Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

I’m a huge fan of Lisa Jewell and I could not wait to read her newest novel I found you. As usual she did not disappoint, it was a great read with suspense, mystery and relatable characters.  
Alice Lake, single mother of 3 looks out her window and sees a man sitting on the beach, in the rain, staring out at the ocean. She tries to ignore him but after he has been out there all day her curiosity gets the better of her and she heads to the beach to offer him a coat. Upon meeting him she quickly discovers that something is not right, he has no idea who he is or how he got to the beach. Although she knows it is probably a bad idea she invites him into her home. At the same time hours away in the suburbs of London a young wife, Lily Monrose is waiting for her husband to return from work, he is late, and he is never late. After a couple of hours she is frantic with worry so she calls the authorities and reports him missing. After he has been reported missing, she soon discovers that Carl Monrose does not exist.
Twenty-three years earlier Gray and Kirsty are on holiday with their parents when they meet a mysterious young man who takes an interest in 15 year old Kirsty. At first he seems harmless to everyone but Gray who has had a bad feeling about him from the moment they met. As the days go by the whole family starts to feel uncomfortable around him though because his pursuit of Kirsty turns into an obsession. The culmination of these two stories reveals 20 years of secrets which are shocking for everyone involved.

I love to read Jewell because her characters are real and relatable, they are tragic, dark, caring and messy and they embody everything that it is to be human. In this book and many of her others she pairs these wonderful characters with complex story lines that have lots of twists and turns, often flipping back and forth from the present to the past. I also love how she includes the perspectives of most of the characters in the story, it gives it more depth while continuing to add to the mystery.

This book is a true page turner that will keep you guessing until the end!  - Cassie

Friday, May 12, 2017

North of Crazy by Neltje

Artist and writer Neltje was at Billings Public Library on Friday, May 5th, for a reading in front of a packed room. Her book, North of Crazy, was sitting on my coffee table at home. It’s a terrible admission for a librarian, but I just hadn’t gotten around to opening it before the reading. She was such a great storyteller, and the selections she read at the program were so intriguing, that I went straight to the book when I got home, and pretty much kept my nose in it until I finished it, with minor exceptions like coming back to work on Saturday and the occasional break to feed the pets.

Prior to reading her memoir, I had known Neltje’s name as an abstract expressionist painter whose works could be seen at the Yellowstone Art Museum from time to time. How little I knew about her! As the daughter of publisher Nelson Doubleday, she grew up in New York and on a South Carolina plantation in a privileged family, with hard-drinking and neglectful parents who favored their son over a mere daughter, and regularly shuffled off both children to relatives and paid staff. At the age of nine, a family friend abused her. She married very young, to an ambitious man who saw the value of marrying the daughter of his boss, and had two children of her own.  She moved to northern Wyoming only for the short residency required for a divorce, but ended up staying, establishing a ranch, restoring the Sheridan Inn, and eventually coming into her own as an artist and a determined feminist. 

Along the way, she led an extraordinary life. Her family’s literary connections took her on some adventures that are sprinkled through the book, where readers will find mentions of Daphne DuMaurier, Bennett Cerf, W. Somerset Maugham, and other notable writers. Other experiences she relates include cocktails with the royal family of Britain and marching behind Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Birmingham.

The memoir is imperfect in its introspection of her life and experiences, but an altogether absorbing read.    -DeeAnn

Reserve this memoir.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Irina Werning’s Back to the Future

Looking at pictures is one of the best kinds of reading. Our responses are visceral - unmitigated by language. Art books, like estate sales, contain trash and treasures. The value of what we find depends on who’s looking.

Argentine photographer Irina Werning asked people for old keepsake photos of themselves, then did human rephotography, retaking the images with almost identical setting, objects, and expression. Only the subjects’ age and experience has changed. Werning crafted clothes to match their childhood duds.

People find no image as fascinating as another human’s face. This art questions all the assumptions of portraiture, and why we cherish it. It also reminds me that not many of us outgrow the presumptions of our youth.

In a local vein, Montana landscape rephotography shows how our state roadway vistas have changed since early Montana DOT engineers took those pics. But our art photography books are mostly in the 770s. --Jon

Reserve Irina Werning’s Back to the Future.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Two good teachers’ books of math

Math... keep reading! Good teachers help a student find meaning before doing work. Fun stuff, exploring why the world makes rational sense. 2500 years ago, Euclid fooled around until he built our universe with only a straightedge and a compass. Sutton’s clear little book Ruler & Compass helps you reconstruct Euclid’s geometry, from right angles to conic sections and beyond, on a sheet of paper, without any calculator or computer- just a compass and a pencil. A classical education.

This is perfect “inquiry learning,” which kids love because they make the discoveries themselves… following an ancient genius.

Perhaps you hated geometry class because nobody ever explained what the assignments were good for, but Euclid, the dad of geometry, always knew that the purpose of math is to learn how to learn, by exploring.

Theoni Pappas has published annual math calendars for decades. In them, each date (like “17”) is the solution to that day’s math question. She is that teacher who first gives you the answers, then asks how you might figure them out. Her The Joy of Mathematics explores remarkable math meanings in everyday objects and perspectives. The only way to really learn is because you want to.  --Jon

Reserve Ruler & Compass: Practical Geometric Constructions.

Reserve The Joy of Mathematics: Discovering Mathematics All Around You

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Baseball Field at Night by Patricia Goedicke

Patricia Goedicke and I glanced off of each other in Missoula in the early 90's. I took two poetry classes from her, one of thousands of students and aspiring writers that she must have seen in her twenty-five year tenure at the University of Montana.  To be clear, I was not a poet, and these days I find poetry both thrilling and baffling.   But in her teaching, which gave weight and validity to each person in the room along with clear-headed guidance through the work of poets both living and long dead; and also in her critiques of my efforts, which were kind but always to the point, I discovered the possibilities of poetry to convey both emotion and thought through pure form.

The Baseball Field at Night was Goedicke's last collection, completed shortly before her death from cancer in 2006.  Revisiting her poems now, I am struck by their candor and vigorous use of imagery, as well as by the way she used the space on the page to create pauses, connections, and contradictions.  She sweeps you along, as Melissa Kwasney notes in her forward, "the path of a bee or hummingbird, all zigzag."  The final effect, though, is not chaos, but connection, as the poet  brings "a brilliant and yet sown order" which links her images together into a larger commentary.  Thus, in the title poem, the lonely baseball diamond becomes a dark and mysterious place linked to the stars and to death:

"so call back     ask
nobody wants to cross an absolutely empty
baseball field at midnight          probably not even          you"


Reserve this book.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"The Barefoot Boy" by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

A beloved poem from my childhood, Whittier's "The Barefoot Boy" has always made me smile.  It is filled with images of a carefree young boy's exploration of nature's splendor, while acknowledging that his freedom is fleeting.  He will soon become an adult with responsibilities, expressed in these lines:

"All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt's for work be shod-"

Surprisingly, Whittier's own childhood was hardly idyllic.  He worked on his family's farm to the detriment of his own health, with little formal education.  Later he became a shoemaker, a teacher, writer, and editor, and helped found the Atlantic Monthly in 1857.  An American Quaker, Whittier was also known for his work as an ardent abolitionist.

"The Barefoot Boy" seems especially relevant in today's fast-paced world.  As many seek to escape to simpler joys by getting back to nature, the poem evokes nostalgia for a childhood, real or imagined, where one could explore plants and wildlife with childlike curiosity.  Perhaps it represents a youth Whittier wishes he could have had, or possibly it is about appreciating life's small, pleasurable moments in a larger, more figurative sense. ~Margie

This poem is collected in The Poetry of Greenleaf Whittier, edited by William Jolliff.  Reserve this collection.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Poetry is one of those genres that I do not read very often but when I do I am always struck by how wonderful it is to read. I went through a Poe phase like many other teens and had to read poets such as Frost and Eliot in school but when I think about poetry the first thing that always pops into my head is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. 

The poems are simple, whimsical and funny and they appeal to adults and children. The illustrations are also fantastic and make the poems jump off of the page. Silverstein’s poems are still able to delight even though they were published over 40 years ago! That alone tells you how great this collection of poems is! - Cassie