Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hail and Farewell!

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Hi Readers!

At some time this week BlogaBook will be closing down.  I, Elizabeth Pratt, your heretofore anonymous Editor since December 29, 2006 when I wrote the opening post for BlogaBook, am retiring from the Materials Management Department of Harford County Public Library.  Over the years I have preferred to stay anonymous and let the books speak for themselves.  I hope you have enjoyed the mix of recreational reading I have showcased for you.  HCPL has a wonderful collection!  We are continuously adding to it the marvelous things you, our customers, tell us you want to read!

Over the years various members of our library staff, whose names you may have recognized, have posted guest reviews.  I want to thank all of them for their contributions!

HCPL is committed to helping you find the good books you like.  Look out for even more new and exciting ways to do this on our redesigned web pages very soon!

Happy reading!


Books to Movies – Masterpiece Book & Film Club

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

Masterpiece, the television institution on PBS, has a great website that tells you everything you want to know about Masterpiece and upcoming Masterpiece shows.  You can watch shows online, check the schedule, learn about the background to the shows, and even shop.

Perhaps most interesting to those who love both to read and watch movies is the MASTERPIECE Book & Film Club feature.  Click here to find out how to host and run a book and film club.  This is what it says:

“You love to read and watch movies. Why not combine your passion for both with a MASTERPIECE Book & Film Club? Gather with friends — in a library, at home, in a café — to talk about books, films, costumes, actors, and more.

A MASTERPIECE Book & Film Club combines the appeal of a book club with the opportunity be a film critic. It’s also a great way to get to know people in a new town or to meet like-minded people. Best of all, it’s fun!

We have provided all the tools you need for your Book & Film Club, including the Book and Film Club Handbook (PDF), plus guides with discussion questions, background info, activities, and even recipes. (If you’re an educator, don’t forget to check out over 30 MASTERPIECE Teacher’s Guides.)”

There are nearly thirty Book & Film Club Guides, organized by author or title. Some guides include several works by an author. You can download the PDFs and find related links from the Masterpiece archive.

Even if you don’t start a regular book and movie club, there are plenty of ideas here to enhance a single book discussion. Choose one of the classics behind a Masterpiece mini series, such as He Knew He Was Right, or the the books behind a series such as the Wallender mysteries.  Happy reading!


Literary Prize with a Sense of Humor

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Monday, May 19 The Guardian newspaper announced that Edward St. Aubyn has won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for his novel Lost for Words, a satire of literary awards (Find this book in our catalog).

At the Hay Festival May 24, St. Aubyn will be presented with a Gloucestershire Old Spot pig–to be named after his winning novel–the Everyman’s Library edition of P.G. Wodehouse and a selection of champagne.

Calling himself “delighted and grateful,” St. Aubyn said, “The only thing I was sure of when I was writing this satire on literary prizes was that it wouldn’t win any prizes. I was wrong. I had overlooked the one prize with a sense of humor.”

Here’s what it says about the book in our catalog:

“Edward St. Aubyn is “great at dissecting an entire social world” (Michael Chabon, Los Angeles Times). Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels were some of the most celebrated works of fiction of the past decade. Ecstatic praise came from a wide range of admirers, from literary superstars such as Zadie Smith, Francine Prose, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Michael Chabon to pop-culture icons such as Anthony Bourdain and January Jones. Now St. Aubyn returns with a hilariously smart send-up of a certain major British literary award. The judges on the panel of the Elysian Prize for Literature must get through hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year. Meanwhile, a host of writers are desperate for Elysian attention: the brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker Katherine Burns; the lovelorn debut novelist Sam Black; and Bunjee, convinced that his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm. Things go terribly wrong when Katherine’s publisher accidentally submits a cookery book in place of her novel; one of the judges finds himself in the middle of a scandal; and Bunjee, aghast to learn his book isn’t on the short list, seeks revenge. Lost for Words is a witty, fabulously entertaining satire that cuts to the quick of some of the deepest questions about the place of art in our celebrity-obsessed culture, and asks how we can ever hope to recognize real talent when everyone has an agenda”– Provided by publisher.


My Life in Middlemarch

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead

If you had to choose a book that has most influenced your life, what book would that be?  Many of us would be hard-pressed to zero in on any one book, but Rebecca Mead has a ready answer to the question:  Middlemarch by George Eliot.  My Life in Middlemarch is a personal memoir as well as a criticism of this great Victorian novel.  I will tell you now that it would greatly help you in the reading of Mead’s book if you have first read the novel.  Not only is the criticism, obviously, relevant if you are even a little familiar with the book, but the appreciation of Mead’s personal life connection becomes more acute.

Mead shares with us her love of Eliot’s great book, considered by many to be the greatest Victorian novel, and reminds us of Virginia Woolf’s astute view that this book is “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.”  Mead read the novel first in her adolescence and then many times beyond that, a book that led her from emerging adult to mature adult, and still, it does not lose its appeal.  It does, however, shift its meanings, as she grows up and older.  What might have been perceived as melodrama at one age becomes more poignant and real at another age.  A character who may seem a villain becomes more sympathetic as the reader ages.  Another may have some of his or her sheen diminished as a reader’s life views change.  Characters shift and grow as Mead’s perspective changes through age.  All along, she shares her enduring interest in the characters of  strong-willed Dorothea Brooks, the dry Reverend Casaubon, handsome Will Ladislaw, sensible Mary Garth, impulsive Fred Vincy and his sister, the superficial Rosamond Vincy, well-intentioned Dr. Lydgate, and so many others, who become Mead’s intimates over the several readings and ours too by the book’s end.

Mead draws into the discussion some of the critics of English literature to view the book, allowing their opinions to move the discussion forward.  She agrees or disagrees, offering other perspectives, another critical voice to mine the depths of this novel, exploring the characters and the themes.

As a child of English parents, raised in Great Britain, she understands something of the historical, cultural, and political landscape of the novel as well, having once lived near George Eliot’s own home town.  She traces Eliot’s life, along with the development and creation of the book, with parallels to her own life.  Sometimes the book influences her life; sometimes it reflects her life.

For a mix of memoir and criticism, as well as biography and cultural analysis, My Life in Middlemarch  has it all, sweeping the reader on from contemporary life to a 19th century one and back again, from personal observations of a novel to deeper analysis, all wrapped in one book that has influenced a woman above all other books.

D. L. S.

Jen’s Jewels with Nina Stibbe

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

As mothers, we always want what is best for our kids. This especially applies when searching for a suitable caregiver. Whether it’s a temporary babysitter or a full-time nanny, this specially selected person undertakes the responsibility of nurturing our children in our absence. Being able to forge a unique bond with this individual enables both parties to feel loved and respected. After all, we are in it together as one family, so to speak.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Nina Stibbe addresses this very topic in her new memoir, Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home. In a collection of unedited, original letters written to her sister, Nina shares her real-life experiences as a nanny to a prominent family in London in the 1980’s. With humorous stories of the two mischievous boys in her charge peppered with tender moments shared with their mum, she gives a brutally honest account of her unforgettable adventures.

As part of my interview, Little, Brown and Company has generously donated five copies for my readers to win in the trivia contest that follows the interview. Winners will be randomly drawn. Be sure to keep up-to-date on all the latest news in the publishing business by stopping by, follow me on Facebook, or on Twitter and Pinterest @JenniferVido. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels the ultimate source for news on the web for today’s hottest authors.

Jen: As a commissioning editor, your personal journey to publication is a story in itself. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please briefly share with us your educational and professional background.
Nina: At age 15, I was somehow entered for the less academic school examinations and left school in a huff without taking any exams at all. I already had a pocket-money job cleaning in a geriatric nursing home so I extended my hours there and joined the adult world. A couple of years later many of my friends were preparing to leave our village to go to university and I came to regret my hasty decision to leave school.

I realized – a bit late – that without my end of school exams I couldn’t go into higher education – – so I answered an advertisement in a magazine to be a nanny in London, which was the next best thing and at least meant I could leave home and have an adventure.

Once settled in my nanny job I met people who inspired me to catch up on my education and study in my spare time. I did this and eventually got a place at college and got my degree.

I then applied for assorted jobs and ended up working for Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich – an American company with a London office and finally became a commissioning editor. I’ve only ever worked in educational publishing (textbooks for teachers and students) and have had no experience of literary publishing, until now.

Jen: Please describe for us your “Aha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and write a memoir about your experiences as a nanny in London.
Nina: There was no “Aha!” moment really. My book is made up of the letters I wrote to my sister between 1982 and 1887. Luckily my sister kept them and found them again years later when she moved house in 1999. She and I read many of them and found them charming and funny. They were put away again then until 2007, when Andrew O’Hagan (the British author) contacted me to ask if I’d contribute to a book of tributes to Mary-Kay Wilmers (editor of the London review of Books) who I had nannied for. I dug out one of the letters (one which offered an amusing and naïve description of Mary-Kay). Andrew included it in his collection. People liked it and it was then that I wondered about the possibility of publishing the letters as a book. So, maybe that was the “Aha!” moment.

Jen: In terms of nuts and bolts, approximately how long did it take for you to compile the letters? And, what was the most challenging part of the process?
Nina: I wrote the letters over a period of five years. Once Penguin, my UK publisher, got hold of them, my editor was determined to publish them unedited as far possible. I had imaged all kinds of tweaking, but no, we left them pretty much as I wrote them.

Jen: How did MK, Sam, and Will react to the news of being featured in this memoir? Did you meet any resistance?
Nina: The most challenging part of the publishing process was convincing Mary-Kay (who features significantly in the letters along with Sam and Will) to agree to the publication. At first she said “No way!” I think Sam and Will were cool with it. But Mary-Kay had serious misgivings. I’m not sure what changed her mind. Maybe me badgering her.

Jen: As a nanny back in 1982, what was your biggest challenge in terms of adjusting to minding two young boys, Will and Sam, in a busy city?
Nina: I suppose, if anything, the cooking. Not that I had to do all of it. But when it was my turn, I produced some very ropey meals. But I loved the family and being in London pretty much straight away. I came from a bustling chaotic household and so none of it felt particularly challenging.

Jen: Your relationship with each child was quite special; however, it seemed as if you and Sam shared a special bond. What brought you two together as cohorts in crime, if you will?
Nina: It might seem like that because I spent slightly more time with Sam due to him sometimes being off school and I may have mentioned him more in the letters. Actually Will was equally a partner in crime.

Jen: I was especially taken with MK’s witty repartee and hilarious comments (about your driving skills, for example) throughout the book. How did your relationship evolve over the years?
Nina: I settled in and was comfortable straight away. I got along with Mary-Kay because she was honest, straightforward and funny. There was no hierarchy or grandness. I felt like one of the family. I was an equal.

Jen: The cast of real life characters you encountered during your nanny experience was rather notable. Who among the crowd made the biggest impression on you?
Nina: There were lots of interesting people such as: Alan Bennett, Clare Tomalin, Michael Frayn, Karel Reisz, Deborah Moggach, Jonathan Miller, Stephen Frears but to be honest, I didn’t take much notice of them – in terms of their accomplishments – I just noted which of them could reverse-park a car or make a decent cup of tea or read a story to Sam when he was feeling poorly. Looking back though, it was an incredible group of people to live among.

Jen: If you could turn back the hands of time, what, if anything, would you have done differently?
Nina: I might take more of an interest in the above cast of characters and all their amazing achievements as they happened.

Jen: How has the book’s publication affected your relationship with MK, Sam, and Will?
Nina: I’ve been to London more often (I now live in Cornwall, the far south west of the UK and about 5 hours from London) for literary events, so I’ve seen Mary-Kay and Sam more often. Not Will though as he lives in the US. But, they’ve been so pleased and excited about it, it’s been good.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. Please take us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Nina: My website is was created by my partner a year or so ago. I promised him I’d keep it up to date… it currently features some articles I wrote for the UK press and some reviews of Love, Nina in the UK. It’s a work in progress!

Jen: Are you present in social media? And, what is the best way for my readers to keep abreast of your latest news?
Nina: I’m @ninastibbe on twitter. I love Twitter and tweet lots of nonsense and pictures of my family and our cockapoo, Peggy. I’m less good at facebook and only follow one person, Sam (Frears) (so that I can see pictures of him rock climbing).

Jen: Are you currently at work on your next book? If so, what may you share with us?
Nina: My novel, Man at the Helm, comes out next year with Little, Brown.

Jen: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with my readers. Best of luck in all of your future projects!
Nina: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Nina. Please stop by your local bookstore, library, or online retailer and pick up a copy of Love, Nina today. Better yet, how would you like to win a free copy instead? Okay, send me an email at with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll be entered into the contest. Good luck! (Offer void where prohibited.)

What are the names of Nina’s two charges?

Next month, I will be chatting with Jan Elizabeth Watson about her upcoming release, What has Become of You. You won’t want to miss it.

One Maryland, One Book 2014

Monday, March 24th, 2014

The Maryland Center for the Book has announced that the selection for One Maryland One Book 2014 is The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande. (Find this book in our catalog)

The theme for 2014 is “the American Dream.” The titles suggested by the public last Fall touched on varied interpretations of the American Dream. The book selected by the committee covers a subject that we see frequently in the news today. Ms. Grande’s story is that of an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States when she was almost 10. The Distance Between Us tells her journey before and after coming to the U.S. She gained legal status at the age of 13. Today she teaches writing at UCLA Extension.

More information is available on the Maryland Humanities Council website. Click here for an interview from The Daily Beast with the author.


Stately Home Secrets

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Sometimes, it would seem, real life among the aristocracy of pre-World War I outdid the fictional lives of  TV’s Downton Abbey for family intrigues and tragic secrets.  The true story in The Secret Rooms: a true story of a haunted castle, a plotting duchess, and a family secret (find this book in our catalog) by Catherine Bailey is a case in point:

“For fans of Downton Abbey: the enthralling true story of family secrets and aristocratic intrigue in the days before WWI. After the Ninth Duke of Rutland, one of the wealthiest men in Britain, died alone in a cramped room in the servants’ quarters of Belvoir Castle on April 21, 1940, his son and heir ordered the room, which contained the Rutland family archives, sealed. Sixty years later, Catherine Bailey became the first historian given access. What she discovered was a mystery: the Duke had painstakingly erased three periods of his life from all family records-but why? As Bailey uncovers the answers, she also provides an intimate portrait of the very top of British society in the turbulent days leading up to World War I”– – (Baker & Taylor)

Catherine Bailey is an award-winning television producer and director of critically acclaimed documentary films inspired by her interest in twentieth-century history. She lives in London.


Oscar Nomations: Book-to-Film Adaptations

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Four of the nine best picture nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, which will be presented March 2, are based on books.

12 Years a Slave, based on the autobiography by Solomon Northup. (Find the book in our catalog)

Captain Phillips, based on A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty. (Find the book in our catalog)

The Wolf of Wall Street, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir. (Find the book in our catalog)

Philomena, based on The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith.  (Find the book in our catalog)


Books in the News – Sister, Mother…

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Delia Ephron, author of Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc. (Find in our catalog) has been in the news, including MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

We have this book in our catalog together with book descriptions and reviews.  Go to the catalog to place a hold.

“In Sister Mother Husband Dog, Delia Ephron brings her trademark wit and effervescent prose to a series of autobiographical essays about life, love, sisterhood, movies, and family. In “Losing Nora,” she deftly captures the rivalry, mutual respect, and intimacy that made up her relationship with her older sister and frequent writing companion. “Blame It on the Movies” is Ephron’s wry and romantic essay about surviving her disastrous twenties, becoming a writer, and finding a storybook ending. “Bakeries” is both a lighthearted tour through her favorite downtown patisseries and a thoughtful, deeply felt reflection on the dilemma of having it all. From keen observations on modern living, the joy of girlfriends, and best-friendship, to a consideration of the magical madness and miracle of dogs, to haunting recollections of life with her famed screenwriter mother and growing up the child of alcoholics, Ephron’s eloquent style and voice illuminate every page of this superb and singular work.” (Penguin Putnam)



Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Canadian author Alice Munro, “master of the contemporary short story,” according to the citation read by Peter Englund, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy.

In an interview after the announcement, Englund said, “I think no one has better deconstructed the central myth of modern romantic love; not just saying it means this or means that, but showing that people can feel very, very different things about it…. She is a fantastic portrayer of human beings.”

Munro’s books include:

 Dear Life.  “This collection of stories illuminates moments that shape a life, from a dream or a sexual act to simple twists of fate that turn a person out of his or her accustomed path and into another way of being. Set in the countryside and towns of Lake Huron, these stories about departures and beginnings, accidents, dangers, and homecomings both virtual and real, paint a portrait of how strange, dangerous, and extraordinary the ordinary life can be.”


Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage.  “A superb new collection from one of our best and best-loved writers. Nine stories draw us immediately into that special place known as Alice Munro territory–a place where an unexpected twist of events or a suddenly recaptured memory can illumine the arc of an entire life.

The fate of a strong-minded housekeeper with a “frizz of reddish hair,” just entering the dangerous country of old-maidhood, is unintentionally (and deliciously) reversed by a teenaged girl’s practical joke. A college student visiting her aunt for the first time and recognizing the family furniture stumbles on a long-hidden secret and its meaning in her own life. An inveterate philanderer finds the tables turned when he puts his wife into an old-age home. A young cancer patient stunned by good news discovers a perfect bridge to her suddenly regained future. A woman recollecting an afternoon’s wild lovemaking with a stranger realizes how the memory of that encounter has both changed for her and sustained her through a lifetime.

Men and women are subtly revealed. Personal histories, both complex and simple, unfold in rich detail of circumstance and feeling. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage provides the deep pleasures and rewards that Alice Munro’s large and ever- growing audience has come to expect.” – (Random House, Inc.)

Runaway.  “In Alice Munro’s superb new collection, we find stories about women of all ages and circumstances, their lives made palpable by the subtlety and empathy of this incomparable writer.

The runaway of the title story is a young woman who, though she thinks she wants to, is incapable of leaving her husband. In “Passion,” a country girl emerging into the larger world via a job in a resort hotel discovers in a single moment of stunning insight the limits and lies of that mysterious emotion. Three stories are about a woman named Juliet–in the first, she escapes from teaching at a girls’ school into a wild and irresistible love match; in the second she returns with her child to the home of her parents, whose life and marriage she finally begins to examine; and in the last, her child, caught, she mistakenly thinks, in the grip of a religious cult, vanishes into an unexplained and profound silence. In the final story, “Powers,” a young woman with the ability to read the future sets off a chain of events that involves her husband-to-be and a friend in a lifelong pursuit of what such a gift really means, and who really has it.

Throughout this compelling collection, Alice Munro’s understanding of the people about whom she writes makes them as vivid as our own neighbors. Here are the infinite betrayals and surprises of love–between men and women, between friends, between parents and children–that are the stuff of all our lives. It is Alice Munro’s special gift to make these stories as vivid and real as our own.” – (Random House, Inc.)

The View from Castle Rock.  “In stories that are more personal than any that she’s written before, Alice Munro pieces her family’s history into gloriously imagined fiction. A young boy is taken to Edinburgh’s Castle Rock, where his father assures him that on a clear day he can see America, and he catches a glimpse of his father’s dream. In stories that follow, as the dream becomes a reality, two sisters-in-law experience very different kinds of passion on the long voyage to the New World; a baby is lost and magically reappears on a journey from an Illinois homestead to the Canadian border.

Other stories take place in more familiar Munro territory, the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, where the past shows through the present like the traces of a glacier on the landscape and strong emotions stir just beneath the surface of ordinary comings and goings. First love flowers under the apple tree, while a stronger emotion presents itself in the barn. A girl hired as summer help, and uneasy about her “place” in the fancy resort world she’s come to, is transformed by her employer’s perceptive parting gift. A father whose early expectations of success at fox farming have been dashed finds strange comfort in a routine night job at an iron foundry. A clever girl escapes to college and marriage.

Evocative, gripping, sexy, unexpected—these stories reflect a depth and richness of experience. The View from Castle Rock is a brilliant achievement from one of the finest writers of our time.”- (Random House, Inc.)

Too Much Happiness.  “In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.

With clarity and ease, Alice Munro once again renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories that shed light on the unpredictable ways in which men and women accommodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.

Too Much Happiness is a compelling, provocative—even daring—collection.” – (Random House, Inc.)