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My Top Ten (Plus Four) Reads of 2014! December 10, 2014

Posted by carol in Book List, Fiction, Top Ten, Uncategorized.
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What a great year! What great reading!

2014

While 2014 has practically flown by for me, I did manage to get quite a bit of reading done along the way! As usual, it was hard to narrow down my favorites, but I also did manage to come up with a list of winners.  In no particular order, here are the books that moved me this year:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Paris Winter by Imogene Robertson

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The Martian by Andy Weir

A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

California by Eden Lepucki

One Kick by Chelsea Cain

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

You can find our staff’s book reviews on the above titles (and about 8,000 other books) in our Reading Room at http://readingroom.rrpl.org

Check it out and maybe you will discover your new favorite book!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

~Carol

Maur-een in 2014 (see what I did there?): Books I Liked This Year! December 9, 2014

Posted by Maureen in Book List, Thoughtful Ramblings, Top Ten, Uncategorized.
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I had a bit more time to read this year I think but I find that perhaps I am getting a wee bit choosy about my books as the years go on? It seems harder and harder to make it on to my list of “I really liked you” but there were at least a few I can say were definite contenders…

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

A great “tween” read for anyone, regardless of age. Tells the story of Rose Howard, a fifth grader with Asperger’s Syndrome who gets by in life with the help of her sincere love of homonyms (Rain, Reign), her uncle Weldon who understands her, and her rescued dog, Rain. Reminiscent of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A story of courage and overcoming obstacles.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Who knew a group of moms could be so interesting and full of secrets? A real page-turner that grabs you and holds on. Being a mom, I could relate to a lot of the small details which made the book all that more believable. Madeline, Celeste and Jane are characters that jump off the page. A fast read!

The Bear by Claire Cameron

Not for the squeamish, this book is one of those rare gems written in a very unique style that is perfectly suited to the story it is telling. After a bear attacks their campsite in rural Ontario’s Algonquin Park, five-year-old Anna must help her two-year-old brother survive in the wilderness alone. Told in Anna’s child voice, the story packs a lot of punch in very few pages. Needless to say, I won’t be camping in the Algonquin Park any time soon.

The Untold by Courtney Collins

A fictionalized account of Jessie Hickman, a real-life livestock wrangler in the mountains of Australia, this debut novel tells the remarkable story of Jessie from the perspective of the child she buried: her neglected childhood, her circus days, and finally her outlaw days following the murder of her abusive husband, Fitz. I really enjoyed this book. The story unfolds slowly but you really get to know Jessie and the descriptive language is beautiful.

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Ok, let me begin by saying that it seems you will either really like Herman Koch’s books or you will really hate them. I haven’t found too many people in the middle on that one. I happen to like them, even though I hate all the characters while reading his books. I didn’t say it had to make sense! Koch just has a way with evil-ness and twisted storylines…it is his gift. His newest book revolves around a doctor who, shall we say, is a bit lacking in the ethics department. Dr. Marc Schlosser doesn’t much care for being a doctor, and doesn’t really want to help people. But he does, here and there, enjoy the perks of his profession, one of which is crossing paths with the rich and famous. In Summer House with Swimming Pool, Dr. Marc ends up befriending a movie star but both of their lives will change in ways even he couldn’t foresee. Sinister!

Thirty Girls by Susan Minot

Told in alternating chapters, this novel follows the lives of Esther, a Ugandan teenager kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army, and Jane, an American journalist, who has traveled to Africa to delve deeper into stories like Esther’s. Both of the characters have struggles and as Minot interweaves their stories, you discover more about who each character really is. Based on true life events of girls kidnapped in boarding schools and enslaved or married off, this book came out before the events that are now unfolding in Nigeria with Boko Haram and so is very timely.

Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Another timely book…this one mainly covering the subject of death with dignity, Five Days Left tells the stories of two individuals, Scott and Mara, and how each is dealing with the limited time they have left with their loved ones, both for different reasons. Mara, once a powerful and successful attorney, was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and is planning how to end her life to save her loved ones the embarrassment and stress of coping for her. Scott, a teacher with a first baby on the way, is coping with having only a limited time left with a foster child he has become very attached to. An interesting take on death with dignity, from a character living with having made up her mind.

Three Bargains by Tania Malik

Madan is growing up poor in India with a father that could take him or leave him (and would probably rather leave him). After his father makes a horrible mistake and costs his little sister her entire future, Madan makes a deal with his father’s employer, Avtaar Singh, the most powerful man in town, to bring her home and protect her. The bargain costs Madan his own future, as he becomes a mentee to Avtaar and learns the ropes of his many business dealings, but in the end, who will have the power? An involved story with a lot of descriptive detail of life in India.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

When 12-year-old Eva is dumped on her estranged and recently widowed father’s doorstep by her mother, she is thrown into a whole new world with a whole new dynamic. There she meets her older half-sister and film star want-to-be, Iris. Together, brainy and thoughtful Eva and daring and beautiful Iris decide to pursue Iris’ dream and run away to Hollywood. After a scandal drives them out of town, Eva and Iris end up crossing the country with a cast of characters (and family) in tow. An entertaining read about some crazy family relationships.

Caribou by Charles Wright

Tennessee native Charles Wright has written poetry for over 20 years and was named Poet Laureate of the United States this year. He often focuses on nature themes and the human condition in his works, trying to inform the reader and make them think and reflect about their position and effect in the world. While his latest collection, Caribou, is a slender volume, it still delivers quite the punch, addressing themes such as aging, death, saying goodbye, redemption, and regret. I am amazed by the feeling Wright can evoke in so few words; most of the poems take up less than one small page. A wonderful, lyrical short read that will leave you pondering life’s big mysteries for a long time to come.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley

Book 6 in the Flavia de Luce mystery series was another speedy and enjoyable read as usual. This one was a bit more melancholy as Flavia’s life is becoming complicated by the fact that Buckshaw, her beloved home, may be in jeopardy of being sold. Flavia is growing up but still has the spunk and determination we have come to love her for. A great series! Book 7 due out January 6!!

The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan

Together, my son and I finished all 5 books in this series this year: The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian. It was a wonderful adventure following Percy, first as he discovered his demigod status, and later as he battles monsters and fellow evil demigods to save Olympus. A series worth visiting, with or without a 10-year-old son!

Happy Holidays!

—Maureen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Survived a Murder Mystery Party and Lived to Tell! October 27, 2014

Posted by carol in Uncategorized.
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True confession time: I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween! In truth, though, I don’t mind the holiday itself. I like candy. I think it’s cute when babies and little kids get dressed up in their costumes and parade down the streets. What I don’t like is being frightened, dressing up in a scary costume, or trying to scare other people. Maybe I was traumatized by my older siblings as a child, but whatever the case, I’m usually the one at home, not wearing a costume, and passing out candy.

For years, my best friend has hosted a pajama-themed Halloween party, specifically because of my dislike of the scary costume tradition. Really, she’s been the best to do this, but over the last few years, I’ve felt a bit guilty about forcing the direction of her annual event.

This year, she did something a bit different. She hosted a Murder Mystery Party!  She bought a script and party plan from http://www.shotinthedarkmysteries.com/  and decorated her living room like a speakeasy.

The party’s theme was “A Flapper Murder Mystery at an 1920s Speakeasy.” We all had prearranged characters and a script of information to share or hide (and reveal only when directly questioned). We dressed in characters as flappers, coppers, speak easy owners and gangsters…and we had to figure out who done it? Who killed Fanny Birchwood?

A Flapper's Life

Ultimately, I didn’t commit the crime, but I sure had a ball! And it was a great opportunity for friends who have known one another for years to break out of the mold and have something else to talk about!

So, if you are looking for an alternative to the usual fright fest for your Halloween soiree (or any party for that matter), try your hand at hosting a murder mystery party! It’s a whole different kind of scream!

Have a Happy Halloween!

~Carol

Why So Grouchy? Try Smiling! October 15, 2014

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I just found out that today is National Grouch Day! I wish I had known earlier. I could have planned accordingly and put on a frown. Instead I innocently went about the first half of my day, smiling and staying positive. I can’t help it; it is my default look. Someone once said to me, “If you are not smiling, how do you know what your face is doing?” Good point! smileInterestingly, according to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine by Richard Conniff, we can trace the origin of the smile back through more than 30 million years of evolution to the “fear grin,” a meek baring of clenched teeth, common among monkeys and apes. For them, it was a way to say, “Don’t eat me, I’m harmless.” As we evolved, so has the smile. Now, smiling is practically the universal sign of happiness and helpfulness.

The same article said that evidence suggests that people who smile a lot tend to be happier and more successful in life than those who don’t smile, and that the physical act of smiling actually makes people feel better. The best part–it’s downright contagious! Any chance this could be the only thing we pass on to others during this cold and flu season?

Until next time, keep smiling!

~Carol

Why DIY? October 7, 2014

Posted by carol in Uncategorized.
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It’s officially Fall and so if trapped inside on colder, rainier days, I find myself looking at bare walls, shabbier pieces of furniture, and worn throw pillows and I start to think, “I can make decorating improvements without spending big bucks to replace this stuff.” And then, I usually rummage around for some paint!

Paintbrush with Blue PaintLast weekend, I spray-painted a wooden row of hooks that had seen better days. Now it is shiny dark blue and looks practically brand-new. Hanging on the bedroom wall, it downright invites clothes and towels to be hung, rather than flung to the floor. I liked filling the space on the wall so much, I then created my own custom art with stencils on two canvas stretchers. Previously, I made a headboard out of an art canvas, fabric and batting. I got that idea out of the book Young House Love by Sherry & John Petersik, the genius minds behind http://www.younghouselove.com/

My techniques are not perfect and not always successful. You’ll notice that I’ve not included photos of my projects, and (true confession) there are some unfinished, unsuccessful upholstery projects still hiding out in my garage. My wall art will never compete with the masters, and my headboard won’t last forever. I have no delusions of grandeur here.

That said, why do we DIY?

For me, it is about the sense of accomplishment that doing it myself gives me. I can look at my completed work and think, “I made that!” Or, perhaps, it’s simply because it is so much fun to play with paint and glue. Yes, I’d rather have my walls filled with art by fabulous, talented artists and magnificent masterpieces.

Until the lotto calls, though, I will continue to make my own. Happy Crafting!

~Carol

What to watch? How about a MASTERPIECE? October 1, 2014

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 If you are anything like me, when you have the house to yourself for a day or two, you want to get some housework done, do some reading, and maybe find some time to plop down and enjoy a good program. This is a new era of television viewing, though. We can choose what to watch, when to watch it, and what device with which to stream it. Like you, my free time is precious to me and not to be wasted. So, how do I choose what to watch?

For me, it always comes down to choosing a “MASTERPIECE.” PBS’s MASTERPIECE is known for its high-quality adaptations of classics, mysteries, and contemporary literature. Knowing that when I spend my time watching a MASTERPIECE Mystery, I’ll be surrounded by memorable characters, smart storylines, and beautiful costuming and set designs, keeps me going back again and again. In 2011, MASTERPIECE celebrated its 40th Anniversary, making it the longest-running prime time drama in American television!

I’m guessing you might have already heard of award-winning MASTERPIECE programs like Downton Abbey and Sherlock! If you are looking to branch out, I’ll share my current obsession, a collection of three shows unified by characters, place, and crime, all courtesy of MASTERPIECE Mystery, of course.

  • Inspector Morse — Based on a series of novels by Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse stars John Thaw as opera-loving Chief Inspector Morse, and Kevin Whately as his working-class partner, Sergeant Robert Lewis. As the duo solve murder cases in and around Oxford University as members of the Oxford City Police, Morse’s drinking and past relationship problems make him a bit of a tragic character. This series originally ran between 1987 and 2000. While the early episodes can feel a bit dated, they are worth re-watching.
  • Inspector Lewis — In this sequel series to Inspector Morse, Kevin Whately is back as Inspector Robert (Robbie) Lewis and is assigned to work with the younger, cerebral Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox), after the death of Morse. These police procedurals feature Robbie’s ups and downs as he struggles with widowhood, his workaholic tendencies, and his attempts at new love. Hathaway is an interesting character as well, having left the seminary to pursue police work. This show will air its eighth season Sundays this October. You can be sure I will be watching.
  • Endeavour — In this prequel to Inspector Morse, Shaun Evans portrays a young Endeavour Morse at the beginning his career as a Detective Constable with the Oxford City Police Criminal Investigation Department. Set in the early to mid-1960s, this show is a delectable period mystery series and reveals Endeavour Morse’s back-story (and his first name)! So far, this series has just two seasons, with a third in the works. I’m hooked!

Oh, now you want to watch them too? Great! You can find more information on these and other Masterpiece programs (and even watch some of them online) at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/watch-online/

You can stream several free seasons of Inspector Lewis and Inspector Morse through Hoopla here: https://www.hoopladigital.com/home;jsessionid=A128733F054F82E55E33C203451AE0F7 (use your RRPL library card number and an email address to create your free account).

Or, check them out in DVD format from Rocky River Public Library. Come take a look at our shelves or search our catalog for these and other MASTERPIECE shows here https://rrpl.sirsi.net

Stream wisely my friends.

~Carol

Get your music on September 25, 2014

Posted by Steve in Music, Uncategorized.
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I know most of you probably have this circled on your calendar already, but if not, let me remind you that Thursday , September 25th is One-Hit Wonder Day! Yes, there is a day for just about everything, but hey at least this is a fun one, and you don’t need to buy anyone a gift for it either. One-Hit Wonder Day was started in 1990 by music writer Steven Rosen. There is really no consensus on what constitutes a one-hit wonder, although you can check out this article from Huffington Post on some ideas: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/24/national-one-hit-wonder-day-2012_n_1904606.html.

What is your favorite one-hit wonder? Maybe “Tainted Love,” by Soft Cell, or “Steal My Sunshine,” by LEN? Chances are whatever it is we have it in our collection, either on CD or available in hoopla for streaming!

-Steve

Play Ball! September 12, 2014

Posted by Steve in Uncategorized.
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So it seems once again the Tribe is in the playoff hunt.  Now if they could just get some consistency and save us all the anxiety of these ups and downs things would be great!  I’ll hope for the best, and to keep my spirits up I’ll keep some baseball movies close at hand.  Did you know that 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the classic Major League, starring a very young Charlie Sheen.  Also celebrating its 25th anniversary is Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams.  Other great hits on my best of list include Bull Durham, A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out, Moneyball, The Bad News Bears (the original) and The Sandlot.  Did I miss any, can you add something to the list?  All the titles that I mentioned can be checked out here, so stop on over and grab one of these free treasures.  Now that’s a grand slam!

-Steve

Watch this documentary! September 2, 2014

Posted by Steve in Movies, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized.
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The other day while I was looking for an item for a patron, I stumbled across a movie that I had long ago meant to see. The documentary, My Date with Drew, is an exceptional story that finds aspiring filmmaker Brian Herzlinger on a quest to get a date with his boyhood crush, Drew Barrymore, in 30 days. He is flat broke, but has just won $1100 on a game show. Foregoing paying his bills, he decides to buy a camera at Circuit City, which he will be returning using their 30 day return policy, and document his efforts to score a date with Drew.  The $1100 of winnings goes to such creative ideas as making a website and movie trailer to help him get tips on getting the date, and even to forge press passes to get into the Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle after party.  And using his and his friends’ limited connections in the movie business, it is fascinating to see the six degrees of separation principal at work. Give the first 15 minutes or so a chance, which admittedly are pretty cheesy, because the rest is well worth the ride. And be sure to check out the bonus features detailing their efforts to find a distributor.

– Steve

Latest Additions May 19, 2014

Posted by stacey in Fiction, Uncategorized.
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Okay. Done with the rain! How lucky there are so many fun books to read! And boy oh boy, have I been reading. Eventually, I even hope to add some of the books I’ve recently finished into The Reading Room -like my very diligent colleagues have been doing. Would you like to see some of the what’s been newly added?

I’ve Got You Under My Skinby Mary Higgins Clark
Lexicon by Max Barry
The Universe Versus Alex WoodsGavin Extence
Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead
Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker

Don’t forget -you’ll need some extra books this week to last over Memorial Day next week… See you soon!

 — Stacey

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