random-acts-of-heroic-loveTold in two parallel stories set in different times, Random Acts of Heroic Love is about the power of love, of how it can devastate but also uplift and empower us do what might seem impossible.

In one story, Leo and his girlfriend Eleni are traveling through South America when a horrific bus  accident takes Eleni’s life.  Nearly crushed by guilt and grief, Leo tries to make sense of his loss by seeking answers through science, but the weight of being left behind is almost too much.

The second story takes place in Poland where shortly after  Moritz and Lotte declare their love, Moritz is swept into the horrors of the First World War. Captured by the Russians and sent to prison camp in Siberia, he is literally thousands of miles from home. After escaping from the camp, Moritz undertakes the arduous journey back to his beloved.

At first the stories are so disconnected that you may wonder what the author is up to, but about two-thirds of the way through things begin to come together, rewarding the reader with a poignant examination of love and redemption across time and distance.

lincolnThere are very few individuals who are famous enough for society to continue to celebrate them 200 years after their birth, but on February 12, 1809, two very famous men were born. One, Abraham Lincoln, is very familiar to Americans, as our 16th President.

darwin1Another influential individual, born across the Atlantic on the very same day, was Charles Darwin. Though most people know that Darwin wrote about evolution in his On the Origin of the Species, there continues to be much controversy regarding this subject. So, why not use the month of February to find out more about both of these influential men? Drop by the library and see our displays on both! And check back here for continuing blogs on both of these birthday buddies.

jerusalem

Many readers are trying to get context for what’s going on in Jerusalem and Palestine. Novels can give social and cultural insight into ancient (and modern) disputes beyond the strife of war and conflict.

The Walls of Jericho by Jon Land

This is a thriller that proves that  the stereotypical “strife in the Middle East” can be woven into highly entertaining crime fiction. The first in the series about a pair of detectives (one Israeli and one Palestinian American) who are assigned to work together to catch a serial killer. Danielle Barnea is an Israel Security Agency officer, and works with Ben Kamal to unravel the plot that may threaten the Arab-Israeli peace process.

The Samaritan’s Secret by Matt Beynon Rees

Rees keeps the “military maneuvers in the background and [focusses] on ordinary people struggling to live ordinary lives,” according to the New York Times. The hero is a Palestinian teacher, who helps with the investigation of  the theft of a priceless scroll.

Damascus Gate by Robert Stone

This is a mystery that “transcends its genre” and is a “novel of place, securely grounded in the stones of Jerusalem.” Religious radicals (Christian and Jewish) plan to blow up Mosques in Jerusalem, for their own convoluted reasons. Stone ‘s “meditation on belief”….and “suspense all come together is a stunning finale that satisfies on all levels.” Booklist

Martyr’s Crossing by Amy Wilentz

An incident at a Jerusalem checkpoint sparks riots and the soldier and young Palestinian mother are reluctantly pulled into the ensuing chaos. The author is the Jerusalem correspondent for the New Yorker and is “masterful at turning the Israeli/Palestinian predicament like a prism to expose multifaceted viewpoints, leaving the reader with insight into the politics and an overwhelming empathetic vision of the human pain that is part of daily living in this region of the world,” according to Booklist.

girls-in-trucks2Sweet coming-of-age saga meets Sex-in-the-City.

This single phrase describes Crouch’s debut novel Girls in Trucks, in a nutshell.  What starts out as a pleasant story about a young Southern debutante, full of all the appropriate adolescent angst, suddenly and surprisingly turns into a slightly tragic sitcom version of the once popular TV show.  I actually liked the first part better, though the novel is really a collection of stories pieced together in the appearance of a novel.  Still, this will prove to be hugely popular, especially with the twenty-something crowd,   as the author effectively captures not only the charming Charleston, South Carolina dialogue and decorum, but also replays the New York City scenes with a saucy wit that leaves the reader both in laughter and in tears.  Warning:  it doesn’t end at all the way you would expect it to —  you’ll just have to read the book to find out for yourself!

Any book the President picks up instantly becomes the subject of analysis and fascination. Everyone knows that Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwobama-booksin which describes Lincoln choosing several political rivals for his cabinet and staff, is an Obama favorite.

According to AbeBooks.com, The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, and Lincoln: the Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan are some other books he has been seen with.

Check out Mr. Obama’s Facebook page for some of his favorite books, such as Moby Dick, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and the Bible.

Libraries love the fact that, not only is he the world’s most famous reader, he is also a talented writer (both attributes can do no harm to our bottom line…the number of materials that are checked out).

According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama’s own Dreams from My Father, “evinces an instinctive storytelling talent…and that odd combination of empathy and detachment gifted novelists possess.” Obama won the 2006 Grammy for “Best Spoken Word Album” for his reading of his memoir and search for identity.

So, check out one of these books, carry it around and see if anyone snaps a photo….

road-homeWidowed and jobless, Lev immigrates from Eastern Europe to London in hopes of finding work and a better future for his daughter in The Road Home by Rose Tremain. What he encounters there – friendship, cruelty, kindness, hardship and hope – becomes a snapshot of the world we live in today.

Arriving in London with just basic English language skills, minimum money and an EU passport, Lev finds a menial job washing dishes at a high-end restaurant where he discovers a passion and a talent for cooking. Lev makes some mistakes along the way – he doesn’t always do the right thing – but he is always sympathetic and likeable and you’ll find yourself pulling for him.

You’ll also meet some wonderful characters – Rudi, Lev’s colorful and outspoken but forever loyal friend from home, Christy, his down-on-his-luck Irish flatmate, Sophie, the English woman he has a passionate affair with, G.K., his gruff, rude yet ultimately life-saving boss, the people at the nursing home he visits and his fellow workers. From these wildly different parts he creates a family that sustain and guide him, yet there is always an undercurrent of sadness and longing for home. How Lev finds his way home again, both literally and figuratively, are the heart of the story. Although the ending is somewhat contrived, it is also exactly right.

miles-from-nowhereUnlike James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, the author clearly marks this as a work of fiction.  Still, I found myself studying her photograph, wondering just how much of the story she might have actually experienced herself.  That’s how real it felt.

In this gritty and sometimes sordid tale about the homeless and the addicted, we follow Joon-Mee through her teen years during the 1980’s in New York City in Miles from Nowhere.  Joon, an immigrant from Korea, leaves her troubled home and ends up on the street, falling into prostitution and heroin abuse.  All is not dreary, though, as the book has a hopeful ending.  In the words of  Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl, this is a “starkly beautiful book, shot through with grace and lit by an offhand street poetry.  Nami Mun takes a cast of junkies and runaways and brings them fiercely and frankly to life.  It’s a measure of the artistry of the work that even in their grimmest, darkest moments, rather than being repelled by these characters, we want to stay beside them, as if to care for them, or at least bear witness to their lives. “

February 3

beesSecret Life of Bees – Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning

This is the tale of Lily Owens, a 14 year-old girl who is haunted by the memory of her late mother. To escape her lonely life and troubled relationship with her father, Lily flees with Rosaleen, her caregiver and only friend, to a South Carolina town that holds the secret of her mother’s past. Taken in by the intelligent and independent Boatwright sisters, Lily finds solace in their mesmerizing world of beekeeping.

February 10

Nights in Rodanthe – Richard Gere, Diane Lanenights

Two unhappy people’s lives become entwined when they have a life changing romance. Adrienne is a woman who’s trying to decide whether to stay in the unhappy marriage or not. Her life changes with Paul, a doctor who is traveling to reconcile with this estranged son, checks into an inn in North Carolina beach town where she is staying.

February 17

changlingThe Changeling – Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich

Set in 1928 in a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, Christine returns home from work to discover that her son Walter is nowhere to be found. Just when is seemed that all hope was lost, a nine-year-old boy claiming to be Christine’s son appears out of thin air. Overcome with emotions and uncertain how to face the authorities or the press, Christine invites the child to stay with her even though he is not Walter, yet continues to challenge the Prohibition-era Los Angeles police to find her son. Maligned by the press and slandered by the powers that be the situation grows desperate and the only person willing to help her is local activist Reverend Briegleb.

frugallibrarianA lot of people buy new computers at the moment of need. See, that’s what “the man” wants you to do…purchase from an uninformed and vulnerable position. You’ll deal with their markup because you’re brokedown.

It’s not enough to visit more than one brick and mortar store or check out two major chains’ weekly specials. Look into refurbs and save a ridiculous amount of money.

Refurbs are returned goods that have supposedly been restored to good-as-new condition. According to technology consulting firm Accenture, more than 2/3rds of electronics returned to retailers meet manufacturer’s specifications, but simply not the consumer’s expectations. Just because someone else gave up after turning the item on or didn’t like a scuff mark on front, why be picky in the face of huge savings?

Refurbs come in all varieties of electronics, even the highly-touted IPod, and even have refund and return guarantees. Stick with a well-known company, however.

Target – pre-owned electronics
Geeks.com – computers (I got a great computer this fall for $229, shipping included)
Dell Factory outlet
Sony retail outlet
Amazon Warehouse Deals

time-of-my-life1What if you had the chance to live your life over? Would you make the same choices? Marry the same person? Work the same job? How different would your life be now, and where would you be? These intriguing questions are at the center of Allison Winn Scotch’s Time of My Life when Jillian Westfield gets the chance to re-live part of her past.

Mired in an unhappy marriage, feeling trapped by her “perfect Mommy” image, Jillian finds herself dreaming of her former boyfriend and how different he was than her husband. While life with Henry was steady and reliable, life with Jackson had been exciting and fast-paced, and her career had begun to take off. She begins to believe that if she had stayed with Jackson everything would be glamorous and fun.

One morning Jillian wakes up seven years in the past, before she left Jackson, before she married Henry, before her daughter was born. Now armed with 20/20 hindsight, she aims to get things “right’ this time. But it’s not as simple as she thought – the absence of her daughter is a sharp, constant ache, the fast-paced job isn’t as alluring as she’d remembered and fond memories of Henry keep returning. There are poignant moments too, such as when she sees her friend Meg who, in her former world, would die is a couple years, and when she runs into the current Henry and realizes she’s still in love with him. Can she change the course of her life and the lives of those she loves? What might appear to be a simple chick lit is in fact a thoughtful look at choices and consequences and living the life you’re given.