Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Light ON "Rose Under Fire"

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

First things first, for adults who think there's no quality writing for teens, stop doing everything you are currently doing and get yourself a copy of Rose Under Fire's companion novel, Code Name Verity or better yet The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and get ready to be amazed by how great Young Adult literature can be. I absolutely loved Code Name Verity, so I could not wait to get my bookish paws on Wein's 2nd in her saga of female WWII air transport auxiliary (ATA) pilots.

Where Code Name Verity explored (among other things) the cruelty of the Gestapo in WWII, Rose Under Fire dives into the atrocities of concentration camps. It opens on American-as-apple-pie Rose generally enjoying her time serving the war effort as a transport pilot (ferrying people and planes to UK destinations, no air combat required), even though a fellow female pilot fatally crashed her plane and bombs are constantly falling on England. Her British uncle pulled some strings for her to get her spot, so you won't be surprised when he pulls strings AGAIN to have her fly him to Paris. The civilian pilots of the ATA—especially the female ones—were as a rule not allowed to fly into Europe proper, but that uncle makes it happen and that's the last we hear of Rose for a while. The letters from her friends and family follow, sharing how little is known about Rose's disappearance as she flew her plane back to England. Is Rose dead? Alive? And if she is alive, where is she? As months pass in the series of letters, no one knows anything and it is endlessly heartbreaking. All this happens within the first quarter of the book and I in no way plan to spoil the rest of it for you.

I started the story, which has one pivotal character in common with Code Name Verity, thinking to myself "Don't let [Character] lose another friend!" and considering how unfair it would be for her to have two friends fall in this horrible, bloody war. The second after I thought those thinks, I knew what was going to happen and felt silly for hoping. Because war isn't fair and it's typified by loss and Wein doesn't gloss over the atrocities that have been discussed and documented. I've read a lot of WWII fiction and I am always beyond disturbed to think that these stories, while fictionalized, are NOT exaggerations. If you like WWII fiction as much as I do, this (as well as the books I mentioned in the first paragraph!!) are must reads!

-Abby, Reference Librarian

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Tribute to our Departed Colleague

We're deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague, Romaine Kleinfeldt. For such a petite woman, she maintained a huge presence in the library, serving the MCL as both a circulation staff member and the president of our Friends of the Library group. With her love of reading, her quick wit, and her ever-present smile, she endeared herself to her coworkers and community. In honor of her status as a devoted Anglophile, we've compiled a memorial booklist that highlights titles she read (or in a few cases, watched) with voracious hunger and passion. Please immerse yourself in one of the titles below; she would have enjoyed nothing more than to inspire a love of reading in you.

From left to right, top to bottom...
1. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor.
2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.
3. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory.
4. The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir.
5. A Man for All Seasons (DVD)
6. The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool Will Somers by Margaret George.
7. Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics by Sarah Gristwood
8. The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who Made England by Dan Jones.
9. Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn.
10. Anne of the Thousand Days/Mary, Queen of Scots (DVD)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Light ON "Orange is the New Black"

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison by Piper Kerman

For anyone who has watched the Netflix original series "Orange is the New Black," this book is a must read. For anyone who's curious about how prisons help their inmates become law-abiding citizens before returning them to society, this book is an essential read. I will sheepishly admit that I watched the show and read the book because of this Buzzfeed post, but am very glad I read it, all in all.

Ten years after leaving her drug-dealing lover, Kerman finds herself indicted on federal drug charges for having one time (ONE TIME!) internationally delivered a suitcase of drug money. If the indictment had come a year later, she would have been safe and free, happily living her life with her boyfriend Larry in New York. Imagine the shock her loved ones felt when they heard that Piper, a WASPy Ivy League-college graduate, was involved with drug trafficking--frustrated, not understanding how a 10-year-old infraction could put her in prison for anywhere between 15 months or more. Ok, so she made some really terrible choices in her youth and no one is arguing that she didn't, but 15 months in a federal prison seems like a terrifying amount. Kerman rails frequently on mandatory minimum drug sentencing and as her memoir progresses, it's clear that the majority of women in the prison on similar (but more often, much more serious) drug charges do not have their involvement in drugs behind them. It's also clear that the inmates are not gaining much serious help to avoid getting tangled back into their familiar webs once they've be released. Kerman has good things to go home to (a really excellent job, a supportive Larry, a new apartment) and many of her fellow inmates have none of this, moving into homeless shelters, entertaining no job prospects, and very often having lost custody of their children. Kerman builds strong bonds with many of these women, who become part of her salvation amid acclimation to prison culture, truly terrible treatment by prison personnel, and the loss of a family member.

Kerman's memoir is ultimately about finding peace and focusing on growth while facing a dark personal conflict; it's not voyeuristic and it certainly doesn't glorify prison life. It's fortifying, really, to read about her ability to make something good come of her experience and the statistics she spreads throughout the reading are shocking. You know the end of the story without reading it--Piper is no longer in prison and has written this very successful book while leading a duly successful career in the outside world. What I admire most is that she has become an advocate for the incarcerated and continues to use her once-embarrassing experience as a platform for change. It's available throughout the catalog as an ebook, audio download, CD book, and of course in print, and it comes highly recommended!
-Abby, Reference Librarian

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nonfiction Friday -- Oktoberfest!!!!

A 16-day festival celebrating beer? Jawohl!! Count us in! Oktoberfest begins in Germany on September 21 and ends on October 2. Can't fly there and enjoy the festivities? Here are a few titles that will get you in the party mood.

From left to right...
1. Beer, Food, and Flavor: A Guide to Tasting, Pairing, and the Culture of Craft Beer by Schuyler Schultz
          Call number: FOOD 641.23 SCHULTZ
2. Bottoms Up: A Toast to Wisconsin's Historic Bars & Breweries by Jim Draeger
          Call number: 663.42 DRAEGER
3. Brewing Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Beer at Home by Joe Fisher and Dennis Fisher
          Call number: FOOD 641.873 FISHER
4. Salty Snacks: Make Your Own Chips, Crisps, Pretzels, Dips, and Other Savory Bites by Cynthia Nims
          Call number: FOOD 641.53 NIMS

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nominees All Around -- Lit Lists You'll Love

Ahh, award season—the most wonderful time of the year! We have so much to look forward to as more and more shortlists are announced, including most recently the Man Booker and National Book Award for Young People's Literature nominees. Let's dive right in to this amazing literary sea, shall we?

Man Booker Prize Shortlist 2013
* On the heels of the shortlist announcement, we discovered this really cool Book Globe that plots on a map the settings of every Man Booker winner and nominee. Makes us think that the recent announcement of opening the award to US authors could create even more diversity in the setting of this illustrious award.

From top to bottom, left to right...
1. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton // US release date: October 15, 2013
3. Harvest by Jim Crace
4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
6. The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

National Book Award Young People's Literature Longlist 2013

From to to bottom, left to right...
1. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt
2. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
3. A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
4. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
5. The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
6. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
7. Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
8. Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff
9. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
10. Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Friday, September 13, 2013

Nonfiction Friday: Hispanic Heritage Month

Though we're posting this on September 13, Hispanic Heritage month doesn't technically start until September 15. We're sure no one will mind if you start recognizing it a little early! It's a month dedicated to embracing and celebrating the heritage and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latino Americans. Between our shelves and the offerings throughout the CAFE Catalog, we're sure you'll find the material that suits you.

From top to bottom, left to right...
1. Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario. Call number: 305.23089 NAZ
2. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. Call number: 921 SOTOMAYOR S
3. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America by Helen Thorpe. Call number: 305.86872073 THORPE
4. Unbreakable: My Story, My Way by Jenni Rivera. Call number: 921 RIVERA J
5. The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider. Call number: FOOD 641.5884 SCHNEIDER
6. The Tree is Older Than You Are with poems and stories selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. Call number:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flaherty-Dunnan 2013 Short List

Awarded by the Center for Fiction, The Flaherty-Dunnan Prize recognizes the best first novel published in the previous year. Established in 2006 as the John Sargeant, Sr. First Novel Prize, it has for the past six years offered a barometer of the talented new writers beginning what we hope to be promising careers. Former winners include Marisha Pessl for Special Topics in Calamity Physics, who recently published the creepy mystery Night Film (watch for this in an upcoming Book Light!), and Benn Fountain for Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. We don't know who has won yet, but we know the "short list," which turns out to be a pretty amazing reading list of current fiction.

Click through the links to place holds on any of these exemplary titles.

1. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
2. Eleven Days: A Novel by Lea Carpenter.
3. Ghana Must Go: A Novel by Taiye Selasi.
4. The Morels by Christopher Hacker.
5. Motherlunge by Kristin Scott.
6. The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson.
7. Wash by Margaret Wrinkle.
8. Y: A Novel by Marjorie Celona.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Nonfiction Friday: Back to School

By now, many of our patrons with families have shifted their focus from the entertainment and energy of the summer to education, education, education! Whether students are going into the classroom or learning in a home environment, the library has materials to support their needs! For this week's Nonfiction Friday, we're sharing some of our homework help resources, too. Check out our list of subscription databases for great resources, many of which are accessible from home. A valid library card is necessary for home use of the databases, so stop by the library if you need one.

Keywords to search for in our catalog: Study skills; Test-taking skills; Learning strategies; Academic achievement; Home schooling; Education; School children; Home and school.

Dr. Spock's The School Years: The Emotional and Social Development of Children by Dr. Benjamin Spock.
Call number: 649.129 SPO

A classic in the field, though it shares its shelf with many esteemed volumes.

Study Smarter, Not Harder by Kevin Paul.
Call number: 371.30281 PAUL

Learn study skills that work, for yourself or for the children you care for.

Your Complete Guide to College Success by Donald J. Foss.
Call number: 378.198 FOSS

Perfect for first year students, or even those looking for a boost to their continuing study.

The Everything Homeschooling Book by Sherri Linsenbach.
Call number: 371.042 LINSENBACH

This and other homeschooling resources are waiting here for you!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Book Light ON "The Final Solution"

The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon

It was a strange, nonlinear line which brought me to read The Final Solution this month. I won't take you down the path; I'll just say I've loved other novels by Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonder Boys, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union) and saw this relatively short offering as a quick dip into the mind of this gifted, Pulitzer Prize winning author.

The focus of The Final Solution undulates around an extraordinary gray parrot—Bruno, who calls out lengthy strings of numbers in German—and his mute companion, a little Jewish refugee named Linus. The omniscient narrator's perspective shifts from chapter to chapter, detailing the unfurling events as perceived by a diverse cast: a clever octogenarian, a since-retired Sherlock-esque detective of international fame; a suspicious character living in the same boarding house as Linus and Bruno; in their own turns, the couple who owns the boarding house; an inspector called upon to solve a murder and a disappearance; even the bird himself. The swiftly swapping narration, steadied by Chabon's carefully wrought language, flows quickly through the brief story... though more than once, I found myself re-reading paragraphs that seemed overly complicated, not sure once I'd found the meaning what it applied to anymore.

If you take it at its word and consider it a story of detection, you might be disappointed. It doesn't quite fit in with the modern-day mysteries and the resolution is only kind-of satisfying. Thinking back about it again and again, I can really only come up with one clue in the whodunit. But bonus: Chabon doesn't include a lengthy monologue by the crime-solvers explaining how they came to their ultimate conclusion (their final solution), so that's something I can get behind. The story really is much more of a protracted character study than a mystery, with Chabon's elegant language and one-sentence paragraphs building humans moreso than suspense or thrills. We get to know several characters with some intimacy, but sadly we see so little of the interesting personalities populating The Final Solution that more questions are left dangling irritatingly in front of our faces than are answered.

Overall, it was a quick read filled with some really fine turns of phrase and brilliant metaphors, and an OK story of detection with a resolution I didn't expect. Even though it wasn't my favorite read ever, my opinion of Chabon's mastery hasn't changed. His particular gift for verbose prose is much better suited to a longer novel. It seemed to me that this could have been a much shorter story in the hands of a more concise writer, that Chabon had a vase for a short story and too many lovely words to fill it and didn't mind if he spilled a little so long as he could do so beautifully.

Until next time...
- Abby, Reference Librarian