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Tessa’s Nonfiction Recommendation: Pandemic by Sonia Shah

Even after reading lots of books on infectious disease, I’m still always interested in a new one. Shah’s newest book, Pandemic, covers new developments and old patterns clearly and factually—and it is, at times, ominous and chilling. The current status of contagions and public health which Shah exposes is riveting, with fascinating details and previously unknown conclusions (to me, at least).

Shah loops the book’s history with the current day by tracing cholera’s two-hundred-year global attack from the Sunderbans, Bay of Bengal, in 1817 to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. She traces the history of Manhattan from Native American fishing grounds to cholera-breeding slums to the creation of the Manhattan Water Company, which become today’s JP Morgan Chase & Co. Her own family’s battle with the nearly indestructible MRSA infection becomes another datum in the appalling recital, revealing more unsettling contemporary difficulties, mostly due to how little we know about this awful condition.


The third chapter, Filth, is full of fantastic fecal facts. For instance, snuff was not always a tobacco product. Many in the 1700’s used powdered fecal matter in their noses, called poudrette. Martin Luther, in the 1500’s, took a spoonful of his own feces daily, for his health. (Before you get too critical, remember that some among us today think eating our baby’s placenta is healthy. And leeches are making their way back into medical practice, too, I hear.)

The chapter Crowds makes the case that the world has changed radically in the manner livestock are handled, contributing hugely to the current problems of contagion genes reasorting themselves into new mutated forms that can infect more species, more efficiently, more often. I was convinced.

Corruption examines the political influences and ramifications of disease outbreaks throughout history, and it is the most alarming factor of all. The current state of the UN’s World Health Organization as laid out here explains a lot about recent poor handling of outbreaks.

“Between 1980 and 2000, the number of deaths pathogens caused in the US alone rose nearly 60 percent…Excluding HIV, …by 22 percent.” I’m still reading this excellent book, but I strongly recommend that every single adult, all citizens, read the chapter on corruption. Our survival as a country, and as a species, may well depend on important changes in the handling of global disease. ~ Tessa May 2016 4 out of 5 stars


The Young Poets Award Ceremony

The Young Poets Contest was open to all students in grades Kindergarten through 12 and all home-schooled students in Jackson County.
A panel of poetry judges will reviewed all the entries submitted. The top poets in each grade level read their poems at the Young Poets Awards program to held in April.


Tessa’s Book Recommendation: How to Be a Perfect Stranger: the essential religious etiquette handbook


Now in its 6th edition, How to be a perfect stranger is a unique and essential resource for the cross-cultural guest. Voted Best Reference of the Year, I highly recommend checking out this book as needed. Anyone who is invited to a wedding or other service of a religion other than their own will be completely assured of their dress and behavior after consulting this terrific introductory resource.

Each chapter answers the questions in the essential checklist: How should I be dressed? What will happen during the service? What will happen after the service? Should I bring a gift? Will I be expected to participate in any way? In addition, there is a very brief history with a few main beliefs, a short description of a basic service, a section on holy days and festivals, then a section covering life events including marriages and funerals and specifying when and what gifts are appropriate. A final section on home events is included, although it doesn’t apply in many instances. Certain sections vary in length due to the intricacy of a service or rite.

Many different Christian groups are covered in the book, including African-American Methodist, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal, and more than a dozen others. In addition, other religions included are Native American, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah Witnesses, Judaism, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist. One humorous note–every group was asked if people could or would contribute, and almost all said that, while not necessary, a contribution of $1-$10 was appropriate. The Baha’i, Christian Science, Islam, and Native American groups were among the exceptions–Baha’i do not permit non-Baha’i to contribute. The others don’t take up contributions.

Two great features of the book are the contact information for a main organization and several resources to which one can go for more information. In addition, useful vocabulary and phrases are given along with descriptions of appropriate greetings in different circumstances.

5 out of 5 stars


May – August Summer Reading Guide


The Jackson District Library’s 2016 Summer Reading Program is headed your way, filled with programs, parties and special events. It all begins with the Summer Reading Kickoff on Saturday, June 11 from 10:30 am to 2 pm at the Carnegie Library. Start with a family walk around downtown Jackson and then enjoy the music of Gemini. There will be games and activities, a live DJ, a police car and fire truck, ending with a magic show by Ronald McDonald. Sign-up for our free summer reading program and receive a free book and prizes for reading through July 31.

We’ll have special events at all of our branches this summer, including magician Jason Abbott, Colors the Clown and her animal magic show, Sports Stacking, the Science of Sports, Tim Salisbury’s variety show, and the Wild World Zoo. There will be programs just for little ones including Parachute Play and Music and Movement. Teen programs will include a Teen Mystery to solve, STEM programming and our 4th annual LEGO contest. Adult programs include a naturalist led tour at the Dahlem Nature Center, and Zumba and Pound Fitness classes led by the Jackson YMCA at the Carnegie Library. Join us at Carnegie for free lunch for kids under 18 every weekday June 20 – August 12 at noon and stay for digital stories.

Wrap up the Summer by choosing a side at our “STAR WARS vs STAR TREK…YOU DECIDE” event on Friday, August 19. Take part in a mission at “A StarShip Experience” put on by the Lansing MakerSpace, enjoy our outside laser light show finale, and be sure to come in costume for our costume contest.


Tessa’s Regency Romance Recommendation: Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Known as the creator of the historical romance and the Regency (England) Romance in particular, Georgette Heyer was a prolific writer her entire life, having 48 titles in print at the time of her death. Years ago, I wrote a review of one of her mysteries, Envious Casca. Now I want to you to try her Regency gem Frederica. It is a perfect delight. Be prepared for some vocabulary and phrase challenges, since Heyer uses authentic language. Some of them are evident from context, others, well, you just have to Google them. Or skip them.


Heyer’s heroines are lively, irrepressible, and intelligent. In Frederica we find all those qualities, plus she has a noble lack of self-interest. She considers herself, at 24, past marriageable age and on the shelf. The whole purpose in Frederica’s moving her small, orphaned family to London is to give her lovely little sister her London season. To that goal, Frederica will attempt anything and approach any contact, no matter how distant, for help. She must bring her two half-grown brothers along to town, since she has rented out their home. And, of course, the big mangy dog. Enter hilarity and escapades with the scamps, and cutting quips to make you gasp from her distant connection, the Marquis, of course.

This book is such a treat, with lots of humor and lighthearted teasing. The unpleasant and grasping get what they deserve; the poor get rich—most everyone is pleased at the end of the book. It would make a wonderful movie! ~ Tessa April 2016 4.5 out of 5 stars


Tessa’s New Book Review: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett misses the high mark

In 2014 Robert Jackson Bennett published City of Stairs, an amazingly drawn and vivid world build with a story that was equal parts fantasy, mystery, espionage and character studies. The plotting was well-paced and intriguing, with multiple storylines that are clearly defined while still unfinished at the end of the first book. city-stairsAfter finishing City of Stairs, I knew I would want to follow the great characters in the next entry, City of Blades.

Unfortunately, Bennett’s second book almost goes out of its way to earn the term sophomoric. While entertaining, the book is predictable, the characters somewhat stiff, and the plot so much less than amazing. I enjoyed the main character, General Turyin Mulaghesh, yet I felt her role was more narrator than actual participant in the events. The book lacked the mesmerizing quality of the first, partly because we already know what to expect of the continent and its dead

Also, I missed the first book’s main character, Shara Thivani, and was saddened by the few glimpses of her we were given. For her to survive the huge difficulties in the first book just to be found weary, harried, and cornered as she is in this one was a severe disappointment. I can only hang on to small threads of interest, believing that Bennett will bring her back in the third book, as canny and fortuitously prescient as ever.

Finally, and this is a warning to the sensitive, I rate this one as extremely violent. The violence is intensely graphic, as well, and several times there were anachronistic fighting methods and means. The author uses some of these to make very pointed analogs to recent Middle Eastern involvements by the US. They caught me by surprise and ruined the reading for a while. I had to get my head around these, fume about it for a while, then get back to the book. Not that I disagreed with him, not sure about that, just that they were so blatant in the middle of a good story. Quite jarring.

All in all, a pretty good read, but very disappointing in light of the first, masterpiece that it was. If he follows the usual arc, the next one will be better albeit still not equal to the first. But I’ll be waiting for it. Recommended, but with several reservations. ~ Tessa March 2016 3.5 out of 5 stars


Tessa Recommends Entertaining Biography–Born Round: the secret history of a full-time eater by Frank Bruni

Unlikely as it seems, a food memoir by a gay man is one of my favorite reads recently. I picked it up towards fulfilling a reading challenge list, and I immediately found Born Round engaging, funny, refreshing, and fascinating. Frank Bruni was born to an Italian environment that encouraged family, food, and festive times. Frank took to that enthusiastically, and his mother noticed pretty early that little Frank loved his food. His appetite launched the odyssey of a man not much younger than myself who endured years of secret trauma obsessing over his weight.

The Brunis were very competitive, and that helped Frank throughout his life. From high school swimming champion to Outward Bound to a Morehead Scholarship at UNC Chapel Hill and beyond, Frank worked hard. Unfortunately, he did that in private, too, using Metamucil, speed and purging to keep the weight off.

His will and drive take him beyond his weight, however, from the Detroit Free Press, to the NYT reporter assigned to the Bush presidential campaign, to Rome as bureau chief, and finally back to NYC as the New York Times’ restaurant critic. The disguises and efforts needed to outwit the restaurateurs are hilarious and amazing. Who knew?

Don’t read this expecting outrageous behavior or graphic scenes (except for the food)—Bruni has dignity, discretion, and is most kind. He is proud to treat wait staff well in a restaurant; he does the same to friends and partners throughout this biography.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t funny or captivating! Fun ranges from descriptions of one roommate who yells out the apartment window for his cat and kills the aquarium crayfish for murdering the fish, to Bruni and his sister harassing their mom with fictional book titles such as “My Mother and Other Christian Martyrs.” But most of all, this is a book about food and Bruni’s obsessions with it. Most people will find much to enjoy here.

Frank Bruni takes you on adventures into his Italian upbringing, across the globe, and into the streets with this embodiment of what it means to be a journalist and a food critic. Highly recommended. ~Tessa 4 stars out of 5 February 2016


March/April 2016 Newsletter

March is a great time to grab your favorite book and dive right into reading! We make it easy for you too! Not only is March a great month to get back into reading, it is also a great time to seek out fun events to enjoy with family or friends! Each JDL branch has planned activities for all ages using a popular book theme – Easter Bunny’s Assistant, Boy + Bot, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, and A Dog Wearing Shoes, just to name a few!




New fantasy novels mirror old: like an old mirror with the paint backing chipping off










Queen of the Tearling, Blood Song, The Goblin Emperor, Traitor Baru Cormorant, The Red Queen…are all kind of the same. Substitute a young boy given to a brutal school; for a goblin, abused from childhood and suddenly thrust into the role of emperor; for a new queen, young and bereaved, but with amazing powers; for a savant lesbian imperial accountant ripped from her family; for…some other young adult embroiled in an alien world of political intrigue, conspiracy, and rebellion.

These are all well-written: some better, some worse. But I really couldn’t find much to choose between them. I wanted to, but they are mostly echoes of each other and of masters who have gone before. Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish series, Cherryh’s Foreigner series, Dune, Brandon Sanderson, and others have done all these things before, and, usually, with more imagination, better writing and exquisite creations.

Of the five new ones mentioned above, I think that Traitor Baru Cormorant and Blood Song are the best. The others weren’t too far behind. For most originality, I would have to go with Blood Song or possibly The Goblin Emperor.


The Goblin Emperor really failed, however, to make the most of its uniqueness. Here’s hoping Addison’s next book will discover the rich potential of her emperor. Traitor Baru Cormorant shocked me, but I think I must not have been paying attention—any reader ofDune should be well prepared for this book’s ending, if they don’t give up out of boredom during the battles. I know, it’s hard to believe, but the battles became quite tedious. Fantasy and science fiction is supposed to be edgy and original, not emulative and old hat. New worlds, not old tropes. Give Blood Song by Anthony Ryan and Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson a try, but the rest are simply optional. ~Tessa Various ratings March 2016

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