Opera is one facet of classical music in which I’ve never indulged. I’m a patient man, but I don’t have the endurance for a composer like Wagner, whose Ring Cycle lasts roughly eighteen hours (seriously). And then there are the over-the-top melodramatic beltings, the proverbial fat ladies singing, which seem ridiculous to me. That isn’t to say that opera is trivial; you’ll find many devotees. Like those freaks on NPR’s Opera Quiz who are able to identify an aria by hearing half a note. So, yes, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of opera.
I say “not exactly,” because behind those warblings, you’ll find some great classical music. Take for example, Verdi Without Words, an arrangement of his best-known themes by former Cincinnati Pops conductor Eric Kunzel. Even for the uninitiated, you are likely recognize the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore, which is often parodied in popular culture (just think of Looney Tunes). And then there’s “La donna è mobile,” whose melody has become for many the epitome of Italian opera. My personal favorite piece is the “Egyptian March” from Aïda.
Put on your Viking helmet complete with horns for the Overtures and Preludes from the operas of Richard Wagner (pronounced vahhhg-ner, not wag-ner). Sure, the man’s legacy isn’t exactly without tarnish, but the music is brilliant and you won’t be subjected to eighteen hours of Germanic mythology in song form. Who can’t resist banging their head to The Ride of the Valkyries? A favorite from this album is the Prelude from Act III of Lohengrin, which puts me in the mood to be heroic.
Until next time–may your personal rite of spring not be riotous.
These books did not make the Best Seller list but they are still good reads!
The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley
This is Priscille Sibley’s first novel. The novel opens on the aftermath of a tragic accident that leaves astronaut, Elle Beaulieu brain dead and the families at odds about life support once they learn that she is pregnant. The story is told from Matt’s point of view. Sibley does a good job of weaving their back story with the present scenes of medial and courtroom drama. A good read alike of fans of Jodi Picoult.
The Bughouse Affair by Marcia Muller
On a lighter note Marcia Muller has written a new series. Two former Pinkerton detective form forces and set up their own detective agency in San Francisco. This first novel in the series has the detectives trying to solve several burglaries with the help of “Sherlock Holmes”. Takes place in late 1880′s
The Good Dream </a>by Donna VanLiere
The setting is 1950 in a small Tennessee town, and Ivorie Walker finds herself lonely after the death of her elderly mother. When she discovers a boy stealing from her garden, she reaches out to uncover where he comes from and seeks to help him, only to face fierce resistance from the town who wants to keep certain secrets. This is a character driven novel with strong women, mystery and inspiration.
Love Anthonyby Lisa Genova
While dealing with her husband’s infidelity, Beth tries to recapture the independent, creative spirit she used to be through writing. What emerges is a startling new voice, one that will help her heal. Newly separated Olivia Donatelli is struggling to understand the unraveling of her marriage, and to make sense of her eight-year-old autistic son Anthony’s short life and accidental death. A chance encounter between these two women develops into an unexpected and meaningful friendship, giving one writer the opportunity to find her voice and a grieving mother a chance to finally understand her son. The characters are flat and the stories of the broken marriages really aren’t developed and didn’t need to be there. I only included this book because I thought the author’s portrayal of autism and its misunderstandings and effect on the family were well done.
In Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin
Leisurely paced and intrically plotted this novel is about Harry, a Jewish special-ops WWII paratrooper (we learn all the throttling details in sustained flashbacks) who has just returned home from the front to find his family’s top-of-the-line leather goods company failing and his father dying. Harry is determined to rescue. When he spies a beautiful woman on the Staten Island Ferry he seeks to learn her identity and to marry her. Catherine turns out to be a level-headed, musical, blue-blooded heiress. With the backdrop of 1940s mobster rule and Harry’s business woes their love grows against all odds.
A cozy mystery is just the thing when I’m looking for a fun, light read. Cozy mysteries usually omit graphic violence and generally take place in a small community with likable characters. Many of the cozy mysteries I enjoy are ones in a series of mysteries. After reading a couple you feel like you know the recurring characters and they feel like old friends.
Elaine Viets has a couple of enjoyable series. “Dead-End Job Mysteries” and “Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper”. The author always combines a sense of humor and engaging characters into her mystery stories.
Do you have a soft spot in your heart for animals? Give “The Cat Who Series” by Lillian Jackson Braun a try. This is a series featuring KoKo, a delightful Siamese Cat. The human characters in this series are as endearing as the cat. Miranda James’ “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries feature Diesel, a fantastic Maine Coon cat and his librarian owner. “Midnight Louie Mysteries” by Carole Nelson Douglas, “Dixie Hemingway, Cat Sitter Mysteries,” by Blaize Clement, and “Death on Demand Series” by Carolyn Hart all feature cats.
There are cozy mysteries for just about any interest; gardening, crossword puzzles, quilting, pet stores, diners, historical themes, and travel themes, to name a few. So, next time you are looking to curl up with a book, a Cozy Mystery might be just the read you want.
Well, I guess we made it to another new year and we avoided the apocalypse yet again. I don’t know about you, but I am extremely disappointed with this fact. I mean either I was going to become a zombie (unlikely), or I was going to hunt zombies (probably). Either one would have been great. THANK YOU VERY MUCH MAYANS and your false prophecy of doom! I guess you have now made yourselves completely irrelevant to much of modern society and it is time your ancient society fades into oblivion just like all those other societies that no longer exist and we can no longer remember. As a consequence, like after Y2K, we are left with a pre-apocalyptic world. Thanks for getting our hopes up with your calendar that ends for no reason.
There are, however, a couple of things I liked about 2012, and since the world did not end, you can check them out from the library.
Not necessarily in that order. So if you are frustrated with your pre-apocalyptic world and need something to take your mind off the regular everyday mundane world, those are just a few of the things that you can find at your friendly neighborhood library. It is okay if you don’t like the things I listed above, just stop reading my posts. Right now. I mean it. You are now dead to me…dead I tell you. Really, just find something you do like, that would be great.
One of my favorite authors of historical fiction has created a series about the Houses of Lancaster and York of 15th century England. The story of the War of the Roses, told through the voices of four women of the time period, is the focus of The Cousins’ War series by Phillipa Gregory.
The White Queen is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen consort of King Edward IV of the House of York.
The Red Queen tells of Lady Margaret Beaufort and her driving ambition to see her son, Henry Tudor, from the House of Lancaster, on the throne of England.
Just because it’s a teen book, don’t think that you’ll be bored as an adult. Harry Potter and the Hunger Games proved that books written for a young adult audience can have a big crossover appeal, so check out one (or more!) of these titles:
Escaping a brutal arranged marriage into the sanctuary of a convent of assassin nuns who serve ancient gods, 17-year-old Ismae learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny that requires her to destroy the lives of others at the high court of Brittany. 100,000 first printing.
A centuries-long war between daimons and witches sets the stage for three teens caught up in a deadly struggle for power and autonomy in the exotic and otherworldly Carnival of Souls, the mercantile center of the daimon dimension. 200,000 first printing.
Her happy life shattered by a nightmarish evening that leaves a friend in a catatonic state, another dead and her boyfriend accused of murder, Nora resolves to prove her boyfriend’s innocence and follows a violent trail to Prague, where she discovers a mysterious manuscript that purportedly offers the secret to ultimate knowledge and the ability to communicate with the divine. By the author of the Skinned trilogy.
Developing her mother’s clairvoyant powers for seeing visions of people who are about to die, Blue is drawn into the life of rich private school boy, Gansey, who has involved three of his classmates in a quest that Blue believes will end with her involvement in Gansey’s death. By the best-selling author of the Shiver trilogy. 150,000 first printing.
When Cinder, a gifted cyborg with a mysterious past, becomes entangled with the handsome Prince Kai, she finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle to save humankind from a deadly plague and ruthless lunar beings.
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few more years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis, but when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at the Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. By the award-winning author of Looking for Alaska.
Waking up in the body of a different person every day and struggling to pass through each experience without raising alarm, “A” endures a lonely existence before falling in love with a girl named Rhiannon, with whom he endeavors to reunite.
Unable to forget ghost Anna Korlov’s sacrificial disappearance into a Hell portal, ghost hunter Cas Lowood endures a nightmarish existence and believes he sees Anna’s tortured soul everywhere before resolving to save her. By the author of Anna Dressed in Blood.
The long-awaited sequel to the best-selling futuristic thriller Unwind finds Connor, Lev, Risa and Cam’s fates inextricably bound as the morality of the practice of “unwinding” is finally called into question.
A sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone finds Karou struggling to come to terms with her nature while pursuing revenge for her people. By the National Book Award finalist author of Lips Touch: Three Times. 250,000 first printing.
Appearing before the Crown Prince after a year of hard labor in the salt mines, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is offered her freedom in exchange for representing the throne during a competition to find a new royal assassin, a challenge that is marked by grueling training and the murders of fellow contestants.
After falling in love, Lena and Alex flee their oppressive society where love is outlawed and everyone must receive “the cure”–an operation that makes them immune to the delirium of love–but Lena alone manages to find her way to a community of resistance fighters, and although she is bereft without the boy she loves, her struggles seem to be leading her toward a new love.
Battling aliens, space pirates, and competitors, Prince Khemri meets a young woman, named Raine, and learns more than he expected about the hidden workings of a vast, intergalactic Empire, and about himself.
Not Taco Bell Material - Adam Carolla. The popular podcaster and author of the best-selling In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks collects new favorite rants about things that drive him crazy, sharing stories from his underdog youth that offer insight into his views and career.
Yes, Chef - Marcus Samuelsson. The Top Chef: Masters winner and James Beard Award-winning proprietor of Harlem’s Red Rooster traces his Ethiopian birth, upbringing by an adoptive family in Sweden and rise to a famous New York chef, sharing personal insights into his challenges as a black man in a deeply prejudiced industry. First Chapter
The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling - Quinn Cummings. Citing a rising number of homeschooled children in America, a blogger and Oscar-nominated child actor recounts her misadventures in first-time homeschooling, an endeavor marked by her own math aversion, experiments with current trends and a chaperone venture at a home-school prom.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking - Susan Cain. A former Wall Street attorney, business coach and creator of ThePowerofIntroverts.com demonstrates how introverted people are misunderstood and undervalued in today’s culture, charting the rise of extrovert ideology while sharing anecdotal examples to counsel readers on how to use introvert talents to adapt to various situations and empower introverted children.
The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg. Identifying the neurological processes behind behaviors while explaining that self-control and success are largely driven by habits, a guide by a Yale-educated investigative reporter for The New York Times shares scientifically based guidelines for achieving personal goals and overall well-being by adjusting specific habits. First ChapterTable of Contents
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook - Deb Perelman. The award-winning blogger for Smitten Kitchen presents a long-awaited first cookbook of 100 new and favorite recipes, from Mushroom Bourguignon and Pancetta to Buttered Popcorn Cookies and Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake, in a volume that features adapted options for busy home cooks.Table of Contents
The Dirt Candy Cookbook - Amanda Cohen.Complemented by engaging graphic-style art, an all-vegetable cookbook by New York City’s Dirt Candy restaurant explains how to prepare elaborate and satisfying meals with ingredients usually relegated to side dishes, in a volume that offers such options as Stone-Ground Grits with Tempura Poached Egg, Broccoli Rabe Fettuccini and Popcorn Pudding With Butterscotch Sauce.
Soldier Dogs - Maria Goodavage.In this book, the author, a leading dog-blogger offers a tour of military working dogs’ extraordinary training, heroic accomplishments, and the lasting impacts they have on those who work with them.
Upcycling Celebrations - Danny Seo. The author of Upcycling returns with 100 more projects illustrated in full color–this time focused specifically on parties and holidays–that turn ordinary objects into festive decorations, gifts and more.
Shadow of Night - Deborah E. Harkness. A follow-up to the best-selling A Discovery of Witches finds Oxford scholar and reluctant witch Dina and vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont in Elizabethan London, where Dina seeks a magical tutor and Matthew confronts elements from his past at the same time the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn, When a beautiful woman goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, her diary reveals hidden turmoil in her marriage and a mysterious illness; while her husband, desperate to clear himself of suspicion, realizes that something more disturbing than murder may have occurred. By the best-selling author of Dark Places. First Chapter
Freeman - Leonard Pitts. Shortly after the Confederates surrender, a runaway slave leaves the safety of Philadelphia in search of his wife who he left in Mississippi 15 years earlier, but who has been taken by gunpoint to Arkansas by her former landowner.
The Chaperone - Laura Moriarty. Accompanying a future famous actress from her Wichita home to New York, chaperone Cora Carlisle shares a life-changing five-week period with her ambitious teenage charge during which she discovers the promise of the 20th century and her own purpose in life. By the author of The Center of Everything.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple. When her notorious, hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled and agoraphobic mother goes missing, teenage Bee begins a trip that takes her to the ends of the earth to find her in this new novel from the author of This One is Mine.
The Orphanmaster - Jean Zimmerman. In 17th-century New Amsterdam, today Manhattan, 22-year-old trader Blandine von Couvering and British spy Edward Drummond investigate the mysterious disappearance of orphan children. A first novel.
The Gods of Gotham - Lyndsay Faye. Joining the newly formed NYPD at the height of Ireland’s 19th-century potato famine, Timothy reluctantly assumes his duties in a notorious slum district, where in the middle of the night he hears a little girl’s claim that dozens of bodies have been buried in a local forest.
Restless in the Grave - Dana Stabenow. A crossover mystery featuring Aleut private investigator Kate Shugak and Alaska State Trooper Liam Campbell finds them teaming up to investigate a suspicious plane crash that ended the life of aviation entrepreneur Finn Grant, a case that requires Kate to work undercover as a bar waitress. By the author of Though Not Dead. First Chapter
11/22/63 - Stephen King. Receiving a horrific essay from a GED student with a traumatic past, high-school English teacher Jake Epping is enlisted by a friend to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a mission for which he must reacclimate to 1960s culture and befriend troubled loner Lee Harvey Oswald.First ChapterTable of Contents
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore - Robin Sloan. After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret. First Chapter
The Snow Child l - Eowyn Ivey. A childless couple working a farm in the brutal landscape of 1920 Alaska discover a little girl living in the wilderness, with a red fox as a companion, and begin to love the strange, almost-supernatural child as their own. First Chapter
The Nightmare - Lars Kepler. An international best-selling sequel to The Hypnotist follows Detective Joona Linna’s investigation into two mysterious murder cases in Stockholm that have been staged to look accidental, scenes that prompt Joona to discern a link between the crimes and a more sinister operation. First Chapter
The Keeper of Lost Causes - Jussi Adler-Olsen. A U.S. release of a first installment in a top award-winning Danish series introduces chief detective Carl Morck, who after recovering from what he thought was a career-destroying gunshot wound is relegated to cold cases and becomes immersed in the five-year disappearance of a politician.
The Killing Moon - N. K. Jemisin. In a city where Gatherers harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to judge the corrupt, Ehiru, the most famous of the city’s Gatherers, learns that he must protect the woman he was sent to kill or watch the city be devoured by forbidden magic. First Chapter
Trail of the Spellmans : Document #5 - Lisa Lutz. Struggling with wacky family activities, secrets and feuds, private investigator Isabel Spellman avoids Henry Stone by spending time drinking with his mother and tackling eccentric cases that seem suspiciously pointless. By the award-winning author of Heads You Lose.First Chapter
Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire. Verity Price, trained from birth as a cryptozoologist–a monster hunter–attempts to pursue a career in professional ballroom dance, but dangerous cryptids and the Covenant’s newest operative keep getting in the way of her passion.
Taken - Robert Crais. Hired along with Joe Pike to investigate the alleged kidnapping of a wealthy industrialist’s son, Elvis Cole quickly disproves police theories and goes undercover to infiltrate a ring of professional border kidnappers only to be abducted himself. By the award-winning author of The Sentry.
The Rook - Daniel O’MalleyA high-ranking member of a secret organization that battles supernatural forces wakes up in a London park with no memory, no idea who she is and with a letter that provides instructions to help her uncover a far-reaching conspiracy. First Chapter
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty - by Joshilyn Jackson. Ginny Slocumb knows that this year, her forty-fifth, is a “trouble year.” When her 30-year-old daughter Liza, a former drug addict, suffers a debilitating stroke that leaves her mute, Ginny can only wonder what catastrophe will come her way next. Consumed by her fear that her 15-year-old granddaughter, Mosey, will follow family tradition and end up pregnant, Ginny soon realizes that she’s got bigger problems when she finds a baby’s skeleton buried in a shallow grave in the backyard. Alternating between the three Slocumb women’s perspectives, this compelling tale of love, loss, and family secrets is both humorous and heart-breaking.
Death of a Kingfisher - M. C. Beaton. When Scotland is hit by the recession, Police Constable Hamish Macbeth notices that the Highland people are forced to come up with inventive ways to lure tourists to their sleepy towns. The quaint village of Braikie doesn’t have much to offer, other than a place of rare beauty called Buchan’s Wood, which was bequeathed to the town. The savvy local tourist director renames the woods “The Fairy Glen,” and has brochures printed with a beautiful photograph of a kingfisher rising from a pond on the cover. It isn’t long before coach tours begin to arrive. But just as the town’s luck starts to turn, a kingfisher is found hanging from a branch in the woods with a noose around its neck. As a wave of vandalism threatens to ruin Braikie forever, the town turns to Hamish Macbeth. And when violence strikes again,the lawman’s investigation quickly turns from animal cruelty to murder.First Chapter
Thirteen - Kelley Armstrong. In the conclusion to Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, Savannah Levine, a young witch whose magical powers have been temporarily stripped, is faced with the task of saving her family and friends and finding a way to win the battle against the evil creatures that have been unleashed upon the world.
The Absolutist - John Boyne. Tristan Sadler, a gay soldier, recalls his time spent fighting in World War I and the intensity of his friendship with Will Bancroft, a soldier who became a conscientious objector and was shot as a traitor.
Since I began working at CCPL this year, I managed to expand my already mile-long reading list to one I may never fully catch up with. While finding time to read everything has been a challenge, each book has been an adventure. Here are some of my favorites for the year.
Americapedia:Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom gives a review of how American government works, and also a quick, easy-to-understand rundown of many of the issues we’ve been dealing with for the past few decades–the stuff they don’t talk about in school. It does a pretty good job of keeping a neutral stance through it all, even though it covers many controversial issues. Even better, as you probably guessed from the title, they do it all with a sense of humor.
Holy Cow! An Indian Adventure is a woman’s chronicle of her time spent living in India. While laughing at her hilarious accounts of her adventures in traveling the country and experiencing different aspects of India’s many religious groups, I sympathized with her struggles with culture shock and homesickness. Her stories reminded me of similar experiences I had while living in Japan. A great read for anyone who has traveled abroad or hopes to someday.
Kate Locke’s God Save the Queen is a heady blend of some of my favorite things: steampunk, feisty heroines and non-sparkly vampires. It’s an action-packed mystery story set in an alternate version of Victorian England that has been taken over by vampires and werewolves. Bonus points to the author for making the evolution of supernatural beings sound science-y and plausible. I’m looking forward to the next book!
Ahhh the flannel shirt….it is the iconic look of the angst ridden youth of the nineties, a time when rebellion meant looking like a lumber jack fresh out of bed. It was easy. It went great with a pair of ripped jeans. Plus, Eddie Vedder wore it and he was in Pearl Jam. It was a time when Miley Cyrus’ dad had a number one hit and big hair bands were still the rage. Underground grunge radio was emerging like Winona Ryder in a Tim Burton film (I’m not sure what that means so don’t ask).
Now that we are a decade into the twenty-first century all the music that inspired our flanneled-filled angst has returned with a vengeance. Many, many artist have returned to try and find the magic they once had back in the day. This seems like the place to list them, but who wants to read that? Plus, that would require me to look up each and every artist that has made said comeback and that is too much like work for me to do.There are at least 30 or more; you can sort through this list to find your favorite and then visit the library to check them out.
With that said, those now iconic flannel shirts need to be dug out of the back of your closet, because they are back and ready for revenge. Just ask George Lucas, he never got rid of his and he just made over $4 billion. So here is what should happen, everyone everywhere needs to grab their dirtiest, grungiest flannel and wear it every day to work until they make $4 billion. Because the flannel shirt is the new power suit. Or….OR just watch The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit; maybe it is the old school power suit. Either way, flannel should be your everyday go-to shirt for everyday things such as meeting with the President or the CEO of your company.
While you are at it, grow some facial hair…mustache, beard, whatever…it will go nicely with your new flannel look. By the way here are some of my favorite nineties artists that released some new tuneage in the last two years…Foo Fighters, Cat Power, Flogging Molly, Radiohead, Ben Folds Five, and Eddie Vedder just to name a few. They all wore flannel and so should you.