Daughters of the Samurai by Janice P. Nimura

Daughters of the Samurai

Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

The book opens with a colorful description of the environment in a Japanese traditional Samurai compound. As the chapters begin we are introduced to five young girls, in 1851, who are being sent from a restrictive land to the US to learn the Western ways. Imagine coming from a castle with a moat, beautiful gardens, and a samurai mansion, full of warriors, family, maids and closed to the outside world. Then imagine getting off a ship in California where people sit on chairs, shake hands, talk strange, wear odd clothes, and have a completely different set of etiquette. The experiences and relationships that develop are not only personal but of great historic significance. Women had various roles, schools and education played a big part in both countries. Nimura’s account is rich in history, more detailed than a historic novel but as engrossing, nevertheless.

Available through the CAFE library system

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

So Youve

Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

Jon Ronson has interviewed numerous people who have been publicly shamed – lost jobs, marriages, health…..We aren’t talking about long ago thieves and law breakers but those who inadvertently let a faux pas slip that may not have been politically correct or that someone just plain didn’t like. It can be as simple as a comment or pic on Facebook or think Rachel Dolezal or Brian Williams currently. Public shaming is everywhere and Ronson explores up close some whose lives have been devastated because of one wrong comment. We all have freedom of speech, a voice and it’s easier to use when anonymous. Is it out of control? You decide.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (152.4 RON)

The Undertaker’s Daughter by Katherine Mayfield

Undertakers Daughter

Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

Kate Mayfield has written a light and interesting memoir of growing up in a funeral home in Kentucky in the ’60’s. Her story portrays herself as a young girl and her family maintaining a funeral business and living above the funeral parlor. Mayfield paints a rich, yet funny, family atmosphere with its social taboos and traditions of the time. Full of character and whimsy. My how times have changed!

Located in Adult Nonfiction (920.72 MAY)

Serena by Ron Rash


Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

I think this is a case where the movie, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, is better than the book. I felt that the story about a timber empire owned by George Pemberton and wife Serena was too long. The diluted story had its interjections of lumberjacks dying on the job or a person being murdered here and there. I found the plot(s) to be weak and underdeveloped. There was a mild theme of land preservation vs. company buyouts, George having an illegitimate son to the dismay of Serena, and the general life of a Depression Era timber owner. Serena was independent, capable, and murderous. It probably is only good for a Hollywood movie.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC RASH), as well as in Large Print

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for

Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

There is a richness of words and description as the author takes us through her process of recovering from the death of her father and delving into the world of falconry. Macdonald tells her story with parallel to T.H. White’s “The Goshawk”. I can presume someone who would enjoy this book would have a love of birds and the outdoors. If you follow close enough to live with the author as she reveals her experience you might like this book. I found the world of training her goshawk interesting. It may not appeal to everyone.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (598.944 MAC) and also as a CD Book

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne


Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

The story is told, true to an old Irish yarn, by the main character, Odran. His father and brother tragically died when he was young and his mother claimed he was selected to be in the priesthood. He maintained a position of honor despite the tragedy of what was going on at the time to tarnish the reputation of the Catholic priests. The story, ever-so-lightly, takes the reader mildly through the narrator’s experience – never too dramatic or too grabbing. A decent read but not greatly compelling. It leaves the reader with a sense of completion, however.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC BOYNE)

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs


Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

Incredible telling of an intelligent, kind man’s journey to fit in to two worlds – that of a boy raised by a single, struggling mom and an incarcerated father from East Philly and that of a Yale graduate working in Microbiology and advanced science. As the title suggests he does meet his tragic end and I was left with a wide and clear understanding of what its like to fight the battle, literally and figuratively, of a black man struggling despite opportunity. The book is detailed and yet the author takes you on the journey and you don’t want to stop.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (921 PEACE)

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

You may have seen Steve’s PBS series that chronicles the book. The available DVD version is a great short-cut.
I found the book engaging, akin to the interesting discoveries you read about in Devil in the White City sans story line.

The six innovations are Glass – What would we do without lenses, fiberglass, medical equipment?, Cold, Sound, Clean – Plumbing anyone?, Time – Time wasn’t always synchronized, and Light. Steve brought us in awe of the discoveries and their development as I grew in appreciation of the garage inventors. It reminded me of the classic book Future Shock in which the author feels creativity must grow hand in hand with technology or we will be overcome by tech.

Great DVD to watch with family. Clap hands to the curious and determined!!!

Available through the CAFE library system.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Reviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

What is really significant when you or a loved one is seriously ill or aging? Gawande examines our medical process and how we have progressed in science and medicine but not in the “sustenance of the soul.” He shares how some have improved nursing homes to include well-being. We need to have shared decision making and hopefully to have answered dire questions before the “Breakpoint Discussion.”

Professionals need to ask questions like “What is most important to you?”, “What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?” and “How do you want to spend your time if your health worsens?” Geriatric Physicians are declining in number and Gawande feels every GP should have training.

If you have an aging parent or someone seriously ill this is definitely a must-read. It also gives pause for thought about one’s own eventual demise.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (362.175 GAW)

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer


BelzharReviewed by Marcy (Library Staff)

This book is directed to teens but it’s a great adult read, too! The narrator, Jam, joins fellow troubled teens who have been through trauma in a New England boarding school. These teen residents are there to find themselves but how they do it is the twist that makes Wolitzer’s story fun and intriguing to follow.

Located in Teen Fiction (TEEN FIC WOLITZER)