great infographic to help you select your next read.  A comedy?  A tragedy?  MCPL has works by Shakespeare, books to help you get through the plays and of course biographies.  One of the best biographies is Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World.  Shakespeare expert and Harvard historian, Greenblatt does an excellent job of integrating a basic biography with the sights, sounds and feel of Elizabethan England.  This book is dense with detail, but also entirely readable is a great choice for both self professed Shakespeare know-it-alls and newcomers alike.

Seeing as it is a classics sort of day, I thought I would also link to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  This fictional video blog chronicles the modern day Lizzie Bennet, her sisters Lydia and Jane, and her best friend Charlotte Wu as they navigate between the pressure of their parents and potential boyfriends including the new-to-the-neighborhood Bing Lee. Read more »

Our Changing Planet

ISBN: 
9780199933877

It's Earth Day. Senator Gaylord Nelson was the driving force behind the first one which occurred in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues. As I scanned the new releases in the environmental section, this book caught my eye. It was a sobering read but one that was very thought-provoking. World-renowned legal scholar, Andrew Guzman, wrote Overheated. In it, he examines the political and sociological changes from climate change that the author reports have already started to occur.  Not just flooding and mega-storms, but also droughts, food scarcity, refugees forced from their land, lack of water for agriculture, etc. In his preface, the author states that "climate change will affect nearly everyone on this planet."

The chapter topics reveal his major concerns: one on flooding shows how some island nations will disappear, and  that at least one very populated one - Bangladesh - will suffer massive flooding that will lead to migrations of millions of refugees. The chapter entitled "A Thirsty World" depicts how the melting of glaciers will affect the water supply of many people on earth, not only in India, Pakistan, Argentina, and Chile, but also in our American West. He predicts that this will impact both our food supply and the prices of commodities.

In "Climate Wars: A Shower of Sparks" he hypothesizes how the conflict in Darfur in the 1990s may have been the first war sparked by climate change. Guzman also says that more wars will be caused by a scarcity of resources. He is very concerned about the Middle East, already one of the most arid areas in the world. Read more »

If You Liked The Paris Wife, Try These

ISBN: 
9780345521309

Fowler, Therese Anne - Z: a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald 

This novel focuses on the life of Zelda: dancer, writer, and famous flapper who married Scott Fitzgerald. The Fitzgeralds were considered the couple of the twenties.  Zelda and Scott spent time in Paris in the same social circle as Hemingway and his wife where the hard-drinking and romances took a toll on both marriages. If you've read about Zelda in Scott's or her own writing, this fascinating, multi-talented person will intrigue you.

Hart, Lenore - The Raven's Bride

If you love Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem "Annabel Lee", this novel about Poe's doomed wife and first cousin, Virginia, will interest you.  The Poes married when Virginia was thirteen and E.A. was twenty-seven; her mother signed a document that she was of age. Like Hemingway, Poe was a big drinker, and Virginia had to put up with drunkenness and poverty.  Another story of a literary marriage where the wife was both muse and care-giver.

Hemingway, Ernest  - The Sun Also Rises 

This is often considered the most famous novel of the "Lost Generation", that crowd of artists, musicians, and writers who left the U.S. during the 20s to live an expat lifestyle in Paris and other cities. Jake Barnes, a jaded WWI vet, travelled from the bars of Paris to Spain for the spring bullfights. Hemingway describes the expatriate lifestyle amid the violence, camaraderie, and life and death risk for bulls and men. Read more »

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