Click for availability and more information The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, by Helen Rappaport
 
As the last autocratic ruler and czar of Russia, Nicholas II's reign and legacy have been written about repeatedly since his overthrow and murder in the Russian Revolution. The first of these staff picks, The Romanov Sisters, is, however, concerned with his four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Using diaries and memoirs of family members and other eyewitness accounts to their lives, newspaper articles written about them during their lives and other historical sources, Helen Rappaport has created a richly textured group biography of the gloriously regal lives these four grand duchesses led. Immensely readable, this book shows their world of growing up and living in a world with great wealth, prestige and position. They all come across as having charm and grace during their short lives. Educated by tutors in magnificent palaces, the sisters were sheltered by Nicholas and Alexandra as they were raised to be the royal daughters of the czar of Russia. Their family unit was complicated by the birth of their hemophiliac son Alexis. His health was precarious at times due to his disease and thus cast a dark shadow over the future of the Romanov family reign in Russia. A lovingly close family, these girls faced growing discontent in Russia with the czar's reign as World War I broke out. Yet, they served as nurses and treated injured Russian soldiers with love and dedication during the war. As they emerged into adolescence, they each developed romantic crushes on soldiers who were part of the regiments assigned to protect them. Historical events trapped them in the Russian Revolution and eventual exile in small towns as the revolution swirled around them. They were doomed to be murdered along with their mother, father, brother and several family servants in a dark basement in Ekaterinburg in 1918. The Romanov Sisters is a finely written and engrossing story of four young women who, by birth, were caught in one of the Twentieth Century's most dramatic events.

Click for availability and more information Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution, by Olʹga Nikolaevna
 
As a follow up to the above book, The Diary of Olga Romanov, is the perfect source to get an ever fuller picture of the oldest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra. In her own words, the reader can follow Olga's daily life and her observations of major events, such as the outbreak of war with Germany and Austria. Her feelings about Rasputin are clearly described as she records her reaction to his murder. Interspersed within the diary, the editor Helen Azar has included diary entries of Nicholas, some of her tutors and other family members, which enhances the reading experience This is a wonderful bok for those who want to know more about this charming young woman and her observations of the momentous events in Russia in the years around the Russian Revolution.
-Roy

United States of America V. James J. Bulger

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Click for availability and more information United States of America V. James J. Bulger
 
Since I'm a transplant from Massachusetts and attended college in Boston, I was very interested in the recent trial of "Whitey" Bulger. I saw this DVD on the shelf and decided I'd take a look to see if I missed anything.

Bulger was a member of the Irish Mafia in the South End, and was responsible for many crimes including murder. I'd seen a 60 Minutes feature on the case, and had read about him in the newspapers; but this movie really surprised me!

There's no question that Whitey Bulger was a career criminal, who committed many egregious crimes. However, Bolger evaded arrest due to help from the FBI. Furthermore, the FBI, Massachusetts State Police and Boston Police seemed unable to join forces to facilitate his capture. Although officials claimed he was an informant, Whitey denied such charges. Victims claimed the FBI had to make such claims to explain why they hadn't arrested him. They implied top officials were being bribed and let crime elements continue their reign of terror. There were also claims that Whitey was tipped off so he could flee before his capture in Boston.

I found this documentary to be very disturbing. It basically followed the trial as it unfolded, giving background information in logical spots. The agencies I thought were there to protect me seemed to be flawed. As one victim's family commented, the FBI was worse than the mob!

If you want to learn more about the Whitey Bulger case, this is the DVD for you.
-Carl

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Tuesdays at the Castle

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Click for availability and more information Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
 
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.
-Deirdre

The Artist

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Click for availability and more information The Actor
 
As I browsed the Greenwich Library DVD shelves, my eye was drawn to the cover of a movie titled The Artist. It displayed a man and a woman, from what appeared to be the early 1920s. He looked like one of the early screen "heartthrobs" like Douglas Fairbanks, Tyrone Powers or William Powell. (He had a pencil-thin moustache.) The woman reminded me very much of Ginger Rogers. This turned out to be a silent movie within a silent movie! Even the main action is subtitled. The lead character was a very successful silent screen star. A woman manages to befriend him, and she becomes his screen partner. When "talkies" are introduced, the man refuses to embrace the new art. As a result, his acting career wanes, but hers sky rockets! Then the Great Depression hits, putting more stress on his career.

I loved this movie! The concept of presenting it as a silent, black and white movie was unique. John Goodman played a superb supporting role, and the leads were excellent. Make a point to see this gem!
-Carl

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The Trouble with Chickens

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Click for availability and more information The Trouble with Chickens, by Doreen Cronin
 
J.J. Tully is a former search-and-rescue dog who is trying to enjoy his retirement after years of performing daring missions saving lives. So he's not terribly impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar (who look like popcorn on legs) and their chicken mom show up demanding his help to track down their missing siblings. Driven by the promise of a cheeseburger, J.J. begins to track down clues. Is Vince the Funnel hiding something? Are there dark forces at work - or is J.J. not smelling the evidence that's right in front of him?
-Deirdre

The Berlin Stories

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Click for availability and more information The Berlin Stories, by Christopher Isherwood
 
The wonderful Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, set in the lively Berlin of the 1930's, was first published after World War II and has endured in popularity ever since. While Isherwood was born in England, he spent much of the 1930's in Berlin working on developing his skills as a novelist and earned a living by being an English tutor. That experience gave Isherwood inspiration for the writing of this collection of short stories. With great skill, Isherwood captures the fascinating Berlin of those years. He has created so many intriguingly eccentric and vivid characters for his stories. Among them are Fraulein Schroeder, the landlady of the rooming house he calls home, the mysterious Mr. Norris who is wandering through Berlin with unknown motives, musicians trying to get work in seedy nightclubs, and many others. Perhaps the jewel in this collection is the one about Sally Bowles, whose story would be later adapted into the play I Am A Camera and the famous stage and movie musical Cabaret. The rising anti-Semitism in 1930's Berlin was becoming all too public and Isherwood weaves that development into his stories. Included in the Greenwich Library's collection are two related items. The terrifically entertaining movie Cabaret shows how Sally Bowles was brought brilliantly alive by Liza Minnelli. On a more serious note, William L. Shirer's Berlin Diary The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent is the diary kept by William L. Shirer, who served as the Berlin correspondent for CBS news during the pre-World War II years. His is a detailed history of the rise of Nazism in Germany he witnessed while living in Berlin during those years. This is a great follow up to The Berlin Stories as it documents the historical times from which Isherwood wrote his terrifically entertaining Berlin Stories.
-Roy

Other Days in Greenwich

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Click for availability and more information Other Days in Greenwich, by Frederick A. Hubbard
 
Last month I wrote about the main book I use to research early Greenwich history: The History of the Town of Greenwich by Spencer Mead. There is another book that complements this one titled Other Days in Greenwich by Frederick A. Hubbard. It expands and overlaps Mead's book by providing lesser known information about the Town and prominent people. There is information on Town residents who served in the Civil War. Some industries are described. It devotes a lot of time on William "Boss" Tweed, who implemented some useful services in town. There are many interesting photos. This book will give you an idea about life in Greenwich during the 1800s.
-Carl

The Signature of all Things

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Click for availability and more information The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
 
After her previous, extremely successful autobiographical book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has changed genres and entered the world of fiction with her latest work, The Signature of All Things. Briefly, Gilbert's newest book is a sweeping, wonderfully written and absorbing tale set in the world of 19th century botany. It is so evident that Gilbert has done extensive research into the major developments made in the history of discovering and describing plants from all over the world during that time. Readers first meet Henry Whittaker in his Dickens-like life working on an English estate managing its vast gardens. After a series of calamities, he embarks on multi-year travels around the world studying plant life in various locales. Eventually, he settles in Philadelphia after establishing a successful business empire based on using plants for medicinal purposes. Henry's story studying plants around the world is quite interesting. His daughter Alma then becomes the main character and is a wonderfully complex and fascinating woman. In her younger years, she becomes the successor to her father as she runs his business. Her life eventually changes as she experiences a heart-breaking love affair and ends up, like her father, wandering the world studying plants. While writing a book set in the complex world of 19th century botany may strike some readers as an odd choice for fiction, Gilbert has made The Signature of all Things is a hugely enjoyable reading experience.
-Roy

A Strong Right Arm

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Click for availability and more information A Strong Right Arm, by Michelle Y. Green
 
Motivated by her love for the game and inspired by the legendary Jackie Robinson, Mamie Johnson is determined to be a professional baseball pitcher. In a sport that's determined by white men, there is no place for a black woman. Mamie doesn't give up-from the time she insists on trying out for the all-male, all-white Police Athletic League until she realizes her dream and becomes one of three women to play in the Negro Leagues. Mamie Johnson's life shows that with courage and perseverance one can overcome even the greatest challenges.
-Deirdre

Tuesday Tucks Me In

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Click for availability and more information Tuesday Tucks Me In, by Luis Carlos Montalvan
 
Narrated by Tuesday, Tuesday Tucks Me In is a day in the life of this service dog and his owner, former U.S. Army Captain Luis Carlos Montalvan. The picture book takes us through a typical day of adventures, starting with Tuesday waking his friend Luis in the morning and greeting him with dog breath in the face, and then ending with Tuesday cuddling up to Luis on their bed, the last moment they spend together before sleep.
-Deirdre

Nebraska

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Click for availability and more information Nebraska
 
Several weeks ago, Librarian Wayne Campbell showed the movie Nebraska as part of the Friday Night Films program. I was unable to attend, but was able to get the DVD from our Music and Art department. So I took it home and viewed it on my Dell computer.

Bruce Dern, one of my favorite actors, plays an elderly Korean War veteran, who believes he has won 1-million dollars. (He got one of those letters that reads "You've won a million dollars...."). He decides to go to Lincoln, Nebraska, to pick up his winnings. His family thinks he is just an old drunk who is losing his mind. The eldest son finally agrees to take him to Nebraska after the elderly man takes off several times on his own. On their journey, they encounter old friends and relatives, who are greedy and plot to steal his money or ask for handouts. One old "friend" embarrasses him in front of his peers, and he is devastated. But old man gets the last laugh.

The movie is very touching. It portrays the culture of Midwest-America in a way I'd never considered before. The people use simple logic in complex situations. It addresses the generation gap, as well as unemployment in the farm belt. It's also a sad commentary on the decline of American farming. After I viewed the movie, I pondered the context on many levels.
-Carl

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Click for availability and more information Ye Historie Of Ye Town Of Greenwich, County Of Fairfield And State Of Connecticut, by Spencer Mead
 
People interested in early Greenwich history should take a look at Ye Historie Of Ye Town Of Greenwich, County Of Fairfield And State Of Connecticut (1913) by Spencer Mead. This book covers the founding of the Town of Greenwich, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Reconstruction period. It provides valuable information on the many industries, companies and churches that sprung up in town. There are also several family trees of prominent families in Greenwich. I consider this book to be my "Bible" of local history. It contains a lot of useful information for local history and genealogical research.
-Carl

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