Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver 322 Pages

This month's book club choice for the Adams Place Senior Living, it a novel based on an iconic photo taken by photographer Dorothea Lange of the subject Florence Owens Thompson during the Great Depression. Hired by the U.S. Government to record the Great Depression, the author drew upon the field notes as well as the photo written and taken by Lange to create this story.

The story is told from three versions, one in present time by a professor of Cultural History who will have more interest in the photo than just professional, from the photographer, Vera Dare, who will make heart-breaking sacrifices for her art, and the subject of the photo, Mary Coin, an Oklahoman migrant, who fights with courage and tenacity to keep her family alive and together.

Sure to appeal to those who lived through the Depression and an education for those who did not.

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews 435 Pages

If there is one thing thelibrarylady likes, it is consistency and Mary Kay Andrews is the epitome of consistency. She consistently writes "smart, funny, and perfect-for-summer reads with a hopeful heart". And she makes me smile and giggle every time.

As all her books do, they take place in the south, usually Savannah, where she may drop in a few of her characters from past novels. This book introduces us to floral designer Cara Kryzik. If ever Murphy's Law could be applied, it would be to Cara. With a business plan in hand and a loan from her Daddy, "The Colonel", her store frig has died turning twelve thousand dollars of flowers into road kill, her delivery van has died, Daddy is calling in his loan, and someone steals her dog. And the dog napper keeps turning up at all her weddings.

It's a fun and witty read with a "feel good" ending and these are far and few between.

Monday, August 18, 2014

China Dolls by Lisa See 383 Pages

I am a huge Lisa See fan, so I really look forward to a new book by her when it comes out. I am sorry to say I almost gave up on this book. The author writes what she knows although you wouldn't think that if you saw her photo. One quarter Chinese and raised in Los Angeles Chinatown, See draws her writing from her heritage.

The book is historical fiction but based on the San Francisco Chinatown nightclub era before and during World War II.  It is the story of three young Chinese-American women fighting to leave their past and traditions behind them and forge new lives as performers at the new and glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. They will keep secrets from each other, yet rely on each other to meet challenges and unforeseen outcomes. Ultimately one will betray another, setting forth changes causing each of them to fight for survival. 

I'd give it a go, but if you decide to put it down, it will not be a tragedy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lauren Bacall 1924-2014


Celebrate the work of the legendary Lauren Bacall through her great films and autobiographies.





Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin 468 Pages

Daisy Goodwin brings us her second novel after the resounding success of her first novel, The American Heiress.. This novel is actually based on historical fact and actual people.  The title refers to a man by the name of Bay Middleton who was an officer in her Majesty's Army during the time late in Queen Victoria's life after the death of Prince Albert. Bay Middleton was also an accomplished rider and was a "pilot" or guide to the Empress of Austria on a visit to England when she rode on hunts. An affair occurred. Also is Charlotte Baird, an heiress to a large fortune who falls in love with Bay Middleton. 

The Empress, Elizabeth of Austria, was the Princess Diana of the nineteenth century.She sought escape wherever and whenever she could from court life.Her marriage to the much older Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria was often strained, and she was politically active. Her later life was shadowed in tragedy by the suicide/murder of her first-born son and his teen-age lover and the Empress was murdered in Switzerland by an Italian anarchist. 

Ensues is a love triangle, the Empress' bittersweet life, and the feelings of two people fated to love despite society's misgivings. A little long for my taste, but an interesting read as it appeals to my love of history.

Fast Track by Julie Garwood 321 Pages

Julie Garwood is another one of my favorite authors who just doesn't publish as often as I like. It comes out to be about one book a year and moderation is not one of my virtues.

She has been linking her most recent books to a group of three best girlfriends who have known each other since kindergarten. This novel tells of the third girl, Cordelia, now a grown woman and the secret her father tells her as he lays dying.  Determine to find the answers to the secret her father reveals and an older brother of one of the other girls she has had a secret childhood crush on, they unwittingly set loose a domino affect that puts Cordelia's life endanger half-way across the world.

An excellent choice for a pool-side read or in my case, a rainy afternoon.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

New Magazines Coming to Your Kirkwood Public Library

Starting in September, be on the lookout for these new magazines lining the shelves of your Kirkwood Library! And don't worry; we've kept all your favorites like People, This Old House, Cooking Light and more!


Not in the library? Check out digital copies of magazines using Zinio -- free with just your library card!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, 328 pgs

by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park is a moving love story between two teens who feel like outsiders. 

Throughout the book, both Eleanor and Park grapple with their identities and home lives. Eleanor must face off against her abusive step father and negotiate her feelings for her mother and siblings based on their relationships with this man, as well as her embarrassment over her family's lower socioeconomic status (which affects her clothes and appearance, something she's already uncomfortable with). Park struggles to connect with his all American, traditionally masculine Dad, since Park prefers punk music and eyeliner unlike his more American-looking, physically bigger, football playing little brother.   

Also, each of them, in teenage fashion, struggle with his  appearances: Eleanor describes herself as a larger woman and hates her wild, red hair, and Park bemoans his smaller stature and can't imagine himself attractive because of his Korean heritage (he argues that in America, Asian girls are seen as exotic, and Asian men as puny or weak). 

However, in the face of all this teenage angst and familial drama, Eleanor and Park find respite in each other. While the book can get a bit gooey, I appreciate that it takes you back to what it felt like to be sixteen, and Rowell's language can be quite beautiful, if overworked at times (which again, feels quite appropriate to the topic). 

Celebrate The Dog Days of Summer

                Caring For Your Best Friend...





Dog Tales...





Fiction Featuring Fidos...





Dogs In Starring Roles...


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wonder, by RJ Palacio, 315 pgs

by RJ Palacio

Let me begin by saying, Wonder is a wonder of a book that I would certainly recommend to others. 

Fiction books often aren't written about disability. While you may come across non-fiction or memoir books cataloging the experiences of those differently able, rarely do you come across the topic in fiction (though I like to think it's increasing). I think it's because most representations in fiction fall back upon majority groups. If it isn't explicitly stated in a book, we assume the character is able bodied, straight, and white. It's the same discussions going on in children's literature right now (

Therefore, the very existence of this book, and that it has blown up on the literary scene and in the library world, speaks wonders as to what this book is doing. Can you name the last time you read a book with a disabled person? Especially one so prominently figured as Auggie in Wonder? Wonder tells the story of Auggie, a 12-year-old boy with a medical condition that deeply disfigures his face. The novel shifts in narration from Auggie to those around him, providing readers with various perspectives on how people deal with difference, in this case Auggie's face, and forces readers to ask themselves penetrating question-- "What is normal?" "How do you respond to difference?" 

By allowing Auggie to tell his own story, she gives readers a glimpse into Auggie's life, humanizing those we not give full subjecthood (by pitying them or fearing them, thus making these disabled people "othered"). Auggie is a boy. He loves Star Wars and his dog, Daisy. He's more than his appearance. But Palacio doesn't shy away from showing the challenges faced by Auggie on a daily basis and how small things we take for granted are made overwhelmingly difficult for someone with Auggie's condition (mainly made that way by those around him, not by his actual condition). Getting ice cream at an ice cream parlor leads to stares and rude comments. Halloween being the best holiday to Auggie because he can hide his face and people can just get his personality, without having to deal with the prejudice against his looks. 

With such a beautiful context, it's hard to criticize such a book. However, I didn't always find the children's voices believable--sometimes Auggie's reflections seemed too mature for him, or more like didactic lessons learned about life as reflected on by the author (a middle-aged woman). I felt like just experiencing these events in Auggie's life were enough to get those points. But this may have to do with the genre of children's lit, where one can't always be as subtle (but kids are SMART and I think we all need to give them credit for getting things in books)

But this is minor in the scheme of things. It's a thin line--negotiating between representing disability realistically and making a novel about disability, if that makes sense. You want to show diversity without harping on diversity. Walter Dean Myers expresses this a lot better than I could, making a case for racial diversity in children's fiction (that also applies to diversity in general in all fiction): "Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?"    

If you're interested, here's a short list of books that explore disability:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare p384

Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

I have read a few of Tessa Dare's books in the past. Unfortunately, have found them uncreative and unoriginal in plot construction. She does often have strong heroines which I do like though.  Her new book, Any Duchess Will Do, is a 2014 RITA finalist so I thought that I would give it a try.  Again, I was disappointed with the lack of creativity as it has many strong familiar themes of Cinderella and Pretty Woman running throughout.  

We meet the hero, Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, having been drugged and kidnapped by his mother.  She is demanding that he choose a wife from the many eligible young ladies in "Spinsters' Cove".   Grif's mother said that she will turn any woman that he chooses into the next Duchess.  Grif chooses Paulina Simms, unsuspecting bar maid who has been taking care of her simple minded sister. Grif promises Pauline 1000 pounds if she does not become the Duchess that his mother is determined to turn her into within 6 days.  She is hesitant but she has been dreaming of owning a bookstore and sees this as her only opportunity to earn the funds to fullfil her dreams.  Throughout the week, Pauline causes one catastrophe after another.  However, she becomes the belle of the ton with her sassy tongue and kindhearted nature.  Everyone loves her including the one person she did not expect, the Duke himself.  

If you like strong and sassy heroines, take a look at this book.  Otherwise, you can bypass this for your favorite author. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 278 Pages

The Orphan Train  is this month's book selection for the Adams Place Senior Living Book Club. And this book is also coming soon to KPL's collection of Book Club Kits. This is a work of fiction based on historical fact, the story of thousands of orphan children who were shipped from the east coast to the mid west and western United States for adoption. Most were basically sold into servitude, but  some, like the youngest, were the more fortunate as they were easily adopted and absorbed into families.

A young Irish girl immigrates with her family to America, shortly thereafter, her family dies in a tenement fire, only the young lass surviving. Part of an orphan train, she is then sent to Minnesota. And her life forever changes. Now ninety-one, she recalls her memories with a troubled teen as the teen tries to straightened out her life.

A good premise for a story but I feel the author bailed on the ending. Let me know what you think.