Alex and Me by Irene Pepperberg

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In Alex and Me, a caged bird speaks! How much impact could a one-pound ball of feathers have on the world?
Alex and Irene have discovered a hidden world of animal intelligence and formed a deep bond in the process. Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s memoir of her 30 year collaboration with an African Gray parrot was written for the legions of Alex’s fans whose lives he and she touched with their ground-breaking work on animal communication.
Alex is a one-pound, three-dimensional force of nature. Mischievous and cocky, he gets also gets bored and frustrated. (And who wouldn’t, when asked to repeat tasks 60 times to ensure statistical significance?) He shouts out correct answers when his colleagues (other parrots) fail to produce them. If Irene greets another bird first in the morning, Alex sulks all day and refuses to cooperate. He demands food, toys, showers, a trip to his gym and a tickle!

Almost Time to Plant

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It’s a bit early, but there are already hints of Spring. My husband has seedlings started under growlights, fueling our dreams of fresh tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and peppers. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver tells about her family attempting to live for a year on homegrown and local food. They garden, can, and raise chickens. As you can see in the picture, she even inspired my husband to invite a few friends over and make cheese! There are several books out on the subject of food, but no one else can write quite like Kingsolver. You can read this for the ideas, but you’ll enjoy the story along the way.

P.S. The cheese was yummy!

Shelter Me

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Juliette Fay’s first novel, Shelter Me, is a story of love, life and hope with quirky, well-drawn characters and wonderful moments of humor and tenderness. Janie’s husband dies suddenly, leaving her with two small children to raise on her own. Janie’s character is filled with anger and sadness and we follow her journey through her grief to moving on with her life. Her life begins to change when a carpenter appears at her home with a last surprise gift from her husband–a new porch. The many relatives and friends who help Janie along her emotional journey are interesting characters and the book is filled with surprising humor, wit and love–a very touching and enjoyable story!

A Walk to Remember

>Okay, someone finally convinced me to read Sparks and I’m glad they did. If you like a gentle romance then you are sure to like A Walk to Remember. It’s an unlikely romance between the Preacher’s daughter and the Senator’s son. The Preacher and Senator don’t really like each other and have had family problems in the past. The Senator’s son joins in with everyone else to make fun of the Preacher and his daughter, but because the son wants to have an “easy” senior class, the daughter and son are put together to bring us to the unlikely ending. By the way, I’ve started another Sparks book, The Choice, and am enjoying it as well. Thanks Anne!!!

The Piano Teacher

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Listen to the news and all you hear is doom and gloom regarding the economy these days. If you want to put our current hard times in a better perspective and enjoy a great diversion, pick-up a copy of The Piano Teacher.

Claire hardly knows her husband when she agrees to marry him and follow him in his government transfer to Hong Kong in 1952. She asks around for possible piano students and finds a position as teacher to Locket, the daughter of the wealthy Chen family. Will Truesdale, the Chen’s chauffer, begins an affair with Claire which leads to a revealing of his tortured past during World War II. The history of this city, characters that Janice Lee has created and life or death decisions which had to be made during wartime make this a very fine debut novel. Beware of the horrors of war.

Classic Romance

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My life has been too busy lately. It is times like these that I find myself longing for a rainy day with a cup of tea and a stack of books. The first book in that stack would be anything by Georgette Heyer. Heyer writes historical romances with smart characters and happy endings. I recommend Lady of Quality to start with, the story of Miss Wychwood, who at 29 has accepted her spinster status. When she decides to take in a young girl ready to be presented to society, shed doesn’t realize how difficult it will be to deal with the girl’s guardian, long reputed to be the rudest man in England. I think you can guess where this is going. Grab your mug, curl up, and enjoy!

Charles Dickens–Films and Books

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Beginning on Feb. 15, Masterpeice Theater on PBS will be showing film adaptations of four of Charles Dickens’ novels– Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, and the Old Curiosity Shop. If you would like to compare books and films, Manhattan Public Library has copies of each of these novels available for checkout. Besides these classic Dickens stories, the library has many more books by Dickens, as well as film versions of several of his works. My favorite film adaptation is the 2001 version of Nicholas Nickleby, starring Charles Dance, Sophia Myles and James D’Arcy as Nicholas Nickleby. The story follows the life of Nicholas, his mother and sister after the death of his father, and, in true Dickens style, is complete with a villanous uncle, a cruel schoolmaster and harships endured by the family. The acting is excellent and the story is well-told. Pick up a copy of a Dickens novel and compare with one of the films being shown on PBS–see which you enjoy the most!