Monday, August 25, 2014

An Epic Journey through Courtesan Houses of the Turn of the Century

Amy Tan's Valley of Amazement takes the reader on an epic journey to the Courtesan houses of turn of the Century Shanghai to a hidden away Chinese mountain village, to nineteenth century San Francisco covering 50 years in the lives of a mother and daughter torn apart by a series of 
unusual events.  Half Chinese Violet Minturn is separated from her mother by a twist of fate and sold as a virgin courtesan to the Hall of Tranquilly, a famed courtesan house.  Violet finds love with an American in Shanghai, has a child, and then is widowed during a break out of the Blue Disease.  Because she was not legally married her child was taken by the family of the American leaving her bereft.  Violet's attempt to improve her life leads her to a meager existence in a Chinese mountain village as wife number 3 to abusive and crazed husband posing as a Poet.  Ever resourceful, Violet joins forces with the other wives and manages to narrowly escape this situation through wit, strength, and a refusal to be overcome.  At this point we go back in time to explore the story of Lucia Minturn, Violet's mother whose actions begin the thread of events that span the 50 year time period the story covers.  The Valley of Amazement  could be a page turner, but the prose and story lines are so intricate and involving that the reader must slow down a savor each page.  Not to be missed for long time Amy Tan fans and those new to her storytelling skills. 

Reviewed by Karen 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Like Nicholas Sparks? Try Jeffrey Stepakoff

A mix between Nicholas Sparks and Robert Waller, Jeffrey Stepakoff is an essential read for any lover of southern fiction. Born and raised in Atlanta, Stepakoff illustrates perfectly the nuances of southern culture.  From the dialect and southern cooking to the mason jars, readers will enjoy this tap into their southern roots. His two most popular works, Fireworks Over Toccoa and The Orchard illustrate a picturesque view of life in the rural outskirts of Atlanta. 

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

The little town of Toccoa is planning a big celebration for it's returning soldiers. And Lily Davis Woodward is a little pensive and anxious about reestablishing a relationship with her husband, a man she married just days before leaving for the war. Especially now that she has met Jake Russo, the Italian immigrant who has been hired to put on the fireworks display for the festivities. Now Lily must now decide, does she honor the commitment she made so many years ago or be with the man who stole her heart.

The Orchard by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Set in Atlanta, Grace Lyndon is a taste and scent developer constantly in search of unique and distinct aromas. As a work-a-holic focused on her career and landing the next big account, Grace has little time for family or friends. However, while pursuing on her newest creation Grace stumbles upon a North Georgia apple orchard that could change her life and fast paced Atlanta ways forever.

To request these books click the titles or covers above. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book on CD Review: A Way with Words II: Approaches to Literature by Michael D.C Drout Renowned Literary scholar Michael D.C. Drout presents 14 lectures on the big questions about literature. What is literature? Is Literature truth? Why do we read? Insight is provided on these and other questions through an exploration of the following topics: “genres,” “language,” “Identity Politics,” “Culture Cultural Production,” the “Literary Canon,” and “What do we talk about When We Talk about Literature”? Throughout, examples underscore the relevance of literature as a force for understanding the human heart. The listener is taken on a journey through the building blocks of literature, the big questions about literature and emerges with a keener awareness of the influence of literature on culture and community. Listening to this series of lectures is an absorbing and beneficial experience. Unarticulated questions are answered in a seamless narrative fashion. Lectures in A Way with Words are designed for all who desire to further their understanding of language, speech, reading and the power of words.

Karen J. Harris, Librarian, Norcross Branch, Gwinnett County Public Library

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tolkien's Beowulf a mixed bag

A Translation and Commentary
by J.R.R. Tolkien

There is a famous quote about poetry translations that says if a translation is faithful then it is not beautiful and if it is beautiful then it is not faithful. Tolkien's translation of Beowulf is extremely faithful.

Tolkien was a scholar of Old English and wrote a paper titled "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" which is considered one of the most significant works in Beowulf scholarship. He was of course also the grandfather of all modern Fantasy fiction. These two factors taken together make his translation of Beowulf all the more disappointing.

The translation was completed in 1926, decades before his famous Fantasy works, and he did not attempt to publish it during his lifetime. The work is a very literal translation that is sometimes an awkward read. Of much more interest is the 200 pages of commentary Tolkien provides, explaining in great detail his translation process and word choices.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zinio Now Available at Gwinnett County Public Library

What is Zinio? Zinio offers free full-issue popular magazines that you can check out and read on a variety of devices. Worried about overdue fees? Zinio is digital, so there are no overdue charges.

How does it work?

You need two accounts. One is an account for the library Zinio page and the other is a account. You must use the same email address for both accounts. 
To create your Library Zinio account:
You will check out magazines on the Library's Zinio page. 
  1. Click on the Create New Account link in the top right corner of the page.
  2. Enter your library card barcode and email address.
  3. Enter and confirm a password. Entering your name is optional.
  4. You will receive a confirmation notice via email from Gwinnett County Public Library RBDigital Gateway. Click on the link in the email to confirm your account.
Browse and checkout your magazines on the Library Zino page. 
  1. Click on the Log In link in the top right corner of the page.
  2. Enter your email and password.
  3. You will be directed to browse the magazines available for download.
  4. Click on the cover of the magazine to select an issue and send the issue to your account.
Once you checkout your magazine, you will be prompted to create a account. 

To create a account:
  1. Enter your name, email and password when registering. Use the same email address as your Library Zinio account.
  2. Click on “My Library” to view the magazines you’ve selected from the GCPL's Zinio collection.
Start browsing available magazines today!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Small Town Secrets

The Burn Palace
By Stephen Dobyns

The citizens of Brewster, Rhode Island, lead ordinary lives without much excitement. That is until a baby is discovered missing from the local hospital. In its place is a large yellow snake. For a small town like Brewster this disappearance could run the gossip mill for weeks, but the strangeness isn't over yet. A traveling insurance man is killed and scalped, a teenage girl goes missing, and reports of aggressive coyotes are on the rise. Woody, a local cop, is searching for answers but can't find anything to connect the events. "Just a bunch of separate things happening," he says. Acting police chief Fred Bonaldo sees the harmony between neighbors breaking down under the stress, and is " see how quickly that could be swept aside." The tension mounts as the people of Brewster look for someone to blame.

The inside flap of this book says that it is "the literary equivalent of a Richard Russo small-town tableau crossed with a Stephen King thriller" and that's an accurate description. Lots of effort goes into painting the town as a real place filled with real people, and yet they are given terrifying realities to deal with. It's a well-told tale of suspense.

By Carsten Stroud

Another story about a small town with big problems, this one focuses more on the supernatural. But it's got plenty of visceral, real-life danger as well. Niceville is a Southern town with a long history. The plot begins when a child goes missing on the way home from school. The disappearance is caught on video, but the police still don't have any clues because the child is there one second and gone the next with no explanation. As the investigation continues, a massive bank robbery takes place sending shock waves through the town. This isn't a particularly uplifting book, but you can probably tell from the cover that Niceville isn't very nice.

To request these books click the covers or titles above.

Review by Danny Hanbery

Monday, April 28, 2014

Winkler wins the 2014 Townsend Prize for Fiction

God Carlos
by Anthony C. Winkler
Winner of the 2014 Townsend Prize for Fiction

Jamaica-born Atlanta resident Anthony C. Winkler was awarded the 2014 Townsend Prize for Fiction for his novel God Carlos in a ceremony at the Atlanta Botanical Garden Thursday night, April 24.

The Book
God Carlos transports the reader to the Santa Inez, a 16th-century Spanish vessel bound for the newly discovered West Indies bearing a ragtag band of fortune-seeking sailors. She is unusual for her day, carrying no provisions for the settlers and no seeds for planting crops, only vain, arrogant men seeking gold in Jamaica. When they make landfall after more than a month at sea, the crew discovers that the island is inhabited by timid, innocent people who walk around stark naked without embarrassment. The adventurers find no gold in Jamaica, only a merciless climate that nourishes diseases that slaughter them. The islanders' belief that the Europeans have come from heaven further complicates an impossible collision of culture, custom, and beliefs, ultimately leading to mutual doom.

See the full list of 2014 Townsend Prize finalists here.

Past Winners of the Townsend Prize
2012 — Thomas Mullen, The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
2010 — Kathryn Stockett, The Help
2008 — Renee Dodd, A Cabinet of Wonders
2006 — Judson Mitcham, Sabbath Creek
2004 — Terry Kay, The Valley of Light
2002 — Ha Jin, The Bridegroom: Stories
2000 — James Kilgo, Daughter of My People
1998 — Judson Mitcham, The Sweet Everlasting
1996 — JoAllen Bradham, Some Personal Papers
1994 — Pam Durban, The Laughing Place
1991 — Ferrol Sams, When All the World Was Young
1990 — Charlie Smith, The Lives of the Dead
1989 — Sara Flanigan, Alice
1988 — Mary Hood, And Venus Is Blue
1986 — Philip Lee Williams, The Heart of a Distant Forest
1984 — Alice Walker, The Color Purple
1982 — Celestine Sibley, Children, My Children

Click a title or cover to view the catalog or request an item.