01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Autobiographies, Graphic Novel, Memoirs, NonFiction, Tammy

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney , read by Tammy, on 05/21/2014

marblesCartoonist Ellen Forney tells her personal story of confronting that she is bi-polar the best way she knows… through comics and sketches. She openly shares about her struggles to accept the she is bi-polar and the difficulty of finding just the right blend of medication and therapy so she can still be creative.

01. June 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Autobiographies, Graphic Book, Inspirational, NonFiction, Tammy

Cancer Vixen by Marisa Acocella Marchetto, read by Tammy, on 05/03/2014

cancer vixenOne woman’s personal story of learning she has cancer, fighting it and surviving while trying to still have a normal life and work and plan her wedding. Everyone’s experience with cancer is unique but if you’re looking for a book to let you know what a friend with breast cancer may be going through both physically and emotionally this book should be helpful.

 

29. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Buried Beneath Us: Discovering the Ancient Cities of the Americas by Anthony Aveni, Katherine Roy, read by Angie, on 05/28/2014

This book takes a look at the cities of four American cultures: Cahokia, Inca, Aztec, and Maya. The author goes over what cities are, how they developed, what life was like and the religions of these cultures. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. The author gives us a lot of good information, but unfortunately the organization of the book makes it very difficult to distinguish when the city changes. I think it might have better served the reader to perhaps do a chapter on each culture and its cities instead of breaking the chapters up like they were. I also thought the illustrations were horrible. There are no actual pictures of the ruins of these cities or their artifacts instead all the illustrations are a horrible gray block type that is a bit too abstract for the audience to appreciate. This is a fascinating subject that wasn’t served well by this book.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: How To's, Humor, Inspirational, Marsha, Memoirs, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, read by Marsha, on 05/27/2014

birdLamott gives us an inside peek at her writing processes and the advice she gives to her workshop students.  Hilariously written, as one reviewer notes, the book is “a warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps.”  Lamott is not shy about telling her students and readers that writing is hard work and what we think of as reward, publication, may not ever happen.  And yet, we should keep on writing about ourselves, our lives, our very ups and downs.  She encourages us all to just keep writing day by day.  A good dose of humor is thrown in to keep us from getting too despondent.  Lamott tackles libel, beginning writing, taking classes, and finding writing partners with a good dose of reality and fun in her text.  I highly recommend it for any creative person who needs a good laugh.

 

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Sarah, Teen Books

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper, read by Sarah, on 05/27/2014

   Jericho has a chance to pledge with the Warriors of Distinction, a club in his school that seems to have it all going on.  The pledges are told all or none so they have to stick together through pledge week through all types of challenges to prove themselves worthy of the group.  At what point do the challenges cross the line?  Should Jericho and his friends stick together and endure the worst?  Or band together to stand up for what is right?

This book was very intense at times when the kids were pledging.  I was disgusted by what they were asked to do and wondered how this type of hazing could ever be allowed.  Obviously, the adults didn’t know the full extent of what was going to transpire that week.  This was a powerful book that serves as a reminder to always listen to that little voice in your head that tells you if something doesn’t feel right…or if you need to get the heck out of a situation.  It was well told, but predictable.

27. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery by Steve Sheinkin, read by Angie, on 05/24/2014

What did I know about Benedict Arnold before reading this book? Very little. I knew he was a traitor, but I had no idea what he had actually done or who he was other than that. Turns out Benedict Arnold was a hero before he was a traitor and if he had been treated a little better history may have remembered him as the former instead of the latter. Benedict Arnold was a successful business man before the Revolutionary War. When the colonies decided to rebel against Britain he was one of the first to sign up and fight. He became a general in the army and led many successful campaigns. However, he was not well liked by some of the military authorities or by the colonial government. He was passed over for promotions, accused of crimes and even forced to stand trial. This was all partially his own fault as he was reckless and went against authority. He became embroiled in the plot to give Westpoint to the British because of the poor treatment he received. While his accomplices may have been caught, Arnold made it to British territory and eventually to England. His treatment was not all that much better however and his treachery may have been for naught. This book reads like an action/adventure novel. It is a bit long, so younger readers might find its size daunting. However, I think they would enjoy it once they get into it. Fans of history and adventure will enjoy this nonfiction work.

23. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Graphic Book, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags: ,

To Teach: The Journey in Comics by Willliam Ayers, read by Tammy, on 05/04/2014

to teachGraphic novel of the true life adventures of William Ayers as an elementary school teacher. Ayers obviously loves teaching and loves his students but has to struggle with administration and paperwork. His approach to teaching is for lots of group activities and lots of kinetic interaction with the learning items. He believes that kids learn best when having fun and feeling like they are playing instead of working. His class is very busy and loud. As an introvert who likes structure I would have been overwhelmed by such a classroom environment, but my niece would love it. I’m sure she and many others students could benefit from this active and social learning process.

21. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, History, Informational Book, Marsha, NonFiction, Science · Tags: ,

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny, read by Marsha, on 05/19/2014

livesThis most excellent book is both sad and fascinating at the same time.  I could hardly put it down.  In fact, I have started writing stories about each of the people featured in the book, using fiction to fill in the gaps that nonfiction couldn’t find answers for.  The authors do a wonderful job of painting ten portraits of people who spent decades of their lives in a state hospital for the mentally ill.  Using the items found in their long abandoned suitcases along with interviews from a few staff members and medical records, the authors try to piece together the life of each person before and during their stay at Willard State Hospital in New York.  Along with the chapters on the individuals, the authors provide interesting factual information about what it took to admit someone to such a place, how they were treated during their stay, and what the diagnoses were at the time.  The book focuses on the early part of the 20th century, before deinstitutionalization became a way of doing business.  The ease with which an individual could be locked away for decades of his or her life is staggering.  I hope that by writing more about these individuals I can do some justice to their lives, which would have been forgotten had it not been for Penney and Stastny.

bibliocraftThis book is excellent for anyone who wants to learn more about the different types of libraries and how to use them.  Even if the reader is not a crafter, there is much information to be gleaned from this book about how to make the most out of library resources and how to find what you are looking for.  The author gives a lot of tips and websites for various types of collections that might interest crafters, as well as sites for digitized collections.  Tips are also given for what to expect when viewing rare books and what some of the policies may be for libraries who hold them.  The second half of the book has a lot of information about projects and how the creators for each project used their libraries as inspiration.  Inspiration can come from images from books or even from the architecture of the library itself.  While many of the projects are not to my personal taste, I did think the explanations for making something similar were clear enough.  The projects had information about the original images that inspired each piece so that the reader could see just how the designers’ minds worked.  Very interesting book.  Even if the reader doesn’t craft, the first half is a must read for any library patron.

 

21. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Graphic Novel, History, NonFiction

Witch Hunts by Rocky Wood, read by Brian, on 05/19/2014

witchhuntWitch Hunts is a graphic novel that follows history as people were convicted of being a witch.  This book examines the brutality put on these people and what others had to gain by portraying people as witches.  Witch Hunts has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel category.

 

20. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

For the Good of Mankind?: The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation by Vicki O. Wittenstein, read by Angie, on 05/19/2014

How can you resist a title about human medical experimentation? This short little book was full of all kinds of information on medical experiments done on people with and without their knowledge. The majority of the experiments took place during the last century but there were a few from the 19th century mentioned. The book covers everything from Nazi concentration camps to radiation experiments during and after WWII to the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments. I think the most disturbing information however was the fact that there are still questionable experiments being done today. Regulations are much stiffer here in the United States so drug companies are outsourcing their medical experiments to 3rd world countries. I was fascinated by everything talked about here, but I did wish there had been a little bit more detail about some of the instances.

For most of human history people believed the earth was the center of the universe and the sun, planets and stars all revolved around the earth. There were many different ideas of how the universe was set up but all of them followed the Biblical teachings that the earth was the center of everything. Then came some radical thinkers who tried to reconcile what they had learned with what they observed about the universe. They couldn’t get the two to match up. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton all used science and observation to try and understand the universe. They and others like them were also persecuted by the Church and other scientists who believed the earth-centric configuration of the universe. I thought this was a very well-organized and interesting book. It was easy to follow and understand and I think it is perfect for kids starting to learn about the universe. I did think the last chapter on groups who still believe the earth is the center of the universe was a little less scientific explanation and a little more preachy, but other than that it was a great read.

showThis book, a follow-up to Steal Like an Artist, continues Kleon’s advice on creativity by encouraging artists everywhere to show their work.  This particular volume discusses the value of sharing work in online communities through blogs and other social media.  Not only does the artist make work public in this way, but he or she also shares with others a bit about process and how the work is made.  I found this book to be just as valuable a resource as the first and have already read it twice.  It is inspirational and will have artists everywhere wanting to get up and share what they do with others.  As Kleon notes, the world owes us nothing.  We have to give selflessly in order to get and this book will show the reader how.  I highly recommend Kleon’s work to artists of all kinds.  Create–share.  What a fun cycle to be in!

15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction

Plastic, Ahoy!: Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Patricia Newman (Author), Annie Crawley (Photographer), read by Angie, on 05/15/2014

This is the type of nonfiction I really enjoy reading (maybe I just have the mind of a middle schooler!). It is on a fascinating subject I know little about. It contains all kinds of useful information with lots of pictures. And it isn’t so long that I lose interest. 

Plastic Ahoy is all about a scientific expedition called SEAPLEX that traveled out into the Pacific Ocean to investigate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The scientists onboard wanted to learn how the plastic was affecting the marine life. They investigated whether marine life was using the plastic and garbage as habitats, whether the marine life was consuming the plastic and what happened when it did, and if it was affecting the phytoplankton in the ocean. The book follows three scientists through their experiments and conclusions. It was very educational, but entertaining and interesting at the same time.

14. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Humor, Kira · Tags:

Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey: (a parody) by Camaren Subhiyah, read by Kira, on 05/12/2014

Agent GatesAh – my Downton Abbey addiction can be revived!  This month’s challenge is Graphic Novels, and I was lucky that my coworker recommended this title to magent batese.  It is a parody, poking fun at a variety of aspects of the show, particularly, the aristocracy’s treatment of their servants.  The illustrator does an excellent job of drawing characters with distinctly recognizable physical characteristics of the TV characters.  Even the names are clever.  Bates is Gates, Thomas Barrow is Thompson Sparrow, Anna is Joanna, Daisy is Poppy.  Funny stuff!

10. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Informational Book, Inspirational, NonFiction

Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers by Penny Kittle, read by Angie, on 05/09/2014

I had the pleasure of listening to Penny Kittle talk about Book Love at a conference recently. Her passion and dedication to introducing books to teenagers was inspiring. This book just continues that inspiration. If I had a teacher like Mrs. Kittle in high school I think I would have had a blast. Kittle discusses how most high school students are not readers and do not read at the level to prepare them for their future. Instead of cramming classics and class reads down their throats (which they don’t read any way), Kittle advocates finding the right books for the right kids and building their stamina for reading. She intersperses her philosophy and teachings with stories of her students. These stories are amazing. The fact that she gets so many non-readers to become readers is a testament to her love and resilience. I am not a teacher, but a librarian, and I found all kinds of ideas for books to connect with reluctant readers. Of course, most reluctant readers don’t find their way to the public library, but when they do I might be better prepared. I wish this book was required reading for all high school teachers. I would recommend it to all those interested in getting kids to read.

07. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction, Teen Books

The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell, read by Angie, on 05/06/2014

The Freedom Summer Murders covers the 1964 murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner in Mississippi. The book really brings the crime and its impact to life. There is a lot of information packed into this book, but it is all stuff the reader needs to know. However, I do think it might be a little too much for some younger readers. The book first describes the murder, then introduces the three men, then details the aftermath and the trials that resulted from the murders. I did find the narration a little choppy and wished we had been introduced to James, Andrew and Mickey before we learned about their murder. I especially enjoyed the aftermath section which talked about the difficulty in getting information out of the Neshoba County residents and how much resistance there was to prosecuting the men who murdered the civil rights activists. It is strange to me to think this happened just 50 years ago. It was definitely a dark time in our history. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Madeline, NonFiction

My Usual Table: A Life in Restaurants by Colman Andrews, read by Madeline, on 04/30/2014

A vivid portrait of a life lived in food, from renowned food writer and critic Colman Andrews, a founding editor of Saveur, James Beard award winner, and author of the classic cookbooks Catalan Cuisine and The Country Cooking of Ireland

For Colman Andrews, restaurants have been his playground, his theater, his university, his church, his refuge. From his Hollywood childhood through his days in the music business, his first forays into restaurant reviewing, and his ever-evolving career as a food writer and magazine editor—not to mention the course of his obsessive traveling and complicated personal life—he has seen the world mostly from the dining room. Now, in My Usual Table, Andrews interweaves his own story with intimate tales of the seminal restaurants and the great chefs and restaurateurs of our time who are emblematic of the revolutions large and small that have forever transformed the way we eat, cook, and feel about food.

In sixteen chapters, each anchored by the story of his love affair with a cherished restaurant, Andrews evokes the unforgettable meals he has eaten over a lifetime, and the remarkable people with whom he has shared them, tracing the evolution not just of our restaurants but our whole food culture. Beginning with a postwar childhood spent in the banquettes of Chasen’s, the glamorous Old Hollywood hangout where studio heads and celebrities rubbed shoulders, Andrews charts a course through the psychedelic ’60s, when both he and Americans at large fell for the novel “ethnic” food at spots like neo-Polynesian Trader Vic’s or Mexican institution El Coyote. As Andrews began traveling for his burgeoning writing and magazine career in the ’70s and ’80s, he spent countless hours in the family-run cafés of Paris and trattorias of Rome. The timeless dishes so common on their menus, focused on local and seasonal ingredients, would not only come to profoundly influence Andrews’s palate, but also transform the American foodscape forever. Andrews’s unparalleled access to the world of food positioned him perfectly as an intimate witness to the rise of revolutionary restaurants like Spago and El Bulli.

From Andrews’s usual table, he has watched the growth of nouvelle cuisine and fusion cuisine; the explosion of the organic and locavore movements; the rise of nose-to-tail eating; and so-called molecular gastronomy. The bistros, brasseries, and cafés he has loved have not only influenced culinary trends at home and abroad, but represent the changing history and culture of food in America and Western Europe. And all along the way, Andrews has been right there in the dining room, menu in one hand and notebook in the other.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Informational Book, Madeline, NonFiction

The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley, read by Madeline, on 04/05/2014

Through the compelling stories of three American teenagers living abroad and attending the world’s top-notch public high schools, an investigative reporter explains how these systems cultivate the “smartest” kids on the planet.

America has long compared its students to top-performing kids of other nations. But how do the world’s education superpowers look through the eyes of an American high school student? Author Amanda Ripley follows three teenagers who chose to spend one school year living and learning in Finland, South Korea, and Poland. Through their adventures, Ripley discovers startling truths about how attitudes, parenting, and rigorous teaching have revolutionized these countries’ education results.

In The Smartest Kids in the World, Ripley’s astonishing new insights reveal that top-performing countries have achieved greatness only in the past several decades; that the kids who live there are learning to think for themselves, partly through failing early and often; and that persistence, hard work, and resilience matter more to our children’s life chances than self-esteem or sports.

Ripley’s investigative work seamlessly weaves narrative and research, providing in-depth analysis and gripping details that will keep you turning the pages. Written in a clear and engaging style, The Smartest Kids in the World will enliven public as well as dinner table debates over what makes for brighter and better students.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Autobiographies, Lisa, Memoirs, NonFiction

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, read by Lisa, on 04/25/2014

The New York Times bestselling author of State of WonderRun, and Bel Canto creates a resonant portrait of a life in this collection of writings on love, friendship, work, and art.

“The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living.”

So begins This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, an examination of the things Ann Patchett is fully committed to—the art and craft of writing, the depths of friendship, an elderly dog, and one spectacular nun. Writing nonfiction, which started off as a means of keeping her insufficiently lucrative fiction afloat, evolved over time to be its own kind of art, the art of telling the truth as opposed to the art of making things up. Bringing her narrative gifts to bear on her own life, Patchett uses insight and compassion to turn very personal experiences into stories that will resonate with every reader.

These essays twine to create both a portrait of life and a philosophy of life. Obstacles that at first appear insurmountable—scaling a six-foot wall in order to join the Los Angeles Police Department, opening an independent bookstore, and sitting down to write a novel—are eventually mastered with quiet tenacity and a sheer force of will. The actual happy marriage, which was the one thing she felt she wasn’t capable of, ultimately proves to be a metaphor as well as a fact: Patchett has devoted her life to the people and ideals she loves the most.

An irresistible blend of literature and memoir, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a unique examination of the heart, mind, and soul of one of our most revered and gifted writers.