About Ron

Rockabilly guitarist, writer, library technician, Ron fills the daylight hours with dreams of reading, well-behaved pets and the perfect dark beer. Reading interests range from humor to mystery, steampunk to travel writing, historical fiction to surrealism.

Release Your Inner Toddler

Now that my daughter is of an age where she reads books about gruesome murders, ghosts and hungry games, I seldom delve into children’s picture books. However, I recently ran across an interesting review, read the book, and was entranced. This made me recall that some picture books are at least as equally entertaining for adults as for children. So I sought out a few titles that would delight grown-ups, and here’s what I found.

Black Book
The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria

Imagine that you can see a color that no one else can see. You try to describe the color, but it’s so different from all other colors that it can’t be described by referring to known colors.

Now imagine describing any color to someone who has never seen a color. Saying that it’s light or dark or bright would not be helpful. Which leads me to wonder, how do unsighted people perceive colors? The Black Book of Colors is an entirely black book with short, poetic descriptions of colors, both in braille and text, followed by raised pictures for the reader to feel.

“Thomas says that yellow tastes like mustard, but is as soft as a baby chick’s feathers.”

The purpose of this book is to give sighted people an opportunity to explore what it’s like to be blind. As I felt the raised pictures (without looking at them), I had no idea what they depicted. It was actually a frustrating experience, which makes me think that the book is effective.

For those who might want to read the text in Braille, the Braille alphabet can be found at the end of the book.

Chloe and the Lion
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, pictures by Adam Rex

Here we find lovely pictures that illustrate a story where both the author and illustrator are also characters in the story, however with a more realistic appearance than that of the other characters. The action occurs on a stage set with scenery (as in a play), although the story is told as if it’s really happening rather than being acted out. All grinds to a halt when the illustrator thinks his idea for a beastie is way cooler than the author’s. A fight ensues ending with the author firing the illustrator and hiring a different artist. The new artist is somewhat less talented than the original, but he also thinks that he has cooler ideas than the author. Soon he too is fired and the author decides to both write and illustrate. One tiny problem: he can’t draw. Finally, he invites the original illustrator to come back (after an abject apology), and the story concludes with a mystery and a surprise ending.

Squirrels
Those Darn Squirrels! by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

Old Man Fookwire has few joys in life, but he loves to paint pictures of the birds in his yard. Every winter when the birds fly south he feels sad and lonely. One particular winter he comes up with a plan to keep the birds from leaving: build bird feeders to provide food for the birds in the cold foodless months. The problem, as most Northwesterners know: bird feeders are actually squirrel feeders. When the weather turns cold, the birds leave, and the old man is lonely once again. However the squirrels, who are hungry but not bad at heart, devise a plan to bring some joy into Fookwire’s life.

The following passage gives a feel for this book’s prose:

“The squirrels stayed up all night working out their strategy. They drank cherry cola and ate salt-and-vinegar chips to help them stay awake. Finally, they had it: the perfect plan! They put on their tiny helmets and prepared to launch themselves into the air, over the fence, between the lasers and onto the bird feeders.”

 A fun read with silly pictures conveying a silly story.

There are countless other enticing picture books as well. I encourage you to share some titles with the rest of us so that we may let loose our inner toddlers (which is already pretty close to the surface in some cases). And if you see Harold with his crayon, say, “Hi!”

Ron

What Not to Read

Recently, the blog team was presented with an article by Maria Popova that contains an interesting quote:

“Non-reading is not just the absence of reading. It is a genuine activity, one that consists of adopting a stance in relation to the immense tide of books that protects you from drowning. On that basis, it deserves to be defended and even taught.”

 ~ from How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard

How to talk about

This led to a lively discussion of what we read, what we don’t read, why we choose or don’t choose certain titles. It’s an interesting topic and something I think about frequently. But I’d never considered not reading to be a choice.

 The idea that by choosing not to read certain books one will be protected from drowning (presumably beneath a menacing flood of literature) intrigues me. As a person who spends most days besieged by the bursting bounty of books in the library, I am keenly aware of the perils embodied by this tumultuous torrent of tomes. So too am I aware of the debilitating reading disorder that plagues me and many others, causing us to throw common sense out the metaphorical window and to check out far too many books in a single go. This pestilence on our land, most commonly known as bibliorrhea, is a disease recognizable by the sufferer’s reading eyes being decidedly larger than his or her ample reading stomach, leaving plates and plates of unread or unfinished materials.

 Hence the need for a method of whittling down the teetering stacks of books in my office to a manageable pile. So I undertake the largely unconscious task of choosing what not to read.

There are unwritten rules my subconscious follows, which I will now write down, so strike this sentence. Here are the written rules I tend to follow in selecting books.

I seldom read non-fiction. In my formative years non-fiction tended to be as dry as a desiccant pack in the Mojave Desert.
Follows the rule:
Hedy LamarHedy’s Folly: The Life And Breakthrough Inventions Of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman In The World by Richard Rhodes sounds absolutely fascinating, telling how actress and beauty icon Hedy Lamarr invented technology which was later used in cell phones and other devices. Who knew? However, the writing style of this book did not engage me (this tends to be my issue with non-fiction) and I quickly put it down.

ConfederatesIs an exception:
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
by Tony Horwitz is a wonderful non-fiction book that looks at the effects of the Civil War which still permeate American thought and behavior, especially in the south. This non-fiction book is an exception to my rule.

Writing style is important. I generally do not like the prose employed in best-selling fiction.
Follows the rule:
TwilightTwilight by Stephenie Meyer, one of the most wildly-popular books in recent memory, is definitely not aimed at my age-group and gender, but still I found the text to be quite repetitive and unreadable, taking tens of pages to unfold a plot that could have been revealed in a single page or sentence. I was not able to complete this book due to annoyance with the writing style.

Valhalla
Is an exception:
Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler is a thrilling thriller involving Viking runes, Nemo’s Nautilus, the Red Baron and countless other twists and turns. I consider Cussler’s best-sellers to be guilty pleasures that I do not want to admit to reading but secretly enjoy.


Dense or archaic language is difficult for me to enjoy. I prefer an easy read.

Follows the rule:
CopperfieldDavid Copperfield by Charles Dickens is a certified classic that I couldn’t read if my life depended on it. The language of Dickens’ England requires tremendous mental prowess to untangle, leaving me exhausted and searching for a Harlequin romance.

 Dickens may be a god among authors, but I remain an atheist.

Is an exception:
TetherballsThe Tetherballs of Bougainville by Mark Leyner is a book that defies description, filled with surreal run-on sentences that continue for pages, plot turns that don’t particularly make sense, and language that a diamond couldn’t penetrate. Yet somehow the result is freakishly enjoyable.

So there you have a little peek into the process I undertake when deciding which books to read and what not to read.

Next month the blog team will discuss, for your enjoyment, some titles that we will not read, cannot finish, or wish to destroy in excruciating fashions, along with justifications for our feelings and actions. It’s all in good fun, but at the same time this discussion might help us better understand our reading motivations, to venture into uncharted reading territories, and to discover an unexpected gem here and there along the way.

Ron                  

Poetry Friday the first

Welcome to Poetry Friday. Every Friday of this month, in honor of National Poetry Month, a staff member will choose a poem that is a particular favorite. This week we present a selection from Ron. Also, don’t forget that we are having a friendly competition this month where you can submit your own poems. Click here to learn all the details.

NPM_LOGOI have to start with a confession: I am not a big poetry fan. However, the poems of William Carlos Williams astound me. Although he wrote in many styles, brief descriptions that create stunningly vivid images are what Williams is known best for.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus is a painting by Pieter Bruegel (see below) depicting a bucolic scene filled with busy people going about their lives. In the distance one can see a small pair of legs sticking out of a body of water. Presumably this is Icarus.

Given that the story of Icarus is a myth of epic proportions showing the folly of hubris, the beauty of this painting for me lies in the triviality of Icarus within the bigger picture of life. Williams describes it quite beautifully.

landscape-with-the-fall-of-icarus-pieter-the-elder-bruegel

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling
near

the edge of the sea
concerned
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings’ wax

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning

Why a YA Mystery?

I do love a good mystery. A good mystery. Which eliminates roughly … all of them. Of course I’m exaggerating for comedic effect. As my divinity mentor was fond of saying, “You are nothing if not a clown. And don’t touch that divinity, I just finished cooking it!”

But seriously mystery fans, sometimes it seems that any object affected by gravity thinks it can pen a mystery novel. This, of course, makes for a lot of poorly written mysteries. On the other hand, a spiffing good conundrum offers rewards beyond even the wildest dreams of Melvin.

Mysteriously, today’s blog about mysteries began as something of a mystery itself. You see, I undertook a search (much as a dime-novel detective) of the catalog without a particular destination in mind, and soon found myself (surprisingly) delivered to the sub-genre of YA mysteries, uncharted waters for this reader.

Deadly CoolThrough some arcane process comprehensible only to a Floridian vote counter, I arrived at the title Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday. This book is a fairly standard take on the mystery genre, with young adult characters setting it apart as reading aimed at, wait for it, young adults. Here we find Hartley, a high school junior suspicious of her boyfriend’s fidelity. Rushing to his house for a confrontation she discovers the body of the girl he was allegedly dallying about with. The book does a most excellent job of creating a realistic teen culture and dulling the bite of a potentially disturbing topic with abundant humor. Incidentally, this is the first in a series of books featuring our protagonist Hartley Featherstone.

The search continued. In our newly-improved catalog, one can easily find suggestions of additional books that might be of interest to the searcher. Deadly Cool yielded the following:

RecommendationsReformed vampireNever one to turn down a name like The Reformed Vampire Support Group, I clicked on this title and discovered a promising description of vampires who are, “anemic, whiny, unattractive, they feed on guinea pigs…” I was sold at anemic. This book stands above the insurmountable glut of vampire books that have hit local bookselling establishments in recent years, offering a fresh take on vampire culture while throwing in some tip top murder and mystery to boot.


Etiquette
Another title that turned up in my search was Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. In a steampunk version of 1851 we find Sophronia Temminnick, an unusual 14-year-old girl who is more interested in machinery and shenanigans than in curtseying and obtaining a husband. These activities so aggravate her mother that the girl is unexpectedly whisked away to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. However, unbeknownst to Sophronia’s mum, the school is actually an academy specializing in espionage and assassination. And this suits Sophronia just fine. Adventures, paranormal creatures and mystery abound in this amusing and exciting debut in the Finishing School series.

Other exciting YA mysteries recommended by the catalogue:

Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams.
Black Mirror by Nancy Werlin
The Girl is Murder (1st in a series) by Kathryn Miller Haines
I So Don’t Do Mysteries (1st in a series) by Barrie Summy

Mysteries1

 I’d Tell You I Love You, but then I’d Have to Kill You (series) by Ally Carter
Ruby Redfort Look into my Eyes by Lauren Child
Ripper by Stefan Petrucha
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Mysteries2

Today’s lesson is this: One can find a young adult mystery that is suitable for an adult reader. And, just as in anything else, there are gems and there are maggots, but rooting out the maggots, as Hercule Poirot might have said with an outrageous accent, is at least one-third of the fun. So expand your horizons, take advantage of the cool features of the catalog, and most importantly, be careful out there.

Ron

 

Beauty Queens and Other Aberrations of Nature

Ever since a brilliant, beautiful friend of mine entered a small-time city beauty pageant and lost to the mayor’s granddaughter (whose talent was disco roller skating), I’ve not held these contests in the highest regard. But actually, my disdain started much earlier in life. SmileOne of the first grown-up movies I remember watching as a kid is Smile, a biting satire of pageants and middle-class American society. Teenagers compete for the Young American Miss crown while running the gauntlet of an overprotective chaperone (a former Young American Miss crown-holder herself), a sleazy, dimwitted emcee and a temperamental choreographer. The pinnacle of the film is the pageant itself, highlighted by a participant demonstrating how to efficiently pack a suitcase. Amongst the contestants are very young versions of Melanie Griffith and Annette O’Toole.

But this was just to be the beginning of my complicated relationship with beauty and its contests.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Beauty QueensThis hilarious book opens with a plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants crashing near a small, apparently deserted island. The crew members, as well as many of the competitors, die in the crash, and those who survive must figure out how to make like Gilligan. All this death and suffering makes for a knee-slapping premise in the hands of Libba Bray. At first the surviving contestants are little more than stereotypes, albeit not simplistic pageant queens (well, except for Miss Mississippi and Miss Alabama who are impossible to tell apart). Each young lady has special knowledge and talents that come in handy and Miss Texas, well, she’s just a natural born dicta…, um, leader. The story is occasionally interrupted by pageant entry forms, commercials for the pageant’s sponsors, and other humorous asides. As time passes we meet faux pirates who star in a reality TV show, a foreign leader patterned after Chairman Mao, and bad bad government men. Adventures and merriment abound, and throughout it all Miss Texas makes sure that the young women practice their pageant routines daily.

Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss SunshineAlthough a beauty contest does play a central role in this comedy, it’s a family’s quirkiness that’s the focus of the story. Olive is a seven-year-old pageant-hopeful surrounded by a remarkable cast of characters: an overworked mother, unsuccessful father, suicidal uncle, mute-by-choice brother, and heroin-using grandfather. In the midst of everyone’s issues, Olive dreams of winning the Little Miss Sunshine contest in faraway California. So the entire clan climbs into their trusty VW bus and begins an 800-mile journey. Hilarity ensues, misfortune is overcome, and the family arrives at the last minute to discover a gaggle of skinny, tan, and overtly sexual little girls. Olive, in contrast, is plain and somewhat chunky. The family tries to talk her into withdrawing from the contest to avoid embarrassment, but in a lovely show of support Olive’s mom decides that Olive should just be herself and compete. Humor, drama, pathos, angst, and merriment combine for a unique movie-viewing experience.

There’s a (slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: a novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble by Laurie Notaro

There's a slight chanceLaurie Notaro is a hilarious woman. In her first novel we find Maye Roberts moving to a small university town in Washington where her husband has landed a tenure-track job. She leaves her job and friends in Phoenix and moves to Spaulding, a clique-ish place where it’s difficult to make friends. The town originally was famous as the world’s largest producer of sewer pipes, but a devastating fire put an end to this claim and Spaulding is now known for its prestigious university. A final remaining vestige of the town’s plumbing heritage is the annual Sewer Pipe Queen pageant, a remnant of the Spaulding Festival which featured sewer pipe oriented contests. It is suggested to Maye that she compete for this title, which is a guaranteed gateway to instant popularity, and she decides to follow this advice. While this is not a book about a beauty contest per se, it is an amusing look at the challenges of fitting in.

Drop Dead Gorgeous
Drop Dead GorgeousPerhaps my favorite pageant movie, Drop Dead Gorgeous, is a mockumentary about the Sara Rose Princess America Pageant in small-town Minnesota. As the contestants begin to expire spectacularly one-by-one under suspicious circumstances (exploding tractors and what-not) the remaining contenders soldier on in fear and trepidation. The talented cast, which includes Kirstie Alley, Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin and Denise Richards, lends an aura of authenticity to the proceedings. Who will win the crown, and more importantly, who will survive?

Ron

Sherlockmania!

He is one of the most recognizable names in literature. Hundreds of pastiches by copious authors have been written about his character. Movie and TV series abound. Parodies aimed at all ages proliferate. And a multitude of quotes which never issued from his fictional lips are attributed to this British detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories are undoubtedly brilliant, introducing (or at least popularizing) a new genre, a new style of detection. The hero is not a particularly likable or sympathetic chap, but his skills are remarkable. It’s no wonder that he has maintained such a high level of acclaim for more than a century.

Sherlock Holmes originally appeared in 4 novels and fifty-six short stories set between 1880 and 1914. His character apparently died in a story written in 1893 (but set in 1891), but fan outcry led to his resurrection in 1901 (in a story set in 1894).

Technology has changed since Holmes’s introduction and Everett Public Library carries Sherlock Holmes books on CD, eBooks and AudioEBooks in addition to plain ol’ books printed on paper.

Perhaps it is comforting to know that Sherlock’s adventures did not end with the death of Conan Doyle. Numerous authors, many alive today, have written stories about Holmes’s exploits during the same period that Conan Doyle chronicled.
Line 1
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(The Italian Secretary is also available as an AudioEBook)

Other authors have dared to speculate on Holmes’s life after his apparent retirement.
Line 4
(
Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes titles by Laurie R. King are available as books, large print books, eBooks, books on CD, and AudioEbooks.)
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(
A Slight Trick of the Mind is also available as a book on CD)

In some cases, Holmes has even been thrown into the present, through a series of mysterious occurrences, of course.

Line 6
One can also find series aimed at young adults featuring Sherlock as a teenager.
Line 7
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(Death Cloud is also available as a book on CD and AudioEBook)

One series, which focuses on the young boys who make up the Baker Street Irregulars, is aimed at younger readers.
Fall of the Amazing
(Set in the Victorian era)

Another format aimed at young adults and juveniles is graphic novelizations of Conan Doyle’s stories.
Line 9
Murray Shaw graphic novels
(These juvenile books include explanations of Holmes’s deductive reasoning and the clues that helped him arrive at a solution)

Perhaps the biggest buzz currently centered around the famous detective is the BBC series Sherlock. This take on Holmes has him living in present-day London, not a man somehow removed from Victorian times but simply a brilliant investigator born near the close of the 20th century. This ingenious show delivers unto us a Holmes who has all of the 21st century’s miraculous technology at his fingertips. The stories are based in the Conan Doyle canon, but include abundant updating and fast-paced dering-do.
Line TV
And when you finish this superlative series, be sure to look into some of the other big and small screen depictions of England’s most brilliant detective.
Line 10
And if that’s not enough to keep you busy, there’s always Agatha Christie

Ron

How to Check Out an eBook

In my last post, I highlighted all the great eBooks the library owns. I know. You’re saying, “Ron, Everett Public Library has a fine collection of eBooks, but I don’t know the first thing about checking out no stinking eBooks. I’m apprehensive!” Well, apprehend no more. Read on and assuage your baseless fears.

Start with the Everett Public Library home page. In the middle-top area of the page you will see this picture.
Ebooks on epls webpage 
Click on it to start your eBook journey.

One of the regions on the next page is dedicated to OverDrive, a website that allows you to check out eBooks with your Everett Public Library card.
Overdrive on epls
If you have any questions, don’t know what kind of format your reader requires or how to download a book, click on the HELP button.

Overdrive help
Each link here takes you to a helpful topic. Because it’s HELP.

If you want to dig right in and look at titles, skip the HELP button and click on Go to the library’s OverDrive Collection.
Go to the librarys overdrive collection

Here you will see headings such as May We Recommend with pictures of selected titles.

May we recommend

Click on a book to find out more about it.

Overdrive first page book display

This eBook entry is similar to any entry you’d see in the EPL catalog, with one important difference being Format Information. If you are unsure what format you need, go back to the HELP button for … help. Once a format is ascertained, if you want to check out this item then click on add to cart. At this point you can check out the single item or continue to add more items to your cart before checking out. It’s the library equivalent of on-line shopping. For now, let’s add this book to our shopping cart.

My cart
The shopping cart shows what items are in it and allows you to remove an item, continue browsing to add more items, or proceed to checkout to finish.

But before checking out you have to sign in.

Log in to check out

Signing in takes you to the Check Out page.

Checkout

At the Check Out page you can choose how long you want to check an item out (7, 14 or 21 days), remove an item from your cart, and finally check out.  You also are told how many more eBooks you can check out to your account. To complete the process, click on Confirm Check Out. The next step to take varies depending on which format you’ve chosen. Refer to HELP if you have questions.

There are many more details to learn about eBooks and their checkout, but the best way to learn is to give it a try and ask questions. Our staff is happy to answer you in person, by phone, or by email. Also, don’t forget about the hands on Getting Started with eBooks program happening this Saturday, January 12th.

So dig in and enjoy. You may not like this manner of reading, but then again it might turn out to be the best thing since sliced motherboard.

Ron

EBooks at the Everett Public Library

EBooks are a relatively new thing in the history of written stuff. Sure, there were clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, and hand-copied books for eons back in the mists of time, but even mass-produced printed books have been around for nearly 600 years. EBooks are scarcely a zygote.

In spite of this newbie status, the amount of titles available in this infant electronic format is increasing dramatically as the number of e-readers and tablets proliferate. And this trend will continue until the next technology comes along.

I am no Luddite, and in fact have worked on the slightly techy side of computers, but I did not see myself as a potential eBook reader. I like books, holding them, turning pages. Conversely, I don’t particularly enjoy staring at computer screens. But as free eBooks became available in libraries, I was lured by the siren call of near-infinite storage in something the size of a slim paperback. No more vacations with backpacks full of books! No more wondering if the pantry should be filled with food or overflowing stacks of books!

Initially, I feared that the library would carry only best-seller eBooks rather than titles suited to my quirky tastes. However, after thoroughly exploring the catalog, I can state unequivocally that this is not the case.  Everett Public Library currently has over 3,000 electronic books including fiction in all genres, kid’s books, young-adult, and non-fiction ranging from history to cooking to biographies.  Here are a few of the titles I founds while browsing for eBooks in the EPL catalogue.

 Lady cyclist
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
Historical fiction
Available as an eBook, book, large-print book, and audiodisc
In 1923, two sisters, one devout and the other not-so-much, journey to be missionaries on the ancient Silk Road.

Hedys folly
Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes
Biography, history
Available as an eBook, book, and audiodisc
Yes Virginia, Hedy Lamarr was an inventor who created the technology that became the basis for cell phones, Wi-Fi and other devices commonplace to modern life. This book tells of her adventures with inventing partner George Antheil, an avant-garde composer known to use airplanes and other machinery in his compositions. High on my to-read list.

The dead gentleman 
The Dead Gentleman by Matthew Cody
Juvenile fiction
Available only as an eBook
A hole through time, zombies, steampunk, a bad guy called the Dead Gentleman, and two kids from different eras attempting to save the world.

 Hawaii
Fodor’s 2012 Hawai’i
Travel guide
Available only as an eBook
 
billy the kid

Billy the Kid and the Vampyres of Vegas: A Lost Story from the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
YA Fiction, short story
Available only as an eBook
Billy the Kid, who is an immortal, and Scathach the Shadow join forces to defeat vampyres who control Las Vegas.

 Mirage
Mirage by Matt Ruff
Fiction
Available as an eBook and a book
Matt Ruff is one of my favorite authors, but I’d be the first to say that he’s not for everyone. His books tend toward the surreal, being full of twists and unlikely situations. Mirage takes the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers and turns it on its head, with Christian fundamentalist terrorists attacking the benevolent Muslim states.

Happy Healthy Monsters 
Happy Healthy Monsters:  Good Night, Tucked In Tight by Naomi Kleinberg
Children’s picture book
Available only as an eBook
Grover and Elmo teach toddlers and their parents the importance of ample sleep.

City of Ember
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Juvenile fiction
Available as an eBook, book, AudioEBook, audiodisc, playaway and DVD

The last refuge for humanity, the city of Ember, seems to be in peril. Lina and her friend Doon try to decipher an ancient message to save the city.

George F  
George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
Biography, politics
Available as an eBook, book, and AudioEBook
A look at the work of this key figure who battled to help America survive the Cold War.

Richard Scarry
Richard Scarry’s Bedtime Stories by Richard Scarry
Children’s picture book
Available as an eBook and a book

Stay tuned for an informative post on how to check this great stuff out from the library. And don’t forget about our hands on eBook instruction session coming up on Saturday, January 12th.

Ron

Unfinished Books and Other Natterings

Reasons why one might not finish a book:

  • It’s poorly written
  • Title includes words “shades of”
  • Not in the mood for it
  • Voices in my head keep arguing over subtext
  • Story is not interesting
  • Nocturnal proclivities leave little time for legal endeavors

Lately as I find my reading habits changing, i.e. I read a palette of books simultaneously rather than a single title at a time, I find myself not finishing more books than ever. I used to abide by an unwritten code that once a book was started it would be finished, no matter how horrid it be. Now I subscribe to the pasta-cooking-method of book choice: Throw a bunch against the wall and see what sticks.

So today I will present some books that I started but did not finish, as well as the reason(s) behind this lack of follow-through. Since my goal in general is to get people excited about reading, not to write scathing reviews that lead to paper-related nightmares (or electron-related for the more tech-savvy), I approach this task more as an exercise in why we stop reading certain books, not as a critique of the titles discussed. And, if you the reader have enjoyed one of these stories, I encourage you to prove me wrong and to publicly humiliate me.

It won’t be the first time.

 Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart  
This is a book that I actually enjoyed quite a bit, the only strike against it being its depressive atmosphere. The main character is a bit of a loser, has trouble with relationships, and the America he lives in is scary in a just-a-small-sideways-step-from-our-current-country way. I have to be in just the right mood for gloomy, and at the time I was reading this book I was not. Someday I do plan on finishing this title and I would recommend it to others.

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time by Jeff Deck  
I had high hopes for this title. The premise, one that I’m finding in an increasing number of books, is that a young man graduates from college, realizes that he has no employable skills, and so decides to have an adventure and write a book about it. His quest: traversing the United States looking for typos in signs, menus, etc., and confronting those responsible in an attempt to correct the typos. Having a soft spot for humorous travel books, I thought this would be right in my reading wheelhouse. Unfortunately, I found that the premise wore thin quickly, the author often avoided confrontation (thereby losing opportunities for humor), and thus the book failed for me.

And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer  
As I write this I realize that I treat the sanctity of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker trilogy as some treat the veracity of the Bible: One simply doesn’t mess with it. To take this ridiculous analogy farther (or further), God would not ask, for example, an atheist (let’s call him Ned) to write The Book of Ned, Newest Book in the Bible! Now I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Colfer; I’ve never read any of his other works. But to attempt an addition to Adams’ series, one must have an enormous wit, one that at least rivals that of Adams. Here Colfer falls flat with humor that seems quite forced and not so clever. Having said that, this book probably stood no chance with me as I view it as an effrontery to all that is good and moral (don’t mess with my canon!).

So  overall we’re left with a good book that I read at the wrong time, a disappointing book that didn’t live up to its expectations, and an abomination that should not have seen the light of day (again, apologies to Mr. Colfer; this is just my psychotic prattling). If you enjoyed any of these titles, defend them! Convince other readers that these tomes are worth their precious time.

As a final point of moralizing and sermonizing, this is one of the beauties of libraries: one can check out books for no cost, books that one would never dream of purchasing, and see if redeeming qualities exist within their pages. Or, on the other side of the coin, find some good talking points to scathingly rip apart the latest Paris Hilton of literature.

And please, whatever you do, keep reading, stretch yourself, seek out books you might not like. Then write about them in your own blog.

Ron

What’s on Ron’s Bookshelf?

Today we answer that age-old question, “What’s on Ron’s Bookshelf?” Some people take too much food at a meal because their eyes are bigger than their stomach. I check out far more books than I can actually read because I want to look important and smart.

Rather than tell you about each of the books, I will tell you why they ended up on my bookshelf.  If you’re interested in further details click on a link to go to the library’s catalog, which is chalk full of information about each title.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s on Ron’s bookshelf.

The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow  
I enjoyed Saintcrow’s series about Jill Kismet, exorcist and demon slayer, not a read that would typically interest me. If Saintcrow can engage me in a topic I don’t care about, then The Iron Wyrm Affair, a novel of Victorian steampunk, should be a shoo-in.

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma  
A review of The Map of the Sky by the same author made reference to this first book in the series. Upon further investigation I discovered a mix of time travel, H. G. Wells and Jack the Ripper, and seriously, what more can a fellow ask for?

Scorch by Gina Damico  
A glowing review lead me to Croak, the first book in this trilogy (Scorch is second) about grim reapers, their jobs and living conditions. Funny and touching, exciting and poignant. Hoping for more of the same in this follow-up.

Five Novels of the 1940s & 50s by David Goodis  
Recently I’ve developed a strong interest in pulp and noir. Goodis is an author I’d not heard of before and I ran across him in research. The stories in this collection are reputed to be superior examples of the genre.

The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper  
Victorian England, a plague, zombies, clockwork automatons, pirates…


Guys & Dolls: The Stories of Damon Runyon
by Damon Runyon
No one else uses language or creates a bygone time like Runyon. It is a delight to experience his prose, characters and unforgettable stories.

So You Created a Wormhole: A Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel by Phil Hornshaw  
This humorous look at the science behind time travel theory provides heady knowledge as well as entertainment. And gossip about Einstein.

False Negative by Joseph Koenig  
Recently the Hard Case Crime series has re-released older pulp/noir classics as well as new or unpublished stories. The recently-penned False Negative is the first book by this critically acclaimed author in 20 years.

Death Warmed Over: Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. by Kevin J. Anderson 
This is a book I found whilst browsing. Why did I choose it? Three words: Zombie. P. I.

How to Sharpen Pencils by David Rees  
I encountered this book in a review and its quirky humor appealed to me. Little did I know that it is perhaps the funniest book in existence. The dry text takes an exhaustive and authoritative look at the artisanal craft of pencil sharpening. You will never need another book on the subject.

The Diviners by Libba Bray  
I recently finished Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, a humorous look at beauty pageants, and it was one of the more entertaining books I’ve read in some time. The Diviners looks like an entirely different beast, focusing on occult-based murders in 1926.

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine  
Ballantine’s first book, Phoenix Rising, was one of my favorite’s of 2011. It’s a rip-roaring, dynamite ‘splodin’, secret agent whirlwind set in a steampunk Victorian England. I have eagerly awaited the sequel.

So now you know what’s on my bookshelf. Feel free to share your own bookshelf denizens with me. Perhaps we can get together to discuss some titles once I’m done building my time machine.

Ron