Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Old Hollywood: Lady Blue Eyes & Rin Tin Tin

Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank by Barbara Sinatra
Reviewed by Nancy P.
Barbara Sinatra gives us a fabulous account of her life with icon Frank Sinatra.  It is full of surprises.  She relates the good and the bad of their lives during and after the Golden Age of movies and entertainment in the Fifties and Sixties and beyond.  Her stories of other popular entertainers of yesteryear are very interesting and make you want to keep the pages turning.  She isn’t “dishing dirt” in that her stories aren’t malicious or mean-spirited, but she does give some eye-opening moments. 
Of course, most of the book is about Frank Sinatra.  He had so many facets to his personality.  She deals with that in depth as well as with his legacy. She says he was the most romantic man she ever met, but admits that he had a temper, especially when he was drinking. His loyalty to his friends was legendary.   He touched so many lives.
If you’re a fan of “Old Hollywood,” the Rat Pack, the movie stars and entertainers, you’ll want to read Lady Blue Eyes.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean
Review by Jeanne
Before Lassie, there was Rin Tin Tin.  If ever there was a canine Cinderella story, this was it.
It all began during World War I in France.  American serviceman Lee Duncan was patrolling a bombed-out German encampment when he spotted a concrete building.  When he investigated, he found it was a kennel where the German canine corps had been housed.  It had been hit by shells; dead dogs were everywhere.  As he picked his way through the debris, he heard a whimper and discovered a German shepherd dog with five puppies who had survived.  An orphan himself, Lee was drawn to these shell-shocked dogs.  He found a home for the mother and three of the puppies, keeping two for himself.  He became their devoted guardian.  He named the puppies after doll good luck charms that the French children sold to the troops:  Nadine and Rin Tin Tin.
Lee didn’t know just how much of a good luck charm he had.  He soon found out.
Even if you don’t remember watching Rinty himself, his influence on the way dogs were portrayed in movies was immense.  The dog himself was a charmer, and some reviewers felt he was a better actor than his human co-stars.  In fact, at one point Rin Tin Tin was the number one box office star.  He’s often been credited with saving Warner Brothers Studios from bankruptcy and later inspired the 1976 comedy  “Won Ton Ton:  The Dog Who Saved Hollywood.”
Dog lovers and movie buffs alike will enjoy this wonderful book. It’s a loving and fascinating look at a man and his dog, the early movie industry, and the bond between humans and animals.

Monday, November 28, 2011

What's Hot!

The New York Times Bestseller List is compiled by the news department of that newspaper.  Exactly how they reach their list is a trade secret, but apparently they contact various chain and independent booksellers to determine what books individuals are buying as opposed to bulk buying.  (At least once, it's believed, someone discovered which stores were polled and skewered the results by going to the stores and buying copies of specific books to up their standing on the list.)

Why should New York have all the fun?  We decided to check the reserve list for books and create our own list to reflect local interest.  What follows is the Bristol Public Library's  Top Twelve Books on Reserve.  (Please imagine a drum roll here.) Counting down we have:

12. Unwritten Laws by Greg Iles

11. Killing Lincoln:  The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

10. Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

9. I Am Half Sick of Shadows:  a Flavia de Luce Novel by C. Alan Bradley

8. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

7. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

6. The Drop by Michael Connelly

5. Bonnie by Iris Johansen

4.Shock Wave by John Sandford

3. V is for Vengence by Sue Grafton

2. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich

And the number one book on reserve is:
1. Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson!

We have multiple copies of most of these titles so the wait shouldn't be too long.  You can reserve books online, by phone or in person on your next trip to the library!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Novels for November!

David Baldacci has a new book out, Zero Day!  Army combat veteran and special investigator John Puller is called to the scene of a brutal murder in rural West Virginia, where nothing is what it seems to be and a local homicide might have international implications.
Anthony Horowitz has made quite a name for himself as an award-winning screenwriter as well as a novelist writing thrillers for both adults and children.  Now he takes on a rather unusual assignment for the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. . . writing the first authorized Sherlock Holmes novel  for 106 years. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, you’ll want to reserve House of Silk.

What if you could go back in time and change an event? That’s been the hook for many a novel, some good and some very, very bad.  This time, however, the question is asked by Stephen King—and the event is the Kennedy assassination.  This could be very, very, very good indeed! The title is  11/22/63 and the time to reserve it is today!
Danielle Steel‘s newest book is Hotel Vendome, a behind the scenes look at a five star hotel in New York.  Expect glamour, glitz, secrets, celebrities, romance—in short, all the ingredients that have made Danielle Steel a best-selling and beloved author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nevermore November Fiction

Since we had been graced with a visit by Mary Kay Andrews, Director Jud chose to read her book Hissy Fit. Interior designer Keeley Rae Murdock sees her business take a nose-dive after she breaks up with her fiancĂ©.  Just because she caught him “doing the deed” with the Maid of Honor at the rehearsal dinner was not enough to warrant her “hissy fit”—or so HIS family thinks, and being folk of wealth and influence, they decide to ruin her business.  Luckily, she meets Will Mahoney who has just bought an old manufacturing plant and who wants her to redecorate an antebellum mansion.  Jud’s descriptions had the whole group laughing.  One member pointed out that under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck, she had written a wonderful series of mysteries set in Atlanta.
Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer was the next book mentioned.  The reader enjoyed it a great deal but said it took some time to get into it, and she found the format a little difficult because she couldn’t picture the characters.  The story, however, is excellent. Guernsey spent five years under German occupation during World War II, and the residents had to improvise the Society as a cover for the resistance. The story is told in retrospect through a series of letters from an American journalist looking for a story and some of the island’s residents.  Our reader recommended it, though she admitted it was tough going at first.  She ended up enjoying the book very much.
Craig Johnson is a West Virginia native who now lives in Wyoming where he sets his Walt Longmire mysteries.  Walt is a long time sheriff in the Gary Cooper mold, a man of moral convictions tempered by compassion.  Johnson spins a great story and has an excellent supporting cast of characters, including Walt’s friend Henry Lone Bear.  In the latest entry in the series, Hell is Empty, one character is given lists of books to read by his co-workers. Each list reflects the interests of the particular compiler, from Pilgrim’s Progress to Madame BovaryKip Carey’s Official Wyoming Fishing Guide. to   Our reviewer recommends the series to anyone who likes a good mystery, especially those who favor Western settings.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Now You See Me by S. J. Bolton

 Reviewed by Jeanne
Policewoman Lacey Flint meets a dead woman standing by her car.  Technically, the woman is still alive but at the rate blood is spewing forth it’s obvious that her life span is now to be measured in seconds.  There’s no sign of the slayer; the women still wears expensive jewelry, though her purse is gone.  There’s no identification on her, no cell phone, no car keys.  As the police struggle to identify the victim, a reporter turns up with a letter that refers to Lacey and to the crime, using phrases that would sound alarm bells for any historical crime buff: 
Saucy Jacky is back.
As a child, Lacey was fascinated by Jack the Ripper so she knows what the letter means.  She also realizes that the woman was murdered on the same day as the Ripper’s first known victim, and that the wounds are similar.  It soon becomes apparent that someone is replicating some of those crimes and the police are racing against time to prevent more murders. It’s also apparent that the killer is fixated on Lacey, who has some things in her past that she’d rather forget.
Bolton is a British thriller writer whose books tend to follow a certain follow a pattern, though they aren’t formulaic. Her novels usually feature a strong, gutsy female lead with a damaged past and a willingness to sometimes rush in where angels fear to tread if she feels someone is in danger.  There is a well developed supporting cast of characters.  Bolton also does a wonderful job with setting, describing places in vivid and tactile terms, and knows just what buttons to push to ratchet up the tension.  In her previous books, she kept the violence a bit removed by placing it in the past but in this book certain things are immediate and visceral—no pun intended.  She can take something ordinary and make it frightening.  For example, the song “My Favorite Things” runs all through the book; it was one of Lacey’s favorite songs, one she found comforting in difficult times.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to listen to that song again without feeling a sense of unease.
Another factor is always the past:  not just the characters’ pasts—which are important—but history and folklore always figure into the story in some fashion.  Legend is as apt to lead you down a wrong path as a right one; figuring out the important bits is part of the puzzle.  Bolton’s books are good illustrations of the Faulkner quotation that the past isn’t dead.  It isn’t even past.
Finally, Bolton’s solutions are complex and riveting; there are twists you don’t see coming.  That’s true of this book in particular. It makes it a little difficult to do a review in some ways, because to do it justice the reviewer would have to reveal some things best left for the reader to discover. She also doesn’t seem to believe in the pat happy ending; not all of her books end with folks walking off into the sunset together, holding hands.
I’m not a fan of graphic violence so some sections were definitely unsettling; but I can offer the same comment about many current thrillers and forensic books. (And, to be fair, there are other thrillers that are much more graphic.)  I did enjoy the characters and the plotting, the attention to detail and the bits of “Ripper-lore”—I can always count on Ms. Bolton to do her homework in such things!—and the ending was a shocker. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nevermore Bookclub: November Nonfiction!

Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister was a popular topic in the Nevermore Bookclub.  The term “willpower” has been thrown around by self-help gurus and diet mavens, mostly in the context of “lack of willpower.”  Psychologist Baumeister’s groundbreaking study on the nature of self-control and willpower explains when and why people give into temptation and how an individual can improve his or her willpower.  He contends you can actually strengthen your resolve by practicing will power.  A surprising number of things affected the ability to exercise self-control: glucose levels and sleep patterns were factors as well as the number of decisions a person was required to make (more decisions wore away resolve).  Using  the “buddy system” was effective in many cases. Nevermore members found Baumeister’s conclusions fascinating, and a good basis for understanding their own behavior, as well as a good basis for planning how to resist temptation.   Willpower is a fascinating book and quite readable for the layperson.
Another new popular science book is Sex on Six Legs: Lessons on Life, Love and Language from the Insect World by Marlene Zuk.  People have varied responses to insects: the little creatures are loved, loathed, studied, and even eaten but rarely given credit for being anything other than a sometimes necessary annoyance.  Zuk’s book takes a look at the way insects interact, communicate, and reproduce.  Did you know some insects seem to have facial recognition?  In one experiment, bees that flew toward a particular photograph of a man were rewarded; some of the bees would return regularly to the photograph even if the face was inverted. They also seemed to remember the photograph for weeks.  This is a book to entertain and inform the curious!
Roger Ebert has been a movie critic for over 40 years, but it’s his life behind the scenes that takes center stage in his memoir, Life Itself.  He does recount some encounters and interviews with celebrities and discuss his sometime tempestuous relationship with his co-star Gene Siskal, but most of the book takes place out of the spotlight.  Many reviewers mention his storybook childhood and his often madcap escapades as he embarked on a career in journalism, but the heart of the book recounts his struggle with alcoholism and with the cancer that robbed him of the ability to speak, eat or drink.   The book is gracefully written and, as the title indicates, is more of a reflection on life than a gossipy tell-all. Our Nevermore member thought it was marvelous!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Horses Say by Julie Dicker

Reviewed by Nancy
It seemed like such a fantasy when I was a child, to be able to talk to the animals. Of course, now I talk to my animals all the time, but who knows what they really understand, and if they talk back to me I don't much get it.
But, it seems, there has been a real-life "Doctor Dolittle" amongst us. Her name was Julie Dicker and with her co-author, Anna Clemence, she wrote the book, "What Horses Say," which details her experiences as an animal healer and communicator.
Ms. Dicker, a resident of the UK who passed away in 2006, developed the ability to communicate with animals during early childhood. It wasn't as if she had learned to speak "horse" and then "cat" and then "bird" and then "dog." I tried this verbal method once myself, and found it to be impossible, especially the "cat." No, Julie Dicker was smarter than I am. She communicated with animals with her mind and her heart.
During the years that she worked as an animal communicator and healer Ms. Dicker built relationships with horse professionals who requested her assistance and insights regarding the behavior of their equine charges.
"What is wrong with my horse?" This is the question that drove many people to seek Ms. Dicker's assistance. According to Ms. Dicker, horses are smart, and have long memories. There is the story of Ozzie, who was a model steed as long as no one got near her wearing green boots. When green boots approached, Ozzie turned from a docile companionable friend into a raging lunatic of a horse, thrashing and churning and lashing out at anyone near.
Ms. Dicker had a session with Ozzie and learned that Ozzie had had some very bad experiences with people wearing green boots in the past. Once Ozzie's owners learned this they ditched their green boots and everything was fine.
This may sound silly to you, but there you have it. The horse was smart enough to connect green boots with bad experiences and also to retain this information for a long period of time.
Five years after learning this little quirk about Ozzie one of her owners forgot about the green boot phenomena one day. It was raining, and since it was raining he was wearing boots, and, uh-oh, they were cursed green boots. When he attempted to bring her in from the pasture she absolutely refused to be caught. He sloshed into the house, complaining to his wife that the usually cooperative Ozzie was determined to stay out in the rain. Once they realized he had on green boots, the wife, who was not wearing green boots, went to the pasture and caught the horse easily.
Then there's Lucy. Lucy was sold at auction, but chose another owner by reaching out of her stall and grabbing the clothes of Pippa, the woman passing by, who smelled good to her.  When Pippa looked at the horse's face and body she knew that she had to have her. She went and found the man who had bought the horse and made a deal with him. It turned out that Lucy had been terribly mistreated early in her life, but fully recovered after receiving healing from Julie.
One of my favorites of the tales related was about Dan. Dan was a bay gelding who had been with the same owner for five years. During this time he had been a great horse to ride, never spooking, and had gotten along quite well with his owner. Then suddenly the good times were over, and Dan was a nightmare to ride, scooting and spooking at every turn.
When Ms. Dicker arrived to give Dan healing he was very eager to tell her what was going on. It turned out his owner/rider had recently started riding with a friend and spent the ride conversing with her friend instead of paying attention to Dan. So Dan decided negative attention was better than no attention. He started spooking at bushes and plastic bags and jumping across the road at every opportunity. When he did this conversation stopped and his rider turned her attention to him. Once this was explained to Dan's owner, she cut the chatter and everything was fine.
I suppose there are two ways to view Ms. Dicker's work. Either it's amazing, or it's just another load of hooey. If you are a person who is very invested in the idea of the mystical, magical unseen world around us, I suppose you might fall into the "it's amazing" camp.
On the other hand, if you are one of those individuals who insists that they believe only in things that they can see and touch, only in things that appear to be concrete, this one might be a little too far "out there" for you. If ever there was a book that might pull a person from the "concrete" camp into the "mystical" camp this might be it. Maybe you should risk a look.