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Reader Review: One Plus One

July 7, 2015

one plus oneOne Plus One” is about life – real life. About how people struggle to make ends meet and will do anything for their family. All this determination and desperation to survive can change a person – makes you stop living life.

I loved this book because the characters were so relatable to what is going on in families across the country every day. However, despite these hard times and a whole lot of negativity, some beauty can truly emerge. It’s a beautiful story.

Three words that describe this book: relatable, heartbreaking, strong

You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a great summer read. A true story that everyone can relate to at one point in their life or another. The depiction of a single mother just trying to get by is very accurate and profound.

-Amanda

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Third Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

July 6, 2015

TrophyCongratulations to Margie M., a Callaway County Public Library patron, for winning our third Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Well Read Books gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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2015 Audie Award Winners

July 6, 2015

Audiobook of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard BookJust in time for all of your summer road trips, on May 28 the Audio Publishers Association (APA) announced the winners of its 2015 Audie Awards competition, honoring spoken word entertainment. The top prize – audiobook of the year – went to “Mandela: An Audio History” by Nelson Mandela and narrated by Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Joe Richman. Here are some of the other award winners available for check-out from your library.

Distinguished Achievement in Production
Neil Gaiman’s full-cast production of “The Graveyard Book
While this book for young readers was originally published in 2008, this new recording by a group of British all-stars brings Gaiman’s dark tale delightfully to life. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead.

Alan Cumming's audiobook Not My Father's SonAutobiography/Memoir
Not My Father’s Son” by Alan Cumming (narrated by the author)
In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.

Fiction
All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr (narrated by Zach Appelman)
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris and is blind by age 6. Her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize it and navigate the real streets. When the Germans occupy Paris, they flee to Saint-Malo on the coast. In Germany, Werner grows up enchanted by a crude radio he finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, which wins him a place with the Hitler Youth. Werner travels throughout Europe during the war, and finally to Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie Laure’s inevitably converge.

Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Bully PulpitHistory/Biography
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Doris Kearns Goodwin (narrated by Edward Herrmann)
Goodwin describes the broken friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and his chosen successor, William Howard Taft. With the help of the ‘muckraking’ press Roosevelt had wielded the Bully Pulpit to challenge and triumph over abusive monopolies, political bosses, and corrupting money brokers. Roosevelt led a revolution that he bequeathed to Taft only to see it compromised as Taft surrendered to money men and big business.

Mystery
Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (Read by Robert Glenister)

This is J.K. Rowling’s second mystery novel written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith. The fast-paced narrative focuses on a missing novelist, Owen Quine, and private detective Cormoran Strike. Quine has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives. That means that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

Nonfiction
Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him” by David Henry and Joe Henry (narrated by Dion Graham)
David and Joe Henry bring Richard Pryor to life both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the influences that shaped both his persona and his art.

Find the full list of this and past years’ winners at the Audio Publishers Association’s website. What audiobooks are you listening to and loving this summer?

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Online Genealogy Resources From Your Library

July 3, 2015

HeritageQuest-newGenealogical research is becoming more and more popular with our patrons – have you caught the bug? Here at DBRL Next, we will continue to share news and resources that might help you in your search of your family’s heritage, resources like the online databases Heritage Quest and Ancestry Library Edition. The coolest part about these two databases is that they are FREE if you have a current library card with us!

While Heritage Quest can be accessed wherever you are, Ancestry Library Edition can only be accessed at one of our three branch facilities (Columbia, Fulton, Ashland) due to licensing restrictions. Another tip you might not be aware of is that on the third floor of the Columbia Public Library is a computer set aside strictly for research using the library’s databases that you can access for more than an hour at a time.

At www.dbrl.org you’ll find these databases in the menu of items under “research.” Click on the genealogy category and choose Ancestry (within the library only) or Heritage Quest and you are well on your way! From home you will be required to enter your library card number, but within a library building, whether you are using one of our computers or are on your own laptop connected to DBRL’s Wi-Fi, this step isn’t required.

At least once a quarter I give a presentation on these two databases in the Friends Room of the Columbia Public Library. Many months of the year I host a “Genealogy Help” drop-in class where you can come and sit at a computer and ask questions about your research. I’ll give pointers on other databases or sources you can use to further your family tree! As a rule, always check in the index of the quarterly program guide under “Genealogy” or search our online program guide to see when the next program will be. Happy Hunting!

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Reader Reviews: What Alice Forgot

July 2, 2015

Book cover for What Alice ForgotIn “What Alice Forgot,” Alice Love wakes up on the gym floor after falling off her bike in Spinning Class. She thinks she’s 29 and it’s 1998. But it’s not. It is 2008 and she is almost 40. She discovers she has three children, she and her husband are getting divorced, and her relationships with people she once loved have become strained. The book was funny, touching and thought-provoking. Alice wonders who this driven, grouchy, super-busy woman she’s become is, and she wonders how she got that way. Readers will definitely look at their own lives during this book, wondering if they are putting the important things first.

Two words that describe this book: funny, love story

You might want to pick this book up if: you want a light summer read that makes you laugh out loud but also think and reflect on your own life and where it now is.

-Anonymous

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Three Great American Novels for Your Fourth of July

July 1, 2015

Book cover for Freedom by Jonathan FranzenThe label “Great American Novel” is often applied to a book that captures something essential about American culture and its people, a story grounded in and informed by the American experience. Others use the term to identify a work as the best representative of the kind of literature being written in America during a particular time period. And of course, a great many other readers and critics dismiss the idea of any book being able to capture the diverse experiences and realities of all Americans. Whatever your opinion, this July 4th you can celebrate our nation’s independence with these books that – if the honorific were actually to be awarded – could be contenders for the title of Great American Novel.

Freedom” by Johnathan Franzen
The Berglunds, the suburban family at the center of this book, appear perfect on the outside, but looks are deceiving. The story follows them through the last decades of the twentieth century and concludes near the beginning of the Obama administration. Their lives begin to unravel when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged. Desire, entitlement, marriage, family – Franzen plumbs these and many other weighty topics in this study of middle class American life.

Book cover for Gilead by Marilynne RobinsonGilead” by Marilyn Robinson
This lyrical and thoughtful novel takes the form of a letter from the dying Reverend John Ames to his son, revealing Ames’ deep reverence for his life, his work and this country. He chronicles three previous generations of his family, including a fiery abolitionist grandfather and pacifist father, both also men of faith. The story stretches back to the Civil War, reveals uncomfortable family secrets and examines the bond between fathers and sons.

To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
First published in 1960, the racial injustice described in this novel unfortunately has strong echoes in today’s America. Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer, likes to spend her summers building tree houses, swimming and catching lightning bugs with her big brother Jem. But one summer, when a black man is accused of raping a white woman and her father defends the man in the courtroom, Scout’s carefree days come to an end. She joins her father in a desperate battle against ignorance and prejudice in their small Alabama town.

What books do you recommend as stories that uniquely capture the American experience? Toni Morrison’s “Beloved“? F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby“? Let us know in the comments.

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Reader Review: Pioneer Girl

June 30, 2015

Book cover for Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls WilderPioneer Girl,” the seed book for the Little House Laura Ingalls Wilder books, is a much faster read than you think it will be, given the size of the book. Unless, of course, you’re a footnote reader, and then all bets are off. I read most (though not all) of the introductory material, but what I was really interested in were Laura’s words. The early parts were very familiar; the older she got, the more I realized I never read the later books in the series. I loved, loved, loved reading her story of Almanzo. Laura was quite the spitfire. Reading about the long winter, the tornadoes and the frankly scary situations she found herself in (a man leaning over her bed telling her to lie still?) added a huge amount of depth to my understanding of who this woman really was and what her life was like as a woman in pioneer days. About some things I wished she’d gone into a lot more detail; she alluded to things that were very tantalizing, but I suppose that’s too much to ask of someone who grew up in the 19th century.

Three words that describe this book: fascinating, historical, feminism

You might want to pick this book up if: You read Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child and would like to know what else she chose not to share.

-Kathleen

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Heroic Women of Historical Fiction

June 29, 2015

book cover for The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie NewtonThis summer we’re exploring heroes, from crime-fighting superheroes to everyday folks just making a difference in their communities. Heroes can also be found within the pages of great literature. Historical fiction, which often chronicles the imagined experiences of real-life events, is a genre that is especially filled with heroes. I will admit I’m partial to stories of women in these historical settings. I know my own life is very different than those of the women who came before me. In fact, the life I lead has been very much shaped by those brave women from earlier centuries. The heroic women of historical fiction provide a glimpse into the challenges women of the past faced and how their bravery shaped today’s world. Here are a few of my favorite historical novels featuring strong women.

The years before the Civil War were tumultuous, especially in the Kansas Territory where abolitionists struggled to gain a stronghold and help the state enter the Union as a free state. Jane Smiley’s “The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton,” features a Midwestern young woman who finds herself thrust into the upheaval of “Bleeding Kansas.” Lidie heads out to the territory with her abolitionist husband and (to be frank) completely unrealistic expectations of what the Kansas prairie will be like.  The story, filled with Lidie’s dry wit, is at times laugh-out-loud funny, and at others is quite sobering in its portrayal of the horror of slavery and violence of those years. I think Missouri residents will find this read especially interesting given all the Missouri locales that Lidie visits during her travels.

Book cover for Shanghai Girls by Lisa SeeThe experience of Chinese immigrants in WWII-era Los Angeles features in Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls.” Pearl and May are sisters living exciting lives as models in glamorous Shanghai. When WWII breaks out, they find themselves in arranged marriages to sons of a Chinese-American merchant. Pearl and May are forced to leave China for the United States, landing first in the Angel Island Chinese immigration station and then in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The sisters, bearing the weight of their own painful secrets, struggle to adjust to life under a domineering father-in-law and a society that is highly prejudicial against Asian-Americans. See’s novel, based in part on her own family’s experiences, provides a captivating look at the immigrant experience in this country.

Book cover for Year of WondersA small town’s struggle to survive during the Plague is chronicled in Geraldine Brooks’ “Year of Wonders.” The story is based on actual events — a small Derbyshire town called the village of Eyam quarantined itself in 1666 in order to prevent the plague from spreading further. Anna, a young maid, finds herself tasked with learning herbal remedies and midwifery when her village is overcome by the devastating disease. She becomes an important healer but faces many challenges, including the superstitions of the very people she is working to save. The novel is a beautifully written journey of self-discovery as Anna realizes strength and determination she did not know she possessed.

Happy reading!

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Next Month: Cosplay Costume Con for All Ages

June 26, 2015

Cosplay Banner 1

Cosplay Costume Con for All Ages
Come to the library dressed as your favorite character! Whether superhero, anime, sci-fi or your own original design, we want to see you as you usually aren’t! Prizes will be given for costumes in different age categories, and participants can pose for some great photo ops. This program is for all ages! No registration required.

Columbia Public Library
Wednesday, July 22
at 6:00 p.m. Callaway County
Public Library
Thursday, July 30
at 6:30 p.m. Southern Boone County
Public Library
Tuesday, August 4
at 6:30 p.m.

Photos by Flickr User Marnie Joyce. Used under creative commons license.

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Second Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

June 26, 2015

TrophyCongratulations to Laura J., a Columbia Public Library patron, for winning our second Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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Reader Review: Trigger Warning

June 25, 2015

Book cover for Trigger WarningAs much as I adore Gaiman’s work, I just am not as thoroughly a fan of short stories (and generally even less of poetry). It feels like short fiction too often relies on cleverness as opposed to genuine moving prose to make its mark. With all that said, I still enjoyed reading these 300 pages. My favorite tale was definitely the aged Sherlock piece. I could happily read a novel in that world. In fact I could happily read a novel of just about any of these stories should they be expanded. And…I think I might like them more if they were allowed the room to breathe. The Doctor Who story was quirky and the Shadow tale was mildly gripping. I just inevitably find myself wanting more.

Three words that describe this book: fantastical, abbreviated, varied

You might want to pick this book up if: you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman. His style is distinct and is on full display here.

-Xander

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Back Beat: Docs about Musicians in the Background

June 24, 2015

20 feet from stardomThere is always a story behind every piece of music. Sometimes those stories are featured prominently, but other quieter stories can exist behind the music as well. Check out these docs that focus on the musicians who’ve worked hard in the background with little recognition.

20 feet from stardom20 Feet From Stardom” (2013)

They are the voices behind the greatest rock, pop and R&B hits of all time, but no one knows their names. Now, in this award-winning documentary, director Morgan Neville shines the spotlight on the untold stories of such legendary background singers as Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer and more.

girls in the bandThe Girls in the Band” (2014)

This film tells the poignant, untold stories of female jazz and big band instrumentalists from the late 1930s to the present day. The challenges faced by these talented women provide a glimpse into decades of racism and sexism in America.

standing in the shadows of motownStanding in the Shadows of Motown” (2002)

Director Paul Justman’s music-infused documentary chronicles the reunion of the Funk Brothers — the anonymous backup group that from 1959 to 1972 provided the music for nearly every hit produced by Berry Gordy’s famous Motown Records.

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Reader Review: Star Island

June 23, 2015

Editor’s note: The following review is by a library patron and contributed as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!

Book cover for Star Island by Carl HiaasenStar Island” is about the underbelly of showbiz, the paparazzo and big money land investments that contribute to destroying the natural environment of Florida, to speak in general terms. Hiaasen’s hero who appears in many of his books (Skink or Captain or former Governor of Florida – showing himself in his normal ragged, dirty trench coat, braided beard, bald head), tries to right the wrongs of society as well as continue with his mission of saving the Everglades and Florida’s natural habitat. The twisted, intriguing story is based around a young singer who can’t carry a tune and her exciting life as an addict in habitual need of upscale recovery centers. I liked the intricate weavings of the various characters’ lives and the extensive epilogue at the end.

Three words that describe this book: Celebrities, intricate, energy

You might want to pick this book up if: you enjoy a very good story, books about a chivalrous knight dressed up as a giant body guard with a weed whacker in place of one of his hands, and a swamp monster type homeless looking man. Carl Hiaasen, my current favorite author, weaves a really good, complicated, satirical story with amazing insight into the workings or the not-so-well workings of society, government and human nature, especially in Florida.

-Pam

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(Anti)Superheroes

June 22, 2015

Book cover for The Dark Knight ReturnsThe superhero. The origin story, the nemesis, the team up, the world-saving, etc. Oh, and the reboot. Never forget the reboot. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. The superhero is an enduring trope that has permeated pop-culture. Inevitably, writers and artists started creating comics that critique, satirize and subvert the idea of the superhero. What might have started as efforts to tell a new story in a well-worn genre morphed into creative examinations of the concept of the superhero. Despite any high-minded genre dissections, the basic thrill of superhero stories is in these titles. These creators work in the genre because they ultimately love it, warts and all.

In 1986 two series premiered which are now touchstones for the re-imagining of the superhero story: Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller tells the story of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who must return from retirement (spoiler alert!) as Batman. Gotham has turned into a bit of a dystopian nightmare in the 10 years since Batman retired. Batman is not so nice and not very stable. His reemergence brings some of his arch rivals out of retirement as well, which adds to the chaos in Gotham. In addition to being a different take on an iconic character, “The Dark Knight Returns” satirizes the media and political atmosphere of the 1980s.

Cover for The Watchmen graphic novelWatchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons also offers a critique of the 1980s, specifically the Cold War hysteria of the time. It examines political themes buried in comics, such as the line between vigilantism and fascism, and what a government might really do with superpowered beings. Moore’s original idea started as a murder mystery involving characters from Charlton Comics, which DC Comics had just purchased. Although Moore was persuaded to create original characters for the story, it maintained it’s very meta take on comics, what Gibbons referred to as “a comic about comics.”

An unfortunate trend followed the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Many comics appeared that tried to replicate their success with darker, more violent superhero stories, but they lacked the substance that made those comics lasting works. However, some darker comics followed whose quality is comparable.

The series Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill first appeared in October 1987, when the final issue of Watchmen was published. It’s a darkly satirical story where the superheros are misguided government experiments and shell-shocked war vets wreaking havoc in a crumbling San Francisco, now called “San Futuro.” Marshal Law is a legally sanctioned superhero hunter (“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet,” is his tag line). He’s trying to round up all the rogue heroes to make the city safer. From superheros.

Cover for the graphic novel The BoysThe Boys by Garth Ennis also deals with out-of-control superheros with a dark, satirical tone. In this case the superheros are an amoral and entitled variety that play a public role as “heroes” while in reality show a complete disregard for others. The Boys are a CIA-backed group who have lost loved ones, or otherwise had their lives ruined, by the negligence and misbehavior of superheroes. They are given injections of the same compound that creates superheroes and tasked with holding the “‘supes” accountable. They do so with a vengeance.

The series Irredeemable and Incorruptible by Mark Waid tell two sides to the same story. Irredeemable is the story of Plutonian, a god-like superhero from another world (like Superman) who loses it. He lays waste to much of the world, and the survivors live in terror of him. The story traces the cause of his meltdown, while also following the uphill battle surviving superheros have in their attempt to stop the most powerful being on Earth.

Incorruptible follows super villain Max Damage after Plutonian’s meltdown. The horror inflicted by Plutonian and the state the world is in give Max a crisis of conscience. The series follows him as he tries to change his ways and do right in this broken world.

Cover of the graphic novel Death RayDaniel ClowesThe Death Ray examines the “with great power comes great responsibility” line from Spider-Man, asking “what might a misfit teenager really do if he had superpowers?” Andy is growing up in 1970s Chicago and suffering at the hands of bullies. He discovers that smoking cigarettes gives him super strength. Naturally, he arms himself with a ray gun and looks for revenge. Andy is neither good nor evil but a realistic portrait of a mixed-up kid given some unrealistic abilities. The story is told with the mix of melancholy, humor and cynicism that has made Clowes one of the most critically acclaimed cartoonists of our time.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2015 List

June 19, 2015

Library Reads LogoCan we all just agree to take the month of July off to sit around in our hammocks sipping iced tea and reading until our eyeballs break? The LibraryReads list highlighting books publishing next month (and inspiring librarians across the country to entertain similar fantasies) includes not only the expected breezy romances but also a new historical fiction from Paula McClain (“The Paris Wife“) and a confident debut that will delight foodies with an appetite for character-driven novels. Bon appétit!

Book cover for Kitchens of the Great MidwestKitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal
“This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, ‘Kitchens of the Great Midwest’ will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale.” – Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ

Book cover for Circling the SunCircling the Sun” by Paula McLain
“I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended.” – Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC

Book cover for Kiss MeKiss Me” by Susan Mallery
“As always, Ms. Mallery has given us a fantastic read. As soon as I pick up her titles, I can’t put them down until I have finished them. They are feel-good, heartwarming — I need more synonyms. I love seeing all the previous characters, the friendships and families that have formed since ‘Chasing Perfect’ came out five years ago. Thanks, Ms. Mallery, for another amazing read.” – Jenelle Klavenga, Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, IA

Here is the rest of the July list with links to the library’s catalog. Place your holds now!

Second Chance Summer” by Jill Shalvis
Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs
Those Girls” by Chevy Stevens
Maybe in Another Life” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Crooked Heart” by Lissa Evans
Love Lies Beneath” by Ellen Hopkins
Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” by Leanne Brown

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First 2015 Adult Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

June 19, 2015

TrophyCongratulations to Kerri G., a Columbia Public Library patron, for winning our first Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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Reader Review: The Tusk That Did The Damage

June 18, 2015

Editor’s note: The following review is by a library patron and contributed as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!

tusk that did the damageThe Tusk That Did The Damage” follows the story of three characters: The Gravedigger (an elephant who buries his victims he kills), Manu (the brother of a poacher who goes to jail) and a documentary film team recording the wildlife conservation organization in the area. I felt this book had three very good stories, but may have been better if it focused on developing one story. The three stories didn’t connect very well except for Manu and the Gravedigger.

Three words that describe this book: emotional, scattered, slow-starting.

You might want to pick this book up if: you are interested in a story that depicts poaching and efforts to prevent poaching or are just a fan of elephants!

-Luke

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Of Cosplay and Cons

June 17, 2015

Book cover for Cosplay WorldStart planning your cosplay outfit now. This summer, each DBRL building will offer a Cosplay Costume Con for all ages – July 22 in Columbia, July 30 in Fulton and August 4 in Ashland. Prizes will be awarded in different age categories.

Cosplay? Con? If you’re scratching your head, let me explain. You know how children love to dress up as characters from their favorite shows, books and comics? Some people believe you’re never too old to join in the fun. You can find folks of all ages cosplaying anyone from Darth Vader to Hello Kitty at comics and science fiction conventions (cons) around the world.

Want to know more? On July 14, the Columbia Public Library will host comic creator Skip Harvey. He will enlighten the befuddled and entertain aficionados with a program for adults and teens: “Comics, Pop Culture and Comic-Con.”

For a deeper look at the culture of cosplay, check out “Cosplay World” by Brian Ashcraft. The book contains plenty of interesting information but is more a celebration than an encyclopedia. It’s filled with photos of cosplayers from a multitude of countries, along with many personal vignettes.

To see some live action footage, take a look at “Comic Con, Episode IV, a Fan’s Hope.” This film, produced by documentarian extraordinaire Morgan Spurlock, follows attendees of San Diego Comic-Con 2010 and includes interviews with some of the big names on the scene: Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Ellen Page and more.

Readers who are con devotees, particularly those in the Star Trek fandom, will likely be delighted by Kevin David Anderson’s novel “Night of the Living Trekkies.” The setting is a Star Trek convention in Houston. The plot complication is a fast-moving virus that turns people into zombies. Star Trek in-jokes abound.

Book cover for The Improbable Theory of Ana & ZakThe Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak,” a young adult novel by Brian Katcher, makes good use of the con venue for a romantic comedy/worlds collide tale. Ana is a goal-oriented workaholic, afraid of failing her parents’ high expectations. Zak is a gamer and sci-fi fan whose career plans boil down to something with computers or whatever. They find themselves thrown together on a quiz bowl team and then joining forces to find Ana’s younger brother who, after hearing Zak’s stories of Washingcon, has run off to experience the comics and science fiction mayhem for himself. Through the night-long search, the two teens encounter much zaniness and come to find some common ground.

For those con veterans looking for the next event, as well as newbies who have been enticed by my persuasive words to give the con scene a whirl, the International Costumers Guild provides a list of conventions spanning the globe.

Locally, a couple of events are coming up in Mid-Missouri, in addition to the ones hosted by DBRL. Cosplacon will take place in Jefferson City June 18-21. DoDeca-Con is scheduled for Columbia Sept. 11-13.

Happy cosplaying!

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Reader Review: Euphoria

June 16, 2015

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first review by a library patron we are posting as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!

euphoriaEuphoria” is about three anthropologists exploring parts of New Guinea and their relationships within the group and with the tribes they meet. It is a fiction novel but loosely based on a period of Margaret Mead‘s life. I liked the writing and characters of the novel. It was fairly short (less than 300 pages) but still completes the story, develops the characters and leaves the reader wanting more. It makes the reader think about anthropology work when it first started and the toll it takes on both sides (the anthropologist and the tribe).

Three words that describe this book: Descriptive, hooking, thought-provoking.

You might want to pick this book up if: You like Barbara Kingsolver and her many novels.

-Megan

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The Gentleman Recommends: Will Chancellor

June 15, 2015

Book cover for A Brave Man Seven Storeys TallI was excited to read “A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall” because the story of a brave giant is almost certain to be exciting. To my brief disappointment, the title isn’t literal. But my disappointment was curtailed because the story is riveting. We begin with water polo star Owen Burr, his days infused by one of four colors (obviously: peridot, gamboge, ultramarine and carmine) that correspond to the general feel of the day, and of course, a Greek god. Owen is to participate in the Olympics until a savage blow from from a decidely ungentlemanly opponent obliterates one of his peepers. While most people, after losing an eye, turn to a life of pillaging on the high seas, Owen’s plan is slightly less ambitious. Eyepatch donned, Owen bravely abandons college, steals his father’s prized copy of “The Odyssey” and leaves his goodbye on a post-it note. He journeys to Berlin to become an artist and discover which half of his life would be wasted.

Once there, he meets one tremendous scoundrel, several lesser scoundrels and some people that aren’t scoundrels. When the tremendous scoundrel, a famous artist whose work is often exploitative and disgusting, offers to collaborate with Owen, some dreadful things occur. I haven’t been this outraged by the actions taken against a character since watching any Game of Thrones episode. But Owen has no swords or dragons or lofty titles, only a dashing eye patch and a desire to create.

Meanwhile, Owen’s father, a professor at a fancy college, is distraught about his son. He begins searching for him and finds saying radical things leads to notoriety which might lead to Owen finally responding to an email or perhaps sending a telegram. Joseph Burr’s search leads him to Athens, where he makes a speech about Scarface and philosophy and whatnot. Someone rushes the stage and hands the professor a Molotov. Joseph is trying to spare the crowd a good burning when he lofts the explosive at the Parthenon. Alas, his toss isn’t widely viewed as the good deed it was. Fear of imprisonment ushers him out of Greece and onward on his trek to find his son.

Owen is also on the run now, having done a very bad thing to a man who very much deserved it. I’ll cease the plot talk here, as much of a delight as it is — I’ve already spoiled more than I consider gentlemanly, but sometimes an honorable man wants to write about a professor throwing Molotovs at the Parthenon.

Will Chancellor is a gifted writer, and there is a bounty of delightful sentences in store for anyone who takes this recommendation. Here are some words from the writer John Warner, who did a superior job of recommending this novel.

“…What I loved about the novel is the kitchen-sink quality of its ideas and obsessions. At one point or another Chancellor touches on: Plato’s allegory of the cave; remote-controlled boats; postmodern performance art; postmodern political theory;…Icelandic myth; the inevitable upselling of camping gear; campus politics; and the particular genius of Hungarian water polo.

…I fell in love with the book because it is one of a handful of books I will read in a given year that remind of the potential of literature to mine our obsessions and share them with others…A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is the most “alive” book I’ve read this year. I don’t delude myself as to the size of this megaphone, but I hope someone’s listening.”

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