Monday, February 18, 2008

Black History Month Reminder

We are midway through Black History Month (BHM) and I thought this would be the perfect time to remind you of the great BHM display in the Adult Department. Here are some of the titles you may find:

The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa

We’d also like to highlight some great Alabamians!
Baseball legend Hank Aaron
Clergyman and civil rights leader Ralph D. Abernathy
Basketball great Charles Barkley
Inventor Andrew J. Beard
Musician Nat King Cole
Civil rights leader Coretta Scott King
Track & field star Carl Lewis
Boxer Joe Louis
Baseball legend Willie Mays
Track & field star Jesse Owens
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks
Congressman John Lewis
16th Surgeon General of the United States David Satcher
“Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy
Civil rights activist Reverend Joseph Lowery
Baseball legend Satchel Paige

Visit the library to learn more about your world!
Jet. 88.n9 (Jan 9, 1995): pp38(1).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Honors For Birmingham!

A big CONGRATULATIONS goes out to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) for being awarded the 2007 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)!

The BCRI was one of 10 institutions (5 libraries and 5 museums) to receive the nation's highest award for museums and libraries making exceptional contributions to their communities. If you haven't visited the wonderful Birmingham landmark, plan your visit today!
Tues to Sat 10 am - 5 pm
Sunday 1 pm - 5 pm
Monday and Major Holidays Closed

National Book Critics Circle's Good Reads Winter List

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) has been around for 34 years and during that time has remained dedicated to honoring quality writing in the national community and developing a membership consisting of over 700 active book reviewers. The NBCC put this question to consumers, book sellers, critics, etc.: what are smart readers not just buying, but reading and recommending to their friends, roommates, coworkers and anyone they can collar? The results of that poll were put to a vote of the NBCC membership and have been refined down to the following Good Reads Winter List! The NBCC will now be releasing a Good Reads list quarterly.

1. Denis Johnson / Tree of Smoke
2. Junot Diaz / The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
3. J.M. Coetzee / Diary of a Bad Year
4. Geraldine Brooks / People of the Book
5. Steve Erickson / Zeroville

1. Alex Ross / The Rest Is Noise
2. Edwidge Danticat / Brother, I’m Dying
3. Michael Pollan / In Defense of Food
4. Oliver Sacks / Musicophilia
5. Naomi Klein / The Shock Doctrine

1. Mary Jo Bang / Elegy
2. Robert Hass / Time and Materials
3. Robert Pinsky / Gulf Music
4. Zbigniew Herbert / The Collected Poems, 1956–1998
5. Toby Barlow / Sharp Teeth

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Exciting Faith-Based Thrillers!

You may be unaware that the public libraries of Jefferson County have a Reader's Advisory Committee so that we librarians can try to stay on top of current reading trends. We meet bi-monthly and discuss books on a set schedule of topics. Annotated lists of the books discussed at our meetings can be found on the JCLC website under "Resources," then "Recommended Reading."

This month's meeting concerns the Christian/Inspirational Fiction genre and I chose an historical and a suspense which both ended up with the description of "faith-based thriller." These two books were among the best thrillers I've read in quite awhile!

Downs, Tim. Plaguemaker. Westbow Press, 2006.

The Black Plague, riding the backs of rats, swept over Europe in the 1300’s and became infamous as one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. Worldwide deaths were estimated at 75 million people….it is believed that 30-60% of the population of Europe perished during that time and the massive death toll changed the course of the development of Western civilization. Outbreaks of the plague have occurred over the years since the 14th century, but never with such deadly results. Fast forward to the present day. FBI agent Nathan Donovan is investigating what seems to be a fairly average murder case until the techs discover the fleas. Now the clues are mounting up and Nathan is in a race against time to stop the destruction of the U.S. and the world as they are threatened with the pestilence once again, only this time it is a genetically engineered, more lethal killing machine.

This was the first faith-based thriller I’ve attempted to read since Tim LaHaye began his Left Behind series nearly thirteen years ago and I must say that I personally found the difference to be refreshing. Downs knows how to write a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat and the Christianity is no where near as aggressively proselytized as it is in the Left Behind books. Donovan’s interactions with his ex-wife and his attempts to get information from the elderly Mr. Li are by turns funny and poignant without approaching cloying. This novel made me consider themes of forgiveness, selfless love and personal sacrifice while at the same time I wondered if I had enough duct tape at home to seal off the windows and doors in case of a pandemic. I think that’s a pretty tall order for one book. :-)

I’ve obviously been reading the wrong Christian/Inspirational fiction if I’ve been missing this!

Groot, Tracy. Madman: A Novel. Moody Publishers, 2006.

Tallis arrived in this little Palestinian town on the shores of Galilee looking for the Decaphiloi, League of Ten Friends, an Academy of Socrates begun by his master Callimachus several years ago. The progress reports from the school stopped arriving several weeks ago and Cal sent Tallis to find out what went wrong. Upon arriving in Hippos, Tallis discovered the school had been disbanded three years before. No one in town would talk to him; no one would profess to know anything about the once thriving Academy. Who sent the progress reports? Who collected the money Cal sent for supplies? Why did the school disband with no word to Callimachus? Of the ten teachers, he found news of only four: a murder, a suicide, a priestess in the cult of Dionysus, and one madman. The hills of Kursi and the tombs found there are home to the madman and the town is becoming increasingly frightened of the whole area. As Tallis investigates the disappearance of the school and the background of the madman, other forces are just as purposefully determined that he will not find out the truth about either one.

I found this novel hard to put down from the very beginning. The historical detail Groot includes about biblical Palestine truly evoked a real sense of time and place without seeming hokey. There were many elements of this story that I found comparable to Robert Harris’ gripping novel, Pompeii, with Madman giving you the same barren landscape, menacing hills and breathless tension. The people in the story know that something bad is going to happen and Groot made me just as nervous about it as they were. The Christianity in this book was subtle and powerful without being overwhelming. There were many scenes in the book which dealt with personal sacrifice, love of all kinds but most especially the topic dealt with in Madman seemed to be “choice”, choosing between good and evil, selfish and selfless, the high road and the low. I don’t know how these authors can walk such a thin line between powerful and paltry, but Tracy Groot has done it. She has taken the biblical story of the Gerasene demoniac and rendered it into a story that makes you think instead of one that preaches at you.

Happy Reading!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Moviefone's Top 25 Romance Films of All Time!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner and the Emmet O'Neal Library has the books and movies that will make your heart go pitter-pat! Moviefone has chosen the movies that follow as the best in the field:
  1. Casablanca
  2. Titanic
  3. Wuthering Heights
  4. An Affair To Remember
  5. Gone With the Wind
  6. The Way We Were
  7. Moonstruck
  8. Annie Hall
  9. Doctor Zhivago
  10. Ghost
  11. The Princess Bride
  12. Brokeback Mountain
  13. Harold and Maude
  14. An Officer and a Gentleman
  15. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  16. Wings of Desire
  17. Lady and the Tramp
  18. Atonement
  19. West Side Story
  20. Jerry Maguire
  21. Love Story
  22. Amelie
  23. Dark Victory
  24. The Notebook
  25. Sleepless in Seattle

Take home a movie and break out the tissue! What do you think of the list? What should be added? Taken away?

Happy Viewing!

Prepublication Buzz!

The first stirrings of excitment for Jo Graham's Black Ships (check out her LiveJournal site!)are beginning to hit the Internet!

I and about 30 other people attended a luncheon celebrating the U.S. launch of Orbit Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA, in Washington D.C. during last year's American Library Association Conference. Orbit UK is one of the largest science-fiction and fantasy imprints in Britain and we are pleased and proud that they've brought their high-quality offerings across the pond by forming Orbit USA. At the luncheon participants were gifted with a messenger bag bulging with Advance Reader Copies of their first round of publications. I was immediately struck by the beautiful cover of Black Ships and the book description sealed the deal with the mysterious Lady of the Dead, the City of Pirates, the Egyptian court, and the haunted caves beneath Mt. Vesuvius.

This re-telling of Virgil's Aeneid brought to mind the other epic adventures and grand war stories of my reading history like the Iliad, the Odyssey, Beowulf and the like, only told from a bit more of a feminine perspective. But guys, don't let the presence of a female narrator scare you off because Gull is no wilting violet, but the future Pythia, Lady of the Dead and even kings must heed what she says or the consequences could be dire.

This book is due out in March 2008 and will be debuting in paperback so ask for it by name! We have it on order (and I have my own personal copy pre-ordered at Amazon!) so feel free to let us know if you'd like to checkout a copy. It is not in the JCLC's online catalog yet so you'll have to do it the old fashioned way and call or email us! If you'd like more information about Jo Graham's Black Ships, try the LibraryThing Advance Reader Reviews or Amazon!

You are also welcome to ask me about the book; I'd love to talk about it!

445-1121 or

Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A Heartbreaking Nomadic Childhood

I've just finished one of the best books I've read in a long time and again, it's nonfiction. I'm really going to have to quit saying that I don't read this genre :)

I finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls in one day and WOW! What a story! I started this book at 10am on a Saturday morning and by 5pm that evening I had turned the last page. I flew through this woman’s life like a speeding jet. This is narrative nonfiction at its very best, though I will admit to a bit of skepticism on how exactly she remembers so much. The book begins with a 3-year-old Walls setting herself on fire while cooking hotdogs. Meticulous details take us from the ballerina tutu she was wearing catching on fire through skin grafts and the gentle investigations of the nurses and administrators as to why exactly a 3-year-old little would be cooking her own food.

You would think the story would expand from there to include foster homes and accusations of negligence but you’d be wrong. Instead, her father decides it is time to “check out Rex-Walls style” so he grabs her up and flees the hospital for the car, which is still running and packed with a few belongings and Walls’ mother and siblings. They drive away into the night and so begins Jeannette Walls’ incomparable life with parents more nomadic than loving.

The extreme poverty this family goes through is unimaginable, especially in light of the fact that this story took place not too long ago. Jeannette Walls’ photo shows a beautiful woman’s face to the world but her life’s story reveals that she felt gangly, awkward and unlovely. She had buckteeth and had to make her own braces. Her home’s lack of indoor plumbing (or electricity on many occasions) made hygiene a problem as well. I could go on and on about the struggles these poor kids had to go through for the most basic of conveniences but it would begin to sound repetitious coming from me so go out and read Walls’ version instead. She chronicles better than anyone else could the heartbreaking lows and manic highs of her dysfunctional family.

I have just checked out her other book, Dish: The Inside Story On the World of Gossip and I'll be sure to let you know what I think of it when I finish!

Happy Reading!