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Drift Away and Dream of These

Drift Away and Dream of These

posted by:
July 18, 2012 - 7:15am

Far Away Across the SeaFrom the imagination of Dutch author and poet Toon Tellegen, comes Far Away Across the Sea, a collection of short stories tailor made for companionable adult/child reading. A comfortable collection of undemanding tales on its surface, the lulling prose is well suited for bedtime reading. Yet the themes related in Tellegen’s episodic vignettes are deceptively simple. Notably lacking in any overt plot or ongoing storyline, Tellegen’s almost Zen-like stories quietly highlight the subtleties of social exchange among friends, acquaintances and the inner self.

 

Through the tales of anthropomorphic characters Squirrel, Ant, Mosquito, Glowworm, Thrush and others, the author suggests gentle lessons. These cover many concepts, including friendship, persistence, the dangers of absolutes, the absurdities of fighting, personal reflection, and the everyday melancholy and pleasure encountered from moment to moment in daily life. The gracefulness of the stories themselves is matched by the delicacy of illustration present on nearly every page of the book. Illustrator Jessica Ahlberg’s interpretation of the characters and environment sketched in Tellegen’s fables is as deft and skillful as if she had imagined them herself. Her juxtaposition of illustration to text resoundingly echoes the traditions of A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter.

 

Tellegen’s stories are ideal for young readers and listeners receptive to commonplace curiosities, like a tree picking up its roots and walking away for a time, or a squirrel who writes letters to himself and gets courteous and thoughtful responses. Widely open to interpretation, the fables recalled in Far Away Across the Sea invite children and parents to make up their own stories and background for Squirrel, Mosquito and other occupants of the Woods. These tales are recommended for bedtime readers and young philosophers; for fans of Winnie-the-Pooh and Peter Rabbit. The collection may also serve as a helpful stepping stone for parents introducing their children to poetry.

Meghan

 
 

Cool and Comfortable

Cool and Comfortable

posted by:
July 18, 2012 - 7:05am

Zeke Meeks vs the Horrifying TV-Turnoff WeekGet inside the head of the coolest third grade boy you’ll ever meet as he learns life lessons at school and home. Zeke Meeks, self-described cool kid, likes TV and video games, but could do without girls. When he’s not playing video games, he’s emulating the Enemy Warriors from his favorite television show. In Zeke Meeks vs. the Horrifying TV-Turnoff Week by D. L. Green, his teacher announces that everyone in school will keep the TV off for one full week. Zeke is horrified. What will he do all day? 

 

Zeke narrates his own story with humor and honesty, describing how he, his sisters and classmates survive the week. Zeke accidentally studies out of boredom and aces his quiz. Crossword puzzles lead to him reading books he forgot he had. A trip to the museum is unexpectedly fun.  Green does a wonderful job of keeping Zeke real while teaching an entertaining lesson about the perils of too much television. The book is amusingly illustrated by Josh Alves with commentary added to enhance the story.  One of a series of books dealing with issues elementary school children face, Zeke Meeks will surely please fans of the My Weird School series by Dan Gutman and younger fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Diane

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Hey Jude

Hey Jude

posted by:
July 17, 2012 - 7:55am

Before You GoThe summer before senior year is a season of firsts for Jude. He begins his first job at a food shack on the beach, and there he meets the girl who will become his first love. He also breaks with family tradition, and for the first time talks to someone about the darkness that surrounds them -- the accidental drowning of his sister in the backyard pool. Jude’s long-suppressed emotions come to the surface in Before You Go by James Preller.

 

The beauty of this book is in the drawing of the teen characters. The friendships between the boys are realistic and the dialogue is believable. No one is overly-pathetic or incredibly cool; these are everyday kids growing up in an ordinary town doing what teens do. They work “undesirable” part-time jobs, drink a little, get bored sometimes, explore dating and relationships, distance themselves from their parents, and start to realize that life may not work out the way you plan it.

 

Preller is the author of the Jigsaw Jones series and the children’s fiction title Bystander. He makes his teen fiction debut with Before You Go. Although it begins with a fatal car accident, this book is not action-packed. Readers drawn to emotional stories with subtle character development will enjoy this novel.

 

Sam

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An Aching Howl

An Aching Howl

posted by:
July 17, 2012 - 7:00am

Tell the Wolves I'm HomeFragile tendrils of emotion swirl together in an attempt to mend the brokenhearted in Carol Rifka Brunt’s stirring debut, Tell the Wolves I’m Home. Set in mid-1980s New York, this coming of age story unfolds against a burgeoning AIDS epidemic and a teenager’s tender awakening to love, loss, and acceptance.

 

June Elbus is a shy, medieval history-loving fourteen-year-old who likes to dress up and retreat to the woods to escape reality. When her beloved uncle, the renowned artist Finn Weiss, dies from AIDS, June is devastated.  Her preoccupied parents prefer not to discuss the reasons he ended up with the illness. Her mother regrets her own missed opportunities at being an artist, while her father seeks simply to keep the family peace. June and her older sister, once inseparable, are now estranged. Even Finn's final gift, a portrait of June and Greta titled "Tell the Wolves I'm Home," turns out to be as complex as the sisters' relationship.

 

Vulnerable and grieving, June begins meeting secretly with her uncle's partner, Toby. Their tentative relationship, eked out of neediness and curiosity in the beginning, evolves into a heartfelt friendship that leads each to understand better the man they both loved, whether or not that love was appropriate. Soul searching never comes without revelations, and Toby and June are confronted with the reality that one never truly belongs to any one person.

 

In June's voice, Brunt lays bare her characters, including Finn, who even in death remains the catalyst for what lies ahead.  An emotionally wrought, thoughtfully rendered work that tackles the issues of the day - AIDS and forbidden relationships, Brunt's story reaches into a reservoir of understanding and compassion that is the ultimate requiem for a loved one.

 

Cynthia

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Who Are You?

Who Are You?

posted by:
July 16, 2012 - 9:05am

The Song Remains the SameIn Allison Winn Scotch’s The Song Remains the Same, Nell Slattery wakes from a coma in an Iowa hospital to find that she remembers nothing about her life. She is one of only two survivors of a plane crash. Her mother, sister, husband, and best friend are there to tell her about the life she has forgotten, but Nell soon begins to think that the perfect life they tell her about isn’t real. Each of them has an agenda, and they are all telling her half-truths and rewriting her past. 

 

Nell has to choose between starting her life with a clean slate and searching for her past. She wants to believe that she can use this opportunity to reboot her life and become the new, fabulous Nell. She doesn’t want to be the tightly-wound woman whose life was filled with neutral colors and old resentments. Nell’s sister Rory gives her an iPod with a playlist called The Best of Nell Slattery, all songs that played important roles in her life. The music helps Nell catch glimmers of her memory. Eventually, her memory begins to return, and she believes that if she can find the truth about her father, a famous painter who abandoned her family to live as a recluse, she will be able to put together the pieces of her life. Nell finds that the more family secrets she unearths, the more confused she becomes.

 

The Song Remains the Same is a story of self-discovery, healing, and forgiveness. It is by turns funny and heartbreaking. Allison Winn Scotch creates a memorable character whose emotional journey will leave readers wondering if any of us ever really change. If everything that you know about your life disappeared today, could you choose to be someone new or would you inevitably be the same person you were before?

 

Beth

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The Good Wife

The Good Wife

posted by:
July 16, 2012 - 8:30am

The Cottage at Glass BeachIf you can’t be on the sandy shores this summer, take a virtual trip with Heather Barbieri as she transports readers to the magical world of Maine’s Burke’s Island in The Cottage at Glass Beach. Nora Cunningham was born on the island, but at age 5 left with her father for Boston following her mother’s disappearance. 

 

Today at 40, Nora is dealing with the fallout from her Attorney General husband’s scandalous affair which has created a media sensation. She gratefully accepts her Aunt Maire’s invitation to return to the beautiful island of her birth with her two daughters, Annie and Ella. While her aunt is happy to have her back, not all of the residents are so welcoming. The silence surrounding her mom’s disappearance creates a dark current throughout the story as Nora tries to fill in the blanks. The slow pace of the island allows Nora to gradually figure out her new life post-husband. She is able to gather pieces of the puzzle that is her past while embarking on a new romance with a mysterious shipwrecked sailor who is suffering from amnesia. 

 

Barbieri’s Burke Island is as mysterious as it is picturesque. It is rich with Gaelic roots and traditions which make it easy for the reader to accept the touches of magic sprinkled throughout. Nora is a delightful character as are the supporting cast, especially her daughters and Aunt Maire. Barbieri includes fairy tale elements mixed with real life family drama and manages to create a truly magical place and a beautifully written story.      

Maureen

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Distant Love

Distant Love

posted by:
July 13, 2012 - 9:30am

The NewlywedsThe new book by Nell Freudenberger is a quiet, understated novel about home, loss, sacrifice and love. The Newlyweds is the story of an unusual marriage in which both husband and wife attempt to find happiness in a relationship that is different than either imagined. George and Amina enter the marriage with very different assumptions, hopes and dreams.

 

George meets Amina through an online dating site, AsianEuro.com while she is a young woman, coming of age in Bangladesh and he is a fairly conventional suburban man in Rochester, New York. After beginning a friendship online and corresponding for nearly one year, they decide to marry. George goes to Bangladesh to meet his new bride. Shortly thereafter, Amina leaves her village and begins her new life in Rochester. With only a basic grasp of English, she struggles to fit in. Slowly, she begins to carve out a life for herself. She also learns a more nuanced version of English, in which she’s finally able to discern sarcasm.

 

With her unadorned prose and keen eye for detail, Freudenberger does an excellent job of describing suburban life through the lens of this young Bangladeshi woman. Life in the United States is different than Amina imagined. She sincerely wants to belong and make this new life work for her but she also mourns the loss of her home, her culture and the life she might have had in Bangladesh. Her relationship with her parents is especially difficult. She tries to both take care of them and convince them that she’s really ok, all from thousands of miles away.

 

The Newlyweds works beautifully as both an immigrant story and an unconventional, heartbreaking love story. Amina is compelling character that stays with the reader long after the last sentence has been read. The Newlyweds would be an excellent choice for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy or Monica Ali.

 

Zeke

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A Mother’s Love

A Mother’s Love

posted by:
July 13, 2012 - 8:45am

Afterwards“Motherhood isn't soft and cozy and sweet; it's selfish ferocity, red in tooth and claw.”

 

How far would you go to protect your child? In the novel Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, Grace Covey is put to the ultimate test. She is attending sports day at her son’s school, and her seventeen year old daughter Jenny is on the top floor, working in the nurse’s office. The building catches fire and Grace races headlong into the building to save her daughter. She awakens in the hospital but all is not as it seems. She can see her body, in a coma, lying in a hospital bed, and quickly realizes that her daughter Jenny is in a similar situation, severely burned but also having an “out of body” experience. Both women are able to see and hear what is happening around them, but are unable to communicate with anyone but each other.

 

Grace witnesses her husband’s pain and his inability to connect with their younger son, Adam. Adam withdraws into himself since he has no one to comfort him. Grace’s sister-in-law Sarah is a police officer and when the cause of the fire turns out to be arson, Sarah starts working on the case to discover the culprit. Grace and Jenny are looking for answers and find themselves privy to conversations with people who don’t know they are there.

 

This is Lupton’s second novel, after her hugely popular Sister, and she truly creates a unique reading experience. The novel is written from Grace’s point of view, and although she is having a strange experience, the core of the novel is her fierce love for her children and her strong desire for answers. The novel works as a suspenseful mystery and at times is very dramatic and even heartbreaking.  Afterwards is also an interesting character study, and Lupton really shines in her character development. You get to know the Covey family and are very curious to follow Grace to the novel’s conclusion. Readers who enjoyed The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and mystery lovers are sure to enjoy this novel.  

Doug

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The Key to Immortality

The Key to Immortality

posted by:
July 13, 2012 - 8:10am

Blood LineJames Rollins was inspired to write Bloodline, the eighth novel in his Sigma series, after reading a Time article titled “2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal.”  The article intrigued Rollins and led him to research the idea and possibility of life extension through science and technology. The resulting novel weaves genetics, history, action, and technology into a pulse-pounding conspiracy story that is impossible to put down. 

 

Amanda Gant-Bennett, the President’s pregnant daughter, is kidnapped by Somali pirates, so Sigma Force, a group of elite covert operators, is called in to rescue her. The rescue team soon finds that this is no ordinary political kidnapping. Amanda is really a pawn in a much larger, more dangerous game. Their investigation leads them to a South Carolina fertility clinic where a horrific project merging technology and biology is hidden. From there, the team uncovers a powerful family's ancient secret that could lead to immortality for humans, and the Sigma team begins a race against time to uncover the mystery and save the life of a baby who may be the key to it all.

 

One of the most unique things about this book is the addition of Army Ranger Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane, to the Sigma team. The partnership between dog and handler is rich and well-developed. Before his career as a writer, Rollins was a practicing veterinarian, and he writes many scenes from Kane’s dog's eye view. To learn more about other remarkable canines like Kane, try Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes by Maria Goodavage.

 

Beth

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A Doc for All Seasons

Nantucket is one of the most popular summer destinations on the East Coast, and visitors in need of medical attention will be lucky to find themselves in the care of a most colorful doctor. In Island Practice, New York Times staff writer Pam Belluck shares the story of Dr. Timothy Lepore, who has dedicated the last two decades of his life to providing health care to all residents. 

 

Something of a MacGyver, he can perform an appendectomy with a stone scalpel he carved himself. He also hunts with a pet hawk. Dr. Lepore is able to identify unusual symptoms, and diagnose rare diseases. He has identified and treated a baby with toe-tourniquet syndrome, a horse with Lyme disease, and a narcoleptic falling face-first in the street. While he has doctored Jimmy Buffett, Chris Matthews, John Kerry, and various Kennedys, the majority of his practice is made up of the natives who work low wage jobs in the tourist industry. For Dr. Lepore, payment is optional and can be bartered via such goods as oatmeal raisin cookies or an old handgun.    

 

Dr. Lepore wears many hats, including the island's football team medic, family practitioner, only surgeon, accidental homicide detective, occasional veterinarian, and medical examiner. He can be controversial and contrarian with unusual hobbies and political views. And he says it like it is, even when it comes to his own family. Lepore would rather see his son “playing piano in a whorehouse,” than his current employment with a malpractice attorney. But underneath the shenanigans and eccentricities, this is the story of a doctor devoted to serving his community and maintaining accessible health care. Lepore is a Nantucket institution; his story and the beautiful island setting combine for a winning narrative.   

Maureen