Saturday, March 31, 2012

Two Too Funny Memoirs

Thirty-two hours of any audiobook, much less one that includes "once-in-a-lifetime romantic passion and graphically depicted torture sessions" - as Kirkus Reviews described the two extremes of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander - would have been enough for me to seek out Wishful Drinking as my next choice of audiobook. Fortunately Carrie Fisher's laugh-out-loud memoir is also very short. Possibly because she had electroshock therapy that wiped out a lot of her memory. Seriously.

Wishful Drinking is based on the one-woman show of the same name, so it is more like theater than a book, especially if you listen to the audiobook. Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. the actress who played Princess Leia in Star Wars and the author of Postcards from the Edge) tells funny anecdotes about her mother Debbie Reynolds, her own "in-bred Hollywood" upbringing and her bouts with bipolar disorder and substance abuse. The chapter on Star Wars is truly hilarious.

Wishful Drinking is the kind of book David Sedaris fans would like. If you're not in that camp, try I Love You, Miss Huddleston: and Other Inappropriate Longings From My Indiana Childhood by Philip Gulley instead. The son of a bug spray salesman who also sells its byproduct aftershave, Gulley writes about growing up in a small town whose main export was mice. I was reminded, in a good way, of Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - also a memoir of childhood - and In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd - a novel, but set in small town Indiana like ILYMH.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Harry Potter eBooks

All seven of the Harry Potter ebooks are at, so you can put yourself on the wait list to read them on your Kindle, Nook or iPad.

If you can't wait to spend a few more hours in the world of Harry Potter, come to the library to pick up Quidditch through the Ages or Tales of Beedle the Bard, both written by J.K. Rowling to raise money for charity.

Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore is the editor of Tales of Beedle the Bard and he writes a few pages of commentary on each folk tale. "The Tale of the Three Brothers" is well-known from its telling in the Deathly Hallows, but my favorite part was the anecdote about Lucius Malfoy trying to remove "The Fountain of Fair Fortune" from the Hogwarts library. Dumbledore writes:
This exchange marked the beginning of Mr. Malfoy's long campaign to have me removed from my post as headmaster of Hogwarts, and of mine to have him removed from his position as Lord Voldemort's Favorite Death Eater.

Quidditch through the Ages - also known as the book that Snape confiscates from Harry Potter in the Sorcerer's Stone - covers the history of the sport, including the professional teams and the development of broomsticks. Its name comes from "Queerditch Marsh" where the first game was played. The snitch was added after an incident in which a wizard released a bird called a snidget onto the pitch and offered 150 galleons to anyone who caught it.

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The morning book group is discussing The Illuminator this Friday, a work of historical fiction set during the social unrest of 14th century England. The widowed lady of a manor takes in a boarder at the request of a nearby monastery: a teenaged girl and her father, an illuminator who is working on a book of hours for the monks. Peppering the book are historical figures like the anchoress Julian of Norwich - famous for her writings including the quote "all shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well" - and John Wycliffe, who risked his life to translate the Bible into English.

Discussion questions are available at Reading Group Guides, as is an interview with the author. Brenda Vantrease wrote a sequel, The Mercy Seller, in which the illuminator's granddaughter is a Lollard copyist. The author (a former teacher and librarian) suggests various web sites about the history behind her books, the latest of which is The Heretic's Wife (2010).

Monday, March 26, 2012

If you like the Hunger Games, read these

Hunger Games the movie was just released and achieved huge attendance records over the weekend. The continued popularity of the books is keeping the trilogy on the bestseller lists. If you have read and reread Suzanne Collins' books and would like to read something similar, try these titles recommended by NoveList Plus, the library database that recommends 'read-alikes'.

Starcrossed by Elizabeth Bunce, fantasy with a strong female character who has to decide whether to join her friends and challenge the king and the political establishment.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, dystopian science fiction in which 16 year olds face a choice between a lifetime of beauty or else... what?

Graceling by Kristin Cashore, again with the surgically transformed teens into beauties, but with a price to pay!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman, a world where teens between 13 and 18 have their organs harvested. Yikes, teens, run away, run away!

The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer, teen living in future Satellite City has supernatural powers, discovers use of blue Parasites.

Obviously future teens are in for some bad times according to these dystopian novels and readers can't get enough of these cautionary tales of imagination, politics gone amuck, scientific progress without moral boundaries. voyeuristic entertainment and a society that worships the superficial over deeper values. Oh, wait...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tell Me of Lincoln

If you missed William Styple when he was on CSpan's BookTV to talk about Tell Me of Lincoln in 2010, he is presenting stories from the book at the library next Saturday, March 24 at 2 p.m. A book signing will follow.

Tell Me of Lincoln: Memories of Abraham Lincoln, The Civil War & Life in Old New York is by James E. Kelly, the artist and sculptor of public figures. Born in 1855, James Kelly wished to make a posthumous bronze sculpture of Lincoln and recorded his interviews with dozens of people who had met the President, including several eyewitnesses to his assassination. Additionally, Kelly kept notes on his meetings with public figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and Admiral Dewey of Spanish-American War fame. Kelly also wrote three versions of his memoirs of life in Civil War-era New York City. In Tell Me of Lincoln, William Styple has selected passages from Kelly's writings and organized them to form a coherent whole, with explanatory comments. Styple, a Chatham resident, was interviewed by the Independent Press in 2010.

James Kelly's Washington in Prayer, at Federal Hall in New York. Kelly never made his planned bronze sculpture of Lincoln.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BHPL App Now Works on the Kindle Fire

You can now search the BHPL catalog, place holds and renew items on a Kindle Fire with the easy-to-use (and free) BHPL app! The app also lets you browse reading lists, read this blog, and keep up with the latest events at the library with just a few taps.

To download the app, go to the Apps tab, tap Store and search for BHPL. The BHPL app is also compatible with Android phones, iPhones, iPads, the iPod Touch, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Palm.

The library blog

Easily place holds on this week's bestsellers with the New York Times Bestseller Lists.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story

Underground Railroad: The William Still Story is a PBS documentary on William Still and the hundreds of fugitive slaves he helped escape to Canada. The son of slaves and the chairman of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, Still took on extra risk by recording the stories of the runaway slaves that he assisted. You can place a hold on the library's copy of the DVD here.

BHPL patron and Kean University professor Sarah Ducksworth appears in Underground Railroad: The William Still Story. The research coordinator at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Underground Railroad History project and the descendant of slaves in Mississippi, she wrote the foreword to William Still's book "The Underground Rail Road" when it was republished in 2005. You can place a hold on the book here.