Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Three smart politicians + a class of kids + the school library = How it should be
It warms my reading heart to see that President-elect Obama has selected an ardent supporter of school libraries to be his nominee for Secretary of Education. Today, the trend is to eliminate libraries and media centers in schools. I declare this a travesty. Thank goodness Arne Duncan recognizes the important role libraries play.
Libraries should not be closed down or forced to operate on shoestring budgets, they should be the heart of the school. Libraries supplement and increase the learning done in the classroom. Libraries also allow kids to explore the expansive world of information on their own. If we all declare that reading is fundamental, why do we insist that libraries (along with music and art programs) are the first things to be cut when budgets get tight? You can't get a kid to read if he has no access to books.
More images like this please.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
AUTHOR: G. Edward Evans and Margaret Zarnosky Saponaro
STARTED: Not a clue
FINISHED: November 16, 2008
GENRE: Library Science
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] This latest edition continues to cover all phases of collection development--from needs assessment, policies, and the selection process (theory and practice) to publishers, serials, protection, legal issues, censorship, and intellectual freedom. Each chapter has been extensively revised to reflect changing practices, policies, and technologies and, in some cases, completely rewritten. A new addition is a CD containing supplementary material; a companion Web site is maintained to ensure URLs referenced throughout the text are kept up-to-date.
THOUGHTS: I read this cover to cover for class... and learned nothing.
RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]
AUTHOR: Kate DiCamillo
STARTED: November 17, 2008
FINISHED: November 19, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: The story begins within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] This is the story of Desperaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives.
And what happens then?
Listeners, it is your destiny to find out.
THOUGHTS: This was a fantastic, moralistic fairy tale with just enough whimsy. (Seriously, who doesn't love soup?) I enjoyed teh way that DiCamillo was able to craft a story that felt current and timeless at the same time. Desperaux embodies all the qualities you want in a fairy tale hero. He also has just enough fear and cowardice in him to make his character feel relateable. Even the villians in this tale come across as sympathetic. There are bad guys but they aren't all bad. Instead of crafting a black and white fairy tale, DiCamillo was able to craft a story in shades of gray.
The one drawback I saw to the story was the DiCamillo seems to rely on stereotypes (i.e. Weight can tell you how good a person is). This frustrated me a little, but there was enough gray in the story that this issue did not cloud the whole book.
I can't wait to see the movie - I have this feeling that they will keep the essence of the story as well as be able to successfully expand it into a full length feature film.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Needless to say, I envied her outfit.
I noticed her because of her clothes. My best guess is that she was in her early 40s - I only hope I look that good when I'm her age.
Said woman, however, became my hero when she pulled Twilight out of her black, patent leather bag. I was able to see that she was on page 14.
I haven't read the book (and I have been told that I would both love and be frustrated by the series) but I adore the fact that such a fashionable, intelligent looking woman would be reading what is typified as juvenile literature.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
AUTHOR: P.D. James
STARTED: November 10, 2008
FINISHED: November 17, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: Early this morning, 1 January 2021, three minutes after midnight, the last human being to be born on earth was killed in a pub brawl in a suburb of Buenos Aires, aged twenty-five years two months and twelve days.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.
THOUGHTS: The movie was better. Far better. In fact, the movie and the book were nothing alike... and the movie was still better. The novel lacked the drama and deeper meaning that was conveyed in the film.
If you want a good story, go watch Clive Owen. This book was rather pointless to read since the film was a much greater story.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]
AUTHOR: Gwyn Cready
STARTED: October 30, 2008
FINISHED: November 10, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: "Did you say Mr. Darcy's pants?"
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Mr. Darcy just isn't Flip Allison's style. She prefers novels with hot sex on the bathroom sink to the mannerly, high-tension longing of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That is, until she pays a visit to Madame K, who promises a therapeutic massage with an opportunity to "Imagine Yourself in Your Favorite Book." Somehow, on the way to a sizzling sink-top session with a Venetian Adonis, Flip lands right in the middle of Regency England -- and dangerously close to handsome Mr. Darcy. So close, in fact, that she discovers a side of him even Jane Austen couldn't have imagined.
Waking from her massage, Flip is on top of the world and ready for her upcoming book club -- that is, until she notices a new scene in which Darcy and spunky heroine Lizzy Bennet are arguing over...Flip Allison? Her rapturous liaison with Darcy has had disastrous consequences for Austen's characters -- not to mention millions of Pride and Prejudice fans! Flip has twenty-four hours to put the story back on course, and Magnus Knightley, a sexy but imperious scholar whose brooding good looks and infuriating arrogance are decidedly Darcy-like, is the only one who can help. The only problem is, Flip can't keep her hands off him, either.
THOUGHTS: Great idea. Poor execution. Cready tried to take on too much with this one. There were about 8 plot lines floating around. She should have trimmed to two and flushed those out to get a better, more emotionally connective story. Also, there was no chemistry between the leads. At all.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
AUTHOR: Sylvia Plath
STARTED: October 23, 2008
FINISHED: October 29, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I don't know what I was doing in New York.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The Bell Jar is a classic of American literature, with over two million copies sold in this country. This extraordinary work chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful - but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time. Step by careful step, Sylvia Plath takes us with Esther through a painful month in New York as a contest-winning junior editor on a magazine, her increasingly strained relationships with her mother and the boy she dated in college, and eventually, devastatingly, into the madness itself. The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is rare in any novel. It points to the fact that The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical work about Plath's own summer of 1953, when she was a guest editor at Mademoiselle and went through a breakdown. It reveals so much about the sources of Sylvia Plath's own tragedy that its publication was considered a landmark in literature.
THOUGHTS: I can't say that I enjoyed reading this book. On the other hand, I also can't say that I didn't like reading this book. The Bell Jar is a tough read. The text itself is easy enough to follow (far easier than I thought it would be), but the emotions and physical reactions I had while reading this basically ensures that this will be a one-time only read for me. There were too many times I cringed, felt uncomfortable, or sick to my stomach over the course of this book. It reminded me of scenes in a movie where I felt like I had to turn away or risk being sick.
For being a book about a woman's decent into madness, I found that text logical, steady, and remarkably easy to follow. That leads me to believe that Plath wants the reader to be in the shoes of Esther. She is insane simply because she believes her decisions to be healthy and logical. I was surprised by how even keeled Esther seemed - in some ways, I grew to admire her because she knew what she wanted and was rarely distracted from her path. Esther may have been insane, but her willpower was strong.
Honestly, I don't know what scares me more: the fact that this book made me shiver in disgust or the fact that it made me feel a sense of empathy with Esther.
Luckily for me, I did not read this alone. My book club is tackling the text tonight - I think we'll be having one hell of a discussion.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]
Every veteran has a story - one that deserves and, indeed, needs to be told. The Library of Congress is trying to collect as many veteran's stories as possible through their Veteran's History Project. The goal of the project is to collect first-hand stories from veterans, specifically those who fought in conflicts from World War I onward.
This objective is getting harder and harder to achieve as veterans from WWI, WWII, and Korea are beginning to pass away at greater rates every day. The Library of Congress' website allows you not only to read/hear/see stories from veterans but also help add to the collection.
If you know a veteran, please thank them today (and every day) and encourage them to tell their story.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Comments like this scare me; they have me thinking that there are more people out there who have never been introduced to the library. As an institution with a hallowed and lengthy existence in this country, I do wonder if the library is loosing out Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Libraries are slowly incorporating technology into their daily existence (as evidenced by the fact that even the most rural libraries have OPACs and computer terminals with internet access) but is it fast enough? We just cannot compete with Fortune 500 companies with seemingly unlimited marketing budgets.
My University is offering a libraries and marketing course this semester (possibly because I asked for it). Unfortunately, it meets on Saturdays... Saturdays where I already have obligations... so I cannot take it this semester. I hope the course is popular and they offer it either this summer or in the Fall. If not, I may humble myself before the Dean and ask for it again.
So, if you ever find yourself with a friend who spends lots of money on books, please help your local library and spread the word.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
AUTHOR: Pam Jenoff
STARTED: October 16, 2008
FINISHED: October 22, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: I do not know how many hours or days I have lain on this cold, hard floor, waiting to die.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Jenoff's stirring sequel to her debut, The Kommandant's Girl, chronicles the perilous post-WWII adventures of Marta Nederman, a member of the Polish resistance and best friend of the earlier book's heroine. When the Allies liberate Dachau, where Marta has been imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo, Paul Mattison, a handsome American soldier, tenderly gives the weakened Marta a drink of water. Later, at a refugee camp outside Salzburg, Austria, Marta befriends Rose, another recovering survivor. After Rose's sudden death, Marta is able to use Rose's visa to travel to London. When en route Marta runs into Paul in Paris, the passion between the pair ignites. They promise to meet in two weeks, but tragedy ensues when Paul's plane crashes in the English Channel. Pregnant with Paul's baby, Marta marries Simon Gold, a British diplomat. Two years later, Marta goes on a dangerous mission to Poland, where a Communist takeover is imminent and where the seesaw plot takes more than one surprise twist.
THOUGHTS: Jenoff's writing is still as visual as ever, but the characters were lacking depth and emotion in this second novel. Once again, I found myself easily seeing this book becoming a movie - a cinematographer would have a field day with this narrative. The writing was rich, the scenes were vibrant, and, most of all, the writing made the book feel alive. Unfortunately, the characters came across as stock room extras, pulled to fill in the scenes. I had an extraordinarily hard time believing and of the chemistry and motivations (good and bad). I bless Jenoff for actually giving Marta a spine - she goes through really rough times and never does she bend or whine incessantly.
And the twist.... saw it coming from a mile away. That same twist, in an odd way worked... until there was a twist to the twist... then it was just silly.
I like Jenoff's writing style, but this was definitely a sophomore slump.
RATING: 5/10 [Meh]
Monday, October 27, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
AUTHOR: Suzanne Frank
STARTED: October 5, 2008
FINISHED: October 16, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: The world exploded in light and I felt myself freed - the constraints of skin, blood, and bone slipped away and I knew that the core of my person, my ka, had left its ancient Egyptian shell.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Chloe Kingsley expected to wake up in 1997; instead, fate and a rip in the fabric of time-space are sending Chloe to a mysterious ancient culture, another woman's body, and an enormous test of her love for Cheftu the physician. In Aztlan, an advanced civilization set on a volcanic isle in the Aegean, Chloe becomes Sibylla, a prophetess about to enter the political arena and ceremonial bull rings of a dazzling, decadent kingdom. Soon enmeshed in a royal power struggle and a contest to become the consort of Phoebus Apollo, a charismatic young prince, Chloe is threatened by palace schemes and deadly passions. Though her outward appearance is changed, undeniable love draws Chloe and Cheftu together again. Visions of a terrifying catastrophe inspire Chloe and Cheftu to desperately try to save Aztlan from utter destruction. But already the rumblings of doom are shaking a glorious culture that created labyrinths and a new panoply of gods, as two lovers, sworn to be together for eternity, are torn apart by cruel rituals, twisted ambition ... and heinous murder.
THOUGHTS: I didn't know what was going on for half of this book, but darned if I can't wait to read the next one in the series. Frank made it very hard to keep a mental whose-who list going with this novel; there were too many names and overlapping relationships. Sometimes I was so confused I made two characters into one, and one character into two. The world building and "huh, interesting" moments of the book kept it afloat, but just barely.
RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Word Spy is "devoted to lexpionage." That is, they find and define words and phrases that have gained popularity in the current culture. The goal of Word Spy is to define the item while providing a history of its appearance and development in culture.
It's a simple site - providing a search engine and some word list links - but it makes finding out what a mullet strategy is so much easier.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
AUTHOR: Anthony Lappe
STARTED: October 2, 2008
FINISHED: October 4, 2008
GENRE: Graphic Novel
FIRST SENTENCE: My name is Jimmy Burns.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The global war on terror is raging out of control. The president is popping Prozac. And the #1 selling videogame in 2011
THOUGHTS: This novel was terrifying. It was fantastically good... but terrifying. Lappe offers a "What if?" future of the Iraq conflict - a future that is all to easy to imagine. What if McCain becomes president and views Iraq as a way to win in Vietnam? What if Iran intervenes? What if McCain's soldier son is kidnapped? What if there are suicide bombers in New York City? Lappe covers all of these stories and more in Shooting War. It's a gripping read that is only made more intense by the bold art of the book. I would read it again... but if Obama becomes President.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]
AUTHOR: L.M. Montgomery
STARTED: September 26, 2008
FINISHED: September 30, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: "Harvest is ended and summer is gone," quoted Anne Shirley, gazing across the shorn fields dreamily.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Anne Shirley is all grown up and ready to embark on her college career at Redmond. She is torn between leaving her beloved Prince Edward Island and the childhood haunts that have been home for so many years. Anne quickly, yet almost reluctantly, becomes accustomed to life at Redmond; she and old friend Priscilla fall into friendship with socialite Phillippa Gordon. The trio pal around with P.E.I. boys Charlie Stone and Gilbert Blythe, who both appear to have their intentions set on marriage to Anne. Gilbert has long been Anne's childhood chum and remains Anne's old standby at Redmond. Gilbert and Anne are nearly inseparable. Marriage is assumed to be a certainty by those on P.E.I. and at Redmond—until Anne rebuffs his advances and rejects his proposal of marriage. Anne finds joy in her homey college cottage, "Patty's Place," which she shares with her dear friends. The girls cope with proposals, boys, and college life as Anne finds that romance and love may not be what she had expected.
THOUGHTS: At first blush, this book was not a fantastic read for me. I enjoyed it, sure, but it did not give me that "Oh my goodness, why did I not read this as a kid!" feeling. Then, during book club, as we were talking about the novel, I just recalled the high number of emotional reactions I had to the story. I still maintain that I do not mind missing this as a child, but I'm glad I've caught up with Anne now - at least this one time.
For me, Anne of the Island comes to me in a series of vignettes. The story is good, but singular moments in the story is what makes me think fondly of the story. The cats, Anne wearing Gilbert's flowers, the marriage proposals - all of these scenes caused me to react in some way. There were numerous scenes in this book that made me giggle, smile, or scoff as a read. The more noise I make out loud, the more likely I am to think of the book after I've read it. Anne is not a girl I desire to be, but her story is fun. I'm sure I would have enjoyed reading this more if I had read it as a child - or read the first two books in the series - but I liked this book enough to actually think about reading the other parts of the series.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I know that this is merely an image of a man surrounded by filed works, but I agree with the analysis. Obama comes across as a literate, educated man - one who has a command of knowledge... or, lacking a command, would know where to turn in order to find the answers.
I still can't get over the fact that our current First Lady is a librarian and, yet, her husband seems to have a second rate command of the English language.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
It's Banned Books Week. A week in which I revel in all the "naughty" books libraries continue to stock. I, like many others, think banning and challenging books shows the worst fears of society - namely, the fear that free thought will lead us all to ruin, despair, and ultimate doom. DOOM!
Books (and the free reading of them) are one of the best tools to spread understanding and tolerance. When a book is banned, that book does not disappear. In fact, the exact opposite happens. When you make something off limits, you make it a desired commodity.
So, please, you high-minded, holier-than-thou types, go ahead and ban my books. Every time you try I make a note to read it and tell all my friends about it.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
AUTHOR: Sarah Ellerton
STARTED: September 25, 2008
FINISHED: September 25, 2008
GENRE: Graphic Novel
FIRST SENTENCE: Come on!
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] An epic fantasy tale that centers around Archeron, an innocent young pup from the horned wolf-like race called the da'kor. After a chance encounter with a beautiful elf, Archeron sets out on a seemingly innocent quest—that of trying to locate another elf who has been missing for the past 12 years. Together with his newfound companions, Archeron quickly learns that the world is not the peaceful place he believed it to be, embroiled in prejudice, hidden danger and unexpected mystery.
THOUGHTS: I read this graphic novel when it was online. So, really, I just read this to have it in book form. I love the art.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]
AUTHOR: Rebecca Kohn
STARTED: September 19, 2008
FINISHED: September 25, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: It came to pass int he second year of the reign of Xerxes - who ruled from Hindush to Kusha - that I was orphaned.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The story of Esther—whose mesmerizing beauty was matched only by her clear-eyed wisdom—has inspired women for centuries. Now her suspenseful tale comes to life through the eyes of a contemporary woman, debut novelist Rebecca Kohn. Capturing the passionate longings and political danger that have made Esther's legacy so timeless, The Gilded Chamber blends meticulous research with gripping storytelling to transport us to an ancient time in the far-flung Persian Empire.
Orphaned and terrified, Esther journeys across the River Tigris to start a new life with her cousin—a man well positioned in the court, and to whom she is betrothed. Her transformation from girl to woman unfolds against a lavish backdrop of the royal court and harem, rife with intrigue and daring alliances. Esther wins much of what she seeks: the heart of a king, and the deliverance of her people. But her rise to the role of queen is not without a price; she must turn her back on all that she ever wanted, and give her body to a man she can never love.
In a haunting, unflinching voice, The Gilded Chamber illuminates an epic dilemma between the yearnings of a woman's heart and the obligations imposed on her by fate. In Esther's case, choice makes history—and unforgettable reading.THOUGHTS: Esther is a remarkable character, but I don't think the author did her story justice. Here is an orphan who becomes a queen. How can that story not be interesting? Somehow, this book just felt flat to me. Kohn's writing style is vibrant and rather lyrical, but I felt that she got lost in describing things to the neglect of the narrative. It's all emotion and pretty clothes, very little time seems to be spent on the actual plot. There were times I wanted to scream "Do something!" There was not rhythm to this book, it just skates along recanting details, there's no punch.
I didn't love, I didn't hate it, I want a little bit more.
RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Actually, SNL's premonition was 10 years off. Gerald Ford passed away on December 26, 2006. He was 93 years old.
Who's Alive and Who's Dead is a unique reference website. It's goal is simple, to let the public know which noted public figures are alive and dead. The concept may be a bit morbid, but the site is rather helpful.
The next time you take a bet with a friend about whether not Adam West is still around, you can get confirmation at Who's Alive and Who's Dead.
Monday, September 22, 2008
On Friday, I was emptying the book drop when a man walked through the front door. He was wearing a brown plaid, tweed suit with a brown vest, crisp white shirt, and a red bow tie. Library of Employment is a university library, so this outfit is nothing new - we see more than our fair share of tweed suits and suit coats with elbow patches. This patron, however, was also carrying a cane and wearing a be-ribboned straw hat straight out The Music Man.
This guy looked like he was a close cousin of Maurice Chevalier. I half expected him to break out into song, with a barber shop quartet to back him.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
These days, when I need a quick pick me up, I always think of an LOLcat doing a dramatic reading of the text I'm perusing at the moment.
You've never giggled harder until you've giggled at the idea of an LOLcat reading your training manual.
I'm pretty sure my staff think I'm crazy. It can't be helped.
Friday, September 19, 2008
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: September 12, 2008
FINISHED: September 18, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: She wanted to dance.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] From emerald jungles to the high seas to the glittering ballrooms of Regency London, beloved author Gaelen Foley tells a sweeping, sensual tale of the ruggedly handsome Lord Jack Knight and the passionate beauty who lays claim to his heart.
An English rose blooming in the untamed jungles of South America, Eden Farraday lives a life of independence–unheard of for a lady–with her doctor-turned-scientist father. But Eden misses England desperately. When the dangerous and darkly charming Lord Jack Knight sails into her life, she seizes her chance to return to civilization, stowing away aboard his London-bound ship.
Roguish and charismatic, a self-made shipping tycoon with a shadowy past and a well-guarded heart, Jack is sailing on a vital secret mission. When the redheaded temptress is discovered aboard his vessel, he reacts with fury–and undeniable lust. Forced to protect her from his rough crew, the devilish Lord Jack demands a scandalous price in exchange for Eden’s safe passage across the sea. As his wicked kiss ignites an unforgettable blaze of passion between them, Jack and Eden confront a soul-searing love that cannot be denied.
THOUGHTS: I think the leads in this book were bipolar. I love you! I hate you! Tell me everything! No. Don't! The mood swings of this book were so comical that it couldn't do anything but fail. The story started out okay (in the Amazon!) but it just went down hill from there.
Too much, Gaelen, too much.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Refdesk is a gateway website that brings together a lot of information in a central location. It has a column of various popular search engines, a column of rotating daily choices, and a column of current news and events.
The website has several helpful, up-front links including:
- Currency Calculator
- Gasoline Prices
- Crude Prices
Scrolling down the page you'll find nothing but links. These send you to everything from daily pictures to weather resources, stock quotes to facts-at-a-glance, help and advice to every link to any possible other resource you can think of. RefDesk is a gateway to all that valuable information you have to Google to find.
The website may discombobulate you at first, but once you learn your way around, you'll never think about where to go to find out what where you can get a list of elected officials again.
The layout of Refdesk is not the best (more 1998 than 2008), but the website puts a lot of information (or at least the access to it) right in front of your eyes.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
AUTHOR: Margery Williams
STARTED: September 11, 2008
FINISHED: September 11, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid.
SUMMARY: [From Barnesandnoble.com] This adaptation of Margery Williams's treasured childhood classic tells how a toy rabbit learns what it means to be loved by a child--and how toys become "Real." This book will bring kids hours of fun as they read the engaging story and color in the pictures.
THOUGHTS: I just picked this up because it came up in the course of my last book group discussion. The Velvetten Rabbit was a childhood favorite of mine.
The book is still an enjoyable, nostalgic read.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]
AUTHOR: Frederic Richaud
STARTED: September 7, 2008
FINISHED: September 9, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: At Versailles all the talk was of war.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] August 1674 - Louis XIV, one of Europe's greatest sovereigns, celebrates his armies' victory over Holland. At Versailles, his favorite of the royal residences, everything must reflect the glory of the Sun King.
In this world of pomp and show, one man remains detached from the procession of servants soldiers, politicians, diplomats, flatterers, and self-seekers that daily surrounds the King. As gardener to His Majesty, Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie is master of his own domain, the royal fruit and vegetable garden. Louis' generals might proclaim the power of France abroad, but La Quintinie's espaliers and vegetable plots assert nothing less than man's mastery over nature: a garden that can feed a thousand at a sitting, standards of pruning that in three hundred years have never been surpassed. Once a lawyer who turned his back on a brilliant career to pursue his love of horticulture, La Quintinie became, in the process, as artist.
His skill is admired by the King and revered by savants, his freedom is envied by all - the rhythms he observes are not those of the courtly dance but of the seasons. As the autocratic might of the King fules the rising hysteria around him, La Quintinie's wide humanitarian sympathies are with the soil and those who live by it. For the kitchen garden at Versailles harbors not only a great courtier, gardener, and provider, but also a secret radical.
THOUGHTS: I still can't figure out the point of this book. This brief novella is a beautifully written study of the French court at the time. Other than that, I didn't get it. This guy loved his garden. I guess, in a way, this was a love story between man and the earth.
Now that I think about it, that is exactly what this is. Richaud has written a beautiful relationship between a gardener and his garden. He loves it, and he hates to see how his product is corrupted by society... much like how power corrupts the people.
Ah, metaphor. How I wish I got that as I was reading this book.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
AUTHOR: Azar Nafisi
STARTED: August 30, 2008
FINISHED: September 7, 2008
FIRST SENTENCE: In the fall of 1995, after resigning from my last academicpost, I decided to indulge myself and fulfill a dream.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.
THOUGHTS: I’m still stewing over my opinion on this book. It was good and I was still disappointed. Reading Lolita in Tehran has been in my TBR mountain for eons so when it was picked for my book club (my month, who woulda guessed) I was quite happy to finally get around to reading it. Somehow, Nafisi’s book did not meet my expectations, I was expecting more intertwining of the books Nafisi discusses and her life in Tehran. The book was still enjoyable, but not in the way I had figured it would be.
I've heard this
RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]
AUTHOR: David Sedaris
STARTED: August 11, 2008
FINISHED: August 30, 2008
GENRE: Humor / Memoir
FIRST SENTENCE: I'm thinking of asking the servants to wax my change before placing it in the Chinese tank I keep on my dresser.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] In Naked, David Sedaris's message is pay attention to me. Whether he's taking to the road with a thieving quadriplegic, sorting out the fancy from the extra-fancy in a bleak fruit-packing factory, or celebrating Christmas in the company of a recently paroled prostitute, this collection of memoirs creates a wickedly incisive portrait of an all-too-familiar world. It takes Sedaris from his humiliating bout with obsessive behavior in 'A Plague of Tics' to the title story, in which he is finally forced to face his naked self in the mirrored sunglasses of a lunatic. At this soulful and moving moment, he picks potato chip crumbs from his pubic hair and wonders what it all means. This remarkable journey into his own life follows a path of self-effacement and a lifelong search for identity, leaving him both under suspicion and overdressed.
THOUGHTS: Is it memoir or is it humor? Either way I don’t care – this book was amusing. The Boyfriend handed me this book saying I would enjoy. He was right, so I don’t have to dump him. Sedaris does a marvelous job of detailing moments in his life that speak to his readers in humorous but touching ways. Naked gives an inwardly cynical yet provocative look at the human experience.
RATING:7/10 [Very Good]
AUTHOR: Joan Giesecke and Beth McNeil
STARTED: Sometime in early August
FINISHED: August 27, 2008
GENRE: Library Science
FIRST SENTENCE: Management used to be simple.
SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Noting that there are often four generations working in one facility and that each is motivated by different factors requiring different supervisory methods, this is one of the few books in library literature that addresses how to reward employees by considering generational differences. Authored by two experienced managers (Giesecke is dean of libraries and McNeil is associate dean of libraries, both at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln), this excellent guide will teach supervisors how to motivate staff, encourage a positive work ethic, and build teams. The advice on interviewing, hiring, training, and working with new employees is highly relevant. The authors also thoroughly address understanding group dynamics, maintaining awareness of diversity issues, and managing performance to attain workplace goals. New managers needing an outline of the fundamental principles of supervision as well as old hands who can benefit from a refresher course will find all the practical advice they need to accomplish their jobs. Highly recommended for all supervisors in any library.
THOUGHTS: I picked up this book because it crossed my desk at work. I figured that, as a relatively new library supervisor, it would be a useful book to read. Eh. It was okay. I did not learn anything new. At least this book helped me confirm that I am on the right track.
RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]