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Staff Picks: Books

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

Being the thrilling illustrated adventures of the smartest super-mathematician crime-fighting team of the Victorian era: Charles Babbage, who (almost) invented the first, colossal steam-powered computer in the mid 1800's, and Ada Lovelace, who translated Babbage's plans and composed the world's first computational theory! A sci-fi-inflected historical fiction graphic novel about the unreal exploits of two of the most underrated minds of the Victorian scientific world! Historically (in)accurate and hilariously funny? If only all of this had actually happened! Imagine Lovelace and Babbage as real-life Victorian super-nerds! Even though this is largely a work of fiction, there's still TONS of fascinating info here. 

We have a Testosterone Problem

This is an intervention. We have a problem, fellas. The statistics are overwhelming. When you consider murder, rape, domestic violence, and war - it's all men. Not to say that all men are bad, of course. Most men, in fact, are not violent. But if you just look at violence in the world - it's overwhelmingly male.

Why? Testosterone. The effects of testosterone have been studied a lot. The male brain is showered with it at an early age. It makes us more prone to risk-taking, violence, and sex. The question of why men exist at all is talked about a lot in this book. It's an adventure through biology, genetics, history, evolution, and ethics.

The author is very funny, and he makes his argument in the most respectful way possible. I laughed out loud several times while reading. He is writing the book partly to warn women. This book is sure to offend men and probably offends several women too (in fact, when I mentioned this book to a women at a book discussion she was offended). I'm not offended one bit. The author thinks that, once men allow women to be truly equal in society, women will excel, outshine men, and finally rule the world. Women will have to decide whether they want us around anymore.

I hope your ready.

I Will Always Write Back

I Will Always Write Back is the true autobiographical story of pen pals, Caitlin and Martin, shared through alternating letters. Caitlin is an Pennsylvania teenager who is paired with Martin from Zimbabwe. As the reader, we glimpse what life is like for both teens as they reach across the ocean to learn more about each other, eventually becoming true friends who promise to "always write back." 

Diva and Flea

 Mo Willems, perhaps best known for his Knuffle Bunny and Elephant and Piggie books, now gives us The Story of Diva and Flea.  Diva is very, very brave little dog . . .as long as she is inside her gate.  Flea is a cat who lives an adventuresome life on the streets of Paris.  Tony DiTerlizzi’s steller illustrations add delight to this story of a growing friendship.


Boys in the Trees

Carly Simon came along at a formative time of my life and I always enjoyed singing along with that low range that always felt so comfortable in my own voice. Whenever I hear any of the songs from her Boys in the Trees album, I am immediately taken back to a time of innocence and wonder. Her new memoir has the same title, Boys in the Trees, and I look forward to learning more about her and some of my other favorite singers of the 70's.

Awesome desserts with 5 ingredients or less!

 Oh dear, dear, dear. I shouldn’t have opened this one! Lazy cake cookies & more by Jennifer Palmer (McCartney) is a fantastic little find! All desserts in this book are 2-5 ingredients and all nice basic things that you’ll either already have at home or can easily pick up. Plus, they all sound amazing…Oreo cheesecake cookies, Chocolate toffee cookie bars, Chocolate hazelnut pie…Beautiful color pictures showcase each tasty treat. A great book for someone who wants to make people-pleasing desserts without all the fuss.


A Shiloh Christmas

A Shiloh Christmas by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is a holiday companion to the Newbery Medal winning book Shiloh.

It’s been a year since Marty rescued Shiloh from Judd. Not that it hasn’t been a year of struggles for both boy and dog, this Christmas season brings hope for them and their small town.

A new Minister and his family bring questions about the sermons full of fire and brimstone instead of love and mercy which Marty’s family and church members are used to. Marty has to write a biography about Rachel, the Minister’s oldest daughter, and he discovers that there is concern about the children’s treatment from their Father, the Minister. Marty knows that he has to share his concerns with adults who will know what to do about the situation.

Just as Judd seems to be working to improve his reputation, the woods catch fire. The fire destroys the woods and many homes including Judd’s. Some of the townsfolks blame Judd due to his past.

Can Marty help the Minister’s family and Judd during this Holiday Season – this is a story of suspense as well as comfort and joy. This is a comforting conclusion to the Shiloh QuartetShiloh, Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh. Fans of the series will want to read this final story.


Literary Landscapes and Cursed Lands

Two atlases, of all things, have caught my eye as I’ve been ordering books for the library. 

Andrew DeGraff had the fun idea of creating detailed maps of the landscapes of literary classics in his book, Plotted: a Literary Atlas, giving you a fresh way to look at them and maybe even inspiring you to revisit them. I’m reading Watership Down to my kids right now and want to see what his map looks like for that one. Other titles mentioned in the reviews are The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, A Wrinkle in Time, Hamlet, Invisible Man, and a Christmas Carol.

Probably prompting less nostalgic feelings will be Olivier Le Carrer’s Atlas of Cursed Places: a Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations. See, the library is your passport to anywhere. Bon Voyage!


Obsessions Good and Bad

Kara Richardson Whitely’s memoir, titled Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro At 300 Pounds, is a brutally honest narrative of the author’s self-imposed ordeal to trek up the famous peak while weighing a hefty 300-plus pounds.

She had already reached the summit several years earlier to celebrate her 120 pound weight loss. This account is of her third attempt up the mountain, after failing to reach the summit a second time. Kara decides to undertake this challenge in order to recapture the positive feelings she had when her weight was under control.

She sets out on the climb in the company of four women friends. For added incentive they raise money for Global Alliance for Africa’s AIDS orphans programs. Kara and two of her friends make it to the summit. One has to turn back due to physical issues.

The author openly admits that she has always relied on food to get her through adversity. Hence, this Kilimanjaro obsession was the result of her being both “... a glutton plain and simple, as well as a glutton for punishment”.

During the trek, bad experiences from her past weigh heavily upon her soul, but she comes to the realization that she currently finds herself in a good place. With a devoted husband and a four year old daughter in her life, any future journeys that she might undertake will be easier without the emotional baggage she had previously carried. She is ready to face whatever comes next with joy and a sense of adventure.

I found this to be a good but not great read. The author’s fixation with descriptions of food and her overeating ultimately subtracted too much from my pleasure in reading this book.

November 12: We should be in Hong Kong

This 2014 book is subtitled 365 Things to Do and the Perfect Day to Do Them. From our friends at Lonely Planet comes this travel guide to some familiar but mostly unknown places. Beginning with January 1 and ending with December 31, there is an entry for the location to be visited and why it's a good day to be there. I checked my birthday, which was November 1, and found that it was a good day to visit Oaxaca, Mexico because of the Day of the Dead Festival. I didn't make it down there, but I had the opportunity to read about why I should have gone. Many of these attractions would be impractical for the average tourist to attend, but reading about rafting the Tara River in Montenegro on May 19, getting close to polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba on October 26, or joining the Turnip Festival at Lake Zurich in Switzerland on November 14 could be of interest to those who like to study exotic destinations.