Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BOO(K)!

Today, I am bewitching the stacks.

And by bewitching, I mean walking around in a lot of black with a stereotypical nylon witch's hat on. The hat was meant for a kid so we're doing battle. So far the score is 4-1 in favor of the hat. But the sucker is securely on my head right now, so I am going to claim victory.

An e-mail came across the staff listserv today sending us to a website on haunted libraries. You can read about them here. When I've trained staff, a few of them have actually asked me if the stacks are haunted. People do hear odd noises with no apparent cause and, sometimes, there are random shadows that move. I always tell my staff that the stacks are free of ghosts, but that there are Stacks Gremlins about. They're the ones that shelve the books wrong.

We have had an eerie story or two but they usually end up being caused by a practical joker. To me, however, there is nothing creepier than walking around the stacks, alone, late at night - particularly when it is raining outside. The center section of our stacks have huge windows and when the lightning strikes, it's downright terrifying. There are days I really do hate to put in over time hours.

Also there was this one time I was convinced the stacks were haunted. I was shelving a cart and went one aisle over to put a book away. When I came back, the bottom row of books on my cart had moved to the top. So, who knows, maybe my library is haunted.

Does anyone else have any creepy stories?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Librarians Can Be Scary

Tonight, I get to go to the first of two Halloween parties. The other is tomorrow, and both look to be quite a load of fun. I am actually making Witches Hat cookies for the second party.

Because I am oh so creative, I am going as a librarian. Seriously, you really don't want to know the ways I manage to cop out of thinking up a costume. But... not just any librarian - your stereotypical romance novel librarian.

I've got high-heeled black pumps (thank you Target), back-seamed black stockings (thank you Amazon.com - even though I have no idea how to get the seam straight), red plastic frame glasses (thank you again Target), and I will be carrying around a date due stamp (thank you Jennifer). The actual clothes of the outfit are items I already own - because, as I stated before, I think of ways to cop out of coming up with a costume. (I once went as my friend Erin.)

I threw the whole outfit on a few days ago (complete with messy bun) and thought I looked rather cute.

My two roomies are also attending these shindigs. Beth is going as a fairy (inspired by Amy Brown's art) and Jennifer is going as Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction (the overdose scene to be exact). I can't wait to see what sorts of pictures come out of these parties. My friends go all out with the decorations so this weekend promises to be a good time.

Early Election Day

There's a new poll up in the side bar to reduce my Mt. TBR. Here's why:

Kathleen: I don't know if we can be friends anymore

you havent read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time OR Little Women!!
And you didnt LOVE Emma - gaa!
Go vote! - so Kathleen and I can be friends.

Book 58: Rising Wind

NUMBER: 58
TITLE: Rising Wind
AUTHOR: Cindy Holby
STARTED: October 16, 2007
FINISHED: October 19, 2007
PAGES: 338
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Ye must go."

SUMMARY: [From Cindy Colby's website] Leaving behind the Highlands for the New World at the tender age of ten, Connor Duncan learned quickly that only the fit and the fortunate survive. He was both, becoming a scout and an expert marksman…a man to be reckoned with. He knew his way through the backwoods as well as any Shawnee, but he was far less comfortable in the drawing rooms of Williamsburg. What was a rough-hewn frontiersman like he to do with a sheltered beauty like the governor’s niece? But there seemed to be no way to avoid the “Virgin Widow,” especially when she insisted on accompanying him on a dangerous mission through the wilderness to Fort Savannah. Neither capture, nor torture, nor the violent birth pangs of a young nation could keep them apart or stop the founding of a brand new dynasty of Duncans.

REASON FOR READING: A colonial romance? I am so there.

THOUGHTS: I wish I wasn't there. This was just plain bad. The author forced the story, forced the interactions, and forced stupid "our lives are intertwined" moments that just made me want to claw my eyes out. There was no chemistry between the leads which led me to ask, "Why do they like each other?" every other page. If you want a lesson is how to mis-use tried and true romance novel characters, plots, and themes, read this book. For me, the story has to have a natural, organic growth and flow to be good. This book's plot was far too contrived to be enjoyable.

The one even remotely interesting aspect of this book was the discussion on the Native Americans as the marched back to camp. That lasted all of 2 pages and then it was back to, "Save me! You Love!" writing.

Oi, so not worth the time.

MISCELLANEOUS: Cover snark!

RATING: 1/10

Book 57: Emma

NUMBER: 57
TITLE: Emma
AUTHOR: Jane Austen
STARTED: October 4, 2007
FINISHED: October 16, 2007
PAGES: 484
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the first chapter] Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Emma is the story of the eponymous Miss Woodhouse who, having lost her close companion Anne Taylor to marriage, sets out on an ill-fated career of match-making in the town of Highbury. Taking as her subject the pretty but dreary Harriet Smith, she manages to cause misunderstandings with every new tactic she employs. Though precious and spoilt, Emma is charming to all around her and so it takes her some time to learn her lesson and profit from spending less time worrying about how other people should live their lives.

REASON FOR READING: It won the Reducing Mt. TBR poll

THOUGHTS: Will the Austen fans of the world hunt me down if I say I didn't love this book? Probably. Well I'm gonna say it anyway: I didn't love this book. I liked it. But I didn't love it. Maybe if I had been able to sit down and read it in two or three sittings I would feel differently. Sadly, I never was able to have a day in bed simply reading. Therefore, the story felt kind of detached and emotionless for me. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Emma, I just felt a rather large disconnect from Austen's story and the characters in it.

Character wise, I found Emma both endearing and aggravating. Austen wrote her in a way that made you want to shake some sense into her because you liked her so much. This worked perfectly because, as the reader, you were able to see how Knightley felt. As for Knightley, I felt like he needed to be in the story more. Then again, I say this as a romance novel reader. I'm only truly satisfied when the romantic leads are in close proximity to one another. I like the dynamic in the relationship and I felt that this was missing through most of the book. Also, I don't understand why Knightley gets such a bad rap - maybe someone can explain it to me. I loved that he was so patient and portrayed as the perfect suitor for Emma. I only wish he had a bit more of a spine. Knightley did strike me as a mild push over who indulged Emma's whims too much.

The one character I did not like was Harriet. Honestly, she felt like a dumb sock puppet to me. Every time the situation changed she just went along with it without a pause for thought. There were moments I just wanted to scream, "Think, woman!" at her.

As always, Austen's writing style continues to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, I read a lot of this book on the metro, and some passages came across as muddled - but, I think that has more to do with the drunk people sitting next to me than Austen's writing.

MISCELLANEOUS: Corsets are evil.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shushing - It's Lethal

We travel swiftly in the night... to shush you!

That's What She Said: Faith

American Libraries: Is government sneaking into public libraries to an unacceptable degree in the United States?
Irshad Manji: Librarians in the United States are too alert for an infringement on their freedoms and rights to let it slip by. I have far more faith in the librarians of America than I do in the journalists of America.

-- American Libraries (October 2007, pg. 39)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book 56: Doubt

NUMBER: 56
TITLE: Doubt: A Parable
AUTHOR: John Patrick Shanley
STARTED: October 3, 2007
FINISHED: October 3, 2007
PAGES: 58
GENRE: Drama

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the preface] What's under a play?

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Chosen as the best play of the year by over 10 newspapers and magazines, Doubt is set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, where a strong-minded woman wrestles with conscience and uncertainty as she is faced with concerns about one of her male colleagues. This new play by John Patrick Shanley-the Bronx-born-and-bred playwright and Academy Award-winning author of Moonstruck-dramatizes issues straight from today's headlines within a world re-created with knowing detail and a judicious eye. After a stunning, sold-out production at Manhattan Theatre Club, the play has transferred to Broadway.

REASON FOR READING: It came across my desk at work.

THOUGHTS: First things first: I had to look up the definition of "parable" before I started this play just to be sure I actually knew what it meant. From dictionary.com:
1. a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
2. a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.
Now that that's done, it has been over two weeks since I finished this book and I'm still trying to figure where the "parable" comes in. I'm probably over thinking it, but I honestly wonder how much of this play went over my head because I was reading it either too literally or was too busy actively searching for the parable. The entire time I was reading this play, all I could think was, "How would I understand this differently if it were on stage?"

I enjoyed the writing and the characterizations put forth in this script, but I can't help but think that the whole point of this play went completely over my head.

MISCELLANEOUS: I miss the theatre.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

I'll Top Your Desk

There's a meme thing floating around a number of the book blogs I read, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. You simply take a screen shot of your desktop and post it (with or without explanation - it's up to you).

This is my desktop at home. I found the image by randomly scrolling through Elfwood.com. That website has some fantastic artists. The background color is red because a) I like red and b) It matches my bedspread. My desk is in my room, so I like things to match.


This is my desktop at work. During Notre Dame football season (Go Irish!) I put up this image. My brother (he will be famous one day) actually compiled the image because he's crafty like that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book 55: Last of the Red Hot Vampires

NUMBER: 55
TITLE: Last of the Red Hot Vampires
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: September 28, 2007
FINISHED: October 1, 2007
PAGES: 354
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Oh, look, a crop circle."

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] On a trip to England, physicist Portia Harding is stalked by a heart-stoppingly handsome maniac. Theondre North is a nephilim -- the son of a fallen angel -- who needs Portia's help to change his fate. Problem is, Portia's down-to-earth attitude frustrates beings from both heavenly and hellish realms -- and gets Theo turned into a vampire. But at least he has Portia to satisfy his newfound hungers -- and possibly save his soul.

REASON FOR READING: I'm a semi-fan girl for MacAlister's vampire books.

THOUGHTS: This book was not up to snuff with the other works in MacAlister's vampire realm. In fact, I would hesitate to call this one of her Dark One books at all. Instead of being a purely Dark One based plot, MacAlister introduces a whole new world that was not present in any of her books. If she had just stuck with one or the other, this book would have been enjoyable. Instead, MacAlister crams two worlds together and the world building takes over the storyline. I did not enjoy this book because I was too busy saying "WTF is going on?" every five pages.

Since the dominant part of this book is MacAlister experimenting with a new world for a spin-off series, the characters and relationships in the story fall completely flat. MacAlister has made my toes curl with passion in the past, but that was no where to be found with these characters they felt wooden. There was no chemistry between Portia and Theo. No matter how hard MacAlister tried to force a relationship, there was nothing believable about it. The characters had no motivation, they just "did things."

I will say that I am intrigued by the new world MacAlister built in this book, I just wish it had been introduced in its own book instead of being smashed into her Vampire series.

Romance authors take note: It's okay to write stand-alones. I don't need all over your books to be interconnected.

MISCELLANEOUS: MacAlister has been more miss than hit lately.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I can haz bst celler?

Book 54: Atonement

NUMBER: 54
TITLE: Atonement
AUTHOR: Ian McEwan
STARTED: September 18, 2007
FINISHED: September 26, 2007
PAGES: 351
GENRE:Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The play - for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in crepe paper - was written by her in a two day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

REASON FOR READING: It was selected for the first book in my reading group that my friends and I formed a month ago.

THOUGHTS: I think I am going to have to find a better way/time to review the books I read for the new book club. After the lengthy discussion we had last week, I have almost nothing left to say about this book. I guess, in the future, I link my reviews of the book to the notes from that night's discussion.

So, since I have no desire to opine about Atonement, I give you the cop-out of the list!

1. I hated the first section of this book. And, when I say hated, I mean HATED. There was almost nothing redeeming to that part of the text for me. The writing was heavy and dragged for pages. I just wanted to smack the characters. I know the section was supposed to be set-up for the rest of the book, but it really made me want to put the novel down. The language was over-done bordering on eye-roll inducing, the characters felt flat, and the plot just left me snoozing.

2. BUT! I loved the rest of the book. After the first section, Atonement turned into a book for me to love. (Love story set during a war? Cha.) The attention to detail that McEwan gave the scenes was masterful. In many ways, I felt like McEwan was writing for film. I could picture the cinematography in my head. The characters finally came to life - they had depth and emotion. I finally found myself drawn to their stories and empathizing with their situations.

3. This book was very meta. It was a story within a book withing a story. While most of this does not reveal itself in its entirety until the very end - there were major hints of the cyclical nature of the book throughout the story. In some ways, however, I felt like McEwan was trying to hard. I know that McEwan is considered a genius by many, but something about the way he writes makes me think he's full of himself. I don't need to be told you're smarter than me. Show me your skill in the writing. The best genius is the subtle genius and there was nothing subtle about this story.

MISCELLANEOUS: I can't wait for the movie. Hello James McAvoy.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Petite Pencils



I have a stash of these in my office. I try to pawn them off on unsuspecting passers-by.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

We have a winner

Jane Austen's Emma won the poll for what book I should read next. It was neck and neck until the end between Emma and Persuasion. Have no fear Persuasion lovers, I will get around to reading that Austen (and, really, all Austens) at some point.

For the new poll, I'm working off of two loves: reading and movies. I've seen a lot of movies... that's probably why one of my undergraduate majors was Media Studies. There is this group on Facebook called "No, I Haven't Read That Great Literary Classic -- But I've Seen the Wishbone" and that basically sums up me and movies. I decided that the next poll should help decrease the number of times I've said, "I've seen the movie, but I haven't read the book."

You've got five books to choose from over in the sidebar. And.... go!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Book Club #1

My friends and I decided that we needed an excuse to get together more often (with Chinese take-out, wine, and dessert). Since we all enjoy reading, we figured a book club would be the way to go. My friend Rose first thought of the idea after our discussion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows went over so well.

Tonight is our first meeting. We will be discussing Ian McEwan's Atonement. I finished the book a few days ago but will forgo my review until after our book club meeting tonight. Needless to say I am very excited... and that's not just because our host Kathleen is making Mississippi mud cake.

We've decided that our book club should meet once every month or so, with one person leading the discussion. The bonus to being the leader is that you get to pick the book (with input of course, but you get the final say). I figure, when my turn finally rolls around, I will throw up a choice between a fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novel. Also, I will totally choose from the books I already own (I need to whittle down my TBR after all).

Speaking of picking books, the current poll of which Jane Austen I should read is tied. Someone go cast a tie breaker. Next vote wins!

Book 53: The Maiden

NUMBER: 53
TITLE: The Maiden
AUTHOR: Jude Deveraux
STARTED: September 12, 2007
FINISHED: September 17, 2007
PAGES: 312
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: William de Bohun stood hidden in the shadows of the castle's stone walls and looked at his nephew, who sat in the window enclosure, Rowan's golden hair bathed in sunlight, his handsome face frowning in concentration as he studied the manuscript before him.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] He was wise, strong, and brave. His destiny was to be king. She was young, beautiful, a warrior princess. Her destiny was to love him. But when first they met, it was not as princess and king - it was as man and woman only, consumed by a passion so sudden, so deep that the very world exploded with one kiss. Only later, with his touch still burning on her lips, did Jura discover that the knight of her secret tryst had been none other than the hated Prince Rowan! Rowan, who had returned from far-away England to usurp her brother's throne... Rowan, who vowed to unite the wild clans under his rule.

REASON FOR READING: It was there.

THOUGHTS: This book was just plain stupid. That's right, I said it, stupid.

MISCELLANEOUS: Thank goodness I didn't pay for it.

RATING: 1/10 [Don't waste your time]

Book 52: The Kommandant's Girl

NUMBER: 52
TITLE: The Kommandant's Girl
AUTHOR: Pam Jenoff
STARTED: September 5, 2007
FINISHED: September 11, 2007
PAGES: 395
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: As we cut across the wide span of the market square, past the pigeons gathered around fetid puddles, I eye the sky warily and tighten my grip on Lukasz's hand, willing him to walk faster.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma's husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city's decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob's Catholic cousin, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma's already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob's cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma's relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

REASON FOR READING: That's a silly question.

THOUGHTS: This book was probably written with the future feature film (staring Naomi Watts) in mind. There were many times I actually found myself mentally staging the actors and framing the cinematography for the scene. There's nothing wrong with that, mind you, I can just tell that the author was writing images and acted emotions.

I enjoyed this book for the simple reason that it made me think. What would I do in Emma's situation? Can the Kommandant possibly be a good person at heart? Can one justify violence if it means stopping a greater evil? Jenoff did a phenomenal job of keeping the melodramatics out of the plot and out of her writing. Sure there were moments when the story trended more toward romance novel than fiction but it was a nonetheless a moving and intelligent book.

Emma is the core of the book. The story is about her internal logical and emotional battles about her outward decisions. Emma may waiver and question her decisions, but Jenoff never waivers in her heroine's essential character. The reader is allowed to see Emma grow and they are taken along for the dramatic ride as she makes life altering decisions that balance her personal sense of self against the greater good. Emma has moments of pure selfishness, but the reader could never fault her choices. She fights for her husband, her parents, and herself - she spends the majority of the book trying to balance all her desires. Jenoff forces her character to make tough decisions and she writes the struggle with apologies.

The Kommandant is a big mess o' gray character. He's a Nazi with a conscience... or at least he seems to have a conscience. Jenoff was actually able to paint his character in very sympathetic shades. Instead of being a Nazi, the Kommandant comes across as a man who was simply caught up in a situation not of his own making. And, like Emma, we see the battle he seems to be conducting with his personal feelings, past history, and morals. While the story is never shown from his point of view, the reader can actual feel the Kommandant's internal emotions and thought process.

The secondary characters in this story are the main plot movers. Instead of seeming superfluous or fully-action oriented, the continue to convey the emotion of the story. Emma was forced into her situation and the secondary characters are their to foster her decisions. The secondary characters are also their to give Emma the questions she must answer.

The plot relies on the traditional question of "How far do you dare to go?" but the story never feels stale. It may just be my personal experience, but I have read no novels structured in such a setting. There are tons of personal narrative novels set in World War II, but this one felt different. This may be due to the fact that story is set entirely from the female's perspective. It's not a spy thriller or really even a war story. It's an internal battle whose actions are externalized.

Jenoff's writing style is very visual. The scenes, while not always described in explicit detail, are nonetheless fully formed in the reader's mind. Perhaps this is why the story feels so cinematic. The scene is not always verbally described or detailed to the reader, Jenoff just hands it over, fully formed. The prose has a nice momentum to it, neither to fast nor too slow. It paces with the emotional fluctuations of the story. And, while giving the reader a complete story, Jenoff somehow makes the book feel as if there is something more than just the plot. Jenoff forces the reader to internalize Emma's struggle and that is what makes the story so endearing.

MISCELLANEOUS: I hear rumor of a sequel. Part of me says "Yes!" the other part says "You don't really need one..."

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]