News & More...

A Mystery Series for Your Summer Reading List

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult Services Manager

The Cold DishSeveral years ago, I randomly picked up The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson and I was never able to look back. Ever since, I’ve waited anxiously for each installment in this brilliant mystery series. Johnson weaves the tales of Walt Longmire, an overweight, middle-aged, widower sheriff with a degree in literature, who takes better care of the county than he does of himself. Along with gripping plots, the Longmire series offers up unforgettable characters, journeys into the mind and spirit, and descriptions of Wyoming that make you feel the sun on your face and the biting wind at your back.

You’ve probably heard of Longmire from the series that was on A&E and then Netflix. I have enjoyed seeing my favorite characters come to life and was thrilled to see recently that season 5 is coming in September, but I must say that the books are an entirely different achievement. The TV show floats along the surface of the thought processes and mysticism that an author can convey so well in a book.

Walt is the sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming, a fictional county at the base of the Bighorn Mountains bordering the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Walt spends many hours on the road and the trail throughout the series, covering the large area of the county or venturing further for an investigation, so we become intimately familiar with the varying landscape in all types of weather. Wyoming becomes a character in the series as he explores mountains and canyons and rides across the plains or travels long stretches of highway without another human in sight.

The plots of the novels are gripping, but the true reason that I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book as soon as possible is Johnson’s ability to make characters come alive. Walt is a good man, but has faults and weaknesses that make life challenging, not to mention the underlying grief that constantly accompanies him. His practical common sense is balanced by his love of literature and respect for the traditions of the local Native Americans. He is kept above the surface by his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear. Henry owns a bar, has bad taste in women, and a steadfast strength. The interactions of the two friends provide subtle, dry humor throughout the books, balancing the difficulties of the issues they face. The deputies in the sheriff’s department consist of Vic Moretti, a smart-mouthed woman who can’t let go of her East Coast sensibilities; Saizarbitoria, a family man; Ferg who is dependable but would rather be fishing; and Turk, an unpleasant but competent officer. Ruby, the dispatcher, keeps everything running smoothly with her smoker’s rasp and superior nagging abilities. To relax, Walt plays chess with the former sheriff, Lucian Connally, who is regularly threatened with removal from his nursing home for various alcohol and weaponry infractions. Walt’s daughter Cady, a lawyer back east, makes regular appearances in an attempt to remind Walt that he is more than a sheriff. Each of them brings humor and heart to the series, while they all deal with demons from the past.

In The Cold Dish, which starts the series off, Longmire is called in to investigate the death of Cody Pritchard. Walt was familiar with the young man who, along with 3 friends, had been given a suspended sentence for the rape of a developmentally disabled Cheyenne girl. The other boys involved in the case are concerned that someone is seeking vengeance. Walt works to overcome his disgust with the murder victim in a situation where the meaning of justice is unclear. Called “a thoughtful page-turner, wry and sober in good measure,” by BookList, The Cold Dish doesn’t fit easily into any genre but would appeal to a wide range of readers.

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Defense: A Top-Notch Summer Thriller

Marcia Allen
Technical Services Manager

The Defense by Steve CavanaghReady for a suspense title that will keep you reading its 300 pages at lightning speed? If so, Steve Cavanagh’s The Defense might be your favorite thriller this summer. This book, Mr. Cavanagh’s debut in this country, was nominated for the British Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for Thriller of the Year. Mr. Cavanagh, a respected attorney who lives in Ireland, wrote the novel at night while his family was sleeping. To his surprise, the finished novel was a huge success and has since been published in the UK, Japan, Italy Portugal, France, Germany, and now the U.S. In fact, he plans to publish a series of novels about his character, Eddie Flynn. You’ll wait just as impatiently as I am for the next installment to reach this country. Let’s take a look at why the critics love this book.

First of all, there’s main character Eddie. Eddie’s a young attorney who left his practice because he successfully defended a sadistic stalker who, once freed, kidnapped and tortured his original intended victim. While Eddie did manage to save the life of the girl, he realized that this horrific crime would never have happened if he hadn’t defended the perpetrator quite so skillfully. So, now he has severed ties with his former partner and tried to turn his life around. That seems to be working until the opening page of this story. Eddie is kidnapped by brutal Russian mob figures who intend to force the lawyer to fulfill the contract that his old partner couldn’t finish. And, they have Eddie’s young daughter for collateral.

What do these ruthless characters have in mind? The head of the mob has been identified as the force behind a vicious hit, so for him to evade conviction, Eddie must somehow silence the witness before he can testify. Eddie becomes the major player in a plot designed to place a bomb in the courtroom near the star witness. Eddie is horrified by the plan, but his daughter’s life hinges on the success of the plot, so he has little choice.
Seems like a helpless situation doesn’t it? But that is not the case. Before becoming a lawyer, Eddie was a highly talented con artist. Taught by a father who had a unique set of skills, a younger Eddie had made a lucrative career from faking automobile accidents. Too, he still has links to old buddies who were also once a part of other con games, so Eddie is a man with some very useful friendships. 

Secondly, there are incredible twists in the plot. Nothing is quite what it seems, whether that be the plan to ignite a courtroom explosion or the possible involvement of the FBI. And the original hit is shrouded in mystery. The hitman’s guilt seems obvious, but his willingness to get caught is suspect. There’s also the matter of a picture on the wall that seems to have been altered. And one of the enforcers working with the head of the mob is clearly an angry man with other motives. In addition, there is the matter of multiple detonators for the bomb. Could there also be decoys for the bomb itself? 

Eddie’s frantic machinations to outwit the Russians lead to stolen wallets and cell phones, as well as the acquisition of some very unusual equipment. If that’s not enough, there are also ventures onto lofty building ledges and private conversations with other underworld factions. There are supporting characters known as “The Lizard,” “Cousin Albie,” and “Tony G,” and there is an abundance of flashbacks that explain Eddie’s colorful past and surprising capabilities.

To be honest, some of the scenes in this book are truly far-fetched. It’s difficult to imagine the troubled Eddie working his way down the statue of the Lady of Justice poised on the edifice of the courthouse. And it’s equally puzzling to imagine him rocketing through New York on the back of a racing motorcycle. But suspending belief for the duration of this action-charged novel is well worth it. Exciting courtroom tactics, breakneck chases, and lots of double-dealing make this one a sure hit!

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

A Treasure Trove of Titles

by Brian Ingalsbe, Children’s Librarian

July is here, and if your children are anything like me, they have finished all of their “must-read” lists, and are in search of something new and refreshing. Luckily, there is always one place I turn to in the children’s collection: the new books shelf. These titles are hot off the press, and can offer a great variety for any reader. Here are just a few of the options I’ve discovered.

Bridget Wilder, Spy in TrainingBridget Wilder: Spy-in-Training by Jonathan Bernstein
Middle school meets Mission Impossible in this hilarious spy series. Jonathan Bernstein has created a character who excels at only one thing: being invisible. When Bridget discovers that her father – Carter Strike – is one of the most famous superspies in the world, her ability to fly under the radar becomes her greatest asset. Equipped with a super tracksuit and her wit, Bridget begins her spy training in her very own backyard – including fighting bullies and destroying healthy food machines! This series is great for middle-grade children who enjoy the writing style of Chris Rylander, Stuart Gibbs, and Ally Carter. A must read!

monstrous by MarcyKate ConnollyMonstrous by MarcyKate Connolly
Night is the only time that Kymera can enter the dangerous city of Bryre, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail – they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre. Yet Kymera’s task is almost impossible, until she meets a boy named Ren. It is only with his help – and courage – that Kymera can save the girls of Bryre. MarcyKate Connolly’s debut book weaves a tale full of suspense, magic, betrayal, and even romance. This book reminds me of Beyonders or The Familiars. Any reader who loved those series should definitely grab this.

Free VerseFree Verse by Sarah Dooley
When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever. Sarah Dooley has created a character who is truly inspiring. Sasha’s journey through life and loss teaches her valuable lessons: that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend. If your child doesn’t mind some deeper emotional story content, this is a great pick. Readers who enjoyed Counting by 7’s and Walk Two Moons are sure to love this book!

Finders KeepersFinders Keepers by Shelley Tougas
Who doesn’t love a good mystery about hidden treasure and Al Capone? Shelley Tougas – author of The Graham Cracker Plot – returns with another high-stakes story that involves just that. Christa loves spending summers at her parent’s cabin on Whitefish Lake, but when her father loses his job, it’s up to Christa and her friend Alex to save the cabin. All hope seems lost, until Alex’s grandpa – nicknamed grumpa – tells the friends about Al Capone’s CURSED treasure. Can Alex and Christa find the treasure and save their cabin? This story is a great mystery for children who have a harder time with reading. The action and quick paced writing make it hard to put down.

No matter what hidden gems you are looking for, Manhattan Public Library has them! Our staff are always willing to help you find your next reading treasure trove, answer any questions, connect you with the community, or just be a friendly face. You can contact the Youth Services Department at (785) 776-4741 ext. 400 or kidstaff@mhklibrary.org.

Posted in: For Kids, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Food, Travel, and Introspection

Relish by Lucy KnisleyBy Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

Memoir graphic novels form a backbone of alternative comics, from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Ellen Forney’s Marbles. The comics format is uniquely suited to detailing the inner thoughts of artists through the synthesis of words and images, making this a format well worth digging into. Among the many comics memoirists, thirty-one-year-old Lucy Knisley is one of my favorites. Knisley’s art style is simple and easily digestible, and her worries and anxieties resonate with new adults figuring out where they want to go in life and how best to get there.

Knisley’s memoirs begin with a trip to Paris as a twenty-three-year-old, lovingly detailed in French Milk. Knisley and her mother rent a flat for six weeks and take their time exploring Paris, visiting friends, and, for Knisley’s part, recording her thoughts in comics form. Knisley adds to the resulting travelogue with photos and later thoughts, but largely French Milk reads as a diary of her time in a foreign city. As always, food takes a front seat in this book, with not only descriptions that will make mouths water, but also Knisley declaring her love for delicious French milk.

Knisley develops her talent for food writing further in Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which is her love letter to food of all sorts. Growing up surrounded by chefs and bakers, Knisley has a deep appreciation for food and eagerly wants to share it. Relish is divided into chapters focusing on different foods, from pesto to huevos rancheros, and in each she explores the memories that connect her to food, as well as describing each food delectably. Best of all, she has recipes throughout the book. Trust me, try them—they’ve yielded the best chocolate chip cookies of my life!

In An Age of License, Knisley returns to the travelogue format and to Europe, on a travel-expenses-paid trip for a book tour. Despite the success of her professional life, Knisley’s personal life is in shambles, and she uses the trip to puzzle out her thoughts and try new experiences in hopes of moving on. Alongside the self-reflection, Knisley reminds readers of the pleasures of good food and foreign travel, even if traveling alone. An Age of License is a book for anyone who has wished they could shed their skin and become someone new, even if just for a few hours.

Displacement is a companion book to An Age of License, which document Knisley’s time on a cruise for the elderly with her grandparents. Where An Age of License lingers on the freedoms of being an untethered twenty-something, Displacement ponders the aging process and how the elderly fit into our society. As her grandparents’ sole caregiver on the cruise, Knisley grapples with their mortality and struggles to find a sense of who her grandparents are, despite the ravages of old age. By turns sobering and heartwarming, this book looks thoughtfully at how people age, and it will strike a chord with many younger adults.

If you, like me, have strong memories of pulling your hair out while wedding planning, you will relate to Knisley’s newest book, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride. Unexpectedly engaged and planning a wedding in under a year, Knisley details her exploits in creating the perfect-but-still-personal wedding. From picking a dress to fighting over the reception and DIY-ing everything, Knisley covers it all from the perspective of a bride blindsided by years of tradition and the bridal industry. Rest assured, this book is not all wedding doldrums—Knisley sprinkles in funny asides and bizarre trivia, like the real reason brides carry flowers down the aisle (to ward away trolls!), which make Something New a joy to read. Readers will root for Knisley and her fiancé and breathe a sigh of relief when everything works out in the end. After all, the most important part of a wedding is celebrating a new marriage, which Knisley reminds the reader (and herself) of throughout the book. Something New provides an informative look into the wedding-planning process, with a nice dose of levity to balance out the inherent chaos of weddings.

No matter which of Knisley’s books you pick up, you’ll find food to drool over and thoughtful observations on becoming an adult. If you’re interested in more memoir graphic novels, fill out a personalized reading list at www.mhklibrary.org or in person, or ask a librarian for a recommendation. Manhattan Public Library has a great selection to choose from!

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column

Leave a Comment (0) →

Books Reviewed by Our Summer Readers

by Rachael Schmidtlein, Teen and Tween Services Coordinator

Every summer a *magical* thing happens. Like the Monarchs that migrate to Mexico, crowds converge on the library in June and July to craft, to play video games, and to read. It’s a wonderful time of year that makes our librarian hearts expand with pride. However, summer is also a very busy time when our staff is giving out summer reading prizes, planning around 20 events a week and restocking the shelves as fast as humanly possible.

We love reviewing and recommending books, we really do, but during June and July we sometimes have to put that duty on the back burner. Luckily, we have a really great community that helps us out with that!

When anyone turns in their summer reading minutes, they have the opportunity to review a book they read during that time frame. Incredibly, when we were reviewing the most recent submissions, we realized that over six hundred and fifty books have been reviewed this summer.

Without further ado, I give you five books reviewed by YOU, our incredible Manhattanites.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman (Young Adult Fiction)

“New Twist on Sleeping Beauty”

This masterfully written reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White is another work of art from the whimsical mind of Neil Gaiman. In this retelling, Snow White is a queen on a journey to rescue Sleeping Beauty and Sleeping Beauty isn’t quite in need of rescuing. Told in his typical creepy and dark fashion, Gaiman gives these tired stories a reboot.

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline (Adult Fiction)

“Real page-turner. Couldn’t put it down!”

Christine and Marcus find themselves facing the difficult reality of being unable to conceive a child. After an incredibly difficult road, they decide to use a donor. Now happily pregnant, they are ready to move on with their family. That is until Christine sees a man on TV being arrested for a series of brutal murders. The man also happens to undeniably remember her donor. Scottoline take the reader through an emotional and fast-paced journey that poses the question: what decisions would you make if the biological father of your unborn child was a killer?

 

Stolen by Lucy Christopher (Young Adult Fiction)

“This book is very gripping and at times heart-wrenching. At first you see Ty as a monster and Emma as a victim but, will that change? Will Emma learn to love Ty or will she escape and turn Ty in? There is no way to know…”

Sixteen year old Gemma has been kidnapped and taken to the Australian outback. However, her captor Ty is nothing like you would expect. Written as a letter, this story explores the complicated and unsettling nature of love and reliance. The desolate but beautiful Australian outback acts as a silent character, and readers are constantly torn between reality and unreliable characters.

 

Gumption by Nick Offerman (Adult Non-Fiction)

“Nick Offerman makes me feel like there are butterflies in my stomach. #mancrush #mancandymondayeveryday”

A combination of serious history and light humor, Nick Offerman tells of those throughout history who inspired him. This books meanders through the topics of religion, politics, woodworking, agriculture, philosophy, fashion and meat in a seriously funny way.

 

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (Young Adult Fiction)

“If you are any sort of a Sherlockian (that is, any fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his characters), you will love this new take on the amazing duo, Sherlock and Watson. This novel is told from the point of view of a teenage descendant of the original Dr. James Watson. He meets his counterpart, Charlotte Holmes at a Connecticut boarding school called Sherringford. This is the first book in a trilogy about the two and the cases they solve.

I love this book and I love that the author references the original cases Doyle wrote about. I also love the title’s play on words.”

Posted in: For Adults, For Teens, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Gorgeous Agony of Becoming a Better Person

By Danielle Schapaugh

I know a Canadian novelist who can take your heart places it never wanted to go, while still making you happy you took the journey.

The first book I read by Lori Lansens, simply called “The Girls,” is the story of conjoined twins, told alternately by each sister. As shocking and uncomfortable as the tale gets at times, detailing the struggles, heartaches, and yearnings of the two longest surviving craniopagus twins, Lansens never forgets to circle back to the joy of living. You’ll be hooked from the start. The book begins with a poem written by Rose, one of the sisters:

“I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to the beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, buy oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.”

After being charmed and heartbroken by “The Girls,” I decided to keep exploring. Next, I picked up “The Wife’s Tale” by Lori Lansens.

The Wife’s Tale” features a minor character from “The Girls,” their neighbor, Mary Gooch. Mary is the depressed and morbidly obese wife of a gregarious high school football star. She is at the lowest point of her life when she is forced to confront her fears and begin an agonizing journey of self-discovery. This book is filled with so much awkwardness that it makes the entire tale feel like a big, cathartic release.

For example, at one point Mary steps on a shard of glass after locking herself out of the house, naked, in a thunderstorm and her body will not allow her to reach her foot to remove the glass or staunch the bleeding. You will breathe a giant sigh of relief when everything turns out ok. This story will remind you to be thankful for the little things that go right in your life, and thankful that the tale ends happily.

Lori has two more books, although I recommend taking a break rather than reading them back-to-back. As enjoyable as it is dive into these heartbreaking stories and discover new things about your inner world, devouring them back-to-back could be a little rough on your psyche. You might want to pause and read a little Jude Devereaux (romance) or maybe a book from the Agency series by Y.S. Lee (Y.A. mystery) before continuing.

When you’re ready, it’s time to read “Rush Home Road.” Images from this book will stay with you for the rest of your life. I still think about Mum Addy teaching Sharla how to clean out the bathtub or Sharla climbing up to steal cookies from the top shelf. This is actually Lansen’s first novel and tells the story of two women who become family. Sharla is a five-year-old who is abandoned at Addy’s trailer-park doorstep. Addy is a seventy year old woman who shut herself off from her past. Together, they provide the love and support each has needed in order to heal.

Lansens’ latest novel, “A Mountain Story” also carries the theme of personal discovery and healing, but this time with a heavy dose of adventure and suspense. A series of missteps strands a group of hikers together in the wilderness. They band together to survive, and as the story turns more desperate they form an inextricable bond.

Lansens’ writing transforms the scale of daily living and brings the small details into focus. You will not be able to tear your eyes away from the text and you’ll begin experiencing your days in more vivid detail. You can really taste that morning coffee, feel the humidity cling to your skin, pay attention to the way your feet slide in the bathtub. Lansens’ books have a wonderful, transformative power to make you stop and appreciate things. For that fact alone, I would recommend them.  However, her books also give insight and empathy that help make the reader a better person. You should add them to your list immediately.

 

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Summer Reading List Begins

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

On your mark, get set…READ!  The library’s annual summer reading program has begun. Everyone, from babies to seniors, can participate by keeping track of reading and earning prizes or tickets for prize drawings. So, what is on your summer reading list?  Here are a few on mine:

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

The author of the Clementine series has written a very different kind of story, switching from her spunky, comedic, Ramona-like character Clementine, to what looks like a quiet, thoughtful, and likely sad tale about a boy and his pet fox.  Booklist gave this a starred review, saying “Pennypacker’s expert, evenhanded storytelling reveals stunning depth in a relatively small package.” It sounds like Pennypacker is able to switch gears with skill and finesse.

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman

Freedman has won many awards for his nonfiction writing, and I have enjoyed several of them. I prefer my nonfiction to read like a novel, and Freedman’s well-researched accounts always deliver that element of storytelling. Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie were Hitler Youth who turned against Hitler, forming the White Rose opposition.  They sacrificed everything to work against the Nazis. Seems like a worthy and important read.

Soar by Joan Bauer

Bauer’s books are always worth a read, and this one sounds inspiring.  Jeremiah Lopper is a baseball fanatic, but he hasn’t been allowed to play since he had a heart transplant two years ago at the age of 10.  When he and his adoptive dad move to Hillcrest, Ohio, Jeremiah simply decides to find a baseball team to coach instead. Words reviewers used to describe this story are “motivating,” “triumphant,” “largehearted,” and “irrepressible.” I will grab this when I need some lifting up.

Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park

Another author veering off into new genre territory, Linda Sue Park has written the first in a fantasy series called Wing & Claw.  Previous books like A Long Walk to Water, Project Mulberry, and Newbery Medal-winning A Single Shard are realistic or even based on true stories.  Now she enters the realm of magic and talking animals. Raffa Santana is a young apothecary who seeks out a rare vine in the Forest of Wonders to create a cure for an injured bat. Unexpectedly, the bat not only recovers but also acquires the ability to speak. Gregor the Overlander comes to mind, and I am in.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Sometimes, I admit I judge books by their covers. When I saw this one with its intriguing gold-lettered message facing out, I had to read the cover. Then I had to quickly place a hold on the book. To top that off, Publisher’s Weekly mentions two favorite books of mine in its review of Wolf Hollow: “Echoing the tone and themes found in To Kill a Mockingbird and Summer of My German Soldier, this WWII story traces the unlikely friendship between a country girl and a shell-shocked veteran.” It is sure to be a good one.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Well, I wouldn’t be much of a children’s librarian if this was not on my list, would I?  Coming out on July 31 (Harry’s birthday, of course), this play script features Harry’s middle child, Albus Serverus Potter. As expected, there is much news and a plethora of opinions about this “eighth story” in the Harry Potter series that was supposed to end with book seven.  We will see if the Harry Potter craze continues, and if it lives up to the hype. Not much chance I will see the play anytime soon, since it is in London and is sold out through May 2017.

Stop by the Children’s Room to sign up for summer reading, and let us know which books you are hoping to read under a shady tree this summer! While you’re here, check into our weekly clubs and storytimes, vote for a winner in the Tournament of Books, and register a teen to attend the “After Hours” party at the library this Saturday for an Iron Chef-inspired culinary competition. It’s sure to be hopping at the library with lots of good options for everyone.

Posted in: Children's Dept, For Kids, For Teens, library services, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Valiant Ambition: Nathaniel Philbrick Brings History Alive

by Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Though it was published some fifteen years ago, Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea has remained a terrific account of 19th century whaling adventures, complete with day-to-day details of the hardship, cannibalism and the mayhem caused by a violent sperm whale.  In fact, Philbrick’s account of the true tale that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick netted the National Book Award that year for the quality of its dramatic recreation of that period in history.  That was but one bestselling historical account that Philbrick produced.  In 2007, he released yet another stirring tale, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.  Steeped in violence and treacherous relationships, this one presents an account of early colonization that is much more realistic than what some histories would have us believe.  This book, too, earned widespread attention for readers around the world, was a finalist for the Pulitzer, and made the New York Times Book Review top ten of the year.

If you consider Philbrick one of your favorite nonfiction authors as I do, you’ll love his latest account that just came out this May.  Valiant Ambition traces the events of the Revolutionary War with the author’s usual candor and painstaking research, and what a story it is. Here’s what you might like about the book:

First of all, Benedict Arnold is one of the key players.  Long considered a traitor and unscrupulous human being, Arnold was initially one of the better generals under Washington’s command.  He was a courageous fighter and a seasoned combat veteran who strongly believed in the American cause.  He was the victim of political maneuverings that he could not stomach, and he came to resent being passed over for the promotions which he deserved.  Thus, Philbrick’s Arnold is a flawed but skilled commander who could not accept the deceit of those in power.

Obviously, George Washington is the leading figure in the book, but the image of the dignified and courageous leader that history has often portrayed him is absent, at least in the early part of the book.  At first an unseasoned commander, Washington made horrendous mistakes in leadership that could have easily cost the American forces the war.  In fact, he once intercepted a letter, not intended for his eyes, in which one American leader was highly critical of his botched combat tactics.

There is the also the added drama of accounts of the many witnesses that brings the battles to life.  Included, for example, is John Greenwood’s account of the siege of Trenton during which he saw the horse pulling the Americans’ only artillery struck by a six-pound cannonball.   Greenwood also tells of the panic when the Americans realized their soaked weapons would not fire, so they were forced to mount a bayonet charge against the trained Hessians they feared so much.

In addition, there is this intriguing playing out of strategy throughout the book.  We learn, for example, that British General Howe didn’t really want to engage the American forces in battle in the early days of the war.  Because of the inexperience, the high death rates, and the heavy losses of cannons and cannonballs, the American cause was viewed as a failure from the beginning.  Howe felt that all he had to do was wait for the inevitable.  We discover that Washington learned to focus on maneuverings that were the least expected.  One prime example was his re-taking of Princeton.  That operation succeeded because he led his troops at night to the rear of the British forces, only to attack on slippery, frozen fields at the break of day.

What makes this book as much a resounding success as the other Philbrick books is its attention to the way events and personalities really were.  Philbrick is a master of research, (see the 28 pages of his bibliography), and this vivid tale gives us the personality flaws, the glaring mistakes, and the horrors of that long ago war.  Magnificent reading!

Posted in: For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →

Debut Authors to Freshen Up Your Reading List

by Rhonna Hargett – Adult Services Manager

We’ve put away the coats and sweaters and pulled out the sandals and shorts. It’s time to tuck winter away and breathe in the fresh air of spring. Along with the new leaves, flowers, and grass, this is a great time to freshen up your reading with new authors. At Manhattan Public Library we have some fantastic books by debut authors that will invigorate your transition into summer.

In Dodgers by Bill Beverly, East, 15-year-old gang member from LA is sent on a road-trip to kill a witness in Wisconsin. Traveling in a minivan with three other gang members, including his younger brother, he is unprepared for the lessons forced upon him about his own identity and how he fits into the world around him. This bildungsroman/crime/road novel will appeal to fans of HBO’s The Wire.

Julie McElwain delivers mystery and romance with A Murder in Time. While FBI agent Kendra Donovan attempts to wreak revenge upon the criminal who killed her fellow agents, she is accidentally transported to 1815. She attempts to adapt to her surroundings, jumping in to offer her assistance in solving a murder. Described by Library Journal as “absolutely captivating,” McElwain leaves us in anxious anticipation for sequel.

When a naked newborn girl is found in the snow, 8-year-old Aurelia Vennaway takes her home and insists that her wealthy and unkind parents take the baby in. As they grow, Aurelia and the newly named Amy Snow grow to be the best of friends. When Aurelia dies unexpectedly, she leaves a letter that sends Amy on a treasure hunt to unlock a long-held secret. Set in Victorian England, Amy Snow by Tracy Rees delivers a tale of friendship and intrigue.

On a lighter note, Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen shows how one little black dress brings a bit of magic to the lives of nine women. From a Bloomingdale’s sales clerk mooning over her ex to a Brown grad with no job but a fabulous fake life on social media, all their lives are touched in this laugh-out-loud delight of a book. A great read for those who adored the movie Love Actually.

In We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenridge, Laurel Freeman is recruited by the Toneybee Institute to use their sign language skills to teach a chimpanzee named Charlie to speak. She and her family welcome Charlie into their home, not realizing how the relationship will interfere or the questionable background of the institute. Exploring issues of race, religion and communication, Greenridge’s novel exhibits her deft storytelling skills.


Rush Oh!
by Shirley Barrett takes us back to 1908 in New South Wales, Australia. Mary Davidson is responsible for the care of her five younger siblings, as well as cooking for the members of her father’s whaling crew. In this view into the domestic side of whaling, Barrett shares some of the nitty-gritty details, humorous tales, and Mary’s romance with a former Methodist minister on her father’s crew.

Shelter by Jung Yun explores the dilemma of Kyung Cho, a college professor who is drowning in debt. He resists moving his family to live with his wealthy, abusive parents, but is beginning to accept this as his best option. When his parents are the victims of a brutal crime, they instead move in with him, creating a stew of resentment and tensions. Booklist calls Yun’s debut “a work of relentless psychological sleuthing and sensitive insight.”

Yaa Gyasi’s saga Homegoing covers seven generations in Ghana and the United States, starting with the half-sisters Effia and Esi. Alternating chapters tell the stories of Effia’s life married to a British colonizer and Esi’s captured into slavery in the American South and of the descendants that followed them. Reminiscent of Alex Haley’s Roots or Lalita Tademy’s Cane River, Homegoing is painful at times, but Gyasi’s beautiful use of language skillfully considers how individual lives can shape the fabric of a nation.

Find out more about these titles at www.mhklibrary.org. If you would like to get the scoop on upcoming titles, go to our Books page to sign up for newsletters that we email out each month.

 

Posted in: Adult Services, For Adults, Mercury Column, News

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 73 12345...»