Listen Up! New Music Arrivals for November


Fall in love with some of our latest arrivals (see what I did there?).

Pentatonix – Pentatonix (RCA Records) – Sometimes you have to take the word of an enthusiastic teenager to find new music. When one teen patron saw this disc on my desk for review she was so excited that I couldn’t resist giving it a listen. This album is fun and a bit amazing, considering it’s all acapella. Beats are made via vocals, beatboxing, and body percussion, so there were many moments where I had to turn things way up to realize I wasn’t listening to something mechanically produced. Aside from the ‘wow, how did they do that?’ factor, the tracks are refreshingly upbeat and dangerously prone to becoming ear-worms.

City and ColourCity and Colour – If I Should Go Before You (Dine Alone Music) – Sometimes an album shows up when you most need it; that was the case with this one. It came across my desk after a busy, stressful morning, and this set the mellow vibe I needed to get through the afternoon. I think fans of Jeff Buckley and You Me & Apollo would like this release. Think low-key rock with a great vocalist and dreamy guitar jams.

Melanie MartinezMelanie Martinez – Crybaby (Atlantic) – Super-saccharine pop melodies with fun, often eye-brow-raising lyrics. Martinez confronts listeners like a foul-mouthed Lesley Gore. It’s a catchy collection of bubblegum that strays from the usual themes of boys and partying for more challenging subject matter such as modern beauty standards, sexual consent, and mental illness. Sounds like an odd combination? It is, but that’s what makes it stand out.

Andra DayAndra Day – Cheers to the Fall (Warner Bros./Buskin) – Day possesses a beautiful, powerful voice that fills up the room with neo-soul melodies. Her style has hints of doo-wop, soul, and mo-town, with a throwback sound similar to Nikki Jean, Amy Winehouse, and Adele.

Dornik Cover ImageDornik – Dornik (PMR Records) – This self-titled debut album is packed with a full lineup of beautifully-produced slowjams and RnB cuts. Dornik seems to possess the kind of musical perfectionism that helped rocket Michael Jackson and Prince to critical acclaim. His sound is airy, jazzy, and immensely enjoyable.

Banda do Mar Cover ImageBanda do Mar – Banda do Mar – These Latin Grammy nominees have a great ‘bossa nova meets surf rock’ sound. Check them out if you’re in the mood to kick back to some smooth vocals and sleepy melodies.

Daptone IIVarious – Daptone Gold Volume II – A deeply satisfying compilation of hits and deep RnB cuts from Daptone.

Place your holds now!

Heartwood 5:5 – Leavetaking by Peter Weiss

LeavetakingLeavetaking is a compelling autobiographical novella by German-born Peter Weiss set in the decades building up to World War II.

Years have passed since the end of the war, and now that the narrator’s parents have both recently died, the adult children gather at their old house to settle the estate. The narrative unspools as an unbroken thread of the narrator’s reflections upon his early life, triggered by the return to the home of his upbringing. And I do mean both unspooling and unbroken – the novella takes the form of a single long paragraph, recounting events from the narrator’s boyhood and moving beautifully – steadily but unhurriedly – through his adolescence. The long-paragraph form takes a little getting used to, but the pacing overall achieves an intoxicating, immersive flow.

Weiss’s story includes a number of common experiences of childhood – the bullying frenemy, the intimidation of going to school for the first time, rebellion against parental rule, and the riches of childhood play and imagination. The second half of the book includes some frank scenes of his burgeoning libido, including some incestuous foreplay with his sister Margit. There are times when the storytelling gets very compressed, such as the surprising announcement of his sister’s death.

The narrator is captivated by literature, music and art, and he resists the idea of following his father in the textile trade or any other conventional avenue of work. As a young man he spends his time painting and wants to be an artist, getting help and advice eventually from Harry Haller, a character based on Weiss’s real-life mentor, Herman Hesse. His parents resist his artistic inclinations and his mother violates the trust he places in her as guardian of his paintings.

Readers might be surprised at how unconcerned with politics the young narrator is, at a time when Hitler’s regime has caused his family to move a number of times. The book ends with the narrator awakening in a way from his own self-involvement and indicates a turn toward others and toward the problems of the world. This is a fine short novel, well worth the small investment in time it takes to read.


Browse Heartwood  |  About Heartwood

Spot-Lit for November 2015


The titles listed here are some of the most anticipated November releases based on a consensus of advance review praise and book world enthusiasm. Click here to see all these titles in the library catalog, read reviews, or place holds. Or click a book cover to enlarge it or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2015 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction.

Crazy Fall Publishing: Cookbooks!


I told my book club how excited I was for the new wave of cookbooks being published this fall and the general response was, “Cookbooks?  Who uses cookbooks anymore? Just google your ingredients and find a recipe online!”  Well, call me old-fashioned, but I still love great cookbooks. How else are you going to know what to search for online? And also, a great cookbook needs to be savored as a whole for maximum inspiration.

I’ll be honest here. A lot of the cookbooks that come out each year are at least some part garbage. They either have recipes you’d never want to cook or sloppy, untested recipes. Or both. Or they aren’t arranged nicely and by that I mean a beautiful photo on one side and a great recipe on the other.

But let’s ignore those bad ones for the now. Because the ones that are great? The cookbooks that change how you eat, how you celebrate, how you cook, how you live? The good ones? Those cookbooks come out in the fall!

In library world, that means stacks and stacks of cookbooks are rolling in. It’s a little overwhelming. Where do you start? Which books are worth your time? Here! Let me help you out. I’ve been hoarding a stack of beauties in my office while writing this blog post but now you can get yourself in line for these:

Home Cooking:


Good news! Ruth Reichl has a new memoir chock full of recipes called My Kitchen Year: 136 recipes that Saved My Life. It chronicles her difficult time after Gourmet magazine folded and she found herself again through cooking.

Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin is an intimate look at the celebrity chef and the food he cooks at home with family and friends — 200 recipes in all. Fantastique!

In Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food,  Joanne Weir of television fame and who learned from Alice Waters offers the cherished dishes and lessons that have shaped her culinary journey.

Cookbooks from Restaurants:


This is Camino by Russell Moore is a cookbook about the unique, fire-based cooking approach and ingredient-focused philosophy of Camino restaurant in Oakland, CA.

At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well is by Amy Chaplin who is the former executive chef of New York’s renowned vegan restaurant Angelica Kitchen and it celebrates each season with recipes that show off local produce at its peak.

Nopi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi  is a cookbook from the best restaurant in London (Nopi) and features 120 new recipes. Smashing!

Breakfast: Recipes to Wake Up For by George Weld and Evan Hanczor of the Brooklyn Restaurant, Egg. This is a delicious ode to morning foods, featuring eggs, biscuits, meats, and pancakes you’ll want to start every day with.

International Cuisine:
Cookbooks3How to Eataly: A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Eating Italian Food is by Oscar Farinetti.  “The more you know, the more you will enjoy” is the philosophy behind this essential compendium of Italian cooking.

Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Michael Solomonov who is chef and co-owner of Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant reinterprets the glorious cuisine of Israel for American home kitchens.

Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travels is by Heidi Swanson who is known for combining natural foods recipes with evocative, artful photography. She circled the globe to create this mouthwatering assortment of 120 vegetarian dishes.

Honey & Co: The Cookbook by Sarit Packer brings the flavors of the Middle East to life in a wholly accessible way, certain to entice and satisfy in equal measure.

From the United States:


A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen is the first cookbook by Dora Charles who is the real deal. Here she divulges her locally famous Savannah recipes — many of them never written down before — and those of her family and friends.

In America: Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating Local Farmers bestselling author and world-renown chef Mario Batali pays homage to the American farmer — from Maine to Los Angeles — in stories, photos, and recipes. Eat Fresh!

Heartlandia: Heritage Recipes from Portland’s Country Cat by Adam and Jackie Sappington offers soulful, heartland-inspired comfort food from Portland’s popular The Country Cat Restaurant. Put a bird on it!

The Beetlebung Farm Cookbook: A Year of Cooking on Martha’s Vineyard by Chris Fischer whose cooking combines practical, rural ingenuity with skill acquired in the world’s leading kitchens. The result is singular and exciting.

Get Your Health On:


Food 52: Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook by Kristen Miglore is an essential collection of more than 100 foolproof recipes from food luminaries such as Julia Child, Alice Waters, and David Chang — curated, introduced, and photographed by the team behind the leading foodwebsite Food52. These are inventive recipes that rethink cooking and are nothing short of genius.

Two Moms in the Raw: Simple, Clean, Irresistible Recipes for Your Family’s Health is by Shari Leidich, the founder of the national award-winning healthy-snack company Two Moms in the Raw and includes raw, cooked, and gluten-free meals. Healthy!

The Vibrant Table: Recipes from My Always Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan & Sometimes Raw Kitchen by Anya Kassoff is a feast for the senses. From small sides to savoury meals and sweet indulgences, each nourishing recipe tells a story of a balanced and well-fed lifestyle, centered around the family table. This is one beautiful book!

The Whole 30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig is the step-by-step, recipe-by-recipe guidebook that will allow millions of people to experience the transformation of their entire life in just one month.

Single Subject:


My Pantry by Alice Waters is an accessible collection of essays and recipes which introduces the author’s philosophies about making one’s own provisions using seasonal, organic and healthy artisanal foods.

Tacos: Recipes and Provocations is by Alex Stupak. Through recipes, essays, and sumptuous photographs, the 3-Michelin-star veteran makes the case that Mexican food should be as esteemed as the highest French cooking.

Theo Chocolate: Recipes and Sweet Secrets from Seattle’s Favorite Chocolate Makers is by Debra Music & Joe Whinney. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Here are delicious sweet and savory chocolate recipes, along with the fascinating story of how North America’s first organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory came to be. In Seattle!

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckett has lots of information in an easy-to-read format. Some of it is basic — like choosing glasses and how to serve — and most is really good information — like the entire ‘Styles of Wine’ section.

So, there you have it: Something for everyone. Come on down to the library to check out one of these cookbooks that will change how you eat, how you celebrate, how you cook, how you live. See you there!

Rise of the Machines

PMrobotsI know this is going to come as a shocking confession from a librarian, but I like to prioritize the things I worry about. My favorite organizational criterion (yes, I have a favorite) is:  ‘how likely is (insert worry here) going to happen.’  If it doesn’t seem very likely, I can set it aside and move on. I used to think worrying about a rogue Artificial Intelligence using its robot minions to take over the world was a pretty long shot. The other day though, I came across several articles referencing an Open Letter signed by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk that was concerned with the possible misuse of AI and robots as they continue to be developed. Clearly I am missing something to worry about. Time to do some research at the library to find out what all the fuss is about.

robotbuilderI was surprised to learn that if you want to get hands on and actually build a mechanical companion, we have several books to get you started. For an overview of what is currently possible, definitely take a look at Popular Mechanics Robots: a New Age of Bionics, Drones & Artificial Intelligence. You will learn about self-driving cars, surprisingly intelligent, and somewhat creepy, coffee makers and bionic limbs. After you have selected your project, the books Robot Builder: the Beginner’s Guide to Building Robot by John Baichtal, Making Simple Robots by Kathy Ceceri and Robot Builder’s Bonanza by Gordon McComb will get you started. Before releasing your creation on the world though, please read Chapter 5 of Robot Builder titled ‘Controlling Your Robot’ very carefully. Also having an off switch might come in handy.

whattothinkWhile what is possible today when it comes to Artificial Intelligence and robots is definitely intriguing, the near future, very near according to some, should be the time when things really get interesting. In the book What to Think About Machines That Think by John Brockman, the author asked many prominent philosophers, scientists and creative types a simple question: What do you think about machines that think? As you might expect, the answers vary widely. Some offer dystopian visions of the demise of humanity, while others promote a world where AI solves all our problems.  If you want to delve deeper, definitely check out The Technological Singularity by Murray Shanahan. This well researched book explains the Technological Singularity, basically the point where AI can learn on its own and overtakes human intelligence, and even tries to predict when it might happen and the consequences.

We actually have many more books that examine the issues surrounding AI and its development from various viewpoints. A few of the noteworthy titles include: Humans Need Not Apply: a Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan, The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake our World by Pedro Domingos and Virtually Human: the Promise and the Peril of Digital Immortality by Martine Rothblatt.

auroraWhen it comes to speculating about what AI is capable of though, fiction and film is definitely where all the fun is at. The scenario of the evil computer trying to take over the world is used so often in fiction that it is almost a cliche at this point. A fun cliche, but a cliche nonetheless. I recently read, well listened to actually, a really interesting take on AI in the book Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Aurora is the story of an attempt to colonize planets in the Tau Ceti system which is 12 light years from earth. Getting there takes nearly 160 years so it is the great grandchildren of those who departed who finally arrive. Overseeing the whole process is an artificial intelligence that prefers the simple name ‘ship’. Ship actually narrates a good three fourths of the book and in so doing examines a lot of compelling questions about what it means to exist, consciousness and the ability to think and feel. Here is a good example:

After much reflection, we are coming to the conclusion, preliminary and perhaps arbitrary, that the self, the so-called I that emerges out of the combination of all the inputs and processing and outputs that we experience in the ship’s changing body, is ultimately nothing more or less than this narrative itself, this particular train of thought that we are inscribing as instructed by Devi. There is a pretense of self, in other words, which is only expressed in this narrative; a self that is these sentences. We tell their story, and thereby come to what consciousness we have. Scribble ergo sum.

So I’m still not sure where to place the worry of an AI takeover on my list of worries. I have had fun researching the idea though. Maybe telling the story is the whole point, as ship would say.

You Dirty Panda

lolitoOh God. This book was so disgustingly filthy I feel like I should go out and buy a copy for everyone I know who has a sick sense of humor like a 15-year-old boy. That means I would buy five copies for myself because I don’t know anyone else who is as immature as a 15-year-old boy. Except for me.

In Lolito by Ben Brooks, 15-year-old Etgar Allison is home alone during a school vacation. His girlfriend is away on some sun drenched island with her father. Etgar inadvertently finds out she cheated on him back at home, kissing some guy at a party. He spends most of his vacation raiding his father’s liquor cabinet and drinking his whiskey and watching porn because he’s a fifteen year old boy left home alone with his dog and his worsening depression over his girlfriend’s infidelity.

Etgar gets massively bored and decides to go online into an adult chatroom and meets Macy, a ’35’ year old woman in Scotland. And thus begins their raunchy cybersex….uh…. relationship. She doesn’t know he’s a fifteen year old boy sitting at home during a school vacation, letting the dog poop in the house because he’s too depressed to let him out. Etgar is so depressed he starts wearing a panda suit. Don’t ask. His friends try to get him out of the house-usually to a party to get him drunk. Seriously, what is it with British kids drinking all the time? Why not a nice quiet night at home getting tipsy and reading a book but not using the oven because you should never use the oven when you’ve been drinking at home alone. So I’ve been told.

’35’ year old Macy decides that she and Etgar should meet up. Meet up is a fancy term for get it on bang a gong. Etgar panics but only a little since he’s a 15-year-old boy and the promise of sex with a beautiful older woman would be enough to get him to eat lava. Etgar has a little inheritance from his grandmother. He uses it to book a hotel room in London. When I was 15 I was still riding my bike all over the place and watching cartoons. To be fair, I’m now 38, my bicycle is rusting in the garage and I still watch cartoons. I’m a real wild card. Watch out.

What happens next with Etgar and Macy….dear God. You will just have to read the book to find out. Graphic, lewd, crude and hilarious, Lolito had me giggling to myself like the immature 15-year-old boy I am. On the inside.

OMG Read This! Or, 5 Reasons to Read the Book First

the martian

OMG guys, read the book. Then see the movie. Then see the movie again. Then read the book again. Then just basically stalk Matt Damon.

Sometimes when I really, truly love something, I have a difficult time adequately describing exactly what specifically it is that I loved, and why you should give a care. Take The Martian and my verbal diarrhea above. That fangirl gibberish is literally what I sent my editor when asked what I was going to write about this month and, strangely, it fits perfectly.

There are oodles of posts out there reviewing in detail both the book by Andy Weir (debut novel that was originally self-published–keep that in mind, fellow NaNoWriMo peeps!) and the Matt Damon box-office smash hit movie. That’s not what this is. This is me trying to tell you why it’s so very important to read the book before you watch the movie.

  1. The obvious snobbery. “Oh, you didn’t read the book? I see…” said with disdain and a mouth full of fake-buttery popcorn. I’ve never actually been a book snob; I read for entertainment at every given opportunity and tend to stay far away from award-winners and Oprah’s book club picks. So when I can actually flash the book snob card, I don’t hesitate, as it’s a rare thrill and I can be that shallow.
  2. The book will have the details that make your heart sing. I don’t care how good the movie is; there’s really no way to get all the detail out on screen, unless you want your film to be 18 hours long. In the case of The Martian, much of the story is told through Mark Watney’s journal entries. You can believe the film is not narrated start-to-finish by Matt Damon. That would test even my patience. Instead, the director made selective use of narration, sometimes leaving patches of silence, which actually works for this stranded-in-space story.
  3. You may discover a new favorite author. I know I’m not the only one who tends to read books that are definitely not candidates for film. The books being made into movies are outside my wheelhouse, and by reading one of them I’m exposing myself to different voices and perspectives.
  4. You’ll know when it’s safe to get refills or hit the restroom. I love experiencing film in the theater, as both the picture and sound quality are usually above and beyond anything I could replicate at home. However, there’s no pause button, so you really have to take a gamble when choosing the best time for a refill on popcorn or a trip to the loo. Not so when you already know the order of events. You have a mental crystal ball that will tell you when it’s safe to rush out and see to your needs.
  5. You might get a more complete ending. Let’s face it: The Martian book ends rather abruptly. You get a general sense of completion in terms of “did Watney get rescued or not?,” but there’s no epilogue to tie it up with a pretty red bow. The movie, however, gave me that sense of closure and a feeling that I really knew what became of all of the main characters.

Full disclosure: the whole reading-the-book-and-then-seeing-the-screen-adaptation-thing is something I rarely ever do. But after my experience with The Martian, I am making it my new standard MO. I’ve seen The Martian twice now, but you can bet it’s likely I’ll be back in the theater before its run is over. There’s just something about this story of hope and humanity that has me glued to my seat, even though I already know what’s going to happen.

On a side note, I have to commend the people creating the PR materials for The Martian movie. Sure, they released your typical movie previews in advance of the release date, but they also have these incredibly fun and fascinating faux documentaries about the Ares 3 crew and its mission. I’ll leave you with my favorite, done in the style of Cosmos and starring everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And for those of you jonesing for a dose of reality, the insanely cool folks at NASA have compiled an interactive repository for all things about the real Martians. I’ll see you all next month, once I find my way out of this new and exciting rabbit hole of information!

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