Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fact and Fiction at the Tucson Festival of Books

Jess Walter is high on my list of authors to meet at the Tucson Festival of Books, because I love his novel on how not to cope with the current economic crisis in The Financial Lives of the Poets. Matt Prior is a likable Everyman who has lost his job as a business reporter and is within days of losing his upside down-mortgaged house. His wife has filled their garage with junk from the Home Shopping Network, and he's afraid that she's having an affair with the high school flame she found on Facebook. Caring for his senile father is another of Matt's challenges and he can't afford to keep his sons in their over-priced private school, even though he knows they won't survive the predatory jungle of public education. His attempt to launch a website where financial advice is given in poetry is a failure: people don't seem to want economic updates delivered in iambic pentameter or haiku.

What, then, do people want? The answer comes to him in a flash, when a chance encounter with some gang bangers at a convenience store results in him getting stoned for the first time in many years. Of course! Middle-aged folks are longing for marijuana! And selling pot is a recession-proof business. Not surprisingly, this doesn't turn to be the best idea for saving his bacon that Matt could have had, but it's by no means the last bad decision he'll make in this hilarious satire on The-way-we-live-now-but-really-wish-we-didn't. Multiple "What was he thinking?" moments will keep you turning pages.

Still on the subject of business reporters--nonfictional this time--I also plan to check in on Michael Hiltzik, Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter for the LA Times, and author of Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century. Hiltzik digs deep into the social, economic and political factors that surrounded the construction of this eternal symbol of the Southwest, and places them in an environmental and historical context that is as eye-opening as it is informative.

Hundreds of authors will be at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 12 and 13 on the UA Mall. And, it's all free, even the parking. You absolutely can't afford to miss it!


Follow the book title links to the Library's catalog for these and other great titles by authors appearing at the Book Festival.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Do you know what Quinoa is? Ok, do you know how to cook it?

How about a Chayote?

Would you like a list of the 15 different types of apples and how to use them properly?

Questions about virtually any type of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, pasta, tofu, breads, sauces, desserts and more are answered in this, the mother of all vegetarian cookbooks.

Although, you don't have to be a vegetarian to appreciate the depth of knowledge and research that went into this book, or the wonderful recipes!

If you are like me and are trying to improve your diet and eat more locally grown produce, this book is vital to understanding absolutely everything about the new and wonderful foods you will encounter.

~ Roller Derby Librarian

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Long Ride Westerns

"I believe I would know an old cowboy in hell with his hide burnt off. It's the way they stand and walk and talk," stated cowboy E.C. "Teddy Blue" Abbott in his memoirs We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a Cowpuncher.

Teddy Blue had the luxury (if you call hardtack and raw-boned horses, luxury) of cowboying in the late 1800's, and drew on vast experience to pen his memoirs. Contemporary writer Elmore Leonard may not know which end of a cow gets up first but, before he made a killing writing crime, he corralled the western experience through pulps and novels. He published his first pulp, Trail of the Apache in 1951, and a novel, The bounty hunters soon followed. Voted by the Western Writers of America as one of 25 best westerns, Hombre was written in 1960 and starred Paul Newman in 1966. Short story 3 10 to Yuma was adapted to the screen twice. The latest stars Russell Crowe and has everything you'd want in a good Western-cows, cowboys, pretty girls,and plenty of conflict and gunplay. PCPL has both movie versions as well as print anthologies containing 3 10 to Yuma including The Tonto woman and other western stories.

Elmore switched to crime when westerns started losing popularity but, in both genres, his stories gallop along on the backs of flawed and complex protagonists (visit Ben Wade in 3 10 and John Russell in Hombre) and sharp dialog.

So riders, I mean readers, it's rodeo time. Mosey on over to the Western section and pick up a title written by Leonard or Robert Parker - yes, that Robert Parker, he wrote five - Zane Grey, Max Brand, Elmer Kelton, Wayne D. Overhosler or local writer/cowboy JPS Brown, pull off your boots and travel back to a time when men were men and (you know).

And, in March, don't forget to stop by and say Howdy to Elmore Leonard while you're at the Tucson Festival of Books

Find all of these titles and more Westerns at your Library.

Vicki Ann

Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome to the Future. It Stinks.

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about the "new" trend in YA fiction, novels set in a grim and terrible near future, otherwise known as dystopias. I'm sure they're good at any number of things, but the Times is a little late to the game on this one. In the past few years, dystopian fiction for teens has grown from a few books into darn near its own subgenre. Here, have a few of my favorites.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver - Ever had a bad breakup and wished you could just remove all those awful feelings forever? In Lena's world, they have. Everyone over 18 has been surgically relieved of their ability to love, and doesn't that make life just peachy? Strangely enough, no. (Psst! The library owns it in e-book format as well!)

Rash by Pete Hautman - Welcome to the United Safer States of America, where road rage is a criminal offense and helmets are the most popular fashion accessory. Unfortunately, our protagonist, Bo Marsten, has a little bit of an anger-management issue. What happens to a decidedly unsafe kid in this super-safe world?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - This one's had a lot of press lately, what with the rumored movie adaptation and its steady presence on the bestseller lists. In the first book of a trilogy, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen must compete in the Hunger Games. If she wins, she gets prizes, cash, and food to take back to her starving district. If she loses . . . well, let's just put it like this. The way she wins is to outlive every other competitor.

And of course, the classic dystopian novels, like George Orwell's 1984 and Lois Lowry's The Giver still have a strong presence. What are some of your favorites?

- Maureen K.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Great Typo Hunt - Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson

I am a fan of correct spelling. I used to run a middle school spelling bee, and now I run a spelling bee for adults. Many people care about correct spelling, not just your 3rd-grade teacher. Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson took their love of correct spelling to the extreme - and I applaud their nerve. Jeff and Benjamin had a cross country adventure and decided to correct spelling errors in stores, restaurants, billboards and basically wherever it was needed. Sometimes they used stealth, but often they let the owners know about the spelling error. There's even a certain amount of angst about correcting errors in locally owned business' since they are fans of small stores. My favorite part of the book: I found a spelling error in the last chapter!

Find The Great Typo Hunt at the public library!

More Books

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Healing Powers of Chocolate by Cal Orey

This book is a delicious sourcebook for the mildly curious nibbler to the most ardent chocoholic. In addition to providing current nutritional information extolling the health benefits of chocolate, Orey includes a chocolate timeline from the ancient 15th century Mayans to the creation of the first brownie recipe in 1897. Pertinent to the chocolate lover of today are surveys of the most creative chocolatiers of domestic and international fame.

If visions of truffles won't leave your head, combine your choco-cravings with a love of travel and take a chocolate tour in San Francisco or New York and when in Reno dine at "The Chocolate Bar" .

In addition to chocolate cures and folk remedies for common health ailments and cosmetic problems, Healing Powers is chocked full of mouthwatering recipes including appetizers, sauces, breads, entrees and of course luscious desserts.

If you need to talk chocolate, there is an online chocolate community at

Find it at the library

Special note to Valentine shoppers - Sixty-eight percent of men age 50 or older claim they would rather receive chocolate than flowers from their loved one on Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Year in Debut

Each year we keep our eyes out for noteworthy new novels. At the beginning of the new year we compile that into a handy list, which you can find here.

As I was browsing through this list, I was ashamed to realize I had not read a single one! However, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson is on my list to be read before the Tucson Festival of Books, when she will be in town to speak. So many people have gushed about this book to me, I won't be putting it off much longer.

Some of the other books just have wonderful titles. I am intrigued by Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (better get on that hold list now, before it grows too long); and how about The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu has caught my eye since it came out, and talking about catching the eye, have you seen the cover for The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano? There is something about it that makes me pause everytime.

I'd better start reading. And it's never too early to start looking for new debut authors of this year.
~That One Girl

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Zoe's father was an advisor to the king, but he fell out of favor and was exiled from court. Zoe has lived with him in a small village for years. After a long illness, her father passes away. A few days later a man from the capital arrives. He says the king has chosen Zoe to be his fifth wife. Lost in grief, Zoe goes with the man. Once they arrive in the capital, Zoe runs away. She starts living along the river's edge where a community of squatters camp. Slowly she begins to recover from her grief. As she adapts to her new circumstances she begins to learn that her father kept many secrets from her. As she uncovers the truth, she will gain a place in society and discover her own unique powers.

One of the things I love about Sharon Shinn is how fully developed her worlds and characters are. Troubled Waters is no exception. The culture is rich and vibrant, the characters are complex, and the story is fascinating. The political intrigue is masterfully done. There are layers and layers of secrets and motivations that kept me engrossed. All in all, another fantastic story by Sharon Shinn.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Other Side of the Bridge

The opening line of a Garth Brooks song, "Blame it all on my roots I showed up in boots..." pretty much sums up my reading background. Farm raised, I connect to novels where terrain and toil are as critical to the story as character and plot, and author Mary Lawson delivers.

Arthur Dunn toils on the northern Canada land where he was raised. Like his father before him, he is pragmatic, solid and rooted in the ground. Never believing his good fortune, he marries a girl with whom he "fell in love so hard that he felt bruised all over for a week." Unlike Arthur, his younger brother Jake is reckless and bored, taking risks to relieve the monotony until he takes one that almost ends his young life and leaves both brothers scarred.

Rather than a straight narrative, it weaves through their boyhood years during the Depression and World War II (when the community suffers through young men leaving for war and returning only as letters from the Canadian Government) and the 1950s as the town doctor's son enters their lives and unwittingly contributes to a long avoided confrontation.

Lawson was raised on Canadian farmland and she unassumingly and gently guides her readers in both this novel and her debut Crow Lake.
Find Mary Lawson at your Library

Vicki Ann