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Stan Lee Wants You to Get a Library Card

September 3, 2014

National Library Card Sign-up Month Poster featuring Stan LeeSeptember is the National Library Card Month (chaired this year by comic creator Stan Lee), and libraries across the country want you to know that one of the most important back-to-school supplies is a library card. It’s also the cheapest (i.e., free), and getting your hands on one doesn’t require fighting the hoards at a big box store.

Since this is a library blog, I’m preaching to the choir here. You, dear reader, already have a library card. (If you know someone who doesn’t, encourage them to apply for one in person or online.) But did you know the range of tools and materials you have access to with that card? Not only can you get books, but your library card is also your ticket for free access to:

Mr. Lee says it best: “The smartest card in my wallet? It’s a library card.”

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On the Water

August 29, 2014

Book cover for Perfect WavesMy family is lucky to own a beachfront home on Lake Michigan, an amazing place. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  Well, it has lots of quirks.  We have had floods, erosion and falling trees. But the lake has its own kind of magic. When we were there on a recent trip, the water was in the low sixties. Despite the cold, we all ended up boating, kayaking and swimming.

When I was a child it seemed like every summer day was spent in a river, lake, pond or puddle. If I ever need to get away, I find myself near water. The sounds, smells and rhythm of water soothe my soul. This year’s One Read book, Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat,” captures the magical properties of water much more eloquently than I do. If you cannot get to the water, below is a list of books that have images to help you imagine.

For even more views of being “On the Water,” join us for a One Read art exhibit at Orr Street Studios in Columbia, on display September 7 – 20, with a reception on September 9.

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Review: Dominion by C.J. Sansom

August 27, 2014

Book cover for Dominion by CJ SansomOn a recent day trip to the Omnimax theater at the St. Louis Science Center to see a film about D-Day, my father-in-law commented on how things might be now if Germany won the war. His comment struck a chord, reminding me of a book that I had recently learned of – C.J. Sansom’s alternate history, “Dominion.” This alternative history imagines a world in which World War II has not occurred.

Great Britain, still reeling from the war torn years of WWI, finds itself under the leadership of Lord Halifax rather than Winston Churchill. This single act drastically changes the world that would have been had WWII been allowed to play out. Author C.J. Sansom sets “Dominion” in the early 1950s, over a decade after a 1940 truce between the two nations. Great Britain now finds itself more and more under the control of its Fascist alli. During that decade, European Jews and now British Jews are gathered and shipped off to camps, under the guise of separating the races. In fact, they are being exterminated, as Nazis attempt to create a “pure” empire.

Sansom focuses his story on the growing resistance movement that fights relentlessly to overthrow the German regime that has infiltrated Great Britain. He follows David, a civil servant, who also happens to be working as a spy for the resistance; Sarah, David’s wife, and a pacifist; Frank, a college friend of David’s who holds a secret the Nazis will kill to get their hands on; and Gunther, the SS officer sent to capture Frank. “Dominion” is told from their various perspectives.

I loved the depth brought to the story as its perspective moved back and forth between these rich and compelling characters. Sansom’s research is also highly evident, particularly in his notes section at the book’s end. So although this is an alternative history, it is chock full of people who did exist. Sansom even incorporates other aspects of history into the story that add to its realism. For example, he includes a true fog event that occurred during the very time period during which the novel is set, which ultimately impacts the events that occur within the novel. Sansom’s extensive research truly creates a world that could have existed if the events of 1940 had gone differently.

“Dominion” is a great read for anyone who loves a thriller, but readers of historical fiction may find it satisfying as well thanks to all the research and real history found throughout the story. And for those of us who enjoy learning about history, but also enjoy pondering “what if,” it is certainly a book that does not disappoint. (And for those who are intrigued by the idea of reading alternative histories, the library owns several beyond this title. Check out some that you may enjoy reading by browsing our catalog.)

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The September 2014 List

August 25, 2014

Library Reads logoSeptember is upon us! Time to get serious and hit the books. This month’s list of recommended titles from LibraryReads leaves behind the lighter fare of summer and includes some heavy-hitting literary fiction, as well as a book that stares death in the face. Here are the top 10 books being published in September that librarians love.

Book cover for Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin DoughtySmoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory
by Caitlin Doughty
“Part memoir, part exposé of the death industry, and part instruction manual for aspiring morticians. First-time author Doughty has written an attention-grabbing book that is sure to start some provocative discussions. Fans of Mary Roach’s ‘Stiff’ and anyone who enjoys an honest, well-written autobiography will appreciate this quirky story.”
Patty Falconer, Hampstead Public Library, Hampstead, NH

Book cover for Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelStation Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel
“An actor playing King Lear dies onstage just before a cataclysmic event changes the future of everyone on Earth. What will be valued and what will be discarded? Will art have a place in a world that has lost so much? What will make life worth living? These are just some of the issues explored in this beautifully written dystopian novel. Recommended for fans of David Mitchell, John Scalzi and Kate Atkinson.”
Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

Book cover for The Secret Place by Tana FrenchThe Secret Place
by Tana French
“French has broken my heart yet again with her fifth novel, which examines the ways in which teenagers and adults can be wily, calculating and backstabbing, even with their friends. The tension-filled flashback narratives, relating to a murder investigation in suburban Dublin, will keep you turning pages late into the night.”
Alison McCarty, Nassau County Public Library System, Callahan, FL

And here is the rest of the list with links to our catalog so you can place holds on these on-order titles.

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Festivals for Local History Buffs

August 22, 2014

Photo courtesy of Missouri Division of Tourism via FlickrIf you’re into local history and festivals, you’re in luck.

September 13 and 14, be a part of the Battle of Centralia reenactment weekend. Held in in Centralia, Missouri, this event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the fight between Federal troops and Confederate “Bloody Bill” Anderson and his men. In addition to the reenactment, enjoy two full days of activities, including music, crafts, food vendors, Civil War historians, dancing and night firing of Civil War cannons! Visit the Friends of Centralia Battlefield’s website for more information.

The following weekend will be the 37th Annual Heritage Festival & Craft Show on the grounds of the Boone County Historical Society outside the Maplewood Home in historic Nifong Park. This annual event will be even more special this year with tours of the completed homes in the village just behind the museum. More reenactments of the “good ole days” will also be included, with artisans and tradespeople dressed in 19th century attire demonstrating their trades and selling their wares. On the Maplewood Home’s porch will be booths sharing information about the Boone County Historical Society and the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri.

In October, the 2014 inductees to the Boone County Hall of Fame will be celebrated at the historical society’s annual reception. The Boone County Hall of Fame honors some of the area’s individuals and organizations “whose contributions of talent and ingenuity made an impact on Boone County’s past, helping it to become the progressive and thriving county it is today.” This year’s honorees are writer Warren Dalton; attorney Don Sanders, a key figure in the Watergate investigation, former Boone County Commissioner and past president of the Boone County Historical Society; and Little Dixie Construction. This event is a fundraiser for the Walters History Museum.

If you love local festivals of all types, here are some other events to add to your calendar this fall. Crafts, music, food – Mid-Mo has you covered.

photo credit: Missouri Division of Tourism via photopin cc

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Too Hot To Cook? Then Don’t!

August 20, 2014

Photo of Pan Bagnet by Kevin via FlickrOkay, admittedly, this has been one of the coolest summers in mid-Missouri in a long time, but we’ve still had plenty of hot days. Without all that summer sunshine and heat we wouldn’t have the produce bounty we’re lucky to have here in the Midwest – fat juicy tomatoes, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cucumbers, bushy bunches of basil, peaches, watermelon, okra, eggplant and on and on, all wonderfully and locally available. This appeal is obvious if you attend farmers’ markets – they are teeming with people scouting for the freshest picked and most flavorful fruits and vegetables.  That said, as the days of summer wear on and the heat and humidity debilitate, preparing meals over a hot stove and heating up the house drops way down on the list of my favorite things to do. Is that true for you? Well, if so, fear not. You can eat well without cooking (or cooking very little). When the temperatures rise, it’s time to resort to chilled soups, smoothies, saladssandwiches and other raw food recipes to feed yourself and your family. DBRL’s collection is replete with cookbooks featuring these “un-cooked” meals.

One of my boys’ all-time favorite meals is Pan-Bagnat (pronunciation: pan ban-YAH).  It is essentially a salad Nicoise (from the Nice area of France) on a crusty roll, packed with lots of goodies that can be varied – tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Greek olives, slivered red onion, tomatoes and provolone – drizzled with olive oil or pesto. It’s a complete meal in and of itself and so easy to make and divinely delicious to eat. I really ought to make it more often. We packed this treat along with some fresh bing cherries and orangeade kombucha for a recent bike ride picnic, and everyone went home with happy taste buds and satisfied bellies.

Another nice aspect to leaving the stove behind and focusing on these cooler meals is that they tend to involve less time in the making, leaving more time for other activities, like going for a swim – another great way to take the edge off the heat.

photo credit: Kevandy via photopin cc

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The Gentleman Recommends: Katherine Dunn

August 18, 2014

Book cover for Geek Love by Katherine DunnGenetic modification is a hot topic, and not just because of the literal heat harbored by pumpkins inexplicably modified to cast horrifying, fiery glares our way every October. There are pluses, like massive potatoes capable of feeding dozens, talking to you when you’re lonely and even playing a competent game of checkers. Perhaps you give birth to Siamese twins with a gift for playing piano. There are minuses though, besides hateful pumpkins and repeatedly losing to a potato at checkers. Maybe you birth a child with flippers for limbs and a predilection for starting popular cults that mandate the removal of one’s own appendages. Also, as gene tampering becomes rampant, people will grow weary of picking their future children’s hair colors and which professional sport they will play. Parents will long for the days when, if you didn’t like your child’s hair, you simply shaved them bald, and if you wanted them to excel at sport, you were forced to mercilessly prod them until their vertical leaps were satisfactory.

While the profile of genetic shenanigans grows with every neon-blue tomato on our plates and Robocop on our streets, people have been obsessed with genes since the first bald man looked scornfully at his father’s bountiful locks. And 25 years ago, Katherine Dunn tapped into this obsession and combined it with another topic constantly on the minds of modern humans (travelling freak shows) into one gloriously deformed firecracker of a novel.

Geek Love” is narrated by Olympia, a hunchback albino dwarf, member of her parents’ lucrative freak show and product of her parents’ crude attempts to modify DNA for profit. Her parents, Aloysius and Crystal Lil, used drugs, insecticides and radioactive stuff to conjure strange fruit from the womb. Oly’s older brother, Arturo, is the aforementioned flipper-limbed, cult leader. Electra and Iphigenia are the Siamese piano dynamos. Fortunato is the youngest, a seemingly normal child nearly abandoned for his uselessness until his telekinetic powers manifested themselves.

The novel jumps between two eras. One covers Oly’s childhood with the carnival and the familial strife, much of it conjured by Arty and his cult of Arturism. The other era features Oly taking care of a mother who doesn’t know who she is, perhaps in part because of the radiation and insecticides, and stalking a daughter who doesn’t know who she is because Oly gave her to some nuns when she was a baby. The twin narratives race along like the most awesome and lengthy roller coaster ever, and you’ll leave the tracks dazed, queasy, having lost your sunglasses and ready to get in line for the next Katherine Dunn novel, which doesn’t yet exist as the author spends much of her time using her boxing knowledge to fend off muggers.

The reader should be warned, in addition to the reckless gene doctoring, there is content not for the faint-hearted: telekinetic pickpocketing, attempted murder, a human with a tail, murder, unnecessary amputations and, depending on how you define it, incest. But if you like words and watching someone bite the head off of a live chicken, this may be your new favorite novel.

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New OverDrive Updates

August 15, 2014

OverDrive Media ConsoleOverDrive recently made several updates to their site that improve your ability to find downloadable eBooks and audiobooks and manage holds. The changes include the ability to filter items by age level, automatic hold checkouts and suspending holds. Here are the highlights.

Maturity Settings
You can now exclude items from your browsing or search results based on age levels. For example, adult users are able to exclude titles for younger readers and young readers to exclude adult-only titles from their experience. This can be done by going into your account settings and choosing the appropriate range of content. You must be logged in for this to be in effect. Users can also choose to “mask” covers for “Mature Adult” items. This is also done from the account settings page.

Hold Auto–Checkout
Holds will be automatically checked out to your account when they become available. This is optional and can be done by checking a box at the time a hold is placed. If you are unable to borrow the title at the time it becomes available (because you have already reached their maximum checkout limit, for example) you will be sent the current hold notification email and have three days to make your checkout.

Suspended Holds
This feature allows you to temporarily suspend a hold in the waiting list. Your position will continue to advance in the queue while the hold is suspended, but the hold will not be filled. You can do this by going into the Holds section of your account settings and clicking on the Options button for a hold.

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Hovercrafts and Home Brews: Science You Can Use

August 13, 2014

Everybody loves to apply ointment to wounds and toppings to nachos. However, did you know you can also apply science to life? Sure, knowledge is its own reward, but here are some books to get you started if you want a manifestation of your reading:

Book cover for Cooking for GeeksChemistry
Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food” by Jeff Potter – Avoid kitchen disasters by learning exactly what happens when you boil an egg.
True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home” by Emma Christensen – Brew that perfect fermented drink for your next theme party.
Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home” by Sam Caligione – Or just stick to brewing beer.

Neuroscience
Boost your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance” by Majid Fotuhi – Hone your concentration so that you can work on that jigsaw puzzle for longer than 10 minutes.
Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best From Your People” by Edward M. Hallowell – Motivate your employees without free pizza.

Book cover for the Firefly Guide to Weather ForecastingMeteorology and Astronomy
Guide to Weather Forecasting” by Storm Dunlop – Do-it-yourself forecasting beyond creaky knees and frizzy hair.
The Lost Art of Finding Our Way” by John Edward Huth – You’ll be glad to apply this book’s lessons if you lose your GPS, smartphone, Compass, and maps while trekking through the woods for some reason.

Mathematics and Statistics
The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life” by Michael Blastland – Be the life of the party during election season when you explain what those numbers really mean.
How Many Licks?: Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything” by Aaron Santos – Guess how many jelly beans are in that jar.

Book cover for Science InkArt and Science
Divine Proportion: Phi in Art, Nature, and Science” by Priya Hemenway – Impress a docent by rhapsodizing about the beauty of 1.6180339887….
Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art” by Arthur I. Miller – Create your next masterpiece using brain scans, artificial intelligence or gene therapy.
Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed” by Carl Zimmer – Most of these tattoos likely originated with a student’s inability to memorize science stuff before a test, but they look neat, and needles hurt.

Physics
The Physics of Pitching: Learn the Mechanics, Science, and Psychology of Pitching to Success” by Len Solesky – The average salary of a Major League Baseball pitcher is over three million dollars, so maybe it’s time for a career change.
The Physics of Baseball” by Robert Kemp Adair – Or just sit on the couch and learn to appreciate at the velocities and angles of America’s pastime.
How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnet Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects” by Stephen Voltz – Not using that leaf blower? Use it to build a hovercraft.

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Classics for Everyone: True Grit

August 11, 2014

Book cover for True Grit by Charles PortisAugust is American Adventures month, as established by someone. I forget who. The point is it gives me an excuse to write about one of my favorite novels.

True Grit,” by Charles Portis, is a book that defies genrefication. It’s an American adventure semi-western coming-of-age dramatic comedic fictional memoir. The narrator is Arkansas resident Mattie Ross, speaking as an older woman, recalling the time in the 1870s when she was 14 years old and set out to capture her father’s killer, a man named Tom Chaney.

Much of the entertainment value, the thing that keeps me re-reading certain passages, stems from Mattie’s voice, which Portis has crafted perfectly. Mattie holds firm convictions about how things should be. Her love language is legal representation. She freely offers the assistance of her family attorney to those she respects. Her liberties with the lawyer’s services extend to forging his signature on her own letter of identification. Early on she says “If you want anything done right you will have to see to it yourself every time.” This philosophy compels her to carry her father’s war pistol and accompany Marshall Reuben (Rooster) Cogburn, the man she has hired to track Chaney, on his manhunt in Choctaw territory, where Chaney has fallen in with a group of outlaws.

Rooster Cogburn is described by another character in these words: “a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don’t enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork.” But later events show he is not entirely without pity, especially when it comes to Mattie. And she is not entirely inflexible, making allowances for Rooster’s cursing, drinking and the fact that he himself once fled parole in Kansas. Unlike Mattie, Rooster thinks more in terms of how things are than how they ought to be. His catch phrase is “That is the way of it.” Despite their differences, Rooster and Mattie often bring out the best in each other.

But there is a third member of the party who can rile both of them, a dandy of a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (pronounced “LaBeef”). Chaney is also wanted in Texas for killing a senator, and there is a substantial reward involved. LaBoeuf has been after the killer for some time, but it’s unclear whether the ranger is motivated more by money or pride. His magnificent spurs – a symbol of his self-image – are mentioned multiple times.

As the trio closes in on the gang of ne’er-do-wells, the action becomes ever more thrilling. Each one of the three protagonists is required to dig deep into their reserves of courage, loyalty and, of course, grit. As in all good fiction, nothing comes without sacrifice. Mattie, especially, pays a large price for what she’s gained.

If you’ve been meaning to get around to reading “True Grit,” take heed of the older Mattie’s words: “Time just gets away from us.” Buckle down and get to it.

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Reader Review: Code Name Verity

August 8, 2014

Book cover for Code Name Verity by Elizabeth WeinCode Name Verity” is a fictionalized story of the friendship of two women during World War II. The first part of the book is Julie’s side of their story and then Maddie’s account is the second half. Julie is captured and is forced to write down all of the information she knows in regards to the war (code names, airports, war plans and strategies, etc.). I enjoyed listening to this book on CD. The readers did a great job of portraying their characters. I am going to listen to the book again due to the twist at the end I didn’t see coming.

Three words that describe this book: Friendship, World War II, Prisoner

You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a book about friendship, or you want to know what role some women played during World War II and what some people went through when they were captured.

-Sharon

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Final Gift Card Winner Announced

August 6, 2014

TrophyCongratulations to Rachel from Ashland on winning our eighth and final Adult Summer Reading 2014 prize drawing. She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

That wraps up our Adult Summer Reading program for this year. If you didn’t win a prize, we hope you will try again next year. A big thank you to everyone who signed up and submitted book reviews. Make sure to come back to DBRL Next to see what other patrons have recommended. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming One Read program. This year’s selection is “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown.

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Who Is Hermes Diaktoros, and What the Heck Is He Doing?

August 6, 2014

 Book cover for The Messenger of Athens by Anne ZouroudiReview of the Seven Deadly Sins Mystery Series, by Anne Zouroudi

Some mysteries, especially those of the “cozy” persuasion, move at a leisurely, describe-every-parasol-and-moustache pace. This generally does not work for me. Forget the stage-dressing, give me lots of action and witty repartee, and wrap it up with a clever solution in under 300 pages, and I’ll be your fangirl. Otherwise, it’s the nearest book drop for you, Cozy Author.

But it seems I’m becoming a kinder, gentler mystery reader. To my surprise, I just finished the fourth book in the Seven Deadly Sins series – a set of strangely hypnotic mysteries with a pace that can only be described as glacial.

This is largely due to the mellow, tortoise-like demeanor of the central character, Hermes Diaktoros, referred to throughout the series as “the fat man.” We never learn much more about Diaktoros, other than that he’s Greek, meticulous about his appearance (especially about his trademark white sneakers), and mysteriously well-off and well-connected.  It also soon becomes clear that he’s very, very observant and just about fearless.

The fat man meanders around the Mediterranean doing – well, we’re often not quite sure what he’s doing. Righting vague interpersonal wrongs?  Investigating crimes that no one else wants solved?  He sits in cafes, takes long, leisurely walks, asks the locals odd questions and collects things in tiny boxes. Eventually, what was dark and sinister is brought to light and justice. Sort of.

I realize I’m not explaining this very well, mainly because I have a hard time remembering what actually happens in these books. I just drift along, enjoying Zouroudi’s luscious, atmospheric prose, spacing out in a sweet  Mediterranean dream – the lemony sunshine, the bay dotted with fishing boats, the smell of sea and rosemary.  And hey…that fat man over there. What’s he doing?

Now that I’m deep into this mystery series, I know that if I follow this slow, strange guy around for awhile, things will get very interesting.  And that seems to work for me. 

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS MYSTERY SERIES AT DBRL

The Messenger of Athens” (Lust)*

The Taint of Midas” (Avarice)

The Doctor of Thessaly” (Envy)

The Lady of Sorrows” (Wrath)

*In this first book, the fat man doesn’t appear very often. Fortunately, the author corrects this mistake in the rest of the series.

 Note: The next three books in the series – “The Whispers of Nemesis” (Pride), “The Bulls of Mithros” (Sloth), and “The Feast of Artemis” (Gluttony) are not yet available in the U.S.

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Reader Review: Lewis & Clark: The Journey West

August 5, 2014

 The Journey WestIn 1803, President Thomas Jefferson appointed his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to lead an expedition into the land west of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis asked his friend, William Clark, to partner with him. Starting in 1804, it was a journey that took them and the other men who made up their crew two and a half years, from the onset of their trip until their return. Their original journals went into great detail about the dangers they faced – hunger, bitter winters, torrential rains, sickness, etc. The journals also detailed the joy they shared with each new discovery and their friendship with Native American tribes. From those diaries the Salisburys were able to write a true account of this first journey to the West. I have always been interested in the Lewis & Clark Expedition and lived near a part of the Mississippi River where the explorers traveled and camped. The authors have included over 150 illustrations of the trail they took, describing mountains, plains, the Indian camps and people, wildlife and rivers, as well as maps that are based on the diaries. This book is a well-rounded, accurate story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Three words that describe this book: Historical, Adventuresome, Interesting

You might want to pick this book up if: People who are interested in American history and the Lewis & Clark Expedition would enjoy reading this book.

-Linda

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Review: A Garden of Marvels

August 1, 2014

Book cover for A Garden of MarvelwDo you enjoy mysteries? Do you like plants? If you answer “yes” to both of these questions, then Ruth Kassinger’s “A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants” is just the book for you. Think about it – few things around us are more mysterious than plants, and Kassinger does a great job writing about them in an engaging and entertaining way. She talks about plant evolution, the history of botany and the people who propelled it forward (as well as the techniques they used). She describes her visits to universities where contemporary scientists shared their knowledge with her. And she shows the inner workings of plants: the way they breathe, propagate and survive adverse conditions (this information is arranged in three separate chapters: roots, leaves, and flowers). Kassinger even explores the world of competitive giant pumpkin growing, and she takes her readers to an annual fall festival in Maine, where pumpkin lovers turn pumpkins into competitive racing boats.

At the end of the book, the author touches on the possible benefits of the genetic engineering of food plants and the use of plants as biofuel. One of the readers described “A Garden of Marvels” this way: “I highly recommend this book to everyone – even if it means I’m no longer the only one in the room who knows the difference between collenchyma and sclerenchyma, and I lose my Look-How-Plant-Smart-I-Am edge in cocktail party small talk.” :)

P.S. If you like “A Garden of Marvels,” don’t miss another book by Kassinger: “Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates A Conservatory Garden.”

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Reader Review: Lionheart

July 31, 2014

Book cover for Lionheart by Sharon PenmanLionheart” is about King Richard the Lionheart of England and his time in the crusades. I love this author, Sharon Kay Penman, particularly her historical mystery novels, but I also fell in love with this series with the first book, “When Christ and his Saints Slept.” It can be a bit much to read these all in a row, but if you like historical fiction, her books are incredibly well-researched and I even enjoy her author’s notes where she talks about her research. I get to learn and be entertained at the same time! This book is no different from her others and brings King Richard to life, presenting him as a much more complex character than his legend.

Three words that describe this book: entertaining, historical, balanced

You might want to pick this book up if: You like well-researched historical fiction.

-Trish

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Science Fiction Graphic Novels

July 30, 2014

Graphic novels can be great to read if you don’t have a lot of time or if you don’t consider yourself much of a reader. With more images and fewer words than a regular novel, graphic novels make it easy to get drawn into the author’s world. Science fiction in particular is a great genre to read in graphic novel form because the images help bring the story to life, giving real depth to aliens, monsters and spaceships. I went through DBRL’s collection of science fiction graphic novels, which is pretty large, and picked out five popular and interesting series to tell you about.

Book cover for Tune by Derek Kirk KimTune by Derek Kirk Kim
Lighthearted and funny, “Tune” is great read. This graphic novel is going to be more fiction and a little less science. It’s about an art college student named Andy who finds himself in desperate need of a job. The only offer Andy gets is to be an exhibit at an alien zoo. Not only is this graphic novel full of witty humor, but it is also drawn well, easy to read and hard to put down. Currently, there are only two books in the series, but with the way the second book ends, there is no doubt that more are going to come.

Book cover for the graphic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Chris Roberson
This series is the prequel story to Philip K Dick’s science fiction novel of the same name. If you enjoyed that read, then this graphic novel is definitely worth checking out. It follows two different story lines that slowly grow together and begin to intertwine. With an android trying to hunt down other runaway androids, an empath trying to control his power and a scientist trying to save the human race from dying out, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has it all.

Book cover for the graphic novel SagaSaga by Brian K. Vaughan
The series Saga starts by throwing us into a Romeo and Juliet-esque romance where a couple from two warring races are having a child together. What better way to start a graphic novel than that? With characters like a teenage ghost, a robot prince, a dad with magic and a mom with wings, it’s hard not to love Saga. Just beware, you won’t find the same lighthearted sense of humor here that is present in Tune. There are currently three volumes published in the Saga series.

Book cover for the graphic novel Y, the Last ManY, The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
When I found out that the series Saga and Y, The Last Man were written by the same author, I wasn’t too surprised. Y, The Last Man shares the same serious and slightly violent feeling that Saga does. In this graphic novel series, the plague doesn’t turn people into zombies; it kills off every living creature with a Y chromosome, minus, of course, one spunky escape artist, Yorick, and his male monkey, Ampersand. While Yorick, a secret agent, and a scientist try to find a way to save mankind, the trio gets caught up in a lot of scary situations. With 10 volumes in this series, it will keep you turning pages till the very end.

Book cover for the graphic novel The Manhattan ProjectsThe Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman
The Manhattan Projects was my least favorite series of the five. The story was based around an alternative history involving scientists and aliens. It is well written, and the art style is original and different. It is set right after the fall of Hitler and Nazi Germany. A group of scientists have created a special lab, The Manhattan Projects, where they investigate portals to alternative worlds, nuclear bombs and computers that can think on their own. It is an interesting concept, but because it is based in real history, I had a hard time not questioning the plausibility of what was occurring. If you’re interested in scientists and history, though, then this is the science fiction graphic novel for you.

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Reader Review: Material Witness

July 29, 2014

Book cover for Material WitnessCallie Harper lives in the Amish community of Shipshewana, Indiana and she owns the quilters shop left to her by her late aunt. Since she arrived in this little community she has made friends, English and Amish. She has also been accused of murder and found an unlikely ally on the police force. Now the unthinkable happens: someone murders her competitor in front of Callie’ s own shop. To make matters worse, her friend Melinda’s wheelchair-bound son is the only witness. Will the Amish community help in the investigation or will they protect the murderer?

I do not typically pick up Amish books but I do love a clean mystery. This book was great on both counts!

Three words that describe this book: Amish, mystery, Christian

You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy clean, fun mysteries with a Christian slant to them.

-Stefanie

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Seventh Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

July 29, 2014

TrophyCongratulations to Margie, a Fulton patron, for winning our seventh Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer.  She is the recipient of a $25 gift card from Well Read books.

Our final drawing of the summer will be this week, so keep your fingers crossed.  You can still submit book reviews  to increase your chances of winning.

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The Sounds of Science

July 28, 2014

Schoolhouse Rock CD cover image“I got science for any occasion
postulating theorems formulating equations.”

That excellent rhyme is from the Beastie Boys’ song, “The Sounds of Science” off their classic album “Paul’s Boutique.” While not technically about science, the song does refer to Isaac Newton, Galileo, the theory of relativity and Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment. The Beastie Boys are using science as a metaphor for their expansive skills and knowledge.

Science doesn’t just pop up in music for clever wordplay and braggadocio (although that is pretty awesome, right?). Many songs are inspired by science. In some that inspiration is implied, and in others it’s explicit. Scientists also have a fascination with music, on how and why it has an effect on us. Here are a few of the more interesting items in the library catalog where science and music intersect.

Schoolhouse Rock: Science Rock
This is a collection of science songs from the iconic TV show. It’s an ideal soundtrack for a certain generation longing nostalgically for the lost, lazy Saturdays of their youth. Or it could be the ideal soundtrack for that generation’s children to learn about electricity, gravity and the human body.

CD cover art for Here Comes Science by They Might Be GiantsHere Comes Science” by They Might be Giants
It’s probably no coincidence that Misters Flansburgh and Linell turned their talent for writing fact-based pop songs into educational children’s songs around the time they each became parents. They haven’t let that niche audience hamper their unique style in these songs. They are as enjoyable for the childless TMBG fans as for those cranking this CD in their minivan full of kids. And if you’ve been looking for inventor Nicolai Tesla’s impact on the world encapsulated in a pop song, then check out “Tesla” from their album “Nanobots.”

This is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel J. Levitin
Daniel J. Levitin is a former session musician, sound engineer and record producer. He is now a neuroscientist who runs the Laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University. When the book jacket says this is “the first book to arrive at a comprehensive scientific understanding of how humans experience music,” you at least know the author has the bona fides to tackle such an ambitious subject. I’m not qualified to say how comprehensive the book is, but it is a fascinating and wide-ranging look at one of our great obsessions. Levitin begins with the fundamentals of what music is. He then expands out to questions like the evolutionary origins of music and why we like the music we do.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain” by Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks is probably best known for the movie “Awakenings,” which is based on his book of the same name. He writes that it was seeing the effects music had on the patients in “Awakenings” that prompted him to think and write about music. In “Musicophilia” he writes about the effect of music on several different patients. There are stories of musical seizures, musical hallucinations, musical dreams and a man who became obsessed with Chopin after being hit by lightning.

The Marriage of True Minds” by Matmos
You might have to file this one under pseudoscience, but there’s no denying the band used the rigorous parameters of a science experiment in making these songs. Matmos re-enacted an experiment called the GANZFELD experiment, designed to create a scientifically verifiable way of investigating ESP. They isolated subjects in a room and used sensory deprivation techniques on the subjects. The subjects were instructed to clear their mind and try to receive any incoming psychic signals. Meanwhile, a band member sat in an adjacent room and tried to transmit “the concept of the new Matmos album” into the mind of the subject in the other room. They used the results of these experiments as source material, blueprints or restrictions in the creation of this new Matmos album.

Science is Fiction: 23 Films” by Jean Painlevé
Jean Painlevé was a biologist and filmmaker who started filming undersea documentaries in the late 1920s. In order to do this, he encased his camera in a custom made waterproof box. Although he did not consider himself a Surrealist, the influence of that movement can be seen in both the style and the subject matter of his films. The result is something like Jacques Cousteau meets the oil projections that used to play behind Grace Slick as she sang about Alice in Wonderland. Naturally, some of these films needed a live score. In 2001 the band Yo La Tengo wrote a score for 8 of Panlievé’s short films and performed them live at the San Francisco Film Festival. This collection of films includes a live performance of the score from 2005, as well as an interview with the band. Caution: the music for “The Love Life of the Octopus” might melt your brain.

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