Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Songs of the Season

Robin Greenstein will perform her show "Songs of the Season" at BHPL at 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, November 30). She'll play Chanukah, Christmas (including Gospel Christmas), Kwanzaa and Yuletide songs. All ages are welcome to come learn more about these holidays and enjoy the music.
Fun facts about Robin: she has 6 CDs of original, folk and children's music, including one of Songs of the Season, and has performed the national anthem for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. She majored in in Music at SUNY-Stony Brook with a concentration in Classical Guitar, and also plays the banjo. She has also won or showcased several folk festivals.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

If You Like Agatha Christie Mysteries: more authors to try

One of this blog's most popular posts is "If You Like Agatha Christie mysteries, try these authors", so for you Christie and cozy mystery fans, here are more authors  to try:

Martha Grimes - English pub name series featuring Scotland Yard's Inspector Jury. Read the early ones in the series.
Simon Brett - the Fethering series, set in a village in England, is very light, but the plots are convincingly complicated and well-paced.
Carola Dunn - Daisy Dalrymple series, Daisy is a liberated woman jounalist and sleuth in 1920's England.
Nancy Atherton -  the premise of the Aunt Dimity series, that Lori Shepherd's dead aunt communicates through her journal to help Lori solve crimes, is silly, but the mysteries are good anyway if you can get past the ghost-written journal.
Rhys Bowen - the Evan Evans series set in Wales is mostly enjoyable because of the beautiful setting, although the writing and mysteries are satisfying also.
Hazel Holt - Mrs. Mallory series, English village sleuth in classic cozy format.
My favorite: M.C. Beaton - the Hamish MacBeth series and the Agatha Raisin series. The earlier titles tend to be better in my opinion;  the later ones are a fix for devoted fans only. Hamish is the clever, but lazy, Highland village constable;  Agatha is the cranky middle-aged Cotswold's detective.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Eve

Marian the Librarian plans to be so busy roasting a turkey tomorrow that she suggested we re-post  our old Thanksgiving blog bits this year. The library staff would like to thank all our faithful library patrons and wish you a happy Thanksgiving and Happy Reading.
Previous posts about Thanksgiving:

Interesting turkey fact: The NTF (National Turkey Federation) reports that in 2009 Americans ate 16.9 pounds of turkey on average per capita.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Library Parrot at Thanksgiving

Some libraries have library cats as recounted in Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, or aquariums in the children's room like the one at the New Providence Library down the road; one library where I worked had a Guinea Pig in a cage on the big oak library table in the reading room. The G.P was low on entertainment value as he hid in his cardboard tube most of the time during daylight hours. By far, the most remarkable library pet I've ever heard of was a parrot: Decimal.

Decimal, the parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. Decimal swore like a sailor and could peel the wallpaper off the wall at thirty paces with his salty vocabulary. The library staff tried and tried to change Decimal's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and modeling proper library behavior in an attempt to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary, but to no avail. Decimal continued to offend everyone, including the library's patrons. The library Board of Trustees had received many complaints about the parrot's behavior and the Director felt pressured to rehabilitate Decimal or give him away.

One day, the Library Director was fed up and yelled at the parrot. "If you don't clean up your act, you're gone, I mean it, gone to that perch in the sky!" The parrot yelled back. The Director shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. "@!!??""**!!!"
In desperation, the Director grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer in the staff kitchen. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed.
Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, the Director quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out and said,
"I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions.
I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully
intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable
The library staff was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude and wondered what had made such a dramatic change in Decimal's behavior, but before anyone could ask the reason, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

Thanks to my college roomate for sending me the email that is the basis for this story.

Three Britains

The recent news about the "new austerity" in the UK reminded me I've been meaning to read David Kynaston's book, Austerity Britain, 1945-51. Sadly I didn't even realize what life after the war was like there until I read the letters written to Helene Hanff in 84, Charing Cross Road ("Everyone was so grateful for the parcel. My little ones (girl 5, boy 4) were in Heaven - with the raisins and egg I was actually able to make them a cake!") Kynaston takes ordinary people's stories and ties them in to the major events of the day, albeit in 692 pages.
Then, Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester caught my eye from its perch on the shelf for new books at BHPL. It's an illustrated guide to upper-class life during the early 19th century. Publishers Weekly says it addresses everything "from the inside-out details of period costume to the different methods of harnessing horses to carriages and the proper method of table service".

But the book that I actually checked out is the historical novel Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, the 2009 Booker prize winner. In case you've been living under a rock, this is the gist of the book:
In 1520s England, the Tudor Dynasty is threatening to unravel. King Henry VIII has yet to produce a male heir in twenty-year-marriage to his first wife. However, his pursuit to annul his marriage and court his wife's lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn, threatens the stability of all of England and sets forth a chain of events that alters the course of history.
Oooh, thrilling. There are other copies available right now, including an audiobook, so I'm not hogging.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Case of the Sibling Sleuth

Enola ("alone spelled backwards," the lonely protagonist informs us) Holmes is the 14-year-old sister of Sherlock Holmes in this mystery series by Nancy Springer. After her mother abandons her to go roaming with gypsies (but not without leaving her serious amounts of cash & a flower-based code to communicate with her via the classifieds of the Pall Mall Gazette) Enola must flee the clutches of her clever older brothers, especially Mycroft, who does not approve of her unwomanly activities, such as bicycle riding. Under a false name she establishes herself as "the world's first scientific perditorian," or finder of lost things and people, in London.

This is a young adult mystery series, but if you like codes, all things Victorian, and spirited, independent female protagonists, give it a try. At only 200 pages or so they go quickly. The cases are solved with the help of coincidence here and there, but the dialogue and characters more than make up for that. I'm up to the fourth book (out of six), The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan, and the series hasn't flagged yet. Begin with The Case of the Missing Marquess.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why People Use Twitter

The Taxonomy of Tweeters: the 4 most commonly observed Subspecies of Tweeters as observed on http://twitter.com/

Homo Sapiens Twitteratus Narcissisti will tweet every little non-event in his day. eg: 'got up, drank coffee.' This Sub-species gave Twitter a bad name and led to much questioning of the worth of Twitter and often to questioning the worth of the entire species Homo Sapiens.

Although entertaining, Homo Sapiens Twitteratus Humoristi can be viewed as a non-essential, if persistant, variation in the evolution of the human species. Because dying is easy but humor is hard, we expect this subspecies to be on the threatened list for extinction, but those who do survive are quite hardy as they develop a thick skin and are not easily discouraged from tweeting.

Skipping to HST Lurker, these non-participants are followers, but not followed. Sadly, this gentle, quiet subspecies will not be as successful a genetic variation as Narcissisti despite the fact that many Homo Sapiens need to improve their listening skills.
HST Informationisti includes the variation Bibliotecaria which are regarded as the most valuable of all tweeters. If you look to your right on this blog, you will see a fine specimen of HSTI Bibliotecaria tweeting. http://twitter.com/bhplibrarian
There you have it. 'Til next time I, Rana Clamitans Bloggerati, venture out of the mud to explain it all to you.
- Fleur T. Frog
Hic vivit Ranas Fleur

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Books, One Bird

I picked up A Version of the Truth by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack for some light reading, and now I'm interested in birds, of all things. (My new motto is "birds: not just carriers of avian flu anymore.") A Version of the Truth is about the transformation of a 30-year-old California woman from a dyslexic high school drop out and wildlife refuge volunteer (with a penchant for wearing beige and terrible taste in men) to a creative, put-together college grad and mother. What sparked the change was her new job as a secretary in the psychology department of a research university, but she lied about having a college degree in order to get it.

A Version of the Truth is chick lit, but it also examines the nature of truth and has great literary references. Cassandra's hippie mother named her after a Greek goddess who had the power to predict the future, but was cursed in that no one would believe her. Similarly, Cassie likes to visit the practically extinct ivory-billed woodpecker deep in a state park in the Santa Monica mountains, but no one at the university believes her. (Discussion questions are available on the book's website.)

Kaufman and Mack cited The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose as one of their sources for information about the ivory billed woodpeckers. I love nonfiction that was written for children (grades 5 - 8 in this case, although at BHPL the book is upstairs in adult nonfiction) so I checked it out. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird is full of photos, drawings and really interesting sidebars (such as, James Audubon thought the Bald Eagle tasted like veal.) It's a wide-ranging 160 pages or so, and an interesting look at American History as it affected birds (such as the Plume War of the early 1900s and the Southern logging boom during Reconstruction).

After decades of being presumed extinct (and after The Race to Save the Lord God Bird was published), the ivory-billed woodpecker was spotted in Arkansas in 2004, although ornithologists debate whether it was the ivory-billed woodpecker, or the similar looking pileated woodpecker. You can watch videos (including the first one ever of the bird, taken in 1934) of the gigantic (3 feet wing span) and gorgeous ivory-billed woodpecker at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Autumn Reading

We've all heard the expression "beach reads", but is there an equivalent for the fall? If there were such a category, it might include books that counteract the busy-ness of the back-to-school/holidays-are-looming-season and the gloominess of shortened days with the desire to curl up inside with something not too serious. Here's my list for the new category - Fall Reads: funny, warm, fuzzy, inspiring, or short, from the New Fiction shelf:
David Sedaris, the very quirky humorist's latest book is squirrel seeks chipmunk, a modest bestiary, animal tales for the modern age - these stories fall into the short and funny category.

Lynne Hinton (Friendship Cake) is back with Wedding Cake and Christmas Cake which reunities readers and Hinton fans with the ladies of Hope Springs, North Carolina. If you like Jan Karon's Mitford series or Phillip Gulley's Harmony series about village life centered around church activities, you might want to add Hinton to your must read list.

Anne Lamott's latest, Imperfect Birds, a coming of age/family story is described as in the jacket blurbs as "A heartbreaker and a heart-mender." (Martin Cruz Smith) Lamott falls into the inspirational category.

Susan Wittig Albert, author of the China Bayles (herb farm)  and the Beatrix Potter mysteries, has a new series about the Darling Dahlias, a garden club in Alabama whose members solve mysteries. The first title is The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber
Tree. Albert's books are in the "cozy" mystery genre.

And finally, what could be shorter and more seasonally appropriate than a collection of holiday short stories? Editor Otto Penzler brings us Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, a compilation of the seasonal stories commissioned by Mr. Penzler to hand out to his bookshop customers.
Related links: The Mysterious Bookshop, The Darling Dahlias, Lynne Hinton, David Sedaris on the Daily Show, Anne Lamott's website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Unveiling BHPL's New Web Site

BHPL's new web site went live late last night! The web site address is still bhplnj.org. (If you use bookmarks or favorites, you will need to bookmark or favorite the new site.)

The "Books, CDs & DVDs" column on the right side links to anything you can take home from the library or view online using the library's subscription. Whether you want to browse BHPL's newly arrived books, request an interlibrary loan, read an article from the Star-Ledger archives from home, or download an eBook or audiobook, Books, CDs & DVDs is where you would look.

Under the "Events" column, also on the right side of the page, the new calendar lists all of the library's events in one spot. BHPL's newsletter, The Buzz, is in the same column. If you prefer a list of events, check out the programs for adults or the children's page.

And that's about it. We tried to make it simple. If that didn't cover what you're looking for, look under About, or use the search box in the bottom right corner.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On Agate Hill by Lee Smith

Dear Diary, This book belongs to me Molly Petree age thirteen today May 20 in the year of our Lord 1872, Agate Hill, North Carolina. I am an orphan girl. This is my own book of my own self given to me by the preachers wife Nora Gwyn who said, This little diary is for you my dear unfortunate child, to be your friend and confi dent, to share all your thoughts and deepest secrets for I know how much you need a friend and also how much you love to read and write. I do believe you have a natural gift for it. Now it is my special hope that you will set down upon these pages your own memories of your lovely mother and your brave father, and of your three brothers as well, and of all that has befallen you. For I believe this endeavor might help you, Molly Petree. So I urge you to take pen in hand commencing your diary with these words, Thy will be done O Lord on Earth as it is in Heaven, Amen. Well, I have not done this! And I will not do it either no matter how much I love pretty Nora Gwyn who looks like a lady on a fancy plate and has taught me such few lessons as I have had since Aunt Fannie died. NO for I mean to write in secrecy and stelth the truth as I see it. I know I am a spitfire and a burden. I do not care. My family is a dead family, and this is not my home, for I am a refugee girl.

So begins On Agate Hill by Lee Smith, a collection of fictional diaries, letters and court documents that take the reader from a plantation and a girl's boarding school during Reconstruction, to an Appalachian one-room schoolhouse, to finally the Confederados of Brazil who fled the South after the Civil War. These documents are all discovered at Agate Hill, now a B & B run by the transgendered father of Tuscany Miller, former beauty pageant contestant and would-be graduate student of documentary studies. To fully enjoy the book, don't let its piecemeal (others would say "patchwork quilt") quality bother you - give yourself over to the distinctive voices of the writers of the letters and diaries.

The evening book group is reading On Agate Hill for its discussion on November 9. ReadingGroupGuides.com has published the book's discussion questions. You can listen to an interview Smith had with North Carolina Public Radio WUNC here. Lee Smith writes on her web site about how she was inspired to write On Agate Hill. There are links to reviews on her On Agate Hill page too. Blackbird, an online literary journal out of Virginia Commonwealth University, has a good article about the multiplicity of speakers in Lee Smith's novels.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney

Berkeley Heights resident Ted Behne is the editor of The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney, 1887-1890, recently published by the Canadian publisher Goose Lane. Tappan Adney was an American whose summer vacation in 1887 turned into a lifelong love affair with Canada. His writings, illustrations, and photographs were published in Harper's Weekly magazine over his lifetime. Adney's book, The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, helped save the birchbark canoe from oblivion. Adney was also the first person to attempt to defend a native person in a Canadian court based on the treaties the British made with the natives in colonial times. At age 13 and 14, he carried a full course load at the University of North Carolina, and later on he could charm birds and squirrels to eat out of his hand by imitating their sounds.

In 1887, at the age of 18, Tappan Adney embarked on his first trip to New Brunswick, Canada and fell under the spell of its wilderness and the Maliseet people. Adney recorded his wilderness adventures in his journals through evocative sketches and memorable prose, including a caribou hunt decades before their extinction in that area.

Ted Behne's interest in Adney began when he attended a birchbark canoe-building class. Behne's articles on the birchbark canoe and Tappan Adney have appeared in Native Peoples, Prairies North, Wooden Canoe and Wooden Boat magazines. You may have seen the birchbark canoe models that Ted Behne made on display at BHPL in February 2009.

Ted Behne will speak about the book and the colorful life of its author, Tappan Adney at BHPL on Wednesday, December 8 at 7 p.m. Signed copies of The Travel Journals of Tappan Adney, 1887-1890 will be available after the talk. You can register here or at the library.