Travel the World: Novels Set in Other Countries

I’ll admit that I’m an arm chair traveler. I open a book and I’m instantly in another place. I love a story that really immerses the reader in the details of the setting: the water, the mountains, the sounds and smells. I’ve traveled the world via books.

Here are a few titles where the setting is an integral part of the story. So settle into  your favorite chair and escape…

The Rocks by Peters Nichols
Majorca, Spain
This story is set against dramatic Mediterranean Sea views and lush olive groves. What was the mysterious, catastrophic event that drove two honeymooners apart so absolutely in 1948 that they never spoke again despite living on the same island for sixty more years? And how did their history shape the Romeo and Juliet like romance of their (unrelated) children decades later? Centered around a popular seaside resort club and its community, this double love story  begins with a mystery, then moves backward in time, era by era, to unravel what really happened decades earlier.

 Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang ; translated by Karen S. Kingsbury
Shanghai, China
Shen Shijun, a young engineer, has fallen in love with his colleague, the beautiful Gu Manzhen. He is determined to resist his family’s efforts to match him with his wealthy cousin so that he can marry the woman he truly loves. But dark circumstance force the two young lovers apart. A glamorous, wrenching tale set against the glittering backdrop of an extraordinary city.

 Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker
Dordogne, France
Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, is a policeman in a small village in the South of France who loves the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. He has a gun but never wears it; he has the power to arrest but never uses it. But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that. Now Bruno must balance his beloved routines—living in his restored shepherd’s cottage, shopping at the local market, drinking wine, strolling the countryside—with a politically delicate investigation.

 The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Newfoundland, Canada
Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife dies. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.

A Reading List for Pride Month

Pride Month (also known as LGBT Pride Month) is celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. The Stonewall riots were a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In June of 1969, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn staged an uprising to protest the police harassment and persecution to which LGBT Americans were commonly subjected. This began of a movement to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against LGBT Americans.

The American Library Association has also named June GLBT Book Month, celebrating the authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Whether you are a part of the LGBT community or not, finding your self in one of these books or going outside your comfort zone, these books about the LGBT experience can help to foster a greater understanding of the diverse world we live in.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932Lovers at the Chameleon Club by Francine Prose  by  Francine Prose. At the Chameleon Club in Paris, Lou Villars, a star athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among its patrons, and as time passes, she experiences a transformation that warps her earnest desire for love and approval into something dangerous.

When Katie met Cassidy When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perriby Camille Perri. A romantic comedy about gender and sexuality follows the experiences of a traditionally minded Midwesterner who, in the aftermath of an ended engagement, finds herself in a transformative relationship with a self-assured New York businesswoman.

MiddlesexMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides by Jeffrey Eugenides. In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls’ school in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking strawberry blond classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them – along with Callie’s failure to develop – leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The Danish Girl  The Danish Girl by David Ebershoffby David Ebershoff. Set in 1920s Copenhagen, this tender tale of love and marriage in the midst of fundamental crisis introduces a man who discovers he’s a woman and the woman who will do anything for him.

The Lauras by Sara Taylor. A thirteen-year-old girl on the run with her mother from her father revisits her mother’s former foster care homes to repay old debts and keep promises, learning astonishing truths along the way, in a novel that strikes at the heart of a mother-child bond and the exploration of gender identity.

If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. Amanda Hardy only wants to fit in at her new school, but she is keeping a big secret, so when she falls for Grant, guarded Amanda finds herself yearning to share with him everything about herself, including her previous life as Andrew.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson  by John Green & David Levithan. When two teens, one gay and one straight, meet and discover that they share the same name, their lives become intertwined as one begins dating the other’s best friend, who produces a play revealing his relationship with them both.

Prudence by David Treuer. A haunting and unforgettable novel about love, loss, race, and desire in World War II–era America, about the secrets we choose to keep, the ones we can’t help but tell, and who—and how—we’re allowed to love.

Becoming Nicole : the Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt. The true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all.

Believe Me : a Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard, with Laura Zigman. Writing with the same candor and insight evident in his comedy, Eddie Izzard reflects on a childhood marked by the loss of his mother, boarding school, and alternative sexuality, as well as a life in comedy, film, politics, running and philanthropy.

 

Book Recommendations Based on Your Favorite Marvel Superheroes

The Marvel Universe has never been more popular, with more movie and television adaptations being produced every year. But in between movies and TV seasons, what’s a superhero superfan to do? These YA books can help to fill the void your hero has left behind:

If you’re an Iron Man fan, try The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee. A tale set in a luxury tower 100 years in the future follows the experiences of an addicted perfectionist, a betrayed teen, a financially strapped girl, a socialite with an illegal A.I., and a genetically perfect girl. In this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall.

If The Incredible Hulk is your guy,  Monster by Michael Grant is also pretty incredible. When  meteorite strikes introduce an alien virus that gives humans unique superpowers, it triggers an epic battle between teen hero defenders and out-of-control supermonsters.

Need more like Thor? Try the Magnus Chase series by Rick Riordan. After the death of his mother, Magnus finds out that he is the son of a Norse god and must track down a lost ancient sword to stop a war being waged by mythical monsters.

If you love Guardians of the Galaxy, give Invictus by Ryan Graudin a try. Born outside of time as the son of a time-traveler from the 24th century and a first-century gladiator, Farway takes a position commanding a ship that smuggles valuables from different eras before meeting a mysterious girl with knowledge that places his existence in question.

If you can’t wait for the next Black Panther movie,  try Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi in the meantime. Zâelie, her brother Tzain, and princess Amari fight to restore magic to the land and activate a new generation of magi, but they are pursued by the crown prince, who believes the return of magic will mean the end of the monarchy.

 

 

 

What is an MP3-CD Audiobook, Part 2 – Why We Still Love Our LPs

My blog post about MP3-CDs several years ago generated an unexpected interest – what was different about an MP3-CD audiobook? Did I need a special player? And how did they get an entire book onto one single disk? I answered the questions, but it bugged me that I didn’t answer them enough. And when I dug just a little deeper, I realized the answer might be why there’s such a resurgence in old-fashioned vinyl LP records (kids, ask your grandparents).

Format Development

Back in the 1980’s, as CD and digital technology was taking off, committees were formed to create the format, so that the technology could be used anywhere. JPEG, that familiar photo tag, was formed first, the Joint Photographic Experts Group (1986), and they set the coding and standardization of digital transfer and storage of still photographs. MPEG-1 committee followed a year later, the Moving Picture Experts Group, Phase 1, which included both video and sound. It remains the most widely compatible audio-visual format in the world, and we all know the MPEG-1 Layer III by its short form of  .mp3.

When CDs hit the market, they took off like wildfire. You didn’t have to worry about compact discneedle and dust scratches ruining the fidelity of a record, and even better, you could carry that music with you wherever you went, just like a tape cassette but without all the mess and rewinding. Not all musicians jumped on it, though. Just as John Phillip Sousa hated the invention of the record, Neil Young was one of the earliest critics of CDs and delayed putting his music onto digital format, as is David Crosby, two men who know just a bit about music and the recording industry.

The Battle for Quality

high res vs. low res imagesAnd here’s why: MP3-CDs use what’s called lossy compression, a form of psychoacoustics (your gold-star word of the day). What it does is reduce or eliminate sounds that the system thinks the human ear can’t hear, either because they’re out of normal frequency or other sounds might be louder and keep you from hearing them. Once all that “useless” noise is gone, the audio files are a LOT smaller – enough to fit that whole audiobook onto one or two discs. Of course, in doing so, you lose a lot of sound quality, like when you send a low-resolution photo over the internet, or use a cell phone inside a tunnel.

The Return of the LP

And for all those people who said LP records were dead, here’s why more than 14 million of them were sold last year (14% of ALL album sales).  By the early 1900’s, when records became a thing, they were made of shellac (that bug resin), had a wide, noisy, grinding groove (think of those 1920’s recordings), and at 78 rpm (the speed they spun at), you could get no more than 5 minutes of play to a side – no American Pie, no Thriller, and forget In a Gadda Da Vida. That lasted until 1949, when Long-Playing (LP) records came out on vinyl (good ol’ PVC). At a speed of 33 rpm, with a finer groove that runs almost a third of a mile, they played more than 20 minutes of music per side, with a much higher sound quality. Stereo, which recorded two channels and put one on each side of the same groove, giving you that left and right sound, came in 1957. In a vinyl record, the sound waves from the microphone are transferred directly by needle to a core, which is transferred to a metal master, which is then pressed into vinyl. A needle then rides the groove, transferring those same exact soundwaves to the speakers. With proper speakers and tuning, the result is a rich, deep, acoustic sound much more like live music. Listen to enough LPs, and you really can hear the canned music effect on a CD recording. There is no comparison if you are a music purist.

Vinyl is Final

So, what’s playing on modern LPs? Ed Sheeran’s Divide was a top seller in 2017, and the old/new sound track to Guardians of the Galaxy, Awesome Mix No. 1, but so were the classics – Sgt. Pepper’s by the Beatles, Abbey Road, Thriller, and still, forty five years later, the champion of staying power, with more than 1,000 weeks on the top-200 best-selling albums, STILL selling more than 8500 albums a week, Pink Floyd’s 1973 Dark Side of the Moon.Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon album cover

For audiobooks, where one or two voices may recite a book in a calm, steady voice, you might not notice just how much sound is missing when you listen to it – enough to cut out six or seven discs worth. For music, I urge you to find a friend or a library that still has music LPs and players. Listen to the album (Dark Side of the Moon is amazing with serious headphones and a very dark room), and then listen to the digitally compressed MP3 files, missing highs and lows and the depth they provide. It might take a few tries, but you will start to hear the differences, and while MP3s are so fabulously convenient and almost foolproof, it just can’t compare to a good LP.

Fun fact: There is a gold-plated LP traveling the galaxy. Sent aboard the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 with recordings of Earth music, it is now more than 11 million miles away. MP3s only made it as far as the Space Station.

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in June

Summer is our busiest time at Cheshire Library, as anyone who has circled our parking lot on a summer afternoon can attest! Despite being a bit short on staff and tall on construction chaos, we have managed to put together some terrific programming this summer. We’ve got a bit of a railroad theme this month, take a look at what’s on the calendar for June:

The Electrification of the New Haven Railroad

Monday Jun 4, 2018, 6:30  –  8:00 PM

This program will cover the development of the New Haven’s freight and passenger electric locomotives and what made them unique with their pioneering designs. The program will also cover the development of the New Haven’s industry setting AC power and its distribution system. Registration is required.

Scrabble Evenings

Wednesdays, Jun 6, 13, 20, 27, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Bring your friends, family and join your community in a game of scrabble.  Please bring your up to date library card to check out a scrabble board located at the checkout desk.  Please meet fellow players on the third floor area. No registration required.

New Movie Thursday ~ Black Panther

Thursday, June 7, 2018, 5:45pm – 8:00pm

Did you miss the screening of a film you wanted to see in theatres?  Join us for the first Thurday of the month for a screening of a recently released film.  At the conclusion of the movie vote for next months not to miss movie.  June’s movie is…..  Black Panther!    T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Cat Tales- Writers Group

Thursday, June 14, 2018, 6:00 – 8:00pm

Do you write in secret, or do you publish your own blog? Are you working on your dream novel, a memoir, or poetry? Interesting in being published, whether traditionally or self-published?  Join us at the library for an open writing group that can help answer your questions on writing, editing, grammar, and publishing. Read a selection of your work to the group for general constructive feedback, or discuss a book you’ve read that might help someone else. Join us once, join us every month! Registration required for this adult program.

Passport Event

Saturday Jun 16, 2018, 1:00  –  3:00 PM

Join us for your one stop shop to acquire* or renew your passport.

Please bring the following:

  • Passport Application
  • Evidence of Citizenship
  • Two Forms of ID
  • Payment (2 checks for renewals)

Payments:
–  Checks or money orders only. No credit cards.
–  First-time applicants must bring two checks or money orders:
–  One check or money order for the passport application fee made payable to “U.S. Department of State”
–   A second check or money order for the $25 execution fee – add $15 for a photo if applicable – made payable to “Postmaster”.

*Typical Processing Time for Passports is 4-6 Weeks.
For questions regarding Passports please contact The National Passport information line at 1-877-487-2778 or visit Travel.State.Gov

The Pennsylvania Station in New York City

Monday Jun 18, 2018, 6:30  –  8:00 PM

This presentation will cover the inception of Pennsylvania Station, its sub-aqueous tunnels and the challenges faced in the construction of this massive and impressive undertaking. The tragic demolition of this grand structure by the Pennsylvania RR will also be included. Registration is required.

Chalk Painting Furniture

Thursday Jun 21, 2018, 6:00  –  8:00 PM

Do you have furniture you want to update with a fresh new look? Traci Selinske, the owner of the Posh Pear in Cheshire, will show you the techniques to get that naturally aged look using chalk paint, light & dark waxes, dusk of ages, and distressing techniques. Registration will begin on Monday, May 21, 2018 at 9:00 AM.

Friday After Hours: Lost Acres String Band

Friday Jun 22, 2018, 5:00  –  7:30 PM

Join us as we kick off summer reading with the Lost Acres String Band!  The concert will begin at 6:00 and there will be plenty of fun activities for children of all ages!  Pizza, snacks and drinks will be available for sale from the Friends of the Library. Please register so we know how many goodies to have on hand! There is no admission fee, but there is a suggested donation of $5 per family to help offset costs.  Please note that the Lower Level of the Library will not be open to the public. This concert is made possible by donations given to the Friends of the Library in loving memory of Jo Korten.

Streamlined Trains of the 1930s and Their Industrial Designers

Monday Jun 25, 2018, 6:30  –  8:00 PM

With the popularity of the private automobile and the effects of the Great Depression, passenger travel on the American railroads was in a steep decline. Something was needed to bring passengers back to the trains. This presentation will show how it was done and how the same steps were taken in the 1950s to once again bring passengers back to the trains. Registration is required.

Kids Spa Day

Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 4:00 – 4:45pm

Start the summer off right!  Join us to make your own sugar lip scrub and a stress ball. You will learn relaxation techniques and enjoy snacks with friends!  Registration is required.

Trivia Night

Wednesday Jun 27, 2018, 6:00  –  8:00 PM

Come by yourself or bring your friends. Test your knowledge from general categories, including pop culture, current events, history, music, and of course literature! It’s all For Pride, Not Prize.  Registration for this adult program will begin on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 9:00 AM.