Notes from A DEAD HOUSE


According to The New Yorker, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are” the premier Russian -to-English translators of the era.” 

In April 1849, Fyodor Dostoevsky was arrested for his participation in an underground socialist ring. After his death sentence was commuted at the last minute, he spent four years doing hard labor in Siberia. The classic penal memoir that resulted is the latest to be translated by the acclaimed Pevear and Volokhonsky. The work is a loosely fictionalized account of Dostoevsky’s experience, framed by the voice of a fictional editor who acquires the papers of Alexander Petrovich Goryanchikov, an exiled nobleman who suffered 10 years of hard labor for the murder of his wife. Yet the book is organized as a collection of thematic sketches, rather than chronologically—”First Impressions,” “Christmas,” “The Hospital,” etc.—which are drawn from Dostoevsky’s memories and notes, written in prison and entrusted to a medical assistant who returned them upon his release. The notes are equal parts an anthropology of prison (how to smuggle vodka in a bull’s intestines, the lyrics to prison folk songs, biographical sketches of various condemned men, and an account of the ecology of prison politics) and equal parts philosophy, meditating on the use of prison as punishment, the psychology of an executioner (“It is hard to conceive how far human nature can be distorted”), and a nobleman’s perennial otherness within a prison’s walls (“I would never be accepted as a comrade”). Dostoevsky unflinchingly describes the dehumanization of prison, such as the way fetters were not even lifted from the dying, but also conveys how the flame of humanity survives even under such conditions, allowing cleverness and compassion to endure.

Publishers Weekly Review

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National Bookmobile Day

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Monday Children’s Book Reviews for April 13, 2015

National Library Week will be observed April 12-18, 2015 with the theme

“Unlimited possibilities @ your library®”

counting crowsCounting Crows by Kathi Appelt

“One, two, three, crows in a tree, bedecked in red scarves and hungry as can be. So they fly out of their nest with snacking in mind, and snack they do. Snack one, snack two, snack three—all the way to a dozen! But before they have time to complain about bellyaches, they have a bigger problem: a cat has been eyeing them…as potential snacks! Can these well-fed crows become well-FLED crows? Read and find out in this counting book from Newbery Finalist and two-time National Book Award Nominee Kathi Appelt.”                      [JPB APPELT]

cottage in the woodsThe Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville

“A fractured fairy tale inspired by classic animal characters and the stories of Jane Austen follows the experiences of governess bear Ursula, who worries about mysterious sounds she hears at the Vaughn estate while falling for her imperious employer.

“Although she is eager to instruct her young charge, Teddy, she is also frightened, especially when inexplicable things happen in the huge house after dark. Ursula is sure she has heard footsteps in the hallways at night, and that something is following her during her walks in the Enchanted Forest. Then there is Mr. Bentley, a young bear also employed by Mr. Vaughn, whose superior disposition is enough to drive Ursula to tears . . . and yet why does he also make her heart race? As Ursula works to unravel the mysteries of the Vaughn manor, she will have to be very, very careful. After all, true love, justice, and a girl with golden locks are at stake. And in the Enchanted Forest, not every fairy tale is destined for a happily ever after.”                   [J COVILLE,K]

Inside Outer SpaceInside Outer Space takes readers on an intergalactic journey that unravels the mysteries of the universe. These books inform readers on the Sun, Earth, planets and stars, while also igniting imaginations about the unknown. Stunning photos and diagrams aid in comprehension. Teacher and parent resources with text based questions available. Features: photo glossary w/phonetics, diagrams, sidebars, labels.” Some titles in this series:

solar systems Solar Systems by Nadia Higgins               (J523.2 HIGGINS)

moonMoon by Julie K. Lundgren              (J523.3 LUNDREN)





rocky planets Rocky Planets by Kyla Steinkraus               (J523.4 STEINKRAUS)





sun Sun by Julie K. Lundgren                (J523.7 LUNDGREN)





lives of stars Lives of Stars by Chana Stiefel          (J523.8 STIEFEL)



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Write Your Story…..Yesterday, today, tomorrow : my life

“The storyyesterday of Loren (b. 1934) reads like a love letter to her family and friends—and she rarely has a bad word to say about anyone. There are heartfelt reminiscences of her grandmother (“Mamma Luisa”) and mother (“Mammina”), who warned her about romancing Carlo Ponti, a married man 22 years her senior. (She eventually married him anyway.) Also mentioned are late-night walks with neighbor Audrey Hepburn; long dinners with paramour Cary Grant; on-set antics with Charlie Chaplin; and Scrabble games with Richard Burton, who briefly lived with the actress while he was estranged from Elizabeth Taylor. This rags-to-riches tale describes how an illegitimate girl from war-torn Italy, whose facial features were deemed “impossible” to photograph, slowly transitioned from Sofia Scicolone to Sofia Lazzaro to Sophia Loren. Along the way, Loren relays emotional memories such as coping with an unscrupulous father, learning English by reading Mickey Mouse comics and Shakespeare, suffering two miscarriages while the validity of her marriage was questioned, and enduring imprisonment for tax evasion. Named after the 1963 De Sica film in which she appeared, Loren’s memoir is similar to her notable striptease in that film: vulnerable yet respectable.”

Library Journal

Write Your Story 

Join our senior library member Bruce Haase and write your memoir. Bruce is a life long reader, he now writes eiffel_tower_bluememoire-based, creative non-fiction. These are informal meetings to support each other and organize your thoughts for writing. Sharing is optional.

Meetings take place the third Tuesday of the Month

  April 21, May 19, and June 16….1 — 3 p.m.

 Please bring your pen & paper.

For more information: Bruce Haase,  Email:

or  Union City Library 510-745-1464   Location: UNION CITY BRANCH –Get Directions



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Monday Children’s Book Reviews for April 6, 2015

lullaby for little oneA Lullaby for Little One by Dawn Casey

“At the end of a lovely day full of laughter and fun, little Bunny and Big Daddy Rabbit have time for one last game. All their woodland friends join in, too — woo-hoo! — but when little Bunny gets tired of all of the hullabaloo, Big Daddy Rabbit knows that a special lullaby is exactly what’s needed.”         [JPB CASEY]

heroHero by Sarah Lean

“Leo is invincible when he’s pretending to be a gladiator in his imagination, but in real life, he struggles to make friends—unless you count his neighbor’s little dog, Jack Pepper. So Leo is thrilled when the cool kids invite him to hang out, even though they sometimes pressure him to do mean things.

“When Leo accidentally does something that makes the whole town think he’s a hero, he rolls with it—it feels nice to be celebrated, even if it’s a lie. But when Jack Pepper needs Leo’s help, can Leo find it in himself to be a genuine hero?”     [J LEAN]

dragonsDragons by Gerald Legg

“”Find out the fantastic truth about dragons, the creatures who, from the beginning of time, have haunted the imagination and dreams of almost every culture in the world”  Illustrated by Carolyn Scrace.         [J398.2454 LEGG]

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Book Club @ the Union City Library

Union City Library Meeting Room

The fourth Tuesday of the Month

leaving time1 p.m.–to 2 p.m.

Leaving Time


 Jodi Picoult

 Abandoned by a grief-stricken father and scientist mother who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, thirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf approaches a disgraced psychic and a jaded detective in the hopes of finding answers.

 For more information contact 

Martha Brown 510-475-7531 

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Monday Children’s Book Reviews for March 30, 2015

hooray for hoppyHooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood

“When Hoppy the rabbit wakes up on the first day of spring, he discovers a world full of wonderful things. He uses all five senses to sniff the fresh air, listen to the birds sing, taste the fresh grass, watch the lambs in the meadow, and touch the warm ground.”                [JPB HOPGOOD]

moonpenny islandMoonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb

“Moonpenny is a tiny island in a great lake. When the summer people leave and the ferries stop running, just the tried-and-true islanders are left behind. Flor and her best, her perfect friend, Sylvie, are the only eleven-year-olds for miles and miles—and Flor couldn’t be happier. But come the end of summer, unthinkable things begin to happen. Sylvie is suddenly, mysteriously, whisked away to school on the mainland. Flor’s mother leaves to take care of Flor’s sick grandmother and doesn’t come back. Her big sister has a secret, and Flor fears it’s a dangerous one.

“Meanwhile, a geologist and his peculiar daughter arrive to excavate prehistoric trilobites, one of the first creatures to develop sight. Soon Flor is helping them. As her own ability to see her life on this little lump of limestone evolves, she faces truths about those she loves—and about herself—she never imagined.”

[J Springstubb]

backwards birthday partyThe Backwards Birthday Party by Tom Chapin and John Forster

“Have a happy birthday—the backwards way! Full of fun and based on the hit song from Tom Chapin and John Forster, this is a celebratory birthday bash like no other.

“Put your clothes on inside out, heat up the ice cream, and hang on to your party hats—because everything’s out of whack at the backwards birthday party!”                [J782.42 CHAPIN]

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