Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review Friday: Firelight

Firelight, first in the Darkest London Series by Kristen Callihan, is a paranormal historical romance set in 1881 Victorian London.  The story has a convoluted plot replete with mystery, magic, demons, and street thugs.  Main character, Miranda Ellis is no shrinking violet, instead she is a strong-willed and capable, though flawed, young woman.  Likewise, her love interest, Benjamin Archer, has depth as well as brains, brawn, and dashing good looks.  The sexual and emotional tension between the characters grows with each plot twist.  Building to an ending that stands other Cinderella stories on their ear. 

A good book to recommend to paranormal romance lovers.

 ... note while demons figured strongly in this novel, there are werewolf sightings in the sequels, which focus on Miranda's equally remarkable sisters. 

Sensuality rating: Steamy

Also in this series:


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Academic Librarian Bans Book!!

This was great!
Check out this post from the blog at College and Research Library News.  Author Scott R. DiMarco tells the story of "Why I Banned a Book."  I shan't say anymore 'cause I'm sure you hate spoilers as much as I do. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Banned books?

I have thought, of late, that the librarians' annual nod to banned books and the evils of censorship gets us nowhere.  Who really pays attention when we celebrate Banned Books Week?  Does anyone notice?  When was the last time a book was truly banned in the United States?  Possibly1921 when James Joyces' Ulysses was put on trial and banned for being obscene.
We librarians ban books from our libraries every day.  We call it selection, deselection, weeding, and collection development.  But the book isn't banned is it?  Community members still have access.  The publisher is still publishing, Amazon is still selling, even the library in the next township may have a copy of the offending item on its shelves. 
The banned and challenged debate comes in to play when a community member questions our professional opinion over what we choose to include or exclude from our collection.  Often the community member is acting from a narrowly proscribed viewpoint that doesn't reflect the community at large.  We did not pull Harry Potter from our shelves, The Higher Power of Lucky can still be found, even 50 Shades of Grey found a home at the library.  Frankly, the debate where I work was that some of the librarians didn't want to give 50 Shades shelf space, while we had over 100 patron placed holds from our library patrons in the county-wide catalog.
In reality, only a country can ban a book and attempt to prevent it from circulating among its citizens.  In the Information Age this is becoming an Herculean task.  The real debate for librarians today is access.  Our community members demand access to the items that they want to read.  Thus we have ongoing conversations with publishers over equitable access to electronic books for our patrons.  We use our skill and experience to use library funds wisely as we select materials to stock our shelves.  And we occasionally purchase a book with lousy reviews because patron demand requires it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Book Review Friday: How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value

Okay, I'm caught, it's Saturday.

I had every intention of getting this post done yesterday.  But I suddenly turned domestic and spent the day doing laundry, empty a few boxes out of the basement (they've been there since we moved in 12 years ago) and ... cooking and baking!!  I do love a day off when I can just relax and have fun in the kitchen.  So I made Challah bread, a really delish apple pie baked burrito, and for dinner a great recipe I found on Pinterest for Better than Panda Orange Chicken, and it was!

And now for the book review, which is in fact, NOT a book.  How to Think: The Liberal Arts and Their Enduring Value is a lecture course by Dr. Michael D. C. Drout.  It it part of the Modern Scholar series by Recorded Books.  In this course Professor Drout presents his arguments for why a liberal arts education is still worth the tuition dollars it costs, even if there are no jobs for Art History majors.  Drout's argument is that regardless of whether or not you get a job in that degree field, the underlying education, the overarching grounding in logic, rhetoric, and writing skills prepares a person to excel in any endeavor.  The liberal arts he posits teach students how to think, how to reason, how to persuade, how to lead.  This has been the raison d'etre for a liberal arts education since Greek and Roman times. Drout uses his background as a Medieval English specialist to back up his claims, with one lecture devoted to a case study on Beowulf (fascinating).  He also answers the critics of liberal arts, admitting to the faults that have crept into academia, while suggesting ways to remedy them.  While this lecture series might have a limited appeal, I highly recommend it to any student hoping to convince his/her parents that paying for that Art History degree isn't a waste of money and to anyone interested in or already in possession of a degree in one of the softer sciences.

Drout's lectures are presented in a breezy, conversational style.  While the occasional pause lets you know he is referring to notes for the most part his delivery is natural and flowing.  His presentations are humorous, informative, and well-researched. From the "About Your Professor" section of From Here to Infinity:

Michael D.C. Drout is the William and Elsie Prentice Professor of English at
Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where he teaches courses in Old
and Middle English, medieval literature, Chaucer, fantasy, and science fiction.
Professor Drout received his Ph.D. in medieval literature from Loyola
University in 1997. He also holds M.A. degrees from Stanford (journalism)
and the University of Missouri-Columbia (English literature) and a B.A. from
Carnegie Mellon.
Full disclosure: I am an absolute Michael Drout fan.  I think I have listened to all of his lecture series.  He has done eleven.  For librarians especially, his surveys of Science Fiction (From Here to Infinity) and Fantasy (Rings, Swords, and Monsters) literature can be a great help to the perplexed reader's adviser.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Review Friday: The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Well, the secret is out, Robert Galbraith supposedly a pseudonym for an anonymous British veteran of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, is in reality J K Rowling, the author of the best selling Harry Potter series.  In releasing the book under a pseudonym Rowling hoped to have it rise or fall on its own merits, and so it was, at first.  The initial reviews were good, so lets hope Ms. Rowling will give the world more of her take on the world of criminal investigations.

The Cuckoo's Calling is a hard-boiled private eye novel.  The protagonist is  Cormoran Strike, who's biography reads somewhat like that of the book's purported author.  He is a complicated, damaged, hard bitten private eye, down on his luck and down to his last few pounds when a case drops into his lap that offers financial gain if not professional satisfaction.  His client is the brother of an apparent suicide who want to prove that his sister was murdered.   All of the evidence seems to support the police conclusion, but Strike takes the case and soon he and his temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott are plunged into the dark and dazzling world of the super rich and the leeches that feed off of them.

This is a fascinating page-turner.  The clues are laid out step by step, if only you are clever enough to see them, and soon you'll find yourself staying up late to find out just what did happen to Lula Landry.  The book is a little overlong and if you are sensitive to strong language be warned, you'll find it here.

If you like your private eyes on the hard-boiled side you might like these authors:

Raymond Chandler
Dashiell Hammett
Walter Mosley
Dennis Lehane
Kate Atkinson

Monday, September 16, 2013

Saving Money the Library Way

I love LinkedIn.  I just found this great article there: How the Library Helps You Cut Corners from The Epoch Times.  Lots of great reasons to love you library and go there more often.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review Friday: Eighty Days


Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
Truth be told, I had never heard of Elizabeth Bisland, and while I know the name Nellie Bly I did not know she ever raced the iconic Phileas Phogg around the world.  So I was intrigued when this book came across my desk and I added it to my never-ending To Be Read list.  I'm glad it made it's way to the top.
Eighty Days takes place in 1889, when Nellie Bly was a young reporter working for the World newspaper, specializing in undercover and investigative work.  As a stunt to help boost circulation Bly's editor agreed to allow her to attempt a trip around the world in less than the time it took Jules Verne's Phileas Phogg in Around the World in Eight Days. Bly left New York headed east across the Atlantic on November 14, 1889, and using only conventional modes of travel intended to return in approximately 75 days.  Across town, the editor of The Cosmopolitan magazine decided to send his own female journalist west across the continent in an attempt to beat Nellie Bly home.  And thus Elizabeth Bisland was launched into the race with just a few hours notice.
This book by Matthew Goodman, part history, part biography, part travelogue tells the tale of this remarkable race across time and around the globe.  Goodman alternates between the travels of both journalists as he describes the lives and times of these remarkable women.  Traveling alone, when it was almost unheard of for a lady to do so, these women encountered inclement weather, illness, missed connections, and unusual cultures and climates.  Included in his narrative are details of the history of journalism and the vast expanse of the British Empire under Queen Victoria.  A fascinating glimpse into the Victorian Age and a race that caught the imagination of the entire world.

I listened to the audio book narrated by Kathe Mazur.  Ms. Mazur's narration was even, well-paced, and made listening a pleasure, even when the book seemed to run a little long.

If you like this you might also like:

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

The Woman Who Walked to Russia: A Writer's Search for a Lost Legend by Cassandra Pybus

The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxers, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-bats in Nineteenth Century New York by Matthew Goodman

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wikipedia Loves Libraries

Who knew?

Every year the creative folks at Wikipedia sponsor Wikipedia Loves Libraries events.  These are Wikipedia friendly activities that include library tours, meetups for local Wikipedians, and workshops to teach people how to write for Wikipedia.

It sounds like an absolute blast!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Holy Genealogy, Batman!!!

This is going to be the most amazing thing for online genealogy research! and FamilySearch are doing a $60 million dollar deal that will mean a billion more records for us to sift through.  Check this out!!
Is it sad that I'm doing my best fangirl over genealogy records?  I love it!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Is there a problem with YA Literature?

I have read some really good YA books.  But I am not in love with the current trend in "realistic" problems in YA lit.  To me they're not realistic, they're sensationalized.  I have teens, so I don't think I'm completely naive or out of  touch when I say that most teens do not drink alcohol, most do not use drugs, most do not party to excess, most are not sexually active, certainly most are not promiscuously sleeping their way through the attendance roster of their school, most are not being abused by a parent or family member, most are not involved in crimes that would make the headlines of the evening news.  However, judging from the titles that frequently fill the bookstore and library shelves these are the experiences that commonly fill the minds of young adult readers.

Why? Why this focus on the shocking and sordid? 

I found out this week that I am not the only one to ask this question.  In The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books, author and children's book reviewer, Meghan Cox Gurdon presents the argument that children's book have become too dark, too filled with the abnormal and sordid and this is having an adverse affect on children's hearts and minds.  She writes:
This is why good taste matters so much when it comes to books for children and young adults. Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave—what the spectrum is. Books don’t just cater to tastes. They form tastes. They create norms—and as the examples above show, the norms young people take away are not necessarily the norms adults intend. This is why I am skeptical of the social utility of so-called “problem novels”—books that have a troubled main character, such as a girl with a father who started raping her when she was a toddler and anonymously provides her with knives when she is a teenager hoping that she will cut herself to death. (This scenario is from Cheryl Rainfield’s 2010 Young Adult novel, Scars, which School Library Journal hailed as “one heck of a good book.”) The argument in favor of such books is that they validate the real and terrible experiences of teenagers who have been abused, addicted, or raped—among other things. The problem is that the very act of detailing these pathologies, not just in one book but in many, normalizes them. And teenagers are all about identifying norms and adhering to them.
Instead of writing to merely "validate the real and terrible experiences" some children face wouldn't it be better to offer literature that provided glimpses of a better world, where happy and hopeful experiences are possible?  Granted some children have had horrible, scaring tragedies in their lives, but as Gurdon wrote, "does it really serve them to give them more torment and sulphur in the stories they read?" I think authors and publishers are doing young adults a disservice with this steady diet of blood, trauma, and dysfunction. 

I found Gurdon's article in Imprimis, it was adapted from a speech she gave at Hillsdale College.  She was invited to speak at Hillsdale in part because of an article she wrote for the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Darkness too Visible."   The article caused a small firestorm in literary circles.

The question is, I suppose, do we have a right to limit what our teens read?  We make them eat veggies instead of a diet of candy and soda.  We limit their bedtimes, their TV time, and the amount of time they spend on the Internet.  We try to control the level of violence in the movies they watch and the video games they play.  So why shouldn't there be limits to what is appropriate in YA literature?  Why is it the wild west out there with parents having to preview every book?  Some parents just don't know what's out there.  They remember the "shocking" books of Judy Blume and think  that's what their teens are reading.  If only.

Librarians, of course, are caught in the middle.  As parents we might not love the content of the books on our shelves.  As librarians we've been trained to believe that the "freedom to read" is paramount.We give the customers what they want, that's what we do.  I'm glad I work in the Adult Department and not YA, because I am saddened by the offerings we deliver up to our youth.  And grateful that as a parent I have the knowledge and expertise to help guide my teens out of the darkness toward more uplifting fare.