Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cynthia Sayer Concert Sunday at the Library

Sunday, September 30
2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Join us Sunday at the Berkeley Heights Public Library for a very special concert with Cynthia Sayer on vocals and banjo accompanied by acclaimed musician Jim Whitney on bass.

Cynthia Sayer is regarded as the top 4-string banjoist/vocalist in the world today.  A member of Woody Allen's jazz band for over 10 years, Cynthia's solo career has taken her well beyond these New Orleans roots to become an acclaimed bandleader and guest artist. 
Cynthia’s swing-based, family-friendly shows include an eclectic repertoire of hot jazz, tango, western, classical, old favorites, and more, showcasing the surprising range of the banjo.  The New York Times called Cynthia “a rarity; a woman who plays banjo with drive and virtuosity.”

Call the library to sign up for this free program (908) 464-9333

OneClickdigital - Kindle Fire app now available

OneClickDigital, a provider of downloadable audiobooks to the patrons of Berkeley Heights Public Library has new upgrades.
OneClickDigital  has officially launched the OneClickdigital app for the Kindle Fire. Users can download the app for free from the Android Appstore at, by searching for OneClickdigital.
OneClickdigital now offers apps for the iPhone, all Android devices, and the Kindle Fire. App users will be able to access and download audiobooks directly to their device, without having to connect to a computer.  
 Go to the Berkeley Heights Public Library OneClickDigital page to start browsing for downloadable audiobooks now. 
For more downloadable audiobooks, take a look at all three providers of e-audiobooks on the Berkeley Heights Public Library Audiobook Downloads webpage.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Careless in Red

Elizabeth George writes the Inspector Lynley mysteries known also as the BBC television series shown in the U.S. on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery.  Scotland Yard's Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley, the Earl of Asherton, and his partner Detective Sargeant Barbara Havers, a working class woman, are a study in contrasts. The class difference, but close friendship, between the two characters is a major theme of the books. I had never been a fan of the TV show, nor had I been able to get far with any of the books when suddenly, I was pulled in by Believing the Lie (2012) which I downloaded to my Nook last January and took on a trip with me. I guess packing an e-reader loaded with Ms. George's latest in the Lynley series and having no back-up paperbacks, and adding in a flight delay, I stuck with the book. Then I was hooked and couldn't tear myself away. The lesson here is that if you don't like a book, put it down and try another by the same author or try the book at a later time. And, note to self, don't be so impatient, some books take a while to warm up. A reader's mood can make or break the reading experience.
Careless in Red (2008) which I just finished, finds Thomas Lynley depressed into a near catatonic state and hiking in Cornwall after the murder of his wife. After weeks of walking, Lynley finds the body of a young man, apparently the victim of a rock-climbing accident. The local police ask for Lynley's help investigating the case which appears to be murder. The hard-boiled local police chief Bea Hannaford is as tough and plain-spoken as Barbara Havers who later comes down from London to help with the investigation. The team of Havers and Hannaford is a brilliant pairing of hard-working police women who don't quite fit the feminine role expected of them. Both cynical and blunt, their detecting styles work perfectly together.
     THE CLIFFS*             
This mystery at 626 pages is densely plotted with a large cast of complex characters and a lot of local detail about Cornwall, especially the surfing, rock-climbing and hiking the area is known for. Set aside a big block of time for this book or take it on vacation.

*I found this charcoal pencil drawing in one of my old sketchbooks. I wish I could say I drew this while hiking in Cornwall. Maybe someday, but for now, this is what I think it would look like on a dark day with the fog creeping across the cliffs.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

One Day at the Reference Desk

Questions for the Reference Librarians during a typical day recently:

Q: Where is the nearest motor vehicle station ?
A: NJ Motor Vehicle Commission website has a location finder that we use to give addresses and directions to patrons.
We also throw in soothing murmurs to commiserate with whoever is headed to this infamously molasses-slow agency.

Q: I think I lost my EE bonds. How can I find out if my U.S. Savings bond has been redeemed by someone else? How do I report them missing?
A: This is a variation on the bad news we gave out recently that EE bonds are no longer sold at banks, but that people now have to use the Department of the Treasury website to purchase bonds. For this patron, we found a form and printed it out for her
Claim for Lost, Stolen or Destroyed U.S. Savings Bond form . We also found this:

' Not Sure If You Already Redeemed a Bond?
If you have the serial numbers, we can look up the status of the securities, assuming they are U.S. Treasury securities. To do so, a signed request by the owner or co-owner must be received by us before we can provide the information. If the bond owner or both co-owners are deceased, then the person making the request needs to provide proof, such as a copy of the death certificate(s). Send the request to:
Bureau of the Public Debt
P.O. Box 7012
Parkersburg, WV 26106-7012 '

Q: Yikes! I accidentally printed reams of printouts I don't want!
A: Librarian runs (this is why we wear sensible shoes with non-skid soles) to the printer and takes out all the paper. This buys us enough time to persuade the printer to lose its memory, cease and desist with the print job. Failing persuasion through a remote link, the printer's power can be cut off, count to ten, cross fingers, reboot. Ta da! No more printouts. And really, who needs 57 copies of a red velvet cake recipe?

Q: Speaking of recipes: one patron opined, 'my garden keeps producing more zucchini than I need. Can you find me some good zucchini recipes?'
A: Ha ha ROTFL. Who amongst the gardeners of the world has not cursed the profligacy of zucchini plants in August? BHPL has a cookbook to the rescue: Squash & zucchini : pumpkin, butternut, musk, Hokkaido, and zucchini  by Elisabeth Bangert which can be found at call # 641.65 BAN. Or you can "Google" the phrase "zucchini recipes" and wait for the deluge of websites with recipes. And finally, scroll down to the bottom of this blog page to watch 'Zucchini Visits the Library' slide show. This shows you just how irrepressible these squash can be.

Speaking of printing, printing problems must be the number one difficulty patrons have when using the library computers.
Q: When I printed out my email, it came out all funny and incomplete.
A: To avoid funny and other undesired printing results, use the 'print preview' option and always use the print button which is part of the email, or other website or program, you are using. That will result in a cleaner copy.

Q: Can you recommend anything good to read?
A: we have a 'Staff Picks' shelf right near the Reference Desk where we shelve mostly light, entertaining books in many fiction genres and best-selling, highly readable non-fiction. This morning's recommendations were for any Stuart Woods mystery and the latest Alexander McCall Smith book. The patron last seen happily clutching the books and looking forward to a 'good read.'

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Shakespeare Stealer

Gary Blackwood's historical novel for young adults, The Shakespeare Stealer, will be discussed at the Tuesday Night Book Group on September 11 from 7:30 - 8:30 pm. The Shakespeare Stealer has been on the local school summer reading list for a few years now, so the library book group decided to see what area students are reading.
Widge, an orphan in service to a mysterious and scary master, has been commanded to steal William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. By joining the acting troupe at the Globe Theatre, Widge has to decide whether to be loyal to his new actor friends or to steal the play out of fear for punishment at the hands of his master.

Liz Morris' Teaching Guide to the Shakespeare Stealer gives a summary of the plot and questions appropriate for middle-school students.  She recommends the following websites

Thursday, September 6, 2012

If You Like Downton Abbey, read this

If you are addicted to the PBS series 'Downton Abbey', you should read Kate Morton's  The House at Riverton, the story of a grand English manor house told in flashbacks by a 98 year former housemaid recalling her service at Riverton from 1914 to 1924. The story of the house, the aristocratic family and the downstairs staff mirrors the changes in English society during that time. From pre-World War I privilege to the carnage of the Great War and the gradual disappearance of 'in-service' jobs, the story has a mysterious death at Riverton at it's heart.
Recommended for fans of family sagas, all things British, before the wars romance and historical fiction.

I also loved Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden and the author's The Distant Hours is on my 'must read' list. The Forgotten Garden traces a long-held family secret from Australia to Cornwall, from early 20th century to the present day and involves a beautiful book of fairy tales. I have recommended Ms. Morton's books to readers who like family sagas, gothic stories like Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca, and who like the complex plots of Kate Atkinson. The library has the cult of Kates going on with the staff because both Kate Atkinson and Kate Morton are very popular and have allowed the staff to make great reading recommendations to our patrons.

Kate Morton's new book, the Secret Keeper will be released October 16, 2012 and is on order at the library so patrons can now put holds on that book.

The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan

When Ruth was growing up in San Francisco, her mother LuLing believed that Ruth could communicate with LuLing's dead nursemaid, Precious Auntie, who committed suicide when LuLing still lived in China. Ironically, Ruth now makes a living as a ghostwriter, but she calls herself a "book collaborator."  When LuLing develops Alzheimer's, Ruth feels guilty about never reading the Chinese manuscript that LuLing wrote years ago about her childhood and life in wartime China. Ruth has it translated and learns the story of LuLing and Precious Auntie, who was the beautiful daughter of a bonesetter.  Precious Auntie (and LuLing) believe their tragic lives are the result of a family curse that is linked to the discovery of the bones of Peking Man. Publishers Weekly calls The Bonesetter's Daughter "even more polished and provocative" than Amy Tan's most famous book, The Joy Luck Club. If you somehow didn't get around to reading The Bonesetter's Daughter when it was released in 2001, I definitely recommend it.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pythagoras & Musical Scales

Having finished the incomparable Robert Greenberg's Teaching Company courses The Symphony and How to Listen to and Understand Music, I have moved on to Understanding the Fundamentals of Music (a.k.a music theory.)

One of the cool things I learned was that Pythagoras discovered the ratios between different harmonic intervals.  If you take a string, and another string that is twice the length of the first string, and pluck both of them, you've got an octave. In fact, that shorter string is vibrating twice as fast as the longer string.  If you take a string that is 1.5 times (or 0.75 times, either way) as long as that first string, when you pluck those you've got a perfect fifth - for example, a C and a G (which sound really good together). To read more about this, check out this site

It gets cooler.  Play a note, starting with an F, then a note a perfect fifth above that, and so on until 7 notes have been played. Then put all of of those notes within the same octave: you've got the white keys on a piano.  During the Renaissance, people tried stacking even more perfect fifths on, and found that the 13th pitch was the same as the first.  That gave us the white AND black keys on a piano. For a better explanation of this than I can offer, see Wikipedia's article on Pythagorean Tuning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Killing in the Hills

Long Black Veil, recorded by Lefty Frizzell in the late 50’s, is my favorite country song.  
It includes murder, adultery, a miscarriage of justice, and eternal mourning.  What more could you want?  Despite the fact that  songwriter Danny Dill was inspired by a newspaper story about the murder of a priest in New Jersey,  in my heart of hearts I know this song should have been  written about a small town in the Shenandoah Valley. This song resonates with me - I don’t care if I’m listening to recordings by Springsteen, the Chieftains and Mick Jagger, Johnny Cash, Dave Matthews, or Lefty himself.

The same feeling applies to novels and mysteries with a strong sense of place, where the location is a character.  Sharyn McCrumb’s Ballad Series is a prime example. Her earlier books (including The Rosewood Casket, She Walks These Hills and If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O) convinced me that my ancestors from Scotland must have passed along the same rivers and hills and sang the same songs.  Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap novels and Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series (starting with The Bootlegger’s Daughter) strike the same chord. 

Julia Keller’s A Killing in the Hills portrays a small town in West Virginia as vividly as a segment on 60 Minutes discussing rural poverty, prescription drug abuse, and the deadly popularity of hillbilly heroin.  Ms. Keller, however, reminds readers that people are born and raised in small mountain towns, choose to remain there, or even return there after living elsewhere.  Being isolated may no longer be a safeguard against the evils of modern life, but her main characters are fighting the good fight and struggling to understand how good people can do bad things.  I usually don’t read the blurbs on the back of books, but I totally support the comment by author Karin Slaughter: “Julia Keller is that rare talent who combines gripping suspense, a fabulous sense of place, and nuanced characters you can’t wait to come back to.  A must-read.”