Wednesday, June 25, 2008

EOL's Genre Reading Group

If you didn't attend last night's meeting of the Genre Reading Group, you missed out on a great cultural discussion ranging from world historical perspective to the current attitudes on immigration! Here is a list of the great books brought to the table!

Unseen by Mari Jungstedt

Swedish journalist Jungstedt's first mystery, set on the island of Gotland, a popular tourist destination, opens with some promise. After a gathering of friends dissolves amid jealous accusations, the source of the conflict, Helena Hillerström, vanishes from her home, only to turn up the victim of a savage ax murder. This violent act shocks the residents of the normally sleepy resort island. Despite the dedicated efforts of Inspector Anders Knutas, the killer strikes twice again. The killer's clichéd motive for these crimes and the police's failure to connect some obvious dots will disappoint those expecting another Henning Mankell. Still, the unusual setting is nicely described, and hopefully, later entries in the series will focus on issues that are particular to Sweden as this debut effort does not.

Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong

Set a decade ago in Shanghai, this political mystery offers a peek into the tightly sealed, often crooked world of post-Tiananmen Square China. Chen Cao, a poet and T.S. Eliot translator bureaucratically assigned to be chief inspector, has to investigate the murder of Guan Hongying, a young woman celebrated as a National Model Worker, but who kept her personal life strictly and mysteriously confidential. Chen and his comrade, Detective Yu, take turns interviewing Guan's neighbors and co-workers, but it seems most of them either know nothing or are afraid to talk openly about a deceased, highly regarded public figure. Maybe they shouldn't be so uneasy, some characters reason; after all, these are "modern times" and socialist China is taking great leaps toward free speech. Chen and Yu make headway when they stumble on Wu Xiaoming, senior editor of Red Star magazine, who apparently was involved with Guan before her death. Tiptoeing around touchy politics and using investigative tactics bordering on blackmail, Chen slowly pieces together the motives behind the crime. The author, himself a poet and critic, peppers the story with allusions to classical Chinese literature, juxtaposing poignant poetry with a gruesome murder so that the novel reads like the translation of an ancient text imposed over a modern tale of intrigue. This is an impressive and welcome respite from the typical crime novel.

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

Three million copies of Akunin's Erast Fandorin historical mystery series have been sold in Russia, where the author is a celebrity. This volume--the first of nine installments so far--should get the series off to a rousing start in the U.S. It's set in Czarist Russia and stars the naive but eager Fandorin as a young investigator with the Moscow police. Why would a university student shoot himself in the middle of the Alexander Gardens? Fandorin sets out to find the answer and soon lands in the middle of a far-reaching international conspiracy. Yakunin effectively juxtaposes the comical innocence of his hero against the decadence of nineteenth-century Moscow--aristocrats idling in gambling clubs while the winds of revolution freshen. In his debut, Fandorin comes across as an odd but appealing mix of Holmesian brilliance and Inspector Clousseauian bumbling. Occasionally, Akunin's style seems a bit affected, aping the manner of, say, Thackeray, commenting on the foibles of his characters, but at the same time, that nineteenth-century tone is part of the book's appeal.

The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly

In an impressive debut, British author Cleverly weaves an engrossing tale of serial murder and the impending decline of the British Empire into a well-written fair-play mystery set in 1920s India. Commander Joe Sandilands, a Scotland Yarder completing a stint with the Bengal Police, is on his way back home when the provincial governor asks him to look into the recent death-by-suicide of an army officers young wife. Nancy Drummond, a close friend of the dead woman, reveals that four other officers wives have also died¢apparently by accident or misadventure¢over a period of 12 years, all in the month of March. Sandilandss investigation reveals further disturbing similarities; the cause of death in each case was the victims greatest phobia, and an unknown person has marked the anniversaries of their passing by placing a Kashmiri rose on their graves. With Drummond as his assistant and love interest, the detective probes beneath the surface of a society attempting to replicate pre-WWI England in a very different milieu. The political tensions of the time are more than mere background dressing, while the clash of cultures is instrumental to the plot. The likable and plausible Sandilands and other characters, both British and Indian, come across as living, breathing people. The killers motivation proves to be more baffling than his identity, but the solution is satisfying, as is Sandilandss handling of the ethical issues that his uncovering of the truth has raised.

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The African-born author of more than 50 books, from children's stories (The Perfect Hamburger) to scholarly works (Forensic Aspects of Sleep), turns his talents to detection in this artful, pleasing novel about Mma (aka Precious) Ramotswe, Botswana's one and only lady private detective. A series of vignettes linked to the establishment and growth of Mma Ramotswe's "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" serve not only to entertain but to explore conditions in Botswana in a way that is both penetrating and light thanks to Smith's deft touch. Mma Ramotswe's cases come slowly and hesitantly at first: women who suspect their husbands are cheating on them; a father worried that his daughter is sneaking off to see a boy; a missing child who may have been killed by witchdoctors to make medicine; a doctor who sometimes seems highly competent and sometimes seems to know almost nothing about medicine. The desultory pace is fine, since she has only a detective manual, the frequently cited example of Agatha Christie and her instincts to guide her. Mma Ramotswe's love of Africa, her wisdom and humor, shine through these pages as she shines her own light on the problems that vex her clients. Images of this large woman driving her tiny white van or sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case linger pleasantly.

Reviews pulled from

Plan to join us next month, July 29th at 6:30pm for a discussion of nonfiction titles on ethnic/country histories. I have pulled a selection of topics to choose from but if you have a particular ethnic group you are interested in reading more about, just let me know and I'll be glad to see what is available in the library system!
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

June Brides

Here are three novels about weddings guaranteed to have you laughing or crying...maybe both!

Somebody is Going to Die if Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays
Written by Gayden Metcalfe and her fellow Mississippi Deltan, Charlotte Hays, this book is both a hilarious read and a real, practical resource, with recipes like sausage cheese balls and shrimp remoulade.

Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
Southerners also love weddings that are absolutely nothing like the ones they grew up with. One of the best portraits of a wedding that perfectly exemplifies its time and place is found in Philip Roth's wondrous 1959 novella, Goodbye, Columbus.

Otherwise Engaged by Suzanne Finnamore
For a more contemporary satire, go check out Suzanne Finnamore's 1999 novel, Otherwise Engaged. In it, 36-year-old protagonist Eve orchestrates getting her divorced, live-in lover Michael to propose, then spends the rest of the volume running around San Francisco freaking out about the wedding.

Happy Reading!


Monday, June 23, 2008

Links Galore

Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Hollywood vs The Book

Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw (remake of My Fair Lady) (movie news)
Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks (movie news)
He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (movie news)
The Tourist (not yet published) by Olen Steinhauer (movie news)
John Carter of Mars (graphic novel) by Edgar Rice Burroughs (movie news)
Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride (movie news)
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (movie news)
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon And the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller (movie news)
What Just Happened?: Bitter Hollywoods Tales From the Frontline by Art Linson (movie news)
The Three Musketeers (another remake) by Alexandre Dumas (movie news)
Escape by Carolyn Jessop (movie news)
The Prince of Providence by Michael Stanton (movie news)
The Dragonology Handbook (movie news)
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi and Rob Barrett (movie news)
The Deep Blue Good-By by John D. MacDonald (movie news)
The Witch of Portobello by Paul Coelho (movie news)
Robotech (Japanese anime) (movie news)
The Given Day (to be published September 23, 2008) by Denis Lehane (movie news)
Throttle (to be published in He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson in February 2009) by Joe Hill and Stephen King (movie news)
Mystery on Fifth Avenue (New York Times article) by Penelope Green (movie news)
Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission To Make Time Travel a Reality by Ronald Mallett (movie news)
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (movie news)
Brick Lane by Monica Ali (movie news)
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (film title changed to Ashecliffe)
Happy Reading!

Friday, June 13, 2008

James Beard Award

The 2008 James Beard Award Winners were announced last week. Take a gander at these great titles about cooking and food - click on the links to go to the library's catalog for location info:

James Beard Foundation Books Awards

Presented by Green & Black's® Organic Chocolate
For books published in English in 2007.


  • awardAward Winner
    The River Cottage Meat Book
    by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
    (Ten Speed Press)


  • awardAward Winner
    Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco
    by Paula Wolfert
    (Harper Collins)


  • awardAward Winner
    My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and
    Modern Parsi Home Cooking
    by Niloufer Ichaporia King
    _______ (University of California Press)

Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook
by Fuchsia Dunlop
(W.W. Norton & Company)

The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco
by Cecilia Chiang with Lisa Weiss
(Ten Speed Press)


A Baker's Odyssey
by Greg Patent
(John Wiley & Sons)

Pure Dessert
by Alice Medrich



Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking
by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone
(John Wiley & Sons)

Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking
by Masaharu Morimoto
(DK Publishing)


  • awardAward Winner
    Dish Entertains
    by Trish Magwood
    (HarperCollins Canada)

Great Bar Food at Home
by Kate Heyhoe
(John Wiley & Sons)

Welcome to Michael's: Great Food, Great People, Great Party!
by Michael McCarty
(Little, Brown and Company)


The Glory of Southern Cooking
by James Villas

(John Wiley & Sons)

Rosa's New Mexican Table
by Roberto Santibanez


Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook
by Jacques Pépin
(Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

  • awardAward Winner
    by James Peterson
    (Ten Speed Press)

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food
by Mark Bittman
(John Wiley & Sons)


  • awardAward Winner
    The EatingWell Diet
    by Jean Harvey-Berino with Joyce Hendley and
    the Editors of EatingWell
    _______ (The Countryman Press)

Super Natural Cooking: Five Ways to Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
(Celestial Arts)

The Wine and Food Lover's Diet: 28 Days of Delicious Weight Loss
Author: Phillip Tirman
(Chronicle Books)


Lidia's Italy: 140 Simple and Delicious Recipes from the Ten Places in Italy Lidia Loves Most
by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
(Alfred A. Knopf)

Two Meatballs in the Italian Kitchen
by Pino Luongo and Mark Strausman


Food: The History of Taste
edited by Paul Freedman
(University of California Press)

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide
by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss
(Ten Speed Press)


Laura Werlin's Cheese Essentials
by Laura Werlin
(Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

  • awardAward Winner
    The River Cottage Meat Book
    by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
    (Ten Speed Press)

Vegetable Harvest
by Patricia Wells
(HarperCollins Publishers)


The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty
by Julia Flynn Siler
(Gotham Books)

  • awardAward Winner
    Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar
    _______ by David Wondrich
    _______ (Perigee)

To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle
by George M. Taber


American Food Writing: An Anthology with Classic Recipes
edited by Molly O'Neill
(The Library of America)

Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss-and the Myths and Realities of Dieting
by Gina Kolata
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

! ! ! Downloadable Audiobook Update iPod Compatible ! ! !

If you haven't tried out the Jefferson County Library Cooperative's Downloadable Audiobook collection, you're really missing out. Simply go to our website at and choose "Downloadable Audio" from the menu on the left. Visit the links under "Getting Started" to venture out the best new thing since CD's!

Current users take note that Overdrive Media Console v3.0 is now available for download! With this update you'll find a new Burn Wizard making burning to CD's easy peasy, PLUS a brand spankin' new Mp3 format will go live this summer that is compatible with iPod!

From their website:
As announced and covered in the press, OverDrive will introduce the new OverDrive MP3 Audiobook (compatible with iPods). OMC v3.0 supports the new MP3 format. When OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks are available (coming Summer 2008), Windows users who have already installed OMC v3.0 will be able to use titles in this format. Users of earlier versions will need to upgrade to OMC v3.0 to enjoy OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks. To learn more about OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks, read the press release and Library Journal’s coverage of the exciting news.
Happy Listening!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hollywood News!

Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte (movie news)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (movie news)
William Tell (play) by Friedrich von Schiller (movie news)
The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald (movie news)
City of Ember (young adult novel) by Jeanne DuPrau (movie news) (more movie news)
Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk (movie news)
The Increment (not yet published) by David Ignatius (movie news)
Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway (movie news)
Goosebumps (young adult series) by R.L. Stine (movie news)
The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory (movie news)
The Sigma Protocol by Robert Ludlum (movie news)
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series) by Ann Brasheares (movie news)
Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe (movie news)
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho (movie news)
Marley & Me by John Grogan (movie news)
The Boston Stranglers by Susan Kelly (movie news)
An unnamed book (!!!) AND Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (movie news)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (!!!)(movie news)

Happy Reading (and viewing)!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Just in time....

....for our Live Local in Your Backyard Adult Summer Reading Program, the Discovery Channel is launching a brand new channel, Planet Green!

From their website:

Tune in on June 4th at 6pm to see the launch of Planet Green, the first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network.

Happy Viewing!

Summer feels like it's here!

Don't buy those soggy canned vegetables! Visit a local farmer's market and stock up on some super fresh fruits and veggies for an extra healthy meal! Don't know of one? GovGab has a few pointers for sniffing out the best deals, plus links to local market finders.

Happy Shopping!

Slow Food Summit!

Don't miss out on your opportunity to learn more about sustainable farming, local co-ops, and living local at the library's first Adult Summer Reading program Tuesday night at 6:30pm!

We'll be featuring representatives from Jones Valley Urban Farm and Grow Alabama and I heard rumors that McEwen & Sons, makers of the stone ground grits out at Pepper Place, will be with us too! We have even more on the docket, plus there'll be tons of giveaways and good times, so don't be the only one not there! Did I mention Chez Lulu was catering?