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Culture Clash

Culture Clash

posted by:
January 14, 2013 - 8:50am

Back to BloodTom Wolfe is back. Eighty-one years old, a controversial player on the literary scene since 1965, and still decked out in his hallmark white suit, Wolfe’s newest book proves he is ever a master of pointed social commentary as he skewers Miami and its denizens in his novel, Back to Blood.

 

Miami: it isn’t just for snowbirds anymore. Officer Nestor Camacho is a young and buff policeman out on patrol on the Biscayne Bay when he is pressed into service to bring down a man clinging to the apex of a 70 foot boat mast. Camacho, in a Herculean show of strength, “rescues” the man, according to accolades heaped upon him by the Miami Herald. Or rather, make that the “Yo No Creo El Miami Herald,” (“I don’t believe the Miami Herald”) as it’s known in the large and influential Cuban population. Camacho is now a pariah among his Cuban family and community for taking down a Cuban refugee before he reached dry land, destroying his chance for asylum.

 

Wolfe writes his cast of characters with a politically incorrect and sometimes sordid pen. A WASPy newspaper editor thinks he’s found relevance in his association with the Russian benefactor filling the city’s new art museum, who instead may be foisting forgeries into the collection. A gorgeous but naive Cuban nurse thinks she is movin’ on up by having an affair with her Americano employer, a publicity hungry sex-addiction doctor for whom the phrase “physician, heal thyself” seems to be tailor-made. A Haitian professor is ashamed of his heritage yet earns his living teaching Creole while obsessively hoping his sweet daughter can “pass” for white. Nestor is the hub around which these stories turn, presented in Wolfe’s trademark frenetically vivid style. In the same vein as Wolfe’s earlier take on New York in The Bonfire of the Vanities, fans of social satire should enjoy Back to Blood.

 

Lori

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Military Girls

Military Girls

posted by:
January 11, 2013 - 9:15am

The People of Forever are Not AfraidHigh school friends Avishag, Lea and Yael do what typical teen girls do—they gossip about friends, giggle over boys, and daydream about their adult lives to come. But in Israel, soldiers can come from anywhere, even the “caravan classrooms” of small villages, and the girls quickly find themselves serving in the Israeli Defense Force. Shani Boianjiu tells a unique coming-of-age story in her debut novel, The People of Forever are Not Afraid.

 

The girls are trained in different areas of military expertise-Lea in the military police at a checkpoint, Yael as a marksmen trainer and Avishag as a member of the only female combat unit. While it sounds dangerous and exciting, in reality the girls are bored most of the time as they watch foreigners and refugees sneak across the borders and steal everything not nailed down. They still talk, gossip, and occasionally flirt with other soldiers, but they also grow increasingly numb to the violence that surrounds them. At the novel’s center is the trio’s loss of innocence, but more profound and disturbing is the question-do they even remember that they once had it?

 

Shani Boianjiu, the youngest winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35,” earned rave reviews for People. Drawing on her own experiences in the IDF, she has created a novel that is literary yet accessible, and readers will quickly be drawn in by the early, fast action. Boianjiu’s writing is just like her characters-nuanced yet fragmented, disturbing but smart, violent and gritty. While this story is about teens, the strong language and violence make it more appropriate for mature teens and adults.

 

Sam

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Justifiable Murder?

Justifiable Murder?

posted by:
January 11, 2013 - 8:45am

OutrageIn his novel Outrage, Arnaldur Indridason deals with the serious subject of rape and its deadly consequences. With Inspector Erlunder on a leave of absence, his colleague Inspector Elinborg is able to take center stage as she is called upon to solve a rather unpleasant crime. A man is found in a Reykjavik apartment with his throat cut and his mouth stuffed full of the date rape drug Rohypnol. There were signs of sexual activity in the apartment that leave Elinborg to wonder if this man was a rapist and perhaps his victim regained consciousness and attacked the attacker. There are few clues to go on, but Elinborg finds a discarded shawl under the bed with a rather familiar scent. Elinborg is an accomplished cook and cookbook writer. She realized the scents are Indian cooking spices, and is able to discern that the victim may also be a lover of this type of cuisine. Following lead after lead, Elinborg tries to discover more about the man in the apartment as well as his possible victim. Delving into the past, she must come to terms with some unpleasant truths about the man whose murder she is trying to solve.

 

Outrage reads like a standard police procedural and fans of Icelandic mysteries will thoroughly enjoy it. It is nice for Indridason to let Elinborg take lead. She is an interesting character and much is revealed about her home life and her work style. The case is complex and there are many leads to follow, keeping the reader interested and involved. This is the seventh Indridason mystery set in Reykjavik. Readers interesting in knowing what had happened to Erlunder while on leave need only to pick up his previous novel, Hypothermia.

 

Doug

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Designing Men

Designing Men

posted by:
January 10, 2013 - 8:55am

The Things that MatterCarter's WayAmerican BeautyThree of today’s most celebrated designers offer unique books reflecting personal style and sharing ideas for frustrated DIYers. Friend of Oprah and nationally known designer Nate Berkus offers a twist on the traditional decorating book in The Things that Matter. This beautifully illustrated title combines his life story with a diverse tour of homes, including his family and some celebrity friends. His message regarding the value of the things we cherish is clear since these objects reflect our personalities. This will appeal to collectors and those who keep it simple, since it’s all about how the things we love and choose to surround ourselves with fill us with comfort and joy.

 

Carter Oosterhouse, the popular host of several of HGTV shows, is known for his simple design style. In Carter’s Way, he offers homeowners an inside look at his successful home design process. Each chapter covers a different room or area of the house and highlights the diversity of layouts in homes today.  He recognizes the intimidation experienced by homeowners when tackling design projects, but his laid-back attitude provides encouragement. Oosterhouse focuses on environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and readily-found materials, and the specific examples and striking photos illustrate his philosophy.   

 

Thom Filicia is a respected professional designer and former star of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. American Beauty is homage to his two year renovation of a vacation home in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Filicia fell in love with the Lakes as a vacationing child, and the beauty of the area and the Skaneateles Lake is showcased here. Readers are treated to information about the history of his home and also given smart tips on making the right design choices. After two long years, Filicia created the house of his dreams and the 300 stunning photographs will appeal to anyone dreaming of the perfect retreat.

Maureen

 
 

Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward

posted by:
January 10, 2013 - 8:45am

Empress of FashionEmpress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland, by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart, chronicles the life of one of the world’s most important stylemakers. Born into a wealthy family, Diana was designed for greater things. Her younger sister Alexandra was the beauty of the family, a fact that was revealed to Diana constantly by their mother, Emily. Often Diana felt unloved and unappreciated at home, and used creativity and imagination to escape her dull, drab world. She discovered an ability to surround herself with beautiful things, wonderful clothes and interesting people. In 1936, Vreeland joined the staff at Harper’s Bazaar as a fashion editor. While the editor-in-chief was concentrating on Paris couture, Vreeland concentrated on American fashion and design, often spotting new and fresh designers and photographers and pairing them together to create magic. She was able to keep the pages fresh and inviting throughout the WWII era and well into the Fifties. Times changed drastically again with the arrival of the Sixties, and Diana soon found herself at editor-in-chief of the American edition of Vogue. Here she was able to deal with rising hemlines and a youth movement that would change the world of fashion. By 1971 she was fired from Vogue, but Vreeland never stopped. She joined the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a Special Consultant to the Costume Institute, and was able to create exhibits featuring the fashion that she loved.

 

Vreeland is a fascinating character with an unusual yet powerful voice. Readers who would love to learn about fashion will find much to like in this book. Vreeland's life is captivating, as are the many stories of the designers, photographers and models of that period. It is fascinating to read how world events and the economy shape the ways people look at fashion and determine what is worn. Empress of Fashion is sure to please readers, even with the most discerning tastes.

Doug

 
 

Law & Order

Law & Order

posted by:
January 7, 2013 - 9:15am

Luther: The CallingLutherFans of the gripping BBC drama Luther will welcome the opportunity to meet an early incarnation of tormented Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) John Luther in Luther: The Calling. Readers meeting Luther for the first time will be quickly intrigued by this dedicated detective and head to the DVD shelves to grab copies of the first two seasons. Neil Cross, author of this prequel, is also the show’s creator and sole writer. Fans of the show know that the television series begins with the end of a ghastly case. The novel opens at that case’s inception which involves the savage murders of a young husband and his eight months pregnant wife, as well as the removal of the baby who may still be alive. This investigation and other horrific events lead Luther to an ethical cliff as the novel moves at a rapid pace toward a conclusion that coincides with the opening of episode one of the show.

 

At the heart of both the compelling series and this gripping, psychological thriller is Luther, a tormented investigator struggling with demons, including rage against the violent perpetrators he encounters. Luther is dedicated to his job to the point of self-annihilation, and his single-mindedness threatens his health and his marriage. His wife, Zoe, has always managed to keep Luther balanced. But lately, their relationship has been off kilter and Luther refuses to take time off to rest and repair. Zoe looks elsewhere for intimacy, while Luther continues in his blind quest to destroy evildoers.

 

As readers travel through some of the seamier sides of London, there is plenty of action, including graphic violence not for the squeamish. John Luther’s unique character will continue to develop as Cross is hard at work on a new Luther novel and filming of season three of the series starring the delectable and dashing Idris Elba is underway.

 

Maureen

 
 

Target: Unknown

Target: Unknown

posted by:
January 7, 2013 - 8:50am

The InterceptDick Wolf’s new Jeremy Fisk series begins with The Intercept, an action-packed thriller following anti-terrorism detectives racing against time to save New York City from an unknown attacker. The novel begins when a plot to hijack SAS Flight 903 bound for Newark is foiled on July 1st. The Six, the group of passengers and flight crew who stopped the hijacker, become the biggest media sensation since Captain Chesley Sullenberger and his “Miracle on the Hudson.” Detectives Jeremy Fisk and Krina Gersten of NYPD’s Intelligence Division, a unique anti-terrorism unit created after 9/11, help other agencies debrief The Six after Flight 903 lands. Fisk quickly realizes that the botched hijacking might not be the open-and-shut case everyone thinks it is, and he and Gersten continue investigating the other passengers. They find that a Saudi Arabian national who was also onboard Flight 903 disappeared soon after landing. What if the hijacking was just a diversion to draw attention away from the real terrorist attack that is yet to come? As New York City gears up for a VIP dedication ceremony for One World Trade Center on the morning of July 4th, Fisk and Gersten rush to stop the unknown attackers from perpetrating an attack on US soil.

 

Wolf is the creator of TV’s Law & Order, and fans will recognize his style and pacing in The Intercept. He is an expert at building suspense. The Intercept is a fast-paced thriller filled with plot twists that leave readers guessing until the novel’s dramatic conclusion.

 

Beth

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Such is Life

Such is Life

posted by:
January 4, 2013 - 9:15am

It's Fine By MeIt was not a ghost thirteen-year-old Audun Sletten saw that day on top of the hill at the end of his newspaper rounds. It was his estranged father, who regrettably appeared to be back in town. For the troubled teenager it was just one more reminder of a gnawing past best forgotten and of a future, tentative and urgently beckoning. In Per Petterson's recently translated novel, It's Fine by Me, the Norwegian author revisits the cold, stark landscape of his previous novels with this quiet, coming of age story. Set in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, a story is told of a family chafed by family dysfunction and a young person's toiling for what is important.

 

Audun and his family have not had it easy. Escaping an explosive husband, his mother has started a new life for Audun and his siblings in a working class section of Oslo. On the first day at his new school he meets Arvid, an unlikely friend who is something of a political idealist and also loves books. In their growing friendship, Audun opens up about his past and his plans for the future. He wants to be a writer. Over the next five years, Audun sees his life change, his family slowly falling apart. His tough guy persona, fashioned after his favorite literary heroes, helps him cope when his own defenses are down.

 

Petterson, the author of the award winning Out Stealing Horses, reveals Audun's story at a leisurely pace. Alternating between a defining past and a present that are at times raw and emotionally charged, it is prose that also gives up streaks of hope. Readers familiar with J. D. Salinger's classic, Catcher in the Rye, will recognize in Petterson's protagonist the rebellion and alienation of youth and the unpredictable journey that awaits.

Cynthia

 
 

Revisiting Art, or Learning How to "Look"

Always LookingAlways Looking: Essays on Art, by John Updike, is an invaluable collection of fourteen eloquent discussions that examine Western painting and sculpture. Although Updike was an acclaimed writer of literature, many readers might not know that he was also an art connoisseur. His skillful nonfiction reveals an astute perspective which masterfully dissects art in a way that will gratify the seasoned appreciator, as well as the casual observer who is just curious to learn more.

 

John Updike’s lifelong passion for visual art began in childhood when discovered comics, like Mickey Mouse in the Treasure Hunt. Into adulthood, he continued to seek out pieces that fascinated him and curiously described familiar pieces in a new way. While considering Gustav Klimt’s "The Dancer", Updike questioned if the painting is “a bold and necessary step in the direction of modernism, or an uneasy half-step, a cheaply bought glamour, a kind of higher kitsch?”

 

Much more than a conversation of art, Always Looking offers rich and vivid images of the very works Updike is discussing.  From René Magritte’s unnervingly sensual "The Lovers" to Roy Lichtenstein’s loud pop of "In the Car", the short essay format makes this a perfect book of leisure. You might dip in for a bit and read on a topic or discover the pleasure of flipping through its pages to take in the richly dynamic selection. This stimulating reconsideration of classics will change the way you look at art.

Sarah Jane

 
 

Father Knows Best?

Father Knows Best?

posted by:
January 3, 2013 - 8:45am

Because I Said So!We’ve all heard the warnings from Mom and Dad. Wait an hour after eating before you go swimming or you’ll get a cramp. If you swallow gum, it will sit in your stomach for seven years. Chewing on pencils will give you lead poisoning. In his new book Because I Said So!: The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales & Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids, record-breaking Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings searches for the truth behind the myths that parents tell their children. Using case histories, scientific research, and statistics, Jennings investigates the warnings passed down to us from our parents in a book that both informs and entertains.

 

Do you really need to wait for your parents to check your Halloween candy for poison or razorblades? Jennings says probably not. You're more likely to have octuplets or die by elephant stampede than you are to eat poisoned Halloween candy. Will you really get arthritis from cracking your knuckles? Knuckle popping may be annoying, but it doesn't cause arthritis. Is chewing ice really bad for your teeth? According to Jennings, yes, it actually is. The cold causes the tooth fibers to contract as you chomp down on the hard ice cube, making you more likely to break or chip a tooth. Because I Said So! is a perfect read for fans of Discovery’s Mythbusters, trivia buffs, and those of us who simply want the right to say “I told you so.”

Beth