Thursday, February 27, 2014

Doc Holliday: Mythological figure of the Wild West or Genteel Man of the South?

Doc: A Novel
by Mary Doria Russell

Doc is the story of one year in the life of John Henry Holliday, aka Doc Holliday. 

Did you know Doc was from Georgia? He was also an accomplished classical pianist and treated women with the utmost respect, including the Hungarian prostitute who lived with him, Maria Katarina "Kate" Horony. Doc was a genteel Southern man, who did not practice racism in the least and was very touchy about the reputation of his beloved South. 

One turning point in the book is the murder of a half breed part Indian, part African-American boy named Johnnie Sanders. Johnnie is burned in a horse barn over "financial dealings". Most probably the money he has saved from dealing cards. 

The book doesn't mention the O.K. Corral, but Wyatt Earp and his brother do figure into the story. Doc left Atlanta at 22 years of age because of a very bad case of consumption. He was told the drier, warmer air of the West was his only hope for survival.  Doc was a dentist of some renown. It was a family occupation and people came from far and wide to Dodge City for his services. The book really reveals a side of Doc Holliday that is quite different than the usual mythologies that surround him. 

The book is built upon character development, even more than plot, and will appeal to people who don't usually read Westerns. If you enjoy the book as much as I did, there is good news! Russell is hard at work on a sequel. Let's hope her companion book is as good as her initial offering.

To request this book click on the title or cover above.

Review by Kathleen Richardson

Monday, February 24, 2014

Funny Man

Still Foolin' 'Em
Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?
by Billy Crystal

We all know Billy Crystal the comedian. The one who made great movies like When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers.  But did you also know that he is a Tony Award Winner, good friend of Muhammad Ali's, and even once played for the New York Yankees?  Well...technically it was spring training, but he was officially on their roster. In addition to all that, he is also a very talented writer. In Still Foolin' 'Em, Crystal chronicles his extraordinary life, from his youth in Long Beach, NY to his days on SNL, to the birth of his grandchildren as he nears his sixty-fifth birthday.  

While reliving each decade of his life, Crystal realizes aging isn't for the faint at heart.  But as he notes, there's always a silver lining (and not just from the satin in the coffin.) Crystal's humor flourishes in his anti-aging antidotes for those baby boomers out there who are just starting to go over the hill with him.  Chapter's like "Five Stages of Forgetting Things" and "Can't Take it with You" are laugh out loud funny because in your heart you know you've experienced those same situations and conversations.  In short, Crystal is an extraordinary man who's led a very extraordinary life. And with a few more years left in the tank, he continues to keep foolin' us.

To request this book click on the title or cover above.

Review by Jennifer Green

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Author Event: April Smith Facebook Chat

"Like" GwinnettLibrary on Facebook and join us in an online discussion with the author of A Star for Mrs. Blake on Feb. 25 at 7 pm.

A Star for Mrs. Blake 
By April Smith 

The United States Congress in 1929 passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons' graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. In 1931, five mothers, Wilhelmina Russell, Cora Blake, Katie McConnell, Minnie Siebert and Genevieve (Bobbie) Olsen embark on a poignant and heart breaking journey to Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to say good bye to their sons. Cora Blake, the organizer for this trip, deliberates on whether or not to make the journey, but does so out of love for her son and the need for closure. In addition to these characters, the journalist Griffin Reed who lives with a tin nose or metal face presents another picture of the horrors of trench warfare. The lives of all are irrevocably changed as secrets, a death, and a scandal become part of their experience. A Star for Mrs. Blake is a beautifully written story about a chapter of American History. An educational and enriching story awaits any who pick up this title.

To request this book click the title or cover above.

Review by Karen J. Harris, Librarian, Norcross Branch, Gwinnett County Public Library

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

The Morels
By Christopher Hacker

Arthur Morel, a one-time musical prodigy, has become an author. He has a beautiful wife, a precocious son, and a burgeoning career. Then he publishes his second book and it all goes into a tailspin. Art's friends from school might have predicted this. He has a history of going for the shock and awe version of art. He believes that performances have become too polite, and applause is just what is expected from the audience. He tells a friend, "That's why we're pushing pianos off stages, why we prefer the riot to the ovation. The riot has become the ovation of the twentieth century. At least it's honest."

And, honestly, Art Morel does cause something of a riot. But is it the riot he expected?

This is a book about art, what it can do, what it should do, and what we can do about it. It poses this question: If a novelist injects his own life into his novel, and then has a character named for himself do something shocking and morally reprehensible, how should the reader react?

The Family Fang
By Kevin Wilson

What would it be like growing up with parents who were performance artists? Annie and Buster Fang know all about it. They spent their childhoods as props in their parents' constant projects. Caleb and Camille Fang were artists before they were parents, and they see no reason not to treat their family life as an extension of the artistic one. By throwing chaos into everyday situations they create art that is present only in the moment. The curling lip, the widened eyes, the running feet of shoppers in malls across the country--this is what the Fangs live for.

But when their parents disappear, is it more art or is it an actual tragedy? That's what the book seems to be about. What's real? Who's in control? Where do we go from here?

To request these books click the titles or covers above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Non Conventional Love Story for Valentine's Day


Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson is set in the Atlanta area.

Meet Shandi, a single mother who is trying to finish college. She is moving to Atlanta with her three year old son Natty into her dad's condo near the Georgia State campus to shorten her commute. The move is not ideal since she and her stepmother are on strained terms, but it is a necessity. On moving day, she is forced to pull into a rural Circle K when Natty is carsick. Little does she know how this action will change her life.

Will Ashe, a scientist  who is in the Circle K when Shandi enters, is having a bad day. It's the anniversary of a day he would rather forget. When a gunman enters the gas station, he is relieved. Maybe today will be the day his pain ends.

After Will saves the day by disarming the gunman, Shandi and Will's lives are intertwined. Shandi is convinced that Will can help her with a mystery she needs solved.  Will agrees to help Shandi with her mystery and in doing so, begins to reevaluate the life he has been leading for the past year. While learning about each other, they learn more about themselves and gain the courage they need to move forward.

In this lushly written story, Jackson explores love between a parents and children, love within a marriage, love between friends, and unrequited love.

Review by Cara

Monday, February 10, 2014

Which One Are You?

Although this is not supposed to happen in today's politically correct world, parents may unintentionally label their children as "the smart one" or "the athletic one" or "the social one". This is the case in the Coffey family.
Meet the Coffeys:
Will: the professor father who doesn't like to get involved too closely
Weezy: the stay at home mom who has always been too involved
Martha: the oldest who is not adept at social cues
Claire: the middle child who is suffering through a broken engagement
and Max: the happy go lucky son who is in college with a serious girlfriend

The  children are back living in the their family home and are reverting back to childish habits. Weezy had been suffering from empty nest syndrome, but now the nest is a bit too crowded. Will the children find their way back out of the nest or are they home for good?

The family dynamics portrayed in  The Smart One ring true to families struggling to relate to each other as adults and find their way in a world that is different than they imagined.

Request this title by clicking on the image or the title above.

Review by Cara 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Better listen

Tenth of December
by George Saunders

What could be worse than being stuck inside the mind of a flighty teenaged girl going on and on about how much she loves, loves, loves, her cushy life? How about giving up on a great read not even halfway through the first story.

When the New York Times named Tenth of December one of the 10 Best Books of 2013 I felt obligated to have another stab at it. Am I glad I did. This time I tried the audiobook, knowing there could be no giving up if it were part of my commute. Worked like a charm.

The Times called Saunders's stories "wickedly entertaining," and I couldn't agree more. His eye for the telling details of workaday life and ear for the way people really talk (even just to themselves) are spot on. But his mastery of the quotidian is married to a mad inventiveness, yielding stories in which a terminal cancer patient tries to commit suicide but ends up saving a boy instead, middle class families rent immobilized but conscious third-world women as yard art, and psychoactive drugs are tested on prisoners who go from sublime love to tortured despair at the push of a button. Bleak and sometimes trippy stuff, to be sure, but always compassionate and surprisingly funny as well. If you're a fan of Vonnegut before he succumbed to aggressive curmudgeonliness, Saunders will seem like an old and dear friend.

The audiobook is read by the author himself, who turns out to be a natural storyteller, effortlessly shifting voice from one character to another. And his working-class Chicago accent lends his characters a humanity and authenticity a more elegant reading might miss. I have a feeling I'll go back and actually read this collection someday, but for now I am glad to have listened to it instead. Saunders has been fantastic company on my way to work and back these past couple of weeks.

Click the title or cover above to access this item.

Review by Don Beistle

Monday, February 3, 2014

Buford-Sugar Hill Branch Staff Picks

We return to the Buford-Sugar Hill Branch as another round of staff picks begins. Before moving to its current location in 1990, the Buford library first occupied a ramshackle storefront and later a single room in Fire Station 14. Who knows where the future may lead. For now, our friends in the county's northernmost branch would like to share these recent favorites.

Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc.
by Delia Ephron

The late Nora Ephron's sister and occasional collaborator, Delia Ephron is a novelist and screenwriter best known for scripting The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and You’ve Got Mail. Her latest book, Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc., is a collection of essays that are witty, thoughtful, bittersweet, touching and humorous.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
by Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary Cooke had a different kind of childhood, one that on the surface would appear fun and exotic. She had an older brother, Lowell, and a sister, Fern, a chimpanzee who was both her closest friend and companion as well as her parents’ latest scientific research endeavor. As the chimpanzee/child/sibling/cognition study unfolds it also begins to unravel, until Rosemary, as an adult, finally delves into the memories that will explain the underlying confusion of her life.

The Wedding (audiobook)
by Nicholas Sparks

The audiobook of this sequel to The Notebook is read by Tom Wopat (of Dukes of Hazzard fame), who brings the characters vividly to life. The raspy voice of elderly Noah Calhoun is especially convincing. Wilson Lewis, Calhoun's son-in-law, forgets his 29th wedding anniversary, setting off (or culminating in?) perceived lost feelings from his wife, Jane. Has Wilson really lost Jane's love? Can he change the tide in his marriage? Noah (now in a senior home) plays a major role in Wilson’s dilemma.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey
by Wendy Wax

The tenants of a historic Atlanta apartment building are brought together by their English concierge. The reader follows three of them, women whose lives soon begin to intertwine. This is a fun read by Florida native turned Atlanta transplant Wendy Wax.

To request any of these items click its title or cover above.