Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not Your Usual Beach Reads

Like movies, books follow a seasonal pattern and you can count on the more popular and "big" authors (e.g. James Pattersonand Janet Evanovich) having major releases to try and grab the title of "best beach read of the summer."   While these best sellers do provide some undeniably good mind candy, I like to look for books that do not quite make it to the top of the New York Times list. Little hidden summer reading jewels, here are a few of my recent favorite discoveries.

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney.  Delaney is an exceptional Irish storyteller, who usually writes massive and sweeping tomes. This book has big themes of 1930’s Irish politics, tragedy, lost love, and revenge but the time scale is much more compressed and it gives the book a more intimate and personal feel.  If you like sweeping epics, try any of Delaney's other titles or Roses by Leila Meacham-this one took me back to some of the happy reading I did in the 1980s.

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth.  A cross between a political thriller, with lots of conspiracy fun thrown in, and a vampire tale, which are all the rage these days.  Yes this book features a vampiric 140-year-old secret service agent, the President's Vampire.  It is much better than this might sound-never thought I would seriously recommend a vampire book!  For more supernatural fun, zombies this time, try World War Z by Max Brooks.

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception by Nancy Martin.  First book in a new series by the author of the Blackbird Sisters mysteries.  While the premise of this book could be dismissed as Stephanie Plum in Pittsburgh (and with a dog instead of a monkey or rodent), Martin brings a edgier and more earthy feel to her heroine Roxy Abruzzo.

Venus Envy by Shannon McKelden. After numerous trangressions, the goddess Venus is sent to earth, where she is sentenced to "fairy godmother community service", specializing in extreme life makeovers.  While the books ending is a foregone conclusion for veteran romance and chick-lit readers, the journey from beginning to end is hilarious and enjoyable with some unusual and highly entertaining characters.  This book was published several years ago but we just got a copy - so while it isn't newly published, it is new to us and I had never read it before.  If you like the concept of the Olympic Gods come to Earth, check out Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. 

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Travel from Home

Is work keeping you at home this summer?   Are airline baggage charges just too outrageous to even think about flying?  Then why not take an exciting, thrilling, and slightly dangerous trip right from the comfort of your favorite chair by reading a mystery from your favorite library that is set in a faraway place.  Its cheaper,easier, and you never have to put your shampoo in a smaller container.   

We have mysteries from all over the world.  There are titles that are set in all seven continents thanks to Robert Masello, whose Blood and Ice is set in Antarctica.   So pick a geographic region and start exploring the "Crimes in the Cold Climes"; be tempted by "Trouble in the Tropics", or dedicate yourself to reading about "Death in the Desert".   I have created and printed out lists of authors who set their books in specific geographic regions and I'd also be happy to email the lists to you also.  Just send an email to

Happy Reading and Traveling!

p.s. I also have another fun list for your to check out - books that feature real people solving imaginary crimes. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's Really Okay to Read for Fun in the Summer!

How many of you have ever made the vow that you were going "to read only good books this summer, all the classics"?  While this is a worthy and noble sentiment, I firmly believe that reading in the summer should be for fun.  If reading the classics sounds like resounding good fun for you, go for it!  However, I would like to encourage everyone to just read anything that appeals to you, no matter how horrific the reviews or if it is supposed to be a "good" book.    It is so hot during our summer that I think we need to give our brain a break.  Save those classics you are supposed to read and all those serious books for temperatures below 75 degrees.  I heartily endorse reading and devouring some fun, escapist, fluffy mind candy. A book that whisks you away to its world; a book that you just do not want to put down until it is finished. 

Here are some of my purely favorite fun reads-I won't say beach reads because in Texas I strongly feel that it is best to do your summer reading curled up on the couch with the dogs in the A/C.  Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation, and Crazy for You, by Jennifer Crusie; Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (absolutely hysterial opening pages!);  Bridget Jones, by Helen Fielding (an oldie but a goodie - MUCH  better than the movie, although I am always happy to picture Colin Firth as Mark Darcy); the Jane Madison Series by Mindy Klasky - how could I resist, it is a series about a librarian who is a witch; Romancing Mr. Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn-a delightful and witty Regency romp; and speaking of the Regency period I have enjoyed all the books in the Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig.  Yes, most of these have elements of chick lit but that is what makes them great summer reads!

I also enjoy the Mrs. Murphy and Jane Arnold mysteries by Rita Mae Brown but my favorite book of hers is Bingo, I stayed up all night laughing and reading.   I can keep going:  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; any book by Sarah Vowell or Mary Roach; Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibson...  Of course, no summer is complete without reading some of my favorites once again:  Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and all of Jane Austen's work

So, this summer just think about reading for fun.  Let yourself embrace your favorite flavor of delicious mind candy.  Don't forget, I am available to help you find new books to explore or "read alikes" of your favorite genre or author. 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fundraiser, Sign-Up, and Good Listening

Library Fundraiser-Buy a Ticket for a Chance to Win This Gorgeous Quilt, tickets are $5 each or 3 for $10 and all proceeds benefit the library. This gorgeous quilt was handmade and donated by one of our wonderful volunteers, Jeanetta Sanders. Come and take a chance and help us raise money for books!

Did you know that June is National Audiobook Month?  I love audiobooks and I listen to one every day, driving back and forth to Austin. It makes the time go faster in the delightful traffic.  They are also lifesavers for trips, either driving or on a plane. 

We have three different types of audiobooks:  1) on CDs; 2) Playaways (portable pre-loaded MP3 players that weight less than 3 ounces); and MP3-CDs, which you can listen to on your computer, in your car (if your car can play them-older ones generally can't), and even download them to an MP3 player - yep, even an iPod!  For the kids, we have a fantastic selection of read-along kits (a copy of the book and an audio version in an easy-to-carry bag) and a great selection of titles on Tumblebooks.

An audiobook is a great way for a family to share a book on a trip and we have lots of family-friendly titles that everyone can enjoy. I always recommend the Harry Potter Series, read by the fabulous Jim Dale, or the Percy Jackson Series, read by Jesse Berenstein (who some of you may remember from Dawson's Creek), for families to share.  Some of my favorite adult titles are those where the readers have made the author's prose just come alive.  I particularly loved:

  • The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

  • Canon:  A Whirligig of the Beautiful Basics of Science, by Natalie Angier

  • Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Philips

  • Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell

  • People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks

  • Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley
I might be prejudiced, but I think we have a great variety of both fiction and nonfiction audiobooks.  Here is a list of some of the most recent titles we added to entice those summer trip takers. One last thing to mention, don't forget that there is still time to sign-up for the kids, teen, or adult summer reading program.  Audiobooks are a great because you can count the titles or minutes you listen to them towards your summer reading goal! 

Happy listening!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Join the Adult and Teen Summer Reading Program. Explore nonfiction this summer!

For the first time we are offering a summer reading program for our teen and adult patrons-I hope that all of you consider participating. It’s easy, the more you read or listen to, the greater your chance to win a prize! Click here to see a flyer for more information on how participate.

How about reading some great nonfiction this summer? I know, I know, some of you think that nonfiction are those books that you “have” to read because they are “books that are good for you” – these are books you are supposed to read to make you smarter, for you to learn something from. Heavens, these books are not for fun and you are not supposed to enjoy them!

Granted, some nonfiction books can be as painful to read as the driest text book you had to read for the dullest course you took in college. BUT I am here to assure you that there are GREAT nonfiction books out there that are as exciting, thrilling, and engrossing as the most recent suspense bestseller. Here are some of my top choices from among the recent nonfiction arrivals as well as some of my all-time favorites.

Join the summer reading program and grab some great nonfiction!

Happy Reading,

Great Recent Nonfiction Arrivals

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
  • Timely. How the use of cells, which were obtained without permission, tells the story of not only science but the intersection of   race, class, and who owns the rights to our body and DNA.

A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, by James Horn
  • A mystery and adventure story about the “lost” colony, whose fate has always fascinated me. The author suggests that the colonists were not really “lost” after all.

No One Would Listen: A True financial Thriller, by Harry Markopolos

  • Markopolos and his team investigated Bernie Madoff for years and called for his arrest long before he was “investigated” by the SEC.

Saving Gracie: How One Dog Escaped the Shadowy World of American Puppy Mills, by Carol Bradley

  •  I am a dog rescue person and have had numerous fosters from puppy mills (another timely topic!). This book relates both the horror that these dogs go through as well as the hope for a healthy and loved future that some are granted.

Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, by Jeff Biggers

  • Beautifully written! Details the sad legacy of coal mining on the people and the land, where I am from in Southern Illinois.

Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy, by Melissa Milgrom

  •  This book is entertaining, enthralling, and fascinating and yes, it is about taxidermy. Milgrom reminds me of Mary Roach.

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, by Marilyn Johnson
  •  Of course, I think everyone should read this book!

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, by Gail Collins

  •  A review of a recent history as well as convincing argument that the issues raised in the 1950s and 1960s are still in need of addressing today. I love the way Collins writes.
A Few of Angela’s All Time Nonfiction Favorites

Assassination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell
  •  One of my favorite opening chapters of any book I have ever read. Vowell makes history funny and interesting. She has a knack of taking various historical threads and weaving them together into a beautiful and very accessible tapestry with her dry wit. I love all her books.

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, by Natalie Angier

  •  Science made accessible by a Pulitzer-winning science writer. Not only is this book accessible, but it is funny too! A great read!

Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, by Rob Sheffield
  •  Heartbreaking, but you cannot put it down.

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, by Brenda Maddox

  • One of my all time favorite scientific heroines. Her story thrills, angers, amazes and saddens me.

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach
  • Roach has a gift of taking on those subjects that make you say “ew, gross!” and turning them into books that you can’t put down.