Monday, September 22, 2014

Fantasy for all ages

The Ever Afters by Shelby Bach (Middle-School, High School)
This on-going series, while written for middle-school, can easily be enjoyed by older teens as well. And for
Harry Potter and Rick Riordan fans looking for something new, this series hits the spot! In book 1, “Of Giants and Ice”, Rory Landon, the daughter of a very famous couple, starts a new after-school program. And no-one knows who she is. If that weren’t strange enough, by the end of the first day, she has found herself face-to-face with a fire-breathing dragon. At Ever After School, Rory learns that the stories she grew up thinking were just fairy tales are actually tales that have been secretly playing out over and over again throughout time, by kids destined to be characters. And Rory has her own tale to fulfill—that is, if she can make it through her friends’ tales first!
Bach has created a unique world, where fairy tale characters are very real and where adventure and magic abounds. But what really pulls you in and refuses to let go are the amazing cast of characters, going through the normal trials of kids growing up, dealing with family issues, and learning who their friends are-only with swords, crazy inventions, and some truly spectacular adventures thrown in the mix.

Half Upon a Time by James Riley (Middle-School)
This retelling of Jack and the Bean Stalk gets an interesting twist when Jack (not the Jack from Jack and the Bean Stalk, that was his father-who’s still missing by the way) has to rescue a princess. Not a regular princess though-this one fell from the sky, wears a weird shirt that says “punk princess” and denies that she actually is a princess at all. May doesn’t believe that magic exists-but she does need help because a hunter is chasing her. And Jack thinks that she might be the granddaughter of the long lost heroine, Snow White. What follows is a funny adventure that combines giants, scary horses, defiant royalty, broken mirrors -and the discovery that not everyone is who they might seem to be.
Fables  by Bill Willingham (Adults and mature Teens)
Fables is a long-running comics series that has been released into bound graphic novels. If you are a fan of the TV show “Once Upon a Time” then you will love this series.  The first of the bound graphic novels is titled “Legends in Exile”-which is the basis of the entire series. All those famous fairy tale characters, such as Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella, Charming, Pinocchio, etc, were chased out of their homelands and forced into exile by the Adversary. The land they wound up in? Modern-day New York, hiding in plain sight within-in a section of the city called Fabletown. But things may not be as peaceful as they seem when Snow White’s sister Rose Red is murdered and the sheriff (none other than the reformed Big Bad Wolf) has to determine who killed her. Thought you knew who the good guys and the bad guys are in those fairy tales? Well think again-you won’t see most of these twists coming!
Goldi Rocks and the 3 Bears by Corey Schwartz (Easy Picture Book)
In this adorable musical retelling of Goldilocks, the 3 bears like to rock out with their band. But they don’t
get a very big audience-so they decide to get a singer. When they hold auditions though, no one seems just right. Enter a yellow haired girl sleeping on Baby Bear’s keyboard (after testing out all their musical equipment) and you have a very entertaining and imaginative musical cast that might be just right!

Princess by Jessica George Day (Teens and Middle -School)
Jessica George Day re-imagines the tale of the 12 dancing princesses in this enchanting and well-written series. Rose and her 11 sisters disappear each night, and return with their slippers worn through. Galen, a soldier returning from war, and Rose must fight to free the sisters from a curse that is slowly killing them. With an invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with silver needles and true love they should have a fighting chance. But dark forces are working against them-The King Under Stone is as determined to keep the sisters as they are to free themselves. With a delightful cast of characters, and a very interesting twist on an old story, this is not a series to miss!
500 Kingdoms by Mercedes Lackey (Adults and Teens)
In her 500 Kingdoms series, fantasy and science fiction writer Mercedes Lackey produces some truly fantastic variations on many well-known fairy tale characters from the Fairy Godmother, to the Snow Queen and the Little Mermaid.  In book 1, “The Fairy Godmother” Lackey introduces a world where The Tradition rules the outcome of the lives of every person, from the lowest sheepherder to the highest king, uncaring of how many die as long as Tales are played out. Elena, mistreated by her stepmother, finds herself in training to be the kingdom’s next fairy godmother. She battles with The Tradition, trying to keep those it forces into Tales, such as questers, alive. When she comes across a particularly headstrong and unforgiving quester-well let’s just say the punishment matches the man, with hilarious results. With strong world-building, engaging and flawed characters and interesting plot twists, this book is the beginning of a series you shouldn’t miss!
A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz (Middle-School)
This series revolves around some other well-known characters from the Grimm Brothers-Hansel and Gretel. In this clever series, Hansel and Gretel manage to walk out of their own tale and straight into some other characters’ tales. The must rely on themselves and each other, and learn the true story behind the gingerbread house and weird witches. They also must learn their own strengths if they want to write their own destiny into a new story.

Wide Awake Princess by E.D. Baker (Middle-School)
E.D. Baker re-imagines Sleeping Beauty in this delightful and charming middle-school series. Princess Annie is the younger, less graceful and less perfect sister of Gwen, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. In a kingdom where magic reigns supreme, used to alter undesirable physical characteristics, Annie is cursed (or possibly blessed?) with immunity to magic. Her family ostracizes her, as her presence causes their own magical alterations to wane.  But when Gwen pricks her finger, causing the castle to fall asleep, Annie is left awake-and determined to rescue her family. What follows is a fantastic adventure as our young heroine discovers her own strength. And if you like the “Wide Awake Princess” make sure to check out E.D. Baker’s other series, also retelling classic fairy tales: “Tales of the Frog Princess” and the origins of the evil (or perhaps not) witch Baba Yaga in her book “A Question of Magic”.
 --S.R. Youth Services

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Guest post: Old Army Jacket

John Repp is subversive, somebody who sits in the Carnegie Library wearing an "Army-surplus field jacket," and of course,  "beige-leather work gloves," as he waits for the bus. He looks a little haggard in the leather armchair. In his pocket he carries a copy of Proust. Don't speak to him is our first impulse, but you should, for he is the extraordinary poet who has written my favorite poem in Fat Jersey Blues, "Waiting for the Bus in the Reading Room of the Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh, Haggard in a Leather Chair."
     I like the long lines of this poem, as if he is used to waiting and every breath luxuriously pours out of him. Repp, a poet for the back of the bus, celebrates the smaller moments in life. Like waiting in a leather armchair. I believe he has more than one book in those army jacket pockets. His mind has grown accustomed to film classics in black and white, likeThe Maltese Falcon, and his poem of the same name allows us to breathe in the obscure but important fact that when this John Huston film premiered for Warner Brotherswas the year Bob Dylan was born.
     Yes, this is my second favorite poem of the book, and perhaps my all-time favorite film. It is the stuff dreams are made of. Repp's prize-winning book "dramatizes a world at once actual and mythic, joyful and desolate" (a line borrowed from Lynn Emanuel blurbing his poetry). My third favorite poem has to be "Having Come Late to Kenneth Koch," and he gives us that age of fifty-seven as a kind of watermark. But the poem is really about Sam Esposito, a Marine veteran, and Repp imagining a John Wayne meeting with hippies screaming about the war. I love his fat poems in Fat Jersey Blues, and John is no thin person either, who admits publicly he has come to love Koch's "goofiness/of nouns & adjectives, the jog of Technicolor abstraction."
      I don't have my old army jacket anymore, but reading these poems is like wearing one for a minute, a handful of time before entering the bitter cold. It's a book to thumb open while the bitter flakes of winter fall, and that car in the parking lot is bound not to start.
Russell Thorburn, U.P. Poet Laureate 

Monday, September 8, 2014

One Book, One Community 2014 and other Detroit titles

The 2014 One Book One Community program begins in September. The NMU family and residents of Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. Print and audio copies of this book can be checked out of your library, interloaned from other libraries or purchased at local bookstores.
Marquette County are invited to read the selected title:

Indignant and passionate, journalist LeDuff returns to his hometown of Detroit after a twenty-year absence to investigate the downturn of this once rich and powerful industrial city which he links to family losses as well. He demonstrates the consequences of corrupt and inept city government and economic globalization on the fire department, homeless people and ordinary families. His wicked portrayal of several former city officials is both very humorous and terribly sad. This angry, raw and tough book is a provocative and emotional read.

LeDuff will speak to the public at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12 in NMU’s University Center’s Great Lakes Rooms. Free admission.  Other free activities include “Motor City Music” with Dave Ziegner and friends at the library on October 29, public book discussions and displays. Visit and click on the One Book One Community link, visit, or call 226-4309 for more information.

Burn is a 2012 action-packed DVD that takes the viewer into the fires and the lives of Detroit firefighters as they try to save the city in spite of being the most over-worked and under-funded fire department in the country. The firefighters show remarkable courage, risking injury and death as they deal with abandoned neighborhoods, arson and a crippling budget.

Detroit: Race Riots, Racial Conflicts, and Efforts to Bridge the Racial Divide by Joe T. Darden and Richard W. Thomas was named a Michigan Notable Book for 2014. This study looks at the history of racial conflict and cooperation in Detroit, attending to post-1967 social and political developments. It focuses not only on black/white relations but also on the movement of more recent groups to Detroit including Middle Eastern, Arab, Hispanic and Asian Americans.

Detroit-area native Mark Binelli’s Detroit City is the Place to be: the Afterlife of an American Metropolis chronicles the history of Detroit including early French settlers, the rise and fall of the auto industry, revolutionary music makers, race riots, drug culture and current signs of renewal and hope. Detroit is attracting people and businesses willing to take risks such as urban planners, land speculators, environmentalists, agriculturalists and others who are working to reinvent Detroit, perhaps making it into a smaller, greener, less segregated and more economically diverse city.

Making Callaloo in Detroit by Lolita Hernandez is a magical melodic collection of short stories based on the author’s memories of growing up in Detroit eating callaloo, dancing to calypso music and celebrating Ole Year’s night. Hernandez’s fiction explores how her Caribbean community made their way in a midwestern city far away from their sunny, saltwater roots.

If you want a view of what is currently happening in Detroit’s art scene and you wish to meet the artists take a look at Canvas Detroit by Julie Pincus and Nichole Christian. This graphic designer and writer team present, in full-color, a dazzling array of hundreds of pieces of contemporary artwork in a variety of formats created by individual artists and collectives who find their inspiration in Detroit.

A second documentary from 2012, Detropia, opens with a long look at what has happened to Detroit. In 1930 Detroit was the fastest growing city in the world and one of America’s great cities. Now, however, it is losing residents more quickly than any other American city. The filmmakers speak with longtime residents who discuss the effects of class, race, politics and global economics on Detroit. They refuse to give up on their city and struggle to find creative ways to keep Detroit alive.

A Detroit Anthology, edited by Anna Clark, an independent journalist living in Detroit, is a collection of Detroit essays, stories, poetry and photographs from a diverse group of writers and photographers who are lifelong residents, newcomers or former Detroiters. Collectively, they provide a collage of Detroit’s past, present and future. In his essay, Joseph Lichterman writes of the Detroit his immigrant grandparents knew and made their city. Although Detroit is no longer that, he hopes maybe one day it will be his. In their essay “Planting Seeds of Hope” Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige believe their organization, Detroit Summer, will bring about a new vision and model of community activism and a significant urban agricultural movement in Detroit. Clark’s introduction declares, “We are a city moving through the fire of transformation. We are afire. There is no place I would rather be.” I hope a million others feel this way, too.

--C.S., Collection Development/Reference Librarian

Monday, August 18, 2014

Books with surpises

The books I enjoy most are those with hidden plot twists, books with unexpected endings, or books that surprise readers in any number of ways.  The books recommended here are either explorations of new genres for their writers, familiar characters acting in new and different ways, or are books where reality is turned inside out.  These books may appeal to you too.

Lisa Scottoline’s latest book, Accused, is her 12th featuring Rosato & Associates, a dynamic all-female  law firm set in Philadelphia, PA.  Recently promoted to partner, Mary DiNunzio is approached by thirteen-year-old Allegra Gardner whose older sister, Fiona, had been murdered six years earlier. Allegra doesn’t believe the man jailed for Fiona’s death, Lonnie Stall, is guilty of the crime, even though he’s confessed to the murder and was seen fleeing the scene covered in blood.  As DiNunzio works to uncover the truth, Allegra’s parents block the investigation at every turn, making this case the firm’s most dangerous one yet.

Although Stephen King has written bestselling novels in many genres, his latest book, Mr. Mercedes is the first detective thriller he’s ever written.  In it Detective Bill Hodges comes out of retirement to respond to a taunting letter from the crazed driver of a Mercedes that ran over job seekers waiting in line outside a job fair, killing eight and wounding fifteen.  The driver, Brady Hartfield, intends more mayhem, so it’s up to Detective Hodges, his 17-year-old neighbor and a victim’s sister to find clues in Brady’s computer records before he can kill more innocent people.
Australian author Liane Moriarty’s fifth novel The Husband’s Secret, entangles the lives of Cecilia Fitzpatrick, Tess O’Leary, her son Liam, and Rachel Crowley at St. Angela’s Primary School in Sydney where Liam is enrolled.   The school’s secretary, Rachel, is convinced that St. Angela’s PE teacher, Tess’s old boyfriend, Connor Whitby, is the man who got away with murdering Rachel’s daughter thirty years earlier.  In the meantime, Cecilia has opened a letter from her husband that should have remained sealed until his death, turning her perfectly ordered life upside down.  A page turner of a book, the challenging plot engages its characters and its readers fully.

Another fifth novel, this time by Michael Connelly, called The Gods of Guilt, is a book that returns to the

courtroom skills of defense attorney Mickey Haller.  Known as “the Lincoln lawyer” because he works out of his Lincoln Town car, Haller has accepted the case of Andre Le Cosse, a computer expert charged with the murder of a prostitute.  Haller thought he’d rescued the victim, Giselle Dallinger, from her life in prostitution, but soon learns she’d returned to her former profession shortly before her death.  As Haller and his associates work to find a plausible alternate motive for the crime, Haller finds he must look inward to confront inner gods of guilt in order to win this case.

Fans everywhere can rejoice now that the newest installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has been published.  The book is called Written in My Own Heart’s Blood and it continues the bestselling saga of Claire Randall and her time-traveling clan.  Claire is an English ex-military nurse who first disappears from the Scottish Highlands in 1946 when she steps into a stone circle and re-emerges in the year 1743.  Gabaldon’s current book is set in 1778, a time when France has declared war on Great Britain and George Washington is chasing British troops out of Valley Forge.  Claire’s husband, Jamie Fraser, has returned from his presumed death to discover his family is in utter disarray.  The only bright spot is the Frasers believe their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in twentieth-century Scotland.  They are sadly mistaken.  Brianna’s son has been kidnapped by a man who wishes to learn her family’s secrets and Brianna’s husband Roger has traveled into the past to find him.  In reality the boy is still in the twentieth century and it is Brianna herself who is the kidnapper’s intended target.
By Lisa Shirtz, Reference Department

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gardening solutions

Extreme low temperatures this winter delayed warming of the soil this spring and cooler than average early summer temperatures have made this a very challenging garden year. Spring vegetable harvests are finally coming on strong and perennial flower gardens are staying fresh longer with the ample rainfall. Tomato plants, on the other hand, are reluctant to flower and heat loving peppers and squash are just limping along. 

Peter White Public Library’s new nonfiction book collection on the library’s main floor can help provide some solutions to your fickle garden problems this season.
Mid-summer is the perfect time of year to gear up for another, possibly challenging, winter season ahead. Backyard Winter Gardening by Caleb Warnock is packed full of ideas of how to beat old Man Winter in the gardening game by selecting the right seeds and using cold frames, cloches, and hotbeds- without using electricity for heat or lights- as gardeners have been doing for centuries. Now is the time to start fall crops for harvest into the winter months using these tried and true organic and energy efficient practices. Find this book under call number 635 WA
A great companion to the previous title is The Backyard Homestead Book of Building Projects by Spike Carlsen. This how-to guide covers projects ranging from season extenders like cold frames and greenhouses to storage sheds, trellises, garden furniture, garden aids, storage systems for putting food up and shelters for your backyard menagerie including the “Chicken Ark.” Clear drawings, materials lists and cutting guides simplify construction of these projects for all skill levels and time commitments. 690.892 CA
When the bountiful harvest does come in and you are scratching your head wondering what to do with that bumper crop, The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman is for you. Part cookbook, part growing manual, this book takes the gardener from seed to table with plenty of sensible gardening tips and mouthwatering recipes, all beautifully illustrated with photographs, drawings, planting charts, and an extensive index. 635 DA
If your garden is under control, take a break with a spot of tea, sit in the shade and enjoy Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life by Marta McDowell. The creator of the beloved Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, and Jemima Puddleduck characters in children’s books had a life-long fascination with ecology. Part biography, part nature guide, the author takes the readers on a beautifully illustrated tour of Potter’s beloved English countryside through rich photographs and the drawings of the children’s author/illustrator herself. 921 PO
For an enlightening read in the shade, English gardener turned chimpanzee researcher, Jane Goodall shares her passion for the plant world in her newest book, Seeds of Hope co-written by Gail Hudson. Goodall explores our ancient dependence on the plant world for food and medicine and how plants can help heal the environment through sustainable gardening practices. Tireless scientist, naturalist and goodwill ambassador, Goodall shares her passion and hope for the future of our planet. 580 GO
Paradise Lot by Eric Toensmeier is an amusing and informative read about the adventures of two self-proclaimed “plant geeks” who venture into the world of urban permaculture gardening. The author and friend Jonathan Bates purchase one-tenth of an acre in Holyoke, Massachusetts and accept the challenge to create a food forest paradise of 200 low maintenance edible plants in a rust belt city lot. The book details their journey through the world of composting, pest and weed control, urban poultry and tropical crops on less than a quarter acre. 635.091 TO
Exploring the Zen of gardening, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening, a memoir by essayist Carol Wall, details the evolution of the author’s unlikely friendship with her gardener and impromptu horticulture instructor. Wall recounts how learning to appreciate the joy of earning a green thumb opened her to new relationships and understandings during life’s most trying times. An easy and engrossing read, find it under call number 635 WA
Finally, for quick reads, the library subscribes to several gardening magazines that provide monthly or quarterly insights into what’s new in the world of plants. In the magazine room find current and back issues of Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Organic Gardening, and Better Homes and Gardens. Back issues can be checked to read at home. For those with electronic devices, many more magazines are available online in digital format through the library’s website,, by clicking on the Zinio link on the home page. Take a look at Canadian Gardening for cold season tips and Successful Farming for agrarian wannabes. No charge for this great service!

Read on and happy gardening! 

Margaret Boyle, Programming Coordinator