Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Year of Borrowed Men, by Michelle Barker; illustrated by Renne Benoit

A Year of Borrowed Men is a picture book told through the eyes of a child and based on a true WWII story (set in 1944) about a German farm family given three “borrowed” French POWs, by Nazi order, to help with the big farm.

In 19 pages, we see the little girl struggle to understand war and peace and why she cannot be friends with the “borrowed men.” We see her come close to losing her mother after her mother allowed the French POWs to eat dinner at the family table one time and was reported by watchful neighbors.

 The author cleverly drives home themes of fragility and universality with French and German vocabulary, such as eine Puppe/une poupee (a doll); Freunde/Feinde (friends/enemies).

This is an excellent war-and-peace read-aloud for older grades - one that could prompt good discussion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New Fiction 10/18/2016

Here is a sampling of new fiction released this week.  If you see something you like, simply click on the title to place a copy on hold through the library's catalog.

The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston
The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg
Cakewalk by Rita Mae Brown
Paris For One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
Wait For Dark by Kay Hooper
Pharaoh by Wilber A. Smith
Seduced by Randy Wayne White
The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot
The Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith
The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

As an adolescent, Paul Kalanithi was concerned with the central question: what gives life meaning? For an answer, he turned to literature, earning a BA and MA in English literature. Then, he studied another love, science, because he wanted to know how a brain – just an organ - makes the mind possible. Finally, at 34, within reach of the official title of Stanford University neurosurgeon-scientist, he reads his own test results, finds his body riddled with cancer, “lost in a featureless wasteland of his own mortality”, yet finds the wherewithal to write this extraordinary, powerful, heart-wrenching book. Twenty-one months later, with a newborn daughter, he dies at the age of 36.

When Breath Becomes Air stopped me in my tracks. It made me see the world with fresh eyes, appreciate it with every breath, and realize the difference between breath and air, brain and mind, body and soul, balance and ambition.

Kalanithi understood the science behind his cancer, but it was his relationship to literature and other people that soothed and sustained him in the end. His love of language as “an almost supernatural force,” and his use of it to forge this book ensures his legacy. He underscores that we are more than matter, biological organisms, numbers and graphs.  One of my favorite lines is: “It occurred to me that my relationship with statistics changed as soon as I became one.” Kalanithi superbly identifies the limits of science: “The paradox is that scientific methodology is the product of human hands and thus cannot reach some permanent truth. . . Science is based on reproducibility and manufactured objectivity” and makes claims about matter and energy, but that kind of scientific knowledge is “inapplicable to the existential, visceral nature of human life.” No reader of Kalanithi’s book can remain immune to the importance of the “A” (Arts) in STEAM or to the imperative of keeping it there as an equal in any child’s curriculum.

No one acting as an agent in medicine or as a patient should let this book slip away, for Kalanithi leaves a treasure of insights about how all of medicine “trespasses into sacred spheres;” how “the physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.” He pursued medicine “to bear witness to the twinned mysteries of death, its experiential and biological manifestations, at once deeply personal and utterly impersonal.”

This is a must-read for medical personnel because they face “heroic responsibility amid blood and failure” and must resolve them every day. For Kalanithi, medicine was not a job but a calling, full of moral responsibility, holding everything that mattered to him: life, death, identity, and meaning: “Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. . . . My highest ideal was not saving lives—everyone dies eventually—but guiding a patient or family to an understanding of death or illness.”

Debilitated by cancer, Kalanithi poignantly describes how it felt for him to flip from neurosurgeon to patient, from the subject, the agent, the cause of medical actions to the direct object of them, as “something to which things happened.” With courage, we are mind, spirit, and soul. That is what makes us human, and the sharing of them is what makes life meaningful. Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, finishes the book, which is: “a chance for this courageous seer to be a sayer, to teach us to face death with integrity.”

Thursday, October 13, 2016

All the Ways You Saved Me by Jamie Howard

Bianca’s future has been all laid out. After law school, she is expected to return to Texas to work in her father’s law firm and play the part of the senator’s perfect daughter. When her best friend unexpectedly dies shortly after graduation, she decides to fulfill Renee’s bucket list  by staying in New York City and delaying her plans.

First item she tackles is to buy a stranger a coffee, and that stranger is Ian Mathis, an attractive, tattooed musician who wants to help her with the list. Their friendship blossoms into more, but there is a side to Ian that keeps Bianca at a distance. If he can’t break down his walls and let go of the past, they will have no future.

And for Bianca, this list helps her grow as a person while finding her own way in the world. But the most important item on the list is to save somebody’s life. Can she save Ian from himself?

Tackling death, loss, and new beginnings, this story has ample substance and proves that Howard’s (Until It’s Right) new adult  novel is a standout. Added to that is an engaging, non-linear timeline, believable characters, and sweet love scenes that gives the reader all the right emotional feels.

Originally published in Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | October 14, 2016 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New Fiction 10/11/2016

Here is a sampling of new fiction released this week.  If you see something you like, simply click on the title to place a copy on hold through the library's catalog.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Order to Kill by Vince Flynn
Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith
Crimson Death by Laurell K. Hamilton
Hag-Seed by Margaret Eleanor Atwood
Triple Crown by Felix Francis
The Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau

Philippe Cousteau (Jacques’ grandson) and Deborah Hopkinson’s new juvenile non-fiction book, Follow the Moon Home, is a captivating story about "one idea, twenty kids, and a hundred sea turtles" that begs to be read aloud like a picture book, (I double-checked the call number to make sure that it really was J 597.928 COU).

It clearly describes and applies the scientific method and community activism, and is beautifully illustrated by Meilo So, who depicts the library in a pop-out spot very early on.

Be sure to explore Philippe Cousteau’s organization, all about children changing the world, called Earth-Echo International.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install

Ben just can't seem to get it together. Drifting aimlessly throughout his days, he can't seem to finish anything - projects around the house, a job search. He's lost his confidence, and seems to be losing his marriage as well. And then Tang shows up.

Tang is a rather beaten up old robot who appears in Ben's garden. After a couple of days, it's apparent that Tang isn't going away, so Ben tries to find out where he belongs, and how he can be repaired. Of course, Tang's not offering up any information, and it looks like something really important has cracked inside of him, so it becomes Ben's mission to track down Tang's maker and get a replacement part before it's too late.

This mission will take Ben and Tang from one side of the world to the other, both of them learning new things about the world, themselves, and each other.

This is a quirky, fun little book that will leave you wishing that you had a Tang in your life too. Recommended for readers who enjoyed The Rosie Project and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

New Fiction 10/4/2016

Here is a sampling of new fiction released this week.  If you see something you like, simply click on the title to place a copy on hold through the library's catalog.

Escape Clause by John Sandford
Two By Two by Nicholas Sparks
Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand
All the Little Liars by Charlaine Harris
The Trespasser by Tana French
Without Mercy by Jefferson Bass
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Breaking Good by Madeline Ash

During high school, tomboy Stevie Case and Ethan Rafters shared nothing more than secret glances across the room until the night before Ethan left for good. He invited Stevie to his last party, and they gave into their sexual chemistry once and for all. Stevie was a brilliant student with plans to become an engineer, whereas Ethan, unable to focus, rarely attended classes.

Fast forward seven years and now Stevie and her son Zach are on holiday from Melbourne in Byron Bay. Living nearby is Ethan, who finds Stevie’s name when looking for a painter to spruce up his house before he rents it, and thinks it might be fun to catch up. As a struggling single mother, Stevie needs to find work on their vacation and is in shock to discover her client is Ethan, a successful CEO of his own company, who she heard had died shortly after she gave birth.

Now she needs to come clean and tell him he is a father as a result of their one night stand. And even if there is a chance for him to find love with Stevie again, will he also love their son?

Ash (You For Christmas) gives good insight into dealing with ADHD in adulthood through her character Ethan in this contemporary novella. Readers will be reminiscing about young love and the challenges of love as we grow older, while rooting for Ethan, Stevie, and Zach to become a family in the end.

Originally published in Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | September 23, 2016 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

Calista Langley runs an agency which introduces respectable ladies and gentlemen. She has found success but now she has become the target of a stalker. He has been sending her little trinkets associated with funerals. And one he left in her bedroom.

Trent Hastings decides to visit Calista about his sister, Eudora, belonging to her agency. He soon becomes involved in Calista's problems. He thinks he can help since he is a famous mystery writer. Calista reluctantly accepts his help and soon they are on the trail of her stalker. But then the case takes a deadly turn. Will they be able to figure out the mystery before they wind up dead?

I don't know what it is about Amanda Quick but I love her books. This one was just as great. The characters, the story it is all fantastic. If you haven't read her, what are you waiting for?!