Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mini Reviews: Confederates in the Attic, A Thousand Lives, and Malaria Dreams

book cover of Confederates in the attic by Tony Horwitz
Confederates in the Attic
by Tony Horwitz
Vintage, 1998
Non-Fiction (History)

Summary in a Sentence:

Tony Horwitz, a former war correspondent, tells of his journeys to Civil War battlefields and the colorful people he meets along the way.

Read it if...

you've ever noticed that the 'War Between the States' continues to live in so many issues still with us, or if you're simply a fan of good narrative non-fiction. 5 stars.

by Julia Scheeres
Free Press, 2011
Non-Fiction (Religion)

Summary in a Sentence:

Presents an account of how Jim Jones' followers who started out seeking a Utopian dream, soon found themselves trapped in a work camp run by a madman, and ended in the mass murder-suicide of 914 members in November 1978.

Read it if...

you remember what happened at Jonestown or have ever heard the phrase "don't drink the Kool-Aid" and were curious about its derivation. 3 stars.

book cover of Malaria Dreams by Stuart Stevens
Malaria Dreams
by Stuart Stevens
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989
Non-Fiction (Travel Writing)

Summary in a Sentence:

Recounts an adventure, by Stevens and a companion, across the wildest part of Africa that includes Cameroon, Lake Chad, Niger, Timbuktu, the Sahara, and ends at the shores of the Mediterranean.

Read it if...

you love armchair travel with hints of hilarity, or if you'd like to really know what Africa was like in the late 1980s. 5 stars.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Evil Question...

I'm shamelessly stealing this question from Barnes and Noble because it made me so angry...

If you could only read one author for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Let the games begin.

P.S. Mine's a tie between Roald Dahl and Jane Austen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Monstrosity Gazette: A Weekly Smattering of All Things Literary...

Bookish Quote of the Week:

The free access to information is not a privilege, but a necessity for any free society. … One of my favorite things to do as a young man was wander through the stacks of my hometown library.
-Ed Asner

Today in Literary History:

John Updike author
On this day in 1932 John Updike was born. In a writing career of almost fifty years and as many books, the five Rabbit novels (counting the 2000 novella, Rabbit Remembered) stand out as a bell tolling, at decade intervals, for Harry Angstrom and America. Two of them won Pulitzers; one of them was reviewed as a book "that one can set beside the work of Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, Joyce and not feel the draft."

For more, visit Today in Literature.

Bizarre Link of the Week:

Former library president admits stealing nearly $100K
The former president of Blue Mountain Community Library in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, admitted March 9 to stealing nearly $100,000, in a plea agreement under which his wife will be allowed to enter into a first-offender program. Over nine years, Richard Leidich used the public library’s funds to support himself, his wife, and his various business interests, pilfering $99,212 from it before he was caught....
Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, Mar. 9

Book I'm Eyeing this Week:

book cover of Gillespie and I by Jane Harris
Gillespie and I
by Jane Harris
Harper Perennial (January 31, 2012)

Summary in a Sentence: 

From the Orange Prize-nominated author of "The Observations" comes a sweeping literary novel of one young woman's friendship with a volatile artist and the controversy that consumes him.

Read the Reviews:

Savidge Readsnomadreader

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mini Reviews: Charlotte's Web, The Marriage Plot, Mornings in Jenin, and Friday Night Lights

Title: Charlotte's Web
Author: E.B. White
Publisher: Harper Collins, 1952

 Summary in a Sentence: Wilbur, the pig, is desolate when he discovers that he is destined to be the farmer's Christmas dinner until his spider friend, Charlotte, decides to help him.

My Thoughts:
Ah, where do I start? This book was a life-shaping force in the early years of my life. So many memories flooded back to me as I re-read it for the first time in almost 20 years. I actually re-read the exact copy I first opened in fourth grade, and was tickled to see all the underlined words that I looked up for vocabulary activities at school. All I can say is that if you've somehow gotten this far in life without reading this book, fix it. Now.

Title: The Marriage Plot
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011

Summary in a Sentence: English major Madeleine Hanna must choose between two suitors while working on her senior thesis on the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.

My Thoughts:
The Marriage Plot is a coming-of-age tale, a travel narrative, and a story of dealing with mental illness, with some literary criticism and 80s pop-culture references thrown in for good measure. Most of all, it's an enjoyable, readable, character-driven, multi-layered novel that will satisfy those looking for a good story as well as those who want to read a little deeper.  Recommended for fans of literary fiction, Jonathan Franzen in particular. For an in-depth review, check out Things Mean a Lot.

Title: Mornings in Jenin
Author: Susan Abulhawa
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2010

Summary in a Sentence: Four generations of a Palestinian family struggle to survive during more than sixty years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, finding themselves on both sides of the fighting.

My Thoughts:
I started this book knowing embarrassingly little about the history of Palestine and Israel. At first, I was a little intimidated, especially when I opened the book to see a diagram of characters to keep them straight. Nevertheless, Nancy Pearl suggested it, and Nancy Pearl is my rockstar librarian hero, so I left any doubts in the dust and read on. It was an intense, sometimes hard to read novel that planted a seed of curiosity about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict within me. I definitely want to read more on the subject, preferably non-fiction next time for balance.Check out Aarti's review over at BookLust.

Title: Friday Night Lights
Author: H.G. Bissinger
Publisher: Addison-Wesley, 1990

Summary in a Sentence: Follows the 1988 season of the Permian Panthers, a high school football team in Odessa, Texas, exploring the lives of the players and the impact of the championship team on the small town.

My Thoughts:
Bissinger is a genius. Why, you may ask? Because, dear readers, I have absolutely no interest in football whatsoever. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Despite this severe lack of interest, I couldn't stop reading this book! To say it is a book about a high school football team is very misleading; it is so much more. It also deals with economic diversity, race, and tradition. For example, Permian High, one of the main high schools in Odessa, TX, and the focus of Bissinger's work, was integrated just 8 years before the book was written in 1990. Bissinger's book is a character study of the citizens of Odessa, as well as a commentary on the history and interpersonal relations of this small town.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Books by Theme: If you liked The Hunger Games

    "And may the odds be ever in your favor!"
    ~ from Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games
    I thought a Hunger Games-esque post would be just the ticket in light of the upcoming movie. I know pretty much everyone and their brother has already read the trilogy. If you read it, liked it, and need more of it, check out the books below.

    book cover of Enclave by Ann Aguirre
    by Ann Aguirre
    Feiwel & Friends, 2011

    In the aftermath of war and plague, most of New York City's survivors have moved underground, establishing enclaves where they eke out an existence and hide from zombie-like Freaks. After 15-year-old Deuce, an enclave-dweller, earns the rank of Huntress, she is paired with a mysterious outsider named Fade...and the two of them discover a secret that could destroy their precarious society. While there are hints of a possible romance between Deuce and Fade, this violent, gritty, and suspenseful read will appeal most to those who like the world-building and pulse-pounding action of the Hunger Games books.

    book cover of Ashes by Ilsa Bick
    by Ilsa Bick
    Edgmont, 2011(Thanks for the suggestion, Sandra!)

    Seventeen-year-old Alex is on a solo camping trip in the woods (and playing hooky from her seemingly pointless chemo treatments) when a series of electromagnetic pulses renders all technology useless, kills most of Earth's population, and turns many of those left alive into ravenous, bloodthirsty cannibals. But Alex isn't entirely alone; she teams up with an eight-year-old girl and a young soldier on leave who, like her, weren't transformed by the pulses, and the three of them fight together for survival. Terrifying and exhilarating, this rather gruesome read is one that fans of the darker bits of The Hunger Games (or similar blends of world-building and action, such as James Dashner's The Maze Runner) will devour.

    book cover of The Unidentified by Rae Mariz
    by Rae Mariz
    Balzer & Bray, 2010

    Hunger Games fans who are fascinated by the culture of Capitol residents will be drawn in by this thought-provoking novel, in which schools of the future are taken over by corporations and housed in shopping malls. With no interest in being "branded" like the popular kids, whose every move is observed and tallied by advertisers as market research, nonconformist teen Katey "Kid" Dade looks for -- and finds -- others like her who want to buck the system. But can she really trust them? Suspenseful and full of great characters, The Unidentified will keep you turning the pages right up to its end.

    book cover of Divergent by Veronica Roth
    by Veronica Roth
    Katherine Tegen Books, 2011 (thanks mom!)

    In this book's far-future, post-apocalyptic Chicago, everyone belongs to one of five factions, each named for the virtue that its members devote their lives to cultivating: Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Dauntless (bravery), Amity (peacefulness), and Erudite (intelligence). At 16, all citizens choose their permanent factions, and Beatrice Prior has just shocked her family by rejecting Abnegation to become Dauntless. But in order to join the ranks of the bold and brave, she'll first have to survive their brutal initiation...and keep a secret that could cost her life. Combining thrills, action, and violence with heady romance, Divergent is a great pick for fans of the Hunger Games trilogy.

    Books by Theme was inspired by both Melissa at One Librarians Book Reviews's feature Listless Monday and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Libraries in the News

    “I saw in the news about Penguin pulling ebooks. Why are publishers such poopyheads to you guys?”

    -Los Angeles librarian Shayera Tangri relaying in a tweet an actual statement by a patron, Feb. 13. 

    Harry Potter ebooks coming to schools, libraries
    Opening up the Harry Potter books for a new generation of readers, OverDrive announced February 27 that it has worked out a deal with J. K. Rowling’s Pottermore to bring the series to e-readers in school and public libraries. The books will be available on Kindle readers, any e-reader that uses the ePub format, and OverDrive apps for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone....
    Washington Post, Feb. 27; OverDrive, Feb. 27

    The Mad Men reading list
    Billy Parrott writes: “In preparation for the long-awaited return of Mad Men, I’d like to present the revised Mad Men reading list, which will be updated as books appear in new episodes. Details on literary references will continue in the comments field. As mentioned in my original blog post, some of the books on the list are featured more prominently in the series than others but all are a great way to gain insight into the episodes and the social and cultural times in which the series is set.”...

    NYPL Blogs, Feb. 27

    Calling all superhero librarians
    Gale, part of Cengage Learning, has launched the second annual “Are You a Librarian Superhero?” contest to recognize the efforts put forth by librarians around the country. Looking to build on the success of last year’s contest, during which more than 800 nominations were received, Gale is again calling on fellow librarians, library patrons, students, and school administrators to nominate a superhero librarian who is making a real difference for their library and community....
    Cengage Learning, Feb. 27

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Celebrate Seuss

    Here are some highlights from our school's Seuss door decorating contest for his birthday celebration on March 2nd...

    Dr. Seuss Foot Book Elementary Door Decorating Contest

    Dr. Seuss There's a Wocket in my Pocket Door Decorating Contest Read Across America

    Thing 2 Cupcake Dr. Seuss

    Lorax Dr. Seuss

    Dr. Seuss Lorax decorations for elementary classroom
    That would be me modeling my Thing hat...

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