2015-07-01 05:32:08 helen
staff picks summer


Castles are beautiful and fascinating. The architecture, the feelings of walking through halls immersed in history, apprehension of spirits and excitement of romance all intertwined!

Here are some suggestions:

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart – Balthazar Jones is a Beefeater living in the Tower of London, who manages the Queen’s menagerie of exotic animals and lives among eccentric yet charming neighbors. A lot of the story takes place within the maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases. The characters are very much at home in this unusual setting which is fun to imagine.”>The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart – Balthazar Jones is a Beefeater living in the Tower of London, who manages the Queen’s menagerie of exotic animals and lives among eccentric yet charming neighbors. A lot of the story takes place within the maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases. The characters are very much at home in this unusual setting which is fun to imagine.

Murder at Hammond Castle

Murder at Hammond Castle – Rockport native Gunilla Caulfield’s second mystery takes place at Gloucester’s Hammond Castle. It mentions the “Moonie” cult and lots of Gloucester landmarks. Plus the protagonist is a librarian who solves the mystery – what more can you ask for?!

Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – In this novel, biographer Margaret Lea becomes immersed in the strange past of British novelist Vida Winter, who spent her childhood in a gothic castle-like estate. There are many twists, turns, and subplots, and maybe ghosts….

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – This is the second in The Tudor Series by Philippa Gregory, but it is my favorite! I enjoy historical fiction and learned so much about the Tudors, King Henry VIII and the politics of royal court life, especially from a different perspective, the “other” Boleyn sister.

Hammond Castle Cookbook

The Hammond Castle Cookbook by Corinne B. Witham: Besides tons of recipes, this book tells the history of the castle and lots of interesting facts about the Hammond family and their famous guests. Plus, how cool is it that Gloucester has a castle?!


            Valerie Marino is a library assistant at Sawyer Free Library.

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2015-06-01 14:50:02 helen
staff picks summer

To Be Young!

The literary genre of bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story, has a rich tradition. The young character, learning about the world and themselves, gives the author a perfect vehicle to explore themes and comment on the world and its values.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – A towering epic of a story told from a viewpoint of an 8-year-old. Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, the novel tells about three years in the life of the narrator Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their widowed lawyer father. In the small and simple world of childhood adventures, Scout innocently thrives, but soon the ugly face of racism, hate and injustice seep in. Through the strength of character that Scout sees in her father Atticus, and the love that she finds among her family and friends, she comes to understand what her father means when he tells her “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – A 14-year-old girl haunted by the memory of accidentally killing her mother, Lily Owens and her father live an uneasy existence on their South Carolina peach farm in the early 1960s. When their black housekeeper Rosaleen gets beaten trying to register to vote, Lily decides it’s time to find out what her mother’s strange possession of a image of a Black Madonna, with the words “Tiburon, South Carolina” scrawled on the back means, and takes Rosaleen with her. Lily’s quest leads her to the Boatwright sisters. The sisters take in the two in, and slowly it is revealed the connection with Lily’s mother. The power of female friendship and love help Lily heal and find her own strength.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – In this most adult-like young adult novel, two teenagers with terminal cancer find each other, find love and find the essence of life in a funny, dark and moving story. Hazel Grace Lancaster, 16, goes to a cancer support group and meets Augustus Waters. Both become fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. In attempt to answer the questions left by the ambiguous ending, Augustus arranges for the pair to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. The journey there and its aftereffects shade the their budding romance and their inevitable outcome. Realistically heart-rendering without becoming oversentimental, the novel resonates long after being read.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Francie Nolan is a young, intelligent girl growing up poor in early twentieth century Brooklyn. Her father, a romantic dreamer, fills her head with fanciful thoughts and her heart with love and hope. Her mother, forced to shoulder the lion-share of family responsibilities, seems hardhearted and to favor Francie’s younger brother. But as Francie becomes more aware of the circumstances of life, her perceptions and ideas shift. As she blossoms into young womanhood, she becomes as resilient as the Tree of Heaven growing in the courtyard.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman – 12-year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt’s life is no picnic: her mother, Camille, has severe mental illness and CeeCee has to cope alone, since her travelling salesman father Carl is often absent. When her mother is struck and killed by an ice cream truck, CeeCee starts living with her great-aunt Tootie and her wise African American housekeeper and cook, Oletta. CeeCee finds the womanly supports she needs in her new circle of somewhat eclectic women friends in Savannah.

Helen Freeman

Helen Freeman is the Technical Services librarian.

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2015-05-13 03:37:31 helen
staff picks spring

Historical Romances in Far Away Lands

There’s nothing like a great read that takes you away to another place and time. I’ve always been a fan of both history and travel. Stories that indulge my need to sail away to a bygone era have long since been my favorites. Add a little romance and it’s even better!

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing. Dunant brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – This epic set in twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of the lives entwined in the building of the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known—and a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, brother against brother, and lover against lover.


Lisa Ryan is a Librarian working in the Reference Department.

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2015-04-06 13:56:20 lewis

staff picks spring

The “Not so dark Ages”

Literature and nonfiction about the early medieval era.

The dark ages, a hole in history from antiquity till the medieval era. A time when most think civilization stagnated and the western world reverted to its base instincts.  This thinking could not be more wrong, as this era from the 4th to the 11th century was one of the most influential eras in the history of western civilization. It was a time of migration, change, exploration and a time that saw the creation of some of our greatest works of art and literature. I’ve always had a great academic interest in this time, and here are some books to introduce you to the era.



Anglo-Saxon art : a new history / Leslie Webster – Anglo-Saxon culture is one of the bedrocks of western civilization, and this book gives a glimpse at their extraordinary art. The book was written after the discovery of the “Staffordshire Hoard”, a a huge collection of coins and other objects, and hence offers a very up to date look at the art of the Germanic Anglo Saxons and the Celtic and Roman influences that all melded to create what we know as “England”.




Beowulf : a new verse translation / Seamus Heaney – Beowulf is one of the only surviving examples of Germanic “epic poetry”. Thought to have been written down in Christan Anglo Saxon England, the poem shows many signs of coming from an older Norse/Germanic pagan and oral traditions. The story itself is a wonderful read, and its influences on the “hero” can be seen in stories written even today.



How the Irish Saved Civilization / Thomas Cahill – Cahill is a prolific author of popular nonfiction that is both informative and easy to read for those wanting an introduction to a topic, and How the Irish Saved Civilization is no different. The book focuses on the contributions of Irish monastics between the fall of Rome and high middle ages in the preservation and translation of classical works of literature, philosophy, and science that wouldn’t rise to prominence in the Christian world until the renaissance.



Vikings! / Magnus Magnunson – Magnunson’s book is a classic starting point for understanding who the vikings


where and their enormous impact on European history. Magnuson creates a portrait of a dynamic people with great contradictions. Warriors who also set the stage for modern trade and some of the greatest explorers and seaman in history who literally left their marks from Russia to Iceland to Canada.

God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 / David Levering Lewis – This book explores the


situation that gave rise to Islam, namely the weaknesses of the Persian and Eastern Roman empires and how the great cosmopolitan cities of Muslim Spain (Al-Andalus) produced such great minds as Ibn Rushd and Musa ibn Maymun, preserving classical civilization in a society where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative harmony for centuries.







Lewis Parsons is a Librarian at the Sawyer Free Library

Lewis Parsons
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2015-03-01 05:03:38 helen
staff picks spring


Novels about the Experience of Immigration

Immigration debates are flooding news sources right now, but the realities experienced by those who flee their homes in search of new opportunities — even political asylum — oftentimes end up shoved to the margins. Though mostly fiction, the following literary works offer up a valuable, varied glimpse into what life is like in America for immigrants and their families.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – Through nine thematically connected stories, this Pulitzer Prize winner juxtaposes life in India, live in America and the experiences of Indian immigrants to America.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi – A powerful, tender story of race and identity spanning Nigerian villages, post 9/11 America and London. Written by the author of Half the Sky, this book won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – The first novel by one of the most celebrated and original authors writing today tells the story of a sweet, but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd, Oscar Wao. Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos – This haunting Pulitzer winner looks back on the highs and lows of two Cuban immigrants, Cesar and Nestor Castillo, as they push towards success as mambo musicians.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – Michael Chabon also earned a Pulitzer for this amazing tale of two cousins — one a Jewish-Czech refugee and the other nestled in his native Brooklyn — who play an integral role in establishing the Golden Age of comics.

What is the What by Dave Eggers – Based on the true story of Valentino Achak Deng of the Lost Boys of Sudan program, What is the What chronicles the separation from his family during the Second Sudanese Civil War, the harrowing trek to Ethiopia’s refugee camps, the troubles once he makes it, the sudden run to Kenya and — eventually — his immigration to the United States.

My Antonia by Willa Cather – This classic novel is Cather’s elegy to American pioneers. It takes place on the plains of Nebraska but beautifully recounts the life of Antonia Shimerda, the daughter of a Bohemian immigrant and a strong and willful woman trying to overcome not only her modest birth but her gender in this new strange country.



Beth Pocock is the Assistant Director.

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