Thursday, April 16, 2015

Historical Reads: Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes (2005).
Call #: Fiction Moyes (Adult New Books)
Find it in the catalog! 

I've been a big fan of British author Jojo Moyes's previous books including Me Before You and The Last Letter from Your Lover.  She writes smart, thoughtful and funny women's fiction, often times with a historical component.  One of the nice things about her growing popularity stateside is that several of her older works are now being widely published, including The Ship of Brides!

Set just after World War II and based loosely off of real events, this book follows the journey of 650 war brides from their native Australia to England to be reunited with their British husbands.  The brides travel aboard the HMS Victoria, a war ship, and are accompanied by over a thousand British naval officers.  The book primarily focuses on four women who share a cabin on this voyage. 

Maggie is a heavily pregnant farm girl who was raised by her father and is generally used to being surrounded by men.  Because she is a tomboy, she has no problem making friends with some of the men on the ship (in spite of the strict rules about fraternizing between the soldiers and the brides). She also has a warm personality and brings together the four roommates in spite their very diverse backgrounds.  Out of the roommates, Maggie has had the longest relationship with her husband, Joe. 

Avice is probably the least immediately likeable character.  She's a snooty and spoiled society girl who is unhappy with the conditions of her voyage, hoping to be on a cruise liner instead of a war ship.  She finds the other three girls to below her preferred station of friends, but it still somewhat fond of Maggie.

Jean is a teenage bride.  She is quite immature and always trying to have a good time. She knew Avice before the trip, and much to Avice's dismay, winds up sharing a cabin with her.  Jean comes from a more working class background than Avice and her love of partying sometimes gets her in trouble.

Finally, Francis was a war nurse with a mysterious past.  Francis is incredibly shy and tends to keep to herself, despite encouragement from Maggie and Jean.  She says very little about her past or the man she is married to, but acts as a strong advocate for Jean when she gets in trouble.  Because of her medical skills, she is also of assistance on the war ship.

As one might expect, despite very strict rules and punishments, there is still quite of bit of mischief between the brides and the soldiers, with much higher stakes for the brides.  As some brides begin to receive "Not Wanted, Don't Come" telegrams from their husbands, tensions begin to run high among the women on the ship.  Their is also a very sweet, Austen-esque romance between one of the women and a naval officer. 

I really liked the book, but had one minor quibble.  Avice is a pretty annoying character and it's easy to see where her plot line is going.  That said, she was a good foil for the rest of the girls, in particular Francis, who has the most compelling narrative.  Overall, this was a very enjoyable read about a little known part of history.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Are These?

Curated by: Jack Wendt 

March 8th-March 21st

The Fox River Valley Public Library District is teaming up with the Dundee Township Historical Society to promote National Preservation Week-April 26th through May 2nd, 2015-featuring an exhibit of the permanent collection of the Dundee Township Historical Society. The exhibit is located in the Children's Department and highlights commonly used items of Dundee Township's historical past. Good for children and adults alike!

National Preservation Week is April 26th-May 2nd. Please check out our program for events throughout the week.

Monday, March 9, 2015

While You’re Waiting For: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins…

Give one of these titles a try.

The tone of these books varies, (some are more dark and menacing than others,) but they all feature female protagonists in suspenseful, psychological thrillers, in which not everything is as it seems.

The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

When Mia, the 24 year old black sheep daughter of a prominent Chicago family, is kidnapped, her kidnapper decides to take her to a location other than the one chosen by his employers, in order to save her.

                               Kiss Me First – Lottie Moggach

Leila is so introverted that the Internet feels like the perfect place to join a community of people who care what she thinks and believe that she matters, and Red Pill feels like the perfect site. Aiden, the leader of the site, even recruits her for a special mission: Leila will learn to impersonate, online, another user of the site, named Tess, so that Tess can commit suicide without her family or friends realizing she has done so.
Reconstructing Amelia – Kimberly McCreight

Kate has always worried that she has put her career ahead of her 15 year old daughter’s needs too many times. When Amelia’s exclusive private school accuses her of cheating and suspends her, that self-accusation turns to horror and grief when Kate arrives at the school to discover Amelia has committed suicide by jumping off the school’s roof. The school, and the police, believes overachieving Amelia was simply distraught… until her mother receives a text reading: Amelia didn’t jump.

                                     Just What Kind of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly

Lisa Kalisto, an English suburban mother, is plunged into guilt and fear when her best friend’s daughter disappears, during the time Lucinda was supposed to be at Lisa’s house for a sleepover, and two weeks after the abduction of another local teen.

The Fever – Megan Abbott

When the teen girls, but not the boys, of her small town in Maine begin showing signs of an inexplicable epidemic, Deenie is trapped in a situation with eerie parallels to the events in The Crucible.

                                       Dare Me – Megan Abbott

Addy has always been the loyal second-in-command, and Beth the queen, of their high school cheerleading squad, but when a new coach turns the squad, and their lives, upside down, Addy discovers how frightening Beth can be.

The End of Everything -- Megan Abbott

As friends, thirteen year old girls can be inseparable, and will claim they know everything about each other, but when Lizzie’s friend Evie goes missing, she knows enough about her friend to follow clues the police ignore, but maybe not as much as she thought she did… about Evie, or about the neighborhood.

         How to be a Good Wife – Emma Chapman

Marta’s son is grown, and her husband ignores her – except for making sure that she always takes her medication. She has used a marriage manual, How To Be a Good Wife, given to her by her mother-in-law, as her life’s guide for two decades, but when Marta stops taking her medication, she experiences strange flashbacks, personality changes, and memories that may or may not be real.

Before I Go to Sleep – S.J. Watson

Christine is in her 40’s, but, due to an accident that created ongoing near-term memory loss, she wakes up every day believing she is in her 20’s. Her husband and doctor try to help, but when she re-reads the journal she has been keeping in an attempt to reconstruct her memories, she realizes she can trust only herself.

You may not be able to sleep well after reading some of these, but they'll keep you turning pages! (And if you want to place a a hold on The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, click on the title.)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Recommended Read: Popular Crime by Bill James

Author Bill James is most famous for his baseball abstract books. Popular Crime is quite the departure. This book will be a bit hard to fully explain, but here goes. The basic premise is a chronological review (at 482 pages!) of crimes that have impacted popular culture and/or the justice system. As a well-read true crime aficionado, he slips in critiques of books on the various crimes he discusses, he devises a system of labeling crimes, does some amateur sleuthing, and drops in his theories on why the justice system, and prisons in particular, need some reform.

Because the book is complex in topic it will turn-off some readers. However, I felt he wrote as though he was having a conversation with the reader. (And, who has a conversation in a completely linear way?) He has some interesting theories on the Kennedy assassination, and dissects the Lizzie Borden murders and Lindbergh baby kidnapping thoroughly (I won't divulge his opinions on the guilt or innocence in these cases). He doesn't touch on every famous case (Leopold and Loeb are missing, among others) and some cases you may not have heard of, but were a big deal in their time. Besides obviously appealing to true crime readers, it may also appeal to people interested in sociology and popular culture in general.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Non-Fiction

Here's a sampling of some new non-fiction book hitting our shelves:

Arts & Crafts: Living With the Arts & Crafts Style by Judith Miller. A photographic look at the wares of famous Arts & Crafts makers, from Grueby to Tiffany to Oakes.

Hand Made Baking: Recipes to Warm the Heart by Kamran Siddiqi. Perfect recipes for a cold winter night, with gorgeous photos help you along the way.

 It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario. Memoir of a female war photographer (who has been kidnapped twice).

Journeys Home: Inspiring Stories, Plus Tips & Strategies to Find Your Family History. Those interested in travel and/or genealogy will want to check this out. Includes an entry by Andrew McCarthy, the 80s "Brat Pack" actor. Lots of nice photos.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It's kind of amazing that this book is only 443 pages, although it does say "brief."

Selected Letters of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel with Christa Fratantoro. Letters of the famous 20th century poet. Presented chronologically by decade.

This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth?: From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets of What's Inside Everyday Products by Patrick Di Justo. Ignorance is bliss, right? After you read this, you might change your mind about some of the products you consume.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Motivation for the New Year

Are your New Year's resolutions waning by now? Did you even bother to make any? Well, if you're still hanging in there (or want to be inspired) try out these books.

For those of you planning to get healthier this year, I'd recommend The New Health Rules by Dr. Frank Lipman. This is not a diet book; it includes no elaborate plans or instructions. Every other page is a photo and an accompanying paragraph describing a lifestyle change to make. It reminds me greatly of Food Rules by Michael Pollan, but this book also incorporates exercise, the mind, and overall wellness.

If you're looking to clear the clutter, try The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I'm not hugely into this topic, but this book seemed different- and it is. Kondo challenges the status quo in de-cluttering. She does not advocate buying tons of storage bins (that's just organized hoarding). She doesn't want you to decide what to get rid of, but what to keep. She advises letting your items "rest" while not using them and to thank them for their service to you. It's a bit odd at times, but I think this book has the potential to really change lives.

If you're looking to just simplify your life (this can go along with the above recommendation), try Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott. Her points are about adopting the lifestyle she witnessed as an exchange student for six months in Paris. It's in line with the francophile books that have been popular the last several years, but I think Scott does a better job of describing ways of applying simpler ideals to your lifestyle. In particular, she discusses the idea of a capsule wardrobe, where you only keep and wear a small amount of clothing each season. Quality over quantity, from clothing to food. If you like this book, Scott recently published a companion book, Madame Chic at Home.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hot Sun… Blue Skies… Desert Sands…Tropical Breezes …

It’s warmer this week than last week, but we still have a lot of winter ahead of us. So, to make everybody feel better, the card catalog display features books set in places where the sun is shining and the skies are blue: Miami, Hawaii, Arizona… Singapore and Mexico… Saudi Arabia and the Caribbean…

Read about romance, solve a mystery, or learn something new about a warmer latitude.

Or you can check out the featured titles for this week:

The All You Can Dream Buffet –Barbara O’Neal
Lavender Wills has spent most of her life on her Oregon farm, creating a legacy within the organic food movement. When she realizes that her heirs will be her nephews, who will sell the farm to the highest bidder, she invites her three closest online friends to visit her, without telling them that she plans to leave her farm to one of them.

Vanessa and Her Sister – Priya Parmar
Vanessa has always made her sister Virginia the focus of her support and attention, even after they move to London in 1905 and form a bohemian group of friends known as the Bloomsbury Group.

The Scent of Death – Andrew Taylor
During the Revolutionary War, while Manhattan is held by the British, Edward Savill arrives in the city from London. He will be investigating the claims of loyalists dispossessed by the rebellion, but his overall orders require the ‘administration of justice in the city in all its aspects.’ He believes, even though British military authorities disagree, that this includes the investigation of murder, especially when that murder could affect the outcome of the war.