Monday, December 28, 2009

Genre Reading Group Meets Tomorrow Night!

We'll meet tomorrow evening at 6:30pm for a Salon Discussion! Bring your favorite book(s) of the year and tell us about it!

The library will close at 6pm but I will be here to let you in for the book group meeting.

Next month we'll be talking about Pulitzer Prize winners (fiction or nonfiction).

Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Closing

The Library will be closed in observance of the Christmas holiday Thursday December 24th through Sunday December 27th.

We will reopen Monday December 28th on Holiday Hours:

Mon Dec 28th: 9am - 6pm
Tue Dec 29th: 9am - 6pm
Wed Dec 30th: 9am - 6pm
Thur Dec 31st: Closed (New Year's Eve)
Fri Jan 1st: Closed (New Year's Day)

We will reopen Saturday January 2nd and continue regular Winter Hours (see Library Hours sidebar item).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Documentaries After Dark tomorrow night!

Drop by the library tomorrow for an evening of epic historical battles! We will explore the Crusades, military expeditions undertaken by Western European Christians between 1095 and 1270, usually at behest of papacy, to recover Jerusalem and other Palestinian places of pilgrimage from Muslim control. The name (from Lat., “cross,” the emblem of the Crusaders) was also applied, especially in the 13th century, to wars against pagan peoples, Christian heretics, and political foes of the papacy. The film begins promptly at 6:30pm and lasts approximately 70 minutes.

Light refreshments served! For more information, contact Holley at 205/445-1117 or!

Best Thrillers of 2009

According to the Reader's Advisor Online Blog:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Movies This Sunday!

This Sunday afternoon from 1-5 we'll have a Christmas movie double-feature! What will we watch, you ask? Let me describe them and see if you can figure out what they are:
  • In our first movie a mean old miser refuses to embrace the spirit of the Christmas season, it takes three ghosts (and his former business partner) to help him see the light. This film features lots of holiday merriment, great costumes and a heartwarming message!

  • Our second movie is a classic! Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire open an inn located in New England for the holidays. This movie introduced the song "White Christmas" to the American public.

Don't miss these great Holiday classics! Drop by the library this Sunday to watch all, or even part, of these fun movies. In addition to free, family-friendly films, we will have hot chocolate, cookies and more!

See you Sunday!


Monday, November 30, 2009

Genre Reading Group Recap

How does the Genre Reading Group work, you may ask?

Instead of each member reading the same book, GRG members select any book from an assigned fiction or nonfiction topic (selected by ballot). At our meetings, each participant tells the group a little about the book: why they chose it, a favorite scene or character, a favorite part, etc. This is a great way to learn how to talk about books and how to recommend them to others. We've all developed out of control to-be-read lists, I assure you! New members are always welcome!

The Genre Reading Group (GRG) finished up our last assigned reading of the year last week with fiction set in an Asian country!

Next month is our Salon Discussion on December 29th! Bring any book you would like to talk about other than those we have already discussed in the group. The library will be on Holiday Hours and will be closed but I will be here to let you in to the Conference Room. Since the library will be closed that evening, you will not be able to check out books. I will have the Pulitzer's ready next week if you would like to get a jump on selecting a book for January's meeting.

Here is the list of what we talked about last week:

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
From Library Journal
As in The Joy Luck Club (LJ 2/15/89), Tan unwinds another haunting tale that examines the ties binding Chinese Americans to their ancestors. Nearing divorce from her husband, Simon, Olivia Yee is guided by her elder half-sister, the irrepressible Kwan, into the heart of China. Olivia was five when 18-year-old Kwan first joined her family in the United States, and though always irritated by Kwan's oddities, Olivia was entranced by her eerie dreams of the ghost World of Yin. Only when visiting Kwan's home in Changmian does Olivia realize the dreams are, in Kwan's mind, memories from past lives. Kwan believes she must help Olivia and Simon reunite and thereby fix a broken promise from a previous incarnation. Tan tells a mysterious, believable story and delivers Kwan's clipped, immigrant voice and engaging personality with charming clarity. Highly recommended.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
Product Description
When The Bastard of Istanbul was published in Turkey, Elif Shafak was accused by nationalist lawyers of insulting Turkish identity. The charges were later dropped, and now readers in America can discover for themselves this bold and powerful tale. Populated with vibrant characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is the story of two families, one Turkish and one Armenian American, and their struggle to forge their unique identities against the backdrop of Turkey’s violent history. Filled with humor and understanding, this exuberant, dramatic novel is about memory and forgetting, about the tension between the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it.

The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan
From Booklist
With an assured voice and a deep understanding of her characters’ moral values, Viswanathan breathes life into the social changes that swept through early- to-mid-twentieth-century Tamil Nadu, India. In 1896 10-year-old Sivakami becomes the child bride of a healer predicted to die young. Left a widow at 18, she dutifully obeys her Brahmin heritage’s millennia-old customs—strict rules dictating her appearance, food preparations, even whom she may speak with or touch. Sivakami devotes her life to her family, but her decisions on daughter Thangam’s marriage and son Vairum’s secular education occasionally have heartbreaking results. Janaki, Sivakami’s similarly conservative granddaughter, later grows to adulthood in an India that comes to view Brahmins not as a proud, mutually supportive people but as racially pure bigots—an opinion her uncle Vairum shares. Despite the saga’s length, there are no dull moments or extraneous scenes. Most impressively, Viswanathan immerses readers in the realities of the caste system from both sides; in telling a universal story of generational differences on a personal level, she makes a vanished world feel completely authentic. Superbly done.

Explore library resources on the Indian Caste System.

The Indian Caste System via Wikipedia

Our discussion of this book brought up another with a similar theme, Sally Gunning's The Widow's War
From Publishers Weekly
Mystery author Gunning (Fire Water) moves to literary historical with this provocative tale of a whaling widow determined to forge a new life in colonial Cape Cod. When Lyddie Berry's husband drowns in 1761, her grief is compounded by the discovery that he's willed her the traditional widow's share—one-third use, but not ownership, of his estate. Lyddie's care, and the bulk of the estate, have been entrusted to their closest male relative, son-in-law Nathan Clarke, husband to their daughter Mehitable and a man used to ordering a household around. Lyddie's struggle to maintain a place in her radically changed home soon brings her into open conflict with an increasingly short-tempered Nathan and his children from two previous marriages.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
Product Description
In 1959, a young woman, Haruko, marries the Crown Prince of Japan. She is the first nonaristocratic woman to enter the mysterious, hermetic monarchy. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress, Haruko is controlled at every turn, suffering a nervous breakdown after finally giving birth to a son. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman to accept the marriage proposal of her son, with tragic consequences. Based on extensive research, The Commoner is a stunning novel about a brutally rarified and controlled existence, and the complex relationship between two isolated women who are truly understood only by each other.

Q & A by Vikras Swarup
Product Description
Vikas Swarup's spectacular debut novel opens in a jail cell in Mumbai, India, where Ram Mohammad Thomas is being held after correctly answering all twelve questions on India's biggest quiz show, Who Will Win a Billion? It is hard to believe that a poor orphan who has never read a newspaper or gone to school could win such a contest. But through a series of exhilarating tales Ram explains to his lawyer how episodes in his life gave him the answer to each question. Ram takes us on an amazing review of his own history -- from the day he was found as a baby in the clothes donation box of a Delhi church to his employment by a faded Bollywood star to his adventure with a security-crazed Australian army colonel to his career as an overly creative tour guide at the Taj Mahal. Swarup's Q & A is a beguiling blend of high comedy, drama, and romance that reveals how we know what we know -- not just about trivia, but about life itself. Cutting across humanity in all its squalor and glory, Vikas Swarup presents a kaleidoscopic vision of the struggle between good and evil -- and what happens when one boy has no other choice in life but to survive. This is the book on which the movie Slumdog Millionaire was based.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
Product Description
Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
From Bookmarks Magazine
Like Lisa See's previous works, Shanghai Girls is a rich, historical novel that portrays the immigrant experience and the bonds of sisterhood. In deft, graceful prose, See depicts the challenges and hardships -- many unimaginable -- that the Chin sisters face. However, despite the realistic detail and excellent research, particularly in the portrayals of Angel Island and the poverty-ridden China City, some critics thought that the descriptions about the women's divergent lives in Los Angeles slowed the story. And while most reviewers praised the sympathetic, flesh-and-blood characters, a few thought they succumbed to cultural platitudes and lacked introspection into their relationships and self-deceptions. Yet despite these flaws, Shanghai Girls is a compelling, educational portrait of Chinese assimilation, sure to be enjoyed by readers of See's previous work.

We talked a bit about The Big Read selection, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, for April 2010. Since the daytime book group here is going to be discussing Twain's book, I thought it would compliment nicely to read Coming-of-Age novels in April. Weirdly enough, there is a word for coming-of-age novels...bildungsroman. In the spirit of adventure, the other interesting word we discussed was schadenfreude.

Call or email if you have questions/comments/concerns!


All review material acquired from

Something funny for a Monday...

Drop on by! The library is open!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday Closing!

The Library will be closed Thursday and Friday, November 26th & 27th, for Thanksgiving. We will reopen on Saturday November 28th at 9am!

See you then!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Genre Reading Group Meets Tomorrow Night!

If you haven't left town for Thanksgiving, I'd love to see you at the library tomorrow night at 6:30pm to discuss fiction set in an Asian country! Got company? Bring them along! Also, I'll have ballots for the next round of genres through July 2010.

You have a break in December as it is our Salon Discussion month! I can hardly wait to hear what you're excited about reading! As for me, I'll be bringing a few of the favorite books I've read this year (outside of our group).

For more information about this book group, call (205/445-1117) or email (!

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Evening film series schedule for 2010 now available!

Drop by the library today and pickup a schedule!

Next month, we'll be watching a film about the epic battles of the Crusades and January's film will be on women pilots in WWII.

For more information, contact Holley at 205/445-1117 or

Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Sampling of New Books!

Hello dear readers!
Check it out - here's a brief sample of some of the new non fiction we got in this afternoon:

Clean Food by Terry Walters

This Green House by Joshua Piven

Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials Into New Family Treasures by Amanda Blake Soule

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Deliver Us From Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South by Lacy K. Ford

Reading Jesus by Mary Gordon

Top Chef: The Quickfire Cookbook

Drop by the library and check one out!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Harvest Feast (of books, that is ...)

So I've been feeling fall-ish and Thanksgiving-ish at the library lately, so I created this display. All the books listed have something to do with Harvest, Colonial America, or Thanksgiving.

The Times of Their Lives: Life, Love and Death In Plymouth Colony by James Deetz and Patricia Scott Deetz

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan & the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto

The Shipwreck That Saved Jamestown: The Sea Venture Castaways And The Fate of America by Lorri Glover and Daniel Blake Smith

Jamestown: The Buried Truth by William M. Kelso

America's Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped A Nation by Kenneth C. Davis

Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 by William Bradford

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

Bad Apple by Anthony Bruno

Bone Rattler by Eliot Pattison

Friday, October 30, 2009

Library ghosts!

The crew at BPL have a few stories of their own to share about the Linn-Henley building downtown!

Happy (spooky) reading!

FDR's New Deal in Jefferson County

This online exhibit was created by the Birmingham Public Library to accompany the Birmingham Historical Society's photo exhibit Digging Out of the Great Depression-Federal Programs at Work and explores how Birmingham benefited from Roosevelt’s New Deal programs.

Click here to view the online exhibit. Select topics from the menu on the left to view images and videos.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Library website getting a spiffy update!

Please pardon our progress!

You may experience problems logging on to the library's website over the next 24-48 hours as we transition to our spectacular new look, but never fear! Bigger and better is on the way!

Visit the Jefferson County Library Cooperative site for access to your library card record, the online catalog, research databases, and downloadable audio.

Give us a call if you have any questions!

Happy reading!

GRG Recap - National Book Award winners

Award-winning, what a tricky area! With only a scant few exceptions, the general impression of this award was negative. The books did not have seem to have universal appeal within our group but were generally appreciated for their use of language and imagery. Here's the list!
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is a scholar's book: serious, thick, complex. It's also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Egan tells an extraordinary tale in this visceral account of how America's great, grassy plains turned to dust, and how the ferocious plains winds stirred up an endless series of "black blizzards" that were like a biblical plague: "Dust clouds boiled up, ten thousand feet or more in the sky, and rolled like moving mountains" in what became known as the Dust Bowl.

Timothy Egan has a new book out (The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America) about one of the first really devastating forest fires in American history happening alongside Teddy Roosevelt's creation of America's National Park system. This is a timely companion read for the recently aired Ken Burn's special, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. There is a companion book to the PBS special with the same title.

From Booklist
The news isn't so good, at least by the end of this saga by the author of the award-winning Siam (2000). The focus of her new novel is shared by two actual nineteenth-century historical figures: Paraguayan caudillo Francisco Solano Lopez and his Irish-born mistress, Ella Lynch. From the boulevards of Paris, where Ella meets the magnetic but uncouth South American, she follows him to the very provincial Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, and plays Madame de Pompadour to his Louis XV--but her sexy Franco is a small-time dictator trying to make more of his patria than it can support. A catastrophic war with Brazil and Argentina completely flattens the country. Ella ends her days back in Europe, to live on in history as one of those famous paramours of powerful leaders--always good fodder for historical fiction. This novel moves along swiftly but, unfortunately, not very deeply; characterizations seem more image than substance. Still, this is an interesting time and place, so expect requests from historical-novel lovers.

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
From Booklist
Time and place have always been exactly evoked in Hazzard's fiction, and such is the case here. The time is 1947-48, and the place is, primarily, East Asia. Obviously, then, this is a locale much altered--by the events of World War II, of course, and, as we see, physical destruction and psychological wariness and weariness lay over the land. Our hero, and indeed he fills the requirements to be called one, is Aldred Leith, who is English and part of the occupation forces in Japan; his particular military task is damage survey. He has an interesting past, including, most recently, a two-year walk across civil-war-torn China to write a book. In the present, which readers will feel they inhabit right along with Leith, by way of Hazzard's beautifully atmospheric prose, he meets the teenage daughter and younger son of a local Australian commander. And, as Helen is growing headlong into womanhood, this novel of war's aftermath becomes a story of love--or more to the point, of the restoration of the capacity for love once global and personal trauma have been shed.

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
*Starred Review* Colonel Francis F. X. Sands' wartime exploits made him something of a legend. He flew as a mercenary for the Republic of China Air Force unit known as the Flying Tigers, shooting down Japanese planes. Shot down himself by the Japanese, he suffered sickness, beatings, torture, and starvation before escaping from a prison camp in Burma. He rose to the rank of colonel during World War II and joined the CIA in the 1950s, his background in Southeast Asia an asset as the U.S. replaced France in the Vietnamese war against communism. Enter Skip Sands, the colonel's nephew, a young intelligence officer currently a clerk in charge of cataloging his uncle's three footlockers full of thousands of index cards, "almost none of them comprehensible." The colonel enlists Skip in a secret operation involving a double, an agent ready to betray the Vietcong. Skip, an earnest patriot, nevertheless finds himself deep in the unauthorized world of renegade psychological ops, off the grid and outside the chain of command, an ethical quagmire where almost anything goes, where he encounters conflicts of loyalty between his family, his country, and his religion.

Curtain of Green by Eudora Welty
This is the first collection of Welty’s stories, originally published in 1941. It includes such classics as “A Worn Path,” “Petrified Man,” “Why I Live at the P.O.,” and “Death of a Traveling Salesman.” The historic Introduction by Katherine Anne Porter brought Welty to the attention of the American reading public.

Porter’s reputation as one of americanca’s most distinguished writers rests chiefly on her superb short stories. This volume includes the collections Flowering Judas; Pale Horse, Pale Rider; and The Leaning Tower as well as four stories not available elsewhere in book form. Winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Three Junes by Julia Glass
From Library Journal
This strong and memorable debut novel draws the reader deeply into the lives of several central characters during three separate Junes spanning ten years. At the story's onset, Scotsman Paul McLeod, the father of three grown sons, is newly widowed and on a group tour of the Greek islands as he reminisces about how he met and married his deceased wife and created their family. Next, in the book's longest section, we see the world through the eyes of Paul's eldest son, Fenno, a gay man transplanted to New York City and owner of a small bookstore, who learns lessons about love and loss that allow him to grow in unexpected ways. And finally there is Fern, an artist and book designer whom Paul met on his trip to Greece several years earlier. She is now a young widow, pregnant and also living in New York City, who must make sense of her own past and present to be able to move forward in her life. In this novel, expectations and revelations collide in startling ways. Alternately joyful and sad, this exploration of modern relationships and the families people both inherit or create for themselves is highly recommended for all fiction collections.

Godless by Pete Hautman
From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up–Jason is a smart 15-year-old, an agnostic-leaning-toward-atheism, who resists following in the footsteps of his devoutly Catholic father. Getting clocked under the water tower by the nasty and unpredictable Henry leads Jason and his friend Shin to combine their talents to posit a new religion. "Chutengodianism" sanctifies water, the source of all life, as manifested by the Ten-Legged God, aka that same million-gallon water tower. Creating the creed on the fly, Jason soon gathers a handful of acolytes, including his former nemesis. Their midnight pilgrimage to the top of the tower for worship transmutes into an impromptu baptism when Henry hacksaws through the padlock. Their swim rouses sexy thoughts about Magda, stripped to her panties and bra, balanced soon after by panic when it seems they might be trapped. Regaining the top of the tank, Henry slips and sustains severe injuries crashing onto a catwalk below. Fortunately for him, the authorities have already arrived. The Church is busted and the faithful face new trials and temptations. These are fun, wacky, interesting characters. While chuckling aloud may be common in the early chapters, serious issues dominate the latter stages of the book. The rivalry between Jason and Henry for the attentions of Magda, Jason's unrepentant certainty that doing what he sees as right is more important than following his parents' rules, and Shin's apparent continued belief in the tenets he helped create are thought-provoking and disturbing. Jason is left to ponder the meaning of a religion that has only himself as a member.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Many will greet this taut, clear-eyed memoir of grief as a long-awaited return to the terrain of Didion's venerated, increasingly rare personal essays. The author of Slouching Towards Bethlehem and 11 other works chronicles the year following the death of her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne, from a massive heart attack on December 30, 2003, while the couple's only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. Dunne and Didion had lived and worked side by side for nearly 40 years, and Dunne's death propelled Didion into a state she calls "magical thinking." "We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss," she writes. "We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes." Didion's mourning follows a traditional arc—she describes just how precisely it cleaves to the medical descriptions of grief—but her elegant rendition of its stages leads to hard-won insight, particularly into the aftereffects of marriage. "Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John's eyes. I did not age." In a sense, all of Didion's fiction, with its themes of loss and bereavement, served as preparation for the writing of this memoir, and there is occasionally a curious hint of repetition, despite the immediacy and intimacy of the subject matter. Still, this is an indispensable addition to Didion's body of work and a lyrical, disciplined entry in the annals of mourning literature.

One group member asked if The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has yet won any awards and I have not been able to find any major awards or prizes for it but the book did win a 2008 "Best Books" award from The Washington Post. Since it was so recently published and well received, I've no doubt that more prestigious awards are to follow!

Want to join the most fun ( so I've been told :-D ) bookgroup in town?! Come on in! The Genre Reading Group meets the last Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm. Light refreshments always served! Next month's topic is fiction with an Asian setting and there are a few books pulled at the second floor reference desk! As usual, feel free to browse and select your own title if you'd prefer! Call or email if you have any questions or would like suggestions.

Also, I am getting ready to work on the ballot for our next selection of genres. Please call or email me with suggestions!

Happy reading!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Genre Reading Group Meets Tomorrow Night!

Join the most fun book group in town tomorrow night at 6:30pm when we meet to discuss fiction and nonfiction National Book Award winners! Good books, great company, yummy snacks..the perfect evening!

From their website:
"The mission of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards is to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America."

Genre Reading Group
Tuesday, October 27th @ 6;30pm
Bring a National Book Award winner and tell us about it!

November's topic will be fiction set in an Asian country. I have a selection pulled for your perusal! Call or email me if you have any questions!
205/445-1117 or

Happy reading!

Author Event This Week With Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton!

Guess what we have going on this week? Another Author Event! Here are the details:

Dr. Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton - Alabama author & historian will be at Emmet O'Neal Library on Thursday, Oct. 29th 6:30 p.m. for a reception with light refreshments and book signing. She will give a talk, read from her newest book, and answer questions from the audience from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Dr. Hamilton's new book is Teddy's Child: Growing Up In The Anxious Southern Gentry Between The Great Wars. Here is the description courtesy of the publisher:
Historian and biographer Virginia Hamilton explores the deep roots of family and place in her coming-of-age memoir set in Birmingham, Alabama, in the period between the World Wars I and II. Born into a family of journalists and writers, she lived a life charmed with books, interesting people, good school, and travel. Yet there were shadows of both the genteel poverty her family fell into during the Great Depression and of mental depression and what were then called nervous disorders. As a historian, Hamilton has long been admired for her prose style and the vigor of her research. Here she brings her talents to the chronicle of her own lineage and her discoveries of the commonalities that transcend generations. Supplemented by images of family memorabilia, Teddy's Child reveals the complex structures of race, class, and gender in a Deep South city during the 1920s and 1930s.
Little Professor Book Center will be selling books at the event, be sure to come by and grab one - this book will make a GREAT holiday or birthday gift for someone special!
The evening is free and should be a fantastic event, don't miss it!

For more information, please contact me: Katie Moellering Adult Services Librarian, at


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Horror Movies..TONIGHT!

The Details

Ages 18 and up!

5-9pm in the Community Meeting Room

Pizza and other movie-type snacks

For more information, contact Holley at 205/445-1117!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

True Crime Time!

A patron came in the library recently asking for true crime books. As this is not one of my "go to" types of reading, I had to pull together a list. Oh! The book's call number is listed just after the author so you can come in and grab your book without us even realizing it! For your reading pleasure (or, for the squeamish among you, displeasure):

Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson 364.1523 LarE

From Publishers Weekly

Not long after Jack the Ripper haunted the ill-lit streets of 1888 London, H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) dispatched somewhere between 27 and 200 people, mostly single young women, in the churning new metropolis of Chicago; many of the murders occurred during (and exploited) the city's finest moment, the World's Fair of 1893. Larson's breathtaking new history is a novelistic yet wholly factual account of the fair and the mass murderer who lurked within it. Bestselling author Larson (Isaac's Storm) strikes a fine balance between the planning and execution of the vast fair and Holmes's relentless, ghastly activities. The passages about Holmes are compelling and aptly claustrophobic; readers will be glad for the frequent escapes to the relative sanity of Holmes's co-star, architect and fair overseer Daniel Hudson Burnham, who managed the thousands of workers and engineers who pulled the sprawling fair together on an astonishingly tight two-year schedule. A natural charlatan, Holmes exploited the inability of authorities to coordinate, creating a small commercial empire entirely on unpaid debts and constructing a personal cadaver-disposal system. This is, in effect, the nonfiction Alienist, or a sort of companion, which might be called Homicide, to Emile Durkheim's Suicide. However, rather than anomie, Larson is most interested in industriousness and the new opportunities for mayhem afforded by the advent of widespread public anonymity. This book is everything popular history should be, meticulously recreating a rich, pre-automobile America on the cusp of modernity, in which the sale of "articulated" corpses was a semi-respectable trade and serial killers could go well-nigh unnoticed.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and The Undoing of A Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale 364.1523 SumK

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Summerscale (The Queen of Whale Cay) delivers a mesmerizing portrait of one of England's first detectives and the gruesome murder investigation that nearly destroyed him. In 1860, three-year-old Saville Kent was found murdered in the outdoor privy of his family's country estate. Local police scrambled for clues, but to no avail. Scotland Yard Det.-Insp. Jonathan Jack Whicher was called in and immediately suspected the unthinkable: someone in the Kent family killed Saville. Theories abounded as everyone from the nursemaid to Saville's father became a suspect. Whicher tirelessly pursued every lead and became convinced that Constance Kent, Saville's teenage half-sister, was the murderer, but with little evidence and no confession, the case went cold and Whicher returned to London, a broken man. Five years later, the killer came forward with a shocking account of the crime, leading to a sensational trial. Whicher is a fascinating hero, and readers will delight in following every lurid twist and turn in his investigation.

Marie: A True Story by Peter Maas 364.1 MaaP

True crime about a corporate whistle-blower in Tennessee .

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote 364.152 CapT Review

In Cold Blood was a groundbreaking work when released in 1966. With it, author Truman Capote contributed to a style of writing in which the reporter gets so far inside the subject, becomes so familiar, that he projects events and conversations as if he were really there. The style has probably never been accomplished better than in this book. Capote combined painstaking research with a narrative feel to produce one of the most spellbinding stories ever put on the page. Two two-time losers living in a lonely house in western Kansas are out to make the heist of their life, but when things don't go as planned, the robbery turns ugly. From there, the book is a real-life look into murder, prison, and the criminal mind.

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi 364.152 BugV

Prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, Vincent Bugliosi held a unique insider's position in one of the most baffling and horrifying cases of the twentieth century: the cold-blooded Tate-LaBianca murders carried out by Charles Manson and four of his followers. What motivated Manson in his seemingly mindless selection of victims, and what was his hold over the young women who obeyed his orders? Here is the gripping story of this famous and haunting crime. 50 pages of b/w photographs.

Both Helter Skelter and Vincent Bugliosi's subsequent Till Death Us Do Part won Edgar Allan Poe Awards for best true-crime book of the year. Bugliosi is also the author of Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O. J. Simpson Got Away with Murder (Norton, 1996) and other books. Curt Gentry, an Edgar winner, is the author of J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (available in Norton paperback) and Frame-Up: The Incredible Case of Tom Mooney and Warren Billings.

The Monster of Florence: A True Story by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi 364.1523 PreD

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. United in their obsession with a grisly Italian serial murder case almost three decades old, thriller writer Preston (coauthor, Brimstone) and Italian crime reporter Spezi seek to uncover the identity of the killer in this chilling true crime saga. From 1974 to 1985, seven pairs of lovers parked in their cars in secluded areas outside of Florence were gruesomely murdered. When Preston and his family moved into a farmhouse near the murder sites, he and Spezi began to snoop around, although witnesses had died and evidence was missing. With all of the chief suspects acquitted or released from prison on appeal, Preston and Spezi's sleuthing continued until ruthless prosecutors turned on the nosy pair, jailing Spezi and grilling Preston for obstructing justice. Only when Dateline NBC became involved in the maze of mutilated bodies and police miscues was the authors' hard work rewarded. This suspenseful procedural reveals much about the dogged writing team as well as the motives of the killers.

In The Dark: The True Story of the Blackout Ripper by Simon Read 364.1523 ReaS

In 1942, London faced a reign of terror unknown since Jack the Ripper. The nightly air raids had darkened London's neon dazzle but not its urge to live it up. With death a daily possibility, drinks and sex were everywhere. But one man had other urges. Over a five-day period, "The Blackout Ripper" murdered with a lightning-fast ferocity that stunned and baffled investigators. He left few clues in his bloody wake-until a slip-up revealed his true identity, and shocked a city that thought it had seen it all.

Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper by Patricia Cornwell 364.1523 CorP

From Publishers Weekly

Jack the Ripper was renowned artist Walter Sickert (1860-1942) according to Cornwell, in case anyone hasn't yet heard. The evidence Cornwell accumulates toward that conclusion in this brilliant, personal, gripping book is very strong, and will persuade many. In May 2001, Cornwell took a tour of Scotland Yard that interested her in the Ripper case, and in Sickert as a suspect. A look at Sickert's "violent" paintings sealed her interest, and she became determined to apply, for the first time ever, modern investigatory and forensic techniques to the crimes that horrified London more than 100 years ago. The book's narrative is complex, as Cornwell details her emotional involvement in the case; re-creates life in Victorian times, particularly in the late 1880s, and especially the cruel existence of the London poor; offers expertly observed scenarios of how, based on the evidence, the killings occurred and the subsequent investigations were conducted; explains what was found by the team of experts she hired; and gives a psycho-biography of Sickert. The book is filled with newsworthy revelations, including the successful use of DNA analysis to establish a link between an envelope mailed by the Ripper and two envelopes used by Sickert. There are also powerful comparisons made between Sickert's drawing style and that of the Ripper; between words and turns of phrases used by both men; and much other circumstantial evidence. Also newsworthy is Cornwell's conclusion that Sickert continued to kill long after the Ripper supposedly lay down his blade, reaping dozens of victims over his long life. Compassionate, intense, superbly argued, fluidly written and impossible to put down, this is the finest and most important true-crime book to date of the 21st century.

The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick 364.162 DolE

From Publishers Weekly

The little-known world of art theft is compellingly portrayed in Dolnick's account of the 1994 theft and recovery of Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream. The theft was carried out with almost comical ease at Norway's National Gallery in Oslo on the very morning that the Winter Olympics began in that city. Despite the low-tech nature of the crime, the local police were baffled, and Dolnick (Down the Great Unknown; Madness on the Couch) makes a convincing case that the fortunate resolution of the investigation was almost exclusively due to the expertise, ingenuity and daring of the "rescue artist" of the title: Charley Hill, a Scotland Yard undercover officer and former Fulbright scholar who has made recovering stolen art treasures his life's work. Hill is a larger-than-life figure who seems lifted from the pages of Elmore Leonard, although his adversaries in this inquiry are fairly pedestrian. While the path to the painting's retrieval is relatively straightforward once some shady characters put the word out that they can get their hands on it, the narrative's frequent detours to other crimes and engaging escapades from Hill's past elevate this work above last year's similar The Irish Game by Matthew Hart.

Manhunt: The 21 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson 364.1524 SwaJ

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the early days of April 1865, with the bloody war to preserve the union finished, Swanson tells us, Abraham Lincoln was "jubilant." Elsewhere in Washington, the other player in the coming drama of the president's assassination was miserable. Hearing Lincoln's April 10 victory speech, famed actor and Confederate die-hard John Wilkes Booth turned to a friend and remarked with seething hatred, "That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him through." On April 14, Booth did just that. With great power, passion and at a thrilling, breakneck pace, Swanson (Lincoln's Assassins: Their Trial and Execution) conjures up an exhausted yet jubilant nation ruptured by grief, stunned by tragedy and hell-bent on revenge. For 12 days, assisted by family and some women smitten by his legendary physical beauty, Booth relied on smarts, stealth and luck to elude the best detectives, military officers and local police the federal government could muster. Taking the reader into the action, the story is shot through with breathless, vivid, even gory detail. With a deft, probing style and no small amount of swagger, Swanson, a member of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, has crafted pure narrative pleasure, sure to satisfy the casual reader and Civil War aficionado alike.

American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum 364.1523 BluH

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In 1911, Iron Workers Union leaders James and Joseph McNamara plea-bargained in exchange for prison sentences instead of death after bombing the offices of the Los Angeles Times—killing 21 people and wounding many more. The bombing had been part of a bungled assault on some 100 American cities. After the McNamaras went to jail, Clarence Darrow, their defense attorney, wound up indicted for attempting to bribe the jury, but won acquittal after a defense staged by the brilliant Earl Rogers. The McNamaras were investigated by William J. Burns—near legendary former Secret Service agent and proprietor of a detective agency. Surprisingly, Burns's collaborator in the investigation was silent film director D.W. Griffith. This tangled and fascinating tale is the stuff of novels, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Blum (The Brigade) tells it with a novelist's flair. In an approach reminiscent of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Blum paints his characters in all their grandeur and tragedy, making them—and their era—come alive. Blum's prose is tight, his speculations unfailingly sound and his research extensive—all adding up to an absorbing and masterful true crime narrative.

Son of a Grifter by Kent Walker 364.163 WalK

From Publishers Weekly

Convicted of murdering millionaire heiress Irene Silverman in New York City and waiting to stand trial for a second murder in California, Sante and Kenny Kimes, mother and son, have become two of the best-known American criminals of recent years. In the wake of widespread, high-profile media coverage, this book purports to fill in missing details of Sante's murky biography. Walker, who is Sante Kimes's eldest son and half-brother to Kenny, catalogues the wrongdoings of the woman he still affectionately calls "Mom," including everything from shoplifting and theft to multiple counts of arson, insurance fraud and slavery. Walker vividly recounts his childhood with Sante and her third husband, Ken Kimes, detailing how the couple indoctrinated him into criminality. The author, who appears to be exorcising personal demons, does a fine job of elucidating the psychological and emotional price of being loved and cared for by a sociopath. It is this tension, between the loving mother and the criminal willing to neglect and at times even betray her child, that pushes the story forward. Unfortunately, the litany of crimes is so vast and comes so fast that the narrative never quite lingers long enough to develop real drama or suspense. Well researched and touching, though, it testifies to how one son can evolve into a killer and the other live to tell the tale. As a chronicle of Sante Kimes's life, it's unlikely to be surpassed by any other. The only person likely to tell a more intimate tale is Sante herself.

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott 306.74 AbbK

From Publishers Weekly

Freelance journalist Abbott's vibrant first book probes the titillating milieu of the posh, world-famous Everleigh Club brothel that operated from 1900 to 1911 on Chicago's Near South Side. The madams, Ada and Minna Everleigh, were sisters whose shifting identities had them as traveling actors, Edgar Allan Poe's relatives, Kentucky debutantes fleeing violent husbands and daughters of a once-wealthy Virginia lawyer crushed by the Civil War. While lesser whorehouses specialized in deflowering virgins, beatings and bondage, the Everleighs spoiled their whores with couture gowns, gourmet meals and extraordinary salaries. The bordello—which boasted three stringed orchestras and a room of 1,000 mirrors—attracted such patrons as Theodore Dreiser, John Barrymore and Prussian Prince Henry. But the successful cathouse was implicated in the 1905 shooting of department store heir Marshall Field Jr. and inevitably became the target of rivals and reformers alike. Madam Vic Shaw tried to frame the Everleighs for a millionaire playboy's drug overdose, Rev. Ernest Bell preached nightly outside the club and ambitious Chicago state's attorney Clifford Roe built his career on the promise of obliterating white slavery. With colorful characters, this is an entertaining, well-researched slice of Windy City history.

The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial that Ushered in the Twentieth Century by Harold Schechter 364.1523 SchH

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. True-crime historian Schechter (co-author, The A-Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers) delivers a thrilling account of a murder case that rocked Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century. Roland Molineux, a socially ambitious chemist,was a proud member of the Knickerbocker Athletic Club, where he was considered a talented but snooty sportsman, repeatedly instigating spats with the club's athletic director, Harry Cornish. Pursuing women with the same determination he brought to sports, Roland doggedly wooed Blanche Chesebrough, an equally ambitious young woman with operatic aspirations. But when one of Molineux's romantic competitors, Henry Barnet, died, Cornish was poisoned (he survived) and his landlady died, Roland topped the list of suspects. The ensuing investigation and sensational trial became one of the costliest in New York State history. Schechter expertly weaves a rich historical tapestry—exploring everything from the birth of yellow journalism to the history of poison as a murder weapon—without sacrificing a novelistic sense of character, pacing and suspense. The result is a riveting tale of murder, seduction and tabloid journalism run rampant in a New York not so different from today's.

American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the "It" Girl, and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu B Nesbit UruP

From Publishers Weekly

Uruburu, an associate professor of English at Hofstra who has consulted for the History Channel, examines the notorious life of model and chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit (1885?–1967), whose rise to stardom was as spectacular as her subsequent fall. Born in rural Pennsylvania, Florence Evelyn Nesbit was an exceedingly pretty infant who by 15 had achieved success as an actress and model in New York City, where her blend of sultry sexuality and unspoiled purity attracted the eye of famed architect and playboy Stanford White. But Pittsburgh heir and sexual sadist Harry K. Thaw wanted Nesbit for himself and vowed to expose White's immoral conduct with underage girls. Thaw went on to brutally rape and beat Nesbit, yet she agreed to marry him. Still consumed with jealousy, Thaw shot White to death in 1906, leading to a headline-grabbing trial. Uruburu's depiction of Nesbit's early life and career is richly detailed, but the book loses steam near the end and barely addresses Nesbit's post-trial tailspin into alcoholism. Still, readers will appreciate the parallels between Nesbit's It Girl status and our own celebrity-obsessed culture.

Mary Kay Andrews ...

is going to be at Emmet O'Neal Library tomorrow night from 6:30-8:00 p.m.
We'll begin with a reception and book signing followed by a talk from Ms. Andrews.
Tickets are available at the Reference Desk - we hope to see you there!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Documentaries After Dark Tomorrow Night!

Drop by the library at 6:30pm tomorrow night for a very timely documentary about some extreme farmers competing to grow the largest pumpkins in the world! Call 205/445-1117 for more information!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top 10 First Novels of 2009

I never hesitate to tell anyone that debut novels are some of my favorite books! The Booklist article I have quotes below says it best so I'll only add that I love to try the books just for that oftentimes rough hewn feel. Rarely does an author come right out the gate with something approaching perfection; the exception that immediately comes to mind is Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner. Do you remember the first time you read that book?

I don't require perfection. In fact, too much perfection puts you in danger of running into flat, one-dimensional characters. Your imagination needs some rough edges to catch itself on.

Make your next choice a debut novel and see where it takes you!

From the Booklist website:

Readers pick up a first novel with both excitement and trepidation. An untried author is always a reader’s gamble. But pick up the following first novels, all reviewed in Booklist over the past year, with no trepidation, only excitement.

Dream House by Valerie Laken
Laken is masterful at character construction as she explores issues of race and class.

A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff
This novel provides a pitch-perfect portrait of the generation that came of age in the 1990's.

Grace Hammer by Sara Stockbridge
Stockbridge deftly captures the mood of Dickensian London in this gripping debut.

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis
Words, so beautifully employed by this author, seem inadequate to convey the essence of this twentieth-century Uruguayan woman-center family saga.

In lithe, lyracal prose, the author evokes the lush language of the West Indies and the modest lives lived at the mercy of fate.

Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato
Lodato indelibly captures the fragile vulnerability and fearless bravado of adolescence.

Miles From Nowhere by Anmi Mun
There is nothing simplistic or sensationalized here as Mun, a writer of gravitas, portrays the dispossessed and the cast out.

The Moon Opera by Be Feiyu
At once a sad and lovely story, this slender novel on a rather narrow topic - the Peking Opera - nevertheless resonates with a clear, crystalline tone.

Precious by Sandra Novack
Trouble simmers beneath the surface of a bucolic Pennsylvania town in Novack's dramatic, elegantly rendered debut.

Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell
The author's screenwriting skills serve her well in this remarkable portrait of a Ukrainian farming family in Alberta during the late 1930's.

To this list I'll add a couple of my favorites of the last few years:

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Poison Study by Maria Snyder

Black Ships by Jo Graham

Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Alabama Moon by Watt Key

Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell

I'd better stop there or I'll be here all night.

*Have you read any of these yet? Do you have a favorite debut novel?*

Happy reading!