Posts We Like

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The Wedding Night, by Sophie Kinsella

Anyone familiar with Sophie Kinsella’s stand-alone novels such as Can You Keep a Secret? and I’ve Got Your Number, will recognize the basic formula of her most recent offering, The Wedding Night:  the smart-if-a-little-zany heroine and the brooding and remote hero who always seems to catch her at the most mortifying moments possible but falls for her anyway. 

Kinsella, however, has a talent for creating variety within the formula, and doing it so well that each new book is welcomed by her readers as a beloved friend with whom one cannot wait to catch up. The Wedding Night is succeeds at being both funny and romantic, though it lacks some of the effortless sparkle of previous books outside her Shopaholic series.

The plot centers around sisters Fliss and Lottie and the fallout when flaky Lottie rebounds from a breakup with her complacent boyfriend by eloping with Ben, the boy she fell in love with during her teen gap year and never saw again. The overprotective Fliss, a single mother still reeling from her divorce and her ex-husband’s decision to move to the States (and away from their young son) with his new girlfriend, is determined to put the kibosh on her sister’s hasty wedding plans, and she’s not afraid to use every dirty (and itchy) weapon in her arsenal. Along for the ride is Ben’s business partner Lorcan (see brooding hero, above), who has his own reasons for wanting the wedding squashed, and Fliss’s seven year-old son, who adds to the hilarity with his innocent and repetitious query “Have they put the sausage in the cupcake yet?”

Whether you’re already a Sophie Kinsella fan or simply looking for something fun to balance out your summer reading, The Wedding Night is an excellent choice. Well-written and charming, it will leave you looking forward to the next novel by the prolific Kinsella. Check it out in the fiction section of your local library!

Recommended by Rebecca

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Hospice Voices – Lessons for Living at the End of Life by Eric Lindner
Mr. Lindner’s book evolved from his 5 year experience in hospice volunteering. Hospice is a program for terminally ill people, and hospice volunteers are trained to give direct care and companionship to them. This memoir of his experiences with his clients is filled with poignant and funny stories, along with reflections on his hospice training. Breaking assumptions about the nature of people and their needs is a common theme, as well as the unpredictability of how people ultimately die. His commitment is fierce, as he takes on 5 patients during one period, and even calls and writes some of them when out of town – because the joy of his work “outweighed the sadness.” The last chapter of this inspirational read is a short chapter on do’s and don’ts and a reflection on his aging parents. This is not a sad book!

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Focus – the Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman
Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence) discourses on the science of attention. His main thrust is that in order to succeed in our increasingly fast paced and complex world, we must master the skill of concentration in whatever we choose to do. He discusses various ways to achieve focus and three kinds of attention - inner, other and outer focus. There are applications for raising children, focusing on the positive things in life, and building effective teams in the workplace — in other words, something for everyone.

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Telling the Bees by Peggy Hesketh
Albert recounts his life in Orange County from the perspective of his lifelong vocation, beekeeping. In reflecting on his past, he chronicles the region’s evolution from farmland to suburbia and concurrent changes in society. The plot of this novel ranges from Albert’s youth, his friendship with Claire (a neighbor), her mysterious trip, to their eventual estrangement (which is explained much later) and the mystery surrounding her demise. It is written from a stream of consciousness perspective, with love for the culture of bees entwined in virtually every aspect of Albert’s lonely life and narrow existence. This is an unusual novel in that you will learn a lot about bees and honey. One assumes those tidbits are all true!

Edison Elementary School Cookbook - a collection of family favorite recipes from the Edison School community, Alameda, CA 2012
This is a collection of great family-tested recipes, from appetizers to desserts, most requiring a handful of ingredients. They reflect the diversity of this area, and present an interesting twist on cuisine you won’t find in similar books outside California! There are contributor and recipe indexes. Some of my favorites are: cranberry pie, chutney chicken and oven roasted asparagus.

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Gilead (a novel) by Marilynne Robinson
Gilead is a special kind of memoir — intended for John Ames’ (the narrator) young son from a second marriage, who will lose his father in the near future to a heart condition. It is a beautiful reflection on the life of a Christian minister in a small town, but it is more than that. It is also a contemplation on the lives and influence of the narrator’s father and grandfather, both ministers, and some memorable experiences during and after the Civil War. This is a touching book about forgiveness, loneliness and love. If you don’t read a lot of novels, this comes with a high recommendation, because of the author’s skillful writing, and its depth and range.

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Fox Bunny Funny by Andy Hartzell - recommended by Kevin
A graphic novel about foxes and bunnies drawn in black and white that uses no words. Sounds great, right?? Don’t let the surface details fool you, this is one of the most intense, thought-provoking graphic novels around. The foxes and bunnies live in a world of strict societal rules where everyone knows their place—foxes rule, bunnies suffer. But what happens when you don’t identify with your group? Both funny and gruesome. For mature readers.

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Treasure Island !!! by Sara Levine - recommended by Lynda

– wherein our narrator, a 25 year old (unnamed) totally self-absorbed slacker discovers Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and decides to make it her personal guidebook for living a bold, new life by distilling the message of the book to four Core Values: boldness, resolution, independence and horn-blowing ( her own!).  In doing so she blindly runs roughshod over everybody and everything in her path demolishing employers, family & boyfriend in a series of increasingly bizarre schemes she cooks up by twisting the “core values” to justify whatever wacky, awful thing she wants to do.  The reader can only read on in fascinated horror and/or laughter.   People either love or loathe this book, depending on whether they respond to the dark humor or are uncomfortable pathological manipulation of the main character.   It would be great for a book club read sure to generate lots of heated discussion.

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Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness, by B. Allen Wallace - recommended by Ted

   The author is well qualified for the task: degrees in religion, philosophy and physics and ordained as a Buddhist monk by the Dalai Lama himself.  However, as much as he decries the single mindedness and non-objectivity of both the religious and scientific studies of cosmology, his acceptance of claims by Buddhist practitioners, even from over 1000 years ago without qualification or hesitance, does undermine his own credibility.

    In any case, he thoroughly discredits Descartes, Christianity, a convincing case for  regarding Buddhism as the template for understanding quantum physics, and through that, the rest of reality.

All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior - recommended by Jill

Thousands of books have looked at the effects of parents on their children. In All Joy and No Fun, author Jennifer Senior asks: what are the effects of children on their parents?
There are many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. Jennifer argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making things more complex and far less clear for parents.
Jennifer collected her information many sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology,philosophy, and anthropology—as she looked at the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new. Her research comes to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. Not only does she speak to the many challenges, but she also discusses the rewards of parenthood and how children can deepen parents’ lives.

Recommended by Beth

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Charming story by one of Italy’s leading writers about two friends, Elena and Lila, who grow up in a poor neighborhood of Naples in the 1950s. Themes of poverty, violence, isolation and the power of love and friendship and the quest for a better life through education and knowledge are treated in vivid detail. Through this coming of age novel, the author brilliantly captures the monumental changes happening in Italian society at that time. This is the first book of a trilogy.

 

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Engrossing tale of two brothers who with their wives meet for dinner in a fashionable restaurant in Amsterdam to discuss what to do after they find out that their teenage sons have committed a shocking crime and are not yet caught by authorities. Each character is slowly unraveled and the narrator is found to be less than reliable. This cleverly written novel by a Dutch writer reveals the dark side of a genteel society and raises the question of how far will families will go to protect the ones they love. 

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San Miguel by T.C. Boyle - recommended by Karin
San Miguel is a small, rugged, sparsely vegetated island off the coast of Santa Barbara.The island provides a strong backdrop and connects the stories of three women who lived there with their families in the 1880s and 1930s. Details of homestead life and sheep ranching are incorporated into this historically accurate fictionalized account of the Waters and Lester families. Marantha Waters, leading a comfortable life in San Francisco yet plagued by consumption, invests the last of her savings to help her husband attain his dream of creating a livelihood for their family in a place supposedly better for her health.Several years later her daughter, Edith, rebels against her confinement there.The nineteenth century brings sturdy Elise Lester, newlywed librarian from New York, to the island with her husband, a World War I veteran. This book portrays an isolated, hardscrabble existence in the not too distant past, conveying the hopes and disappointments of life on the island.

Recommended by Rebecca

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Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – a step-by-step program proven to help you feel good againby Dr. Rodger H. Murphree

This is the definitive work (revised 5th edition with “latest healing breakthroughs”) on these two topics. Dr. Murphree’s comprehensive book makes the key differences between the two conditions very clear. His expertise is evident as he guides the reader through a holistic approach to reverse symptoms, and he leaves no stone unturned as he addresses the immune system, allergies, parasites, yeast, common medications, alternative therapies and nutrition. His writing is informative, and his treatment of the digestive system, endocrine system, and new strategies for restoring sleep is easy to understand. Supplemental material at the back includes symptom profiles for possible underlying conditions and a brain function questionnaire.

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Orange is the New Black – my year in a women’s prison
by Piper Kerman
A graduate of Smith College finds herself in a situation over her head, and pays the price by serving time in a federal prison 10 years later, after finding the love of her life and success in business. Realistic and insightful, this is a revealing look about what life is really like in one women’s prison. It is also a cautionary tale about graduating from college without a goal! Fortunately and amazingly, her friends and lover remain loyal.

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All New Square Foot Gardening
by Mel Bartholomew
This is the 2nd edition of the book that helps you learn how to “grow more in less space.” It’s a fun, inspiring book, filled with photos, ideas and do it yourself projects, from planning your garden, to building boxes and structures, to creating “Mel’s Mix.” This is a great reference tool that you can go back to year after year.

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People Tools – 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity
by Alan C. Fox
This book of 54 short inspirational stories features a “people tool” in each chapter that can be applied on a personal or professional level. It’s a compendium of wisdom with a generous dose of wit from a man who has been successful in business, law and the literary world, and is simply the collected highlights of an interesting life.

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Your Genes, Your Health – a Critical Family Guide That Could Save Your Life
By Aubrey Milunsky, M.D., D.Sc.
Dr. Milunsky’s guide to what we should know about our genetic history is illuminated by touching real life stories. He has written a powerful treatise in a way that makes the content compelling and understood by the average person. This book should inspire everyone to learn about their family histories, so that genetic testing and assessment can be sought to enable one to make good decisions and prevent tragedies. Even a photo of a grandparent may help the clinician identify a specific disorder. In situations where prevention is not possible, genetic knowledge can lead to early intervention and effective treatment.

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Chinese movie: The Grandmaster - recommended by Renee

The long-awaited movie, The Grandmaster, finally arrived at the library and is ready for you to check out or reserve. The Grandmaster is another successful martial arts drama film based on the life story of the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man. This movie is directed and written by Wong Kar-wai (Wong, Jiawei) and stars Tony Leung as Ip Man, Zhang Ziyi as Gong Er. The film has been selected as the Hong Kong entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards. Don’t understand Chinese? No worries. This movie is in Mandarin dialog and dubbed in English. 

 《一代宗师》是香港导演王家卫的首部筹备期长达8年之久的功夫电影,汇集了梁朝伟、章子怡、张震、赵本山、张晋、小沈阳、宋慧乔等两岸三地、海内外明星加盟,讲述的是民国期间“南北武林”多个门派宗师级人物,以及由梁朝伟饰演的一代武学宗师“叶问”先生的传奇一生.

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Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a lost imagination by Sarah Schulman - recommended by Kevin

A stunningly provocative history and memoir of the AIDS years (1981-1996) in New York as told by Sarah Schulman, novelist, journalist, playwright, and activist.  Schulman uses her personal experience as queer activist and longtime resident of the Lower East Side to document how the victims of AIDS have been forgotten and how their deaths have facilitated the process of gentrification.  An important book for every American.

Recommended by Jill
The Artist’s Handbook is full of information on the traditional art methods of drawing, painting, and printmaking together with many modern art techniques such as digital photography, digital printing, and digital image manipulation. This is a complete reference guide for amateurs and proficient, conventional and progressive artists alike.

The information is organized first by function—pigments, resins, solvents, and the like—then by media categorized according to discipline. Full-color illustrations and demonstrations as examples and teaching aids are found throughout the book. This excellent overall guide to the visual arts also contains multiple appendixes on color, perspective, health, and safety.
With an inspiring introduction to the centuries-old art of enameling, even beginners can create imaginative designs. This book covers all the popular techniques, the fundamentals of setting up a studio, and 14 projects. The various styles range from traditional cloisonné, champlevé, and plique-à-jour to experimental techniques such as firing enamel onto mesh forms. Even more creative possibilities can be found in the firing: using copper oxide to create cool color variations or raku firing for unique effects. This book is clearly written and beautifully illustrated.

Descarte’s aphorism merely stated succinctly the dualistic proposal that is as old as philosophy. The brain is clearly biological, but the mind, and especially consciousness is something else. The author maintains that a quantum mechanical solution is really just as romantic and ethereal as a theological one.

Here he proposes what used to be dismissed as mere reductionism: that consciousness is a function of neuroscience and is electro-chemical, that it is genetically based and thus a product of evolution as much as any other system. Although his science is far from complete, he demonstrates that there is already plenty of qualitative evidence. Brain mapping as applied to people with various brain dysfunctions as well as infants and a variety of other mammals, along with computer simulations offer a relatively convincing explanation of sensory interpretation and activation, memory, and a high level feedback loop that evaluates, compares, and makes predictive analysis based on virtually every brain function, along with both internal and external inputs.

  Those inclined to a conception of consciousness as beyond conscious understanding and requiring an acceptance of something non biological, non-physical and inexplicable would be challenged by Dehaene’s thesis.

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Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman - recommended by Beth

Magical story of young love in 1911 New York City told from the perspectives of  Coralie and Eddie. Coralie, daughter of an owner who runs a freak show on Coney Island,  works as a mermaid and swims for hours in a fish tank in the Museum along with other performers like  Wolf-Man,  Butterfly Girl and a 100 year old turtle. Eddie is a Jewish immigrant living on Lower East side and working as a tailor but leaves home to work as a photographer of crime scenes. There are plenty of plot twists involving a mystery, romance and historical events like the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and at Dreamland amusement park.  The novel is mesmerizing full of period details and written in vivid prose.

Family Life: A Novel by Akhil Sharma - recommended by Karin

This is a story about the immigrant experience in America and much more. Ajay Mishra is the youngest son in a family of four, who immigrate to New York from Delhi in the 1970s. It is through his eyes that the narrative unfolds. Within two years of moving half way around the world, tragedy strikes. Birju, the first born son, upon whom so many hopes have been placed, has a devastating accident. All effort and family activity revolve around Birju’s care, leaving Ajay adrift. This is his coming-of-age tale as well as a tale of family life. It is heartbreaking and authentic, yet without sentimentality.

(This title is being ordered by the Library, and not yet available for requests, however Karin thought it was too good to pass up)

Recommended by Rebecca

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The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman
Best selling author Edelman’s memoir of a season when her
daughter Maya was 3 years old is also a travelogue, in that
most of it is set in Belize (with a side trip to Guatemala),
a tiny Central American country. Was it serendipity
that she and her husband chose this location for their
holiday break? Maya’s “imaginary friend”
was manifesting frightening behavior and causing turmoil for
a family already stressed by an often absent father.
In Belize they consulted shamans, one of them the
acclaimed Dr. Rosita Arvigo, an American expat.
The vacation was also an opportunity to navigate through
their marital strife. Highly recommended!

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Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg
This book, based on qualities the author calls “the 8
pillars of happiness in the workplace,” aims to convince
the reader that greater job satisfaction is possible no
matter what your work worries may be. With 40 years
experience teaching mindfulness, concentration and
compassion across a broad spectrum of the workforce,
Salzberg deftly explains the “how” and the “why” of
meditation practice in a straightforward way. She
shares lots of real stories as evidence in her quest to
prove that real happiness at work is possible.

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The Constant Choice by Peter Georgescu
The author, a retired American businessman, weaves his
fascinating memoir with a contemplation of world
conditions. In an effort to explain how we can solve
our complex problems, he studies the fundamental nature of
evil and champions the principle of doing good for good’s
sake. This book is a thoughtful reflection
on the many good things that have happened to him since his
arrival in the U.S. in 1954 as a Romanian refugee, yet it is
not sugar coated. Georgescu’s family suffered deeply
from the evil of Joseph Stalin and he has given solid
reasons why we should “choose always good.”

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Big Data by Viktor Myer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier
Our romance with the Internet is producing Big Data, and
because of it, the business world and the government are
using it to their advantage. This book tells us
exactly what Big Data is, how it is changing our society,
and how we can protect our privacy. The authors (a
professor and a journalist), who are specialists in the
Internet and big data, have collaborated to produce this
informative and captivating book about “the next big
thing.”

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The Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson
This is the age of disease prevention and getting smarter
about our health. Learn how to use the “top 16
age-busting power foods” to stay healthy and eat
smart. This book is 25% basic instruction on nutrition
and healthy food, and 75% recipes, with lots of mouth
watering color photos. A favorite chapter is
“Dollops of Yum” – recipes for simple sauces,
relishes, marinades and dressings that are flavor
enhancers. Resources and a short bibliography are
added value.

Recommended by Kevin

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An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

A beautifully written novel about a woman looking back on her life from the solitude of her apartment in Beruit, Lebanon.  She has devoted her life to literature, eschewing the path that society and her family had set out for her.  Instead she works in a bookstore and spends her spare time translating a new novel into Arabic each year simply for her own pleasure.  A small disaster forces her to question her choices and reassess what is important.  Richly detailed and slow-paced, yet still a page-turner because of Alameddine’s rich characterizations and witty dialogue.  A great book for books lovers, filled as it is with quotes from many other great writers.

It’s National Poetry Month and we’re celebrating by holding the year’s first open mic for teens and adults!  Come show off your talents this Friday at 7:00.  Music and spoken word performances are also welcome.  RSVP to mconciatori@alamedaca.gov.