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Wild, Wild Westerns! April 30, 2011

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Westerns.
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Would it surprise anyone (or everyone?) if I told you that the group enjoyed our collective, fictional trip back in time to the Old West? I guess it surprised me! And within the group, we covered all the big elements: hero vs. villain, strong sense of the western location, a clear problem to be fixed, and flawed characters who rise to the occasion. Some of us went more traditional, and some of us went for a more modern-style western, and some went for equal parts western and other, but not one of these books will leave you looking for a hero…they’re on most every page!

Carol: Written in Blood by J. Lee Butts. U.S. Marshal Hayden Tilden is shocked to learn that his good friend and Deputy John Henry Slate has committed a triple murder. As Tilden and his brotherhood of Marshals set out to track John Henry down, Tilden recounts one of their most deadly adventures together, the capture of deadly Blackheart gang. Once (or if) readers get past the over the top use of stereotypical vernacular in this western, it is a enjoyable quick read. But with violent descriptions, this may not be for everyone.

Emma: Stranger in Thunder Basin by John D. Nesbitt is a tale of revenge. When Ed was a little boy he witnessed the aftermath of the murder of his “Pa-Pa” as the killer took off on his horse. Ed would never forget the man’s face. Many years later he sees the killer and leaves his job as a blacksmith to become a ranch hand on the Thunder Basin ranch in order to get close to him. Did the murderer act alone or was he following orders? By following leads Ed meets the mother he never knew and kills three men.

Evelyn: Cowboy for Keeps by Debra Clopton. Rancher/attorney Wyatt Turner, severely injured in an airplane crash, has always accepted responsibility for things in his life. First, it was raising his younger brothers after the deaths of their parents, and now it is for his ranch, law practice, and much of the small Texas town of Mule Hollow. His brothers hire a physical therapist to help him back on his feet. But can Wyatt actually let go and learn to accept his blessings from a 24-year-old young woman with only one leg? This is a heart-warming story of love and acceptance.

Donna: Blue-eyed Devil by Robert B. Parker. Published after the author’s death in 2010, this is the fourth (and sadly, the last) western featuring gunslingers Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. These characters were first introduced in Appaloosa where they cleaned up the town from the bad guys before moving on to other adventures in Resolution and Brimstone. Now, they have returned to the small town of Appaloosa only to find that its new police chief is corrupt and extorting protection money from the town’s residents. Written in the typical Parker style of short, terse chapters with sparse, witty dialogue, this western is a quick, entertaining read. Virgil and Everett are truly memorable characters.

Megan: Justice Riders by Chuck Norris is the story of Ezra Justice and his motley crew of elite warriors known as the Justice Riders. As the American Civil War comes to an end Justice and his men head to the wild west to deliver the body of one of their fallen to his widow. Their journey west is dangerous and they meet many seedy characters along the way. The characters are flat and stereotypical and some historical details are questionable. Violence and action keep the story moving more than the a strong plotline. Fans of westerns will find more satisfying tales of adventure elsewhere.

Dori: In True Grit by Charles Portis, bible quoting Mattie Ross narrates the story of when, at age 14, she leaves her home in Arkansas to hunt down her father’s killer Tom Chaney. She seeks out the toughest U.S. Marshal she can find, one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, and they head into Indian Territory alongside a Texas Ranger named LeBouef. Mattie’s no-nonsense style and piety add humor and cadence to this bloody tale of the Old West.

Rosemary: Conagher by Louis L’Amour is an enjoyable Western featuring Conagher, an honorable loner, and Evie Teale, a courageous widow with two children. The chaste love story of Conagher and Evie is woven throughout his cattle ranching and Evie’s lonely struggle to survive as a homesteader. L’Amour writes in the classic Western style. What really appealed to this reader was the basic goodness of the two main characters and how L’Amour treated the character of Evie with so much admiration and respect.

Janet: Will of Steel by Diana Palmer describes the stubborn demeanor of the two main characters, Theodore and Jillian. They have jointly inherited land in their hometown in Montana from their two uncles but only if they marry. It will take a threat from Jillian’s past for Theodore and Jillian to see each other in a totally different light.

Ann: Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart begins in 1895 in south Texas, when the wife of Vaclav Skala dies in childbirth leaving him a widower with 4 young sons. From that time on, Skala becomes bitter and hard. The only affection he seems to have remaining is for his horses. The story jumps ahead to 1910 when the youngest son, Karel, is now a man, married, and with a third child on the way. A falling out with his three brothers keeps Karel from talking with any of them. Moving forward and backward in time we learn the family story of these stubborn Skala men, bound to the land, their horses, and each other.

Stacey: Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman is a western with strong romantic elements. Rachel Bailey was looking to escape a bad situation back home and Reidsville, CO was the obvious choice after inheriting the mining town’s railroad spur. Sheriff Wyatt Cooper isn’t just the local law, he’s a well-educated lawyer and he’s been entrusted with Rachel’s safety, both for her sake and the sake of the town. Of course Rachel isn’t looking to be kept safe, she wants to fight her own battles. Will these two find a way to work together and save the town?

Our next selection of books will be full of murder and mayhem! We’ll be discussing.. mystery stories! Mysteries feature a crime, clues, and a solution. Sometimes the challenge of finding who, what, and why, is accepted by an accidental sleuth and sometimes it’s a professional who’s looking into the matter. How clever!

— Stacey


Latest Additions April 25, 2011

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Yes. The actual temperature might be changing from day to day, but the rain? It’s constant! I had no idea there was that much moisture in the entire world, but there must be or where would all this rain be coming from? On the other hand. Rainy days? They’re the *best* kind of days for reading! That’s what I’d be doing -if I weren’t here at the library. Would you like to look over the newest books added to The Reading Room? Or email a request for titles with our Reader’s Request form? Or stop in for a visit!

Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart
Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchey
Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann
True Grit Charles Portis
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

So, enjoy a good book while the rain pitter-patters on your windowsill and have a great week!

— Stacey

Wallander April 22, 2011

Posted by Dori in Movies, Mystery.
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I just finished reading the new Henning Mankell book, The Troubled Man , his final book about gloomy, depressive police inspector Kurt Wallander. Mankell is Swedish and his books are set in his native land. In this latest, Wallander is 60, has a new granddaughter, and is obsessing about his past and his future, his relationships and his mortality. As he searches for a his future father-in-law, a former submarine captain who has mysteriously disappeared, and broods about the failures of Swedish society, he also struggles with health issues and episodes of memory loss. I’ve only read a couple of other Wallander mysteries and this one was not my favorite – it’s a bit scattered and oh so somber. I may go back to the first in the series, Faceless Killers, to compare.

I have, though, watched both PBS series about Wallander that the library owns, Wallander: Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind and Wallander: Faceless Killer, The Man Who Smiled and The Fifth Woman. Each series includes three episodes that are condensed from individual books of the series. Starring Kenneth Branagh as Wallander, they are dark, moody, beautifully filmed mysteries.

~ Dori

Latest Additions April 18, 2011

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Wow. Who’s ready for a busy week? Today is officially the last day to file taxes with the IRS -or an extension to file your taxes. Today is also the first day of Passover. And Easter is on its way! If all of that won’t keep you out of trouble? How about a new book or two to read? Maybe one of these:

The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn
Live Wire by Harlan Coben
Wrecker by Summer Wood
Which Brings Me Back to You by Julianna Baggott and Steve Almond

Thankfully, there’s always time to read. Right? Have a great week -and enjoy yourself in all your celebrations!

— Stacey

Festival de Cannes April 16, 2011

Posted by Dori in Movies, Music.
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To all you film fans out there:

Care to spend a couple of weeks in France watching movies (oh and maybe take a dip in the Meditteranean as well)? Check out the lineup of films that are showing at the Festival de Cannes.  Here’s a look at the trailers for some of the the films as well. While sadly I can’t make the trip, there are a couple of titles I’m looking forward to seeing when they’re released here:  Pedro Almodovar’s new film La Piel Que Habito (The Skin that I Live In) and The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. Sean Penn even shows up in glam rock regalia in This Must be the Place directed by Paolo Sorrentino – David Byrne wrote the music and the title is one of my favorite songs of all time by, of course, David Byrne’s Talking Heads. Have a listen here .

Au Revoir.

~ Dori

Daffodils April 15, 2011

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I read an article by Connie Schultz in The Plain Dealer the other day reminding me that it’s National Poetry Month and then saw another about where to go see the daffodils in Cleveland. Thus, the inspiration for sharing the lovely poem”Daffodils” by William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

~ Dori

Latest Additions April 11, 2011

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Today? Already, such a day! And it’s way at the beginning… This could be one of those remarkable “turn around” days, where everything that was wonky is suddenly working in your favor. Or this could be one of those “I should have stayed in bed” days, where you obviously weren’t paying attention to all the signs pointing to “caution” and/or “Stop!” I’m hoping for the first option. Maybe I was distracting myself too much this morning? Odd words and phrases kept distracting me and so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I kept getting in my own way, right? One of my distracting phrases? “The chickens have come home to roost.” Isn’t that fun? Don’t you want to work it into a sentence now?  (Like I did?) Go ahead! make it your challenge for today! Or look up an idiom of your own… In our fabulous database Oxford Reference Online! I know. This could be the thing that makes a turn around day for sure! How about putting a cherry on top with a list of books newly added to The Reading Room?

Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
Cloaked by Alex Flinn
Shine by Lauren Myracle
The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

So much to do! Look up fun idioms -or just words- and pick a new book to read! Enjoy!

— Stacey

Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011 April 7, 2011

Posted by Dori in Movies, Uncategorized.
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As I’m sure most of you know, screen star legend Elizabeth Taylor recently passed away at the age of 79. Turner Classic Movies is having a Memorial Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor on April 10th and featuring 11 of her films, from relatively unknown titles such as Raintree Country and Ivanhoe to classics such as Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and Lassie Come Home.

Or you can visit Rocky River Public Library to check out a few of her films in our collection,  including Cleopatra, Giant and National Velvet.

~ Dori

So True! April 6, 2011

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Non-Fiction.
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What do you do when you’d like to read a good book, but you want it to be a real(ly) good book? Well, you could do what we just did and pick up a nonfiction book that is just as much storytelling as it is a reporting of factual information! I enjoyed hearing what everyone had to say and I hope you do to!

Evelyn: The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir by Ellie Mathews. This is the story behind the story of Ellie Mathews, who won the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2008 with her quick and easy recipe for Salsa Couscous Chicken–a recipe she concocted on a whim using Old El Paso salsa. Up against major players in the contest world, Ellie’s fresh, uncomplicated look at things is poignant and even humorous. Thinking she’d be happy if she just ended up a semi-finalist, she wowed everyone by taking home the million dollars.

Carol: Fifth Avenue, 5 AM : Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the modern woman by Sam Wasson. In “Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.” Sam Wasson examines everything “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” how it was nearly cast (w/ Marilyn Monroe!), how Truman Capote wanted nothing to do with making the film, how it was nearly not made (several times) and changed directors as often. He begins by summarizing the early career of Audrey Hepburn, the ordeal of casting her as Holly Golightly and how screenplay writers chose to translate the blatant sex from the book to the silver screen.

Donna: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels-A Love Story by Ree Drummond. This book was a delightful, entertaining and easy-to-read account of the author’s unlikely romance with a real cowboy , their eventual marriage and move to her husband’s, the Marlboro Man, cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Drummond is a blogger and author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Her website is http://thepioneerwoman.com. This memoir also includes several mouth-watering recipes to try.

Emma: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson is a fun book for anyone wanting to reminisce about simpler times. The author grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in Des Moines, Iowa. His father was a successful sports writer for the Des Moines Register. His mom was a “home furnishings” reporter for the same newspaper. When Bill was 6-years-old he found a sweater decorated with a satin thunderbolt and so the amazing “thunderbolt kid” was born. Bill pretended that he had special powers enabling him to vaporize people that gave him a hard time.

Megan: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is the story of how scientists took samples of cervical cancer cells from an African-American woman without her permission and developed an immortal human cell line. This cell line has played a pivotal role in groundbreaking medical discoveries in areas such as cancer research, gene mapping, and infertility. While advancements in science and great wealth was made from these cells, Henrietta’s family remained poor and ignorant of the truth behind her cells. The science aspect of this story is fascinating and thought-provoking, but not too science. The story of Henrietta’s personal legacy, her children, and the impact that her cell line had on them is disturbing. This engrossing book, while well-researched and full of medical history reads like fiction.

Chris: The Best American Science and Nature Writing, the 2010 version edited by Freeman Dyson is filled with fascinating information about what’s going on in the areas of space, neurology, natural beauty and the environment. All the essays are very accessible; many were taken from the pages of The New Yorker, National Geographic, even GQ. A few I particularly enjoyed were “Don’t,” “Hearth Surgery,” “Brain Games,” and “The Superior Civilization” which informed me that stilts could be put on ants. Why else but to prove that they were counting steps in order to return to their nest?

Rosemary: And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for my own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach is pretty much summed up in the subtitle. Margaret had a brilliant career as an editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and also as an editor for the New York Times. After 9/11 she began to question the basic tenets of her life and somehow her career and material success no longer held sway over the longings of her inner life. It took five or six years of thinking and planning, but recently Margaret moved to her home in the country for good. This memoir details the good, the bad, and the feline.

Dori: In The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician and researcher, weaves together the biological, political, and sociological threads of cancer, creating a moving and articulate study of this horrible disease.

Janet: Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore tells the story of an unlikely friendship between an international art dealer and a homeless man. Debbie Hall, Ron’s wife, felt called by God to help the homeless people of Fort Worth, Texas at The Union Gospel Mission. Ron agreed to volunteer with Debbie one day a week. Over time Deborah’s involvement continued to grow and Ron agreeably followed her ideas including becoming a friend with Denver Moore. Same Kind of Different As Me is the story of Deborah, Ron and Denver. Their journey is inspirational and certainly memorable.

Julie: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova-Bailey is part natural history, part memoir. It tells of the author’s battle with a devastating illness and the little snail who made such a huge difference in that struggle. You might think it would be a sad, dry read but the elegant prose instead produces an interesting and inspiring read. Definitely try it!

Ann: Tales of an African Vet by Roy Aronson takes you with this South African veterinarian as he treats exotic animals such as a little squirrel monkey, a lion, and a baby elephant. The squirrel monkey that Dr. Aronson thought was doomed makes a miraculous recovery. The baby elephant, stuck in the mud, and abandoned by his mother and aunties is pulled out in the nick of time and saved; he goes on to be one of the elephants at the wildlife refuge that gives rides to visitors touring the refuge. Dr. Aronson gets a surprise when he is sitting alone in the back of a truck with a lion who had been given anesthesia, and everyone felt was down for the count, but the lion suddenly lifts his head and roars- luckily he then drops his head and goes back to sleep. Lots of interesting adventures in these tales.

Stacey: 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik is John’s story of how he turned his life around by writing 365, simple notes to let people know he appreciated their thoughtfulness. It started with notes in return for material gifts he had received. John took pains to acknowledge the thought behind the gift and it helped him to realize how much he had in his life that made him truly happy. This book is inspirational without being preachy and I can’t believe anyone could read it without sending at least one thank you note of their own!

Next time? We’re going to hit the dusty trails and head to the Wild West of the past! If you want to come along for the ride, you’ll want to find a book set in the American West with a clear-cut hero who has stepped up to fight against a dastardly person -or situation. Most often they are set in the past and have a strong sense of place thanks to the wide-open plains, rugged mountains, or wide desert areas. Yee-haw, saddle up pardner!

— Stacey

Latest Additions April 4, 2011

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What? April already? How did that happen? It shouldn’t feel like such a surprise. I put up a display last week suggesting that “April Showers Bring May Flowers,” so it’s not like I didn’t know April was on it’s way… And yet it feels like a bit of a shock. Not so shocking? There are new books in The Reading Room! Would you like to know what they are? Great! Because I’d like to tell you!

Devil’s Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Union Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
Written in Blood by J. Lee Butts
Nothing by Janne Teller

A nice selection of titles for a nice, rainy day! Enjoy!

— Stacey