Friday, May 31, 2013

Lawrenceville Branch Staff Picks

This month our staff picks come from the staff of the Lawrenceville Branch.  Without further ado, here is a heaping helping of impressively diverse recommendations from our friends at Lawrenceville:

French Milk
by Lucy Knisley

French Milk is an autobiographical graphic novel that follows Lucy Knisley and her mother as they experience Paris together on their collective birthdays. The novel reads almost like a scrapbook narrative and includes Lucy's drawings as well as photographs from the trip itself. This book is a definite must read for those with wanderlust.

Super Mario
How Nintendo Conquered America
by Jeff Ryan

Ryan tells the story of how Nintendo was created and then reinvented itselffrom the arcade to the home consolewith the help of a character named Mario. Fans of classic Mario games will appreciate the details of Mario’s origin, and fans of the more recent games can explore the full history of Nintendo and how Mario has influenced the growth of the company and the future of video games. If you enjoy reading about technology, video games, or business/industry, then you might like to discover the details of how Mario became the worldwide icon he is today. Likewise, you might also enjoy Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell and Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal.

The Bird Sisters
by Rebecca Rasmussen

Twiss and Milly, elderly sisters who are known for healing injured birds and still live in their childhood home in rural Wisconsin, take the reader back in time to the summer of 1947 when the two were young girls. Their parents' marriage was unstable, their mother having given up her wealthy background to marry their golf pro father. The girls spend much of their time trying to mend this relationship. When their cousin Bett arrives for an extended visit and their father has an accident that ruins his golf career, things take a very bad turn. This is a beautifully written story of family, love, loss, and the lessons learned from these experiences.

The Lost City of Z
A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
by David Grann

In 1925 veteran explorer Percy Fawcett disappeared into the Amazon looking for the City of Z, proof of a civilization lost in the jungles of Brazil. This book serves as both a general history of Amazonian exploration and a history of Fawcett himself, a fascinatingly eccentric character straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Part travelogue, part adventure, part biography, it is filled with obsession, disease, poisoned arrows and giant snakes. A great nonfiction book that reads like fiction.

The Lock Artist
by Steve Hamilton

This award-winning crime novel is narrated by a man named Mike who doesn't talk. Told through a deftly woven series of flashbacks, the story follows Mike from the time he first learns he has an "unforgivable talent" through his involvement in a series of high-stakes robberies. Mike makes no apologies for the bad guy he's become, which makes the reveal of why he's been silent so many years all the more tragic.

Lean In
Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
by Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In addresses women’s plight in the workplace and career advancements. Sandberg stresses that aside from the historical gender biases, women actually keep themselves from moving up the career ladder. Many women question their own ability to advance while having a rewarding family life. Sandberg urges women to “lean in” and promote their own abilities and to not rely on others to reward their accomplishments. She believes that women can have successful careers and manage a happy family with the help of the right partner who is supportive and contributes to the home life. Sandberg concedes that she has advantages that many single moms don’t but believes that they too can promote themselves, be strong, believe in themselves and achieve by leaning in, not leaning out, not making excuses. Men lean in all the time and promote themselves, and it’s time for women to do the same.

Bitter End
by Jennifer Brown

During Alex's senior year of high school, handsome sports star Cole moves in from another school. Alex and Cole adore each other and soon fall in love. Alex is very happy that she has finally found her soul mate, who truly loves and understands her. However, as time passes, Alex begins to realize Cole’s frequent put-downs are accompanied by violent behavior. Despite his increasingly frequent beatings, he always apologizes afterward and wins back Alex’s feelings. Soon Alex blames herself for the abuse rather than blaming Cole. She tries to change, believing that if she behaves differently the Cole she originally fell in love with will return. As she struggles with her love for the old Cole and her distrust ofthe new one, Alex is forced to make the toughest decision of her life. This is a really powerful book that everyone should read.

To request any of these items click the titles or covers above.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Living in a Fantasy World

Among Others
by Jo Walton

Morwenna Phelps is a young woman with a great love of fantasy literature. After the death of her twin sister she has increasingly retreated into her imagination and may be falling into a fantasy world. Or, she may be becoming increasingly attuned to another world of magic and fairy folk hidden from the rest of humanity.

Alienated from her possibly insane mother, Morwenna’s father sends her to an English boarding school for girls. By day she tries to make friends at school, and by night she tries to defend herself against her mother’s witchcraft and the tempting allure of the fairy world.

This novel is a love story about fantasy literature. Through her father’s collection, used book stores, and the local library Morwenna explores the works of writers like J. R. R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, Samuel Delany, Kurt Vonnegut, John Brunner, Robert Silverberg and many others. Anyone interested in sampling the riches of science fiction and fantasy but intimidated by bookshelves overflowing with Tolkien imitators and romantic vampires would do well to explore Morwenna’s reading list.

Among Others is a great coming-of-age story and shows that a love of fantasy fiction can lead to a richer understanding of the world and humanity. It won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel of the year. Jo Walton's novel is recommended for anyone who had considered reading SF but was afraid that it was not for women, or adults, or anyone who lives outside of their parent’s basement.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Keith Davis

Monday, May 27, 2013

Illustrated books for readers young and old

We mark the unofficial beginning of summer with something a little different. Here are three illustrated books from GCPL's juvenile collection guaranteed to appeal to readers of all ages.

The Matchbox Diary
By Paul Fleischman, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator)

This sweet, endearing tale tells a story of a little girl who happens upon a box of matchboxes while visiting her great grandfather for the first time.  Each matchbox holds a memento and a memory from the grandfathers past. The illustrations, in beautiful tintype color, juxtaposes each memory with its matchbox token to create crisp, vivid flashbacks of an almost forgotten past. The little girl enjoys hearing of her grandfather’s journey to the new world from Italy through various objects such as bottle caps or sunflower seeds in which he placed one for everyday his family was at sea. The enjoyability of this book comes not just from the historical aspects of the story, but also from the idea of the matchbox diary itself. Readers young and old will want to run out to gather their own memories.

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky
And Other Poems
By Jack Prelutsky, Carin Berger (illustrator)

Longtime fans of Shel Silverstein will know where to get their giggles with Jack Prelutsky's newest title, Stardines. Illustrated in a collage, science exhibit format (complete with shadowboxes, push pins, and species pronunciation labels) each poem describes a fascinating new creature that may exhibit some strange characteristics from its earthly animal counterparts.  From "Jollyfish" to "Bardvarks," the wordplay alone is sure to be a hit with any reader. But add the anticipation of each new animal along with its funny personality traits and you'll have kids barking for more poetry.

United Tweets of America
50 State Birds
By Hudson Talbott

Want a fun and entertaining way to get kids to learn a little ornithology (study of birds) with some state history thrown in?! Well, in United Tweets of America each state bird is competing in the Top Tweet pageant. Readers get to enjoy the interview portion of the pageant, where each state bird tells us a little bit about itself. Did you know that Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas each calls the Northern Cardinal its state bird? The exaggerated cartoon-like illustrations, with one bird per page, bring out the contestants' unique personalities. And boy are they vocal! But then again what else should we expect from birds?

To request these items click the titles or covers above.

Review by Jennifer Green

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thrilling Sci-Fi Mystery

By Hugh Howey

Told episodically, because it was originally released in five installments, this book grabs you from the very beginning. The twists come so quickly that you hardly have time to settle in. The first mystery is simply this: Who's the main character going to be? Good luck figuring that out because no one is safe in this world where all that survives of humanity is living in an underground silo. As soon as you've got a character you can count on, they're gone.

The people in this dismal future are resourceful, and many of them are happy. They grow their own food, they mine for oil, they fabricate all the products they need, but they can never, ever leave the silo. To even mention such a desire is a criminal action. The punishment? You get your wish. You find out what's happening on the surface of the planet. How did it get this way? Who's really running the silo? And what's over those hills in the distance? Read the book to find out.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hey Kids, Do Ya Like the Rock and Roll?

At different times, U2 and Led Zeppelin were the biggest bands in the world. Here are two books that tell their stories.

U2 By U2

At the suggestion of his father, a kid in 1970s Dublin puts up a notice on a school bulletin board looking others who were interested in starting a band. So starts The Larry Mullen Band. Never heard of them? Well, maybe you’ve heard of U2? After several name changes and very humble beginnings, U2 rose to the rank of biggest band in the world and have defended that position ever since. Their last tour, dubbed U2 360, was the highest grossing and best attended tour of all time. U2 By U2 tells the complete story of the band through the Vertigo tour in support of their eleventh studio album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

Written with friend of the band and music journalist Neil McCormick, this book packs a one-two punch with insightful interviews and copious amounts of pictures and memorabilia. All quotes come directly from band members and their manager, Paul McGuinness. The interviews give the reader a sense of the inner workings of the band and how the members relate to each other as friends and colleagues. This book is a must read for anyone interested in U2, the workings of the music industry, or how the creative process works for one of the biggest bands in the world.

Led Zeppelin
The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band
By Barney Hoskyns

Despite being one of the of the most sought after session musicians of London’s music scene in the 1960s, Jimmy Page became bored with playing other people’s music. He set out to form his ideal band, and Led Zeppelin was born. They quickly became the biggest band in the world at the time breaking The Beatles' concert attendance record in May 1973. Zeppelin went on to create a blueprint for future bands navigating the music business.

Journalist Hoskyns creates this narrative of the band using quotes from interviews with band members and close associates including friends, family, and employees. There are a lot of players in this story, so a directory is provided at the beginning. Also included are many previously unpublished photographs of the band and their associates. Zeppelin had a reputation for being the bad boys of rock and roll, but this book puts a more human spin on the guys and their experiences. This book is a must read for fans and anyone wanting a behind the scenes look at the wild ride that was 70s rock and roll.

To request either of these books click on the title or cover above.

Review by Erin from Collins Hill

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reliving the Past

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey is not a mystery or science fiction offering. Mosley tells the story of Ptolemy
-  a ninety-one year old recluse African American living in South Central L.A. His only contact is his grand nephew, Reggie, who is gunned down in a drive by. Reggie took care of Ptolemy by bringing him food and taking him to the bank, while largely ignoring the mess (mainly hoarding) in Ptolemy's apartment. Upon Reggie's death, Ptolemy's care is turned over to Robyn, a seventeen year old girl who is living with Ptolemy's grand niece. Robyn, a very attractive teen who is escaping her own demons, moves in,cleans up Ptolemy's apartment, and protects the older man from those taking advantage of his age and confused state.

Ptolemy, who knows his mind is going, agrees to take part in a controversial, non FDA approved medical trial for memory related illness. The treatment provided will increase his clarity and memory for a few weeks. In exchange, Ptolemy agrees to donate his body to science for further study. The "doctor" leading the study offers a monetary exchange but Ptolemy refuses, convinced that if money changes hands, he will be effectively selling his soul.

Ptolemy's last weeks are filled with memories, heartache, and joy. He strengthens his bonds with those he feels truly cares for him, and makes peace with his past. This was an easy read and full of wisdom about growing older and what's important in life.

Click on the title or picture above to request this title.

Review by Cara 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Enclave by Ann Aguirre is about the post-apocalyptic world of Deuce, who lives in an underground enclave. . . underneath New York City in the abandoned subway tunnels.

Life below is one in which you never see the sun, have to hunt rats for food, kill humanoid 'freaks' which attack like animals, and you probably won't live to see 25. Life or death fights abound and you never know who to trust.  It has excellent sequences and there is a lot of questions faced by the remaining humans. They have to fight to live, but according to Fade, there are rumors of a place up north where life is easier . . .

They say life above the underground, or Topside, is much worse than life below. The idea of going somewhere worse could be quite terrifying.

Deuce is a Huntress, and she gets paired with Fade as her hunting partner.  Fade is actually not from the enclave, but is from Topside, only he's not allowed to talk about it (they're kind of strict in the enclave).
Deuce is a very strong character.  She is a Huntress who protects her enclave and feeds them, she is extremely tough, but also has a soft spot.  She doesn't want to hurt anyone innocent but would kill to save them. She carries a club and daggers and uses them well. And Fade is a fierce Hunter, too, so they make a good team.

Click the title or picture above to request this book.

Review by Anni 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The real dirt on gardening

The Truth about Garden Remedies
What Works, What Doesn't, and Why
by Jeff Gillman

I'm always wary of books with "truth" in the title because they usually peddle a witch's brew of pablum, propaganda and paranoid fantasy. But I could not resist the beer-drinking slug on the cover of The Truth about Garden Remedies. Thank heaven for that slug! If not for him I might never have read anything by Jeff Gillman, who has become my go-to garden adviser.

Gillman is a scientist, with degrees in entomology and horticulture from UGA, and a professor, with a laboratory and research assisants just waiting to put every sort of garden remedy to the test. His books differ from most how-to guides in being based on laboratory and field trials, not opinion or library research.

Gillman also is a relentless skeptic. Two unspoken assumptions underlie his work: 1) Product X or Method Y probably does not work and may in fact be harmful, and 2) Even if Product X or Method Y is effective, you almost certainly do not know how to use it properly and someone is trying to sell you more of it than anyone could ever need. Ordinarily, such contrariness would come across as abrasive know-it-all-ism, but Gillman's glee in getting to the bottom of things is unmistakable and his enthusiasm is irresistible.

He has little patience with those he calls "gardening gurus," and he takes special delight in debunking the folksy baloney peddled by one guru who styles himself "America's Master Gardener." If you've ever been tempted to whip up a green grass "tonic" of ammonia, beer and baby shampoo, read The Truth about Garden Remedies first. And when you're done, go ahead and read the rest of Gillman's books. Your yard will thank you.

To request these items click the titles or cover above.

Review by Don Beistle

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hamilton Mill Branch Staff Picks

This month our staff picks come from the staff of the Hamilton Mill branch, GCPL's newest, award-winning "green" library in Dacula. Here are a few titles they have enjoyed enough to share with you. Happy reading from Hamilton Mill!

Shadow on the Crown
by Patricia Bracewell

Shadow on the Crown is the story of Emma, a young girl from Normandy whose hand is given in marriage to the King of England. This is a marriage of alliance and  not an easy transition for Emma. King Athelred is haunted by his past and hopes the alliance will help keep the raiding Danes from his doorstep. Unfortunately, his past continues to lead him to make poor decisions for his kingdom. The results tie Emma closer to the unsettled kingdom and lead her to make difficult decisions for herself and those who are dependent on her. This is not a happily-ever-after story. It gives a glimpse into what life was like for those tied to royalty during such an unstable period of time and shows the strength of women back then.

The Runaway Princess
by Hester Browne

Looking for a lighter read, I came across this modern-day fairy tale. Amy, originally from a small town, now lives in London with her roommate and is a professional gardener with her own business. Her roommate is always throwing parties or taking her to one, but Amy prefers to hide in the kitchen rather than to socialize. One party, though, unexpectedly introduces her to a prince who not only is handsome but  apparently has fallen in love with her. Before she knows it, Amy is dating Prince Leo and it is getting serious. But can she shrug off her social awkwardness, get the dirt out from under her nails, and fit into his elegant and socially demanding world? This is not just a girl-meets-Prince-Charming story, it is also the story of opposites attracting and learning to grow and compromise.

The Blow Off
by Jim Knipfel

Knipfel delivers a scathing send up of America's media in this dark and hilarious novel. Protagonist Hank Kalabander makes his living as the crime blotter for a Brooklyn tabloid, reporting on bizarre incidents that occur in the borough. When he learns that a drunk has been assaulted by a “a hulking, hairy beast who smells really bad,” Hank reports that the perpetrator is none other than the legendary Bigfoot. But, when new attacks occur, a hysterical public sincerely believes Bigfoot is to blame. Hank, along with a grizzled friend who runs a carnival sideshow, must set out to disprove Bigfoot's existence. Signature Knipfel, with crude characters, an outrageous story, and a healthy injection of misanthropy.

by Frank Herbert

One of my all-time favorite books, Herbert's Dune is sci-fi with a little fantasy in it. The main part of the story takes place on the desert planet Dune, whose new rulers come from a planet with lots of water. While that family is adjusting to the desert conditions, the other ruling families plot to kill the new Duke and all of his family. There are also huge sand worms on Dune and "Spice," which the rest of the ruling families want to control.

The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read
by Daniel R. Solin

Author Daniel Solin gives welcome advice on how to invest your money in this little gem. His advice is straightforward and simple, and his investment strategies are applicable for people in all different stages of life. Though the chapters are short and easy to get through, Mr. Solin is able to get a helpful and entertaining message across. The book is under 200 pages and not a difficult read. Pick up a copy and you'll see Solin's book really is the smartest investment book you have ever read!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What's in a Name?

I've recently come across two novels with very similar titles. This isn't particularly uncommon. After all, if you search for books titled "Eclipse" at Gwinnett County Public Library you'll find them from four different authors. But because these books shared a title that was uncommon, and because each took the concept in such a different direction, I thought it might be interesting to talk about them together.

The Angel Makers 
By Jessica Gregson

When the men of a Hungarian village leave to fight in World War I, their wives and girlfriends are left behind to cope with the absence. The days don't seem very different until a group of Italian POWs are housed near the village. Now the women to go the makeshift prison to do washing and cooking to barter what they can in exchange for a slightly better life. Perhaps it is inevitable that mixing lonely Hungarian women and lonely Italian soldiers leads to a few affairs. Some of the women are happier than they've ever been. But then the men begin to return from the war, and they can tell that the village isn't the same. When Sari's fiance comes back and discovers what's been going on he makes her life a living hell. She makes a choice, and she poisons him with the help of her friend Judit . She thinks she's gotten away with it, too, but then the first of the village women shows up asking for help with her own problems. Soon, Sari is providing poison for many women in the village, and husbands and other family members are dropping left and right. Based on a true story, this novel offers a glimpse into what a person in desperate circumstances may do, and how quickly the consequences of those actions can multiply.

By Nick Harkaway

Joe Spork is leading a quiet life as a clockwork repairman in a modern version of London with a slightly revisionist and steampunk-inflected history when he stumbles into a plot to destroy the world. Sound complicated? Well, it is and it isn't. The story in Angelmaker is indeed as intricate as a clockwork bumblebee, and yet you're led through each turn of the gears until you can see the whole design laid out before you. You'll meet an English gangster, a smitten watchmaker, a fickle French genius, a WWII superspy, a sect of mechanically-minded monks, a nun with a past, a librarian with a collection of false teeth, a shockingly successful serial killer, the best lawyer you've ever seen, an ornery blind pug, and three women named Bethany. Among others. They all come together to tell a story about saving the world from seeing the truth and thereby destroying the planet. It turns out that with one you get the other. Through it all you'll be compelled to follow the story of Joe Spork as he learns about the family he thought he had, the person he didn't think he could be, and the things he learns he must do. If you don't want to bother with the book, try the audio version. It's a treat.

To request either of these books click the titles or covers above.

Review by Danny Hanbery