Staff Reads — December 24, 2015

Book Stocking

Need something to tide you over during the holiday break? Need a break from the family? Want to ask Santa for some new books, movies, and music for Christmas? Have you made a New Year’s resolution to read more books? Here is what we’ve been reading, listening to, and watching:

Gerry C:

  • “I read Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova: This is the story of a family from South Boston whose father, a Boston policeman, is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease. I fell in love with the characters in the book. They could be your next door neighbors. Although the subject is a difficult one, it helps the reader to understand what a family goes through when there is a Huntington Disease diagnosis. I really liked this book. It is as good as Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and there is talk it is going to be made into a movie!”
  • “I listened to The Closers by Michael Connelly. Harry Bosch comes back from retirement to join the elite Open/Unsolved case unit. His mission is to solve murders whose investigations were flawed. I am a huge Michael Connelly fan. I wasn’t disappointed with this book.”
  • Listened to Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo. This is the second book in the Amish Crime Series with police Kate Burkholder which takes place in the small town, Painters Mill, Ohio. This is the story of one family, a horrific murder and the entire town under suspicion. I found the details in this book very grizzly.”

“I watched the following DVDs:

  • The Loft: a tense psychological thriller. It is a remake of a 2008 Belgium movie which was a huge hit. This version not so much a hit, but okay.
  • Pitch Perfect 2: I enjoyed the first one more than this although I am a fan of A Capella so found it entertaining.
  • The Village: a BBC series follows residents of one English village across the 20th century and their turbulent lives. Really enjoying this series.
  • Far from the Madding Crowd: Enjoyed watching this movie.
  • Woman in Gold: I am a Helen Mirren fan so enjoyed this.
  • Grantchester: A Masterpiece Theatre series that follows two unlikely allies, an Angelican vicar and a police detective, as they solve a series of murder cases in 1950s England.
  • Me, Earl and the Dying Girl: A sad story
  • Wallander Series starring Kenneth Branaugh: Although I didn’t like Kenneth Branaugh in this part, he was not a likeable guy, I did watch the entire series.”

Tory: Tory has read, watched, and listened to the following:


  • Abide With Me by Elizabeth Strout: Elizabeth Strout takes us to a fictional town in New England in the 1950s. Tyler Caskey is the Congregationalist minister to a congregation in West Annett, Maine. Tyler’s wife has died of cancer, his youngest daughter is misbehaving in school, and there are misunderstandings and dark undercurrents spreading all over town. Caskey is not able to minister to his flock when he himself is suffering so deeply. Secrets and problems of the various townspeople are revealed in this brooding, moody novel.
    The writing is beautiful, the feel of rural Maine is alive in every page, the characters feel so real that they almost jump off of the page.
    I give this novel four church steeples up and, if you like this book, I recommend:

Jan: The Right-Size Flower Garden by Kerry Ann Mendez.
“Do you wish you could bypass winter and jump right into spring, but dread all the work coming your way in your gardens?
This book will be your inspiration! Prune, dig out, move to a better location, give away or compost. Plant something better and easier to take care of instead. Remember the author’s (and your) mantra: Do not feel guilty-these are only flowers, not children or pets! Your yard-and your back-will thank you!”



  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. “This has been on several media best of 2015 lists and so I was intrigued. The book follows Lotto and Mathilde, who meet in college and marry after a quick courtship. Time passes quickly as the two move from newlyweds to Lotto’s career as a playwright. Three years can pass in one page with the reader barely realizing it. The book is hauntingly written and I’m mainly enjoying it so far. The tone reminds me of 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (which took place over a much shorter period of time) and San Remo Drive by Leslie Epstein.”
  • Star Wars vs. Star Trek by Matt Forbeck. “As a fan of both franchises, I don’t entirely understand the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. Aside from the fact they both have star in the title and have rabid fan bases, they have nothing in common and neither is better than the other. Like far reaching sagas about family and the age old battle of good vs. evil? That’s Star Wars. Want to see humans exploring new worlds as a metaphor for learning to accept that we aren’t really very different? Well, there’s Star Trek. None the less, the debates continue, and while many are fans of both, there are some who will fight for the honor of their favorite franchise and I have to admit that this scene from the most recent episode of The Big Bang Theory is pretty funny. This book is pretty quiet, pitting similar characters, objects, and more from one franchise against their counterparts in the other. In some cases, the match up is pretty odd, such as the one featuring Rebel Alliance Leader Mon Mothma, a character with minimal screen time in Return of the Jedi against Maquis Leader Thomas Riker (Commander Riker’s “twin” who was created after a transporter accident), but in other cases, it’s fun reading about Han Solo vs. Captain Kirk as the Scoundrel. (Han Solo wins that, according to the book.)”
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. “Noah and Jude are twins who were once very close and but have drifted apart by the time they turn 16. Noah narrates the events from three years ago which led up to their estrangement. As he struggles with some unsettling news about their mother, he also comes to turns with his sexuality. Jude narrates the events that occurred three years later, including her coming to terms with her mother’s death. The two are budding artists and slowly learn more about each other and their families. This beautiful book is a great look at family dynamics, and a wonderful character study.”
  • “I also am streaming the album John Williams Conducts Music from Star Wars, courtesy of the library’s subscription to Hoopla. It’s been great fun listening to the Boston Pops play the classic Star Wars music such as the “Main Title”, “Princess Leia’s Theme”, and “The Imperial March” gearing up to view the latest movie. In addition, the album also contains the two themes from E.T., the themes from Star Trek, and Holst’s “The Planets”.



  • Beautiful Hands
    Beautiful Hands Written by Bret Baumgarten; Illustrated by Kathryn Otoshi. “‘What will your beautiful hands do today?’ is the question that lead to this making of this book. Both the writing and the illustration are truly BEAUTIFUL. One of my favorite story time reads to date.”
  • Counting Lions
    Counting Lions Written by Katie Cotton; Illustrated by Stephen Walton. “The lion caught my attention and the illustrations stole the show. Breathtaking drawings of endangered animals, what better way to learn how to count?”
  • Wangari's Tree of Peace
    Wangari’s Trees of Peace Written and Illustrated by Jeanette Winter. “What an amazing ode to Wangari Maathai. An inspiring story that should be read to and heard by us all.”

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Mary the librarian in It’s a Wonderful Life

Take a trip down memory lane and re-visit some of our past noteworthy holiday themed blog posts:

Happy Holidays!

Star Wars!

Vader's Little Princess Darth Vader and Son

In the event that you have been pulling a Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for the last 20 years, you are very aware that last night marked the opening of the latest Star Wars film, the first in ten years, and the first since 1983’s Return of the Jedi featuring Luke Skywalker (we hope), Han Solo, and Princess Leia. As you gear up to watch the latest movie once, twice, twenty times in the theater, the library has plenty to offer you, whether you believe the movies should be watched in numerical order (starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace) or in the order they were released (starting with Star Wars, later to be called Episode IV: A New Hope). Enjoy and may the force be with you!
(Before we continue, I’m just going to share the opinion that the only way to watch the movies is in the order they were released, the first movie will always be called just Star Wars, and it’s okay to pretend the prequels don’t exist).

posted by Laura

Staff Reads — Week of December 7, 2015


Here is what the staff has been reading, lately:

Todd: Peter & Max: A Fables Novel: “If you are fan of the graphic novel Fables, you will like this. It drags on a bit, but it is a good story.” Todd also downloaded the album Calypso Kitch from the library’s subscription to Freegal. He also viewed the “mediocre horror movie” The Cabining from the library’s subscription to Hoopla.


  • “Catch The Jew by Tuvia Tenenbom, like its title, is funny and alarming at the same time. Picture Michael Moore traveling through Israel and its environs and you will have a foretaste of what is to come. Tenenbom was raised in an Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel. He has since moved to Brooklyn where he runs the Jewish Theatre of New York. Tuvia speaks fluent German, Arabic, Hebrew and American. He poses as Tobi the German when interviewing people who have an Anti-Zionist bias.
    This book will change your perspective on the complex situation of Israel vis a vis the Ultra-Orthodox groups, the Palestinians, the Israeli government, the Israeli army, the Right wing, the left wing, the Bedouins and the many European NGOs who have a presence in the country. Whether you agree with Mr. Tenenbom or not, you will laugh even as you cry. This book was a number one best seller in Israel and in Germany as well. Recommended for anyone interested in this subject who likes a little humor with their reporting.
    I give this book five Dead Sea Scrolls up!”
  • “Pulitzer Prize winning reporter David Finkel follows the Second Battalion in The Good Soldiers, Sixteenth Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army as they are called in to Iraq as part of President Bush’s Surge in 2007. Most of the soldiers in this regiment are very young men, with an average age of nineteen. We see the horror and the boredom, the victories and the losses that the battalion must struggle with. The soldiers and their Iraqui translator in this very well written book come across as extremely human and vulnerable.
    There is some profanity in this book and some violence. However, it presents a relatively objective reporting of one Regiment’s experience both in Iraq and afterwards. Recommended for anyone who is interested in reading about wartime experience written by a journalist without a particular political agenda.
    I give this book four army helmets up!”
  • “Nathaniel Fick writes a first person account of his very rigorous and grueling training to be a Marine Officer in One Bullet Away: The Making Of a Marine Officer. (This reviewer can’t even do a cartwheel and is awed by the many amazing feats that Fick is able to perform. I had no idea how difficult Marine Officer training could be!) Fick graduated from Dartmouth University in 1999 and decided to embark on this challenging journey. He tells you about his experiences in Iraq and in Afghanistan. This book is recommended to anyone who wonders about what it takes to be a capable leader in wartime. This book also is recommended to anyone who is interested in the amount of teamwork that is required for a military unit to succeed.
    This book has some profanity and violence.
    I give this book four marine corp insignias up!”
  • All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen: “Shulem Deen was raised in a very religious family and chooses to live his adult life in a very traditional Hassidic community. This first person account of his experience in the Skverer community in Rockland County, New York, opens a window to a world that very few have experienced. The reader follows Shulem’s Yeshiva education, arranged marriage, and his gradual disaffection from the community.
    This book is recommended to readers of memoir, those interested in learning about cultures and beliefs different from their own, and people interested in questions of faith in the modern world.
    I give this book five yarmulkes up!”



  • In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume: “Judy Blume, my childhood hero, is the only woman who could actually get me to read about plane crashes, three of them, to be exact. Based on true events in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950’s, this novel details how a community is affected by three planes crashing into the town over the period of a few months. Told in third person point of view, but from the minds of various community members, the book mainly features the story of 15 year old Miri Ammerman, and how her life changes in many ways during that fateful year. I enjoyed this book very much, mainly because it had a very similar vibe to Blume’s Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, one of my favorite novels.”
  • The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar: “In an effort to save their marriage after the death of their son, Frank and Ellie Benton, move to India for Frank’s job, where Frank becomes attached to the young son of their cook and housekeeper. This novel is thoughtful, melancholy, and beautifully written, until the end, when the tone completely shifts and it turns into an over the top thriller.”
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: “Hayley has been on the road for many years with her veteran father, who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He decides that it’s time for them to be settled and so he moves them to his hometown, where Hayley attends public high school. She is quick to mistrust the adults in her life, and is skeptical about potential friends, as well. Meanwhile, she must continue to play the adult in her house, as her father’s problems with PTSD continue to spiral out of control.”
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: “I agree with Jeanette that there is a bit of a Rear Window vibe in this book, so I would suggest this book for any suspense fans who like a bit of a twist. Three first person narrators, a couple not so reliable, relate the tale of Rachel, a British commuter obsessed with a couple she sees every morning from the train window. When the woman she dubs “Jess” disappears, Rachel finds that she’s perhaps closer to the situation than she initially realized. Told from the point of view of Rachel, her ex-husband’s new wife (Anna), and the missing woman in the months leading up to her disappearance, The Girl on the Train is a thriller about a world not as it seems told through the mind of a raging alcoholic. For those of you who were less than thrilled with Gone Girl, don’t be deterred by the comparisons. I was not a fan of Gone Girl and I enjoyed this one.”


  • Perfect/ Rachel Joyce: “England is the backdrop for this story that is set in two different time zones; the spring and summer of 1972 and the present, with the some of the characters featuring in both zones. As the story unfolds, it eventually becomes obvious that there will be some merging of the two strands.
    There are many layers to “Perfect” and also a range of interesting characters. Byron Hemmings and James Lowe are boys in 1972, interested in the world around them and full of ideas and plans. They are particularly interested in the thought that two seconds will be taken away from time during the year and it is Byron’s amazement at seeing the second hand of his watch moving backwards that leads to an event which will ultimately change his life and the lives of those around him. A very intriguing read.”
  • The Ghost Fields / Elly Griffiths: “Another great Ruth Galloway mystery, I am really hooked on these books. Ruth is such a believable, down to earth character.
    In this installment, a bulldozer makes a grizzly discovery of a WWII airplane with the pilot still instill inside. Galloway is called in and discovers the body is the son of the family living in a nearby manor and he hadn’t been piloting that particular plane. How did he get there and why? Evidence points this way and that, leaving the reader in suspense about murderer and motive.”
  • White Dresses : a Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters / Mary Pflum Peterson: “This is a compelling story of several generations of women all connected by the white dresses from all the significant life events they experienced. Mary Pflum Petersen tells her mother’s story and her own through the white dresses marking major events in their lives. Mary couldn’t rescue her mother from eventual hoarding, however she managed to pull the meaningful white dresses out of the horrific wreckage. Mary’s Mom always told her that White dresses were symbolic of starting over…a clean slate.This was an captivating story and I had a hard time putting it down. This book was engaging to the end; ultimately, it is a beautiful testament to the love and devotion of mother and daughter.”
  • Off the Black [videorecording]: “A very good indie debut by first time director James Ponsoldt, just a well told story and some very fine performances. Nolte, in particular, totally embodies his characters ailments and addictions. He is a
    grumpy high school umpire and catches one of three high school boys who are in the act of vandalizing his house. From there a very unlikely friendship develops.”
  • After You / Jojo Moyes: the long awaited sequel to Me Before You and I have just started it. So here’s hoping I won’t be disappointed.
  • First Degree / David Rosenfelt.(hoopla streaming): “This is my first David Rosenfelt book and I am captured. Andy Carpenter is a New Jersey defense attorney who owing to an inherited windfall from his Dad no longer needs cases to survive for a living. However this is an inviting case that involves a dubious character who comes into his office confessing to the grisly murder of corrupt police officer Alex Dorsey. So far it is smooth and entertaining and I find myself laughing out loud. And better still it is on hoopla which means it is always available for streaming!”

2016 Waltham Public Library Book Club Selections

The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling The Greater Journey by David McCullough The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Announcing the 2016 reading list for the Waltham Public Library Book Club!*
Printer Friendly List

*The Waltham Public Library Book Club meets on the third Thursday of each month (except December) from 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm in the library’s Trustee Room. Copies of the books are available at the Main Circulation Desk during the month before the respective book’s meeting. For more information about the Waltham Public Library Book Club, please contact Laura Bernheim at, 781-314-3435 or Louise Goldstein at, 781-314-3429.