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MARCH 28, 2013
Midnight in Austenland
In this second “Austenland” novel, author Shannon Hale takes us on a return journey to an English fantasy camp situated in a lovely 19th century estate called Pembroke Park, where we meet mostly a new set of characters comprised of the Pembroke staff, including actors portraying  Austenesque characters and guests  who, upon arrival, are given a suitable new identity, a wardrobe of period costume, and a crash course in Regency manners and practices.

Our main character is Charlotte Kinder, a thirty-something recent divorcee, who has decided to celebrate her newfound freedom by having a fling in Pembroke Park.  One evening, while playing a parlor game called “Bloody Murder”, Charlotte thinks she’s discovered a real murder and begins an investigation. 

This is a comic romp, a mystery, a romance, with a series of fun filled twists and turns, and even a happy ending!  This is an enjoyable light read guaranteed to provide a cozy little distraction from the hubbub of daily life.
 

posted by Jeanne

Categories: Staff ReadsLets Talk Books

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MARCH 22, 2013
Among the Mad
Among the Mad  is the 5th in Jacqueline Winspear’s wonderful series of Masie Dobb’s books, which began during WWI in England.  Masie was a nurse, who became interested in mental health and psychology while treating patients during the war, those who remained injured in their minds long after any physical wounds had healed.  It is now 1931, and Masie now uses her knowledge of psychology in her work as a private investigator.  She has been called in to Scotland Yard to help work on a case in which anonymous letters has been received from a person with knowledge of chemical weapons is threatening to use them on government officials and even the civilian population if Parliament doesn’t do something to support the forgotten men whose lives, bodies, and minds were broken by the War.  The perpetrator has already struck, killing first innocent animals, and then a junior minister from the Home office. They don’t know who might be next, the Prime Minister or even the public at large.  Either way, time is running out.

The story is shows great empathy toward the victims of war and experiment, and lets us inside Masie’s personal life.  But it is first and foremost a study in detective work – one in which the reader gets some insight to the difference between the work private investigator whose knowledge and instincts can lead in very different directions as a huge bureaucratic police investigations team. 
 
 

posted by Jeanne

Categories: Staff ReadsLets Talk Books

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MARCH 15, 2013
One Man's Walk through the English Countryside to Empathy and Understanding
Did you enjoy reading Cheryl Strand's wildly popular memoir "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail?"  Or did you, like me, want to enjoy it, but couldn't really get started?  Either way, if you're longing to read a story about a walking journey of redemption and transformation, I highly recommend "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" written by first time novelist, Rachel Joyce.  

After reading about this book, I was pleasantly surprised to find the popular award winner currently available for check-out (no waiting!) from our Northern California Digital Library.  I immediately checked-out the book, downloaded it onto my kindle, and my journey with Harold began.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is a beautifully written story of a recently retired Englishman who sets out one afternoon to mail a letter to a dear friend from his past, and ends up walking over 600 miles across the English countryside, from his southern town of Kingsbridge to Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Harold's pilgrimage changes his life and touches the lives of those he meets along the way.  

The book is filled with beautiful text, full of empathy and human compassion, as well as breathtaking sections brilliantly describing the beauty of being alone and outdoors.  I found myself constantly highlighting sections on my kindle version of the book--so many beautiful, nod-your-head-in-agreement passages.  Here are a couple I found read-again worthy:

"Life was very different when you walked through it.  Between gaps in the banks, the land rolled up and down, carved into checkered fields, and lined with ridges of hedging and trees.  He had to stop to look.  There were so many shades of green Harold was humbled.  Some were almost a deep velvety black, others so light they verged on yellow." 

And...
 
"He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too.  The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.  Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human."

posted by Katie

Categories: Lets Talk BooksLibrary Tech

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MARCH 15, 2013
A House at Tyneford
A House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons begins on the eve of WWII where we meet Elise Landau, a 19 year old whose life of relative luxury is coming to abrupt end as Jews are no longer safe in Vienna.  Her parents, because of their prominence – her mother is an opera singer and her father is a novelist - believe they will be able to obtain visas and escape to the States, but Elise has no marketable skills.  So, as a stop gap, they send her to safety in England on a domestic service visa. 

She is sent to an estate in Tyneford, a tightly knit, sleepy little rural seaside village.  The Lord of the manor is the 40ish Mr. Rivers.  He’s a kindly man, but he maintains old world reserve and draws a clear line between the family and the staff.  So, Elise who had her own servants in Vienna doesn’t fit in with the servants or the family. 
She’s lonely, she’s had no word from her parents and she’s terrified for them, war has broken out, and Elise is crestfallen.  That is, until Mr. River’s son, Kit, returns home from school at Oxford.  He and Elise become fast friends, and even fall in love. 

Meanwhile, the village is changing quickly.  The local lads are going off to war, Mr. Rivers has to work the fields himself to help keep the estate running. The distinction between “upstairs” and “downstairs” begins to melt away as people pull together to soothe the sorrows that war brings to the home front. 

This lovely novel explores family relationships, the remnants of the dying household service system, class snobbery that brushes both ways, disappearing village life.  It’s both sad and sweet and has a satisfying ending. I think it would make a great selection for book discussion groups.l 

posted by Jeanne

Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff Reads

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MARCH 14, 2013
Best Library in Monterey County
For the 5th consecutive year, Monterey Public Library has been voted "Best Library in Monterey County" in the Monterey County Weekly's Reader's Poll!  We admit that have a great staff - friendly dedicated folks who engage the community, deliver materials and services to delight, educate, and inspire, including books, movies, music, cultural programs, Internet access, information, and resources for self-directed life-long learning. We have a vibrant early literacy program, creative activities for children and teens, and a local history collection that is a treasure trove of written, audible, and visual meterial that preserves our community memory. 

This doesn't sound particularly humble, but we can't help being pretty proud of the work that we do!  At the same time, we happen to think that all the libraries in Monterey County do a great job, and when a library - any library - is recognized for the benefit it brings to a community, it reflects well on all libraries.

Nevertheless, we  gratefully accept this honor and thank MC Weekly readers for the vote of confidence!

posted by Jeanne

Category: In the Know

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MARCH 7, 2013
Judging Books by Their Covers
I do it all the time, whether browsing in a library, book store, or online.  The New York Times recently published their favorite book covers of 2012 in a slideshow of 19 images.  There are some great book covers among this selection but one that really caught my eye was in slide number 12, from Penguin’s Drop Caps series of 26 classics with covers filled with fanciful illustrations, surrounding the enlarged first letter of the author’s last name.  The designs are a collaboration between Jessica Hische and Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley.  Personally, I think these book covers are gorgeous, but I’ll let you be the judge. 

P.S.  This illustration is an example of drop caps from the Book of Kells.
 

 

posted by Jeanne

Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff ReadsIn the Know

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