Archive for September, 2008

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Don’t be afraid to start the hugely popular Jack Reacher series of thrillers here. Nothing to Lose is number 12, but can be read as a stand-alone. The background details are sketched in for the reader without becoming an intrusive digression to the action – you will be intrigued and will want to find out more about what brought our hero to this point.

When the book opens, Jack Reacher, a retired military policeman is hitch-hiking to San Diego. His rides have brought him to the town of Hope, Colorado. We learn that it is Reacher’s deliberate choice to travel as light as possible: just with the clothes he stands up in and with a credit card in his pocket. He is not destitute, he just deliberately rejects most of the trappings of society. We learn that he is a large man, intimidating looking, with huge physical reserves, and an accurate clock in his head. Everything he is was forged by his lifetime as an MP – probably including his highly developed sense of justice, which is the key to this story of revenge and of righting wrongs.

The next town only 12 miles down Reacher’s road from Hope is Despair. When he gets there he is arrested, spends a night in the cells and then is expelled from the town under its local vagrancy ordinance. It appears that Despair allows no strangers within its town limits. Reacher returns to Hope. What he should do next is continue his journey by another route, but violence has been done to him and injustice. Already Reacher is compelled to find out about some things that he has noticed are very wrong in Despair.

Nothing to Lose is full of action, fighting, and covert operations. At the same time the plot is complex. Reacher needs to sort out many things that puzzle him. Why does Despair allow no strangers? Why are many workers in Despair apparently weak and sick? Why are young men disappearing in Despair disappearing, while young women wait for them in a motel in Hope? What is the huge industrial complex in Despair behind a high, shiny, white metal wall? Why does a small plane take to the skies every evening and return every daybreak?

In his quest for revenge and to put things right, Reacher teams up with a female deputy sheriff, a consummately professional law officer with secrets of her own. Lee Child is a master at showing a wide range of complex emotion in both his male and female characters and this gives depth and credibility to his book. So does the accurate observation of scenes and the richness of descriptive detail. These touches of reality will keep you grounded as, along with Reacher himself, you slowly come to realize the enormity of just what exactly is going on in Despair.

Cedric Jennings appearing at HCC

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Cedric Jennings, the subject of the One Maryland One Book project book A Hope in the Unseen, will be appearing on Monday, October 6 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at Harford Community College. The story chronicles the inspirational journey of Cedric from his inner-city high school to the Ivy League. The program will take place in the Chesapeake Center. Free seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 4:45 pm. Cedric will talk about his life and then will answer questions from the audience.
This program is presented by the Maryland Humanities Council in partnership with Harford Community College and HCPL.
For more information about Maryland’s first statewide community reading program, visit
Join us for a visit with Cedric Jennings!

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin plus some other autobiographies.

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life by Steve Martin.(2008)
The Abingdon Book Discussion Group meets the third Monday of the month. For September we had read Steve Martin’s autobiography. Only one person in the group really enjoyed this book. The rest of us were somewhat disappointed. Perhaps this was partly because as women we look for the relationships between characters (whether in fiction or non-fiction)& we did not find them here. Martin’s book explores the reasons he became a comedian, from his days at Disneyland working in a magic shop, through his comedy routines at Knott’s Berry Farm, to his time as a stand-up comedian & his eventual success on Saturday Night Live. But, if you are looking for insight into his public life, Martin is very coy. He gives us almost nothing about his two marriages, and does not delve into his friendships. This is a book written by a very private and possibly shy man. It works as a commentary on the hard work and loneliness inherent in doing stand-up, but don’t look for Hollywood glitz.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Neatly combining his personal and professional worlds, beloved comedian, filmmaker, author, magician and banjoist Martin (Pure Drivel) chronicles his life as a gifted young comedian in this evocative, heartfelt memoir, which proves less wild and crazy than wise and considerate-though no less funny for it. The typically reticent performer shares rarely disclosed memories of childhood-his father, a failed actor, harbored increasing anger toward his son through the years-and the anxiety attacks that plagued him for some two decades, along with his early success as a television comedy writer, first for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and the evolution of his stand-up routine. Sharp insight accompanies stories of his first adult gig (at an empty San Francisco coffee house), his pioneering “no punch lines” style (“My goal was to make the audience laugh but leave them unable to describe what it was that had made them laugh”), appearances on programs like The Steve Allen Show and breakthrough moments with small, confused audiences. Though vivid and entertaining throughout, Martin doesn’t dish any behind-the-scenes dirt from Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show; rather, he’s warm and generous toward everyone in his life, including girlfriends and colleagues. Tellingly, this intimate early career recap ends not with Martin’s decision to give up live performance or his film debut The Jerk, but with a visit to his parents and Knott’s Berry Bird Cage Farm, where he first performed as a teenager.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

These are some other autobiographies you might try:

The best I have read in ages, for being sincere, humorous, and modest.
Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair by Gary David Goldberg.(2008)
I recently had to fly to Cincinatti & was looking for something to read on the plane. I picked up this book by chance, and thought it sounded good – at that time I had no idea who Gary Goldberg was. It is such a lovely book, easy to read, funny and a wonderful tribute to his wife who has supported him throughout his career.

From Publishers Weekly
Goldberg, a TV scriptwriter and producer, fondly recalls his rocky, improbable route to Hollywood success, including the people who helped him along the way. Funny, dry and self-deprecating, Goldberg cuts swiftly through the years, from the mid-1950s growing up in a loving extended Jewish family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, to his scruffy vagabonding in 1972 in Europe with his pregnant girlfriend, Diana, and their canny Labrador dog, Ubu. He sold his first scripts to TV shows in the 1970s, prompting his move from New York to California with Diana, who opened a day-care center. Goldberg took a class with scriptwriter Nate Monaster, who motivated him and helped submit his work to Los Angeles producers. Soon enough, Goldberg’s scripts for the Bob Newhart Show, the Tony Randall Show and the MTM empire gave him the clout to start his own company, UBU (named for the beloved dog he eventually gave away, by the by), launching such pilots as Family Ties for the networks. Indeed, Goldberg’s memoir is a kind of love letter to longtime partner Diana as well as to Michael J. Fox, with whom he later worked on Spin City. His professed guilt for making fistfuls of money while making people laugh renders this work effortlessly likable. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner and David Fisher (2008)
A likeable book, his autobiography includes Shatner promoting Priceline & the various sites that sell Star Trek memorabilia in a humorous & self-deprecating manner. His style is chatty, you feel as if he is in the room with you, and he includes many funny anecdotes. However, there is no mistaking how hard he worked and how he lived on very little money for many years before he became rich & famous. Not just for Trekkies, this is a heartwarming and interesting reflection on the drive that is needed to succeed as an actor as well as the sacrifices that are often made in the early years.

From Publishers Weekly
Working with various collaborators, Shatner has previously written science fiction (the TekWar series) and science fact (I’m Working on That), and ventured into memoir with Star Trek Memories. Embarking on a full-scale autobiography, he begins with his Montreal childhood doing children’s theater, then covers comedies with the Canadian National Repertory Theatre, lead roles with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and live TV in New York City in 1956: I became one of the busiest actors in the city. At that point Shatner opens a Pandora’s box of self-deprecating humor and fascinating anecdotes about the hilarious goofs, on-camera accidents and stage fright during the live TV era. Obsessed with work, Shatner took any job that came his way, from dog shows to reality TV. Some of his tales are quite funny, such as doing an entire feature film, Incubus (1965), in Esperanto: No one understood their lines. Covering his multiple careers of acting, writing and directing, he never pulls his punches, describing humiliations as well as triumphs. Shatner’s sincerity, honesty and heightened sense of humor all come across at warp speed in this entertaining memoir. (May 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

For you Anglophiles
Home: A Memoir of My Early Years by Julie Andrews(2008)
The first part of the book that deals with Andrews’ childhood is very interesting as it reflects the war years (WWII) and their aftermath in Britain. Although sometim
es a little long, and sometimes going into more detail of her singing practices than I needed, when I reached the end I still wanted more. This autobiography ends with Julie’s role as Mary Poppins, and for any of her fans, I hope she writes a second memoir as I am sure you will all want to know about her later acting and writing career.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Andrews, who has written several children’s books (The Great American Mousical; Mandy), both solo and with her daughter, now dances in a different direction with this delightful remembrance of her own childhood and engrossing prelude to her cinematic career. Spanning events from her 1935 birth to the early 1960s, she covers her rise to fame and ends with Walt Disney casting her in Mary Poppins (1963). Setting the stage with a family tree backdrop, she balances the sad struggles of relatives and hard drinkers with mirthful family tales and youthful vocal lessons amid rationing and the London Blitz: My mother pulled back the blackout curtains and gasped—for there, snuggly settled in the concrete square of the courtyard, was the incendiary bomb. A BBC show led to a London musical at age 12: My song literally stopped the show. People rose to their feet and would not stop clapping. Her mother’s revelation of her true father left her reeling when she was 15, but she continued touring, did weekly BBC broadcasts and was Broadway-bound by 1954 to do The Boyfriend. The heart of her book documents the rehearsals, tryouts and smash 1956 opening of My Fair Lady. Readers will rejoice, since Andrews is an accomplished writer who holds back nothing while adding a patina of poetry to the antics and anecdotes throughout this memoir of bittersweet backstage encounters and theatrical triumphs. (Apr. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

If you love books, you are going to love this entry into a relatively new genre – the literary thriller. It begins as Jake Mishkin, a New York intellectual property lawyer, son of a Jewish mobster, disappointed actor, Olympic weight-lifter, and rake about town is typing out his story as he waits in a remote cabin for his probable killers – a story that began with the discovery of some supposedly 17th century documents in some damaged rare books. Carolyn Rolly, a gorgeous and mysterious amateur bookbinder is helped in defrauding the bookshop owner of the documents by Albert Crosetti, a computer technician and film history buff. Their find is the 1642 letter of a certain Bracegirdle, a gunner mortally wounded in an English Civil War battle and writing to his wife so that she may tell their small son the story of his father’s life. The letter purports to reveal the existence of an hitherto unknown play by William Shakespeare. Along with the letter there are some other sheets written in cipher. Realizing that the letter alone will set the literary and academic world on its ear and is worth a countless amount of money, but that they cannot honestly claim ownership of it, Carolyn and Crosetti quickly sell the manuscript to a disgraced Shakespearean scholar. The deal is shady at the least. At the last moment Crosetti succeeds in making a copy of the letter and concealing the existence of the ciphered sheets. Both copy and sheets he keeps for himself. He hopes to decipher the sheets, which he supposes contain the actual location of the lost play. The actual play would be even more priceless than a document referring to it.

If you love books about codes and puzzles you will truly enjoy this book. There is a great deal of technical detail revealed as Crosetti, his mother, a retired librarian, and her friends try to break the cipher.

If you love thrillers and flights to and fro across the Atlantic to the capitals of Europe in private jets, you won’t be able to put this book down. Jake the lawyer gets involved when the Shakespeare scholar lodges the document with him for safekeeping. Very shortly after that the police inform Jake that his client has been tortured to death. Jake is also quickly visited by another mysterious and alluring girl who says she is the scholar’s heir, and by a terrifying Russian gangster who says he is the true owner of the document. Unfortunately, Jake has allowed the document to disappear with the girl, who appears to be a fraud. To save his reputation and his life Jake teams up with Crosetti to find the lost play. Their two accounts of what happens, together with the account of Bracegirdle’s life, add up to increase the complexity of the plot.

If you enjoy plot twists and doubling back you will more than appreciate this convoluted story. You will think you can see where things are leading; but you won’t know what is truly happening until the last page, and even then you may not be sure!

Mysterious Minds book group goes on field trip

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Our August meeting of the Mysterious Minds (the Bel Air Library’s mystery book discussion group) was out of the ordinary for us, but one of our most pleasant evenings yet! We didn’t meet at the library but at Tudor Hall (Harford County’s own historic treasure – the Booth family home). The Center for the Arts currently occupies Tudor Hall and staff person Kathy Cochran gave us a brief tour. After that, we enjoyed the lovely summer evening on the patio as we discussed the various mysteries that still surround Lincoln’s assassination at the hand of John Wilkes Booth. Not our typical mystery discussion, but our group likes to mix things up!

Awards Round-up September 2008

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Finalists for the 2008 Thurber Prize AnnouncedThe Thurber Prize for American Humor will be presented at a ceremony at New York’s Algonquin Hotel on October 6.

Man Booker Shortlist announced September 9 Click here for the official news article
The shortlisted titles for the 2008 Man Booker Prize, which “promotes the
finest in fiction,” are:
* The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
* The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
* Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
* The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant
* The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
* A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
The winning title will be chosen and announced Tuesday, October 14.

Author Ron Suskind to appear at Baltimore Book Festival Sept 27

Friday, September 12th, 2008

The Maryland Humanities Council September 2008 E-Newsletter includes an article about this year’s One Maryland One Book selection, A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League.

MHC invites you to meet the book’s author, Ron Suskind at the Baltimore Book Festival on September 27.

Said Maryland Humanities Council, “Jennings’ appearance to a packed house at Montgomery College was recently featured in the Washington Post and the Gazette newspapers. To find an appearance near you, visit MHC’s website. And be sure to take part in one of the more than 100 book discussions centered on A Hope in the Unseen taking place at libraries and other locations throughout the fall. Or, host your own discussion using our FREE reading guide! For more information on these events, or on OMOB, contact Andrea Lewis at 410-685-0095, or visit”

Joppa branch holds a “fantastic” book discussion, says moderator

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Joppa had a fantastic book discussion on Thursday, August 28 about Kim Edward’s book The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. Find this book in our catalog

According to the summary in our catalog, “This riveting family drama …explores every mother’s silent fears–losing a child and that the child grows up without her.”

There were a total of nine attending the Joppa discussion. We discussed questions such as:
1.Who is “the memory keeper?” How do memories move the story along? What are the different ways characters deal with remembrance and memory?
2. What was your initial reaction when David gave Phoebe away? Could you sympathize with his decision? What caused him to give her up?
3.The more time passed, the harder it became for David to tell Norah the truth about Phoebe. Did her reasons for not telling her change over time? Why don’t you think he ever came clean? Did you want him to tell her? Would it have saved his marriage or destroyed it? How might it have affected Phoebe, Caroline and Al?

At the meeting, attendees were pleased to have the choice of voting on a list of proposed future selections. Future books will include (details TBA):
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Sea by John Banville
Innocent Man by John Grisham
Good Earth by Pearl Buck
Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall
Triangle by Katharine Weber
Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen
When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton
Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell

One Maryland One Book update Sept 8

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Good news! Cedric Jennings, the subject of the book A Hope in the Unseen, has announced that he will be at the One Maryland One Book program at HCC on Monday, Oct. 6.

Because of anticipated increased demand for places at the program, the plans for this program have now changed. HCC can no longer offer a free dinner with the program. The program will now be “first come first served” for seating. If anyone calls HCC to register for the program, the person taking the calls will explain the new format.

Conversation with author, David Matthews

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Apologies for the shortness of the notice: I have been out sick for a week and just saw the press release for this event myself this morning. I thought it was worth drawing to your attention, however – it sounds like a pleasant way to spend an hour or so at lunch time.

David Matthews, author of Ace of Spades, will discuss his memoir of growing up in segregated 1980s Baltimore as the white-looking son of a Black Nationalist father and a Jewish mother on Tuesday, September 9 from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm at the HCC student center.
Stay for lunch and conversation with the author for a $10.00 fee. Call 410-836-4176 for registration information.

Find this book in our catalog. Here is a summary of the book from our catalog: “”When David Matthew’s mother abandoned him as an infant, she left him with white skin and the rumor that he might be half Jewish. For the next twenty years, he remained torn between his actual life in the ghetto of 1980s Baltimore and the world of white privilege he imagined.” “Forced to choose between black and white, he took what seemed to him the path of least resistance: he adopted the snarky persona of his well-to-do Jewish classmates, whose lives seemed so much easier than his own. And when his father moved them into a dilapidated house in the heart of the ghetto, Matthews’s light skin was suddenly no longer an easy way out: it was a liability. Haunting his every misadventure, from cross burning to drug deals gone awry, was his helplessness to forget the mother he never knew.”

See also our catalog for reviews of the book and first chapter excerpts.