2018 National Library Week: Today’s Libraries

Image result for inside of an old public library
This is what many of us middle-agers think of when anyone mentions the public libraries of yesteryear. However, libraries have come a long way in the last decade.

With the advent and proliferation of electronic devices and e-readers, the printed book has taken a back seat. Because of this, libraries have had to make changes, adjust attitudes, and open a whole new bag of tricks to keep patrons interested and engaged.

Image result for state of the art libraryTrendsetting libraries are moving from a storage facility for books and periodicals to interactive community centers. Games like PokemonGO gave many stagnant libraries the perfect incentive to shake off a dusty coat and engage mentally and physically with a new generation.

Libraries are not just about reading, but bring information in many forms, provide safe spaces to engage in conversations, debates, and roundtable discussions. Robust genealogy collections help generations get in touch with their past, while hands-on science and art rooms help young ones dream of the future.

Libraries are converting vacant box stores (like WalMart buildings) into beautiful, warm, comfortable, and exciting libraries. But it takes money and time. And money, lots of it. Support your library and encourage its growth and direction by being an active patron.

2018 National Library Week: Knowledge is Power!

Image result for knowledge is power

You’ve heard it before: knowledge is power. The most entertaining way to gain knowledge is to read. You don’t have to read a physics book or the history of the Roman Empire to get smart! Any book engages your brain on many different levels, and helps you think, create, and expand your level of understanding.

Head to your local library today and check out some books on your interests.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #6)
Summary:

In the newest addition to the universally beloved No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the charming and ever-resourceful Precious Ramotswe finds herself overly beset by problems. She is already busier than usual at the detective agency when added to her concerns are a strange intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and the baffling appearance of a pumpkin. And then there is Mma Makutsi, who decides to treat herself to dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man who seems to have two left feet. Nor are things running quite as smoothly as they usually do at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe’s husband, the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is overburdened with work even before one of his apprentices runs off with a wealthy woman. But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe’s normally unshakable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a secret from her past. . . .

My take: 5 looks

I adore this series by McCall Smith, “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”. I love the name of the main character, Precious. I love that she considers herself a “traditionally built woman”. I love that she has such pride in her homeland. Everything. I love it all.

In this installment, we get to know more about the main characters, as well as being introduced to what I hope will be recurring faces. This is among the best of the “cozy mystery”, and I will read them as long as they are written.

Highly recommended.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Summary:

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

My take: 5 looks

Everything about this book is a breath of fresh air. The story of a night where spirits welcome the young Willie Lincoln to the cemetery. It becomes apparent that many of them do not realize they are dead, and as they become increasingly aware, it is both traumatic and funny.

The genius here is the story being told using historical text and perceived ghostly musings in tandem. Every comment is attributed to its source. With the insight of the historical records and the reflections of the spirits, the story is beautifully full and packed with feeling.

For example, the ghosts are used to seeing mourners come to the burial, then perhaps return a few times, only to trickle to never visiting again after a time. When Willie’s father comes to the burial site, looks at his son, and takes the little lifeless body into his arms, the ghosts are awash in love and respect for this father. One comments, ” We were perhaps not so unlovable as we had come to believe.”

The dawning on both Lincolns that Willie is not coming back, as well as the true situation dawning on the spirits, impact the story with a gentle but unwavering look at the reality of death, acceptance of it, and moving on from it.

This is a book that I will buy to read again and again. Highly recommended.

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Summary:

An obsessive young woman has been waiting half her life—since she was twelve years old—for this moment. She has planned. Researched. Trained. Imagined every scenario. Now she is almost certain the man who kidnapped and murdered her sister sits in the passenger seat beside her.

Carl Louis Feldman is a documentary photographer. The young woman claims to be his long-lost daughter. He doesn’t believe her. He claims no memory of murdering girls across Texas, in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. She doesn’t believe him.
       
Determined to find the truth, she lures him out of a halfway house and proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip, just the two of them, to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs.

Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist? Or is she? Julia Heaberlin once again swerves the serial killer genre in a new direction. With taut, captivating prose, Heaberlin deftly explores the ghosts that live in our minds—and the ones that stare back from photographs. You won’t see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.

My take: 2 looks

It took me a while to read this one because I would get so frustrated with the main character that I had to put it down. Because I am reviewing this advanced reader copy from NetGalley, I felt compelled to pick it back up again and again to finish it.

For a woman who had been planning 1/2 of her life to track down a serial killer, she was remarkably ill-prepared and naïve. When she checks him out of a facility for dementia patients to take him on a cross country trip, they leave with a list of his “conditions”, to which he continues to add. What? Who is in charge here?

Her plan is to visit all of the places where she believes he killed, and see if there is any recognition in his eyes on where her sister may be. It is clear from the beginning that she has not thought this through, and that Carl is much smarter than she even on one of this bad days.

Frustrating, overly detailed, and anti-climatic, I can’t recommend this one when it is released in May 2018.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Hi-de-ho! Two in a row!

It is unusual for me to choose back-to-back books in which I invoke the “100-page rule”; but alas, there are too many (far, far too many) great books waiting for me to waste my precious reading time.

“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware is the first one. This one hit the stands in a blaze of hype, promising to be the next “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train”, as many do these days. And for some, it was that good. For me, not so much. My review is here.

The next one was more of a surprise because it’s been on my TBR for a while, and I have looked forward to reading it. “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami, originally written as three novellas in Murakami’s native Japanese, was translated to English and combined into one novel. My review is here.