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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

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The Gorgeous Agony of Becoming a Better Person

By Danielle Schapaugh

I know a 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

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We Like Sports and We Don’t Care Who Knows

by Amber Johnson, Youth Librarian

With only a few weeks left of school, the Youth Services Department at Manhattan Public Library is gearing up for the summer reading program and all the summer events planned for children of all ages.  Parents: you might be gearing up for summer in a different way, stocking your minivans with snacks and sports equipment, preparing for a summer of activities with your children.  For many students, summer is the time to try out a new activity or improve their skills in their favorite sport.  With NBA finals in motion, are your children obsessed with the Golden State Warriors?  We have books for them.  Do your children watch the Royals and wonder how Alcides Escobar knows how to make such great plays?  We have books for them.  Here are a few of my favorite titles about sports:

Jake Maddox series

An early chapter book series, the Jake Maddox books are perfect for students reading at a kindergarten to 2nd grade level.  Book topics range from dance to football to paintball.  Each book takes place over just a few days, so the comprehension level is low, but the action level is high.

Comeback Kids series by Mike Lupica

As a sports columnist for many publications, Mike Lupica knows how to write and talk about sports.  But in his Comeback Kids series, it is evident that he knows how to write about life as well.  This middle grade series, recommended for 2nd-4th grade reading levels, details the sports lives and personal lives of students.  As they deal with issues at home or issues at school, playing on a team gives them an escape and a way to process how life works and how to become the person they want to be.

Baseball Great series by Tim Green

Similar to the Comeback Kids series but for older readers, Tim Green pairs sports and personal issues to offer books that will entertain sports lovers, and give them a gateway to reading other types of realistic fiction.  Green’s books are full of action, and readers will enjoy the play-by-play of the games being experienced by the characters.

Nonfiction series about teams and athletes

The Children’s Library has many series and books on individual athletes and professional sports teams.  Look in the general non-fiction section under the call number 796, or ask a librarian to help you find a specific title.

Parents and caregivers: the library has books for you as well.  Whether you are spending hours on the bleachers at games, or traveling to weekend tournaments, there are multiple ways to access audiobooks for free.  Check out a physical copy of an audiobook on CD, download from the Sunflower eLibrary, or download the Hoopla app to access even more free titles.  Here are a few titles you might enjoy listening to:

Those Guys Have All the Fun by James Andrew Miller

A compilation of over 500 interviews, this history of the sports media tycoon that is ESPN brings to light just how it grew to be what it is today.

Wonder Girl by Don Van Natta, Jr.

Babe Didrikson was quite possibly the most phenomenal female athlete of the early 20th century.  After achieving All-American status in basketball and winning gold medals in track and field at the 1932 Olympics, she moved on to try her hand at golf.  Finding success there as well, she used her skill and influence to make a name for women in sports and conquered personal difficulties in the public eye.

The Long Run by Matt Long

New York City firefighter Matt Long suffered a tragic accident that had him in the hospital for five months, enduring through more than 40 operations.  After being told he would be lucky to walk again, Long went on to run the NYC marathon a mere three years later.  The Long Run details the physical and psychological difficulties that he faced during this journey.

Summer can be a rich time for students and parents, and the library is here to help you make the most of your time.  Ask a librarian for help finding your next great book or audiobook.

 

Posted in: Children's Dept, For Kids, Mercury Column, News, Parents

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Garden for Wildlife

Janet Ulrey, Adult Services Librarian

Gardens are a wonderful way of gaining joy from the outside world. The visual beauty of flowers and plants is pleasing to the eye, but when a butterfly drops in for a visit, another dimension is added to heighten your gratification. It doesn’t matter if you have an apartment balcony or a 20-acre farm, a garden that attracts beautiful wildlife and helps restore habitat can be created. The month of May is “Garden for Wildlife” month, so, it is a fitting time to plant your own wildlife-friendly garden. Find significant resources at the library to help you get started.

“Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” by Douglas Tallamy, will get you off to a great start. Tallamy indicates that the gardener plays an important role in the management of our nation’s wildlife. The plants in your garden attract insects which are necessary to attract wildlife. He tells us which particular insects are best to have in your garden and what particular plants will lure them. This is a comprehensive book that will also help you decide which native plants will work best for your area to draw in desired wildlife.

What is more native to the garden than the bee? “The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity” by Kate Frey, is filled with beautiful photos. Frey tells us that spending time in a bee garden can be a source of pleasure, as well as therapy in your own backyard. Bee-friendly gardens also attract butterflies, moths, bats, and hummingbirds. It’s important to remember that bees provide many benefits, and they only sting when provoked.

Wildlife that you expect to see in the backyard are birds. “Backyard Birding: Using Natural Gardening to Attract Birds” by Julie Zickefoose, explains what type of plants you’ll need for different types of birds. The plants invite birds to the yard because of the food or shelter that they provide. Water is especially important to keep birds coming back, and Zickefoose shares some creative ways for you to supply the water they need. No matter which birds frequent your backyard, the experience of sharing your plot of earth with them will be rewarding.

Whether you want to attract birds, bats, or butterflies, “Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden: Creating Backyard and Balcony Habitats for Wildlife” by Catherine Johnson is an impressive asset. She not only shares which plants you should grow to entice the wildlife of your choice, but also gives simple instructions for building feeders, nesting boxes, and arbors.

The garden is an awe-inspiring place for children to discover nature. In April Pulley Sayre’s book “Touch a Butterfly: Wildlife Gardening with Kids”, simple steps are given that families can follow to create their own wildlife habitat. April reminds us that sound is often the first clue to the presence of wildlife. Children learn to listen, then look for the creatures that have tickled their ears. She also points out that the winter garden is a place of discovery; footprints in the snow give substantial clues to the wildlife that visit and can be a magnificent source of entertainment. Sharing life in a garden with children is sure to be lots of fun.

In this book, “Nature-Friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People” by Marlene Condon, the author not only gives insight on how to attract the right kind of insects, but also gives guidance in selecting the right binoculars for up-close viewing. Ms. Condon likes to use nesting boxes in her garden. As a result, she has seen eastern screech-owls, southern flying squirrels, and opossum take-up residency in them. She tells us that a gardener must plan to coexist with wildlife as well as their predators to make gardens imitative of the natural world.

There are many other selections available at the library to help you attract and enjoy wildlife in your own backyard. Why not get started today?

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

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All That Jazz @ the Library

by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Celebrate International Jazz Day this April 30. In 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), designated April 30 as International Jazz Day. Its purpose was to bring communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts from all over the world together to celebrate and learn about jazz. This year’s global host city for International Jazz Day is Washington, D.C.

But you don’t have to travel to D.C. to learn about and experience jazz. Manhattan Public Library has an extensive collection of jazz music cds, as well as books and dvds, and thousands of items in the genre for streaming.

Experience jazz through film by checking out “Jazz,” by documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns. The ten dvd set presents the history of jazz from its birth in New Orleans, through the Big Band era, modern jazz, and the fusion of jazz and rock and roll. Along the way, you’ll hear selections from about 500 pieces of music. “Jazz: a History of America’s Music,” by Geoffrey C. Ward, is the companion volume to Burns’ film.

In the same vein, “Jazz,” by music critic Gary Giddings and historian Scott Deveaux has traced the development of jazz from its nineteenth-century precursors to the present. The authors present the story of jazz in the broader cultural, political, social, and economic factors of the times. The book includes a detailed glossary, as well as a list of recommended jazz recordings and jazz-related motion pictures and documentaries.

Don’t know your be bop from your downbeat? Beginners to the world of America’s quintessential music will benefit from reading “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Jazz,” by Loren Schoenberg. This is a concise history of jazz highlighting noteworthy composers and musicians, including a list of the most influential jazz recordings. Also a complete guide to jazz terminology.

If you need something a little simpler, there is always “Jazz for Dummies,” by Dirk Sutro. An informative reference to the music and its musicians, it also includes tips for building your own jazz collection and a list of more than 100 recommended recordings.

When we think of jazz, certain American cities come to mind. New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz; Chicago, where Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke set the standard in the 1920s; New York, where bebop was born in the 1940s; Los Angeles and San Francisco, with the development of the West Coast sound; and, of course, Kansas City.

“Kansas City Jazz,” by Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, gives the history of Kaycee jazz from ragtime to bebop. The Kansas City style of jazz developed during the 1930s, and marked the transition from big band orchestration to the improvisation of bebop. Kansas City is considered one of the “cradles of jazz.” Considered one of the most influential jazz saxophone players of all time, Charlie Parker, the Bird, was born in Kansas City. Future band leader, Count Basie played in Kansas City for several years, influencing the development of jazz.

Kansas City is also home to the American Jazz Museum. “Kansas City and All That’s Jazz,” published by the museum is full of historical photographs, and includes several articles about Kansas City jazz in its heyday.

The library has a diverse collection of jazz music cds available for checkout. But you don’t even have to leave your living room to access the more than 14,000 jazz recordings available for streaming through the library’s hoopla service. All you need to access the hoopla collection is a library card. Click the Digital Library link on the library’s web page, go to http://www.hoopladigital.com, or ask a librarian.

For more information about International Jazz Day, go to http://jazzday.com/. For all things jazz, visit the All about Jazz website at http://www.allaboutjazz.com. Next time you’re in the Kansas City area, don’t forget to visit the American Jazz Museum. Go to http://americanjazzmuseum.org for more information.

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 “Weirdo Fiction with a Shot of Southern Gothic Influence”

By Danielle Schapaugh

Not often will you find a witty, southern gothic, heartfelt, fiercely-loving, mystery story featuring Hindu mythology, but that’s just what Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel “The Opposite of Everyone” has to offer.

Jackson is one of my favorite writers, always surprising readers with plot twists and engaging us with the kind of irreverent humor it takes to overcome hardship.  Her characters are authentic and original, and if you like to get wrapped up in a good story, she is a perfect author for you to explore.

“The Opposite of Everyone,” published in 2016, is the story of Paula Vauss, a smart and smart-mouthed divorce attorney who transformed herself after getting her gypsy-spirited mother arrested and imprisoned. Paula was only ten at the time and she was left to finish growing up in foster care with a new identity shaped by regret.  Her emotional armor expresses itself as sarcasm and outlandish behavior, but never does she seem crass or uncaring.  She’s someone you’ll want to meet. Paula’s mother has many secrets, but her love for her daughter and her unique approach to life and storytelling leave a deep imprint.

Then one day, her mother’s most treasured secret arrives on Paula’s doorstep and she is forced to crack open her armor to search for clues to her past and discover her mother’s whereabouts. This touching story has sharp edges, strong bonds, and a big heart. Paula is actually one of the minor characters from one of Jackson’s earlier novels “Someone Else’s Love Story,” which brings me to my next recommendation.

“Someone Else’s Love Story” is focused on Shandi Pierce and William Ashe.  Shandi is a young woman trying to raise a three-year-old genius, finish college, and keep her complicated life from jumping the rails—when she falls for William, an older man she meets at a gas station hold-up. As funny and “meet cute” as that sounds, this touching story is full of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness, as well as humor.

None of Jackson’s characters is a flat stereotype, and that might be what I like most about her work. William Ashe, the hot, older-guy-hero Shandi falls for in “Someone Else’s Love Story,” is not just a good looking guy. William is a genetic scientist with Asperger’s. With the help of his best friend from high school (Paula Vauss from “The Opposite of Everyone”) he has learned to adjust. The chapters told from his perspective are full of the mental calculations he performs in order to read social situations, and they are never boring.

Jackson cares about her characters, and never does them the disservice of making even the minor players one-dimensional. In fact, she has another pair of novels that swap characters, and I think you will be interested to read them. Just between us, you should start with these if you are new to Jackson’s work.

The book that made me fall in love with Joshilyn Jackson’s writing is actually her very first novel, “Gods in Alabama.” This is a whopper of a story full of southern charm, grit, and sincerity.

godsThe tale begins with pressure. Arlene Fleet vowed never to return to Alabama, in fact, she made a deal with God about it. If He kept that dead body hidden, she would never again set foot in her hometown, never again see her family, and never again do the things that landed her in the predicament in the first place. Arlene goes about living a good life in Chicago, but unfortunately, neither party is able to hold up their end of the bargain.

Arlene’s family begs her to return. Her long-time boyfriend demands to meet her family.  Then Miss Rose Mae Lolly, who happens to be the former girlfriend of the dead body, shows up at Arlene’s doorstep looking for her lost love.

When you’ve finished “Gods in Alabama,” it’s time to pick up “Backseat Saints” and learn about the life of Miss Rose Mae Lolly. Rose is a hero in her own right, and Jackson will also show you another side of the dead quarterback. She proves, once again, that humans are more complicated and fascinating than we like to assume.

I can’t say enough about Joshilyn Jackson and I want to sum up my esteem for her saying, she’s just a great storyteller and I think you should start exploring her books immediately. Look for her books on the first floor of the Manhattan Public Library in the fiction section or find them at your local bookstore.

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

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Perfect Weather and Perfect Books to Share

By Jennifer Bergen, Youth Services Manager

Spring weather has blown in to Manhattan. It’s a time to appreciate Earth’s beauty, head out on the nature trail or spend an evening at the ball diamond. Here are some children’s books that pair nicely with the season.

Greensburg, Kansas is celebrated in Allan Drummond’s newest picture book, Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future. Beginning with the aftermath of the 2007 tornado, Drummond portrays the damaged town, the worried citizens, and the many decisions that had to be made. Children can see how a few bright ideas about rebuilding Greensburg “green” caught on and took hold throughout the whole community. Sidebars give further information about influential townspeople and building sustainable structures. Published just in time for Earth Day, this will be a popular resource for teachers and an inspiration to young students all over the U.S.

Cricket Song by Anne Hunter will set the mood as your day comes to a close. Beautiful illustrations using watercolor and ink show frogs, foxes, otters and whales settling in for their evening. The calming text intertwines animal sounds with poetic prose, perfect for reading aloud to a toddler or preschooler. “The frogs puff their throats full of cool air from the woods, where the poorwill calls poorwill! poorwill! and listens for the footfall of the fox.” The framework of the story connects one sleeping child at the beginning to another sleeping child at the end, with the land and ocean and all the animals between them. Another gorgeous title to share is Kevin Henkes When Spring Comes, with enticing illustrations by Laura Dronzek. Young children are amazed by the green and the blossoms and the critters that come with springtime. Henkes captures this wonder and the joy it brings.

moMo Jackson is the star of a beginning reader series by David Adler, who also writes Cam Jansen mysteries, picture book biographies and a slew of other series. In Get a Hit, Mo!, Mo’s baseball team, the Lions, is playing the Bears. Mo was excited about the game, but after he arrives, he remembers that he is the smallest on his team. He always bats last and is stationed in boring right field. The Bears, on the other hand, look big and strong and they pitch fast. Mo strikes out, not once but twice. Many kids will identify with Mo’s moods and will cheer him on to the very end. Adler, a seasoned writer of beginning readers, has the formula down perfectly with just the right amount of text, controlled vocabulary, and illustrations by Sam Ricks that will clue readers in to the story as they decipher harder words.

Headed out to the park with your “helicopter parent” shoes on? Check out some facts and advice from Heather Shumaker’s It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids, a recent addition to our Parent and Teacher Resource Center. There’s a reason why your child wants to go up the slide. In fact, the urge to take risks or try new challenges is part of healthy development. Shumaker uses her Renegade Golden Rule, “It’s OK if it’s not hurting people or property,” to sort through many situations kids and parents encounter. She tackles topics parents may not have even considered questioning, like talking to strangers or doing homework, and includes a helpful section on limits for screen time. With each new chapter, or “rule,” Shumaker includes examples, facts about child development, and practical tools for parents to try. She provides words to say (and words to avoid), as well as how to “take off your adult lenses” to get past preconceived notions. Chapters can easily be read alone, so busy parents or teachers can read what they need instead of tackling a 300+ page book.

Enjoy the transformation of spring with your kids, and if the wind or rain drives you inside, curl up with a good library book.

 

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The Growth of an American Icon:  Georgia O’Keefe in Fiction

By Marcia Allen, Manhattan Public Library

I’ve always been fond of fictional books like Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, the story of Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s affair with and influence on Frank Lloyd Wright.  Equally appealing to me was Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, which vividly conveyed the early marriage and the fractured relationship between Ernest and Hadley Hemingway.  What is it about such books?  Probably the intertwining of fact and fiction in telling the lives of famous artists.

And now I’ve discovered another jewel of a book.  Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe by Dawn Tripp is a masterful retelling of the love affair between O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, the famed American photographer who promoted O’Keeffe’s art and eventually married her.  I would highly recommend this new title to readers who are also drawn to similar tales for a variety of convincing reasons.

First, the author does an incredible job of developing O’Keeffe’s style.  Those familiar with her stark New Mexico landscapes and striking flower paintings will note the development of her talent throughout the story.   Her initial efforts promised talent, but her gradual creation of a totally new modern art form didn’t come until later.  Stieglitz recognized her potential early on, and encouraged her work, showing and selling it in his gallery.  The novel conveys this through vivid descriptions of settings that compelled the painter, as well as her frustration with pieces of art that she felt were unsuccessful. Vivid colors and open spaces are key throughout the book.

O’Keefe’s character is equally well rendered.  Always a very independent woman, she fought for her own style.  Extended stays in New Mexico gave her the opportunity to experiment with color and light, and she began collecting bones and rocks that inspired her.  A gradual realization that that landscape was essential to her work led to her many lengthening trips to the area and also to the most famous landscape paintings of her career.  Author Tripp’s descriptions of journeys to the Southwest and her lovely references to O’Keeffe’s favorite sites help us better see her creativity in progress.

More important to the book is O’Keefe’s relationship with Stieglitz.  Following a brief correspondence with him, the painter traveled to New York to show him her work.  The two formed an instant bond, and soon they became lovers, despite his marriage and the wide age gap between them.  A very messy divorce allowed the two to marry later.   As their relationship strengthened, Stieglitz arranged displays of her work and encouraged her to explore different mediums.  He also took the famous photographs of O’Keefe, both clothed and nude, that are still considered classics.  Because of Tripp’s careful research and her talent with the writing, we readers witness the intimacy and complexity in the relationship of two very talented and strong-willed individuals.O'Keeffe photographic portrait by Halsman

Tripp’s account of O’Keeffe’s mental breakdown is heartrending.  This collapse took place in the 1930s when a series of events became unbearable.   A contract to paint a mural in Radio City Music Hall fell through when the construction failed to meet deadlines. Stieglitz’s ongoing love affairs became blatant, and O’Keefe could no longer accept his assurances that she was the love of his life.  She found, too, that his insistence on dominating the direction of her career stifled her independence.  The passages in the book that convey this turmoil are fraught with helplessness and despair.  O’Keeffe experienced a grief that became a physical one, because of the death of her long relationship with Stieglitz.  There’s a sad healing realization toward the end that she had to be alone to fulfill her talent.

Like all books that are so well written and so revealing, this one has sparked my curiosity about the life of O’Keeffe.  I plan to re-read Roxana Robinson’s memorable Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in the near future.  Author Tripp cites it as one of her research sources for this lovely fictional rendition.  You just might wish to do the same.

 

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BOOKBROWSE: YOUR GUIDE TO EXCEPTIONAL BOOKS

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

Are you a reader who goes beyond the bestseller lists? Are you looking for new books that will enthrall you, that will keep you reading far into the night? Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and inspire you, and that you just can’t wait to share with your friends?

BookBrowse is an award-winning online resource for booklovers that offers an outstanding e-magazine and website that are packed with information about new and forthcoming books for discerning readers. It is available from Manhattan Public Library through the library’s website, it’s completely free and simple to use, and it offers:

  • A twice-monthly newsletter for avid readers, delivered directly to your email inbox
  • Previews of new books and notable authors publishing soon
  • Helpful reviews of the latest books in fiction and non-fiction
  • Recommendations of fiction by genre (mysteries, sci fi, romances) and by setting, time, and theme
  • Thousands of read-alikes by book and by author (as in, “if you liked X, you might also like Y or Z”)
  • Resources for book clubs, including book recommendations and reading and discussion guides
  • A readers’ blog with frequent posts about good books and reading lists
  • One-click direct links to our MPL catalog so you can locate the books that pique your interest and place your requests then and there.

The latest issue of “The BookBrowse Review” arrives in your email inbox automatically twice a month, and it’s a gem! With its new book recommendations, sneak previews of upcoming books, professional and reader reviews, and much more, readers can use it for building their reading lists, placing holds on books in the library, and requesting new purchases for the library’s collection.

As an avid reader myself, as well as someone who is frequently asked for book recommendations, I am a huge fan of the BookBrowse magazine. I’m always happy to see it when it pops up in my inbox and in every issue I find new books I want to check out. It’s a cinch to place requests on them in my MPL account (one click takes me to the catalog) or to submit a suggestion for purchase if the library doesn’t have them yet. The website and readers’ blog are equally fun. Just this week I was delighted to see a post in the BookBrowse blog, “A Spot of Britain: 10 Books Set in Britain,” written for grieving Downton Abbey fans!

But, as they say, don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s what others have said about BookBrowse:

“Bookbrowse gets an ‘A’ for easy-to-use info and smart advice; [it’s] the armchair version of browsing your favorite bookstore.” – Family Circle Magazine.

“[Bookbrowse] offers lengthy excerpts from select popular and literary titles.” – San Francisco Chronicle Best of the Web

“Once I discovered your site…all of my [book club] picks are from your lists and recommendations.  Thank you so much for making it so easy for me and others in our club to make great choices easily.” – Kim

 “Excerpts from the best books for sale now,…and we’re not talking teensy fragments.” – Yahoo Incredibly Useful Site of the Day

 “I have to tell you, when I finally found BookBrowse…I swear a light shone down on my monitor and angels began to sing!” – [the appropriately yclept] Angela

To sign up to receive the “BookBrowse Review” twice a month, or to catch up on previous issues, go to the MPL website at www.mhklibrary.org and click on the Books & More tab. Scroll down to click on the BookBrowse link, and then click on SUBSCRIBE in the “Free Newsletters” box.

Or come to the library and talk to one of the librarians at the second floor Reference Desk about BookBrowse and other readers’ services and guides.  They are trained and eager to help you find something good to read.

 

 

 

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Celebrate Women’s History Month!

March is Women’s History Month! Many women who had a hand in changing or making history have been overshadowed by the men of their era. We are all familiar with Clara Barton, Betsy Ross and Amelia Earhart, but there are many other women who were pioneers in their fields, overcoming prejudice and discrimination along the way.  Manhattan Public Library has many books that tell the stories of women adventurers, explorers, rebels and educators—women whose discoveries or adventures have inspired others or have changed the world. Some books that may be of interest are:

  • Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott. This fascinating book tells the stories of four women during the Civil War: Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides; Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War; the beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals; Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives. Their stories are remarkable and the strength, bravery and resilience of the women is extraordinary. This is a fascinating look at four women willing to place their lives on the line for their causes.
  • American Heroines: the Spirited Women who Shaped Our Country by Kay Bailey Hutchinson Author Hutchison tells the stories of women who overcame prejudice and resistance in their various field to become accomplished leaders. One such woman is Emma Willard, who founded the first school in the US for women’s higher education in 1821, and who advocated for the education of women all of her life. Hutchison also illustrates the accomplishments of more contemporary women who achieved their successes on the shoulders of the women who came before them.
  • African American Women of the Old West by Tricia Martinau WagnerWagner profiles ten remarkable women who went west to find a better future for themselves, but still faced the prejudice and ostracism of the time. Some were slaves, some free, and some were both during their lifetimes. One woman, Abby Fisher, a former slave, moved her family to San Francisco and first began cooking for wealthy residents, began a catering business, began a food manufacturing business, and eventually was the first former slave to publish a cookbook. Described in this book are nine other women including philanthropists, educators and businesswomen.
  • Medicine Women: the Story of Early-American Women Doctors by Cathy LuchettiBeing excluded from all-male medical schools caused nineteenth-century women to form their own colleges to learn medical skills. Forced to overcome prejudice against women, especially educated, professional women, along with a distrust of the medical field itself, early female doctors were forced to prove themselves time and time again. This book tells their stories through their own writings and through photographs and narrative. It is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of early frontier doctors—women who challenged the social norms of the time and overcame formidable obstacles to practice medicine.
  • Undaunted: the Real Story of America’s Servicewomen in Today’s Military by Tanya BiankDespite advances, today’s servicewomen are constantly pressed to prove themselves, to overcome challenges men never face, and to put the military mission ahead of all other aspects of their lives, particularly marriage and motherhood. By focusing on four individual stories,  this book brings to light the real issues they face–of femininity, belonging to an old boys’ club, veiled discrimination, dating, marriage problems, separation from children, questions about life goals, career trajectories, and self-worth. Undaunted is the story of these courageous trailblazers–their struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs in the name of serving the country they love.
  • Founding Mothers : the Women who Raised our Nation by Cokie Roberts. Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed, and Martha Washington — proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might never have survived. The  stories of these women prove beyond a doubt that like every generation of American women that has followed, the founding mothers used the unique gifts of their gender to be a force for change in a new nation.

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