Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

"The materials that are challenged and banned are the books that say something about the human condition." - Judith Krug of ALA in an interview with NPR

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!

Poppycock.

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

Tease 1

I used two cans of high-gloss white spray paint at work today. It was for work purposes. It did not involve me punishing a minion.

Why?

Check back in a week or so to find out.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book 49: Inverloch

TITLE: Inverloch: Volume 1
AUTHOR: Sarah Ellerton
STARTED: September 25, 2008
FINISHED: September 25, 2008
PAGES: 168
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]

Book 48: The Gilded Chamber

TITLE: The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther
AUTHOR: Rebecca Kohn
STARTED: September 19, 2008
FINISHED: September 25, 2008
PAGES: 353
GENRE: Fiction

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

I love patrons

That's right Gov. Palin. Eat it.

Useful Things: Who's Alive and Who's Dead

Gerald Ford dead today at age 83.

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

Patron of the Moment: Straw Hat Man

I thought my eyes deceived me, but this guy came into the library again today, so he must exist.

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

Dramatic Reading

If someone could publish a book, entirely composed of LOLcats, I would greatly appreciate it.

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

Book 47: His Wicked Kiss

TITLE: His Wicked Kiss
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: September 12, 2008
FINISHED: September 18, 2008
PAGES: 431
GENRE: Romance

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

Useful Things: RefDesk

My father adores this website. He likes it so much it is his homepage. Since my dad is a librarian, I'm going to say that this website gets the Librarian Due Date Stamp of Approval.

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:
  • Calculator
  • Currency Calculator
  • Gasoline Prices
  • Crude Prices
Also up top are drop down menus for e-mail websites, quick links and webtools, and very helpful "Reference Desk" type websites.

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

Book 46: The Velveteen Rabbit

TITLE: The Velveteen Rabbit
AUTHOR: Margery Williams
STARTED: September 11, 2008
FINISHED: September 11, 2008
PAGES: 44
GENRE: Juvenile

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]

Book 45: Gardener to the King

TITLE: Gardener to the King
AUTHOR: Frederic Richaud
STARTED: September 7, 2008
FINISHED: September 9, 2008
PAGES: 120
GENRE: Fiction

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

LOLBooks: Nom This

I think this kitty has devoured more of this book than I have.

Tom Sawyer is one of those books that I never got around to reading in high school.

I saw the Wishbone episode. Does that count?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Book 44: Reading Lolita in Tehran

TITLE: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
AUTHOR: Azar Nafisi
STARTED: August 30, 2008
FINISHED: September 7, 2008
PAGES: 356
GENRE: Memoir

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
book is more enjoyable after one has read all the books mentioned in the text. It's true. While I won’t be going back and reading the entire bibliography listed in this memoir, I can say that, had I read all of these books, my perception of Reading Lolita in Tehran would have been much different. This memoir ended up being not so much about Nafisi’s life in books, but more how these books helped her understand what she was living through during the Islamic Revolution.

It could be the book or it could have been me, but I could not fall into Reading Lolita in Tehran. For some reason, it never grabbed me. It was very easy for me to step out of Nafisi’s narrative. I developed no emotional connection with the author or her story.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 43: Naked

TITLE: Naked
AUTHOR: David Sedaris
STARTED: August 11, 2008
FINISHED: August 30, 2008
PAGES: 224
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.

I’ve read Sedaris before but this book seemed more introspective than the other books. While Naked made me smile, it also made me think about all the instances where being human is weird and awkward. Seriously… I have no idea how I would act at a nudist colony. Sedaris embraces his uniqueness and also highlights what makes everyone else unique. Naked isn’t so much a memoir about Sedaris – it is more a memoir of those he meets along the way. The overarching theme of this book is that human interaction is a necessity, one that changes us, and one that will always alter how we act and perceive life.

Writing wise, Sedaris’ language is simple, but highly descriptive. In just a few words or sentences, Sedaris paints a vivid scene that is easily imagined. Sometimes, Sedaris’ descriptions are so fantastic they made me say, “Ew.”

If I was Ew-ing, at least I was enjoying myself the whole time.

RATING:7/10 [Very Good]

Book 42: Fundamentals of Library Supervision

TITLE: Fundamentals of Library Supervision
AUTHOR: Joan Giesecke and Beth McNeil
STARTED: Sometime in early August
FINISHED: August 27, 2008
PAGES: 166
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.]

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Standing up to Bullies is Sexy

You want to ban this book? You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Now I don't know why so many people think Sarah Palin looks like a naughty librarian... okay, I do... but I do know that, as a staunch advocate for freedom of reading, I dislike the idea of her following Laura Bush (albeit in another role) into the White House. This VP candidate tried to ban several books from an Alaskan library. When she did not get her way, she threaten to fire the the head librarian. Kudos to Mary Ellen Baker for standing her ground.

Shame on you, Gov. Palin. It's fine for you to hold your own beliefs, but to try to keep others from having theirs is hypocritical. The library should not be a place for politics. The library is a community center, a gathering place, and an institution of higher learning. Just because you're prejudiced against free thought doesn't mean you should use your governmental power for ignorance.

If you don't want one of your five kids from reading a book, that's fine. It's more than fine. Be a parent and keep it out of their hands. It is not your job to regulate access to information.

Keep your hands off my books.

I wasn't going to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket anyway, but this story just angered me out the wazoo.

In related news: Banned Books week starts September 26.