Saturday, July 28, 2007

A little R & R

Hi....thanks for everyone who has been hanging on my every post the last few months. You two know who you are! I'm just letting you know that I'm taking a little time off this week, so I won't be posting again until August 4th. Hopefully there will be some sunshine this week, and if not, I'll get a lot of cleaning done inside.
Enjoy the Blueberry Arts Festival next weekend, and look for the Friends of the Library booth!

Slogan Contest

As you probably know, we are trying to build Ketchikan a library - for the first time in 100 years - and this campaign needs a slogan. We are looking for something catchy, something positive, something that will fit on a coffee cup or bumper sticker. It should reflect the fact that a library is about more than books - it's about information, communication, and a civic identity. The new library building will be the community's 'living room', where residents will feel comfortable and welcome, a place to connect up with neighbors, a safe haven for children and teens, and a shared space for community groups and organizations. Obviously, that's a lot of meaning to pack into a 4-5 word phrase, but we have a lot of faith in the creativity of our town. So, if you would like to help us out, you can download an entry form or come to the library to pick one up. All entries will be placed in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate from A&P Grocery, and the winning slogan will receive a basket of prizes. The contest ends on August 15th, and winners will be announced on August 20th. If you have any other questions, or would like to submit your entry remotely, please call us at 907-225-3331 or email us at: Don't forget to include your name and phone #, so that we can contact you if you're a winner!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Marketing 101

I'm going to do something a little unusual and write a post about a book we don't own...yet. The book is titled Heartsick, and the author is Chelsea Cain, who came out with an amusing Nancy Drew parody a couple of years ago. This new book is a straightforward suspense thriller, complete with a cop and a creepy serial killer, and it is set in Portland, Oregon (which is where Ms. Cain lives). It's scheduled for release in September, and the library has this title on pre-order.
The point of all this ("Finally!" you say), is that the publishing company sent out the Advance Reader's Copy (a perk of being a librarian) with the most clever packaging I've ever seen. The book has a plain white cover, with no title or other identification, smeared with a bloody hand print and spatters (fake, I hope). The book arrived in a clear plastic 'evidence bag' supposedly belonging to the Portland Police Department. Brilliant. I don't ordinarily look at these advance proofs, but this one grabbed my attention and I looked to see if we had ordered the book already. I can't tell you if the book's any good - I confess I didn't read the proof - but the publishing company is going to a lot of effort to advertise, so they obviously have high hopes for this title. Come September, you can see if all their work has been justified. And if you're really eager, you can put a hold on this title right now: Library Catalog

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Free eBooks!!

There are a number of different organizations - Project Gutenberg and The Internet Archive being a couple of the most famous - that are devoted to digitizing books and providing free access to them online. A number of these groups have gotten together and formed the World Public Library, which for an annual subscription of $8.95 provides database access to their combined collections. Until Aug. 4th, this access will be free. That means you can download as many ebooks as you want, and there are over 600,000 free ebooks to choose from. If you are an ebook fan, or if you have always wanted to try this new format, then give it a shot: . You can choose titles from Baen's military science fiction, Asian classics, children's books, international literature, Christian writings, the Armed Forces Library, poetry, sheet music, film archives, and audiobooks. There are books for a wide range of interests, in a variety of languages, and all of them are free until August. (This is an annual event, so if you don't get everything you want in time, you can always wait until next year. Or, you can become a subscriber). This is an excellent opportunity to try out something new!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I love looking at glossy pictures of gardens in full bloom, flowers spilling over fences and walls, bright splashes of color everywhere. But it takes an enormous amount of planning, work, and money to design a garden that is full of flowers all the time. I get flowers in clumps - one blooming perennial in my garden at a time - and the rest of the time the plant is a boring green. But why not have a garden awash in different colors, shapes and textures that look fabulous for the entire growing season? Why not have a foliage garden? If you think all leaves look alike, then you need to check out Foliage: astonishing color and texture beyond flowers, by Nancy Ondra. Golds, reds, purples, blues, grays and silvers. Lacy, fine, bold, or spiky. Ground covers, trailing plants, grasses, bushes and trees. Each plant by itself is beautiful, but when artfully combined the effect is stunning, and far more elegant than a bunch of showy flowers. You can combine purples and golds, broad leaves with grasses, and add clumps of variegated plants, and you have a garden that is not only beautiful, but it lasts throughout the summer!
The pictures in this book are gorgeous, and each plant is presented with a color photo, information about size and growing habit, and advice about which varieties grow best in particular zones. Alternatives are also given, in case the plant is difficult to grow in your zone or your particular space need. An inspiring book full of great ideas, perfect for a low-maintenance garden.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hypoallergenic cats?

I am severely allergic to cats (upon entering a house, I can tell within 10 minutes if there is a cat in residence), so I cannot fathom why anyone would actively expose themselves to the direct source of an allergen. But I know lots of people who do. People who go through their life sneezing and wheezing, taking medicine for their runny noses and asthma, rather than go without the companionship of their cat(s). So if you are one of those people who are willing to forgo personal comfort for the sake of your pet, here's a new book for you: The Sneeze-Free Cat Owner, by Diane Morgan. She gives lots of practical advice about how to tamp down the allergic reaction through bathing (the cat, not you), neutering (ditto), and grooming. She also has suggestions for different cat breeds that are less prone to producing the allergen protein in their saliva. At the risk of offending legions of cat fanciers, I have to say that the Sphynx cat (which is hairless) seems to have crossed the line from unattractive into downright repellent, but I'm sure they have lovely personalities. Another handy tip when considering a cat: females make less of the allergen than males. So if you, or someone you know, is a suffering cat owner, check out this book.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Inspector Montalbano

I was tickled to death to find that the latest installment of Andrea Camilleri's detective series had finally arrived at the library (not quite like getting my hands on the final Harry Potter book, but darn close). Camilleri's protagonist is Inspector Montalbano of the Commissariato di Pubblico Sicurezza (Commissariat of Public Safety), stationed in Vigata, Sicily. He has to be one of my favorite detectives of all time. He is irascible and abrupt, but this is understandable in light of the politics, bureacracy, and incompetent superiors he deals with. In this seventh book, The Patience of the Spider, Montalbano is recovering from a gunshot wound he received in Rounding the Mark. His relationship with his girlfriend is as rocky as ever, and he is beginning to feel his age. Author Camilleri does a wonderful job of illustrating the way in which business gets done in Sicily, with lots of local color about politics and food. The translator - Stephen Sartarelli - does an equally good job in preserving the Italian tone and pace in his translation, and the notes he provides in the back of the book are indispensable for truly understanding the story. He not only describes particular dishes or idioms, he also helps the reader understand Italian politics and Sicilian custom. I love this series, and I devour the books in one sitting. Highly recommended.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Devotion to Duty

There are NO spoilers in this post:

Well, I finished reading the seventh and final adventure of Harry Potter this morning at 4 am (if it wasn't for my two maintenance-heavy kids, I could read in the daylight hours like a normal human being), and I think this is one of J.K. Rowling's best books. I miss the rich, inventive details of wizarding life she put in the first books, but this installment is so action-packed there is no room - or time - for lingering. The narrative hits the ground running and doesn't stop until the final chapter. Rowling somehow manages to tie up all the loose ends, even answering questions I had forgotten about from previous books. My only complaint about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at this point (before I reread it more slowly) is the epilogue. I think the book would have been much better without it, as it adds no pertinent information to the plot, and the tone doesn't match the rest of the story. I almost feel as though the epilogue was the publisher's idea, rather than Rowling's. Feel free to skip it, in fact.
As far as availability at the library is concerned, we have 10 copies of the book. At the time of posting, all the copies were checked out, but there were only 2 people on the holds list. We have both cassette and CD versions of the audio book on order as well, so feel free to put your name on the holds list. You can do this at the library, over the phone, or online at our web page: Narrated by the hugely talented and entertaining Jim Dale - the reader for the other 6 books - the audio version of Deathly Hallows is sure to wonderful also.
I'm sorry to see the story of Harry Potter end, but I am already looking forward to reading the books out loud to my kids (and grandkids!).

Saturday, July 21, 2007


You may have heard of this Brazilian chanteuse already, if you’re a listener to World Café or you’ve visited a Starbucks down south lately (since they co-produced her album). But if not, or if you’ve been putting off listening to her blend of jazz, soul and samba, then wait no more. Céu's self-titled album is beautifully mellow. She has a voice like cream (smooth, not clotted), and the music is soft and inviting. Don’t think this is a meditation tape, though, because the ever-present Latin beat will keep your hips swaying. Basically, if I close my eyes when I listen to this CD, I picture happy people in earnest conversation in a dark restaurant at a tropical resort with this music playing in the background. Not bad for a 4-minute track.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Three Bags Full

I love mysteries, especially those with unusual settings (Byzantium, 525 AD – Mary Reed, or China in 650 AD – Robert Van Gulik). So imagine my delight as I read the most unique, inventive mystery it has ever been my good fortune to come across. Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann, is set in modern-day rural Ireland. Big deal, you say, that’s not that exotic. True, but the setting is really in a sheep pasture, because the main characters in this mystery are sheep. Miss Maple, Othello, and Mopple the Whale are some of the fascinating ovine protagonists in this wonderful story, which will have you wondering ‘how can a flock of sheep solve a mystery?’ They can’t question suspects, or go undercover, or collect forensic evidence. So how would a writer have a flock of sheep not only solve the mystery, but uncover the culprit as well? Well, Swann manages to do this very cleverly (and I won’t spoil the effect for you). It takes a chapter or two to get into the story – mainly because you are trying to adjust yourself to the fact that these are animals talking (similar George Orwell, but without being hideously depressing). After a few pages, though, I could not put this book down. Funny, insightful, and clever, this book is very highly recommended. I would say that I hope for more from this author, but I’m not sure how she would follow this outing. (I don’t relish an entire series of animal detectives, regardless of how clever the writing).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Troubled times

Now that you’ve delved into World War II history a bit (yesterday’s post), you can read about the rupture of Berlin. The Berlin Wall: a world divided, 1961-1989, by Frederick Taylor, tells the sad story of a city ripped in half. The tension between capitalist West (America, in fact) and communist East (Soviet Russia, really) was at its most visible and aggressive along the border that divided Berlin in half. Families were split overnight as the barricades went up, and this division not only continued in physical form for almost 30 years, it has left scars in the people of reunified Germany to this day. I actually have a piece of the wall, given to me by a friend whose family was stationed in Berlin when the wall was torn down in 1989. Very cool.
The final book in our History Week selections is really more of a current event, but history will judge the world – and the West – harshly for its handling of this crisis. The Devil Came on Horseback: bearing witness to the genocide in Darfur, by Brian Steidle, is not a book you graze through on your lunch hour. The photos alone will make sure of that. The author, a former Marine Captain, was hired as one of three on-the-ground monitors by the African Union. He arrived in Darfur in 2004, and spent about 6 months traveling the region, interviewing, photographing and witnessing the genocide. Powerless to do anything but watch, Steidle resigned his post and returned to the U.S., where he has been trying to make his experiences heard. Politicians like to use the phrase ‘Never Again’ when they refer to past genocides, but saying something doesn’t make it so, does it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

World War II

By far and away, this is the most popular section of military history – and maybe history in general – for our library. We have a couple of new books that examine particular aspects of World War II:
The Battle for the Rhine, by Robin Neillands, focuses on the Battle of the Bulge and the Ardennes Campaign, both of which took place during 1944. Neillands, who died last year, was a respected author who lectured at the National Army Museum in London. He examines the relationship between Eisenhower and Montgomery, and the strategies of the Allies. Being British, he may have a kinder take on Montgomery than many American authors, but you can judge for yourself.
Another book that looks at General Eisenhower and his dealings with his fellow generals is Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in war and peace, by Mark Perry. From colleagues during WWII to Cold War warriors united with a common foreign policy vision, Marshall and Eisenhower developed a strong relationship over the years. That relationship came to have great implications for the world, especially post-war Europe. Perry attempts to delve behind the historical facades and come up with the real personalities that guided America through some difficult times.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Conflicts of legend

The next two books we'll cover deal with two events that captured public attention and became the fodder for numerous retellings.
The Day the world ended at Little Big Horn: a Lakota history looks at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The more widespread term for this engagement is 'Custer's Last Stand', and for a century George Armstrong Custer - with his romantic wavy blond hair - was regarded as a figure of bravery and tragedy. It is only recently that his actions have been looked at with a more critical eye, and very rarely does the viewpoint of the other participants in the battle - the Lakota Sioux - come into account. Lakota historian Joseph M. Marshall III changes that with his book, calling on tribal oral history to present the Sioux perspective. This is a long overdue analysis, and a very interesting read.
Red Mutiny: eleven fateful days on the battleship Potemkin, by Neal Bascomb, looks at one of the keystone events leading up to the Russian Revolution. In 1905, the sailors of the Potemkin, one of the stars of Russia's Black Fleet, refuse to eat maggot-infested meat. Fearing reprisals from the officers and fed up with the harsh conditions and discipline of the navy, the sailors mutiny, killing almost half the officers on board. Their arrival in Odessa happened to coincide with a general workers' strike, and events escalated into rioting. Although the sailors tried to find an officially hospitable port for the ship, the whole situation really did not end well. However, if it was any consolation to them, they became heroes in Soviet Russia, as their mutiny was seen as one of the first blows of the common man against the Czarist establishment. This is a very gripping book, with lots of details turfed out of the Soviet archives, and a strong narrative. He also uses the accounts of the sailors and officers themselves to reconstruct the dialogs between key players. If you are a fan of naval history, Russian history, adventure novels, or just plain good stories, then you will enjoy this book.

Monday, July 16, 2007

On to the 19th century

We've looked at our Revolution - let's look at France's (happy belated Bastille Day, by the way). Liberty: the lives and times of six women in revolutionary France, by Lucy Moore, uses the experiences of six different women, from different social classes, to illustrate the events and impacts of the French Revolution. None of their lives were safe or uneventful, and some of them came very close indeed to a meeting with La Guillotine, as their wealth, birth, and political associations made them a target of suspicion. And that pretty much sums up the French Revolution - no matter how high up the ladder you are today, one denunciation can have you in prison by nightfall.

Another turbulent time - the American Civil War - is touched upon in Last Flag Down: the epic journey of the last confederate warship, by John Baldwin and Ron Powers. The C.S.S. Shenandoah was a raiding ship that was supposed to play merry havoc with the Union economy. The ship set off on a round-the-world voyage in late 1864, looking for Union merchant ships to pillage and sink. Unfortunately, CNN and cell phones not being available then, they were unaware that the war had ended and they were now the 19th century equivalents of 'enemy combatants': pirates. Unable to set foot in an American port, what with being criminals and fugitives, their only hope was to sail to England. Did they make it? Find out.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

History week

It's History Week at the public library. Well, it's not really an official event, but we just happen to have a large influx of new historical nonfiction coming onto the shelves, so I thought I would spend the week taking you through our new offerings. In deference to the overall theme, I'll go in chronological order.

The Sack of Panama: Captain Morgan and the battle for the Caribbean by Peter Earle. Last week I did an entry on another new pirate book we have that details the rise of Captain Morgan. This one has a slightly narrower focus: Morgan's capture of the city of Panama in 1671. Earle discusses the politics between the kingdoms of Britain and Spain, the increasing number of skirmishes between the resident Spanish colonists in the Caribbean and the incoming British-backed pirates, and the fallout of Morgan's daring conquest. Thrilling stuff, indeed.

Fast-forward 100 years, and read Almost a miracle: the American victory in the War of Independence by John Ferling. Note that the word 'victory' is singular. This is one of the most interesting things about George Washington: with the exception of his defeat of British forces at Trenton and Princeton during Christmas week of 1776, Washington spent the bulk of the war in a state of almost perpetual retreat, managing to keep his troops and his precious artillery just out of the reach of the British. A single battle - Yorktown - managed to be a decisive enough blow to end the war, and Washington himself remarked that his victory was "little short of a standing miracle". We don't often remember what a sad, sorry group the rebelling colonists were, and it's very interesting to reexamine the birth of our nation.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Travel in mind

To truly know a country and a culture, you have to live there. A 2-week visit just doesn't cut it. Unfortunately, most of us cannot throw off our responsibilities and spend a couple of years living in Paris or London (frankly, most of us can't afford it - housing prices in London are outrageous). But one way to get around these practical considerations is to have someone else do the inhabiting for you, and then pick their brain. Therefore, I recommend two new books: Ireland in mind and France in mind, both edited by Alice Leccese Powers. These books are collections of writings, essays and letters by some of the most brilliant names in literature, and the writings touch upon the people, the culture and the food that these writers encountered during their tenure in France or Ireland. The time span of the authors ranges from Washington Irving to David Sedaris, and you can get a real sense of how these countries have changed over the years (and what essential elements have stayed the same). The tone can be wistful or humorous, frustrated or valedictory, but the one thing that all the selections have in common is that they are wonderful to read.

Friday, July 13, 2007

This ain't your gramma's knitting

Over the last few years, the popularity of knitting has skyrocketed, especially with non-traditional knitters: people under 30 and men. And as the craft has become a little more trendy, so the books and patterns have become a little more cutting edge (laptop cozies instead of blankets, for instance). We've got a couple of new books that are designed to appeal to younger knitters.
Domiknitrix: whip your knitting into shape by Jennifer Stafford is knitting with a goth edge. The patterns in this book are definitely outside the norm. You could knit yourself a mohawk hat, hats with devil horns, throw pillows that say "Spank Me", and vests with a skull design. The models in the pictures look sexy, not frumpy, and the whole book screams attitude. There are also a lot of practical tips, helpful instructions, and solutions for knitting mistakes. If you know a younger knitter, or are one yourself, you should definitely check out this book.
The other fun knitting book on the shelves is Knitting with balls: a hands-on guide to knitting for the modern man by Michael del Vecchio. It's packed with rugged, manly patterns and ideas that put the 'it' in knitting. No fluffy sweaters and frou-frou scarves here, by golly. You'll find wallets, coffee cup holders, even beer bottle cozies, as well as lots of stylish sweater patterns. (O.K., the argyle pullover vest isn't too manly, but you can just skip that one. Or make it for your dad.) Since yarn is now easily available in a wide range of colors and textures, there are endless possibilities for experimentation. Pink angora is not for everyone.
So put away those bland hobbies and knit yourself a personal statement.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I am the Great and Powerful Oz

As I sit here listening to the sound of the electricians replacing our light fixtures (coincidence? You be the judge), I am overcome with a feeling of power and cosmic luck. So, just on the off-chance that I really am on a roll, I would like to officially reiterate why the community of Ketchikan needs a new library building:
1. We haven't had a library building since 1935. For the last 70+ years, the library has been squeezed into extra space in other organizations.
2. The library is not accessible to everyone in Ketchikan. There is no way for people with wheelchairs, walkers or baby strollers to get from one floor to another. (People with baby strollers wanting to get into the Children's library? What's up with that?). The aisles are too narrow for wheelchairs, and there is no way to get a wheelchair into the women's restroom on the main floor - and no way to get downstairs, so for all intents and purposes there is no accessible restroom for women.
3. The building space that the library currently rents ($50, 386 this year) was built before personal computers were invented. The beams are covered with network cables, electrical wires and telephone wires. There are extension cords everywhere. There are only two places in the upstairs library where people can plug in their laptops.
4. There is no more space for books, videos, CDs, magazines, or audio books. For every book we purchase, we must weed an existing title (in other words, a book added means a book removed).
5. The current Teen space is 96 square feet. Surely, if we are worried about providing safe, beneficial activities for the young adults in our community, we can do better than a space the size of my bathroom.
6. There is no space for community programs, meetings, or activities. There is no quiet place to read. There is no place for students to study. There is no place for people to use their laptops. There is no place for the people of Ketchikan to enjoy the library. 'Go in, grab it, get out' is a terrible motto for a library.
So hopefully I have the lucky touch this week, and this blog posting will result in ground being broken on a new library next week (Hi, Mr. Gates!). But if not, at least we've tried to spread the word. We are currently fundraising, so please call or email us to help.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

As darkness closes in around us...

We have 'lost' another light fixture here at the library, bringing our total of useless light fixtures to 10. Unfortunately, the problem is more severe than a simple burnt-out bulb: the ballasts need to be replaced in each fixture. (Sorry, I have no idea what exactly a 'ballast' is, but I know that you need an electrician to replace them). We have been assured for the last couple of months that the problem will be fixed as soon as possible, and we all have high hopes of the book stacks being navigable again by the time Winter Solstice rolls around. In the interim, we apologize for the inconvenience and offer the use of our flashlight for those with poor night vision.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

We own funny

Chances are, if you're reading this blog, then you are a friend of libraries. You appreciate what libraries have to offer you, you value their role in your life, and deep-down you think that libraries and librarians are pretty cool. Right? Right?
Like any cool, hip group of people we have our own lingo (with a heavy emphasis on acronyms). We also have our own comic strip, complete with in-jokes. Unshelved is written by honest-to-goodness librarian Gene Ambaum and drawn by cartoonist Bill Barnes, and in the library world, these guys are famous. They write funny strips that point out the foibles of both the librarians and the patrons, and many of the storylines are based on actual library encounters (librarians around the country are constantly sending them anecdotes). They've published 4 collections of their strip, and we have two of them here at the library: Unshelved, vol. 1 and Library Mascot Cage Match. They also have a website - with an archive - where they post their strips: You can even subscribe to the site, so that you get your daily dose of library humor.
So check it out, and see what us ultra-cool librarians think is funny.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ahrrr, me hearties!

Pirates are so darn hip these days (thank you, Johnny Depp), that it seems a shame to dull their excitement with a scholarly look at the history of piracy and the social conditions that led to the expansion of their numbers. So instead of plowing your way through a bunch of tedious footnotes and ibid references, sit down with Stephen Talty's new book - Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan's great pirate army, the epic battle for the Americas, and the catastrophe that ended the outlaws' bloody reign. It's kinda cute that he titles his book with the same long, rambling descriptive title (almost a table of contents) that authors in the 17th and 18th centuries seemed to favor. His story begins with a disastrous attempt by the English during the rule of Oliver Cromwell, the 'Great Protector', to conquer Spain's New World colony on Hispanola. Supposedly, this would have choked off the flow of riches out of South America, England would have taken over South America, and who knows where we would all be today. But of course, the best they could do was take Jamaica, which eventually became home to the Queen of Pirate Cities: Port Royal. Unofficially, and sometimes officially, sanctioned piracy on the Spanish trade vessels flourished, and the English pirate bands eventually attracted the adventurous, the desperate and the criminal. Thus, decades of shlocky Hollywood movies were born. How could you not like a story with such a happy ending?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

And yet more audio

I'm a fan of Bill Bryson's funny, understated writing. His two most recent books - In a Sunburned Country (2000) and A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) - have been very popular. He has finally turned his insightful eye upon himself and penned a memoir of his middle-class, Midwest, mid-century childhood. Baby boomers, fans of nostalgia, and anyone who likes an interesting story will enjoy The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Our audio version, brand-new on the shelf, is read by the author himself.

If, for some sad reason, you are unable to get to Europe this year (or any year), but are dying to experience 'The Grand Tour' around the continent, then how about an aural voyage? Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, takes you on a picturesque tour of Europe with A Year in the World. Close your eyes and drift along with Mayes as she takes you through Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, the British Isles, Greece and Turkey. She even dips down into Northern Africa. Vicariously encounter the sights, smells, and sounds of different cultures through her observations.

Fans of the Jack Reacher novels will be glad to know that not only do we have the latest installment of Lee Child's thrilling series on the shelves, we also have the unabridged audio version as well. Bad Luck and Trouble promises to be just as suspenseful and entertaining as the rest of the series.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Modern love?

Love, as anyone who has experienced it knows, is a messy thing. It doesn't follow a clear-cut plan, there's no script, and it doesn't occur in a vacuum. There may be varying levels of commitment, unaccepting in-laws, difficulty conceiving, financial disparities, and societal pressures. And if there's anything about your own personal romantic history that you feel is depressing or less than fulfilling, then what better way to perk yourself up than to read about people in even worse situations. Modern Love: 50 true and extraordinary tales of desire, deceit, and devotion collects essays from the popular New York Times column "Modern Love". Edited by Daniel Jones, these soul-baring tales range from funny to tragic, with some of them sure to induce a little wincing, or at least some head-shaking. How could people behave like that? Couldn't they see this coming? What were they thinking? Well, look in the mirror and think about all the wacky things you've done in the name of love. (Personally, I used to clean the bright-work on our boat when we were dating. After 13 years of marriage, I still love my husband, but please don't look at the bright-work.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Corrections, Errata, Mea Culpa

I made a grievous error in my posting for July 2. I wrote that one of the new audiobooks on our shelves is Running With Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs. In fact, the title we have is Possible Side Effects. Same author, same life, same self-narration, but a different collection of stories. He does still cover some of his crazy adolescence, tho.

Seven for Seven

We have seven new audiobooks on the shelf for the seventh month of the year (these aren’t the only audiobooks we’re getting this month, but I liked the ‘7 for 7’ theme. I’ll post other new titles later.)

Tomb of the Golden Bird - by Elizabeth Peters. The 18th installment of the award-winning Amelia Peabody mystery series.

Hundred-dollar Baby - by Robert Parker. The 34th novel featuring Boston private investigator Spenser (does the guy have a first name?).

The Fifth Horseman - by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. Another in the "Women’s Murder Club" series. The Sixth Target is currently on our New Books shelf.

Robert Ludlum’s The Paris Option - by Robert Ludlum and Gayle Lynds. Apparently this author is so popular he begins the titles of his books with his own name. This is a “Covert-One” novel.

Freakonomics: a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything - by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. Am I the only person on the planet who hasn’t read this book?

Memory in Death and Midnight in Death - by J.D. Robb (a.k.a. Nora Roberts). Her name is mentioned in hushed tones amongst the mass-market paperback set, as the 'Queen of the $8.00 romance novel'. But she also writes gritty detective novels set in New York City in the semi-near future: 2059. (I hope to still be alive then, but maybe not living in the New York of Robb’s vision).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Power of Art

PBS has recently been showing a fascinating series that focuses on some of the greatest artists in history. The Power of Art shines a spotlight on the careers and works of 8 famous artists, from Caravaggio’s paintings in the early 1600’s to Philip Rothko’s work in the mid-twentieth century. The library not only has the DVD set, we have the book that accompanies the series. Last night’s star was the sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, who was a particular favorite of popes and cardinals in the early 17th-century. I’m not a complete artistic cretin, but I do need someone to point out the hallmarks of brilliant technique, the metaphors inherent in the piece, and the history of artistic developments leading up to the work in question. And the series’ creator – Simon Schama – does just that. He is a great blend of Sister Wendy (Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting, which we have on DVD) and James Burke (Connections, which we also have on DVD. This is a series that I recommend highly). His narration is full of information without being overwhelming, his delivery keeps things interesting, and he does a wonderful job of pointing out what makes a great work of art ‘great’. In Bernini’s sculpture of The Rape of Proserpine, for instance, he points out the way Pluto’s hands seem to dig into her thigh, and his hands sink into the flesh of her side. The curls of his beard swing, as she violently shoves his head to one side. If a sculptor can get a chunk of marble to appear as if it were moving at all, let alone moving violently, then that is an amazingly talented sculptor. And Schama is a very talented teacher.

Monday, July 2, 2007

New on Audio

Lies at the Altar: the truth about great marriages, by Dr. Robin Smith, looks at the way people approach their marriage vows. Regardless of what stage of the relationship you are in – engaged, unhappily married, or divorced – Smith will help you think about what your underlying expectations are for marriage, and how to express your expectations to your partner. Most importantly, she will help you understand the value of listening to your partner’s expectations.

You’ve read the book, you’ve seen the movie, now listen to the author himself recount the sometimes funny, sometimes tragic story of his adolescence. Augusten Burroughs reads his memoir Running With Scissors, treating his childhood abuse with a wry tone. He’s kind of a noir version of David Sedaris.

The bestselling team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are back with their newest story, The Book of the Dead. This is the concluding volume of a trilogy in which FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast works against the criminal plots of his own brother Diogenes. This volume in the trilogy will tie up the loose ends from the previous two stories, Dance of Death and Brimstone.

Stephen Coonts has written another fast-paced spy novel, titled The Traitor. CIA operatives Tommy Carmellini and Jake Grafton are trying to ferret out a French spy that has supposedly infiltrated Al-Queda. Does he really exist, and is he really a mole?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Great First Lines

As any author knows, a really good first line can grab a reader’s attention long enough to hook them on the story. Here are some of the more intriguing first lines from the newest books on our shelf:

"I did not expect to meet the Angel of Death while he was extricating
himself from a washing machine." – Saving Erasmus by Steven Cleaver

"When the sun dipped behind the wall of trees, we lay down and the white
night swallowed us." – Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson

"Had CC de Poitiers known she was going to be murdered she might have bought
her husband, Richard, a Christmas gift. " - A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

"The Lord giveth and most women piss it away." - The Wilde Women by Paula Wall

"I read today the account of my attempt at suicide." - Mary: a novel by Janis Cooke Newman

"The day Livia Pertini fell in love for the first time was the day the beauty contest was won by her favorite cow, Pupetta." - The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella

"Soon there will be a killing." - The Dead Place by Stephen Booth