Friday, November 21, 2014

"The Bone Clocks" by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks is the latest novel from David Mitchell, the author who brought the world Cloud Atlas. Set up as a series of six 100 page novella sections, The Bone Clocks follows the life of a teenage runaway named Holly Sykes from her adolescence to her old age; while at the same time following the story of an ancient secret organisation twisting the laws of nature, science, and morality in order to perpetuate the ideals and hunger for eternal youth.
A foray into the realm of realistic fantasy, this latest novel by Mitchell explores the idea of conscious reincarnation and randomly chosen rebirth--what happens when a select portion of the  population is born with a genetic predisposition to be able to transfer their consciousness from the body they currently occupy to either the body of a currently alive individual (temporary, and usually with the consent of the person) or an individual who has just died (permanent, and with the understanding that they will continue to live that individual’s life from that point on).  While  Holly Sykes, the main protagonist of the story, does not possess this capability, her little brother does. This, along with the occasional capacity for psychic premonition, draws Holly straight into the center of a long standing battle between two factions of these reincarnation travelers--one faction who wishes to protect the human race and the knowledge learned from centuries of rebirth, and one who wishes to prey upon the human race in order to further their practice of  immortality.
I stumbled on this book by accident--admittingly drawn in by the cover art of the book jacket, and not having previously read Cloud Atlas--and found myself engaged in a “I only meant to read a few chapters but somehow I’m reading the whole book in one sitting” situation (a situation I’ve found myself in several times before, but usually only when Harry Potter was involved). It was the first thing that I’ve read by David Mitchell, and now I want to go read all his other novels. See if it is something you want to read, or check out David Mitchell’s other novels, at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary" by J.R.R. Tolkien


In the years following the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, his son Christopher (being named as literary executor to his father’s unfinished works) has been completing and publishing many of his fathers as-yet unpublished works. This includes The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales of Middle Earth (which Middle Earth fans would recognise as source material for some of the plot lines in the newer Hobbit movies) as well as The Tale of Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur, and most recently Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary.
In addition to writing The Lord of the Rings series (which has undoubtedly become one of the most well recognised staples of geek culture, having spawned movies, comics, cartoons, video games, and table games from just one trilogy and its prequel), John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a renowned professor of English language and literature, holding multiple positions at Oxford. It is here that he worked on translations of poetry from Old English, to later be published by his son. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary was one of these. It has been known for quite some time that Tolkien had worked on a newer translation of Beowulf, but his son held off on publishing it until May of 2014--much to the frustration of English Literature professors  professors everywhere.
Anyone familiar with Beowulf will know that there are many translations of the poem available, some of higher quality than others. Tolkien’s translation focuses on the precision of the language and the imagery brought forth by the language. This, coupled with the detailed footnotes provided by his son regarding the methods by which the translation was accomplished make this translation of the poem one of the high quality ones. In addition to the translation of the poem (and perhaps what makes the book better than other translation) is the inclusion of Tolkien’s commentary and original writings following the poem. The initial commentary that follows the poem is the source material that eventually became Tolkien’s renowned 1936 lecture Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics. In this commentary is found some of the most detailed writing regarding the nature of the translation of language and the impact on a story that mistranslation or bad translation can have.
After the commentary, there are two original writings by Tolkien; “Sellic Spell” and “The Lay of Beowulf.” The former is a fantasy piece written by Tolkien regarding the origins of Beowulf and speculates the biographical history of the hero that is only briefly alluded to in the original poem. The latter is two poems written in the style of a song in the Beowulf theme.
As a former English lit. student I was fascinated by the method which Tolkien used to translate and present the poem. Though Tolkien himself was not as satisfied with his own translation of the work, still to be able to see how he chose to focus more on the rhythm and details of the original poem, rather than on focusing on the rhyme and alliteration as many previous translations of the poem have done (which can lead to losing many details or important facets of the original story). Because Tolkien chose to focus on the rhythm and details of the original source material, there are elements in his translation that won’t be found in other translations.
As a fan of Tolkien’s Middle Earth material, it was gratifying to see glimpses the language that Tolkien would use later in his Lord of the Rings--Tolkien himself having stated that Beowulf was a significant source of inspiration for The Hobbit. Reading it felt somewhat like a treasure hunt where the treasure was the hints of foreshadowing of what Tolkien would later publish. (Remember--his lecture Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics was in 1936, while The Hobbit was published in 1937, and The Lord of the Rings between 1937 and 1949).
I was excited to read this new translation of Beowulf, as the old poem has been one of my favourite staples of English Literature. It also helps that, being exposed to the writing of Tolkien at the earliest age possible, I’m a vehement Tolkien fan. I was not disappointed. All in all, it was an interesting read, both from an educational standpoint, and from a Tolkien fan standpoint--no matter which way I approached it...

...See if you agree! Beowulf: a Translation and Commentary by J.R.R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Zombies Battle Super-Heroes in "Ex-Heroes" by Peter Clines

"Ex-Heroes: A Novel" 
by Peter Clines

With The Walking Dead returning to television this past Sunday, readers who can't seem to get enough zombies may be interested in checking out the "Ex-Heroes" series by Peter Clines. As it happens, the blurb on the front cover comes from our blog's last featured author, Ernest Cline: "I loved this pop culture-infused tale of shamed superheroes struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the ruins of Hollywood. It's The Avengers meets The Walking Dead with a large order of epic served on the side."

Read on and see if you agree with Mr. Cline...


Imagine a world very much like ours, with one major exception: some ordinary humans have suddenly found themselves in possession of extraordinary talents and abilities. Take The Mighty Dragon, for example, once an average handyman named George...who is now seemingly indestructible, super strong, and able to breathe fire. And The Dragon isn't alone, for countless have dedicated themselves to using their new "gifts" for the good of all. Cerberus, for example, is this universe's answer to Iron Man (a regular, "powerless" human who makes a difference thanks to a combination of her brain and a state of the art battle suit). 

If this sounds like every other super-hero tale you've read in the past, keep your cape on. Because neither the human race nor the newly-arrived super-humans are prepared for a sudden plague that devastates the entire planet. Billions of lives are lost, most of which have reanimated as the living dead, now called "Exes." Our civilization lies in ashes, and our only hope is for the remaining survivors (hero and human alike) to band together and fight to survive.

"Ex-Heroes" focuses on The Dragon and his associates, who have carved themselves a home base out of what remains of the City of Angels. Despite their relative successes, many questions remain. Can they really expect to survive in a world where even a bite or scratch from an Ex is enough to turn you into one of them? And what, if anything, exists in the world beyond the city gates?


As a huge fan of both zombies and super-heroes, I was very interested to hear of a book that combined the two subjects. Clines is able to combine the two separate worlds into one that works surprisingly well. "Ex-Heroes" contains plenty of action and adventure, all the while managing to perfectly capture the overwhelming sense of isolation and despair. If you've ever wondered how an epic battle between Superman, Iron Man and an army of zombies might play out, "Ex-Heroes" is here to show you. To pardon the pun, this is a book that fantasy/horror/science fiction fans can easily sink their teeth into.

And while it would be simple to fill a book with zombie gore and call it a day, Clines doesn't stop there. As fans of the genre are aware, post-apocalyptic scenarios take a mental and emotional toll on survivors in addition to the physical threats they face on a daily basis. A band of humans has enough trouble fighting for survival while managing to govern themselves. What kinds of ethical conflicts and power struggles may emerge when these humans are mixed in with a group of superheroes? 

The Marvel Comics character Spider-Man introduced many readers to the concept of "With great power comes great responsibility", and nowhere is that more apparent then when faced with the seemingly impossible task of rebuilding humanity from scratch. And, while superpowers may seem like a dream come true to many, it is also important to consider the potential drawbacks. What if your powers came at a heavy cost? What would you be willing to surrender in exchange for the power to save lives? Readers are forced to wonder how they would act in such a scenario, as unlikely as it may seem.


The Ocean City Library has a copy of "Ex-Heroes" waiting for you to pick up and explore. If you enjoy it and want to read more about The Mighty Dragon and his friends, the series continues with "Ex-Patriots", "Ex-Communication" and, most recently, "Ex-Purgatory." Pack your bags, check your supplies and enter a world where super-heroes and zombies go hand-in-rotting hand. If it's too much for you, take a break and remind yourself that this could never happen in real life.....or could it?

More information about Peter Clines may be found on the author's Facebook page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

             Fans of science fiction, video games and pop culture should add New York Times Bestseller “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline to their list of must-reads.  USA Today has referred to it as "Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.” Although this may seem to be a strange comparison, nothing could be quite so accurate.

On planet Earth in 2044, real life is pretty dismal. Most of society, including teenager Wade Watts, spends its waking hours plugged into the OASIS, an immense & fully interactive virtual world. OASIS users can be anyone and do anything that they choose. Think of the OASIS as a giant role-playing game…except the main character is you. Users can explore countless planets, purchase real estate, slay monsters and even attend school (as Wade does).

 Wade's life changes when James Halliday, the enigmatic & reclusive creator of the OASIS, dies...leaving behind an enormous fortune and a mysterious contest. Halliday can best be described as a blend of real-life magnates Steve Jobs and Howard Hughes. In "Ready Player One", Halliday spent his life obsessing over 1980's pop culture, and has promised to award his entire estate to anyone who can solve the intricate riddles and puzzles he has installed inside the OASIS. We refer to such hidden references and messages as “Easter Eggs”, so in this case the grand prize is referred to as “Halliday’s Egg.” Anyone who is going to obtain The Egg needs to have a thorough understanding of the music, movies and (most importantly) the games of that time period. 

The search for “Halliday’s Egg” launches a new breed of cyber-adventurer, called “Egg Hunters” (or “Gunters”, for short.) Armed with his collection of "ancient" television programs, movies and albums, Wade is ready to meet this challenge head-on. But what happens when he encounters others who will stop at nothing in order to claim Halliday's legacy for themselves? Danger, excitement and possibly love await Wade...but he may need to reexamine his notion of reality in order to achieve his goals.

                You may already be familiar with author Ernest Cline if you have seen the 2009 comedy, Fanboys. Cline penned the screenplay, which centers on a group of obsessed Star Wars fans who conspire to infiltrate George Lucas’ “Skywalker Ranch” and obtain a copy of Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace before it is released to the public. Cline also wrote a fan screenplay for an imaginary sequel to the 1984 cult classic, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. In his spare time, Cline purchased & drives a DeLorean (think of Back to the Future) and recently held a contest in which the winner also received a DeLorean of their very own.

                Recently, Warner Brothers purchased the film rights to “Ready Player One”, so fans have that to look forward to on the horizon. In the meantime, the Ocean City Free Public Library has copies of the book and audio book (which is narrated by nerd extraordinaire, Wil Wheaton).  If you're ready to embark on a epic adventure, stop by and check out a copy!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New Book Profiles Women Runners Over 50, Including Locals

A book released this year by Carol Hansen Montgomery titled Tapping The Fountain of Youth: Profiles of Women Runners Over 50 includes women from Cape May County, Ocean City, Hamilton, and Philadelphia.

The book features photos, anecdotes, statistics and accomplishments of women runners from age 50 to 80 plus.

Susan Reich of Ocean City, NJ is one of the women profiled in the book. Starting at age 22 and still running at age 52, she's a 30 year veteran who, according to the book, was the recent overall female winner of Ocean City's half marathon. She started training after joining the Brigantine Beach Patrol.

Montgomery quotes Reich as saying, "As long as I'm having fun and staying healthy I'll keep running. I missed all aspects of this summer when I was injured. I'm addicted. I think part of the reason I keep improving is that I did not start running seriously until later in life. I had much room for improvement."

Other locals profiled in the book include Carole O. Donohue of Cape May Court House, NJ, age 51, who runs 40 to 60 miles a week while training for a marathon, Suzanne Gibson, age 60, of Egg Harbor Township, NJ whose best race was the Philadelphia Marathon at age 52, Sue Baker of Ocean City, NJ, who at age 65 runs 12 to 15 miles per week, Carole L. Lelli of Ocean City, NJ, who at age 68 runs 20 to 25 miles per week and who completed her best race at age 48 in the New York City Marathon, and Rita Alles of Hamilton, NJ, who at age 74 runs 10 to 12 miles per week and does spinning two days per week.

All of the women profiled in this book are sure to provide some inspiration to not only runners, but anyone looking to dedicate themselves to any pursuit. Their accomplishments and their lasting health show the personal benefits that are possible from consistent dedication.

Tapping the Fountain of Youth: Profiles of Women Runners Over 50 is in our collection at the Ocean City Public Library. The 196-page book was published in August of 2012.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

On James Joyce's 'Ulysses' and Banned Books Week

I finished James Joyce's Ulysses last night, after months of reading (breaks for other books included). After putting it down, I opened my laptop and realized I'd just finished one of the most famous banned books of the 20th century during Banned Books week. It was a coincidence, but it still prompted me to do some research about the history of the book.

Ulysses was published in 1922, but it wasn't until 1933 that U.S. courts lifted a ban on the book, according to an archived article from the December 7, 1933 edition of The New York Times. The article states that the book was banned by customs censors, "on the ground that it might cause American readers to harbor 'impure and lustful thoughts.'"

By today's standards, although there are some memorably racy scenes in Ulysses, the book is relatively tame compared to contemporary pop culture—an average episode of Law and Order or Dexter includes more graphic violence and sexual content (in HD, of course) than any scene from Joyce's work.

The New York Times article summarizes Federal Judge John M. Woolsey's decision to lift the ban, quoting him as saying, "If one does not wish to associate with folks as Joyce describes, that is one's own choice."

Interestingly, this article was written two days after the repeal of Prohibition, another ruling that champions individual liberty.

The banning of Ulysses, like Prohibition's ban on alcohol, did not stop many Americans from procuring and partaking in the work. The James Joyce Centre describes not only the confiscation of the book upon its publication, but also adds that some Americans simply bought copies while in Paris, then smuggled them home. Also similar to Prohibition, the James Joyce Centre argues that the ban itself "piqued people's interest in the book, creating still more demand for 'illicit' copies of the book."

Despite its initial banning, the legacy of Ulysses in America is one of reverence. Random House's Modern Library lists it as the best novel of all time, and critics have argued over its merits for decades. 

And, of course, it's on our shelves here at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Biography About David Foster Wallace Sheds Light on Author's Life

For fans of author David Foster Wallace, his death in 2008 came as a surprise. Knowing that he isn't around to create characters like Hal, Mario and Avril Incandenza, Don Gately, and Joelle Van Dyne and knowing that he will never pen another novel makes The New Yorker writer D.T. Max's biography of Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, all the more valuable, as it may one of the last glimpses we have into Wallace's brilliant mind.

In the book, Max provides exhaustively detailed accounts of Wallace's precocious childhood, his desire to please his grammar instructor mother, his struggles with mental health, alcohol and drugs, his successes in his time as a student in high school and at Amherst, and his struggles as a writer.

The biography depicts Wallace as a man who was prodigious, which led to an early over confidence, but which as he aged and struggled through rehabilitation programs changed to what seemed a genuine humility. He began to change his views about literature, shedding some of the rebellious style exhibited in his first novel, The Broom of the System, which was written as his senior thesis as an undergraduate and published when he was 23.

His humanity, sense of humor, compassion, and ultimate humility is most prevalent in his final two novels, Infinite Jest (his magnum opus, regarded by many as a masterpiece of contemporary literature) and The Pale King (his posthumous publication, unfinished when he died and pieced together from the manuscript pages and notes he left behind). In both of these works, there is an underlying spirit and sense of morality that is not present in The Broom of The System or in his first short story collection, Girl With Curious Hair.

Wallace's progression as both a writer and man is exhibited in Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, offering glimpses into what changed him, how he changed the literary world, and how he was viewed by contemporaries, by his students, and, most tragically, by himself. In 2008, at the age of 46, Wallace hanged himself in his California home.

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story was released on Aug. 30, 2012 and, drawing from interviews with family, friends, students, colleagues and acquaintances as well as from Wallace's papers, which are housed at the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas, it provides perhaps the most extensive account of Wallace's life to date.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Junot Diaz, NJ Writer, Receives 'Genius Grant'

It was announced yesterday that New Jersey's Junot Diaz has been awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant." Diaz, who was born in the Dominican Republic but raised in New Jersey, is a Rutgers University graduate and a Pulitzer Prize winning author. In 2007, his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, won him the award.

The MacArthur grant is a $500,000 award.

I have read two of Diaz's books. The first, Drown, is a collection of short stories that was released in 1996. The second, Oscar Wao, was his first novel. His newest book, This is How You Lose Her, was released in September of this year and is another collection of short stories (it has so far received much critical acclaim as well as a place on The New York Times bestseller list).

In Drown one can engage with many of the same characters from his later works, including the narrator of Oscar Wao, Yunior, a character that recurs throughout Diaz's works. His style in Drown is similar to that of Oscar Wao, including a mixture of Spanish and English as well as slang, but, not surprisingly, his earliest work is not as polished or mature as Oscar Wao, which was released more than a decade after his first collection.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao tells the life story of Oscar Wao, a nerdy, overweight Dominican boy who grows up in New Jersey and (not surprisingly) attends Rutgers University. Wao is a science fiction writer, and while in college shares a dorm room with Yunior, who is in love with Wao's sister and who has never had a hard time with women (this is exhibited throughout Oscar Wao and Drown).

What Wao wants more than anything, though, is to fall in love, and Yunior decides to help him lose weight and work on his skill at talking to girls.

Most of Diaz's stories center on some romantic or sexual theme. His work is, for the most part, an exploration of the many forms of love and the many forms of longing he sees in the world. Because of the varied nature of the subject he explores, the writing can at times be gritty, magical, epic, or humorous. Most of all, his books are simultaneously smart yet engaging and emotionally charged.

Oscar Wao includes chapters from the perspectives of Wao's mother and sister, both of whom have their own romantic and familial struggles, which are exhibited throughout the book. Wao, like many of the characters in Drown, grew up without a father in his Paterson, New Jersey household. The story takes us from male to female perspective, from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey and back, and through time from the present day to the reign of Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo early in the 20th century. All of this is sewn together seamlessly through the superior storytelling skills of Diaz.

Here at the Ocean City Public Library, we currently hold copies of all three of Diaz's books. For more information, call the reference desk at (609)399-2434.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

My synopsis: In this novel, we watch as characters evolve (some may argue they devolve) independent of physical location but in direct relation to their quest for the meaning of life during a certain time period. In The Moviegoer, the main character, Binx, appears to live a life driven by money, lust and a constant running from past memories. While Binx searches out truth, amidst the shadows of modern everydayness, he finds solace in his moviegoing. A book most anyone can relate to ~ Who doesn’t sit down to a movie at one time or another to escape?

A local book club member noted how she felt about this book, “I didn’t feel like I was invited into the book.” Well blog readers, please consider yourself invited in and my guest.

At first, I read this novel and found it rather sad. Then, I explored the hundreds of resources at OCFPL. From the comfort of your home, I suggest you utilize the online resources @ I guarantee you will find information that makes you feel welcomed within the pages of this and other novels. With such resources one will uncover opinions, truths and/or hidden intentions of the novel. Article by article, I gained appreciation for the author and his writing. This leads to my database of the month:

Lacy, Robert. "The Moviegoer," Fifty Years After." Southern Review 47.1 (2011): 49-54. Literary Reference Center. Web. 9 Feb. 2012.

Osborne, V. (2009). The Most Ordinary Life Imaginable": Cold War Culture in Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer. Southern Literary Journal, 41(2), 106-125.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Aleph by Paulo Coelho

The Aleph
Super Quick Synopsis ~ An author goes on a spiritual journey traveling via the Trans-Siberian Railway with his following (admirers, devotees &/or employees). While life paths intertwine meaning is attempted to be found in each experience (often only by the reader;). Travel, loss, spiritual growth, past lives, kindness, forgiveness, rituals, religion are all subjects visited.

But “Whats it all about Alphie?” well you’ll just have to read the book!

Mining for pearls in a sea of databases....
I often find if you do some research, into any subject, you find a gem. This gem inspires you to appreciate the author and his writing. I found many pearls on my journey to find endearing qualities about this book.

My favorite Ocean City Free Public Library mining database this month is Films on Demand, AVOD. AVOD provides Streaming technology allows you to access high quality video content via the Internet.

AVOD offers two video on Coelho:

The One and the Many: Pilgrims in a World of Faith (53:00)
Whether for pardon, healing, inspiration, or enlightenment, a pilgrimage can be a journey through the kingdom of spirit. In this program, Paul Coelho, author of The Pilgrimage; His Holiness the Dalai Lama; the director of the Tiberias Center for Kabbalah and Healing; and others reflect on the history and significance of major pilgrimage destinations, including Santiago de Compostela, Mecca, Bodh Gaya, the Jordan and Ganges Rivers, the tombs of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai and Kôbô Daishi, and Chamundi Hill. (53 minutes)”

Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist of Words (48:00)
With sales of more than 32 million books in 51 languages, Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho is one of the most widely read authors in the world. This program captures Coelho’s story through conversations with the award-winning writer and those who know and admire him. Coelho’s use of a symbolic language, designed to transcend the intellect to speak directly to the heart, is discussed along with colorful incidents spanning his life, from his youthful involvement with the hippie movement to his emergence as a world-class author. In addition, The Alchemist, a number one bestseller in 29 countries, and some of his more recent writings are examined. (48 minutes)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was an ordinary mother of five living in Baltimore in the 1950s. She grew up in poverty on a tobacco farm of Virginia and she died after an extremely destructive bout of cervical cancer at the age of 30. During the course of her treatment, a sample of her cancerous tissue was taken without her knowledge or consent by scientists. What happened next couldn’t have been predicted by anyone – Henrietta’s cells contained the ability to survive in the lab indefinitely. Known as HeLa cells, their almost magical properties allowed scientists to discover vast new ways to treat all types of illnesses, including polio.

Despite all the triumphs in the labs, the Lacks family continued to live in poverty with no knowledge about Henrietta’s cells. It was only decades later that they were able to fully comprehend just how important their mother was to modern science. You can imagine how upset and proud they were.

Rebecca Skloot spent a decade uncovering and researching this story. Her research really shows. But don’t be afraid of the science jargon– Skloot takes special care to break down even the most advanced science issues and procedures into easy to understand language. You’ll be fascinated by what scientists have been able to accomplish thanks to the HeLa cells. More importantly, you’ll be asking yourself the question – if it’ll help to scientific advancements, who really owns my body?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Lucy is just a normal 20-something, living in a small town and working as a children's librarian. Things are pretty humdrum - a potential romance here, some interactions with quirky neighbors there. The one consistently interesting part of Lucy's life is the young patron, 10 year old Ian Drake, who races to the children's area to devour any and all books that Lucy can loan him. Ian comes from a stifling household and his reading habits are closely monitored by his oppressive parents. One day, Lucy arrives early at work and finds Ian has managed to stay in the library overnight. What starts out as a trip to return Ian to his house turns into a road trip all across the Northeast. Lucy doesn't mean to kidnap Ian - it just turns out that way. As the two travel across many states, Lucy tries to figure out what in the hell she's just done (and what can she do now?!).As the trip continues, Lucy comes to grips with her actions and tries to rediscover what makes her tick.

Despite it's potentially creepy subject matter, The Borrower is actually quite a charming little story. Both Lucy and Ian are fairly fleshed out characters and readers can clearly sympathize with their decisions. Makkai throws in a ton of pop culture and literary references, such as Goodnight Moon and The Music Man. Lucy genuinely cares for Ian on a parental level (thus eliminating any references to Lolita) and just wants him to be happy. The two have such a sweet repetoire that in spite of the stupidity of their situation, you can't help but tag along with them on their adventure.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dreams of Joy by Lisa See

The major criticism of Lisa See's previous book Shanghai Girls was that it ended so abruptly. At long last, with See's new book Dreams of Joy, fans will finally see what wound up happening to sisters May and Pearl and their daughter Joy. Joy picks up immediately where Shanghai Girls left off, where Joy runs away after her father's suicide whereupon she learns that Pearl is actually her aunt and not her biological mother (May is the true mother). Joy flees the United States and returns to China in an effort to find her true biological father, an artist named Z.G. The only problem is that China is undergoing its massive communist program "The Great Leap Forward" and the country is very very different than what Joy is prepared for. Once in China, Joy finds her father and settles into life on the Green Dragon commune and struggles to regain control over her life and what she thought was her family. Meanwhile, Pearl rushes back into the country she fled 20 years ago to find and rescue her daughter. But with Mao and the communist regime in charge, living is significantly harder than expected.

Overall, a quick read. Readers will see life through both Joy and Pearl's eyes. Despite not being her biological mother, Pearl has a fierce love and devotion for her daughter that is touching. As Joy quickly realizes the error of her decision to come to China, her growth and maturation is 100% believable.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lost in Shangri-la : the epic true story of a World War II plane crash into the Stone Age by Mitchell Zuckoff

It sounds like it could be a classic Hollywood action film – a plane crashes in a dense jungle in New Guinea and the few survivors aboard must deal with a variety of life-threatening problems, the least of which includes the cannibalistic natives that are all around them. The crazy thing is that what could pass for an entertaining summer movie actually did happen and the events are recounted in Mitchell Zuckoff’s new book Lost in Shangri-La. During World War II, the United States established a military base in New Guinea. On one fateful day, a group of military men and women decide to take a sightseeing trip to an obscure part of the island, dubbed “Shangri-La.” When the plane crashes, only three members of the team manage to survive – a lively WAC (Women’s Army Corps), a young lieutenant who lost his twin brother in the crash and takes command of the trio, and a sergeant with a massive head injury.

The group has no food (relying on Charms hard candy), little water, no way to contact their military base, and the knowledge that the local Dani tribe are quite violent and unpredictable. The rest of the book is about their survival and the courageous efforts that the military takes to rescue them, including dropping in a group of paratroopers and a dangerous plane rescue.

This amazing story of courage and daring feats of bravery will ultimately inspire and thrill anyone (even non-fiction fans).

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summer 2011 Book Club selections

Without further ado, here are the selections for the library's summer 2011 book club:

6/28: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand7/12: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan7/26: Composed: A Memoir by Roseanne Cash

8/9: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov8/23: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Registration will begin on 6/1. The first 25 people to register will receive free copies of the book. Space is limited, so make sure you register early by either calling 609-399-2434 ext. 5226 or email

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Having just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction this year, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan offers a little bit of everything to everyone. Egan follows the lives of several individuals who are all loosely connected to each other at various points in their lives. The book starts off examining the life of Sasha, an assistant to a flourishing music producer living in New York City. Sasha is a beautiful but dark character– she’s a long time kleptomaniac with a rough past. As the novel takes off, readers learn more about Sasha’s history (through the eyes of her uncle), as well as take a peek into the lives of her boss, Bennie Salazar, former teenage friends and boyfriends, and several other motley characters with completely unique life stories all their own. Some chapters are touching and quirky (e.g. a story told entirely through the use of PowerPoint slides), while others are solid tragedies.

While the concept for the book could be confusing to some, it doesn’t feel disjointed at all. The hardest part in reading Goon Squad is figuring out where each person fits into the world that Egan has created and at what point in time. The connecting thread that runs through all of the chapters deals with human development– how do we change as we age? How did we get to this particular point in our lives?

If you liked the movies Valentine’s Day or Magnolia (both of which feature lots of different mini-narratives within one major story), you’ll undoubtedly love A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Please look after Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

An act so simple winds up creating the most compelling story that could happen to anyone with elderly parents. Park So-nyo is on her way to meet her children in Seoul when she vanishes at the train station. As the days turn into weeks with no sign of their mother, the family copes with the anguish over their major loss. The book has 4 major chapter/perspectives- So-nyo's eldest daughter, eldest son, husband and then So-nyo herself. As the novel unwinds, readers find out more and more about the woman who has done everything in her power to keep her (ungrateful) family happy and stable. All families have their secrets, but as the primary caretaker in the house, "Mom" has the most.

Please Look after Mom was a bestseller in Korea and only recently was translated into English. Readers may be slightly turned off by the second-person narrative style (which really isn't used all that frequently in contemporary fiction), but one gets used to it fairly quickly.

I absolutely LOVED this book - the language, the changing perspectives and the plot were incredibly interesting and absorbing. I can't recommend it enough!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sing you home by Jodi Picoult

I can say one thing about Jodi Picoult - she's definitely not afraid to broach the "hot" topics of our time. This time around, Picoult covers gay marriage, embryo rights, alcoholism as well as infertility. Zoe and Max were married for several years, trying valiantly to conceive, spending thousands of dollars on IVF treatments. When they divorce, neither of them gives any thought to the 3 fertilized embryos that are frozen in storage. However, Zoe (a music therapist) eventually falls in love with Vanessa, a school guidance counselor and the two desparately want to start a family with those frozen embryos. The only problem is that also during this time, Max has become deeply religious and refuses to give away the embryos to a homosexual couple, preferring instead to give them to his older brother and sister-in-law. What follows is par-for-the-course Picoult (tense courtroom scenes and back and forth perspectives). All in all, a good read. The most interesting aspect of Sing you Home is that it comes with a music CD of songs that parallel the themes in the book. The lyrics are written by Picoult and sung by Ellen Wilber.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fault Lines by Nancy Huston

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 2008, Fault Lines takes an interesting narrative approach and follows four generations of a family counter-chronologically. Family secrets start to unravel as each generation's character is revealed. We first meet 6 year old Sol, a coddled spoiled brat of a character, as he and his family are on a trip to Germany to revisit a long-lost relative. Huston then introduces the reader to the other generations; his father Randall, grandmother Sadie, and great grandmother Erra. As each character's story unfolds, you can see how each narrative weaves into one. The last section, which centers on Erra, is the most eye-opening one and is the final piece of the novel's puzzle. I don't want to say much more because it'd be giving too much away, but suffice it to say, it's a pretty intense (and sad) read.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Blog Exclusive

You read it here first. The titles for the Winter Book Club 2011 are:

January - Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

February - Still Alice by Lisa Genova

March - Room by Emma Donoghue

April - The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

May - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Call 609-399-2434 x5226 OR email