Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Useful Things: IT Style

Tired of looking befuddled when your IT guy starts spouting off make-believe words? Have no fear, TechEncyclopedia has come to your rescue.

If you're like me and only have a passing knowledge of all things technological, TechEncyclopedia can help fill in those missing gaps of information. The concept of the website is simple: it will define all those words that make you go, "Huh?"

Bonus feature: You can also click "random definition" to start building your vocabulary and crossword puzzle knowledge.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Variations on a Theme: Biblical Fiction

This month's theme was selected because I was thinking about The Red Tent. No reason, just thinking about the book. Many historical fiction books are based on bible stories, biblical characters, or are placed in biblical settings. The few I've read have all been quite good. So, if you're in the mood for some meaty fiction about well known people, a novel of biblical fiction should suit your need.

I got lazy and just transferred summaries about the books. They'd be more helpful then anything I would say anyways.

The Red Tent: A NovelThe Red Tent
Anita Diamant

The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider's look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah--all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery.

Sarah: A Novel
Sarah: A Novel (Canaan Trilogy)Marek Halter

Sarah is born Sarai, the daughter of one of the most powerful lords of Ur. At the age of 12, she is pledged in marriage to a man she has never met, and despite the finery of her bridal chamber ("Everything was new.... Linen rakutus as smooth as a baby's skin"), she flees in distress. Dragged back to her father's house, she doses herself with an herbal concoction that leaves her barren and is made a priestess of Ishtar, Ur's goddess of war. Six years later, an encounter with her childhood love, the handsome Abram, furnishes her with the chance she's been waiting for: she escapes with him and joins his nomadic tribe. Her contentment is short-lived, because Abram is called by God to leave his tribe and set out for a new land, whereupon the familiar (but freely adapted) Bible story unfolds. The misery Sarah feels at being barren, the indecent love her nephew Lot expresses for her, her encounter with Pharaoh and her quarrel with Hagar, the slave woman who gives Abram a child, shape the novel's second half. Halter isn't afraid to present headstrong Sarah as bitter in her old age, and his complex portrait of the biblical matriarch gives this solid if predictable novel a dash of freshness.

The Gilded Chamber : A Novel of Queen EstherThe Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther
Rebecca Kohn

In this measured, eloquent retelling of Jewish heroine Esther's rise from orphanhood to queen of the Persian empire, Kohn brings psychological nuance and stately elegance to the ancient biblical tale that is the basis for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Narrating in the first person, Esther (born Hadassah) tells how she is forcibly taken from her home to the royal harem of King Xerxes in Babylon. Her uncle Mordechai, a high-ranking treasury official in the king's service, warns her, "Do not reveal your people or your kindred.... Let yourself be known only as Esther, foster daughter of Marduka the Babylonian." The novel is by and large faithful to the biblical account and often quotes from it verbatim. Yet Kohn deftly fills the gaps and resolves the ambiguities in the Book of Esther with creative storytelling and historical research. As Esther recognizes her strengths and responsibilities and learns the ways of the palace, so do we; the oppressive closeness of the harem ("the lingering odors of perfume, food, and lamp oil"), the pervasive abuse, the fragile alliances and deadly schemes all come to life. Kohn's Esther has a will of steel and knows how to manipulate lusty, impetuous Xerxes, but she longs for a simpler life. Her sacrifices are finally rewarded when the king's trusted courtier Haman issues a decree ordering the slaughter of the Jews, and Esther is in a position to be able to save her people.
Wisdom's Daughter: A Novel of Solomon and Sheba
Wisdom's Daughter: A Novel of Solomon and Sheba India Edghill

Like her previous novel, Queenmaker (2002), Edghill's latest fictionalization of an Old Testament story will appeal to the Red Tent crowd, both for its emphasis on the role of women in ancient Israel and for the author's ability to bring history to life. Edghill transforms a didactic fable, the story of King Solomon and his brief interaction with the Queen of Sheba, into a powerful love story of a man and the queen who won his heart. Rotating among multiple narrators-- including several of Solomon's 40 wives; his daughter Baalit; Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba; Solomon's war general; and Solomon himself--Edghill tells the story of why Bilqis came to King David's City and why Solomon lavished her with gifts and eventually gave her his daughter. Leisurely paced and focused on the wisdom of Solomon and the burdens of his reign, this atmospheric story is packed with political intrigue, illuminating the curious mixture of cultures and religions among the women of Solomon's court.

Mary, Called MagdaleneMary, Called Magdalene
Margaret George

Of all the women in the Bible, perhaps no one's presence has been as constantly reinterpreted as that of Mary Magdalene. Was she a prostitute? A prophet? In Margaret George's epic historical novel, Mary, Called Magdalene (Geroge's previous subjects include Henry VIII, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Cleopatra), Mary comes alive as one of Jesus' first believers, a woman of infallible visions and a faith that earns her the title "Apostle to the Apostles." With numerous biblical and scholarly texts serving as the core of this intriguing woman's story, George recreates the world of Galilean fishermen and the oppressions of the Jewish people under Roman rule. Cast out from her family after Jesus expels the demons that have ravaged her mind, Mary follows the man from Nazareth until they receive attention from the skeptical hordes and the Roman magistrates controlling Jerusalem. Mary, from beginning to end of this giant undertaking, is a woman who struggles to reconcile her absence from her young daughter's life with the chance to be part of something important. Through the lens of her ever-inquisitive mind, the story covers the formation of Jesus' ragtag band of disciples and the crucifixion, and ends with Mary's mission as the head of the Christian church in Ephesus, where she died at the age of 90. What makes this a compelling read is that Mary's story connects humanity with faith in a way that's possible to understand, whatever our contemporary beliefs

Journey to the Well: A NovelJourney to the Well
Diana Taylor

One of the most well-known and loved stories of Jesus's ministry is the encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. Now the creative mind of Diana Wallis Taylor imagines how the Samaritan woman got there in the first place. Marah is just a girl of thirteen when her life is set on a path that will eventually lead her to a life-changing encounter with the Messiah. But before that momentous meeting she must traverse through times of love lost and found, cruel and manipulative men, and gossiping women. This creative and accurate portrayal of life in the time of Jesus opens a window into a fascinating world. Taylor's rich descriptions of the landscapes, lifestyles, and rituals mesh easily with the emotional and very personal story of one woman trying to make a life out of what fate seems to throw at her. This exciting and heartwrenching story will fascinate readers and lend new life to a familiar story.

Other Biblical Fiction Related Material:
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt - Anne Rice 
David: The Warrior King - David J. Ferreira 
Havah: The Story of Eve - Tosca Lee 
Moses: A Memoir - Joel Cohen 
Rebekah (Women of Genesis) - Orson Scott Card
The Garden of Ruth - Eva Etzioni-Halevy 
The Triumph of Deborah - Eva Etzioni-Halevy
The Weeping Chamber - Sigmund Brouwer 
Zipporah: Wife of Moses - Marek Halter

Links and Stuff:

  • This is a tad late for all you NCAA tournament watchers, but a Duke researcher found that use of research libraries decreases as the tournament grows closer.
  • If anyone doubts why libraries are hearts of the community, they should read this story about how they help to feed the community.
  • Wikipedia - not used as much by college students as you might suspect.
  • Busting myths takes a lot of research. can save you from being gullible.
  • Librarians are better than Google. No really, they are.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dog Tired

I was hoping to finally sit down and write a well thought out entry on something related to libraries and/or reading and/or books. I was honestly hoping I could do that today.

What a foolish sort I am.

Today was my first day of the Library School Comprehensive Exam. This exam is a four essay test spread out over 2 days. You MUST pass this test in order to graduate. Yeah - brain not so functional at the moment.

Instead, I leave you with a puppy whose sentiments I can't wait to share again.

Library School Zombie.... must... have... snacks.... and study time.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Links and Stuff: March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Useful Things: Name It

My name is the Gaelic version of the Welsh derivative name Margaret. The meaning of Margaret, "pearl," comes from Greek. Supposedly, the Greeks took their word from Sanskrit.

I learned all of this awesomeness from Behind the Name.

This website is for the etymological inclined. Unlike most baby naming sites, it goes beyond popularity and meaning. Behind the name also has information on names (as a thing), name days, and namesakes.

If you're looking for a bit of fun, you may want to check out the anagram names. (Sadly, there are no anagram names for cupcake.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Links and Stuff: March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book 6: Bite-Sized Marketing

TITLE: Bite-Sized Marketing: Realistic Solutions for the Overworked Librarian
AUTHOR: Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste, and Jonathan Silberman
STARTED: February 16, 2010
FINISHED: February 26, 2010
PAGES: 140
GENRE: Library Science

FIRST SENTENCE: When we began this book we thought we would be able to produce ten-minute marketing solutions for librarians, but the truth is nothing worthwhile can get done in ten minutes.

SUMMARY: [From] Written and designed to reflect the way people read today, this book is structured to quickly impart simple and cost-effective ideas on marketing your library. Filled with contemporary marketing ideas, the authors provide
  • How-tos of guerrilla marketing
  • Cutting-edge digital marketing practices
  • Benefits of traditional print media
Visually compelling and easy to read, this book will challenge you to market your library in new and original ways.
THOUGHTS: I am so happy that this book turned out to be as informative, entertaining, and organized as I wanted it to be. The contents of this book are indeed bite-sized. There is no wasted text; just valuable information. In fact, I think the truffle cover art is the ideal representation of the contents - the package is small but the contents are rich. Bite-Sized Marketing is the ideal book for a librarian who suddenly finds marketing and outreach added to their job duties.

The authors walk the reader step-by-step through modern library marketing techniques. This includes everything from Word of Mouth Marketing and Public Relations to Outreach and New Marketing Tools. Every chapter is further broken down into easy to digest (yuk! yuk!) bits of information and possible marketing projects. I found myself taking notes as I read - there is definitely a marketing project or two I want to take on for my library.

There are only two things I wish this book had: a brief chapter on how to analysis your library's strengths and needs and also more examples of successful library marketing. Aside from that, this book packs a powerful, information punch in a small, very readable package.

You know I like a book, when I am seriously considering laying out the cash to add this to my personal really-important-to-own-for-professional-development library collection.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent!]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

YouTube Tuesday: To the Future

This is a take off of the popular Common Craft series. The video is a little bit slow paced, but the ideas are solid. Libraries of the Future discusses staffing and management issues that occur as the library changes to meet the needs of the future.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Useful Things: Notable

Notable, quotable, what are they up to? The Notable Names Database aggregates and tracks the activities of notable people.

While it's cool to track down what George Clooney has been up to, the best part (and main purpose) of the NNDB is to show the connections between notable people. The NNDB Mapper visually graphs the connections between people and events. Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon just got way more interesting.

Bonus Points for Phrasology. When connections are found they're considered "Possible Cohorts."