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A Family’s Journey Through Darkness

January First“Schizophrenia is a little like cancer. You can’t trust that it will ever go away completely.” Michael Schofield begins with these reflections as he chronicles his journey to understand and combat his daughter January’s mental illness in January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her. For the first five years of her life, Michael and his wife Susan knew only a few certainties about January.  First, she was a genius, with an IQ of 146. Second, she had an extremely active imagination, to the point where she created her own private world and hundreds of imaginary friends. Third, she rarely slept and needed constant stimulation, keeping both parents in a state of total exhaustion and often despair. January was also more prone than the average child to tantrums and fits of rage, which intensified after the birth of her brother, Bodhi. The Schofields had hoped that a sibling would give January a much-needed companion, but were horrified when she tried time and again to physically harm the infant. After many wrong turns and countless battles with California’s mental health and education systems, January was diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia, a condition much more severe in children than in adults.

 

Schofield’s complete honesty, even when it means portraying himself in a less than flattering light, is one of the most powerful draws of this book. He lays bare the family’s physical, emotional and financial struggles. Conveyed particularly well are the immense frustrations the Schofields experience on a daily basis, as they deal with insurance companies, doctors who won’t return calls, and a child who does not respond to traditional reinforcements or punishments.  At present, the situation with January has improved, thanks in large part to a creative living situation – for several years the Schofields kept two apartments so January and Bodhi could live apart - and a drug cocktail which has reduced the severity of her hallucinations. As Schofield concludes, the family has learned to embrace the positive in each day but know that January’s condition may still deteriorate. To find out even more about Jani, visit Schofield’s website, which includes links to media coverage on the family.

Melanie

 
 

Just Desserts

Just Desserts

posted by:
October 4, 2012 - 7:03am

Fool for LoveThe Chocolate ThiefAmerica is a nation of foodies, so it’s no surprise that there are now  great romances centering on chefs and the food industry. Two examples of these mouth-watering romances will leave readers hoping for seconds. Beth Ciotta kicks off her new series with Fool for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel. After a bad breakup, Chloe Madison takes a short-term job as personal chef/driver/companion for Daisy Monroe in the small town of Sugar Creek, Vermont. The largest social organization in Sugar Creek is the Cupcake Lovers. Members meet to share recipes, and they have raised money for charity and sent their home-baked treats to troops for decades. When the Cupcake Lovers begin to put together a charity cookbook, Chloe is drafted to help with the book and to put Daisy’s nemesis in her place. The only problem with Chloe’s new job is free-spirited Daisy’s uptight, micro-managing grandson Devlin. His family depends on him to run the family businesses and handle any problems that come up in their lives. From the start, sparks fly between Chloe and Devlin, but can two people who are so different really be happy together? Fool for Love is filled with charming small town characters and a quirky extended family that will make readers want to come back to Sugar Creek to visit the Monroe family again soon. This book also includes delicious cupcake recipes gathered by Ciotta from her readers.

 

In Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Thief, Cade Corey is the heiress to an American chocolate company’s multi-billion dollar fortune. Her family’s Corey bars are an American staple, but her dream is to start a line of gourmet chocolates for her company. She travels to Paris to find a partner for her gourmet line. Sylvain Marquis, a gorgeous Parisian chocolatier, rejects her proposition outright. Sylvain is appalled by the idea that his chocolates could be mass produced and sold like those detestable Corey bars, but he is intrigued by Cade. Rejection after rejection from leading chocolatiers leads Cade to do something drastic. She breaks in to Sylvain’s store to find his secret recipes. News of Sylvain’s Chocolate Thief, who is identified as Cade in a New York Times article, creates a media frenzy around Cade and Sylvain. This steamy romance is as irresistible as Sylvain’s sinful chocolates.

 

Beth

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Is the Grass Always Greener?

Is the Grass Always Greener?

posted by:
October 3, 2012 - 8:01am

The Town Mouse and the Country MouseOne of Aesop’s simplest and most well-known fables is The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse. This retelling by award-winning English illustrator Helen Ward begins with the Country Mouse and follows his serene, pastoral life as each season passes. His cousin, the worldly Town Mouse, comes to visit Country Mouse, and the city-dweller encounters life at a slower pace. Town Mouse voices his concerns about various differences from the life he knows, including mud and “dangerous” wild animals (in the form of a sleeping fawn). In a double-paged spread that evokes both pining and doubt, Country Mouse rethinks the pleasures of his home, and decides to visit the big city to see what Town Mouse’s grand life is like. As expected, while there are sumptuous treats to enjoy and amazing sights to behold, Country Mouse longs for the simple life he left behind.

 

The real treat is Helen Ward’s pen-and-watercolor illustrations. Flowers, fruits, trees, and animals are depicted in a stunning, naturalistic manner. The city portion of the tale takes place in 1930s New York at Christmas, with all the decorations and trimmings. The mice’s quick escape from a pug on a dessert table adds a touch of suspense. Each mouse’s personality is smartly represented in his actions and tiny changes in facial expression. Many pages have supplemental columns of artwork that add to the already splendid visuals. This is a wonder-filled version of the long-told tale.

Todd

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Read with a Friend

Read with a Friend

posted by:
October 3, 2012 - 7:55am

Rocket Writes a StoryDo you have a reluctant reader? Learning to read is a challenge for many children, but reading with or to a friend can make it a bit easier. If you missed the New York Times bestseller, How Rocket Learned to Read, Rocket the lovable pup is back and learning new things in Rocket Writes a Story by Tad Hills.

 

Rocket loves books and new words. Working with his teacher, the little yellow bird, Rocket heads off to sniff out new words and bring them back to the classroom to hang on the word tree. When he gets an idea to write a story, Rocket discovers writing is hard and he needs inspiration. Sitting beneath a tall pine tree, Rocket decides writing about the tree and its nest would be a great story. The next day he finds a new word scratched beneath the tree - owl - a gift from the little owl at the top of the tree. Rocket adds this wonderful word to his growing list and from there a story and a friendship blossom as Rocket reads to his new, shy friend.  Parents and kids will be inspired by the gentle story and charming, softly colored illustrations in oil and colored pencil.

 

They say dogs are man’s best friend. Turns out they’re great listeners too. Shy or reluctant readers can find out by registering to read with one of the specially trained Karma Dogs from the H.E.A.R.T.S. program offered throughout the year at participating library branches. How can Karma Dogs help your child learn to read? These dogs are friendly, nonjudgmental, and skilled listeners. By reading in a safe, comfortable environment, children can increase their confidence and vocabulary and become better readers. H.E.A.R.T.S. sessions work best for school age children 6-12 years old who can read or are learning to read. To find out more about the Karma Dogs or find a participating branch near you, check out Karma Dogs, pick up a DateLines calendar of events, or visit our website.

Andrea

 
 

Another Opening, Another Show

DramaFans of graphic novelist extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier will be thrilled to get their hands on a copy of her latest work, Drama. Seventh grader Callie’s life revolves around the annual school theater production, and this year it’s the musical Moon over Mississippi. Callie’s not an actress; she’s all about the set design. Told in a traditional comic panel style and rendered in vivid full color, Drama follows Callie and her production crewmates as they navigate relationships both onstage and off. Intended for a slightly older audience than the autobiographical Smile, this graphic novel addresses not only the complexities of boy-girl relationships, but also those of boy-boy.

 

A former high school drama performer herself, Telgemeier stays in touch with her inner theater geek, perfectly capturing the immersive nature of working on a school production. Can inexperienced Callie pull off an incredible set design (including a real working cannon and a leaf-shedding tree) on a bare-bones budget? What will the new guys at school, twins Jesse and Justin, lend to the show? And will Callie ever find her very own leading man?

 

Drama is rife with in-the-know backstage details, from the somewhat creepy costume vault to the lighting cues and the set change challenges. Callie is a likeable, fully-realized girl who readers can’t help but root for. Telgemeier populates Eucalyptus Middle with a diverse group of passionate, relatable friends. Her drawing style portrays both expression and depth, realism layered with comic conventions. Drama stands out as an appealing, addictive graphic novel, a book that will no doubt be read, re-read, and passed from friend to friend.

Paula G.

 
 

Teenage Tartare

Teenage Tartare

posted by:
October 2, 2012 - 8:01am

ShadowsFlesh & BoneThe InfectsThere's no escaping them. Fast or slow, dead or alive, zombies and zombie-like cannibals are everywhere right now. From The Walking Dead to ParaNorman, their bloody, shuffling antics entertain and disgust us in equal measures. Or not. For some people, the only good zombie is a zombie they don't have to think about, and for those people, here's a handy guide to Teen Books to Avoid. But if you or a teenager you love can't get enough of the hungry dead and their gross-out antics, here's grist for that mill:

 

Shadows, the sequel to Ilsa J. Bick's marvelous wilderness apocalypse novel Ashes, takes up immediately where Ashes ends. All teenage Alex had wanted was peaceful camping trip alone with her thoughts after the tragic death of her parents, but when a brilliant light bloomed on the horizon and most of the adults fell down dead and the other teenagers turned into silent, bloodthirsty monsters, well, let's just say it was a good thing she brought her father's Glock in her backpack. Ashes and Shadows should be read back-to-back - there's no time for recaps as Alex flees the fundamentalist sect that has taken her in only to fall directly into the hands of...

 

Zombies! Ever since they escaped the mayhem of First Night, when the dead suddenly began to rise, and bite people, and make more zombies, Benny and his big brother Daniel have lived in a small town surrounded by a big fence. Life within the fence is good, but rather strict. When Daniel agrees to take Benny on as an apprentice zombie killer, Benny imagines he is in for a life of adventure, but the truth turns out to be not quite what he had expected. Fast-paced and tightly plotted, Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin is like a classic Old West gunslinger novel set in a beautifully imagined postapocalyptic America. First in a trilogy, the sequels are Dust & Decay and the recently released Flesh & Bone.

 

The Infects is prose stylist Sean Beaudoin's entry into the teen cannibal catastrophe sweepstakes. Loaded with pop culture references and sarcasm, this book is fast and freaky and lots of fun. Seventeen-year-old Nero was already having a bad week, sentenced to an Outward Bound-type trip for juvenile delinquents, when all of a sudden everybody but the bad boys on the bus falls victim to a virus that causes zombie-like behavior, i.e. lurching, drooling, and lusting after human flesh. You'll never look at fast-food chicken the same way again. 

 

Bone appétit!

Paula W.

 
 

Women on the Verge

Women on the Verge

posted by:
October 1, 2012 - 8:00am

The PlaydateThe Playdate is a terrific psychological thriller from debut author Louise Millar. The story is told from the points of view of three very different women. Each has events in their pasts that they are trying to hide from one another. Pasts have a way of creeping up on you though, often in terrible and unexpected ways.

 

Callie is a single mother raising her daughter Rae, while Rae’s father is away in Sri Lanka with his new girlfriend. Callie is feeling alienated from her old friends and longs to return to work as a sound effects editor. She has become close friends with a neighbor, Suzy, but feels that Suzy can be intense, almost clingy with their friendship. Suzy is facing troubles of her own, raising three sons with almost little or no help from her husband, Jez. Jez is emotionally distancing himself from Suzy, and this makes her desperate to find a way back into his affections. Debs has recently moved to the row home right next door to Suzy.  Debs is older than Callie or Suzy and is used to living life on her own, and she is adjusting to life with her new husband. Debs also has little tolerance for noises of any kind. Airplanes flying overhead, a neighbor flushing the toilet or even vacuuming can create in her a sense of madness.

 

The Playdate is an incredibly tight thriller. The reader is aware that something unpleasant is going to happen, and as the novel progresses and secrets are revealed, the action intensifies. The story barrels forward to an intense conclusion, making The Playdate a gripping read.

Doug

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A Silent Voice Heard

A Silent Voice Heard

posted by:
October 1, 2012 - 7:45am

Love AnthonyStill battered by the smoldering remains of loss, Nantucket resident Olivia Donatelli struggles to find the meaning of her autistic son's short life in Lisa Genova's heart-tugging new novel, Love Anthony. Her journey of reflection leads to an unlikely encounter with another island resident that is as complex as the autism spectrum that defined her son's eight years of life.

 

Olivia is a mother tormented by grief. When she moves to the salty, picturesque island following the unexpected death of her son, Anthony, she brings with her too many lingering “what ifs.”  To obtain answers, she revisits her old journal entries of her life with Anthony and her estranged husband, David.  Her new job as a beach photographer brings distraction and as well as contact with another mother who faces her own personal loss.

 

Beth Ellis has been slammed by the proverbial Mack truck when she learns her husband has cheated on her. Reeling, she turns to writing as a way to pick up the pieces. It is her subject, a silent autistic boy she once observed, that provides the link between the two women’s parallel lives and their path to a renewal and understanding that only time can provide.

 

Although Genova has meticulously drawn characters in Beth and Olivia, it is the captivating, innocent voice of Anthony that provides the poignant glimpses into an autistic child’s mind.  In her story, Beth gives the boy a voice that is both wondrous and sad. Here the reader sees the neuroscientist Genova at her best, deftly conveying the complex neurological misfirings of the human mind in ways that are both compassionate and oh so real.  Like her previous books, Still Alice and Left Neglected, Love Anthony enlists the reader in a club that no one wants to join but that everyone can imagine.

 

Cynthia

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It's the End of the World As We Know It

The Dog StarsThe world has changed in Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars.  A pandemic has infected millions. Many have not survived, and those that have are shunned and avoided.  The novel begins nine years after the outbreak, and centers around pilot Hig and his aging dog, Jasper. Hig and Jasper live at an abandoned airport with survivalist and gun-nut Bangley.  Hig has refurbished a 1956 Cessna, which he takes on short flights in the area. He has to choose his paths with care. If he flies too far, he could run out of fuel.  Airports in the area can be dangerous places. Wandering groups of marauders appear that would kill you as soon as look at you.  Airport runways have fallen into ruin and there is a good chance Hig would not be able to land.  He could find himself too far from home, and not able to find the fuel he needs to get back.  He finds himself desperately lonely.  He is reminded of his wife Melissa who died during the pandemic.  Bangley is not much for conversation. Occasionally, Hig flies to deliver supplies to a group of Mennonites who have been infected with the blood disease, but he can never get too close with them. Suddenly, a tragic event happens that will change Hig’s perceptions and force him to make a decision that will alter the course of his life.

 

The Dog Stars is primarily a character study of a man who has lost hope.  It is a heartbreaking work, and the reader gets the sense of intense loneliness that Hig is feeling, trapped in this new world, fighting each day for survival.  Written in short passages and often single sentences, the story has a distinct style that is very readable and ultimately compelling.  This is a novel to be savored, and the reader will remember Hig long after they have finished the final page.

Doug

 
 

A Sweet Treat

A Sweet Treat

posted by:
September 28, 2012 - 7:01am

When in Doubt Add ButterMaryland native and bestselling author Beth Harbison has another hit on her hands with her new novel When in Doubt, Add Butter. Engaging, witty, and warm, this book is a sweet treat for a lazy afternoon. Gemma Craig is a private chef who spends her days catering to her clients’ unique needs and whims. She has the job that she has always wanted, and it pays just enough to keep her afloat financially. Each day is devoted to a different client. On Mondays, she cooks for the Van Houghtens in their beautiful Chevy Chase home and contends with uptight Angela’s crazy dietary restrictions that include no dairy, no beef, no onions, no soy, no nuts, no honey, no cinnamon or “warm spices,” and no garlic. Paul McMann, a.k.a. Mr. Tuesday, is a busy lawyer whose tastes run to comfort foods. Mr. Tuesday is never home, but the two of them regularly exchange flirty notes about the food. On Wednesdays, Gemma sees Lex Prather, a flamboyant social butterfly who could be played by Tony Randall. His tastes run to classic high society fair like oysters Rockefeller and Waldorf salad. Thursday nights, she cooks for the Olekseis, a large family headed by widower Vlad who Gemma worries may be involved in the Russian mob. Fridays are set aside for Georgetown social-climber Marie Lemurra who was recently on a reality show and strives to connect with B-list celebrities and politicians.

 

Gemma’s life is right on track until she gets fired by Marie for an unfortunate incident involving a peacock and the bumper of Gemma’s car. (Really, how was she supposed to know that they had a pet peacock?) Then, Gemma learns that someone is sabotaging her weekend catering jobs, and her well-ordered world starts coming apart at the seams. After a one-night stand with a mysterious man named Mack, things get even more complicated. Gemma has to pick up the pieces and figure out how to put her life back together.

Beth

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