Sunday, December 30, 2012

Blood Lance by Jeri Westerson

I am a big fan of Jeri Westerson's Crispin Guest novels (the current title is Book 5).  With her extensive knowledge of medieval England, she makes fourteenth-century London come alive.  Containing well developed characters and a wealth of period detail this book is another fascinating and entertaining entry in the series.

Disgraced former knight Crispin Guest witnesses a body falling from the uppermost part of London Bridge.  He tries to save the man, but is too late.  Witnesses on the street say they believe it was a suicide, but Crispin does not believe that.  As he investigates the death of the man (who turns out to be an armorer who had a shop on the bridge), he is even more convinced that murder was afoot.  Crispin's hunt for the murderer also involves a friend or two from Crispin's old life, a search for the Spear of Longinus (the spear that pierced the side of Christ on the cross—which is believed to make those who possess it invincible), and a rousing joust on London Bridge.

A very pleasurable read indeed.  There is even a nice little Afterword in the book from Ms. Westerson giving us a little more background on the Holy Spear (or the Spear of Destiny/Spear of Longinus) and some fleshing out of some of the historical characters, as well as a bit more about PTSD and the idea that knights suffered from it.  Fascinating.

Am very much looking forward to Book 6, Shadow of the Alchemist, which will be released in the Fall of 2013.

Friday, December 21, 2012

This book is a publishing phenomenon, selling 1.8 million copies to date.  It has spent (so far) 20 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list (including 8 weeks in the number one spot for hardcover fiction). 

This is the basic plot of the book:  Nick and Amy Dunne celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary.  In the midst of the celebration, Amy disappears.  Of course, the suspicion falls on Nick, who is a compendium of deceits and inappropriate behavior--but is he a killer? With his twin sister at his side, Nick proclaims his innocence, and even Amy's fiercely doting parents are on his side.  But as the police investigation proceeds, we find that it is not only Nick that has huge cracks in his golden boy persona, but Amy may not be the golden girl everyone thought she was either.

That is pretty much all I can tell you about the book without giving away too much, because this is a book that will take you on a terrifying roller coaster ride into the darkness of a disintegrating marriage, one characterized by betrayal, manipulation, toxicity, and true psychopathy.  I was horrified by these characters as the story progressed, but also fascinated by the unusually smart crafting of the plot by its author.

The good news is that Ms. Flynn is writing a screenplay in which Reese Witherspoon has signed on to produce and star as Amy.  No word yet on who will play the handsome Nick.  But after the runaway hit the book has become, I'm sure the movie will be a success as well.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons

I have been a fan of Leonard Cohen for many years now.  So I guess the thing I liked most about this book was getting a glimpse of what was happening in his personal life when he came up with all that gorgeous poetry of his.  This biography of the man behind Suzanne and Hallelujah is an examination of one of the most influential artists of our era. Written by music journalist Sylvie Simmons, it gives us an intimate look into the life of a man who at the height of his popularity entered a monastery above Los Angeles and reemerged for a sold out world tour almost 15 years later. His blending of poetry, fiction, and music has given him an audience that has spanned four decades and earned him a place in the culture that is second only to Bob Dylan. Cohen was honored (along with Chuck Berry) as the recipient of the first annual PEN Award for songwriting excellence in February of 2012. An insightful portrait of a man blessed with vision, depth, and talent, and a gorgeous turn of phrase.

One of my favorites of Leonard's...Dance Me to the End of Love
And another one of my favorites from Leonard...
The ponies run, the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat.
You win a while, and then it's done ¨c
Your little winning streak.
And summoned now to deal
With your invincible defeat,
You live your life as if it's real,
A thousand kisses deep.

I'm turning tricks, I'm getting fixed,
I'm back on boogie street.
You lose your grip, and then you slip
Into the masterpiece.
And maybe I had miles to drive,
And promises to keep:
You ditch it all to stay alive,
A thousand kisses deep.

And sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go,
A thousand kisses deep.

Confined to sex, we pressed against
The limits of the sea:
I saw there were no oceans left
For scavengers like me.
I made it to the forward deck.
I blessed our remnant fleet
And then consented to be wrecked,
A thousand kisses deep.

I'm turning tricks, I'm getting fixed,
I'm back on boogie street.
I guess they won't exchange the gifts
That you were meant to keep.
And quiet is the thought of you,
The file on you complete,
Except what we forgot to do,
A thousand kisses deep.

And sometimes when the night is slow,
The wretched and the meek,
We gather up our hearts and go,
A thousand kisses deep.

The ponies run, the girls are young,
The odds are there to beat . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tumblr to Follow

Okay, this is kind of a girl thing (sorry guys)...but it does fit into my whole theme of everything "book" related.  Being a girly girl and loving my nail polish...but also being a bibliophile extraordinaire, I found a tumblr that combines both loves.  All you gals out there that are like minded...check this one out. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

Jepp left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakable fate.  He manages to escape from the palace, but is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Spirited across Europe in a kidnapper’s carriage, Jepp fears where his unfortunate stars may lead him. But he can't even begin to imagine the brilliant and eccentric new master—a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars—who awaits him. Or the girl who will help him mend his heart and unearth the long-buried secrets of his past.

This is a young adult historical novel written from a dwarf's perspective, which I found extremely interesting and engaging.  The author managed to keep her characters entirely in their time period, with no modernity creeping in.  And, there is real history incorporated into her fiction, which she tells us all about in an Author's note at the back of the book.

The real Jepp served the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe as his dwarf jester.  Diego Velazquez (a 17th century painter) did several portraits of court dwarfs like the one depicted below.

Court Dwarf Don Antonio el Ingles

There is a long history of dwarfs serving royal courts around the world.  Some held positions of power or prestige, but many more were collected as status symbols, mocked, and treated cruelly.  The indignities that Jepp and his fellow dwarfs suffer are not, sadly, fictional--but a composite of actual accounts from Renaissance-era European courts.

 I'm taking an astronomy class right now, where I learned about Tycho Brahe--a most interesting fellow--so, I especially loved reading Marsh's characterization of him.  Born into a powerful family of Danish nobles, Tycho developed a passion for astronomy--and its sister art of astrology.  When King Frederick awarded Tycho the island of Hven in the Oresund Strait to build an observatory, Uraniborg (or the Castle of the Heavens) was created.  In this castle was running water (including an indoor fountain); state-of-the-art astronomical equipment (some of which Brahe designed); a system of pulleys and bells that could summon servants and scholars; exotic gardens; and so much more.  Tycho entertained himself and his staff with lavish banquets and actually had a beer-drinking pet moose (which is introduced in Marsh's book).

But the real star in this book is the self-deprecating voice of Jepp, who was a witness to the emerging world of science and astronomy, and was trying to find out who he was in the process--whether his fate was truly subject to the stars or perhaps subject to his own manipulation of destiny.  And where does love fall in this equation? You really must read Marsh's book--a magical tale of an unusual hero and his extraordinary quest to become the master of his own destiny.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This charming book set in Alaska in 1920 is the first novel by this author--though the wonderfully descriptive language was so rich, it was hard for me to believe that this was her first book.  However, she was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters.  She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper.  So, she knows her stuff!

Jack and Mabel, two homesteaders who are childless and drifting apart from the loneliness and weight of the work this environment entails just for survival, in a moment of levity after the season's first snowfall build a child out of snow.  The next morning, it is gone--but they find a young, blonde-haired girl who calls herself Faina.  She seems very comfortable and at home in the woods.  A real child of nature.  Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child--who really could have stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale--and they soon grow to love her.  Who is this child? Where does she come from? Is she real, or produced from the imagination of two lonely childless people in the middle of a harsh and unyielding landscape?

I won't give away any of the book's plot here, but the thing that permeates this book from start to finish are the lovely descriptions of the harsh magical environment of Alaska--the spartan setting, the desperate struggle for existence, the river ice, pine boughs, mountain herbs, the smell of wet wool and blood, and the snow...always the snow.  You truly feel like you are right there experiencing everything this couple does.

I enjoyed this book very much, despite the fact that it is not really plot driven with the usual conflicts and tensions.  What it is though, is a large dose of magical realism wrapped up in a beautifully rendered story that is emotional and thought provoking.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Evidence by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of my favorite poets.  If you are not familiar with her poems, they are infused with the natural world and contain so much wisdom that they are a balm for my soul.  A couple of my favorites of hers are "The Summer Day" and "Wild Geese".  Google them and read them.  They'll give you a taste of what her delicious poems are like.  This collection is pretty much standard Mary.  A feast for the senses and emotions.  I highly recommend this, or any other collection of her poems.  Here's one of my favorites from this book:

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass


Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat
of the sweet grass?
Will the owl bite off its own wings?
Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or
forget to sing?
Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say - behold
the reliability and the finery and the teachings
of this gritty earth gift.


Eat bread and understand comfort.
Drink water, and understand delight.
Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets
are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds
who are drinking the sweetness, who are
thrillingly gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.
Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.
Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone's face, whom you love, will be as a star
both intimate and ultimate,
and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.
And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:
oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two
beautiful bodies of your lungs….


Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,
The dancer, the potter,
To make me a begging bowl
Which I believe
My soul needs.

And if I come to you,
To the door of your comfortable house
With unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,
Will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance.
I would like to give you this chance.


We do one thing or another; we stay the same, or we change.
Congratulations, if
You have changed.

Let me ask you this.
Do you also think that beauty exists for some fabulous reason?

And if you have not been enchanted by this adventure-
Your life-
What would do for you?


What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.
Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.
That was many years ago.
Since then I have gone out from my confinements,
though with difficulty.
I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.
I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.
They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment
somehow or another).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.
I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.
I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.
And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?
Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

Okay, I admit it.  I'm a Neil Young fan and that was my main reason for reading this book--which by the way, I found interesting.  It is a book suffused with comments about loss and aging and its author is not a high faluting author, just an old rocker who has some things to say.  He says them in a stream of consciousness style, jumping around in time a lot as he's telling you his story.  But it was interesting to learn a bit about how he was raised and the kinds of experiences he has had that played themselves out in his music.  He also tells you a great deal about his ideas about improving the sound of today's music by restoring high resolution digital music.  If you are not a Neil Young fan, I'm not sure this book would hold your interest--but if you are a fan of his music, you'll enjoy this back story.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

Edward Warren has been living in Thailand for several years, after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke.  He gets a frantic phone call from his mother, in which he learns that his Dad lies comatose in a hospital, gravely injured in a car accident that also involved his younger sister Cara.  He quickly returns to the United States.  Luke is an animal conservationist who became famous after living with a wolf pack in the wilds of Canada.  It's impossible for his children to reconcile the broken man in the hospital bed with their dynamic father.  When doctors say Luke's chances of recovery are practically nil, his daughter Cara hopes for a miracle.  But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father's organs.

With this book, Picoult examines the intersection between medical science and moral choices, and she manages to make us confront some provocative questions.  If we can keep people who have no hope for recovery alive artificially, should they also be allowed to die artificially? Does the potential to save somebody else's life with a donated organ balance the act of hastening another's death? When a father's life hangs in the balance, which sibling should get to decide his fate?

Jodi Picoult is known as a writer who deals with family, relationships, love, and so much more.  She is a meticulous researcher who says it drives her crazy as a reader when she catches authors in inaccuracies--so she is a stickler about it.  For Lone Wolf, she spent time with a man who lived in the wild with a wolf pack for a year (Shaun Ellis) – and got to meet some other wolves he has in captivity.  She recommends that you read his book "The Man Who Lives with Wolves," and tells you that if you want to learn more about wolves or sponsor wolves, you can contribute to The Wolf Centre and Foundation, where he continues to work to understand more about wolves and wolf behavior.  The website is

Her research into wolf biology, and the heirarchy and mentality of the pack makes the story all the more enjoyable.  It is also a compelling read because of its examination of a very complex subject that many families may have to deal with at some point.

It is well written, packs an emotional punch, and the family dynamics are handled quite well (this is a Picoult trademark).  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Death at Sea World: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity by David Kirby

As the subtitle of this book explains, this is an examination of the dark side of keeping highly intelligent and social creatures like killer whales in captivity.

Award winning investigative journalist David Kirby goes behind the scenes of the captive marine mammal industry to unravel the carefully constructed fantasy that the industry has spun, and we meet all the humans involved in capturing them, studying them, displaying them, and training them.  He takes you to the center of an international controversy where public sentiment, science, business and government concerns clash over the use of killer whales in entertainment.  Contrasting the lives of wild orcas at sea with orcas in confinement dealing with the stress of capture as well as confinement (which can turn them into sick, unstable, aggressive animals) we look at the true costs of holding the ocean's top predator in captivity.

Kirby also details the deaths of trainers like Dawn Brancheau (a beloved and experienced trainer at SeaWorld Orlando) in 2010 and Alexis Martinez, a young spanish trainer who died in 2009.   It is a fascinating and shocking book that will help you decide where you stand on the issue of whales and dolphins in captivity.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Library Date Stamp artwork

Italian artist, Frederico Pietrella uses the art medium to illustrate the concept of time.  He uses library date stamps and takes a considerable amount of time to produce these images.  This link shows you some of his artwork and includes a short video about him as well.  Truly amazing stuff.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Doc by Mary Doria Russell

I loved this book from the very first sentences..."He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle.  The disease took fifteen years to hollow out his lungs so completely they could no longer keep him alive. In all that time, he was allowed a single season of something like happiness."

The story takes place in 1878 (three years before the shootout at the O. K. Corral).  Dodge City, Kansas, is a cow town where after the long, hard drive was over and the herds were delivered, weary cowboys could find entertainment that involved gambling, drinking, and hookers.  Violence is random and routine and it's all a part-time policeman named Wyatt Earp can do to keep it in check.  Then the burned body of a boy named Johnnie Sanders is discovered and the death seems of special importance to Doc Holliday, a frail dentist who has just started his practice in town.

The ALA gave this book its top pick in historical fiction for 2011, and Russell was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize with Doc--and now I see why.  Whatever your image of Doc Holliday was before diving into this book, I guarantee you will come away from this reading with an admiration and respect for Russell's depiction of the educated Southern gentleman who formed an unlikely friendship with the Earp brothers and was so much more than the gunman and gambler that most of us remember from the O.K. Corral. 

Russell has a knowledge of 5 or 6 languages and it is refreshing to see some of that language facility used as dialogue for her characters.  Doc's "roommate," a high-strung Hungarian whore spouts Magyar, German, French, and Latin.  The writing is superb, the research is thorough, the characterizations are rich.  The book is full of humor and just soars with beautifully written and engaging dialogue.  You really must read this book!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Librarian tattoos

Thanks to Mental Floss, here are 11 Amazing Librarian tattoos.  If I had a tatt, I'd probably do a literary quote in some obscure place, but I admit I was amazed by these...especially the one with the card catalog.  Wow!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lincoln's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly and Dwight Jon Zimmerman

Lincoln's last days is one of the most dramatic stories in American history--how one gunshot changed the country forever.  This book was adapted from Bill O'Reilly's bestselling Killing Lincoln, but is a wonderful book for children and adults alike.  It is filled with abundant illustrations (including period photographs), maps, and art.  In the back of the book there is a Recommended Reading list, as well as Recommended Websites, Recommended DVD viewing, Twenty Important and Interesting Facts about the Civil War, and a section on Finding Lincoln in the Nation's Capital Today.  It is history that reads like a thriller. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Redshirts by John Scalzi

I absolutely loved this book.  First of all, I love Scalzi's writing--I find him hilarious.  And second of all, there is a huge emotional payoff as the story unfolds. 

I also love Joe Hill's comment on the back of the book:  "Redshirts is (a) ruin-your-underwear funny, (b) a mind-bender sure to Philip K. Dick you over, and (c) absurdly rich in ideas and feeling.  John Scalzi sets his imagination to STUN and scores a direct hit.  Read on and prosper." (Stephen King's son can be pretty funny himself).

Here's the basic premise of the story.  Andrew Dahl is assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid.  The year is 2456.  He's thrilled to be assigned to the ship's xenobiology laboratory with the chance to serve on "Away Missions" alongside the starship's famous senior officers.  But soon crew members start comparing notes and realize that every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation, the ship's Captain, Science Officer, and handsome Lieutenant always survive these confrontations, and at least one low-ranked crew member doesn't. 

[This scenario should be immediately recognizable to any Star Trek fan.  The title of the book comes from the color of the shirts of these expendable crew members whose only job was to be killed in a spectacular way (and Star Trek came up with some very creative ways for these crew members to die), so that Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley would have a body to emote over, and the action/adventure element of the TV show would be furthered. ]

The savvier members of the Intrepid start avoiding Away Missions at all costs.  Then Dahl stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his crew members understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and the craziness begins.

It is what Scalzi does with this craziness that is really interesting.  This is where he uses his doctorate in psychology (that he received from the University of Chicago) and takes us into weird territory.  I don't want to give anything away, so that you enjoy every delicious twist and turn of his narrative.  But I must say that the three Codas at the end of the book made me cry.  Really cry.  No surprise there, as Scalzi said he cried when writing them.

Funny science fiction hasn't really been in vogue since The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Maybe the success of this book will let the powers that be know that there is a huge audience for it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crossing the Sea of Knowledge

Art by Francis Minoza and Laurence Minoza (based in Cebu Philippines).

Gone With the Wind

A 1938 copy of Gone With the Wind (signed by almost all of the movie's cast, as well as the Director and Producer) sold for $135,300 at auction recently, according to The Hollywood Reporter

My kind of stage

Courtesy of BuzzFeed, pictures of a music festival stage in Belgium that has created pure magic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Book by Edgar A. Guest

“Now” - said a good book unto me -
“Open my pages and you shall see
Jewels of wisdom and treasures fine,
Gold and silver in every line,
And you may claim them if you but will
Open my pages and take your fill.

“Open my pages and run them o’er,
Take what you choose of my golden store.
Be you greedy, I shall not care -
All that you seize I shall gladly spare;
There is never a lock on my treasure doors,
Come - here are my jewels, make them yours!

“I am just a book on your mantel shelf,
But I can be part of your living self;
If only you’ll travel my pages through,
Then I will travel the world with you.
As two wines blended make better wine,
Blend your mind with these truths of mine.

“I’ll make you fitter to talk with men,
I’ll touch with silver the lines you pen,
I’ll lead you nearer the truth you seek,
I’ll strengthen you when your faith grows weak -
This place on your shelf is a prison cell,
Let me come into your mind to dwell!”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bladorthin the Grey?

Loved this bit from Mental Floss, naming 17 famous literary characters who were almost named something else.  Bladorthin the Grey just doesn't have the same ring to it that Gandalf does.  See what you think of the others.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

She was two feet, eight inches tall, but Mercy Lavinia Bump (or Mrs. Tom Thumb) was a nineteenth century icon.  Vinnie was born on October 31, 1841 in Middleborough, Massachusetts, to a family of good standing.  All of her siblings (except for her younger sister, Minnie) were normal sized.  Vinnie had a form of proportionate dwarfism (probably caused by a pituitary disorder).  She had a very loving and normal childhood, even teaching school for a short time.  She left home to appear on a floating palace of curiosities and eventually crossed paths with P. T. Barnum.  Barnum introduced her to General Tom Thumb and their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens.  They traveled the globe, met Brigham Young, and were among the first passengers on the new Union Pacific railroad linking the country and also among the very first Americans of any size to travel to the new colony of Australia.  This is a novel of the Gilded Age and one woman's public triumphs and personal tragedies.  After you've read the book, you may want to explore The Lost Museum which reconstructs Barnum's American Museum in an interactive fashion, and also provides much history about Barnum and his various performers.

Vinnie died in 1919 at the age of 78,  She was a remarkable person, who never let her size define her.

Justin Rowe, Book Sculptor

Justin Rowe is a Book Sculptor whose work is cut free hand with a scalpel and assembled with gum Arabic.  Here's a link to a fairytale exhibit he has done, and another link to an article that explores his amazing talent.  Enjoy.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bookends of the Earth

These sculptural bookends by Chicago-based artist Garth Borovicka cleverly utilize the layers of wood and the growth rings within to symbolize the sedimentary layers of the Earth. They compare microcosms and macrocosms, exploring the similarities of naturally occurring patterns on small and large scales.  In both instances these patterns represent the passage of time on either a relatively short span or a massive one. As a further play with the theme of scale, each set is cut from a larger landscape built by the artist. When displayed as bookends they make reference to the life cycle of a tree and its various uses.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Epilogue: The Future of Print

This is a student documentary project exploring the world of print.  It will stir your thoughts and hopefully elicit discussion about the immersive reading experience and the lost craft of the book arts.  It is for people who are still passionate about reading on paper.

Library e books

While three-quarters of the nation's public libraries now offer e-book lending services, their patrons may still lack awareness of the full range of options available. A phone survey of 2,986 Americans--ages 16 and older--conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project from November 16 to December 21, 2011, found that only 12% had borrowed an e-book from a library during the previous year and 62% did not know whether their library offered e-book lending (our library does free downloads/click here icon on the left).
According to the survey, 58% of respondents have a library card and 69% consider the library important to them and their family. Also of note:
  • 58% of all library cardholders do not know if their library provides e-book lending services.
  • 53% of all tablet computer owners do not know if their library lends e-books.
  • 48% of all owners of e-book reading devices do not know if their library lends e-books.
  • 47% of all those who read an e-book in the past year do not know if their library lends e-books.
"It was a genuine surprise to see these data, especially after all of the attention that has been paid to the tension between libraries and major book publishers about whether many of the most popular books should be available for lending by libraries," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project.

The Pew survey found that e-book borrowers read an average (the mean number) of 29 borrowed or purchased books during the past year in all formats (e-book, printed book, audiobook), compared to 23 books for readers who do not borrow e-books from a library. The median (midpoint) figures for books reportedly read are 20 in the past year by e-book borrowers and 12 by non-borrowers.

Asked about the most recent book they had read, 41% of those who borrow e-books from libraries purchased their most recent e-book.

Among e-book readers who also have library cards, 55% prefer to buy e-books, while 36% prefer borrowing them from any source (friends or libraries). For library card holders, 46% prefer to buy print books and 45% prefer to borrow print books. When it comes to e-book borrowers, 33% say they generally prefer to buy e-books and 57% say they generally prefer to borrow them.

Regarding e-title availability, 32% of e-book borrowers say the selection at their library is "good," 18% "very good" and 16% "excellent," with 23% calling the selection "fair," 4% "poor" and 8% saying they don’t know.

Other notable findings:

  • 18% of e-book borrowers say at one point or another they found that an e-book they were interested in was not compatible with the e-reading device they were using.
  • 46% of those who do not currently borrow e-books from libraries would be "very" or "somewhat" likely to borrow an e-reading device that came loaded with a book they wanted to read.
  • 32% of those who do not currently borrow e-books would be "very" or "somewhat" likely to take a library class on how to download e-books onto handheld devices.
  • 32% of those who do not currently borrow e-books say they would be "very" or "somewhat" likely to take a course at a library in how to use an e-reader or tablet computer.
Kathryn Zickuhr, a research specialist at the Pew Internet Project, said the findings suggest ways that libraries might be able to build awareness: "First, these data show that public education campaigns might add to the numbers of those who are aware that e-books can be borrowed and enjoyed on new technology like tablet computers and e-book reading devices. Second, the data show that a share of patrons would appreciate being helped in their quest to master new devices and load e-books onto them."

(If you have any trouble at all with accessing e-reader content, I urge you to contact your local library.  They are there to help you in any way possible.)

[courtesy of Shelf Awareness, June 22, 2012]

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin

I was not familiar with Charles Martin as an author, but a patron at the library recommended him highly, and I decided to read this particular book of his based on a quote on the back of the book from Library Journal that said:  "Martin's engaging Southern family drama will have crossover appeal for readers of Pat Conroy.  It deserves a place in all collections."

Pat Conroy has always been one of my favorite authors, so I decided to see what I thought about Martin and his style of writing.  First let me say, I LOVED this book.  It is a very moving story that illustrates beautifully some of my favorite verses from the bible--1 Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.   It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.   Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Tucker Mason is a photographer of international fame who has seen life in all its beauty and tragedy.  When his brother escapes from a mental institution and an old girlfriend appears with a son and a black eye, Tucker is forced to go back home where he will have to face the pain of his own past.  Growing up in the home of an abusive, alcoholic father in rural Alabama, the best thing his father ever did for Tucker was hire Miss Ella Rain to look after them. 

Miss Ella is my favorite character from the book, and her timeless words of wisdom about the redeeming power of love are infused in just about every page and indelibly written on Tucker's heart.  Here's just one brief example:  "Light doesn’t have to announce its way into a room or ask the darkness to leave. It just is. It walks ahead of you, and the darkness rolls back like a tide."  Like that? Here's another:  "Child," she said placing her head to mine and her callused fingers on my cheek, "you can whip it and beat it senseless, you can drag it through the streets and spit on it, you can even dangle it from a tree, drive spikes through it, and drain the last breath from it, but in the end, no matter what you do, and no matter how hard you try to kill it, love wins."

This book touched me to my core from the very first pages.  I did not want to put it down.  Thought provoking and beautifully written.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Pioneer Woman Black Heels to Tractor Wheels: A Love Story by Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006, and her blog showcases her photography, and documents her transition from city life to ranch wife on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, OK.  She shares recipes on her website and has written a book called The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I have followed her blog for some time now, and find it interesting (some posts more than others) and I always love the pictures she posts.  This book just fills you in on how she met her "Marlboro Man" (her name for her husband) and the early days of her transition from city woman to farm woman, which eventually led to her metamorphosis into her Pioneer Woman persona.  It is an opposites-attract love story told with Ree's self-deprecating humor.  It reminds us that love really is a heart-thumping, blood-pumping, passionate roller coaster ride when you are lucky enough to meet your soul mate and pursue the beautiful dance of commitment and honor and, yes, adjustment that is involved in blending two disparate personalities into one happy entity.  I found it to be a funny diversion, an easy uncomplicated read.  Ree Drummond is a hoot, and I've never read so many pages written in so many different ways about just... making out.  Nobody's perfect--neither Ree, nor her cowboy--but the love they shared always seemed to triumph...and who doesn't like to read a good love story?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nature-Infused Altered Books

Rachael Ashe is an emerging, self-taught artist who also sees the beauty in books. The Vancouver-based artist creates lovely works that all have a nature element to them.  "I live in Vancouver, BC, a city surrounded by mountains, forests, and the ocean. Nature is ever present within the city, but I also don’t have to go far in order to immerse myself fully in natural surroundings.  I think incorporating imagery of birds, trees, and even using found objects from nature in my artwork is a natural byproduct of the environment in which I live."  Her work is truly beautiful.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This story is told in the voice of Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old, who lives in the country of Panem in a post-apocalyptic world.  The Capitol, a highly advanced Metropolis, has political and military dominance over the rest of the nation where the country of North America once existed.  The Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl (aged 12-18) from each of the twelve districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised outdoor arena until only one person is left.  District 12, where the story begins, is located in the coal rich region that was formerly Appalachia.  Katniss volunteers for the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose, who was drawn in the lottery.  Also selected from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, the Baker's Son, who has a crush on Katniss and actually saved her from starving once. 

They are taken to the Capitol where they are groomed for the Game (along with the other Tributes)
and publicly displayed to the audience along with an interviewer who conducts interviews with them both.  Audience members are encouraged to send gifts and become sponsors.  Katniss has hunting and outdoor skills that help her and Peeta survive.  Due to Katniss and Peeta's image in the mind of the audience as "star-crossed lovers", Katniss plays up this angle to win the sympathy of the audience.  The rest of the book is devoted to how the Games play out.

The book tackles issues like severe poverty, starvation, oppression, etc.  The choices they make and the stragegies they use are often morally complex and the themes of power and the down-trodden add to the complexity of the book.  There is also the theme of self-sacrifice and hope that is played out in the story.  An enjoyable read, despite the grim nature of the story. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Let your imagination soar

This would make a great entrance to the story hour room in the children's area of any library.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Print's not dead, It's Getting High in the Sky (via

Even though this was made for Ink Global, a firm that produces printed in-flight magazines for airlines (the clouds being one of the few places where connected tablets don't always function), I love this lyrical manifesto that riffs for the salvation of an entire medium.  My favorite quotes..."illuminates without batteries," and "ink is not sinking."  There are many times I've wished I could do what the flight attendant does and silence that technology whenever it is used in inappropriate places (from the workplace, to the intrusive bombardment of our personal space by others who clearly believe that whatever they are doing takes precedent and trumps everything else--your schedule, your peace and quiet, your right to remain undisturbed are not a priority with them).  It is scary that some people are incapable of laying those things down, turning them off, or detaching that electronic device from their hand or ear.  Just another reason I like the whisper of words on a printed page.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

5,000 books pour out of a building in Spain

Artist Alicia Martin's tornado of books shoot out a window like a burst of water from a giant hose. The Spain-based artist's sculptural installation at Casa de America, Madrid depicts a cavalcade of books streaming out of the side of a building. The whirlwind of literature defies gravity and draws attention with its grandeur size. There have been three site-specific installations, thus far, of the massive sculptural works in this series known as Biografias, translated as Biographies, that each feature approximately 5,000 books sprawled out around and atop one another.

Martin's giant book structures give life to the inanimate objects filled with knowledge. By constructing the curving towers with a rather free and disheveled exterior, while maintaining a sturdy core, the books' loose pages are free to blow and rustle in the wind, allowing the piece to be further animated.

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