In her latest collection of personal observations, truisms, and experiences, I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, author Nora Ephron assembles more life lessons cloaked in pithy, relatable text.

Nora obviously had a few more things to get off her chest after her book I Feel Bad About My Neck. Being a big believer in a refreshing, recuperative rant every now and then, I gleefully listened for her latest editorials. Nora masterfully and lovingly rants about the things we would all rant about if we had the enormous platform or audience to listen.

While there ain’t no rant like an adorable Nora rant, the book’s title is what really drew me in. I have a morosely poor memory, and I was eager to hear what she had to say on the topic—so I could then promptly forget it.

Concerning her own fading memory, Nora concedes, “On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can?”

(Preach it, sister!)

Nora produces a long list of celebrity encounters that she confesses she can’t recall anything about — like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. She also admits that the sole thing she recalls about her trip to the White House the evening Richard Nixon resigned was her stolen wallet.

(Hey, I’m not here to judge.)

In today's 24/7 news cycle, it's impossible to imagine President Obama boarding a yacht to undergo major surgery, disappearing for two days, and spending weeks recovering on a fishing trip with no explanation beyond a case of rheumatism, a toothache, and a much-needed vacation.

But in the summer of 1893, that's exactly what Grover Cleveland did. And even then, he barely got away with it.

In his new book, The President Is a Sick Man, Matthew Algeo, author of Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, recounts the story of how Cleveland pulled the wool over the public's eyes regarding his debilitating health problems – and then vilified the reporter who had the gall to tell the real story.

Algeo gives a free presentation about his new book – the first full account of this relatively forgotten but culturally revealing period in our nation's history – on Tuesday, May 3, 2011, at the Central Library, at 6:30 p.m. (RSVP to attend.)

Every reader loves discovering a first novel no one has read yet and passing it on to other readers who will share the delights of a brand new voice. Look what happened with Sara Gruen and Water for Elephants, Kathryn Stockett and The Help, or Garth Stein and The Art of Racing in the Rain. All became big word-of-mouth titles.

But how about those dusty gems languishing on the bookshelf that didn’t get the big publicity push? They are no less satisfying, delightful and thought-provoking. Readers interested in giving a second life to a first novel may find something worth passing on from these debuts that should have put their authors on the reading map.

Somewhere Off the Coast of Maine by Ann Hood

Everyone loves old family photos. Whether laughing at Uncle Mark’s 1976 baby-blue prom tuxedo or imagining the life of your great-great grandfather as you gaze at an image of him in a Civil War uniform, we connect with times past and pass along our traditions and memories to future generations through photographs.

With the advent of digital photography and the accessibility of affordable camera equipment, many of us have begun stockpiling photos on our computers. As with physical photos, these digital images are subject to loss and decay over time.

In order to make sure our descendants continue to have opportunities to learn about our lives, action needs to be taken today to preserve and protect the memories we capture using digital media.

Two things were certain about Georgia Bottoms.  She was the undisputed belle of Six Points, Alabama, and the only thing she loved more than her appearance was her divine reputation. 

Georgia’s “chicken-fried” charm and “sweet-tea” hospitality also made her the natural choice as Six Points’ unofficial town hostess and goodwill ambassador, until one Sunday in church when the lid was blown off of her entire “gravy and grits” facade.

The seventh novel by Alabama native Mark Childress, Georgia Bottoms, focuses on a 30-something Southern belle who is trying to pretend, for herself and an entire town, that the old-fashioned ways of the aristocratic South still exist in god-fearing, gossip-spreading Six Points, Alabama. 

Just published in February of this year, Georgia Bottoms combines a group of stereotypical southern characters into a tale of crazy situations, sexual misconduct and deceit at its finest.  Georgia appears to be a well-off single woman from a family of old money. She faithfully occupies her pew at the Baptist church every Sunday, dotingly cares for her elderly mother with Alzheimer’s, and selflessly spends hours creating beautiful quilts which she sells at a local store for a bargain price. 

Jackson County Juvenile Center has its share of discipline issues. But none of them occurred while Nick Holmes visited once a week last summer to read books to the young men incarcerated there.

"I gave all of them my respect, and I got it back," Holmes says.

Orlando (not his real name), a towering, 17-year-old "alpha dog," was especially a fan of the reading and discussion sessions.

"Orlando had never had a library card, had never checked out a book in his life," Holmes says. "I helped him check out his first library book in his name."

In the summer of 2010 while working part-time for the Kansas City Public Library, Holmes also visited four other locations as part of a grant-funded outreach effort developed by children’s, teen, and outreach services librarians for the Summer Reading program.

In all, Holmes signed up more than 500 kids – it's what Building a Community of Readers is all about.

Putting books in people's hands is a fundamental part of what the Library does.But with the launch of an unprecedented and ambitious campaign, the Library is becoming even more focused on making KC a city that reads.

A Happier Community

When I first started using Twitter I followed @kcweather, a few people I knew, and a few librarians. As I got more daring, I branched out and started following authors. The first few I followed were people like @neilhimself (Neil Gaiman), @longshotauthor (Jim Butcher), and Warren Ellis @warrenellis and while they were entertaining they had too many followers to be able to interact with their fans in any meaningful way.

Sarah Vowell is obsessed with history. Also: death. Where does a person with these two intertwined fascinations go on vacation? The answer to that question turns out to be some pretty surprising places.

Vowell's sense of humor and wit keep her travelogue Assassination Vacation from reading like a college textbook on the subject of Presidential assassinations

Part travel memoir, part history, and with a keen eye for the ridiculous (including a self-awareness of her own almost religious zeal for the subject), Vowel's book manages to look into the history of the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley in such a way that keeps you on your toes.

Vowell is a native of Montana, but you’d never know it the way she clings to the East Coast. She doesn’t drive (phobia), so she considers one of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s greater faults to be “that he did not have the decency to die within walking distance of a metro stop.” In many ways, Vowell is herself a character as interesting to read about as the historical figures she portrays with such detail. 

The school year’s winding down, and pressure to nail those grades is going up. As always, the Kansas City Public Library’s here to help. Whether you’re sweating that English paper or gearing up for a long night of calculus crunching, Brainfuse can hook you up with free online homework help from expert tutors any day of the week. All you need is a Library card.

Brainfuse is a suite of online tutoring services designed to help you master an academic skill, prepare for a test, or just get through a difficult homework problem by connecting you with certified online tutors offering a wide array of interactive, state-aligned activities for grades K-12. Tutoring help is also available in Spanish.

Brainfuse provides one-on-one homework help every day from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Access is available online on the Library homework help page. You must log in to Brainfuse using a Kansas City Public Library card and your PIN. (Forgot your PIN?) You can use Brainfuse from home, but you must first access it through the Library’s website.

Chat with a Tutor

Brainfuse has a lot of features. But if you want to start working with a live tutor right away, begin with Homework Help or Live Skills Building.

The Kansas City Public Library encouraged patrons to get creative in celebration of National Library Week (April 10-16), and a lot of readers heard the call. Check out a gallery of crafty book spine poems sent in by members of the community, and get ideas for making your own.

'Til Morning Light is the third novel in the Gracelin O'Malley series by Ann Moore. This historical fiction series follows heroine Gracelin as she travels from Ireland to New York to San Francisco in the mid-1800s. 'Til Morning Light concludes Gracelin's journey as she struggles to balance her own personal happiness with the best life possible for her two young children.

Gracelin is planning to marry Captain Reinders as she waits in San Francisco, working as a cook in a house for a local doctor. But many surprises are waiting for Gracelin in San Francisco – a headstrong housekeeper, her own brother hidden in Chinatown, and her one true love.

Gracelin is an extremely strong female character who survived a great deal of turmoil in Ireland before escaping to America. I was surprised at her openness and her ability to adapt to her surroundings.

I also enjoyed the debates on morality and other issues between Gracelin and Dr. Wakefield. I felt that the author was able to delicately handle sensitive issues that did not interfere with the story. I also noticed an appreciation for faith throughout the book, but it was essential to the story and I did not feel as though the author was preaching to me.

Falling Under by Gwen Hayes

For you my heart and soul to take....

Theia Alderson is a quiet girl from the UK living in a small California town. But living in her creepy Victorian Style house she always has these weird dreams. First it starts with the "Burning man". He falls out of the sky and lands on her father’s perfectly manicured grass and burns it. Then a bonfire with lively skeletons. Then she meets this mystery man dressed in Victorian clothing. Then the next day sees him at her school and her knees go weak.... Who is he and why is he in her dreams?

Hayden is not from this world. He doesn’t belong here but saw her and wanted her so bad it makes his whole body hurt. Him being in this world wreaks havoc and causes disruptions...but he wants to meet her.

He knows he can't then he won’t be able to control his self, she should hate him, yeah, that’s the best thing for her to do. But she keeps coming to him and inviting him in.
For Theia it’s even harder to ignore him seeing as though every night they see each other in their dreams and he still reveals nothing. He beckons to her in their eerie fantasy world and in the "real world" pushes her away and treats her as another outcast. Her pull toward him is stronger than her fear. If she can resist it might just save her life.

Photographs are treasured items you want to hold on to for as long as possible. Careless handling, improper storage, and exposure to the elements can all ruin precious memories. Whether a 150-year-old Daguerrotype or a Kodak snapshot from a few years ago, all photos require care. Here are some tips to help make sure you don't lose these valuable artifacts.

The Kansas City Public Library is recognizing Preservation Week (April 24-30, 2011) with two special sessions on caring for your photos, both print and digital (because digital images can be lost, too).

This Saturday, April 16, at 11 a.m., Missouri Valley Special Collections Librarian Lucinda Adams leads a presentation on Caring for Print Photographs. The following Saturday, Digital Projects Manager Jordan Fields will lead a presentation on Preserving Digital Images. Both presentations are free; RSVP online to attend.

“Lookin’ for a wedding?” he asked in a lazy drawl. When G.W. Vandermark first meets beautiful Lizzy Decker, his world is turned upside down. At the busy train station in Philadelphia, Lizzy, a stunning, blue-eyed petite blonde, is accompanied by G.W.’s level-headed sister, Deborah Vandermark.

Lizzy and Deborah have just finished college and are returning to Deborah’s hometown in Eastern Texas.

For G.W, the most unusual thing about his sister’s companion is a long bridal gown she chooses to wear for the arduous trip. Lizzy has barely escaped a wedding and an overbearing groom she does not love. She now depends on Deborah and Deborah’s “backwoods bumpkin” brother to provide a safe refuge for her.

Embers of Love is the first of the three novels by Tracie Peterson in her latest historical inspirational series, Striking a Match (Embers of Love, Hearts Aglow, Hope Rekindled). Set in a small logging community of Perkinsville in June 1885, this novel portrays lives of two intelligent, educated young women whose thinking are ahead of their time.

Two long-standing schools of thought have dominated discussion in grammar. The prescriptive school looks at the way the language ought to be used. Its adherents set out the rules of grammar as the standard to follow. The alternative, descriptive approach views language as living and evolving – language as it's used.

In The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Mystery and Magic of Practical English, Roy Peter Clark thoroughly explores the shift from the notions of how people ought to speak (prescriptive) versus how they do in fact speak (descriptive).

For instance, “Where you at?” is a common question in current, regional discourse.  The prescriptive approach would pronounce this a faulty use of grammar, arguing it violates both the rule of a complete sentence needing a verb, and the rule not to end a sentence with a preposition. Prescriptivists may go even so far as to suggest that the speaker is uneducated, using sub-standard English.

By contrast, the descriptive perspective would recognize this question as an expression commonly used. The only measure it must meet is: Does it, in fact, communicate? If the person hearing it understands what is being asked, it qualifies as acceptable, and may be considered even to be an advancement or evolution of the English language.

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