Monday, December 10, 2007

It's okay to hate me. I hate me, too.

Right now I'm in Jacksonville, FL on a riverside balcony with a glass of white wine and 80 degree weather. I'm wearing a tank and flipflops. The sun has set and there are ducks fishing for dinner under my balcony. I can see all the stars because, apparently, they do not believe in street lights here in JAX. Even the guys at the bar next door are being civilized.

This morning when I left Kansas City at 6 am, it was 19. Degrees. I was a cranky wanker.

If I weren't enjoying myself so much, I'd kick my own ass.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Twelve Days of Hellmas

Goddammit how I hate the holidays. In words I cannot begin to type without getting my ass thrown off the MySpace, I hate the holidays. I would enter the dockworkers' blue language hall of fame if I could write everything I feel about the gdngmfcspfsebl holidays. Use your imagination.

I hate the crass commercialism. I hate the blatant cheer. I hate the excessive consumerism. I hate the societal expectations, the stress, the disillusionment, and the countless additions to my already bloated task list. I hate traveling at the holidays with all the stupid amateurs who bitch when airport security rips open a package so they can make sure it isn't a dirty bomb. I hate all the fattening food. I can't frickin' stand "Jingle Bell Rock" or "Frosty the Snowman".

I do like the boozing, though. I can get behind getting drunk. It makes me forget the hellaciousness of the holidays.

I like going to church. Yes, I mean it. I am not blaspheming. And don't worry, that lightning bolt won't come anywhere near you. It's meant for me. I get one moment of serenity at the holidays. It's either at a holiday service or it's late at night, in the dark, with only a couple of candles to light the house.

December. What's to flippin' like? It's cold, it's dark, it's gloomy. It's ridden with holidays that interrupt the regular flow of life. July. THERE'S a month to get behind.

Every damn positive memory I have of this holiday comes with an equally negative one.

If this holiday were outlawed I would not give a crap. Fuck the holidays. Fuck 'em hard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And the Angels try to bar the Gates

I have to put my grief someplace. We won't have Norman Mailer around anymore to epitomize the idea of a "man's writer." He was a macho, braying scoundrel, but I loved him anyway. A guy's guy. Guybrarian is probably mourning over a beer. Keir is staring blankly out the window of an El car. Bill is trying to compose a fitting Backpage.

Norman was street before all those faux "gangstas" made it a lifestyle.

Bye, Norman. And fug you for leaving us all behind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is All Well?

The two sources I trust the most have finally weighed in on the Harry Potter phenomenon.

On the front page of the Book Review, The New York Time printed a review that revealed no major spoilers (although if you're not aware of the ending by now, it's time to sublet that granite subterranean flat you've been living in). Reviewer Christopher Hitchens takes a few high brow swipes at the series as a whole and the final volume in particular, but I expected nothing less.

The most anticipated analysis came from my Uncle Stevie over at the Bible of Popular Culture, commonly known as Entertainment Weekly. Stephen King has been the most loyal reader and defender of Harry Potter , J.K. Rowling and their combined exploits. He is also one of the most astute commentators on the state of today's popular culture.

I'm still mulling over Hitchens' piece and his perceptive parallels drawn between Orwell, Dickens, Kipling, Conan Doyle, and Rowling. Your thoughts?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Big Read @ Kansas City Public Library

Kansas City Public Library, Park University and Liberty Memorial will be celebrating Ernest Hemingway's classic novel, A Farewell to Arms during October and November.The Big Read aims to encourage Kansas Citians to read, enjoy, contemplate, and discuss Hemingway's landmark novel of love and war on the Italian Front during the First World War.

The program period coincides with the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Caporetto, a devastating Italian defeat that served as a climactic moment in A Farewell to Arms.

More than 500 free paperback copies of A Farewell to Arms will be distributed to interested participants. In addition, there will be special events, panel discussions, book groups and movie screenings revolving around Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, and Hemingway's influential ties to Kansas City. Register for an event, book group or free copy of the book here.

Contribute comments and insights at the Kansas City Public Library's The Big Read blog.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Beisball's been berry good to SOMEONE!

To the tune of $2.8 million, the above non-descript cardboard image of an old tyme baseball player who is NOT a household name, has been sold anonymously. Read the greedy story here.

Read the story behind the story in The Card: Collectors, Con Men and the True Story of History's Most Desired Baseball Card. Authors Michael O'Keeffe and Teri Thompson trace the history and ownership of one of baseball's most famous, and hard-to-find, cards of a player unfamiliar to most fans except for his face on a collectible.

Now, I expect some sunburnt bleacher bums will cry foul. "The Flying Dutchman" was one of the foremost players of his day. Honus Wagner was an all-star quality player, a contemporay of Ty Cobb and one of the first to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If his quotes are accurate, it sounds as if Mr. Wagner was one of the most forthright and honorable players of his time, too. There's a lesson to be learned here (I'm talkin' to YOU, MLB All-Stars). It's "How to Be a Gentleman and a Ballplayer instead of a Billionaire Athlete".

Wagner's fame is now tied to a little piece of cardboard he didn't endorse enclosed with a product he didn't condone.

O'Keeffe and Thompson eyeball the hobby of card collecting and aren't sure how to call it. A harmless American hobby that started with little boys and bubblegum (or bigger boys and tobacco) has morphed into a booming and conniving business involving authentication experts, auction house and Wall Street bankers.

Although the history and backstories are fascinating, the writing is a little dry. Some of O'Keeffe's sparkling sports prose would be welcome in this book. Fans and collectors will be entertained and informed and likely a little disenchanted with the moneyfication of the Great American pasttime. But there's no crying in baseball or baseball card collecting, either.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Stop what you're doing and read this book

At holiday gatherings, Friends of the Ballet cocktail parties and roller derbies, I am often asked what it is like to work in a library. "Huh huh, you must read all day" is the typical inane comment I hear. To which I reply, "Why no, I don't. I answer reference questions and suggest reading material to interested patrons." What I really want to say is, "Yep, right in one, psychic. But it beats chewing tobaccy, changing oil and yanking it to the Miss Quaker State calendar all day."

If you want to know what it's like to work in a library, then read Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks and Gangstas in the Public Library. Don Bochert has captured all the most delightful elements of working a public service desk. From reaching into the bookdrop and retrieving a fecal-encrusted dildo to reissuing a library card to a patron who swears the triple 666s will cause him pain to chasing off the drunk wearing a tutu to the patron who tried to mail a letter in the dictionary stand.

Bochert spills the beans about contemporary libraries with generous doses of love, candor and good natured humor. At the end of the checkout period, he still believes in the power of libraries and that patrons truly mean to return their materials on time.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Good Day's Work

What got done:

1. One column written and submitted.

2. Two assigned blog posts written and posted.

3. One play review written and uploaded.

4. One book review written and submitted.

5. Three books, read and annotated.

6. One good run

7. In-laws visited

8. Awards notebook updated with new annotations.

What DID NOT get done:

1. Sweeping

2. Grocery shopping

3. Phone call to parents

4. Plants watered

I'd call it even.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heart and Reading Rates

I don't have a lot of patience for those crepe-hangers who like to bemoan the fate of the book. Faced with the looming onslaught of technical devices with which to read, they wring their hands and clutch their beloved copies of Great Expectations to their heaving bosoms, vowing never to let ear buds invade their ear drums. They are annoyingly certain that only their imagination is the perfect conduit for an author's words, not some narrator and they don't want any gadgetry getting in the way of their printed pleasure.

Today I'm here to tell those folks to keep their dust jackets on, the printed book isn't going anywhere. My experience this morning while out for a run is proof.

Armed with a bottle of water and my CD player, I slipped the latest disc of the audio book I'm reviewing (and enjoying) into the player, set the volume, adjusted the ear pieces and kicked up my heels on a dusty track.

Halfway through the thrilling and perfectly narrated disc, it started to hiccup like an annoying drunk imparting much needed driving directions. I ignored it. I wasn't missing much of the story. It blipped, skipped, and hicc'd for the next half hour. So much so that my heart rate is unmeasurable at the end of the run, it's skipping and blipping along to the CD.

I cooled down (hardly) by walking and trying to hold the player to keep it from skittering. I was at a good part and I really wanted to hear what happened next. I held the player down by my side, over my head, stuffed it in my pocket. Nothing helped. I gave up and fumed the last quarter mile. "If I had a real book this wouldn't happen. I could hold the book up in front of my face and turn pages. Of course, I'd have to stop at crosswalks. And it might be difficult to follow the words if I'm bouncing while I'm running. But at least I'd be able to read all the damn words!"

This isn't the first time this player has sputtered its way through a workout. But I'd had it with technology by the time I got home. I left the CD player on the porch after I removed the disc and batteries. I got a cup of coffee and a hammer and went onto the porch for the upper body portion of the exercise hour.

You can't imagine how great it is to beat the hell out of a worn out CD player. There are little pieces of plastic and metal artfully scattered on my porch. I'll clean it up later.

Right now, I just had to share my firm belief that the printed book isn't on its way out, so ya'll eye-readers can just settle. And I need to order an iPod and sign up for Audible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reality TV for writers

I was looking over all the reality television offerings and realized that aside from C-SPAN's BookTV (a televised book report), there are no "real" shows that appeal to the bards and scribblers among us. Every other art form has secured its own small screen showcase, how about one for writers? Here are my pitches for this fall's TV slate.

Writing with the Stars: Ghost writers will partner with barely literate celebrities and construct a chapter from a forthcoming tell-all memoir. In the judging round, writers will read from each chapter. Winning entries will have the most outrageous content couched in the most literate prose. Only the celebrity will get credit for the win.

Top Scribe: Every week an unnamed publisher will provide a setting, two characters, a catch phrase, and a genre. Each writer-contestant will construct a proposal for a bankable bestseller that employs all elements. The winning proposal gets film rights. This week's challenge: In 24 hours, write a Hugo Award-winning book that includes the Korean War, one actuary, one librarian, and the phrase, "This one time, at band camp…?" Use of a thesaurus or Redbull will result in disqualification.

The Amazing Travelogue: Travel around the world to the secret destination provided in the itinerary that arrives at 12:01 in your email. You must use the method of travel specified (sedan chair, log raft, camel, coach-and-four). Once you have arrived at your destination you have $20 less than the going rate to secure accommodations at a clean and safe motel within walking distance of hot spots. You will have $10 less than the average meal with which to dine like a gourmet. You must find five no-cost/low-cost AND romantic activities to do. Frequent flyer points if one of the activities is family-friendly. Write up your experiences in 25 words or less and email back to editor by 5 pm the next day.

Flip this Manuscript: Submit your Great American Novel to 50 publishers. Collect all 50 rejection slips. Paper your bathroom walls with rejection slips. Bonus points for mosaics. Sell house.

Real World Author: Set alarm for 7 am. Punch until 8:30 am. Get up, pour coffee, turn on computer screen. Reread yesterday's efforts. Wonder why you didn't take mom's advice and become a history teacher. Drink more coffee. Reevaluate yesterday's efforts. Smugly realize that you are glad you didn't take mom's advice. Bang out three sparkling sentences that do not need editing. Get stuck. Stare at computer screen for 45 minutes. Clean bathroom. Stare at computer screen. Do laundry. Stare at computer screen. Mow lawn. Stare at computer screen. Kids come home from school. Find inspiration and write frantically until 2 am. Write. Read. Repeat. Get dropped from publisher next season for low Nielsen ratings.

I am so going to Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A New Life With Old Demons

Gail Giles is known for taking on serious, almost controversial subjects, in her popular young adult novels. A loathsome student becomes the most popular kid before he is killed by classmates. When a daughter, thought to be dead, returns to her shattered family, her sister is skeptical. A Goth girl takes an inordinate interest in a quiet student with drastic results. The most popular girl in school is buried alive as revenge for the death of another student.

Giles has perfected the art of young adult heart-stopping page-turners. She does it again in her newest title, Right Behind You. Kip has just committed a horrible act. He flung gasoline and a lit match on seven-year-old Bobby Clarke. Bobby has died from his burns and Kip has been sequestered in a hospital. Kip is nine years old.

Flash forward almost five years. Wade has just moved to Indiana. He is trying to fit in at his new high school but his anger gets in the way. When Wade is angry he forgets he has a secret that he is longing to reveal. But to tell it means life is over for Wade and his family. So Wade fights to hide--from his friends, his family and himself. Wade is about to lose the fight.

Readers who have enjoyed this character-oriented story told in realistic dialogue and vivid action should turn next to Chris Crutcher.

This book was discussed on The Walt Bodine Show 's Book Doctors program August 13, 2007. KCUR 89.3

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bodacious Bodine

I was graciously invited back to KCUR's Walt Bodine Show for the Book Doctors segment today. Listen here or click on Book Doctors and see which books I talked about today. And sorry the webcam wasn't working.

I was the eggiest head in the room for mentioning the new Poet Laureate, Charles Simic, and admitting to reading a collection of his poems, and then I was the most controversial as I promoted a book about a boy who murders another child. That's me, all over your reading spectrum like Fantastik on the kitchen counter.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Is all well?

The two sources I trust the most have finally weighed in on the Harry Potter phenomenon.

On the front page of the Book Review, The New York Times printed a review that revealed no major spoilers (although if you're not aware of the ending by now, it's time to sublet that granite subterranean flat you've been living in). Reviewer Christopher Hitchens takes a few high brow swipes at the series as a whole and the final volume in particular, but I expected nothing less.

The most anticipated analysis came from my Uncle Stevie over at the Bible of Popular Culture, commonly known as Entertainment Weekly. Stephen King has been the most loyal reader and defender of Harry Potter , J.K. Rowling and their combined exploits. He is also one of the most astute commentators on the state of today's popular culture.

I'm still mulling over Hitchens' piece and his perceptive parallels drawn between Orwell, Dickens, Kipling and Conan Doyle and Rowling. Your thoughts?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

How I Spent My Working Vacation

He Reads, She reads

Readers' advisory experts David Wright and Kaite Mediatore Stover went live with their popular Booklist column and discussed the question, "Are there such things as guy reading and girl reading?" The answer was an entertaining, "Yes!" Guys like to read about "blowing things up," Wright said, and Stover added that girls are finally getting into graphic novels.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I'm not doing anything crucial on Monday, August 13 at 10 am. So when Hayley the Radio Comet calls me up and says, "Hey, get down here and share reading wisdom on Book Doctors!" I'm game.

Catch me at aforesaid date and time: The Walt Bodine Show or click here.

If you scroll down and look on the left, you'll see the webcam feature. I promise not to take off my shoes this time.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

World Domination Through Reading

Di Herald's kick-ass readalike on Kick Ass Heroines reminded me of why I wanted to play striker for Manchester United and use a meter maid for goal practice this morning. I wasn't parked more than ten minutes! It wasn't even 8 a.m.! And she saw me coming to move my car!

But the more I think about it, the more I realized I'm not really in the mood to mess up someone's day. I'm in the mood to mess with someone's world. Which probably explains my recent fascination with insomnia-inducing, adrenaline-riddled, conspiracy theorist novels.

Derek Armstrong's The Game had me up all night trying to figure out who was killing all the contestants locked in a remote haunted mansion serving as the latest setting for a trendy reality television show. Enter the world's most gleefully abhorrent detective, equipped with misanthropic ripostes, claustrophobia and a pill-popping habit. Anyone who loathes reality television will wish that Top Chef had their very own Detective Alban Bane wielding a knife in the kitchen.

I turned next to Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff. This futuristic conspiracy-twisted thriller takes off like a rocket. Jane works for "Bad Monkeys" a division of "The Organization" that takes directives from the "Cost Benefits" division. Their mission? Take out those humans who are deemed a drain on society while alive and less so when, well, terminated. Unfortunately, an untimely termination leads to Jane's arrest, and she is now telling her wildly unbelievable, but oh-so-realistic, tale to a prison shrink as she calmly acknowledges that, yes, she killed a man, but no, he probably didn't "need" it, not like the other bad monkeys.

Of course, if you really have time to kill between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., then you need Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. Think Da Vinci Code on hallucinogens with a strong dose of Advanced Placement American History and you will be traveling the underground railroad of the "secondary" Constitution with Mike McGill and punky academic Trix.

These books won't soothe the insomnia or the agita. But they will make you glad you stayed up for it and you'll be ready to kick more than your caffeine in morning.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


I think we've been outed.

Pierre Bayard has blatantly stated what we librarians only whisper to each other in dark corners of conferences, confess in encrypted emails to our closest pals, grudgingly admit over the fourth or fifth bookardi and cola at Librarian's Anonymous meetings.

We haven't read everything.

In his soon-to-be published treatise, How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, Bayard not only condones not reading everything (and logically points out the impossibility of this endeavor), he encourages the practice.

"Being culturally literate means being able to get your bearings quickly in a
book, which does not require reading the book in its entirety--quite the
opposite, in fact. One might even argue that the greater your abilities in this
area, the less it will be necessary to read any book in particular."

In the first section of his book, Bayard is not dismissing reading altogether, merely pointing out that choosing what to read also means choosing what not to read. These are choices readers must make with every book plucked off a shelf. For Readers' Advisors, who are already well aware of all the choices available, this is an agonizing truth. The proficiency of a Readers' Advisor lies in the ability to glean as much as possible from as many books as possible, place them in cultural context, and maintain perspective regarding the relationship of one book to another. In this way "anyone who truly cares about books...masters all of them at once."

Interesting theories to chew on.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

No Reservations for a Blog for Two

Scootch OVER, Frank! I want a turn.

Frank, you amaze me. I cannot fathom how you are able to keep up with all the breaking news in the book biz. And provide pithy commentary. You get my brain buzzing about reading and writing. Now I have something to mull over in staff meetings. I appear to be paying attention to the agenda but secretly I'm pondering what will Hollywood do next to torture that poor Jane Austen?

You go great with morning coffee. I'm more of an afternoon candy break kind of blogger. That's the time for biblio-silliness such as this, Judge a Book by Its Cover blog. Which prompted howls of laughter as my coworkers and I all counted the hands on a romance cover's heroine. Giggles and snorts soon gave way to an insightful discussion of book covers, what they are trying to tell readers, what they tell librarians, and why doesn't Harlan Coben just earflick the person who designs his covers?

And then there are covers that induce the universal statement, "Hmmmmm?" Such as this one, The Psychic Sasquatch, which set off all the readers' advisors in my department on a spirited debate over genre-blending. You might need a cup of coffee and two pieces of Ghiradelli dark for this one.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Lauding the Laureate

whooooffft. Puh-puh-puh. Is this thing on? Can you HEAR{screeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEeee} me?

Oh. Sorry, folks. {brightly} Hi, welcome to the first Sunday evening poetry reading sponsored by Likely Stories, with virtual victuals provided by the good folks at Booklist.

This week, the literary world is all aflutter over Charles Simic, the latest poet to earn a star in the biblio-cosmos otherwise known as the Library of Congress's Poet Laureate of the United States. We've all been hearing about two of his most famous volumes of poetry, Walking the Black Cat, a finalist for the National Book Award, and The World Doesn't End: Prose and Poems, his Pulitzer Prize winning collection. But we haven't heard much about one of his earlier, more experimental, volumes, White.

Just like the Fab Four, Simic has his own curious "album of art." White is full of Simic's sharp, vivid imagery and as an added bonus, readers can see his mind on parade in wildly creative Picasso-esque pencil illustrations for most poems.

Knives, clouds, moonrocks, virgins, Norwegian polar explorers, snow, brides, stars, handkerchiefs, teeth. All manner of white objects are present for your pondering pleasure.

To paraphrase America's bard, "Rock these words as you would an injured bird."

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Guest Blogging

As Mary K. likes to put it, "Have mouth, will speak." In this case, it's "Have space, will blog."

The Likely Stories blog over at Booklist Online is my temporary haven for the next week or two. I've been charged with coming up with witty, insightful and prescient observations on all things biblio for the space while the regular blogger is off in the wilds of Montana, from where, I have no doubt, Graphite will come back with yet another sensational idea for his next book.

As soon as he's plucked his two adorable younguns from the fish pond, whipped his head around frantically wondering where the nearest Dunkin' Donuts is, and convinced himself he has NOT missed his Argyle-patterned bus stop, he'll boot up the nearest computer to see what sort of havoc has been wreaked on his blogeny.

Send your twisted ideas, snarky comments, and pithier-than-thou observations to me. Graphite doesn't need the agita.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Goodbye, cruel world

I'm about to become extinct.

"Scientists Question Whether Rare Reds Are Headed For Extinction" by Robin L. Flanigan Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

"If predictions by the Oxford Hair Foundation come to pass, the number of natural redheads everywhere will continue to dwindle until there are none left by the year 2100.

The reason, according to scientists at the independent institute in England, which studies all sorts of hair problems, is that just 4 percent of the world's population carries the red-hair gene. The gene is recessive and therefore diluted when carriers produce children with people who have the dominant brown-hair gene.

Dr. John Gray's often publicized explanation of his foundation's findings: "The way things are going, red hair will either be extremely rare or extinct by the end of the century."

The gene responsible for red hair - known as the melanocortin 1 receptor, or MC1R - was only discovered in the late 1990s. People have a good chance of being born with red hair if they have a mutation of that gene.

Red hair is found in all ethnic backgrounds but is most commonly associated with people of Celtic descent.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Go see the Go-Go

Tonight I got my Fringe on early. I went to the Just Off Broadway Theater to catch True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl. It's a Eubank Production. I have never known those folks to be afraid to do anything on a stage and this play is no exception. While the Eubank family are known for their alternative indie musical stagings, Go-Go is a straight drama, with comic and naughty bits sprinkled in. There's no intermission and the play is barely an hour, it zips right by.

Solid performances and staging. Great physical work from the actors in a play that seriously looks at feminism and a facet of the sex industry.

Once you get your ticket, have a seat. Director Steve Eubank is paying tongue-in-cheek homage to a sappy soapy play called Vanities by placing some of his actors on stage to get into costume and makeup while the house is seated. Nice touch there, Steve. I loathed Vanities. It was insipid, whereas your drama is thoughtful, comic, and heartfelt.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ginny Weasley and the Library Potter Party

I can't remember when I had more fun at a Library event. Or more fun, period. Last night (this morning), my Library held its Harry Potter Extravanganza. We turned one of our Branch libraries into Hogwarts. We had a Potions Class, Herbology, Wizard Chess, O.W.L and N.E.W.T testing, Divination, History of Magic, and Magical Creatures.

Hermione (Elizabeth) ran the Potions class with able assistance from Madame Rosmerta. The kids (and some adults!) made sandy candy and bouncy balls from cornstarch and other kitchen chemicals I couldn't name. Herbology had students planting seeds into pots and taking the pots home. Professor McGonagall (Helma) proctored the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T testing with a knowing eye. Divination included a visiting instructor, Madame DuBuvoir (Joanne), who conducted palm readings. Kids were still lined up to have their palms read at 1 am. Professor Trelawney (Nancy) donned her flowing robes and scarves and stared dreamily and threateningly into silver, blue, pink and clear glass balls. Professor Trelawney's hot babe of a husband was a walking Master Zoltar fortune-telling box.

Right next to the REAL OWLS from the Park Service (three beautiful and serene birds, one all white!) Professor Binns (Ron) conducted a review of History of Magic for his eager students.

Some students didn't make it to class. Ginny, for one. She spent most of her time with Professsor "Mad-Eye" Moody (Jamie), looking for deserving Gryffindors to give golden tickets (good for one free book) or avoiding Professor Snape (Angie), who was wont to take points from Gryffindor whenever he caught Ginny out of class or running in the halls. Which was all the time.

Hagrid (Rich) towered over everyone and was a great sport about everything, especially ultra-high kicks that made stilettos look like ballet flats. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley (Dorothy and Mitch, the best sports who work for our Library) primly greeted all students at the library doors. Our own Colin Creavey recorded the entire night's festivities with gusto, even if he was working a mad cold. He said he'd post the pics soon. Ron Weasley finally showed up. Late. Ginny let him have it for that.

But the Library staffer who earned the biggest rounds of applause was Dumbledore. He patrolled the halls with beneficence and a wary eye for all students and teachers in his Dumbledore robes and fooled everyone!

Of course, like most teachers and students, we all needed a butterbeer at the end of the school week. Dumbledore, Trelawney, Hagrid, Snape, Hermione, Ginny, Colin, Moody and Rosmerta headed into Hogsmeade, which bore uncanny resemblance to Westport, in search of libations. Ginny stupefied numerous revelers who hooted about Harry Potter. Moody gave great glares and we marveled at the collective IQ of Westport inhabitants to resemble a very bad Quidditch score.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What the hell...?!

Kind of country do I live in when I can't get a baseball game on the telly at 9 pm!?!?!? I ask you!!!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Brainy Babes and Cool Guybrarians

It's official. The whole world knows what we've all known for years. That librarians are cool, hep and techno-savvy. The New York Times' Librarian article in today's paper profiles a young hipster social networking group in New York called the Desk Set.

FYI all you locals: Kansas City has one, too! We call ourselves LA (Librarians' Anonymous).

The best part of the article? It name-checks an ALA session that Daphne and I attended and that was organized by a good friend who is a young, hipster librarian scholar/academic. Smartica reports there were 300 people, SRO and SitRO, in her presentation space. It was an excellent session and the KCPL Young Friends of the Library were featured prominently.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

A Year in the Death

Chris Crutcher remains one of my favorite authors of all time. His books are beloved by teens across the nation and astute adult readers looking for a story full of emotion, action, wit and intelligence will never be disappointed in a Crutcher novel. His quartet, Running Loose, Stotan, The Crazy Horse Electric Game, and Chinese Handcuffs, are Crutcher at the top of his game.

Every book since then has been great, but none have achieved the completeness of story, mastery of character ,and depth of emotion and realism as his first four novels. Which is not to criticize. All Chris Crutcher novels are worth the time taken to read them. Even a Crutcher novel not as good as the top four is still better than most of the books out there.

Deadline is good, not great, Crutcher, but still better than the majority of teen novels put to paper. Ben gets a disturbing medical report just before his senior year starts. He has been diagnosed with a rare blood disease that is too difficult to treat and he has less than a year to live.

Armed with this knowledge, Ben, a 120lb whippet-thin cross country runner turns out for the football team and steps up his efforts to date the elusive and athletic Dallas Suzuki. When Ben isn't cramming every drop of life in his quickly shortening one, he is searching for all the education he can get--these methods include tormenting his right-wing conservative civics teacher, consoling the town drunk (harboring a dark secret of his own), and trading therapeutic quips with his psychologist.

How does Ben manage to accomplish all this during his treatment for cancer? He doesn't. Take treatment, that is. Ben, a legal adult at 18, has exercised his doctor-patient privilege and refuses to tell his family, friends and teachers about his condition.

The conversational style will immediately hook readers. All the teens in Crutcher's books are articulate and inquisitive. Sometimes everyone, teachers and teens alike, are a bit glib, but the rat-a-tat style will get anyone past those snarky moments. There aren't too many authors, teen or adult, that write like Crutcher, but Gail Giles' most recent book, Right Behind You, has the same high octane pacing and conversation.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Rules for the Day

1. Do not kick elevators that take too long to arrive.

2. Do not say "SHIT" (outloud) when the safe won't open.

3. Do not get pissed when the umpteenth repairman comes to the desk looking for a broken photocopier that could be on any one of nine floors.

4. There's no need to call Uncle Enzio just because people can't work. Even if Uncle Enzio needs a job.

5. Just because a staff member has lost their temper and is crying and sputtering is no reason to think about having a drink after work.

6. You may NOT slap a patron who is insisting he surf the Innerwebs even though the system is down.

7. Staring beatifically (and vacantly) at people who are pitching fits is the best revenge.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lost Boys of the Jungle Guns

On the way to a talent show for students, Ishmael Beah, his brother and four other friends find themselves separated from their families forever as war breaks out in Sierra Leone. For the next four years Ishmael travels the jungles of his country, carrying an AK-47 and suffering migraines and jangled nerves from the marijuana and cocaine he ingests instead of food. He has become an emotionless killer, a tiny robot soldier with no memory of childhood, A Long Way Gone from the life had known. A UN team negotiates his release, along with a few others, from the guerrilla army he has called "family" and tries to rehabilitate Ishmael. But the violence of he past four years is too ingrained and Ishmael and his comrades fight with other boys who have been "discharged" from their armies. After a painful drug withdrawal process, Ishmael begins to experience all those emotions and activities that kept him tied to his world. But just as Ishmael is about to join a family and begin again to live with people who love him, the war finds Ishmael again and he must take drastic measures to avoid the harsh and violent life he has escaped and seek out a new life in another country. Readers may be shocked at the level of brutal violence present in Ishmael's story. Yet the author tells his harrowing tale unapologetically and simply. Readers who wish to read further on this subject may enjoy God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau and Measuring Time by Helon Habila.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Puzzle Masters

Cancel all weekend plans and lock all the windows. The Game is about to begin. Derek Armstrong's debut takes off with double rocket boosters and launches a new high octane publisher onto the radar.
Former FBI Investigator Alban Bane is at San Quentin to witness the execution of the serial killer he has hunted across many years and states. Even though some parents of victims blame Bane for not acting quickly enough to take down the murderer, Bane is satisfied with the outcome and final result of his quest. Upon his lethal injection deathbed, the killer whispers the clue to a decade old murder which infuriates Bane. At the same time, across the country another series of grisly murders is unfolding on the set of a popular reality television show--all the killings bear the trademarks of the now executed murderer. As Bane delves deeper into these new murders with old memories, he starts to wonder if these are crimes of rebellion and ratings or revenge and humiliation.
There are many subplots and backstory which all come together at the end. The misanthropic Scotsman, Bane, is fascinating and gleefully abhorrent in his misanthropy. Reality television is dangerous business in fiction, as fans of 24/7 by Jim Brown will attest. This first novel is as fast-paced as that one.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Youth and Consequences

After a tragic gun accident in his home, Teddy's life at home and school changes dramatically. He gains a new group of friends, the American Youth, who miscontrue the fatal incident. Teddy struggles to follow his mother's well intentioned orders when discussing the facts with the local police, and carefully observes the changes in former friends following the disastrous event. The book's treatment of a touchy issue that is too frequently handled in a preachy way is respectful and intelligent. There are no conclusions drawn for the readers, the author expects the reader to reach his or her own conclusions. Phil LaMarche's stripped down prose style will encourage teen readers' imaginations to fill in the gaps. Readers of Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes who would like to try a denser literary style should turn to this slim, yet compelling, novel.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Funny like a Crutch

From the moment young Sarah Thyre gives a fake name to a security guard in a shopping mall while he announces her name ove the loudspeaker to the time she sweet talks a dentist into giving her braces her father will pay for, Sarah's attempts at a better life are not just fraught with peril, but humiliation and laughter. Dark at the Roots is her memoir of a life in pursuit of doing better and getting out. None of the incidents are extraordinary, but they are recognizable for their ordinariness and made unique by Sarah's quirky worldview. Follow the formative years of an alum of "Strangers With Candy" and "Upright Citizen's Brigade." Readers who are looking for their next funny, irreverant and witty read after A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel or works by David Sedaris can continue to tickle their funnybone with Thyre.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Where Are They Now?

A blonde woman drives away from the scene of a hit and run accident. When she is stopped by a police officer, she is disoriented and panicked. In a daze, she gives the officer her name and he is startled. The disheveled woman claims to be one of a pair of girls who mysteriously went missing from the area almost thirty years ago in a sensational and unsolved kidnapping. Laura Lippman explores standalone territory again with her latest suspense novel, What the Dead Know.
After providing a false name, the woman continues to be adamant about her true identity. She refuses to help the police confirm her story and is reluctant to share her whereabouts for the many years she was gone. The skeptical detective reaches back into the police force's own past to tap a retired colleague who may have made an error in judgment while working on the case. The only proof the detective can muster is to find the woman's mother, who has also been missing since her daughters' disappearance. Suspenseful with a twist ending that astute readers will see coming long before it arrives.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vision Question

Mike May isn't stubborn, righteous or a superman. He's just curious. When he is presented with the opportunity to regain the vision he'd lost since he was three, he had to think about how much more different his life would be with vision than without it. Mike had never let a lack of vision keep hi from doing anything he wanted to do, from riding a bike to serving as a school crossing guard, to playing guitar, soccer, tricks on his sister or skiing in the Olympics. Nothing had ever stopped Mike from exploring his world. In Crashing Through, Mike's amazing story told by Robert Kurson, the decision to opt for the surgery to restore his sight wasn't about regaining something lost. It was no different from any other decision he'd ever made about his life. He wanted to try something new and exciting and continue to explore his world in any unique way available to him. Adventures in the sighted world are just as exhilarating as adventures in the blind one, and Mike is making the most of every minute. Mike's determination, resilience and humor will charm readers. His brash, foolhardy, yet fun, experiences are engaging and exuberantly told from an author who takes his omniscience seriously. The scenes describing Mike's first encounters with sight in over 40 years are sheer brilliance.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Leg of Wood, Heart of Steel

Every surgery, every pain and every hurdle involving Emily Rapp's degenerating bone disease is chronicled in a heartfelt and inspiring memoir. The Poster Child lost her foot when she was four and the rest of her leg when she was nine. By the time she was ten, Emily was the Midwestern spokeskid for the March of Dimes project and spoke enthusiastically at church suppers, rodeos and county fairs about how "normal" she was. Emily has always been aware of how she didn't quite meet the standards of normal, but her indefatigable memoir shows readers a person who had no other choice but to be extraordinary since normal wasn't an option. Readers who enjoyed Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet will be pleased with the lack of sentimentality and the brutal honesty of this life story. They will also appreciate Emily's very human emotions of frustration and anger with herself and her prosthesis.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From the Dough Boys

From a little known piece of American history, Michael Lowenthal has crafted a heartbreaking, yet inspiring story of love betrayed and courage discovered. Frieda is just another working Jewish girl in New York City during World War I. She is a bundle wrapper at Jordan march in ladies' undergarments and very happy with her job and her life. She and her Friend, Lou visit the weekly dances with soldiers and are popular dance partners. One evening Frieda meets a handsome young dough boy and impulsively spends the evening with him. Weeks later she is visited by a stern woman who accuses Frieda of giving the soldier a venereal disease. Frieda is sent to a medical institution where she is quarantined with other "fallen women" who has passed diseases onto soldiers. She is a Charity Girl, accused of unpatriotic behavior and must be rehabilitated before being let out into society again. The fellow inmates and one sympathetic social worker are the only support system Frieda has as she faces numerous indignities in the detention center. Fans of One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus will appreciate the same strong central female character and the straightforward tone. This little known historical period and the brutally unfair treatment of teenage girls will pique interest among readers of American historical fiction. Readers will also rally around Frieda and her feisty, but not anachronistic, attitude toward the medical sciences and her own future. Very readable and entertaining. Characters are like able and believable; plot is swift; enough historic detail to create a strong sense of time, place and social tone, but not too much to slow down the story. A satisfactory ending should please all readers.

Monday, June 11, 2007

College Follies

I never did get the concept of the college visit. Why spend a weekend in the spring at a campus that won't bare any resemble to the place you matriculate three months later in the fall? To my thinking, it was enough I wasted a perfectly good Saturday morning taking the SATs and the ACT. Susan Coll might be of the same mind. In Acceptance, three overachieving high school students are applying for college--AP Harry (taker of more Advanced Placement courses than anyone in the senior class) is only interested in Ivy League school and only Harvard at that; Taylor wants her social climbing and overly competitive mother to leave her alone while Taylor pilfers mail from her surrounding neighbors; Maya wishes she could live up to the mile-high standards her family has created and wonders why no one has yet realized she isn't as smart as the rest of her siblings. During the school year, each student will face frustration, disappointment and new insights into themselves as they plot a future they think they want and all inadvertently choose the future they truly need. Teens will appreciate the subject matter of this novel as they go through their own college application processes. They will also identify (some of them) with the stress of selecting a college and the fierce competition that goes into getting into the "best" colleges. They may also find the portion of the story told from the viewpoint of the college admissions counselor eye-opening as she reveals what colleges truly look for in an essay. A fun, breezy read with intriguing insights into the college admissions gauntlet.
This book was discussed on The Walt Bodine Show 's Book Doctors program May 17, 2007. KCUR 89.3

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Welcome to the Condemned Monkey House

Books about animals make me wary. I won't watch/read/listen to anything in which an animal suffers unnecessarily. I'm not fond of those stories where it's necessary, either. Although I recall not minding much when Cujo bit the dust.
I approached Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo with much trepidation. I knew I'd be reading about horrific wartime conditions of the exotic animals trapped in the zoo in the midst of shelling, bombs and looting. I also knew there would be plenty of moments of redemption and salvation. There are equal parts of both in Lawrence Anthony's memoir of his harrowing journey to war-torn Baghdad in order to save and protect the world renowned zoo. Anthony discovers his own survival is in jeopardy as well as that of the animals he attempts to save. With help from steadfast American soldiers and loyal, ingenious Iraqi zookeepers, Anthony begins to create a livable habitat for the animals left behind when the city was evacuated. Each day is fraught with new and life-threatening challenges that Anthony meets with righteous indignation and canny problem-solving skills. Heartfelt, but never treacly, readers who are animal lovers will shed tears; readers who are not will find their souls stirred with the injustice doled out to defenseless creatures. Readers who enjoyed other unusual humanitarian missions such as those recounted in Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson or Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn, will be intrigued by the animals' stories.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Matthew Polly had always kept a running list in his head of Things That Are Wrong with Matthew: “Cowardly,” “Spiritually Confused,” “Still a boy/not a man,” “Ignorant.” In 1992, he decided to tackle the list by going to China to train in ancient martial arts and meditation with the monks of the hidden Shaolin Temple. Ten years later, Polly weaves the story of his journey to enlightenment with iron forearms in American Shaolin. With a better than average command of the Chinese language and customs for a laowai, Polly makes his way to the Temple and starts to catalog his unusual adventures and encounters with the Chinese people—chatty cab drivers; giggly hotel key girls; avaricious Temple officials; and coaches who scream for perfection and then . It all culminates in an international kungfu competition and a challenge match with a kungfu master. Polly’s pace is as fast as a whip kick to the head and his descriptions of the amazing skills of his teachers and class mates are jaw dropping. In a friendly, deferential and sometimes smart ass tone, Polly invites the reader along on his astounding journey to check off the items on his list, only to check off the most important entry upon his return to Kansas. Fans of the pacing and story line of Friday Night Lights will enjoy American Shaolin.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Man behind the Vision

This one goes out to Bruce who let me wax pathetic over a Renoir and a Degas at the Nelson-Atkins Gallery tonight.
Susan Vreeland has made a splash with her historical fiction novels revolving around masterpieces of the art world. She and Tracy Chevalier have almost created a cottage industry. The latest entry in the "story behind the painting" subgenre of literary historical fiction is Luncheon of the Boating Party. In prose as thoughtful as every one of Renoir's brush strokes, Vreeland imagines the lives behind each figure in the artist's most famous work. From conception to completion, readers learn who all the models are, how they came together, their significance to Renoir and how they form a tight bond that cannot last outside the painting's frame. Full of exquisite detail and descriptions, readers will be flipping back to carefully study the small replica of the painting that accompanies the book. Up until the last third, readers will wonder who is the beguiling woman holding the dog in the lower left corner of the painting? All of the painting's figures are real people the author brings to life on the canvas, even the mysterious quatorzieme is identified. Very suitable for a book group or readers who enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Lies We Tell to Make Ourselves Feel Better

In James Scudamore's novel, Anti and Fabian are unlikely friends in Quito, Ecuador who share a love for outlandish yarn-spinning and yearn to "discover" something remarkable. While they will talk about everything, one subject goes unmentioned, the deaths of Fabian's parents. One night, after too much tequila, Fabian tells the story of his parents' demise. Anti, sympathetic, yet disbelieving, crafts a false newspaper story to demonstrate his support for Fabian and the fictions that help him get through this tragedy. However, Fabian reads the clipping and also notes the bogus story next to it, one for an Amnesia Clinic serving victims of accidents or kidnappings with no memories of who they are. Fabian is certain his mother, whose body was never recovered, is staying in the Amnesia Clinic. The boys set off on a journey that will reveal more about their friendship and future than either can imagine. The compelling story, natural and likeable characters and realistic portrayals of adults are the highlights of this novel. Scudamore has captured well the sense of wonder and familiarity the boys experience with their shared world and each other. Readers have compared this book to Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Capturing Light or Capturing Sin?

One of the most lyrical debuts of 2005 was Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's The Effects of Light. The realistic and sympathetic characters and the compelling, suspenseful story line will draw readers in while they ponder the author's thoughtful exploration of the classic social question, "What is Art and who gets to decide?"
Thirteen years after she fled the West Coast, Kate Scott is returning to hesitantly pry open painful memories of her sister and her father. A mysterious package from an unknown benefactor shows Kate that someone else knows her turbulent secret history as a child-model for a controversial photographer. Her lover, Samuel, follows Kate and pledges to help her unearth the clues her father has left behind, but when Kate discovers Scott's notebook with surreptitious jottings about herself and her family's notorious past, she rejects him. Readers will be drawn into the mystery surrounding Kate's sister, her father, and Ruth, the photographer, even wondering who Kate truly is. This first novel drew parallels with The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold for the narrative voices of its teen characters, Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier for its art-world frame and Possession by A.S. Byatt for its plot of academics searching ancient documents for contemporary truths.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

High School Heartbeat

Jodi Picoult is another of my favorite authors. Her stories intrigue me. She explores the very real emotions behind the hot button issues that confound our society and there are rarely any winners, losers, heros or villains. There are only real people, with a steadfast sense of self, values and what is right. By the end of most of her novels, the reader cannot choose a side and Picoult doesn't want the reader to take sides. She wants her readers to think and discuss and consider the other person's position.
Nineteen Minutes, Picoult's most recent novel, has an obvious villain who commits an unforgiveable crime, however, it will be a hard-hearted reader who doesn't sympathize a little with this character by the end of the story.
Pete Houghton has just walked into his high school and killed ten clasmates with a handgun and injured nineteen others. One survivor, Josie, was the only person to face down Peter and walk away. But why? Why did Peter shoot the students? Why did Josie live? This is a harrowing tale about the secret lives of high school students and how they can't trust the adults in their lives--even the those adults who love them the most and have sworn to protect them.
Readers who enjoyed Chris Bohjalian's Before You Know Kindness or Cafe of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard may also enjoy this novel.

Monday, June 4, 2007


I couldn't wait to share I Love You, Beth Cooper. I laughed everywhere I read this book. On the bus, at home, in the coffee shop, at my desk when I should have been working. Larry Doyle has captured perfectly what it is like to be a brilliant 98 lb weakling among boneheaded 175 lb defensive ends.
The alternate title to this book could be "One Life-Changing Night in the Life of Denis Cooverman." It all starts at graduation. Debate geek/brainiac valedictorian Denis finally says everything he's pent up for four years--he accuses classmates of anorexia, snobbishness, meaningless violence due to low self-esteem and outs his best friend, Rich. Denis saves the best for first and professes his love for Beth Cooper from his academic pulpit. This admission sets in motion the most memorable night in Denis' short life. The girl of his dreams drops in at his house for an impromptu graduation party and then, along with her two best friends, takes Denis and Rich on a wild ride through every teenage degradation, delight and debauchery ever depicted on the silver screen. The humor is spot on and quotes from characters in classic teen movies open every chapter. Fans of Frank Portman's King Dork, last year's hot adult book for teens will enjoy this latest comic effort. Less flip than King Dork and a little less believable, I Love You, Beth Cooper is laugh out loud funny and realistic in its growth of Denis from fearful wimp to fed up hero. Of a sort.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Playing Our Songs

Rock journalist Rob Sheffield was completely happy with his life as an up and coming writer for Rolling Stone and his wife, a witty, punky, Appalachian girl, Renee. On Mother’s Day, after only six years of married life, Renee stood up from her sewing machine and suffered a fatal aneurysm. Love Is A Mix Tape is Rob’s heartfelt story of his life before, during and after Renee, told through the music and mix tapes the two of them made for each other and listened to with joy and appreciation for each other's tastes. The author uses music to trigger overlooked details and emotional background for the important events in his life. Full of pop culture, musical references and witty repartee between author and reader. Teens will appreciate Rob’s great affection for his wife and music of all genres. But after the author's tone, the writing isn't really compelling enough to support the story. Less a memoir and more a personal writing exercise in grief counseling from one of the commentators on VH1's Best Week Ever.

Saturday, June 2, 2007


The third time was NOT the charm for Jay and Dan in Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland by Mark Kreidler. Both of them are three-time Iowa State Champions in wrestling and while this is no small feat, it is not enough to raise either boy from the ranks of the "merely good" to "excellent." For that distinction they will need to become "four timers" and join an elite group of Iowa wrestlers who achieve mortality on a social and athletic par with that of Olympian gods. In addition to struggling with the pressure to exceed in the ring and the classroom, both student athletes face added pressures. Jay is an exceptional wrestler who feeds off his criticism from Internet fans and local sports journalists. Dan is a legacy--his own father was a wrestling champion. Dan's brother, Chris, is entering the sport in Dan's shadow but without Dan's talent. Jay is virtually ignored in his school and town for his prowess and Dan is pointed out as his rural town's one chance for notice on a regional scale. The author does an adequate job of bringing both boys, their families, friends, school mates and other community figures to life, but rarely, and without much interest, examines their lives in other arenas besides the gym. Otherwise the writing is very accessible and flows easily. The suspense is marginal for a story told with a straight reportage tone rather than a breathless narrative one. Not as memorable as Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger, but fans of that book will find something to like in this one.

Friday, June 1, 2007

La Bruja Buena de Agua Mansa

A lyrical first novel reminiscent of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, Still Water Saints is a great first effort from Alex Espinoza. In the small border town of Agua Mansa, Perla runs her botanica full of herbs, remedies, saint cards, charms and candles. The townspeople come to her for healing--hearts, heads, spirits, bodies. Along with the special potions and incenses and tributes to various saints, Perla provides hope and encouragement to her visitors. When a frightened and homeless boy, Rodrigo, comes to Perla for English lessons, she writes out the story of her life for him. His disappearance challenges Perla to examine her own doubts and losses in her life even as she seeks to heal Rodrigo's physical and emotional wounds. Fans of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel or Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Co. by Maria Ampara Escandon will be equally charmed by these hopeful characters. Don't expect a tidy resolution. Life hasn't ever delivered one of these in reality and Espinoza's fiction depicts life, not fantasy.
This book was discussed on The Walt Bodine Show 's Book Doctors program May 17, 2007. KCUR 89.3

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ramp up the Vamp Factor

I've been reading my butt off and been a selfish brat by not sharing. Here's my latest "shoveitinthefaceofeveryoneiknow" books, The Society of S by Susan Hubbard. It's the latest in vampire fiction. If you are going to ALA, you've been forewarned. Les, this means you.

Ariella knows there is something different about her, her father and her lifestyle, but it’s not until she meets her best friend Kathleen that she begins to question her differences. Her father slowly unravels the truth of Ari’s birth and the mystery of her mother’s disappearance at Ari’s birth.

Ari's new found knowledge of her heritage leads to a tragic event that has Ari doubting her father. She steals in the middle of the night and leaves a note that only reads "south." Along the way, Ari begins to understand her heritage and how it may impact those around her, for good and for bad. The journey to find her mother will bring up more questions about Ariella and what her future will bring than she can answer. An unexpected phone call from her best friend's brother has Ariella demanding, and receiving, the truth about her family and their heritage.

The voice of the narrator and the storyline will keep adult and teen readers captivated as the plot unfolds at a leisurely, yet utterly compelling, pace. Lyrical writing reminiscent of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Schlock the Vote: WSMD?

It's been a crappy day.

My cold isn't completely gone. I snapped at a friend via email (who likely needed it 'cuz she's always snapping at me). Got to work in time to give everyone breaks THEN go on the desk myself. Received a phone call to come home ASAP and wait for AC guy. Received another phone call that Security guy would be here when I got home. Snapped at a staff member who can't seem to master the concept of timesheets and lunch. Snapped at a staff member who conveniently forgot where the keys go (she only uses the damn things every bloody morning). Had to cancel two meetings (hmmm. probably not a bad thing). Caught bus early (which is not necessarily a good thing since it came TOO early and I was lucky enough to be there today but wasn't yesterday so I called the busdriver a dick today for being early yesterday and making me miss it and stand out in the pouring rain. grrr). Get home to find Security guy leaving. I wasn't needed at home immediately after all. So now I am missing a meeting with the Ambassador from Mali to the U.S. BIGflippin GRRRRRRRR.....

So. Now you get to vote: What Should Marian Do?

1. Get drunk and read books for Alex Awards?

2. Get drunk and do housework?

3. Get drunk and play on the internets all afternoon?

4. Get drunk and phone friends to come over and catch up?

5. Get drunk and catch up on episodes of Lost?

6. Get drunk.

7. Stay sober and do any of the above?

Polls close at midnight tonight. Every vote counts so vote early, and often! Just like the dead do in Chicago.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tempest in Pacific Northwest

I admit to being a big fan of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's after her first novel The Effects of Light. I told everyone I knew about that book after I reviewed it for Booklist. I'm happy to say she didn't disappoint me with her sophomore effort, Set Me Free, and I'm eagerly awaiting the third.

Loosely using Shakespeare's The Tempest as a frame, this story is about the journey of one man to another and one daughter to another. Elliot, an educated, well-meaning Easterner with a mysterious past, moves to a desolate Indian reservation in the Pacific Northwest to open a school. His best friend and worst enemy is Cal Fleecing, a native Neige Courant, who is hiding his own past.

Elliott summons his ex-wife, Helen, a renowned Broadway theater director to stage a production of The Tempest in hopes of securing joint support from a wealthy day school in Portland, Oregeon upon approval of the tribal elders. Amelia, Elliott's daughter, has just returned from the white children's boarding school with a terrible secret about her departure. Everyone is hiding something from their pasts--ancient and recent. A tragic fire flushes out the truth for all as they gather to help a fatally injured member of their family.

All the subplots are woven well together and dovetail nicely in the midst of a surprising and logical ending. Characters are fully realized; pace is a combination of leisurely and swift. The literary references to other works are a particular delight to me and will be to those who are widely read, particularly in the classics.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

On the radio

Recently I was invited to fill in for a regular guest on KCUR's Walt Bodine Show as one of the Book Doctors. I've been trying to get on this show for years and a good friend at the library where I work did some of his PR magic and found me a spot (shout out to HF). I was only able to do two shows. I thought I was okay the first time, but did very well the second time. Listen for yourselves.

On the March 12 show I talked up Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill; Relative Danger by Charles Benoit; and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

On the May 17 show I waxed poetic about Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas (one of my favorite authors); Acceptance by Susan Coll; Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza (a first novel with lyrical writing) and commented on a caller's recent read, Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (another favorite).

Listen. Read. Send comments. Either to me or the authors. We love feedback.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Shook THAT off

Ah, it feels better to lose the gravity boots, heavy eyeliner, superhero cape, and beehive hairdo and go back to being Marian(super)Librarian, instead of Zelda Pinwheel (very bitchy alter-ego trotted out for sales people and nasty maitre d's), Ab Ovu Usque Ad Mala (Sapphic Amazonian babe who likes to taunt MySpacers), and the Goddess of Snark (the weekend smartass).

Thursday, May 17, 2007

It's better when you're unprepared

Since I goofed off last night and attended TWO meetings before 9 am today, I was wholly unprepared for my stint on the Walt Bodine Show's Book Doctors segment.

Whenever I feel I'm not ready for something I decide to wing it, and usually do better than if I'd prepared. But you be the judge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bad dress rehersal

So today is the day that I've been dreading for the last month. The first program in a series called Eclectic Eats that I planned and organized with my buddy, Paul, who is a logistical genius and a worrier nonpareil. I don't bother worrying anymore. Paul is doing enough for the both of us to last the next two years.

And the day starts off with a wallop. It's raining like a mutha. Clem goes tearing downstairs to see if the basement is leaking. Again. My cat pees on my newly acquired vintage cardigan sweater AND the clothes I was going to wear to work. I miss my bus. I forget to do my makeup. I forget to apply my de-frizz. I forget that I only have my beat-up babyish maryjanes in my desk at work and I can't wear those with bare legs which means I have to put on the spare pair of stockings I keep in my desk and the elastic is shot and where the hell am I supposed to put my underwear since I can't wear it now?! (Male people from work may not read that last line). I stuff it in my left Chuck Taylor.

I have a plethora of email to read since I didn't make it into work yesterday (hit a deer on my way back from Emporia. Do. Not. Ask.) When I do read it I learn that poor Paul is going into battle, yet AGAIN, with everyone under the sun about the room set up.

The sound guy is being "artistic" which demands a whole new set up. We spend the afternoon having multiple meetings about the set up, the food, the sound, the video, the centerpieces, and the promotional materials for the Young Friends of the Library. I discover my color printer isn't working and I can't make the copies I need. I forgot to arrange for centerpieces and cobble something together at the last minute. The soundnvideo guy is late and a bit of a squirrel. A nice squirrel, but a squirrel all the same.

I finally give up and go with it, deciding that the event is going to happen no matter what. Paul insists on wearing out his shoe leather by wearing a small trench in the floor. I tug on my stockings and we both wonder where the speaker-chefs are and at that moment, my phone vibrates. Which dislodges my stockings. This is getting embarrassing. And now it's show time.

When we open the doors, we have ten people in a room set up for 120. One of our speakers is late and my microphone won't work. Our CEO shows up and Paul and I start to get nervous that we are about to bomb; the flop sweat breaks out. The music isn't on and we can't find the CDs.

And then, everything comes together. The last speaker shows up in a crowd of about 90 other people. The music is playing under the crowd buzz. My microphone gets juiced, I make a joke about sound checks, and Paul's boss grins at me from the back of the room. I'm doing it right.

Paul gives me a thumbs up and a "you rock" wink and I'm off to the races introducing the speakers, handing off the mike, moving through the crowd and greeting the attendees. All I can think about is getting to the back of the room and getting my own drink.

Paul's boss follows me outside and tells me, "We're done. This is perfect. The CEO is thrilled. We can have anything we want in the morning. You two have done excellent work. Post mortem on Thursday. Be there."

And all Paul and I want is a place to sit and breathe and clink glasses. We'll think about the great performance tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Performance Evaluation

I must not be the suk. Friends and family are glad I do what I do for a living. An old high school buddy has taken one of my latest favorite books with him on vacation. He's threatened to kick my ass AND the ass of the author's famous dad if he doesn't like it, but I know he will.

My mom, who listens when I tell her why she likes the books she does, discovered one of my favorite authors and is hooked. She couldn't wait for this author's latest book to come off hold, so she's reading something else and can't believe what she's been missing.

Two friends from my newest book group sat around with me in my library's cafe this weekend and jabbered about all things biblio. Victoria and I talked Crista into trying Barbara Kingsolver, Crista talked Victoria into an Australian debut novel and Victoria reminded me why I should go back and give The Club Dumas a spin. Both of them are glad to have found this new gabfest and we're going to be a tight group, I can tell.

When the work day has been cruddy, I just have to talk about reading with some friends, family, heck, strangers even. And it's all good all over again. I am lucky.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why I love David

Sure, I have a wholelottalurv for Kurt. I can say "And so it goes" in Japanese, thanks to him and a college pal.

But my heart is missing David Halberstam. Intelligent, witty, insightful author of SPORTS books. He was a journalist in the best sense--interested in EVERYTHING and he could make you read ANYTHING. But I will miss reading the book he was working on about the 1958 game between the NY Giants and the Baltimore Colts...

What a loss to the writing community.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I am so proud

My brother, Matt, the 39 year old Army recruit, was interviewed by FoxNews today. Go here and see why we're all proud of him. He's the best:

Type Coming of Age in the search box and choose Video, not story

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Glass Hearts in Glass Houses

In her trademark ethereal prose, Alice Hoffman presents the story of a family who are slaves to love and don't know how to escape the bonds. In her latest magic-tinged novel, Skylight Confessions, methodical John falls inexplicably in love with dreamy Arlyn. The two are such polar opposites that they emotionally struggle against each other more than they come together. Their son, Sam, is scarred by the deasth of his mother and bewildered by her torrid affair with a local window washer that produces his adored younger sister, Blanca. Sam fights a losing battle with his father, his stepmkother and drugs due to grief over his mother's death, while Blanca spends her childhood playing peacemaker. Only their nanny, Meredith, can soothe Sam's tumultuous spirit and comfort Blanca. All are haunted by the ghost of Arlyn who manifests herself in mourning doves, unexpected showers of ashes and broken dishes. This family of emotional misfits must look to Sam's son, Will, to patch up the crevices of their souls.

While I'm a diehard fan of Hoffman's writing style, I felt this story was rushed and unfinished. Story threads were left dangling and theree was no character or story development involving the grandson, Will. Blanca is also left with parts of her life unresolved. Readers may feel unsated by the novel's finale.

Y-Front Photo Shoot

So. Now you know what happens on a film set. Here's what happens at an underwear photo shoot.

The room is toasty warm. All the radiators are on full blast and there are girls and women walking around in the designer undies and t-shirts. We're in the bedroom trying on the designs and waiting while the designer makes her descisions about who is wearing what. We're in the kitchen munching on the fruit and veggies the designer so graciously provided. We're on the screened porch, flashing passersby and having a smoke. We're in the front room, bopping along with Robert Moore on the radio. No one is bitching about hating their boobs, or being fat, or needing a nose job. With this crowd, we're all trying to come up with dirty jokes about the emblems on our "couture cooch covers."

The photographer is the only guy in the room. He can't stop grinning at all of us and telling us we look great. But he means it. He's not being patronizing. The first shot he wants is a group shot.

All the girls line up in a row before the windows. Chins up, boobs out, "don't look at the camera!" (we will hear that phrase a hundred times today). I am standing in between Venus and Sheila and Venus wraps an arm around me. Sheila wears one of her patented looks and reaches around to pinch my ass. I pinch her back and then everyone is laughing and playing grab ass and the camera clix away.

Then we yell "designer shot" and Twitt gets in the middle. We all look adoringly at her until she claps her hands and says, "Okay people, back to work!" By work, Twitt means, sit on the floor and wait until you are called to pose in your skivs in an artful manner inspired by your colored t-shirt, underwear design and whatever wacky prop we can find. Twitt opens a couple bottles of wine and Nutty, Venus and I imbibe, Sheila breaks out her unfiltered apple juice and we all take swigs of that with the wine. Not bad.

While the photographer is shooting, we're all yelling out suggestions (some are taken seriously, some ignored); stretching; passing the wine and cookies; admiring each other's undie designs and making plans for that evening--Roller Derby, Brick, or Owen/Cox Dance Group? We debate the merits of girls beating up girls, guys shredding guitars, and ultrahipjazzballet. No one talks about being too fat to be a model or how self conscious they feel in their knickers. Instead, we bitch about our tennies and how worn out everyone's Chucks are.

Finally, we are a headline kickline below the belt: