Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review Friday: When Books Went to War

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II
By Molly Guptill Manning

At the beginning of World War II the Nazis burned millions of books. In response, as the United States mobilized for war, American librarians organized the Victory Book Campaign and collected 20 million hardcover books to donate to the armed forces.  But hardcover books weren’t practical for troops in combat and 20 million wasn’t nearly enough.  This is the story of how the War Department and the publishing industry got together to create the Armed Services Editions of over 1000 popular titles. These lightweight paperbacks were portable, inexpensive, and great for morale. By the end of the war over 120 million ASEs were published and distributed to troops around the world.  ASEs were carried into every theatre of the war, they were shared and they were treasured. 
This was a fascinating glimpse into U S History, the history of World War II and the history of the American love of reading. This is a great story for history buffs or anyone who loves books and reading.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Selection


The Selection
By Kiera Cass

I read The Selection on a dare from a coworker.  One of my coworkers had read the book and rated it a 2 on Goodreads.  She also liked an incredibly negative review on Goodreads that intrigued me.  the reviewer was just so passionate I had to see what all the fuss was about.  So after an energetic discussion at the reference desk I decided to take the plunge.
The Selection is a dystopian ya romance.  Think Hunger Games meets The Bachelor.  Teenager, America Singer (age never quite specified) is among a group of girls (all between the ages of 16 and 20) who will compete for the hand of Crown Prince Maxon, heir to the throne of Illea.  Maxon, (age also unspecified) has recently come of age and is required to choose a wife from among the daughters of Illea.
Illea is a futuristic North American nation, created after the United States was destroyed by war with China and then Russia and then finally rescued by billionaire Gregory Illea, who creates a monarchy to replace the democratic republics that existed on the continent, and for good (but unexplained measure) he includes a rigid caste system with the lowest of the low living as homeless, outcast, vagabonds.
Author Kiera Cass has created a best-selling, popular series including selling the movie rights.  The world-building is shaky, the writing is sometimes amateurish (The Selection is a first novel, after all), and the characters are two-dimensional, but it's hard to argue with success.
All that being said, I got caught up in the story and couldn't put it down, so Cass must be doing something right.  Unfortunately, for a real resolution to The Selection I'll have to read the rest of the trilogy, and I'm not sure I'm up for that much teenage drama.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Thriling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer  (from the front cover)
By Sydney Padua
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage with Interesting & Curious Anecdotes of Celebrated and Distinguished Characters Fully Illustrating a Variety of Instructive and Amusing Scenes; As Performed within and without the Remarkable Difference Engine: Embellished with Portraits and Scientifick Diagrams  (from the cover page)
By Sydney Padua

A graphic novel history book.  Who knew?  Author/Artist Sydney Padua provides a factual, pictorial history of the lives of Ada, Countess of Lovelace and Charles Babbage,the mathematicians who originated the ideas for a programmable computer in the early 1800s.  Babbage's machine, the Difference Engine, wasn't built until the year 2000 and Lovelace died young, but in an alternate "pocket universe" Padua imagines what it would have been like if the amazing Difference Engine had been built.  With amazingly detailed illustrations she depicts some of the adventures Babbage and Lovelace would have had as they used the Difference Engine and interacted with notable characters of the day including Queen Victoria, Dickens, Darwin, and more.  Padua's drawings are incredible and the history is fascinating and the steampunk/alternate universe is a blast.  Padua outdoes herself with her footnotes and endnotes, which, if read, will give the reader an amazing education in the history of computers, mathematics, and Victorian England as well as providing a few good laughs.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review Friday: This Year You Write Your Novel

This Year You Write Your Novel
By Walter Mosley

This is a short, pithy book offering the author's insights into how a first time novelist can get a story from idea to draft to polished novel in one year.  Accomplished novelist, Walter Mosley, offers advice, encouragement, practical exercises, and a kick in the pants to would be novelists who want to know how to get their words on paper.

For more great how to write your novel advice check out the 808.3 section of your local public library or try:

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Beyond the First Draft: The Art of Fiction by John Casey

Walter Mosley has published over 37 novels.  For some of his work try:
The Easy Rawlins Series
The Socrates Fortlow Series
The Fearless Jones Series
The Leonid McGill Series

Stand-alone novels include:
The Further Tales of Tempest Landry
Inside a Silver Box

Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review Friday: The Coroner's Lunch


The Coroner's Lunch
By Colin Cotterill

A friend of a friend recommended this book, the first in a cozy mystery series. It's definitely a series I'll be recommending to patrons of the library.
1976, the Vietnam War is over, just barely, and the Communist Pathet Lao party has taken over the government of the small nation of Laos.  Dr. Siri Paiboun, a longtime member of the party (he's 72) was expecting to retire, but now he has been assigned to be the nation's chief coroner.  With little forensics training,  a badly equipped morgue, and only two assistants Dr. Siri tries to do his job while dealing with the bureaucratic red tape that comes with any government.  Then a couple of corpses come in that have Siri asking questions, questions that are making someone uncomfortable.
With dry wit and great historical details in an exotic Asian setting, Colin Cotterill tells a story of murder, mystery, and mysticism.

Other books in the series:
Thirty-three Teeth
Disco for the Departed
Anarchy and Old Dogs
Curse of the Pogo Stick
The Merry Misogynist
Love Songs from a Shallow Grave
Slash and Burn
The Woman Who Wouldn't Die
Six and a Half Deadly Sins

If you like The Siri Paiboun series you may also like:

The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith
The Jules Maigret Mystery series by Georges Simenon
The Shan Tao Yun Mysteries by Eliot Pattison 
Bruno Courreges Investigations series by Martin Walker