Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gypsy Knights by Two Brothers Metz

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Fourteen-year-old Durriken Brishen has lost his parents, his grandfather, and though he doesn't know it, his Gypsy culture's dangerous gift.

Taken in and raised on the rails by the first woman to pilot a freight train, Durriken has one remaining connection to his Romani roots: a small wooden box that hangs from the hammer loop of his overalls.    The last gift he received from his grandfather, the box contains the world's first chess set. But a piece is missing: the Red Queen. According to Durriken’s family lore, the complete set awakens the power of Tărie, a mercurial gift that confers unique abilities on each new Master.

When a suspicious fire erupts in the Chicago rail yard, Durriken's escape produces an uneasy alliance, though not without its silver lining. Dilia is a few inches taller, several degrees cleverer, and oh yes – very pretty. While Durriken is uneasy allying with a girl whose parents were convicted of sedition, there's no doubt she is a powerful partner. And while it's not immediately clear to either, her own Guatemalan culture and family history are deeply entwined with the ancient Romani mystery.

Jumping box cars, escaping riverboats, deciphering clues, crossing swords with the brilliant madman Radu Pinch – with great American cities as its backdrop – Gypsy Knights is the page-turning saga of Durriken Brishen and his quest to rediscover his past.

And here's what I thought:    While I found this book to be a bit of a slow starter, it quickly picked up pace as the story progressed, and it turned out to be an enjoyable read.    Vividly written, and filled with the intrigue of a good chess game, it's at once complicated and clear.    Just when you think you know what's going on, there's an extra dash of intrigue.  For example, Dilia wears a Red Queen on a chain around her neck -- is just a good luck charm or something more?   I like that I was kept guessing about details like this.

I also found the writing to be really appealing --  the authors write descriptively, without it being overwrought.  Example: "Clean shaven, with indomitable brown eyes beneath a heavy brow, Ernesto sauntered across the cafe wearing a rumpled suit and loosened tie.  Despite his carefree manner, the air seemed to crackle around him like heat lightning."  (p. 11).   I can clearly see this person in my mind, but I don't feel like the authors are going on and on and on about it.    It's also cool how details of chess are worked in to the story, as well as historical details.  There's an extra twist to this book in that while it's set in the 1960s, the story occasionally jumps back a bit in time to reveal bits of back-story.   

If you're up for a bit of adventure, with some history and mystery thrown in, this is just what you're looking for.   
First sentences: Durriken Brishen quickened his pace instinctively, turning the dim corner just as the library door sprung open and a dark Gypsy with a wild beard staggered out, holding an unconscious woman in a red dress.

Thoughts on the cover:  Very well suited to the story, it gives a clear idea of what the book is about.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Library Lagniappe --- what's the deal with shushing ????

Library Lagniappe

actually, not really.....
Going through my Reader today, I came across this post by Phil Bradley, where he writes about an unfunny mug, and the whole "shushing" in the library notion.     He says, "Maybe I'm just being a tad oversensitive (in much the same way as not laughing at a racist jokes means you don't have a sense of humour) but I'm sick and tired of organizations perpetrating a sad, boring, out of date and inaccurate stereotype."

So, I thought for today's Library Lagniappe post, the subject would be: shushing.

Some people seem to have a rather old-fashioned idea of a typical librarian in their head:  she (it's always a she) wears somewhat dowdy, sensible clothes, sensible shoes, has hair in a bun, wears glasses, and generally frowns upon all noise by employing the all-powerful "shush."    I'll address the "typical librarian look" in another post, but right now, let's focus on noise.

Think about your public library and consider this: is it always completely silent in the library?   The typical public library (and I am emphasizing public libraries here --- academic and special libraries are different beasts altogether) has activity going on.   At my library, there are usually programs all day - usually storytimes for children in the mornings, craft or gaming programs in the afternoons, and programs or classes for adults in the evenings.    We have a lively Circulation Desk, and a Reference Desk that sits right near a group of public computers.   While we are relatively quiet most of the time, there are moments where there is some noise, and that's not only expected, but it's also okay.    That doesn't mean we encourage screaming in the library.   However, we expect there to be some noise, as people do talk to each other, and to staff.   Staff speak to each other.   Cell phones do ring on occasion.

Amazing Librarian Nancy Pearl holding her "shushing" action figure

So where does the shushing come in?    Some people have an idea that there should be complete silence in a public library, and that the librarians are the enforcers of this rule.   To enforce such a thing, a librarian uses the power of a loud "Shush!" (or "Shhhhh!") and a furious glare at whoever is making a noise.    Nothing silences like a forceful shushing.

But is this reality?   Perhaps it is in some libraries.  As you can see from the photo, Librarian Nancy Pearl has her own action figure which has "shushing motion" ready to activate.   If you aren't familiar with Nancy Pearl, you can learn all about her here (she is awesome and amazing).    But is shushing really what I wish her action figure would do?   No, not really.

Because in my mind, real librarians don't shush.

In my library, the only time I ask someone to keep their voice down is if they are talking really loudly and making other people stare; in other words, being a distraction to everyone else around them.  But I don't shush.    That nasty "Shhhhh!" actually draws way more attention that the loud person, and sounds rude (not to mention the icky potential of spitting slightly whilst performing the shush).   I prefer a small hand gesture --- I put my right hand out, palm down, and move it slightly up and down while making eye contact with the loud person (or persons) --- and if needed, I modify this gesture slightly to indicate they need to lower their volume.   Works like a charm every time.   And, I don't distract everyone else around me, or call more attention that necessary.

I am not alone in the "no need to shush" behavior in my library --- no one shushes.   We all have our own, subtle ways to let people know they are being too loud.  And the funny thing is ---- I have had patrons shush others (with a loud, sibilant "Shhhhhhh!").   Somehow, they don't feel they can leave it up to the librarians to bring some control to the library.     

What our staff understand is that in our library, there's no way to have absolute silence everywhere in the library.   We do try to be quiet when speaking to patrons, and to each other, but at times, there is noise.  There's not much I can do when a patron comes up to the Reference Desk to ask for help, and they are hard of hearing.   If I need to speak up a bit, that's what I have to do.  If someone at a computer asks me for help, and I stand beside them to explain something, that's what I have to do.   People come in all the time and ask us about authors or books, and we talk to them.   And for the person who used to come in and glare at the librarians for doing this ---- glaring at us is not only irritating, but it doesn't encourage us to help you when you have a question.   I know it's hard to believe, but we can't do everything by telepathy.  

Phil Bradley's modified mug - much better!
Libraries are places where there is conversation, excitement, enthusiasm, laughter, and noise.  While we do try to keep things to a pretty low noise level, we understand that noise is part of what happens when people use and enjoy their library.   We don't need to shame people into silence via shushing ---- if we need to ask them to lower their voice a little, we employ subtle techniques (ninja librarians unite!).

Check out what Phil Bradley did to change up the original mug design.  I think it's much better, and more appropriate.

And that's today's Library Lagniappe.   As always, comments are very welcome!!!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Another Friday .... Another Hop!

Photo courtesy of Disapproving
Book Blogger Hop, that is.   Generously hosted, as always, by Jenn over at Crazy for Books, the Hop is an opportunity for book bloggers to visit each other over the weekend (Friday - Monday).   You can find the whole scoop on it over at her blog (the full rules & regulations, and more).

This week's question has nothing to do with books, but is a fun question nonetheless:  “Non-book-related this week!! Do you have pets?”

Yes, I do!   While I don't have any of their photos available to me right now to post (as I'm at work and the photos are on home pc), I share my house with 4 bunnies.  The photo on the left is from a site called Disapproving Rabbits, but it does look like one bunny I used to have.   Right now, we have 2 pairs (one boy,one girl --- both "fixed") -- the first pair are both about 4 pounds each, and mixed breeds.  The other pair are bigger -- A Rex who weighs in at about 8 pounds, and a Florida White who weighs in close to 10 pounds.   Both pairs have their own rooms (yes, rooms), so they are separated (the girls don't get along at all).

I'll try to post pictures of them at some point because they are so cute.    Happy Hopping, everyone!!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Interview with Nadine Rose Larter, author of Coffee at Little Angels -- and giveaway!

Today, I'd like to share a small interview with Nadine Rose Larter, the author of a book I recently read and reviewed  --- and really enjoyed: Coffee at Little Angels

She was kind enough to respond to my request to answer a few questions, and she has also included an e-book copy of the book as a giveaway (cool!!) --- more on that after the interview.

So, without further adieu, I present:  Nadine Rose Larter!!
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I wanted to thank you for having me on your blog and for the wonderful review you did of my book.
Every kind word is appreciated and I am really happy to be here to answer some of your questions. I  hope you find them interesting!

* When writing, did you have a favorite character out of the friends in the story? Was it equally easy to write all of them?

Hmmm I feel like I should tell you that all of my characters are like my children. But no, I definitely do have favourites, all for different reasons. I love Grant because he’s the only one who really has his head on straight. I love josh because he is such a romantic disaster. And I love Maxine because she is strong and level-headed in a way that many women wish they could be.

It was certainly not equally easy to write all of them. I worried a lot that I wouldn’t be able to
get the different voices across. Some reviewers have reported that they all sound like the same
person, while others have said that the voices are distinctly different from each other so I am still
not entirely sure that I accomplished what I set out to. I guess it depends on the imagination of the
reader then! I was able to write most of the characters relatively fluently, but I definitely did struggle
with Melanie. It was hard to put myself into the shoes of someone so disagreeable. I couldn’t call up
my inner bitch for her, simply because I am really not like that at all. She is one of those characters
who you just kind of want to shake. This kind of thing takes patience and practice though. And it gets
easier as you go along. I have some wonderful characters in the pipeline and I am very excited to
work on them some more.

* Do you listen to music when you are writing?

No. For some reason listening to music while I write stresses me out, which is kind of weird because
I really was one of those teenagers who couldn’t pass a minute without something blaring through
the sound system. Funny enough I often have the TV on while I write. I find the background noise
soothing, even though I don’t actually pay any attention to it.

* The Poetry Project is such a cool idea! Do you find a particular kind of photography to be
particularly inspiring?

You know as cliché as it sounds I like art to make me feel something. I love it when I can look at a
photograph and feel like I understand it without having to put it into words for myself.

and one random odd question (I always think it's fun to have one of these) ---

* What were some of your favorite books as a child?

Sweetdreams baby! Haha I used to but those books with my pocket money! And I loved Sweet Valley
High, Nancy Drew and The Secret Seven. Our library in Molteno (where I grew up) didn’t have a ton
of YA fiction. I imagine it now has even less since I don’t think the place has received any new books
in about twenty years (sad) but I probably read the whole shelf of YA fiction when I was a kid. Once
that was all done I got into crime fiction because that’s what my mom used to read. I read a lot of
Mary Higgins Clark and Sidney Sheldon. I devoured Danielle Steel and Virginia Andrews as a teen as
well, though now my heart can’t take the heavy tragedy anymore.

Thank you, Nadine, for agreeing to let me ask a few questions!!!!   If you'd like to know more about the author, please visit here and here, or you may find her on GoodReads.

So here's the skinny on the giveaway:   1 e-book to be sent via email to one commenter who leaves a thoughtful comment.  Following isn't necessary (although nice).    Please leave your comment, with your email address -- giveaway will end on Sunday, August 28th at Midnight (CDT).  The winner will be chosen via randomizer.    Thank you, and good luck!!!!!

And here's a bit of information about the book Phillip, Sarah, Kaitlyn, Caleb, Maxine, Grant, Melanie and Josh grew up in a small town where they spent their high school years together as an inseparable clique. But high school has ended, and they are all living their own “grown up” lives, each under the impression that their group has basically come to an end. When Phillip dies in a hit and run accident, Kaitlyn summons the others to all come back home, forcing a reunion that no one is particularly interested in partaking in.

Coffee at Little Angels follows how each character deals with the death of a childhood friend while at the same time dealing with their own ignored demons after years of separation. Events unfold as the group tries to rekindle the friendship they once shared to honour the memory of a friend they will never see again.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bookie Brunch!!!!! With a giveaway!!!

  Welcome to Bookie Brunch!  Today’s guests are Kiwi, Velvet, Carin and Gabriel, who were nice enough to join me for a bit of lively discussion.   Carin and Gabriel are running a bit late, so I believe we'll get started and they'll arrive when they can.
Today's Brunch discussion question is: Have you ever stopped reading a series due to unexpected or disappointing changes in the characters, writing, etc.?   Do you consider going back, or do you give up on the series?

And the related topics to consider:  Do you think series should be never-ending (going well past 10 books), or do you think it keeps it fresher for an author if they stop after a certain number of books in a series?

First up is Kiwi, who has a lovely blog over at Assortments.
I usually read entire books even if its a painful process. But series I just stop if it becomes a drag. I often avoid certain books simply because they are a series. I prefer stand-alone novels or a trilogy at the most.Why? More than 3 often results in a drag and I often loose track of events by the time i get a copy of the next book.Vampire Academy is the longest series (obviously Harry Potter aside) that I liked and sustained my attention. I stopped reading the Hush Hush trilogy (by Becca Fitzrpatrick) .I was content with how it ended and the whole task of tracking down copies of the other books seems like such a pain. I often consider going back to finish series, but I only do it if the book is easily accessible to me! I am lazy that way. *sheepish grin*

Never ending..hmmm..I think this varies depending on the series. For example books like Sugar Secrets, Dawson's Creek, Sweet Valley High, University and so on go on forever!!! And as though that wasn't enough, they have several extras too! Yet they are still sold and lent out by libraries and read by people (such as me!)So it all depends on what sort of story the author has in mind. If its one plot that stretches for miles then the author needs to stop! All good things come to end. Its awful when a plot is squeezed like crazy for an entire series. I think limiting a series to about 3 or 4 is more than enough, it keeps things fresh as you suggested!And also I think its important to leave stuff to the reader's imagination too!

                                                   Thanks, Kiwi!!!   
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Velvet has a delightful blog over at vvb32 Reads, so let’s see what she has to say, sitting down with a hot cuppa home-made mexican mochaccino: 

I have not read very many book series that go beyond 3 books. The Harry Potter series is a current one I can name that held me to the very end. The seven books are the most I have read in a series.

The book series that I attempted and stopped were in the mystery genre. The reason for stopping related to getting tired of the character and lack of growth.

Once I stop a series, I do not go back. Simply because there are too many other books to be devoured.

Related topics:
A series should have an end. However much I may love characters and their situations, I like a sense of closure.
                                                                 Well said, Velvet!

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Pausing a moment to sip on my own glass of iced tea.....

Yes, I have stopped reading series when it seems like the writing or the characters have changed a bit too much for my taste.   A prime example of this is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series.  When I was first introduced to the series, it was in the early stages, and Anita was written as a no-nonsense woman who was a necromancer by trade, and who didn’t mess around with vampires (unless she was kicking their butts).  As the series continued, she started to develop a relationship with Jean-Claude, the vampire Master of the City.  Then, she started dating (at the same time), Richard, a werewolf.   However, she was a still a no-sex, butt-kicking, no-nonsense kind of woman.   Then, as the series kept going, things really changed.

If you begin this series now, with some of the more recent books, Anita is more focused on her relationship with Jean-Claude (the thing with Richard didn’t really work out), and all of the various were-creatures she is connected to.   She has apparently found quite of bit of power through sex, so now, she’s having loads of sex, and she’s the Alpha of just about every kind of were-animal you can think of.   It’s hard to explain - you’d have to read the series to understand.

Frankly, I stopped being interested in Anita a few books back.  Instead of the story concentrating on an issue, or a mystery Anita was involved in, it seems like the stories concentrate more now on relationships.  Sure, there’s maybe some big issue going on, but the last book I read felt like it was mostly steamy sex scenes interspersed with occasional bits of plot.  Thin plot.  And did I say steamy?   Not to say that steamy sex scenes necessarily bother me, but I need mostly plot and an occasional bit of sex, not the other way around.   Anita never seems to just be a smart, no-nonsense kind of person any more to me -- it seems like all of her power is wrapped up in sex, and I just don’t find that interesting.

In Hamilton’s other series, the Merrie Gentry books, sex is a main part of the storyline from the get-go, and I still read this series.   The difference from the Anita books is that this series has been consistently like this, where the Anita series did a complete turn-around from where it started.   I’m not interested in going back to Anita, so if I re-read any of the books, I read the ones from the first half of the series (which is up to #20 now with the newest book).

And on the related topic --- I think series should eventually end.  While it can be disappointing to have a series end, I feel like some series go on way past when they should have met a natural death.  Sometimes, I feel like an author just keeps writing because a character is popular, but it feels like when I read the story, that their heart just isn’t in it any more.  At that point, it just feels like the stories are being cranked out, and that makes them lose their appeal.

Trilogies, while they can be frustrating (especially if you like an author like Mercedes Lackey, who writes trilogy upon trilogy.  Seriously - see this link), at least force the author to have some resolution in a story.  I’d rather be left wanting more than be bored with a character and wish they’d meet some sort of end.
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As I mentioned, Carin and Gabriel are running a bit late, so please look for their answers in a bit.

Carin's just joined in (she has an interesting and creative blog over at Caroline Bookbinder) -- here's what she had to say:

I am not a big reader of series, but I have read a few. Particularly in children's books. Right now I am on book 3 of the Anne of Green Gables series. And the Little House series is one of my all-time favorites. But I think what I like about these books is that the main characters do change. Over the course of the series these girls grow up and become women. 

Another series I adore is the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde and the character of Thursday also changes occasionally dramatically. 

Another thing I like in a series is when subsequent books really continue the story in the earlier books - almost like one book was split into multiple parts ( although I'm not a big fan of a book ending on a cliffhanger) such as in The Pillars of the Earth and the North and South trilogy. Again since these have through-plots, the characters should continue to grow and develop. 

I think one reason why I am not a big fan of series overall is because a lot if series tend to be like the Sweet Valley High books of my youth, where no one ever grows up or ever changes. The characters are still as true to their original traits from book 1, if you pick up book 20. It makes sense why children gravitate towards these kinds of series a la Nancy Drew, with their stability and prefictability but those aren't the books we revisit and reread. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is another good example of a teen series which will stand the test of time. The 4 girls grow up and mature, which is a reason why I think these books will last. 

But I will say that a big reason why I often only read the first book in a series is that I fear I will not like a second book nearly as much as the first. I worry that an author who only meant to write one book has been inspired by their success to capitalize on it, but the isn't the kind of inspiration I want in a book. So if a book was originally written as a stand-alone, like In Her Shoes or Le Divorce or Plainsong, I will usually stop there. When I haven't, such as reading the sequel to The Alienist or Under the Tuscan Sun, I have often been disappointed. 

Because if my love for character development, I fear I will always disappoint my father and likely will never pick up Janet Evanovich or Lee Child. I fear their characters are pretty much the same from one book to the next. But that won't stop him from recommending them!
                                Thank you, Carin!!!!!

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You’re invited! Visitors: Please share your thoughts on the topic in the comments section, so they can be included in the discussion. This is an active discussion though Wednesday, so feel free to stop by again later on.    And we have a bit of a special bonus for this Brunch ---- courtesy of the lovely Sasha Soren!  Check it out --- a cute and colorful tote bag, wraps up into small strawberry for easy carrying on key chain or backpack -- and it is a delightful sunshiney orange!!!!

Details:     To win this cute book bag, please leave email info and thoughtful or interesting comment below. A winner will be picked at random. If host and guests agree that a specific visitor comment is substantial, outstanding, or in some other way has particular merit, they can override
pick at their discretion. U.S./Canada. 
Through Aug. 31, 2011, 12 midnight EDT.
Brought by: Sasha Soren , the author of one my favorite books, Random Magic

Now, a bit more on the Brunch, itself -----

Bookie Brunch is a weekly meet-up, held every Sunday, where book bloggers can have a cup of tea and chat about a particular bookie question of interest. The discussion is open from Sunday through Wednesday, and you’re welcome to drop by any time to add your opinion or read what other people have to say. This discussion is open as well to general readers or bloggers in a different field, authors, publishers and publicists.

Courtesy guidelines: Thank you for coming! All thoughtful comments will be considered and probably get a response from fellow bloggers. In fact, you’re encouraged to talk about it and share viewpoints or include links to relevant materials. We’d like everyone to have a nice time. Differing viewpoints are just fine, even if strongly expressed, but inflammatory or off-topic comments will be removed.

* Contact Bookie Brunch

If you’d like to be a host/guest for an upcoming brunch: @StoryWings (URL)
If you’d like to bring goodies for a giveaway: @StoryWings (URL)
If you’d like to suggest a question: @LiederMadchen (URL)
If you’d like to browse all Bookie Brunch discussions (Archive): The Fluidity of Time

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hopping towards the weekend....

Thinking of hopping......
Another Friday means another Hop --- Book Blogger Hop, that is.  Hosted by Jenn over at Crazy for Books, the Hop is a great chance to meet other bloggers, discover new blogs, and books, and generally have some fun through the weekend.   If this is your first time visiting my blog, Welcome!!   And if you've been here before -- welcome back!

This week's question is: What's the longest book you've ever read?

In recent memory, it would probably be The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  I have a copy of The Wise Man's Fear, but haven't started it yet.   The Name of the Wind comes in at 722 pages, so it's hefty.

I have read other long books - Stephen King's The Stand is long, and so is The Talisman, which he wrote with Peter Straub (I love that book).

I think it'll be interesting to see what other books people weigh in with this week.   Happy Hopping, everyone!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Coffee at Little Angels by Nadine Rose Larter

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Phillip, Sarah, Kaitlyn, Caleb, Maxine, Grant, Melanie and Josh grew up in a small town where they spent their high school years together as an inseparable clique. But high school has ended, and they are all living their own “grown up” lives, each under the impression that their group has basically come to an end. When Phillip dies in a hit and run accident, Kaitlyn summons the others to all come back home, forcing a reunion that no one is particularly interested in partaking in.

Coffee at Little Angels follows how each character deals with the death of a childhood friend while at the same time dealing with their own ignored demons after years of separation. Events unfold as the group tries to rekindle the friendship they once shared to honour the memory of a friend they will never see again.

And here's what I thought:   I had been contacted by the author for a review of this book, and I'm so glad!   This was a really interesting story, full of engaging characters.   The story begins with Philip, right before his accident.    As you can see by the first sentences below, there was nothing special about the morning he died -- which is thought-provoking in itself.  For many people, there isn't anything special or odd on the date of an accident --- it happens, suddenly, and that's what's scary about it; it comes out of nowhere.

I liked that the author gave us Philip in the beginning, so we have an idea of who he is.  That way, when his friends come together after his death, we have a sense of him, and his relationship to these people.    Each of the other people are very distinct, and it's not quite clear how they're all in the same group as friends, because they're pretty different from one another.  However, as we get to know them, it becomes clearer.   The author gives us each character through first-person, so we experience the story through several people.  It was a bit confusing at first, to keep straight who was who, but it's an inventive way to tell a story.   I really loved some of these characters, even if they weren't super-likeable at all times, because they felt so real.   Each of them has a very distinctive voice, so experiencing the story through each viewpoint makes for a fascinating read.

The author has a very fluid, somewhat lyrical style of writing.   Example (p. 15) "Loving Sarah is like reading a particularly good book.  That pressing and overwhelming need to just devour it as fast as possible is matched only by the need to savour it slowly and completely, lest it all come to an end too soon."   Sigh.  I found myself reading this book slowly, so I could really luxuriate in the writing.    

Sometimes, something was so funny that I just had to read it again.  Example (p. 46) "Megan is wider than she is tall, and she has this strange way of looking at people like they are insane.  She reminds me a bit of a hamster and she always looks like she's smelling me.  Her scrunched up face is constantly insinuating that I shouldn't be doing whatever it is that I am doing because it makes me look like a raving lunatic.  She is probably the world's worst secretary, but she makes a killer cup of coffee, and Tammy has absolutely no worries that I will ever sleep with her."   Admittedly, some of the humor was snarky, but I enjoy that.   I actually found myself snickering to myself when I was reading certain parts, making me quite glad I was by myself, at home, when I was reading.

However, please don't get the impression that this was a funny story.  It's not, really -- it's just some of the characters' observations that are funny.   The real story is the fact that these people who used to be close, and who really aren't close any more, have come together to say goodbye to a friend.  It's a bit Big Chill-ish, but with more interesting characters (and I'm sure I could give it a better soundtrack, as well).   While I actually didn't like all of the characters, I found the way they related to each other to be interesting.   All in all, I found this to be a pretty enjoyable read.

First sentences:  I went jogging on the morning that I died.  I got up at five.  I got dressed.  I had a glass of warm water.  There was nothing special or out of the ordinary about it; it was a typical run-of-the-mill behavior for a Thursday.

Thoughts on the cover:   Actually, I not that wild about the cover, although it does reference something in the story.   And what would I choose, instead?  I'm not sure -- maybe a black and white photo of empty coffee cups on a bar?   This rag doll on the cover gives the impression the story might focus more on a child, or children, than it actually does.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Library Lagniappe --- all about the sharing (a/k/a interlibrary loan)

  Sundays always make a good time to have a little Library Lagniappe, I think.   Today, I want to focus on one of the services that many libraries (in the United States, at least) provide: interlibrary loan (often referred to as "ILL" -- a somewhat odd word that can lead to all sorts of expressions like "I'm chillin' while I'm ILL'in....")

Library LagniappeInterlibrary loan is basically the sharing of materials between libraries.   If you want something, and your own local library doesn't have it, they can usually request it via interlibrary loan -- basically, asking another library to send whatever it is to your library so you may borrow it.   Pretty cool, huh?   And it's not limited to books.   Our library requests books, CDs, DVDs, and even journal articles (which is really helpful, since our article databases might not have everything as full-text).

How long has it been around?   Well, if you'd believe it, 1894.   A man named U.L. Lowell, a librarian at the University of California, Berkeley, sought permission to start this practice and was able to initiate the first ILL program, in partnership with the California State Library.   From there, is all started to expand and now, we have the system we use today.

How does it work?   For my library, when someone wants something, we start by checking libraries in a local system, since we're on their delivery route.  That's the fastest way for us to get materials, since delivery usually takes 5 days or less.    If we don't see it in the local system, however, we turn to WorldCat.   WorldCat is one of my favorite things.  I admit it -- I'm a geek.   But, WorldCat is this wonderful thing powered by OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), and if you look something up, you can instantly see all of the libraries that own that item.   WorldCat is the world's largest bibliographic database and contains more than 150 million different records that point to more than 1.4 billion physical and digital items (and in more than 470 languages).   Can you understand why I geek out over this?    Seriously, I could devote an entire post to WorldCat.

But anyway - on to the ILL process.   If it's not in our local system, we look up whatever it is in WorldCat.  WorldCat lists all the owning libraries in order of State -- beginning with Illinois (my state), and then listing any other holdings in other states (alphabetical by state).   Our library can request things from outside of Illinois, so this is really helpful to be able to see all libraries that own something just on one list.  I cannot imagine how long it would take, otherwise, to check all the different catalogs of libraries (and it would be a huge pain in the butt).    Once we know who owns the item (or article), since we're a member of OCLC, we go through a multi-step process to electronically send a request to a handful of libraries at once.   Whoever can send the item, replies and sends it to our library.  Depending on where that library is, it usually takes about 7 days for things to reach us.    Then, we contact the person who requested the item, and they come in and pick it up.  

Now, there are sometimes restrictions.  Some libraries have policies that they won't ask for things that they won't lend out, like audiovisual materials, or videogames.   Reference books usually don't qualify for interlibrary loan.  E-Books are kind of impossible to share (at least, right now).   And, due to cuts in funding, the process of loaning out materials can be restricted --- if your library is on some kind of delivery route, it's easier, but if you have to receive everything by US Mail, it can get expensive.   The other thing that affects ILLs is whether or not your library is part of an electronic ILL loan network -- like belonging to OCLC.   If you aren't a member of OCLC, it can be a bit more cumbersome to request things, although it is do-able.

Although it's not a perfect system, it's pretty darn good.   Being able to share things with other libraries allows us to not worry so much about having every single thing in the world in our own collection.   I work at a public library, and we're not too huge, so there's no way we could have, say, a large number of academic titles on obscure subjects.  But the nice thing is, usually there is some other library that does have what our patron needs, and all we need to do is ask.   Many libraries belong to a group called LVIS (Libraries Very Interested in Sharing), so about 95% of the time, it's completely free to have things sent to us.   Yes, completely free.  How cool is that?    Very cool.

So, the next time you don't see something at your library, don't walk away in disappointment --- ASK at your library's Reference Desk to see if they can ILL it for you (or at least try to).    

That's the Library Lagniappe for now.   If anyone has suggestions for a future topic, let me know!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hoppin' along........

hopping may be happening soon....
Having finally reached Friday (on my 7th straight day of working), I am ready to Hop!  Actually, I'm ready for a rum and coke, but that'll have to wait until later.

The Book Blogger Hop is a great way to spend time visiting blogs, discovering blogs, and discover loads of new books to add to your TBR list.   Graciously hosted by Jen over at Crazy for Books, the Hop runs Friday to Monday, so there's plenty of time to go around visiting. 

This week's question is:  “Let’s talk crazy book titles! Highlight one or two (or as many as you like!) titles in your personal collection that have the most interesting titles! If you can’t find any, feel free to find one on the internet!”

I had to log in to LibraryThing to see what I could find, and came up with:  Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O'Connor, a cookbook I treated myself to at Borders.   I also found Dexter Bexley and the Big Blue Beastie by Joel Stewart, a children's book that I had to have because it's too cute (and I love the word Beastie).   And - The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.  Interesting title, eh?  

I'm sure I have plenty more, so if you're interested in what's in my Library, hop on over to LibraryThing to find me.    I'm really looking forward to seeing what other people post for this question!   Happy Hopping, everyone!!!!

Black & Orange by Benjamin Kane Etheridge -- review

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Forget everything you know about Halloween. The stories are distortions. They were created to keep the Church of Midnight hidden from the world. Every October 31st a gateway opens to a hostile land of sacrificial magic and chaos. Since the beginning of civilization the Church of Midnight has attempted to open the gateway and unite with its other half, the Church of Morning. Each year they've come closer, waiting for the ideal sacrifice to open the gateway permanently.

This year that sacrifice has come. And only two can protect it. Martin and Teresa are the nomads, battle-hardened people who lack identity and are forever road-bound on an endless mission to guard the sacrifice. Their only direction is from notes left from a mysterious person called the Messenger. Endowed with a strange telekinetic power, the nomads will use everything at their disposal to make it through the night alive. But matters have become even more complicated this year. Teresa has quickly lost ground battling cancer, while Martin has spiraled into a panic over being left alone. His mind may no longer be on the fight when it matters most... because ever on their heels is the insidious physical representation of a united church: Chaplain Cloth.

***BRAM STOKER AWARD WINNER, Superior Achievement in First Novel***

And here's what I thought:  Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, not because of the costumes, or the pumpkins, or the candy (ok... actually, the candy is pretty fun) -- but because I find its origins and history somewhat fascinating.  And, the dark side of me just loves it, as well.   So, when I was contacted about reviewing this book, I thought it would be right up my alley.  I had expected an interesting story, and had prepared myself not to expect too much, seeing as it's the debut book from this author.  And .... I was blown away.  

Deftly written, this book is fantastical and imaginative, with richy written characters.  There's a good mix of the real and the magic, with a bit of horror swirled in.  The nice thing is --- just when you think you know what's happening in the story, and what's about to happen next, the author takes a twist.   I like stories like this, where I'm invested in the characters, and I can't predict what's going to happen to them.    I also liked the creativity of the whole story -- the idea of the Nomads and the Church of Midnight, and the gateway. 

I really enjoyed the writing in this book -- there were sentences that I just savored.   Example: "Even Cloth's black and orange eyes were two smoky discs.  Yet the heart had a burgundy hue so ferocious that it looked like something from a surreal dream, an apple galvanized with cinnamon steel." (p. 17)   Delicious.  I also liked the feeling of this book --- like there's something shadowy lurking behind you, moving just out of eye's range when you turn to look -- that whole tingly feeling of something not being quite right.  

I don't know if this is a book for all readers, but if you like a bit of horror mixed with the fantastic, and you like elegant, descriptive writing, I believe you'll be in for a very enjoyable read. 

First sentences: "Where was Tony Nguyen?  Where was the Heart of the Harvest?   Martin couldn't answer that.  He'd lost his gun, his mind could not conjure another mantle - he was powerless.  The answers he desperately needed escaped him.  He just ran.  Teresa wove through a field of tall grass and he followed.  The brittle blades swept across his face, snapping and hissing as they went.  The children flooded into the field, their dark orange jaws snapping in concert with the disruption in the grass."

Thoughts on the cover:  Completely suits the story.  Love the typeface used for the title, and how the colors are dark, so you have to peer at it a bit to see all the details.   I do like how there is some celtic ornamentation worked in, as well.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guest Post by Benjamin Kane Ethridge, author of Black & Orange

In anticipation of my review tomorrow, I wanted to post this wonderful guest post by author Benjamin Kane Ethridge ---


Something sent the pod sideways. Her heart pounded like a feral creature. I might come out of this supply pod alive-- some people might still live. She could imagine her father answering with his trademark scepticism, "Yeah, but you might be searching for doors too silver."
Bile gurgled in her throat. Her companion Daryl hadn't smelled all that great when they’d first escaped into the pod, but his oniony body odor was sorely missed now. The pod smelled of his death.
An alert orb flashed as the vents activated and her eyes filled with laces of hot new color in the darkness. The track outside sounded different, smoother. Stabilizing braces caught the pod. She gasped.
The hatch opened and inventory lasers suddenly hit her face. With a series of confused jerking movements, the beams tried to find something to count. She blinked past the sweeping red light at the new world outside her self-imposed coffin.
                The conveyance channel had surfaced in a large medical tent sheltered in leather and bones. Overturned chemical drums and gurneys filled the tent among stacks of wooden supply crates. A large threshold framed the scorched earth, which led to an iodine-streaked horizon.
                A breeze shook the vaulted ceiling and the bones flexed under its influence. Skulls unified support beams of femurs wrapped in tight black straps.
                The wind roared. Something large just outside the tent crept with black and gray fire. She watched it burn for a while, a tangle of treading panthers with smoldering underbellies.
She wished the explosion had taken her with it.
Too easy though. Doors too silver.
                Wide black rain drops patted the leather canvas overhead. She peered outside. A gloomy red-rust colored freighter sat atop the hill. The rain danced on pink corpses and washed away filthy carbon remainders; the death outside was spotless clean, unerring, substance without purpose.
                She limped up the hill, soaked and aching, and continued across the ramp to the freighter. Climbing the ladder was difficult, but she kept on.
Several opened corpses lay around the bridge. Through the cockpit shield she could see dead bodies rushing away in the rain like streaking pencil lead.
                That could have been me.
With a chill, she checked the navigation system. A destination had already been plotted. She touched the engage service button. The hatch downstairs shook as it closed. The freighter lifted, but she felt hollow. She, too, was on autopilot.
                Soon the charcoal landscape was flowing quickly beneath her. She wasn’t hungry. She wasn’t thirsty. She wasn’t in need of anything. She would just continue on.
Hours passed. Just before dusk, something on the horizon caught a tenuous ray of sunshine through the rain and filled the air with intense light. She held up a hand to her eyes, momentarily blinded.
It was not long before she took another look at it.

Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel Black & Orange. His official web presence is and you can Facebook him here, and Tweet him here,!/bkethridge

so --- curious about the book?    Here's the link for it on GoodReads, and stay tuned for my review post tomorrow!
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