Books on Tap - April 2014

Three female friends face midlife crises in #1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s no-holds-barred exploration of sex, marriage, and the fragility of life. 

Holly is filled with regret after eighteen years at home with her three children. She sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea is a single mom watching her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for. So what if she picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Marissa has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay, rebellious teenage son; a terminally ill daughter; and a husband who buries himself in his work. 

As one woman’s marriage unravels, another’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s reconfigures into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness. 

Unflinchingly honest, emotionally powerful, surprisingly erotic, Triangles is the ultimate page-turner, told in gorgeous, expertly honed poetic verse that perfectly captures the inner lives of Hopkins’s unforgettable characters.

Review from Amazon.

Out of this World Book Club - April 2014

East Lansing Public Library - Local History Room

April's title is Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Upcoming titles for the group are:

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is a great piece of software that will help you get on a budget. They boast that thousands of people have gotten a handle on their finances as a result of their product. YNAB uses 4 basic financial rules. First, give every dollar a job. Second, save for a rainy day. Third, roll with the punches. Last, live on last month's income. Their whole goal is to help you plan ahead for your bills and expected expenses. They help you save up for those unexpected expenses as well. Eventually you end up paying all of your bills on last months paychecks. They want you to get out of the paycheck to paycheck mentality to start living stress free. 

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3. What can I say about you. Well, first of all it was awesome. I loved the plot and of course I loved Robert Downey Jr. I liked him even better in this one than the other two. I think it's because in the other ones he's more of an arogant jerk. But in this one, he seemed to actually try to grow and learn something. He seemed more human, at least to me. Gwyneth Paltro, who plays Pepper Pots, did really great, as in the first two. She got to do a sweet action scene! I know some people didn't like it, but I thought it was sick. My favorite part of all of these movies, esspecially in the third one, is the relationship between Pepper and Tony. Robert and Gwyneth are so good on screen and their chemistry is almost palpable. Their relationship may not be very realistic, but it's still hilarious. Now, the story was a little different with a few plot twists I wasn't a huge fan of. I won't spoil it, but lets just say they killed the whole idea of the Mandarin. Was it an interesting twist? Sure. But, they didn't need to do what they did. Besides that, though, it was a great movie. Definitely watch it!

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

Follow three generations of a family from Guangzhou as they navigate Mao’s China for a few months in 1958. Each family member is tormented by their own secrets and the tension builds throughout the novel as they are revealed to you. In “A Hundred Flowers,” Gail Tsukiyama captures visions of the oppression and fear created by the Cultural Revolution as experienced by a little boy, his mother and his paternal grandfather as they all try to make sense of life in the absence of their father, husband and son.

A Hundred Flowers is the International Book Club selection for April.  On March 20 we will be meeting to discuss Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World by Catherine E. McKinley.  We hope to see you soon.

Better Living Book Club - April 2014

April's book is Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg.  Annie's Ghosts has been selected as a Great Michigan Read for 2013-2014 and as a Michigan Notable Book for 2010.

Annie's Ghosts is the result of Luxenberg's research into his late aunt, Annie, who died in 1972 and was mentally and physically disabled.  Luxenberg only learned of his aunt's existence from his mother in the years before her death in 1999.  Luxenberg's debut book is part detective story, part history and part memoir touches on the pain and grief experienced by a family, as well as the dark history of the care of the mentally ill in the US.

At April's meeting the group will be choosing upcoming titles so bring your suggestions!


Personal finance is probably one of the hardest things we have to learn growing up. Finding the wisest course of action in your spending is very important and rather difficult. Something to help with that is making a budget. Doing this on your own might be a daunting task full of questions and uncertainties.

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Although the weather feels like otherwise, the first day of Spring is just around the corner on March 20. As I am truly looking forward to Spring this year, with allergies and all, I typed in "spring fever" into Encore, the library's online catalog.  Lo and behold, there is a book with that exact title written by Mary Kay Andrews.  I have been known to read "chick lit" on occasion (ok, ok, more than occasionally) so I checked out the book that afternoon.  

I have never read anything written by Mary Kay Andrews as the romance/mystery fiction authors I enjoy are Nora Roberts, Kresley Cole and Edna Buchanan.  Spring Fever is about Annajane, her ex-husband Mason, his new fiancée Celia and Annajane's best friend and Mason's sister Pokey (Patricia).  The story centers on the family business of Quixie, a cherry soda that has been around for decades.  

I felt that Spring Fever lacked in "fever" and intensity.  It was a cute story with a little deceit, a little mystery and a little romance.  But, it never really grabbed you in, although I found myself wanting to see how it ended. All in all, I agree with the Booklist review that Spring Fever is "tailor-made for laid-back summer pleasure reading" as the book would be perfect to take on vacation sitting on the beach with a cold drink in hand. 

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

I'm not quite sure where to start with this review.  It seems unfair to recommend and review a book by first raving about the author's previous novel, but I think that Grasshopper Jungle is unique enough to warrant a bit of back-tracking.

Adam Smith has been writing for years, but the first Smith book I read was Winger, which came out in May of 2013.  This book is beautiful and perfect.  Funny, heartbreaking, and so painfully true at giving voice to Ryan Dean West, the brilliantly awkward yet charming 14 year old rugby player who narrates Winger.

I've been recommending Winger to anything with a pulse that I've had a chance to bump into over the past few months and I already knew that I would be reading the next book that Smith wrote.  So when I saw the advance buzz about Grasshopper Jungle, I placed my hold immediately, even though I knew that the book was about six foot tall insects that destroy the planet.

Yes, if you want to read this book you'll have to be okay with reading about giant, hungry bugs, and no, I'm not talking about giant grasshoppers as a metaphor for humanity's natural desires for destruction and consumption (although Smith deftly weaves that in as well).  Much of the story and plot really is about humongous, genetically modified insects whose only urges are to eat and procreate.  

So why does Grasshopper Jungle work, and most importantly, why should those folks who loved Winger at least give it a try?  Because as he does in all his novels, Smith is a master at beautifully revealing the inner lives of teenagers, specifically teenage boys.  Austin, Grasshopper Jungle's main character and most likely the earth's last remaining historian, reveals his humor, his multitude of worries, and his history while figuring out why people in town are disappearing and how to kill an eight foot tall grasshopper that wants to eat your head.  Ultimately, the novel is at its best when Austin struggles with the question, "Is it possible to be in love with two people at once?", and "If you are in love with two people at the same time, what do you do?"  

If you've loved any of Smith's previous novels definitely give this one a try.  I think this book is great for all teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, but since there is quite a bit of violence and some drug use, I can also agree with many of the reviewers on Good Reads and who recommend it for grades 9-12.

If you are brand new to the amazing world of Adam Smith, start with Winger, or one of his earlier novels, and then work your way up to Grassphopper Jungle.  Unless you have a thing for giant bugs...

Hoopla issues caused by latest iOS release

Hoopla users, if you have an iOS device you might want to wait (if you can) to upgrade to Apple iOS 7.1  People who have upgraded have been having difficulty playing Hoopla Audiobooks and Music.  Here's the offical notice from Hoopla:

Dear hoopla Fans,

March Follow Up

Last night, the Books on Tap attendees realized that maybe we don't have as much control over our thoughts and actions as we thought. The group came to a general consensus that they enjoyed reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and would like to read more of his work. 

Below are brief synopses of other works by Gladwell taken from

Night Visions

Through the years, I've always had a love of music, from attempting to sing or play an instrument myself to analyzing vocal arrangements and complexities of others.  There was a time when I did everything to music, I could barely brush my teeth without the radio on, but in the past few years I had a lag in my listening.  Recently with the Hot Reads for Cold Nights program, my love of music was reignited!  I've been listening to all kinds of music from Jazz to Pop to Rock to Rap and everything in between and beyond.

The 2014 Grammy performance by Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar of Radioactive inspired me to listen to their CD, Night Visions.  I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard.  I can always appreciate when artists are not limited by the genre they are typically categorized in musically.  Although the group would be defined as Pop/Rock, the album mixes classical strings, electronic instruments reminiscent of the '80s, a hint of country and little bit of bass beats to add an extra twist.  Let's not forget the vocals, Imagine Dragons has a little bit for just about any musical taste.

Film Series: Racial Healing--- A Community Conversation, March 23 at 2pm

Please join us on March 23 at 2pm to view and discuss Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing.   MSU Professor and filmmaker Jeff Wray will be facilitating discussion.   

Film Synopsis:  Producer/writer/director/star Spike Lee combines humor, drama and music in a technique used in his previous films to again expose the absurdity of racism. Do the Right Thing moves it's cast of characters through a minefield of sensations over the course of the hottest day of the year, on one block in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.  This 24-hour period will change the lives of its residents forever. 


Jeff Wray's Bio:  Associate professor of Film Studies in the department of English at Michigan State University. MFA in filmmaking, history & theory and screenwriting from Ohio University School of Film in 1994.  Teaches courses in screenwriting, black American & African cinema and film production.  A screenwriter and filmmaker with several completed several projects, including China (2003), a feature film produced for and broadcast by PBS. The Soul Searchers: Three Stories (2008) was screened in New York and Berlin. Current film projects Songs for My Right Side, a 30 minute short and a feature Evolution of Bert are in post-production with completion anticipated for 2014. Screenplays include Summer of 64, a story of history, race and family in turbulent times and Cliff’s Friends in Detroit, a tale of three middle aged men returning to Detroit for the funeral of their childhood friend. Honors include the John Anson Kittredge Foundation Fellowship, Art Serve Michigan Individual Artist Award, Ohio Arts Council Major Fellowship, and three nominations for the Rockefeller Foundation Film and Video Fellowship and most recently a Wexner Center for the Arts Filmmaker Residency.

The Racial Healing-- A Community Conversation film series is intended to cultivate an inclusive community through conversations that bring about greater awareness, understanding and respect for our differences and similarities.  This program is part of MSU's Project 60/50.  For more information about Project 60/50 (including a list of events), click here

***We will be posting new films in the series shortly, please check our website for updates.*** 

Week 9 Leader Board - The home stretch

With just 24 days left for Hot Reads for Cold Nights here's where everyone stands: