Calliope Jenkins, singer turned PI, heads back to Iowa to find her missing business partner, Josh White, who keeps leaving messages for her after his reported death. Following Josh’s trail takes Calliope into the Hidden Lands, an alternate Midwest, where legendary creatures and mighty dragons roam. Provoked by a guide and a goad, Calli learns to confront her own fears of making a life for herself and dealing with losing her best friend. in Hidden Things, debut novelist Testerman, provides a satisfying blend of noir and magic with sweet revelations –a mundane piece of tire tread turns out to be a lilac-scented dragon scale.
“When my cell phone rang, I’d just finished cutting up my marriage mattress.” Melanie’s husband left her for another woman. Her best friend, B.J., wants her to attend their high school class reunion, which is the last thing she wants. But when an old flame, Finn Miller, starts emailing her, she imagines a possible romance and gives in to B.J.’s hounding.
Melanie’s means of income is the sale of sculptures she creates from scrap metal. Her latest sale, a metal fountain she entitled Endless Loop, has sprung a leak. When she arrives to repair the fountain, she finds the owner, Tim Brody, very handsome and intriguing, even if he is miffed about his recent purchase. And Tim finds other reasons to keep in contact with Melanie.
Time Flies when B.J. and Melanie have some crazy adventures in Mustang Sally, B.J.’s convertible, as they meet and prepare for the reunion. Big times roll with a case of “Tab” and a visit to the tattoo parlor. Phobias come to light when B.J. almost passes out at the sight of a needle, and Melanie has a melt down on the entrance ramp of the highway. Happenings at the reunion are far from any expectations and Melanie longs for home and a special order from Tim.
By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director
One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Kansas State Agricultural College, now Kansas State University, welcomed its first students. That same year, 1863, witnessed the three bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Already in its third year, the conflict was far from over. Between May 1-4, 1863 over 30,000 Union and Confederate soldiers became casualties of war at Chancellorsville. In September 19-20, the Battle of Chickamauga added another 34,000 casualties to the Butcher’s Bill. In between those dates, on July 1-3, more than 51,000 soldiers of both the North and South were casualties at Gettysburg. Dead, wounded, missing, and captured soldiers on both sides totaled over 342,000 in 1863 alone.
In “The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign,” Shelby Foote wrote an epic account of another important battle of 1863. Foote told the story of Ulysses S. Grant, who, in addition to confronting difficult terrain and a heavily fortified city, was forced to contend with a politically ambitious rival, General John McClernand. Grant’s victory led to his eventual promotion as commander of all the Union armies.
Better known as the author of “Forrest Gump,” Winston Groom also wrote “Vicksburg, 1863.” In an exciting and balanced account of one of the most decisive campaigns of the war, Groom puts his readers into the hearts and minds of both the citizens and the soldiers living the battle and enduring hardships in the besieged city.
Gettysburg was perhaps the greatest of all Civil War battles. It turned the tide of the war, stopping the Confederate army’s northern advance, and putting Lee on the defensive for the remainder of the war. Historians have written at length about the Gettysburg campaign, but perhaps none better than Shelby Foote. In his “Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign,” Foote puts his readers on the battlefield, with the swirling smoke and clash of weapons. Foote’s history reads as great literature.
“Gettysburg,” by Stephen W. Sears is another excellent book about the Gettysburg campaign. Based on years of research, this book is a must read for anyone interested in the Battle of Gettysburg. Sears began his study with Robert E. Lee arguing with Jefferson Davis in favor of marching north. He ended with the battered Army of Northern Virginia re-crossing the Potomac two months later. In between is the detailed story of how the winning of Confederate independence on the battlefield was put out of reach forever.
Joseph E. Stevens presented a popular history of the watershed year in “1863: The Rebirth of a Nation.” Using personal letters, official documents, and rare photographs, Stevens brings a remarkable cast of characters to life. Leaders Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, generals Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, James Longstreet, Joseph Hooker, and industrialists Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller are just a few of the actors on the stage. Stevens didn’t ignore the smaller than life characters, sharing the stories of soldiers and civilians, slaves and slave owners, farmers and urbanites.
The 3,000 citizens of Lawrence, Kansas managed to escape the Civil War until Quantrill’s raid on August 21, 1863. The attack began at dawn and by the time it was over, more than 150 people were dead and most of Lawrence had been burned to the ground. In “Bloody Dawn,” author Thomas Goodrich considered why William Quantrill singled out the town of Lawrence to receive his wrath, and described the retribution that followed on the heels of the massacre.
In reading about the Civil War, don’t neglect works of fiction on the subject. Stephen Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage,” for example, is known for its realistic battle scenes and its delving into the inner experience of the protagonist. Young Henry Fleming is worried about how he will stand up in the heat of battle. Will he remain true and fight, or will he run? Historians believe that the fictional battle portrayed in the book is based on the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Michael Shaara wrote the classic novel about Gettysburg. In “The Killer Angels,” he described the battle through the eyes of Lee, Longstreet, and others who fought there.
If you are interested in reading about the Civil War, Manhattan Public Library has the books you’re looking for.
I found this newest story by Lisa Scottoline to be timely reading for the Memorial Day holiday we just experienced. Dr. Mike Scanlon, a podiactric surgeon, has been called up by the Army Reserves to serve in Afghanistan. Blast wounds to the lower extremities were the signature wound of Operation Enduring Freedom, so Mike was one of the busiest doctors in his team. Just one month from completing his tour of duty, his gets the horrendous news that his wife has died in their own kitchen from an accident with a knife, leaving their seven month old baby girl without a mother. An intriguiing mystery develops as Mike discovers a secret about his wife and a stranger that had come into her life while Mike was gone. Lisa shares much about the details of army life in a war torn country, how former soldiers are affected by war and how they and their families then have to readjust once they are home. This is interspersed in a dynamic and emotional story of family love and murder. Read Don’t Go and you will appreciate our military personnel in a much deeper way.
By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager
Avid fiction readers are well aware of some of this summer’s noted bestsellers. Enthusiasm is high for Dan Brown’s latest thriller, “Inferno” and for Khaled Hosseini’s “And the Mountains Echoed.” But what about those less publicized titles that are equally promising? For your summer reading, I would suggest fresh alternatives like:
· “Crazy Rich Asians” by Kevin Kwan. Rachel Chue is flattered that her boyfriend has invited her to travel with him to his family home in Singapore for the summer. Little does she know, however, that he hails from an incredibly wealthy family. She is about to embark on an unbelievable encounter with wealthy Asians at play. The power moves and scandals make for lighthearted, hilarious reading.
“The Silver Star” by Jeannette Walls. The author of the long-time bestselling “Glass Castle” now turns to fiction. Teenage sisters Bean and Liz Holladay are running short of options when their irresponsible mother leaves to spend time by herself. The two head to Virginia where their mother grew up, hoping the extended family will accept them. But life is not easy, and the girls will experience profound changes in their new home.
· “Big Brother” by Lionel Shriver. Pandora and her husband, Fletcher, have drifted apart. He is a weight-conscious cabinetmaker who bikes daily to stay fit, while Pandora is a plump wife who loves to cook. She is excited by her older brother’s impending visit, but when she meets him at the airport, she is horrified to discover that the once-slim Edison has put on hundreds of pounds. Shriver’s latest novel is an exploration of family love, respect and obesity.
· “Aftershock” by Andrew Vachss. The crime is clear: a young high school girl deliberately shoots and kills a young boy. Local residents Dolly and her ex-mercenary husband, Dell, think there is more to this story than local law enforcement officials believe. Together they begin an investigation that leads them into dangerous brushes with long-hidden secrets and old crimes. What is it about this village that has hurt so many?
· “Looking for Me” by Beth Hoffman. Teddi Overman has a solid reputation as a restorer of antiques. Her life in Charleston is blessed with loving friends and a long client list. Life goes well until she discovers rumors that her brother Josh, who disappeared years ago, may actually be alive. To alleviate her own questions about her missing sibling, Teddi returns to her childhood home in Kentucky. Naturally, she’ll have to confront hurt feelings and estrangements from her childhood.
· “Red Sparrow” by Jason Matthews. This contemporary spy thriller features a Russian spy, Dominika Egorova, who is directed to become a “sparrow,” or professional seductress. Her target is CIA officer, Nate Nash, whom she is supposed to trap in a compromising situation. The plan goes well, until the two begin to fall for each other, and the scheming takes on a breakneck speed. A good spy tale from a former CIA officer.
· “The Last Original Wife” by Dorothea Benton Frank. Leslie Abbe Greene Carter is an oddity. In a social world of powerful men who have all remarried younger, prettier and more vivacious women, Leslie is the lone original. Feeling out-of-place and ignored by a husband who feels his marriage is a big favor to her, she determines to return to her childhood home in Charleston. What will she find there? She hopes it will be the promises of her youth, but perhaps life has something else in store for her. A gentle tale of what is important in life.
· “The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope” by Rhonda Riley. This is an unusual love story. Shortly after World War II, recent high school graduate Evelyn takes over the running of a farm that belonged to a relative. In a field one day, she discovers what she believes to be a badly injured war veteran. As days pass, she nurses this individual back to health only to realize that “Adam” is not of this world. He mutates into a kind and dependable man who becomes her husband and the father of her five daughters. A beautifully written tale of life’s joy and hardships.
For these intriguing books and other terrific, new titles, plan a visit to the library for some welcome summer reading.
Zachary North, a man who has spent years in the midst of photographying the horrors of war, must come out to recover from its affects. He isn’t eating, sleeping, or talking. Serena Stone, a second generation photojournalist who had previously covered war in the middle east, is the only person that can help him overcome the haunting intrusions that occupy his mind. Through Zachary’s recovery, Serena discovers many Secrets From the Past leading her & Zac back to the war scenes of Libya to untangle the mysteries of her own family troubles that she had previously never known existed.
Cordell Logan, flight instructor and former CIA operative, is involved in another mystery Fangs Out, which is the second novel in this series. (The first is Flat Spin.) Logan is hired by Viet Nam hero Hub Walker when the killer of Walker’s daughter, just before his execution, claims his innocence and implicates someone else in the murder. Logan is drawn into the mystery and becomes involved in murders, a plane crash and attempts on his life. Cordell Logan is a fascinating character, a person trying to reinvent himself and not quite living up to the Buddhist teachings he is trying to adopt. Filled with humorous dialog, a fascinating and likeable main character, a complex plot, an ex-wife he can’t seem to leave in his past, an intriguing mystery and exciting flying scenes, this is a mystery to appeal to readers who love suspense and action–read it and also learn the origin of this unusual title!
After her husband dies is a car accident, Libby Moran and her two children are devastated and are in financial trouble– forced to move in with her mother–a critical, self-absorbed person that Libby finds difficult to live with. When her estranged Aunt Jean offers the family a place to live on her small Texas farm, Libby is quick to accept the offer and to start a new life. Libby and her children must adapt to the challenges and joys of life on a farm and of meeting new people. The Lost Husband is a touching story of struggling to start over, accepting change, taking chances and of finding new joys and happiness. Filled with quirky, interesting characters and humorous dialog, this is an uplifting and satisfying tale of the journey of a family towards a new life.
Every village has it eccentrics. In Norbold, England, it’s Gabriel Ash, a grief-stricken loner, known locally as “Rambles with Dog” for his long solitary walks about the community. Gabriel is beaten by a gang of local thugs and is taken to a holding cell at the jail when he refuses treatment for his injuries. A cellmate, Jerome, whispers to Gabriel that he expects to die and gives Gabriel a coded message to pass on. Jerome’s last words were, “I had a dog once, Othello.” That night, Jerome is beaten to death in another cell by a drunken berserk prisoner. The police say that Jerome was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Gabriel doesn’t believe it and teams up with Helen, a rookie cop, to prove it wasn’t an accident. Bannister departs from her Brodie Farrell mysteries in Deadly Virtues, a stand-alone thriller.
Friendship can appear when you least expected it–a new neighbor, a stranger on the bus, or, as in the case of Robot & Frank, a small robot to help your senility.
Frank, a professional cat burglar now retired, struggles with the realities of elderly life. When his children realizes that their father is beset with dementia, they decide to purchase a caretaker robot (yes, robot) to help him with daily life and, hopefully, slow his cognitive decline. While the robot is designed to help Frank with day-to-day life, Frank quickly realizes that he could also help him return to his former profession.
Frank immediately sets his sights on the local library, which is being renovated and turned into a community center. His goal? Stealing a valuable edition of Don Quixote to foil the plans of the developer in charge of the renovations and win the affections of a beautiful librarian. This, of course, does not go as planned, as his daughter begins to question the ethics of a helper robot and his relationship with the local librarian proves more complicated than Frank expected.
While the theme of dementia is generally not lighthearted, Robot & Frank manages to be an otherwise amusing and quirky film. Frank Langella, Susan Saradon, and the rest of the cast are fantastic in their emotionally difficult roles, and the dialogue is fast paced and amusing. But most importantly, by focusing on our ability to find companionship in the oddest of places, it affirms the connections and relationships that we develop throughout our lifetimes.
Patron Saint of Lost Dogs is veterinarian Nick Trout’s first novel–his other works of nonfiction (Tell Me Where it Hurts, Ever by My Side and Love is the Best Medicine) are popular glimpses into his life as a veterinarian. He tells the story of Cyrus Mills, a Charleston vet who is reluctantly called back to his hometown in Vermont and to the veterinary practice begun by his late father. Cyrus is a veterinary pathologist and is not looking forward to attempting to practice as a vet and deal with living animals and owners, but problems in Charleston have forced him to return to try to sell the practice. His first encounter is with a man who wants a healthy-looking dog euthanized, and Cyrus decides to keep the dog instead until he can investigate. The pet owners in town are a varied group, as are the pets Cyrus is asked to care for. Money is in short supply and the bank is planning on foreclosure of the practice. Added to the mix is a wise, older partner in the practice and a variety of quirky and amusing clients and their pets. This is a sweet story of forgiveness and family, with wonderfully drawn human and animal characters that will provide both laughter and tears.
Mary Newkirk, Adult Services Librarian
Manhattan Public Library offers a wealth of life-long learning opportunities, and Manhattan is replete with life-long learners. I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with many special life-long learners through the library’s Outreach Services.
As an Adult Services librarian, I have met wonderful people who have enjoyed reading into their nineties and up until their imminent death. Adult Services librarians deliver books to many of their residences when they find that they can no longer safely drive to the library. Many have moved into retirement or assisted living facilities where we continue to offer either homebound delivery right to their doors or a rotating collection of large print books that is located in their centers’ libraries.
Recently, I have experienced the passing of three wonderful homebound patrons. I miss my regular visits with them. In December I also lost my mother who spent the last two weeks of her life in the gracious care of our local Good Shepherd Hospice House staff. Freshly reminded that we are all touched by this end-of-life subject, I have compiled a short list of books and movies available at Manhattan Public Library which can help us deal with this sensitive issue.
Final gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan. This book was available in each room at Manhattan’s Hospice House and was highly recommended. My sister and I appreciated the way the authors, both hospice nurses with many years of experience, walked the reader through the experiences of hospice patients and showed how we can help them live full lives till the very end.
The Last Pilgrimage: My Mother’s Life and Our Journey to Saying Goodbye by Linda Daly is a very new book first available this May. This is a story of a high-profile mother/daughter relationship as the mother is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and seeks a cure. Living a charmed life, the mother Nancy was married to a Warner Brothers’ executive and, after a divorce, married the mayor of Los Angeles. The author, daughter Linda Day (a former teacher) is very involved in philanthropic work. The two traveled around the country seeking treatment and after a last chance try with a visiting Brazilian healer, headed home in a rented rv and faced the end of life together.
Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa has been out for a couple of years, so if you missed it earlier, try this heartwarming story of a sweet nursing home cat that has the ability to seek out and comfort those who are very close to death.
Now a novel that stretches a bit to fit this topic but happens to be my newest personal favorite novel –Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the South during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods, as years later now eighty-nine year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelle’s secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life-changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by this debut author.
Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg is another new fiction book that touches on this same topic of death. This time it is the loss of a best friend that sends a middle-aged motivational speaker seeking monumental changes in her own life. She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip. She spends time as a hospice volunteer and we sit through a training session on how to be a good listener to those who are terminally ill. This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.
Entertaining movies with aging issues : How to Live Forever- Results May Vary, The Trip to Bountiful, On Golden Pond, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Autumn Spring, Cocoon and Lovely, Still.
In honor of their memory, I dedicate this column to Dr. George Wilcoxon, Jean Hansen and Norma Morrison and all the other wonderful patrons of the Homebound Program at Manhattan Public Library.
Mostly linked by a common character, this book of short stories serves as a window into other lives. The featured protagonist, Yunior, came to the US from the Dominican Republic as a little boy. As suggested by the title, This Is How You Lose Her shares tales of failed relationships, cultural struggle and human interaction.
Though you will likely never be in most of the depicted situations, Díaz’s descriptions allow you to feel present and understand the characters’ dilemmas. He uses Spanish slang and a vocabulary that may make some readers uncomfortable, but this also adds to the authenticity of the work. The stories are not told chronologically, but piecing them together allows for extra time to reflect on how they are connected. It’s a good read when you’re looking for something a little different that allows you step into someone else’s shoes for the day.
This Academy Award winning film will give you a new perspective on death and on what gives life meaning. Daigo has just lost his position as a cellist in an orchestra and retreats to the country with his wife. He applies for a job in “departures” thinking it involves travel planning. Instead he has been offered the task of preparing the dead for cremation, but desperation forces him to accept. He receives criticism from those around him, but finds honor and pride in his new career.
Departures is a beautiful film, displaying the rituals of death with grace while allowing us to see the humor of Daigo’s transformation.
The Tapestry of Fortunes is a blend of humor, wisdom, education and friendship that I found delightful. Cecilia has just lost her best friend to a fast-moving cancer. Penny had been the one to motivate and help Cecilia to know herself. Now she finds that Penny is still speaking to her in subtle ways and she followes her advice to slow down and seek changes. She puts her career aside, sells her home and furnishings and finds a group of women to share a home and a road trip. Cecilia receives a postcard from a former boy friend just home from Tahiti, and weighs the risks of reconnecting knowing how much they have changed. This beautifully written novel is a sensitive and hopeful story of women supporting each other through life’s trials.