Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nail Biter

Nail Biter is the ninth book in Sarah Graves' Home Repair is Homicide series. At times, these mysteries have been confusing, with too many plotlines and too many characters. This is not one of those times. Graves' new book is one of the strongest in the series.

Jacobia (Jake) Tiptree and her best friend, Ellie, have rented a house in Eastport, Maine to a small "coven of witches." Had they known it would lead to murder, drugs, and a teenage girl's disappearance, they might have done differently. If Jake had known that her "snooping" would bring back bad childhood memories, and cause her to ignore a family crisis, she might have done differently. However, her father is wise enough to tell her that it's always hard to forgive ourselves.

As Jake puts herself in danger to rescue a girl in trouble, "Nail Biter" becomes more than the title of the book.

The Worst Hard Time

If I hadn't already sent my top ten books of 2005 to www.bookbitch.com and Fiction_L, this book by Timothy Egan would be on the list. It will definitely be on my personal list of my favorite books of the year.

The Worst Hard Time is subtitled, "The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl." It's a fascinating look at the people who settled, and then destroyed the southern Plains. From 1910 to 1930, settlers flocked to sections of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. In their zeal for "the last best chance to do something right, to get a small piece of the world and make it work," they tore up the grass to overplant wheat, leaving the bare dirt. In the following eight years of drought, 100 million acres of land became nothing more than blowing dust, killing people, cattle, and the land itself.

According to Egan, "American meteorologists rated the Dust Bowl the number one weather event of the twentieth century." "Historians say it was the nation's worst prolonged environmental disaster."

Egan tells the story of a group of families and settlers who survived these terrible years. It's a story few of us know today of a number of people who lived through hell.

Monday, December 26, 2005

S is for Silence

As much as I love Sue Grafton, some of her books have had styles I didn't enjoy or dragging storylines. I believe N is for Noose is the one I found totally confusing. S is for Silence is her best mystery in quite a while.

In 1953, Violet Sullivan disappeared. She was the town floozy, married to an abusive husband. No one in town knew what happened to her. Thirty-four years later, her daughter Daisy is still bothered by her disappearance. Since her new car disappeared at the same time, Violet could have just left town. But Daisy is driven to find the truth so she asks Kinsey Millhone to spend five days looking into the disappearance.

S is for Silence is a fascinating cold case mystery. As Kinsey investigates and picks up threads as to what happened, there are flashbacks showing the week of July 4, 1953. Each chapter tells of the relationship of one person with Violet during that week. The intriguing story slowly unravels as Kinsey pokes around, until she starts things moving so fast it careens towards the climax.

S is for Silence, the best Kinsey Milhone book by Grafton in a long time.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Every Book Its Reader

I've already taken quotes twice from this book by Nicholas A. Basbanes, but there are some parts of this book that are just beautiful. It's an eclectic work about the value of books in people's lives and the world. There's a chapter about researching the Bible. There is a chapter that focuses on a couple experts who collect books. The question comes up, "Are people products of the things they read." One powerful chapter discusses our forefathers, and the Presidents who read, and those who were reknowned as readers. As a Democrat, I laughed at Harold Bloom's definition of himself as "a liberal Democrat who regards the Republican party as the enemy of the human race."

The chapter called "Reaching Out" focuses on the medical doctors who were part of the project "Reach Out and Read" to provide books to children seen by pediatricians. Dr. Perri Klass said, "When I think about children growing up in homes without books, I have the same visceral reaction as I have when I think of children in homes without milk or food or heat: It cannot be, it must not be. It stunts them and deprives them before they've had a fair chance."

Michelle Brown, curator of a British exhibition in 2003, summed up the entire experience of reading this book when she said, "Books are about people. They can embody many different aspects of human activity - intellectual, literary, spiritual, ideological, artistic, historical, political and economic. They are portals into past lives, facilitating that vital organic communion between past, present and future."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Christmas Greetings

“And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you; not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem, and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

Attr to Fra Giovanni 1513; possibly Greville MacDonald 1930s

By Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the
Snow-white world,
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.


They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen.
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.


And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us – listen!


All the long echoes sing the same delight
This shortest day
As promise wakens in the sleeping land.


They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year, and every year.


Welcome, Yule!
--by Susan Cooper, 1977 written for The Christmas Revels

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quote

I'm reading Every Book Its Reader: The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World by Nicholas A. Basbanes, and if I could copy all of his reading quotes here, I would. It's a beautiful book that makes me, as a reader, cry. I will copy his quote from Marcel Proust, "On Reading" (1906).

"There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we left without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book. Everything that filled them for others, so it seemed, and that we dismisssed as a vulgar obstacle to a divine pleasure: the game for which a friend would come to fetch us at the most interesting passage; the troublesome bee or sun ray that forced us to lift our eyes from the page or to change position; the provisions for the afternoon snack that we had been made to take along and that we left beside us on the bench, without touching, while above our head the sun was diminishing in force in the blue sky; the dinner we had to return home for, and during which we thought only of going up immediately afterward to finish the interrupted chapter, all those things which reading should have kept us from feeling anything but annoyance at, it has on the contrary engraved in us so sweet a memory of (so much more precious to our present judgment than what we read then with such love), that if we still happen today to leaf through those books of another time, it is for no other reason than that they are the only calendars we have kept of days that have vanished, and we hope to see reflected on their pages the dwellings and the ponds which no longer exist."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Quote

Dr. Joni Richards Brodart has this below her signature in email. Love it!


People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge
extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to
disciplines.
They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the
masses.
Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says
otherwise. --librarianavengers.org

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Quote

Someday I need to read Dean Koontz's book Watchers. A friend who loves animals recommends it for the dog in the book. I can see why. Here's the dedication from Dean Koontz's new book, Forever Odd.

"This book is for Trixie, though she will never read it. On the most difficult days at the keyboard, when I despaired, she could always make me laught. The words good dog are inadequate in her case. She is a good heart and a kind soul, and an angel on four feet."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Coach

Coach is a collection of essays edited by Andrew Blauner. Twenty-five writers such as Pat Conroy, George Plimpton and John McPhee wrote about the coaches that made a difference in their lives - basketball and football coaches, kung fu, golf.

My favorite essay was "Physical Education" by Francine Prose, which was about her eight years with a gym teacher that she hated. This morning I discussed that essay with three other non-athletic librarians who all had stories to tell about their years in gym class - everything from breaking arms in wrestling to falling while skiing, and missing an A because of the fall. It was a fun breakfast filled with laughter thanks to Francine Prose bringing back memories of gym class.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

November Books

Here's my list of books read during November. Guess it was a busy month since I only read 10, and one of those was a Garfield cartoon book. Too much college football, college basketball and Lee County Library System politics.


1. And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander - In Victorian England, a recent widow suspects her husband may have been involved in the theft of antiquities.

2. The Truth (with Jokes) by Al Franken - The comedian examines the Bush Administration.

3. Cat People by Michael Korda & Margaret Korda - A little historical cat background as well as the story of the cats who shared their lives with the Kordas. Includes enchanting little sketches by Michael.

4. Season's Eatings by Jim Davis - Garfield Christmas cartoons.

5. Stuck Down by Eileen Rosenbloom - A Young Adult novel about a teen who dies, and is allowed to return to earth as a messenger, only to find he must make peace with his father.

6. Light from Heaven by Jan Karon - In the last of the Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh is asked to rebuild a little mountain church.

7. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell - The little things that make a difference in society.

8. Hula Done It? by Maddy Hunter - This fun cozy mystery is the 4th in the Passport to Peril series. Emily Andrews leads a group of seniors into adventure and murder on a cruise to Hawaii.

9. Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah - A Christmas novel in which a school librarian named Joy flees her life. When her plane crashes, she discovers a young boy and his estranged father who need her.

10. Why Do I Love These People by Po Bronson - A collection of stories about families, what makes a family, and what makes us return to our family.

Quote

One reads books in order to gain the privilege of living more than one
life. People who don't read are trapped in a mine shaft, even if they
think the sun is shining. Most New Yorkers wouldn't travel to Minnesota
if a bright star shone in the west and hosts of angels were handing out
plane tickets, but they might read a book about Minnesota and thereby
form some interesting and useful impression of us. This is the benefit
of literacy. Life is lonely; it is less so if one reads.


Garrison Keillor