Posts Tagged ‘Autobiography’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Melissa O’s Picks

December 26, 2014

I read a wide variety of books of all different genres. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. Here are five books I stumbled upon this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

The Devil's BonesThe Devil’s Bones by Jefferson Bass
Bill Brockton is a forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. There he and his team study of the science of decomposition. He also finds himself drawn into the danger and drama of the murders they are trying to solve. It starts out simply enough, a woman’s charred body in a burned out car. How did she die? Then he receives a package of strange cremated remains. Suddenly he is fighting for his life and trying to solve a crime so hideous you won’t want to believe it. Another reason to love this book is that the author, Jefferson Bass, is actually a pseudonym for Bill Bass, the real-life famous forensic anthropologist and founder of the Body Farm, and cowriter Jon Jefferson. How cool is that!

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – a love story by Ree Drummond
I had never read her blog, watched her cooking show, or picked up one of her cookbooks when I stumbled on this autobiography by Ree Drummond. As someone who spent some time feeling lost and unsure about the future, I could relate to her feelings as she struggled with where her next steps should take her. She never thought that future would mean staying in rural Oklahoma. And she certainly didn’t think it would involve a cowboy! I became lost in the words, flowery and syrupy as they sometimes are, as she “accidently” found herself on a cattle ranch and having adventures she never could have pictured in her future. A great read about taking a chance on love and setting out on the path less traveled.

Dangerous PassageDangerous Passage by Lisa Harris
This is a new inspirational series introducing widowed police detective Avery North and medical examiner Jackson Bryant. Harris nicely intertwines a love story into a thrilling murder mystery. Young Asian women are being murdered and the only link between them seems to be a small tattoo of a magnolia blossom. The investigation seems to simply uncover more mysteries and cover ups. Can they solve the case before more women go missing, and will Avery be ready to open her heart to love again?


Stand Up That MountainStand Up That Mountain by Jay Erskine Leutze
If you love the outdoors, this book is for you. If you love gut wrenching legal battles, this book is for you. If you love to root for the little guy, well you get the picture. Jay has escaped his life as an attorney and retreated to the North Carolina Mountains. Living quietly as a naturalist and fisherman, he loves the Appalachian Trail. He learns from a family of “mountain people” that a mining company plans to dynamite Belview Mountain, which sits right beside the Trail. They have evidence of their less than ethical behavior and the fight is on. As an avid mountain hiker and lover of nature, this book captured me, especially since it is in our own backyard! It is hard to believe that we almost lost one of the great treasures of our state. Jay Erskine Leutze recounts his story of the ground breaking legal fight to save this tiny Appalachian community in a book that is as engaging as any fiction tale.

SubmergedSubmerged by Dani Pettrey
The old saying “you can never go home again” seemed to hold true for Bailey Craig. Yet home is exactly where she found herself, for better or worse. She left Yancey, Alaska in disgrace, now can she find forgiveness? Bailey returned to bury her beloved aunt her died in a plane crash. Was it an accident or was it murder? Cole McKenna has put his past with Bailey behind him, until she shows up in town again. Soon she is fighting for her own life. Can Cole accept that Bailey has changed and help her solve the murder before she becomes another victim? Dani Pettrey is a new author and anyone who loves Dee Henderson’s novels should check her out. This new inspirational suspense series is fantastic and I can’t wait to continue the journey with her characters.

Best New Books of 2014: Kerri H’s Picks

December 15, 2014

I read everything… fiction, nonfiction, short stories, young adult fiction. Happy books, sad books, disturbing books, thought provoking books. I try to round out my reading experience each year with a variety of genres and themes.

RedeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay
This is an important, thought-provoking, disturbing and humbling collection of stories. They are written by a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq during the surge. Each story is told from the viewpoint of a different character… a chaplain, a Foreign Service Officer, a Mortuary Affairs Marine and many others. Descriptions evoke the grit, stench, claustrophobia, nonsensical situations, and collateral damage both physically and emotionally found in twenty-first century war.

Best to LaughBest to Laugh by Lorna Landvik
You will laugh at the quirky cast of characters and fun storyline. Candy Pekkalo is living a non-descript life in Minnesota when her cousin calls to see if she would like to sublet her Hollywood apartment. Once there, Candy thrives. She meets a diverse group of neighbors who become family, and works an odd, yet interesting, assortment of temp jobs. She even succeeds in the male dominated stand-up comedy world of the late 1970’s. You’re going to have fun living Candy Pekkalo’s life vicariously.

Dept. of SpeculationDept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
If you’ve ever experienced infidelity, bedbugs, motherhood, or feel like your brain goes from one random thought to another… this book is for you.  Written from the perspective of “the wife” it’s a collection of random thoughts and famous quotes.  It sounds disjointed, but it flows together perfectly.  It’s also about teaching college students, ghost writing, general discontent and hope.

JackabyJackaby by William Ritter
This young adult novel enraptured me. I read this fast-paced mystery with evidence of the supernatural in two nights.  In 1892, Abigail Rock arrives alone in New England from Ukraine via a boat from Germany. She’s in need of a job, room and board. After applying to an advertisement for an investigative assistant, she begins working for the eccentric R.F. Jackaby. Together they investigate a series of murders. This is a funny, rollicking read about a serial killer. I know it seems strange to call a book about a serial killer funny; but trust me, there are some hilarious scenes and dialogue in the book. This is the first book in a series. I anticipate this will be the next big young adult series.

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
An autobiography in verse which resonates with readers is an amazing feat! Jacqueline Woodson elegantly portrays her childhood; evoking the love her family poured on herself and siblings. She perfectly distills the reality of the civil rights movement and her experience being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. These poems merge to form a fluid and beautiful story.

The Closer by Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey

September 18, 2014

First of all, a couple admissions from me. I love baseball, and I have been a New York Yankees fan for almost 70 years!

Now on to a delightful story of a future Hall of Famer, humble Mariano Rivera – the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history.

This is the story of a tall skinny kid from Panama, who was embedded in the family fishing business. Sardines were their specialty and it appeared that fishing would be Mariano’s future. But somewhere along the line, a baseball scout discovered that this kid could throw a baseball with unbelievable accuracy.

Mariano tells the story of his life in the poorest section of Panama and his relationship with a young woman named Clara whom he hoped to marry one day, and details how Rivera, with the guidance of some friends and a strong religious belief, became one of the greatest baseball players of all times.

Being a closer is in some ways one of baseball’s most difficult achievements. You are brought into a game at the very end and asked to get the final few outs to preserve a victory for your team. Maybe it is a one run game, maybe the score is tied, maybe you pitch one inning , maybe two, maybe even three innings. All the pressure is on you and Mariano Rivera did it better than anyone else in the history of baseball.

Enjoy the warm tale of one of baseball’s super heroes and truly one of it’s nicest ambassadors.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Still Foolin’ ‘Em : Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? by Billy Crystal

September 9, 2014

Still Foolin' 'EmI am a child of the 80’s, so my first memories of Billy Crystal are of him as Miracle Max in one of my all-time favorite movies, “The Princess Bride”. So when I saw he had a new book out, Still Foolin’ em, I had to read it.

Billy Crystal has just turned 65 and is looking back on his life with grace and humor. He’s been responsible for many iconic moments of comedic history in the last several decades. The book is part memoir about his accomplished career and part musings on random, relatable topics. It is funny, charming and at times emotional.

Billy Crystal has been in the business for decades and has had a remarkably unscandalous life and career, which is rare for a celebrity these days. As he writes of his young life, “Growing up Crystal was great” and he enjoyed his loving and supportive family as a young child. Billy tells of his rise to celebrity as well as tales of being a dad and more recently the joys of grand-kids. Billy has been happily married to his wife for over 35 years and they are still going strong.

Along the way, Billy Crystal has made some lasting relationships in his showbiz career. He has a particularly touching relationship with Muhammad Ali, who lovingly calls Billy, “little brother”. Another friendship that he mentions that is more significant of late, is that with Robin Williams who he worked with on their successful Comic Relief charity fundraiser. Just a few days ago, after the sudden and tragic passing of Williams, I watched a clip of Robin Williams winning an academy award for “Good Will Hunting” at one of the Oscars that Crystal hosted. The two shared a joyous and intimate hug after Williams’s acceptance speech. I looked at that Oscars a little differently having just read Billy’s book.

I read this book but wanted to mention that the audio is narrated by Billy Crystal and that he won an “Audie” for it, which is an award that honors achievement in audiobooks. Wake County Public libraries has the downloadable audio version and I’m sure it’s “Marvelous”!

This book is a treat, filled with anecdotes that only Billy Crystal could tell, so if you are looking for a light and entertaining read (or listen), this book is for you!

 Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

A House In the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

August 11, 2014

A House In the SkyAmanda Lindhout was a teenager in Red Deer, Alberta when she became fascinated with National Geographic magazine. Because her family was dysfunctional, Amanda dreamed of escaping Canada to visit some of the exotic places that she had learned about in the magazines.

She finally figures out how to escape her life by being a cocktail waitress, accumulating enough money and then running away for as long as her money holds out. This fascinating autobiography tells Amanda’s story and how every time she runs out of money, she returns to Canada to work as a cocktail waitress and starts all over again.

Many of us dream of seeing the most exotic places in the world –the safe places and maybe even some of the truly dangerous places. Amanda does what we dream about, displaying bravery beyond belief. She makes many friends, both male and female in all parts of the globe. However, she makes one big mistake when she and her colleague, Nigel, decide to report on what it is like in Somalia.

She and Nigel are captured and held for ransom, just like what we’ve read about Somali pirates who capture merchant ships off the Somali coast. For the next 15 months they are held in captivity and tortured in order to extract a ransom from their families. It is truly chilling!

This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is not for the faint of heart, but it does illustrate what is happening in parts of the world that we only get a glimpse of in newspaper and television stories.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

The End of the World As We Know It by Robert Goolrick

August 5, 2014

The End of the World As We Know ItThis is a heart wrenching book, but well worth reading. It is well written, and I am glad to know Robert Goolrick’s story since I’m a fan of his two novels, A Reliable Wife, and Heading Out to Wonderful.

This is a disturbing boy to man story that starts in the 1960’s in a small college town in Virginia. The story includes Robert’s older brother, younger sister, father (a professor), mother (a homemaker), and thankfully, his maternal grandmother Miss Nell, who was a strong and kind influence in his life. This true story – at times horrific, and at times, very funny – tells of a family living under a thin veneer of perfection that, in time, cracks and crumbles.

He tells of endless cocktail parties where his parents, preoccupied with appearances, strived to look like the perfect couple, wanting to be envied by their friends. In the meantime, the three children experience varying degrees of collateral damage and straight up abuse. Robert, hands down, gets the worst of it: cruelty from most of the adults in his life, and most tragically, sexual abuse by his father.

As an adult, Robert attempts suicide and ends up in “the loony bin”. He also starts cutting himself and gives pages of painful crimson red descriptions that show how his despair and emotional pain manifest themselves.

“How did they go on?” he asks as he lists memories that fill up eleven pages. “How did he do this?” I wondered while reading this book. How was he able to bare his soul about such painful memories? In a final section at the end of the book, “A Conversation with the Author”, Robert talks of writing this for past and current sexual abuse victims to help expose the reality of this epidemic.

Obviously, this is not an easy read, but it’s very well told, and is a hugely important story.

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An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

February 19, 2014

I first heard of Commander Chris Hadfield on Twitter, when he replied to William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk.  Shatner asked if he was tweeting from space.  Hadfield replied “Yes, standard orbit, Captain, and we’re detecting signs of life on the surface.”

I was amazed.  This man was tweeting from outer space, and doing it with a sense of humor! When I looked at his other tweets, I was hooked.  Not only was he regularly posting pictures taken from space, he was making videos to answer students’ questions about what life was like on the space station, such as, “What happens when you cry in space?”  (The tears don’t fall; they just hover in front of your eyes). What a wonderful resource and a great way to get children interested in space travel!

Hadfield’s book tells his story of how he became an astronaut, and what he learned along the way. He first decided what he wanted to be when he saw the men walk on the moon.  As a young boy, he didn’t realize how much the odds were against him.  There were no Canadian astronauts at that time.  Later, when he learned how difficult it would be, it only made him work harder.

Hadfield discovered many things while he was training, some of which went against what is considered common sense.  For example, as an astronaut you have to sweat the small stuff. A very small error can have big consequences in space.   Also, helping a coworker perform better will help you in the long run, even if you are competing for the same job.  In space, having the best possible team is crucial to your survival.

The most important thing he learned, however, was that one must enjoy the journey.  It would be ridiculous to work so hard for so long with the goal of getting into space if you hated science, piloting, or any of things you must learn before your flight.  It is quite possible to spend a lifetime learning all of these things and never make it into space, just by accident or bad timing.  Would you feel your entire life was a waste if this happened?

I found Hadfield’s book and attitude to be very inspiring.  It is a great reminder not to focus so much on the future that you forget to enjoy the present.  And all his stories of daily life in outer space are fascinating.  I think we have become so accustomed to seeing men and women in space that we forget what an amazing achievement it is.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Travis H’s Picks

December 26, 2013

I’m the manager of the Zebulon Community Library and have a long tenure with the library system. I majored in English and have had my fill of “good books.” Since then, I read mostly nonfiction, techno thrillers and things I find funny.

The Lost Prince by Seldon Edwards  
Edwards’ first book, The Little Book, captivated me but left me unsatisfied. The Little Book had a great plot, likable characters and an interesting setting during interesting times. It lacked however a flow that compelled me to keep turning the page. The Lost Prince though, at least for me, was a page-turner. Both of the books focus on Eleanor Burden. In the first book, Eleanor has a life altering experience. In the second, we see how her experience plays out. Time travel and predestination are the respective devices in these two books.

Dinner at Mr. Jefferson’s Three Men, Five Great Wines, and the Evening That Changed America by Charles A. Cerami
Thomas Jefferson fascinates me. Discovering Cerami’s book was exciting. I did not get what I was expecting however, as the evening referenced in the books was just a small part of it. By serving as Washington’s Secretary of State, Jefferson, the agrarian anti-federalist, found himself in an administration trying to establish a Federal Government. Key to these efforts was Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who Jefferson thought might be a closeted Royalist. No wonder, the author explains, that Jefferson was a migraine sufferer and postulates that he also suffered from depression.  The dinner that the book’s title references was Jefferson’s way to hammer out a compromise between Hamilton and Congress (represented by Madison) over Hamilton’s Report on Public Credit. Hamilton wanted the federal government to assume the various states’ Revolutionary War debts, to the detriment of those states. The lasting impact of Jefferson’s dinner is why Washington DC, carved out of Virginia and Maryland, is our seat of government as opposed to New York City, or Philadelphia. By centering this history on such a pivotal event, the author gives us a focused and revelatory exposition of the key players and times. The included recipes are interesting as well.

Lady on the Hill: How Biltmore Estate Became an American Icon by Howard E. Covington Jr.
Biltmore always seemed to me to be a rich man’s folly, like Hearst Castle in California. Hearst’s folly is owned and run by the State of California. Biltmore is still in the hands of Vanderbilt’s descendents. I’ve long be interested in historic preservation and what drew me to this book was the struggle Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil, Sr., has had in keeping the property private. Ultimately, to keep family control, it seems national inheritance tax law would need to be amended. Nonetheless, as the book details, the Cecil family has skillfully managed to make Biltmore relevant, productive and viable as a privately held venture. This accomplishment mirrors the skill it took to build the Vanderbilt fortune in the first place.

Outlaw by Angus Donald
This retelling of the Robin Hood saga is in the voice of Alan-a-Dale, the Merry Men’s minstrel. Donald’s realistic and believable Robin is a leader and provider of those wanting their freedom from various injustices. Donald set his tale, earlier than most retellings, during the reign of Henry II, an unsettled time a few generations after the Norman Conquest. Outlaw is the first of five novels featuring Robin Hood. If you like Bernard Cornwell’s books, you’ll probably like this.

Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippy Dream by Neil Young
Young writes in his autobiography that he wrote his autobiography to cash in.  At age 66, Young seems to have had a wakeup call. He gave up cannabis and alcohol, fears dementia and writes about some projects he wants to pursue that do not relate to music. Young has yet to give up on the promise of the sixties; long may he run.

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2013: Melissa O’s Picks

December 20, 2013

I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Ask me for a suggestion and I most likely have read something that would appeal to you. But I still enjoy wandering the library stacks. Stumbling across a fabulous book is like finding a gem in a pile of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry is fun and fleeting, but some books are treasures that become friends for life. These are some of the new friends I made this year. Some have been out there a long time, others are more recent arrivals, but they are all worth checking out and passing along for more to enjoy!

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home by Erma Bombeck
I am a huge fan of Bill Bryson. One day while lamenting I had read and reread all his books the title of this book caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked it up. I am so glad I did! I laughed so hard I was sore the next day. I found out Erma Bombeck had a syndicated newspaper column and was a well known humorist. Somehow she had flown under my radar. But no more! In this collection of humorous writings she describes her travels around the world with her family.  And a word of warning: I had this on audio book and had to pull over because the tears of laughter were blinding me.

Variant by Robison Wells
If you thought surviving high school was hard, then this book takes it to a whole new level. Benson Fisher thought he was escaping an intolerable foster care system when he made it into the elite Maxfield Academy. He arrives excited for his new future, but something just seems not quite right. And then students start to disappear.  At this boarding school breaking the rules can literally kill you and escape is impossible.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
When I think of dragons I imagine powerful creatures to be admired or possibly feared. This is the first of Robin Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles, and these dragons are pathetic and sickly. They cannot survive without their human keepers and as sentiment grows against them they are driven out on a perilous journey. But will they reach safety? Or will the enemies surrounding them doom the dragons forever?

High Country Fall by Margaret Maron
Since I was heading into the mountains for a vacation, I thought what better book to take along then one set in the North Carolina Mountains. And I fell in love with Judge Deborah Knott. Not just because the books are well written, or because the setting was so perfectly described I felt I was there, but because she is so ordinary and believable I felt I was her as I was reading. Judge Knott escapes the pressures of a recent engagement by subbing for a fellow judge in Cedar Gap. There she stumbles into a murder mystery and danger, and what about that handsome DA Lucius Burke! This book is the perfect mix of action, mystery, humor, and romance.

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
If you thought writing restaurant reviews was easy, just wait until you read this biography!  Ruth Reichl was the New York Times restaurant critic for most of the 1990’s. With humor and wisdom she draws you not only into the restaurant world, but into her world as well. This book is so well written you will feel you can close your eyes and be sitting in a top steakhouse, or a tiny Chinatown sushi bar, eating along with her.

After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey

May 9, 2013

One morning, when Michael Hainey was six years old, he learned that his father, Robert Hainey, an assistant copy desk chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, sometime during the night had died from a heart attack. For some reason, Michael felt that the story about how his father had died did not add up, and during work on a high school term paper – when he had to visit the main library in downtown Chicago – he looked up his father’s obituaries.
And behold: they did not add up.

Chicago Today claimed that the newspaperman had died “as he walked” in the 3900 block of North Pine Grove after he had “just left the home of a friend.” But in the Chicago Daily News it was reported that Robert Hainey had died “while visiting friends.” Furthermore, Michael learned that his father had not died from a heart attack but from a stroke, and that he had been taken to a hospital on the city’s North Side, “Not exactly the closest hospital for two cops to take a man they find lying on the streets downtown.” The time of death was also curious: 5.07 a.m. Which meant that Michael’s uncle, a newspaperman also, was at the Hainey house less than two hours after his younger brother’s death. And why was it his uncle who broke the news anyway? So what was going on here?

After Visiting Friends is “a son’s story” about the shadow cast by the father’s last night and death. But the book is larger than that. It is an investigation of a family and of times gone by, and it is a report on journalism then and now.
Like so many trades, journalism has its own code of honor, and this code turns out to be a major obstacle when Michael Hainey tries to understand what happened that April night in 1970. Journalists, who claim to constantly strive to reveal the truth, conceal it with the words, I don’t know anything about that night.

But the information is still out there and others want to help, and one of them tells the writer: “you will defeat your enemy with the one weapon that you have inside you that he cannot touch and that he trembles before – truth.”
Does this sound mysterious? If so, it’s not surprising. For After Visiting Friends is – in addition to everything else it is – a real life mystery.”

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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