Literacise = Literacy + exercise

Literacise is a wonderful exhibition at the Boston Public Library, that while it was a children’s programme there, really should become a nationwide reading programme! Grab a book, on your MP3, iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, etc! and go for a walk. Or dance to the words. Act out the play, sing the poetry. It is nearly spring and we all need to move and shake off winter!

First Novels, Debuts, Mysteries,

Recently read a number of first books, that are well worth trying.
Martin Davies. The conjurer’s bird. I just loved this picture. Joseph Banks, great name of my botanical history, plus a modern day piece of a puzzle together to create a new story. I liked that it was a story well known within one family, but of course not available to history. It is only by connecting dots, and seeing some coincidences, that a possible truth is discovered. And what a lovely story. I liked all of the characters (although the back and forth between centuries is not always the best venue for readability).
Reminded me somewhat of Andrea Barrett’s short story of Linneaus. Both tragic, both romantic, both atmospheric. And such beautiful prose or turn of phrase. The author is a BBC producer, who has written other books: e.g.Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar rose. He is writing Sherlock Holmes, with the housekeeper as crime solver! I loved the time frame – these are light, fast reads, not meant to be Holmesian. Delightful. She isn’t flustered by anything (of course not, she’d have to be intelligent to put up with Holmes or to be kept by him).
Gerald Elias. (2009)Devil’s trill This was a debut novel, written by an amazing violinist, who is also an avid mystery reader! Concert Master for Utah Symphony, Music Professor, Violinist with the BSO. Graduate of Yale. The first book in what will be a series. Almost a bit formulaic in having the tragic antihero, the twisted plot, the race to prove innocence, the locked room of course! the florid writing that nearly gushes at some of the musical passages (but I loved it-and imagine other music lovers will also like the descriptions), with all the history, the revelatory insiders view of musical exploitation of children (like beauty pageants)… lurid musical underworld, shady violin dealers, venal patrons, backstabbing teachers and parents.
The writing is thoroughly engaging – you know he (author) is setting you up too.
Daniel Jacobus, blind, young, bitter, chainsmoking, reclusive violin teacher (went blind at pinacle of career when offered concertmaster to BSO but rare genetic eye disease permanently blinded him.) But many of his students ‘love’ him, and eventually go on to become amazing musicians. Every description of playing, notes, scores is both instructive and moving (I would close my eyes and listen to the words/music). Jacobus attends the Grimsley Competition held every 13 years at Carnegie Hall to children/prodigies younger than 13; the winner gets cash, symphonic appearance and use of the world’s only ¾ size stradivarious legendary Piccolino. And the plot begins. After the winner plays it the violin goes missing, the teacher is murdered and the finger points to Jacobus of course.

Emily Arsenault (2009) The Broken Teaglass
This reminded me of the Secret History – (Donna Tartt’s first book) This is also a first book, but that might prejudice the reading of this novel. Set in New England, and the old NE façade, but also an academic façade. 2 recent college graduates work in a dictionary company as lexicographers, with a dry sense of humour and budding romance. Numerous dark twists to each character, some completely out of place or unnecessary (you can tell it is a first novel). Oh, to have a job looking for new expressions, new words, same words but new meanings, and just write them on chits, to pile up the number of chits, to eventually put it into the dictionary. Paid to read newspapers, magazines, etc. Not at all sure I would recognise the words/phrases if I saw them, but then, they are solving a mystery, hunting for the clues hidden in the chits – citations from a book that doesn’t exist. Billy Webb seemed too young, esp with the Billy, not Bill, not Will, and it didn’t fit at all with his run in with mortality; so unusual with teenagers. Off beat mystery cum coming of age novel. ‘Sweet and charming’ – not really my description of it. I found myself laughing, but also shaking my head feeling old. These kids have no concept of what they need to do to survive, live and thrive. Wake up!
This last is NOT a first novel, but perhaps made the others seem very much like first novels!
Andrew Taylor (2009) Bleeding Heart Square. 1934 England. Mrs Lydia Lanstone seeks refuge in 7 Bleeding Heart Sq, London because her father lives there and she is fleeing her husband. But a story that seems decades older begins to unravel (only four years) with her arrival. We know of the next war, the fascist/Nazis and the hardships that are about to come. We see the loss of class structure and the thin veneer of aristocracy, as well as human decency. This book is enveloped in historical detail, quite convoluted plot, presence of true evil in the world. Yet. Yet, we have the future hope and we are living in the present. The story is more about Rory Wentwood too = his struggle to get a job, after returning from India, without an anchor in a country he doesn’t recognise. (anyone recognise Richard Hanney in the 39 Steps on tonights Masterpiece theatre?!! Remake (5)of the John Buchan book,and although wonderfully set in Scotland, I like the Hitchcock best!) The writing is compelling and the first account is horrifying (esp as he writes of mobs, the changes in England, and begins to find his vocation). Society isn’t pretty. This reminds me of PDJames (not quite as well written, but historical atmosphere, intricate people, decisions have far reaching consequences). His first novel won the John Creasey Award, shortlisted for the Gold Dagger and Edgar. He is the only author to receive CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award twice. Lives in England and has so many more books published:: Roth Trilogy (four last things, Judgement of Strangers, Office of the Dead), the Lyndmouth Series, Blaines Trilogy and Dougal Series. Can’t wait!! A stain in the silence, The Barred Window, Raven in the water, The American Boy. I just donated my copy of Bleeding Heart Square to the Library, and have taken several of the older ones out. Looks like great reading ahead!

Friends Bookstore, Library New Arrivals,

We have had some great new and used books donated to the Friends Bookstore! And the new arrivals shelves in the Library are filled with excellent choices as we patiently wait for spring to arrive. I was walking past when I spotted Quentin Jardine’s latest Skinner novel, a mystery set in Edinburgh. It was in my hands before I knew it. And then, in the bookstore, I found several absolutely wonderful new-to-me books! Come to the Bookstore often for the best selections! I also know that we have had a large donation of science fiction too (hot off the presses!)


The Friends of the Rochester Public Library have 5 booksales throughout the year. We just had a very successful Winterfest Sale! Our next booksale will be on Sunday 18th April 2010 to kick off National Library Week at the Library.
23, 24th June (Wed and Thurs) are the dates for the Rochesterfest Book Sale
10 October (Sunday) is the Fall Cleanup Book Sale
and finally
5 December (Sunday) is the Holiday Book and Bake Sale – a special event.

Please mark your calendars!

Also note that we will join Art Walk, keeping the Friends Bookstore open until 9pm on the first Thursdays of each month during spring and summer. Hope to see you there too. We will have displays of art books, paintings/prints and other items for sale, along with all the regular, wonderful books.

We have had a display on Home Improvements for a week now (noting that there was the Home Improvements Event at the Mayo Civic Center last weekend). The books and magazines have been selling like hotcakes! We are very fortunate to have some creative volunteers who make our wonderful displays, normally based on donated books or library events. We change our displays twice a month, to refresh the books, replace bookstock and welcome customers.
Soon we will have a lovely display for St Patrick’s day, with green books, books (fiction, poetry and nonfiction) on Ireland, the Celts, and great irish literature. And spring can’t be far behind!

Bleeding Heart Square Andrew Taylor

New Author!!
I feel like setting off sirens. Reading the Bas Bleu catalogue, I was intrigued by their review, of a mystery writer I hadn’t heard of. Thought perhaps a new book/ author, but when I got the book, discovered he has written 4 novels, and FOUR TRILOGIES! (Roth, Lydmouth BLanes and Dougal). Oh my, there are so many more books to read. This Bleeding Heart Square book was published 2009, is an actual place in London, has a great opening chapter, and looks like it will be an atmospheric/ historical read (1934). The author has won numerous awards; first novel won the John Creasy Award, shortlisted for Gold Dagger and Edgar. He is also the only author to receive the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award twice. I am hooked. Hooray! Plus there are 15 more books to read ;-)I am sure there are alot of these in the 50cent to $1 mystery section in the Bookstore.

The Broken Teaglass turned out to be an acceptable read. I liked the characters much more by the end of the book although I had sorted it all out (surprised later to find many readers had no idea or didn’t expect the plot ending). Not quite the literary mystery that sends me in raptures, but this was a fun read.

Emily Arsenault The Broken Teaglass 2009

Has anyone else out there read The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault? I recently started this and have been laughing ever since. I don’t suspect it was meant to be this funny, but it is great fun in so many ways. Again, the jacket cover brought me in: her debut novel of a venerable dictionary publisher, …teasing literary puzzle, suspense novel, New England flavour, and “an exploration of definitions: of words, of who we are, and of the stories we choose to define us.” I was also intrigued by the author blurb that states she was also a lexicographer, english teacher, children’s librarian and a Peace Corp volunteer. She wrote this to pass long quiet evenings in her mud brick house in rural South Africa.
100 pages into it, I am intrigued by the story, but find the characters are definitely just out of college. I hate feeling like an old fogey, but we are doing our children/adults no favours if they can’t boil water and balance a checkbook, to say nothing of socially interact! More later, when I finish and figure it all out!

CIty Secrets: Books Ed Robert Kahn and Mark Strand 2009

I just stumbled across this book and love it. The start “By recommending a book to someone, we extend its life. If the book has been neglected or forgotten, we save it from sure oblivion. It is easy, therefore, to imagine this collection of short personal essays as a kind of rescue operation”…. is perfect. This is how I feel about so many books I recommend. And a partial reason why this blog has come into being. But here is an unusual literary guidebook that covers a wide array of authors, presented by other poets, novelists, editors, critics, etc. In short, people you would want to recommend a book to you! I also looked up a couple of reviews and loved the “best literary gift to travelers since Baedeker and Henry James’ from the Financial times! And also discovered that they have a series of City Secret Books, which are next on my list to review/read/own. None appear to be on Kindle yet though. And that is an ideal spot for this type of information. I have requested purchase for the Library.

Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day was originally the Roman feast of Lupercalia, a celebration of fertility. The holiday comes, in part, from the ancient Romans’ holiday honoring Juno, the goddess of women and marriage, on the night before the Feast of Lupercalia. Roman girls would put slips of paper with their names on them into a clay jar, and the boys would choose their partner for the festival by taking a slip from the jar. This was one of the few times girls and boys were allowed to socialize, and the dancing and games often evolved into courtship and marriage.

In 270 A.D. the holiday was Christianized (and the date changed from February 15 to 14) to commemorate the martyred Saint Valentine. Claudius II of Rome was waging several wars and needed to recruit more soldiers for his armies. He thought that many men were reluctant to join because they didn’t want to leave their wives and families, and so he temporarily banned engagements and marriages. Saint Valentine was working as a priest at the time and he and his partner Saint Marius broke the law and secretly married couples in small, candlelit rooms, whispering the ceremonial rites. Eventually Saint Valentine was caught and sentenced to death. While awaiting his punishment he would talk with the young daughter of the prison guard whose father allowed her to visit occasionally. Saint Valentine was killed on February 14, 269 A.D., but he had left a note for the guard’s daughter, signed, “Love from your Valentine.” By the late Middle Ages, the modern tradition—of exchanging paper love declarations, called ‘Valentines’—evolved.

Fiction writers have been inspired by love. While he was working on his novel Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert wrote dozens of letters to his lover Louise Colet, describing the writing process. But he also wrote some letters just to tell her how much he missed her. In one letter he wrote, “Twelve hours ago we were still together, and at this very moment yesterday I was holding you in my arms. … Now the night is soft and warm; I can hear the great tulip tree under my window rustling in the wind, and when I lift my head I see the moon reflected in the river. Your little slippers are in front of me as I write; I keep looking at them.”
The novelist Vita Sackville-West was inspired by her love affair with Virginia Woolf to write her novel Seducers in Exile (1924). In the middle of that affair, Sackville-West wrote to Woolf, “I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase. … But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that.”

Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, didn’t write much literature in her lifetime, a novel and a few short stories, but some of her letters to her husband read like love poems.
She once wrote: “I look down the tracks and see you coming—and out of every haze and mist your darling rumpled trousers are hurrying to me. Without you, dearest dearest, I couldn’t see or hear or feel or think—or live—I love you so, and I’m never in all our lives going to let us be apart another night.”

On Valentine’s Day in the US we celebrate romantic love, with florists importing several million pounds of roses from South America. About thirty-six million boxes of chocolates will be given as gifts. One of my favourite romantic books of all time is Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (and yes, you have to read the first nine of the british mystery series first!)

But the Friends Bookstore has LOTS Of wonderful books that make ideal gifts for your sweetheart! Come in soon! We are open this weekend.