Archive for the ‘Connie’s Picks’ Category

Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding BrownConnie begins a week of posts from our Outreach Division:

I’m not sure why I picked up this book to read. I like historical fiction but I was never very interested in the Puritan era. The subtitle “A Novel of Early America” and the fact that the story was loosely based on a captive narrative written by Mary Rowlandson did catch my attention.

Mary Rowlandson, a Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritan, was captured by a local Native American tribe during King Philip’s War. As a slave, her story intersects with James Printer, a Nipmuc Indian who was raised in the Puritan culture, and apprenticed as a printer. James Printer belonged to a group of Native Americans who had converted to Christianity and were known as “Praying Indians.”

I found the story mesmerizing and along with the author’s note and reader’s guide at the end, I learned more about the Puritans, Native Americans and life in Colonial America. Without giving any more of the storyline away, this fast paced and compelling book made learning about a sad and difficult period of Native American and colonial history interesting. I would recommend this book to people who like to learn about other cultures and ways of life, as well as people interested in history. I think it would make an interesting book group choice as well.

Check the WRL catalog for Flight of the Sparrow

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04book "Contagious: Why Things Catch On" by Jonah Berger.We are ending the week with this sobering view of technology from Connie of the library’s Outreach Services Division.

I was watching a TV show called Blacklist when the main character started talking about “Big Data” and how someone with the right skills can find out just about anything about anybody and track them. I had only a vague idea what this meant.

What is “Big Data” and why should we care? I turned to the library for answers.

The authors of Big Data interpret this to mean processing vast amounts of stored data very quickly in a way that can’t be done on a smaller scale. Algorithms applied to this data have a predictive capability that will “change markets, organizations, the relationship between citizens and governments and more.”

This book develops that concept in a very understandable way with interesting examples of how our world had already changed by the large amount of data stored.

A positive example of the way big data has already helped consumers is Farecast, which predicts when air fare will be cheapest to buy. And future ways big data may benefit humanity is by predicting where outbreaks of disease will occur.

The negative implications of the predictive quality of “Big Data” are thought provoking (think of the movie Minority Report). Not only does everything we do on the Internet never go away, but that information can be analyzed over and over again for different purposes without our knowledge or consent. Even if the data is anonymized, it can still be traced back to a single individual!

The authors state that the amount of data will continue to grow along with our ability to process it. It is “the dark side of big data” that I found most alarming – more surveillance of our lives, less protection of privacy, and loss of anonymity. I found myself marking sections in the book and going back to re-read it. It also sparked a lot of discussion in my book group. Technology is a part of all our lives whether we love it or hate it and this book was a fascinating peek into our future.

Check the WRL catalog for Big Data

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shortguideThis week’s reviews come to you from the library’s Outreach Services Division, starting with a recommendation from Connie:

If you are interested in trying to live a healthy life, but are confused about the abundance of medical information out there, this is the book for you!

Dr. David Agus, a cancer specialist, is often seen on TV commenting and interpreting medical studies for the masses. He is also the best selling author of The End of Illness.

Agus attempts to distill the medical research from that book down to a prescriptive list of his 65 health rules, hence the title – A Short Guide to a Long Life.

Some of the rules seemed obvious like #11 Practice Good Hygiene or #16 Get Off Your Butt More.  Some rules are not always practical like #7 Grow a Garden, #47 Have Children, or #49 Pick Up a Pooch. Some rules are expensive (#20 Consider DNA Testing).

The book is compact and concise. The author’s goal is to give the average person a set of health guidelines based on the science available today. He feels everyone should really think about their lifestyle and the choices we make every day. Each of us, according to the author, has the ability to take more control over the future of our health. Dr. Agus suggests examining his guidelines and implementing the choices that match our own individual values, ethics, and situations.

In addition to his “rules,” he offers a decade-by-decade list of preventative steps to consider and discuss with your doctor. The key to a healthy life is prevention. Of course, the younger you are, the more impact these guidelines will have. However, it’s never too late to take more control of your life.  I can’t think of a more useful general health book.

Check the WRL catalog for A Short Guide to a Long Life

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This week’s reviews come to you from the library’s Outreach Services Division, starting with a recommendation from Connie: 

Amity & Sorrow is a fictional story inspired by the events surrounding David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Yearning for Zion religious splinter sects. The novel begins with a mother and her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, fleeing their home, until they crash their car and are stranded in rural Oklahoma. A farmer gives them aid, and the women stay because they have no way of getting anywhere else. The story of why they are fleeing unfolds in flashbacks, as the mother, Amaranth, fears her husband (who claims to be God) is pursuing them.

I found the story interesting and repelling at the same time. I thought the author did a good job of making me think about why people are drawn to this religious lifestyle, how it provides a missing sense of community while isolating them from the rest of society, and how hard their day-to-day lives are. I think this would be a good pick for book discussion groups because it makes readers examine our thoughts and feelings about a part of our society that is outside the mainstream.

Check the WRL catalog for Amity & Sorrow

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echoThis week’s posts are reviews from the library’s Outreach Services Division.

This debut novel by Andrea Thalasinos attracted me for two reasons; it was about dogs and another culture that I didn’t know anything about.  For me, An Echo Through the Snow was a win-win!

The story alternates between two settings and characters.

In present day Wisconsin, a struggling young woman named Rosalie, rescues a Siberian husky, which profoundly changes the course of her life.  As she becomes more involved with dogs and the world of dog sled racing, her future looks brighter despite the odds against her.

Alternately, in 1929, a Siberian Chukchi woman, Jeaantaa, tries to
save her people’s Siberian huskies as the Russians force the Chukchi to give up their traditional lifestyle.

The story lines converge at the end, and I found both to be compelling.  The book left me wanting to know more about some of the people in Rosalie’s world, as well as Jeaantaa’s people.

The author has rescued and raised Siberian huskies, and learned how to be a musher training dogs to run a dogsled team, so she knows her subject well.  Her research on the little known Chukchi people and the history of the dog breed added to my enjoyment of the story.

Check the WRL catalog for An Echo Through the Snow

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Today, Connie from Outreach Services reviews a timely book:

The title of this book sums up its contents nicely.  If, like me, you know little about the Mormon faith, this book answers the basic questions in a very concise way.

Given the current presidential race, I thought it was about time that I knew something about Mormonism, apart from what appears in sensational news stories and cable TV shows. The author, Professor Richard Bushman, has written other, more in-depth books about the Mormon religion, but this little 100+ page guide is perfect for summarizing the history of the Mormons in America and the beliefs of its founder, Joseph Smith.

The book briefly describes how Joseph Smith’s doctrines formed the church and ultimately its followers.  It discusses the most painful period of the Church’s history in the 19th century, as well as the subsequent independent factions that have splintered off during the years, from the more progressive Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) radical groups.  However, the author mainly concentrates on the largest group of Mormons who follow the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).  He explains how the church is organized and operates worldwide with 12 million members and growing.

I found this little book easy to read and very informative.  It is part of Oxford University Press’ s Very Short Introduction series of books on history, philosophy, science religion and the humanities.  I can’t wait to try another!

Check the WRL catalog for Mormonism


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Connie shares this review of a mystery by Lisa Gardner.

I hadn’t read anything by Lisa Gardner in a while, and after listening to the audio of
this book, I am ready to pick up all the ones I missed! Love You More is #5 in the
Detective D.D. Warren series but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone mystery, as I did.

I have to say the story is a page turner and the audio version is outstanding. Read by two women, Kirsten Potter and Katie MacNichols, the story is told from alternating points of view.

The opening scene is of a murder, told from the alleged murderer’s point of view, followed by the detective’s hypothesis and investigation into what happened.  To add even more interest, the alleged murderer is a state trooper and her young daughter has gone missing.  Like a good mystery, information is slowly doled out, and the detective (along with the reader) continually revises what she thinks really happened.

The story is not only a mystery with plenty of suspense, twists and turns, but raises the question of who you love and just how far you are  willing to go to save or protect them.  Along with the murder investigation, we get glimpses into what is going on in D.D.’s personal life… but I don’t want to give anything away!

This book can be enjoyed as a quick beach read, but even book groups would find ethical and moral questions to discuss.

I recommend you check this book out, but don’t blame me if you get the audio version and are late to work because you just can’t stop listening to one more track…

Check the WRL catalog for Love You More

Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Love You More



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