Friday, October 25, 2013

Book Review Friday: The Thin Man


I've been a fan of Nick and Nora Charles for years ... the William Powell and Myrna Loy version via the Thin Man movie franchise.  I finally decided it was time to read the book and find out where it all started.

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett is a New York Noir 1930s potboiler detective story.   Nick Charles is a retired detective married to Nora, an heiress who has come into her fortune.  Like others of the fashionable 1930's social set, they spend their time traveling, partying, and drinking.  During Christmas week in Manhattan, Nick runs in to the daughter of an old client.  Dorothy Wynant asks Nick for help finding her father, the inventor, Clyde Miller Wynant, who hasn't been seen in over three months.  Nick gives Dorothy a simple suggestion and moves on to his next drink with Nora.  But things start happening and soon Nick and Nora are up to their necks in murder.

This was a quick read and a lot of fun.  The story got bogged down once as Nick told a long, convoluted story about cannibals to young Gilbert Wynant, but aside from that it was a fast-paced story, long on dialogue and action, short on descriptions.

I read the book and listened to the audio, narrated by William Dufris.   Dufris's narration was excellent.  Tho' his voice for Dorothy might have been too spot on, that bratty whine occasionally got on my nerves!

If you want more Dashiell Hammett try:

The Maltese Falcon 
The Glass Key

For more gritty, noir detective novels try these authors:

The Philip Marlowe series by Raymond Chandler, start with The Big Sleep
The Spenser series by Robert B. Parker, start with The Godwulf Manuscript
The Amos Walker series by Loren Estleman, start with Motor City Blue
The Michael Kelly series by Michael Harvey, start with The Chicago Way

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review Friday: Queen's Gambit


King Henry VIII to six spouses was wedded
One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded

Queen's Gambit is Elizabeth Fremantle's debut novel. For a first book she definitely hit this one out of the park.  Queen's Gambit is a lush and lavish look  at the Tudor Court of King Henry VIII and his 6th, and surviving, wife, Katherine Parr.
The story opens with the recently widowed Katherine (Kit to her friends) returning to court at the summons of Henry's oldest daughter, Lady Mary.  But the request is just a subterfuge, it is Henry who is casting his eyes her way.  Having recently disposed of wife number 5, Henry is in need of a replacement.  And intelligent, strong-willed Katherine, who just nursed an older, ailing husband through his last illness might be just what the old and ailing king wants. Katherine finds herself plunged into the danger and intrigue of court as highborn ladies, lords, and underlings all jockey for position and power and men make the final decisions.
Thrown into the mix is Katherine's powerful attraction to the handsome, ambitious Thomas Seymour.  Rumor has it that he may be married off to Katherine's stepdaughter, Meg.  But Seymour has other ideas and bigger ambitions. 
The story is told through the eyes of Katherine, her servant Dot, and her personal physician Huicke.  The varying viewpoints let the reader see the sumptuous Tudor Court from all angles above and below stairs.  The period details are fascinating.  Although, from several Tudor purists I have discovered that Fremantle has taken some literary license with Katherine Parr's actual history.  Still, she doesn't stray far from the facts and the personalities she develops for each of the major players bring the story to life. 

For more palace intrigue try these authors:

Philippa Gregory
Hilary Mantel
Alison Weir

And for some more Tudor book reviews check out this list from The Tudor Enthusiast

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Digital Shift Experience


 I attended an online conference on Wednesday hosted by Library Journal and School Library Journal.  The Digital Shift: Reinventing Libraries.  It was great!  Perhaps a slight misnomer, though 'cause no one was talking about reinventing the library, just helping it continue its evolution.

The keynote panel spoke about the changes they envision libraries and librarians need to make to stay viable.  They talked about makerspaces, production, learning and creation.  They suggested that libraries become platforms for life-long learning.  Places where patrons of all ages and stations in life can come to learn and connect.

In a discussion of critical skills librarians should be learning the panel suggested: problem solving, critical thinking, a willingness to fail, organizational and creative thinking, leadership, relationship building, grit, perseverance, flexibility, and a deep knowledge of how people learn.  There was a lot of emphasis on the role of librarians as educators and teachers.

Other presentations I attended included makerspaces, testing & workforce development (badging), and connected learning.

I came away with lots of ideas and plenty of handouts and brochures from vendors to browse through.  All in all a great experience.