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Friday, June 28, 2013

Today at the library...

Ok.  I will be honest and tell you that this didn't actually happen in the library today- it happened last Friday. I'm not even in the library today because I am on VACATION!  

Anywhosky- you would be surprised the things that people do in the library.  I'm not talking about having sex  back in the stacks or cutting up library books while still in the building (though those things do happen).  These are just odd things that you don't expect to run into in a public place.

Today's example:  There was a gentleman who had to be given a warning about making toast in the library.  Yes.  Toast.  As in, he brought in his own toaster and bread and was apparently making a nice little breakfast for himself over by the magazines.  So uh, don't bring your toaster to the library?  Or something?  Happy Friday, ya'll!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Reference Question of the Day!

I feel like I need a dramatic intro with lots of trumpets or french horns when I announce these posts.  Hm.  In lieu of that, I will just overuse some caps and exclamation points.


The reference question of the day came to one of my co-workers during a regular Wednesday morning reference desk shift.

The back story: There was a local-ish news story on T.V. recently about a poor defenseless turtle who was golf-clubbed to death when she tried to climb into a sand trap to lay her eggs at a golf course.  See story here if you really, truly need to know more (*Warning* There is a picture of the injured animal):

OK.  So a patron calls the reference desk and asks if the reference librarian had heard of the story.  After my co-worker confirmed that she had heard, the patron asked what happened to the turtle.

Approximation of the conversation that followed:

Librarian: I've got the news story up on my screen here and it says that unfortunately the turtle died.
Patron:  Yeah, I know that.  But what happened to the turtle?
Librarian: Uh, it says they took it to an animal hospital but that the turtle died from its injuries.
Patron:  Yes.  But what happened to the turtle?
Librarian: I'm not sure what you mean...
Patron:  Like, what did they do with the turtle after it died?
Librarian (after a moment's pause):  Well, the article says they took the turtle to the ______ Animal Shelter.  I'm not sure what happened to the turtle after that.  I can give you the phone number of the shelter if you'd like.

And my lovely coworker gave the number of the animal shelter to the patron.

Just one of those special questions that makes you go "Huh?!?!"  Were they hoping to make some soup?  Give the animal a burial?  Who knows!  Poor turtle :(

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review: 45 Pounds (more or less)

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson

Book Type: YA lit, summer story

Stereotype Alert: Mean Girls, 

Cover Art: Meh.  Pretty chick-lit-y.

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Jon/ Grandma/mom or Courtney

Character Score: 7 out of 10 Mr. Micawbers

X-Factor: Tell it like it is, sister!

What's the Story?:  16 year-old Ann is sick of being fat and sick of comparing herself to her perfect size 6 mother.  When her aunt Jackie asks Ann to be in her wedding, the horrifying thought of bridesmaid dress shopping gives Ann a new reason to try and diet.  Again.

Stereotype Alert: There was def some Mean Girls type stuff going on here.  And not the ditzy, quotable one-liner type stuff, either.  Bullying isn't cool, guys. And neither are cliques. Quit being so lame.

Cover Art: Meh.  I know this is supposed to be Ann at a department store trying on a bunch of clothes and hating every minute of it, but it's so... chick-lit-y.  I feel like there is more to this book than that and that it should be reflected on the cover.  *sigh*

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Um, anyone would sleep with Jon- he's super hawt.  I want to marry Ann's Grandma so I can hang out with her and see all of her hilarious outfits.  And I have equal parts hatred for both Courtney and Ann's Mom.

Character Score: I love Ann.  I love her.  I don't care what size she is, she is sweet and awesome.  Pepper in Ann's grandmother and Raynee and we have a great cast of characters that keep me reading.

What's the Story?:  16 year-old Ann Galardi doesn’t exactly have a perfect life.  Her parents got divorced and her mother remarried and had twins.  Her brother doesn’t talk to any of the family.  Her best (and pretty much only) friend changed schools.  Her perfect size 6 mother is making her go shopping for a swimming suit.  But if Ann admits to her mother that she is a size 17, she knows it will only cause her mother to guilt her into yet another diet.  And Ann has tried them all.  Several times. 

But when Ann’s aunt Jackie announces that she’s getting married and that she wants both of the Galardi ladies to be in the wedding, Ann thinks she may have some new motivation.  Ann vows to lose 45 pounds in the next several months in order to fit into a normal dress.   The first step in her new weight-loss plan is to buy the Secrets 2 Success diet plan that she saw on an infomercial.  It comes with all of her daily meals prepackaged and a workout DVD.  This is going to be a challenge.  Ann loves food.  LOVES it.  How is she going to survive on lasagna that tastes like a sponge and salads with “low fat” dressing that looks like it’s made out of plastic?  More importantly: how is she supposed to pay for all of this?  When Ann finally finds a job at the mall she has a new challenge: how is she supposed to work at the Twisted Pretzel in the food court and not eat those tasty pretzels with the nacho cheese? 

Though Ann may be hungry, life during her new diet isn’t all bad.  There was that really cute guy who stopped by the pretzel place to flirt with her.  And it turns out that Raynee, member of one of school’s most popular cliques, works at the Twisted Pretzel.  And it turns out she’s pretty nice.  And she invites Ann to the hottest party of the summer. 

Life post-party isn’t all that great.  Ann gets totally embarrassed at the party.  Then Raynee’s best friend accuses Ann of being rude to customers and eating tons of pretzels at work.  Then Ann notices her younger half-sister having a tea party with her stuffed animals and telling them that they can’t have any cake because it will make them fat.  Suddenly, Ann’s weight issues take on a whole different dimension.  Between her past habits of gorging herself and her mother’s habit of never eating Ann realizes that the real problem in with all of this food stuff isn’t about her fitting into a bridesmaid dress; it’s about the message that is being sent to a four-year-old.

X-Factor: Barson does a great job with this book.  She tells it like it is and creates a lovable, believable teen protagonist who is seriously doubting herself.   When I first read the synopsis on Netgalley I immediately requested a copy because it made me think of Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee (which, if you haven't read, you need to- post haste).  I was so relieved that though there are some stereotypes and a bit of cheesiness now and then, this wasn't a book about how fat kids need to learn self control and exercise more.  This was about the complexity of self worth and broken families and how eating can turn into a form of self-medicating.  How trying your hardest won't always flip a magic switch and solve all of your issues.  I was lucky enough to be fairly slim as a teenager.  But EVERY woman has those feelings of doubt when it comes to weight and how others see you.  No matter what size you are, you have felt the things that Ann is feeling.  My one and only problem with this book was that, though the story is clearly Ann's, I felt that her mom needed to own up to her issues.  Not just an "I'm sorry.  I didn't realize that I'm always bashing you for eating the food you like and that it makes you feel guilty that I never eat anything and complain about how fat I am."  She needs therapy on a lot of levels and that is really the only way that she can change to make life better for Ann and Libby (and herself).  

45 Pounds (more or less)  is available in stores on July 11th.  If you know any teenage girls, like teenage girls or were a teenage girl, you should probably read it and pass it on. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Benediction by Ken Haruf

Book Type: Literary fiction, family saga, death and dying

Predictability Factor: Never

Cover Art: He's with the angels now.

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Reverend Lyle/Lorraine/Tanya

Character Score: One hundred Mr. Micawbers

What's the Story?: Dad Lewis is in the final grips of cancer.  He reflects back on his life as his family and friends do everything they can to make him comfortable.

X-Factor: Master of Prose

Predictability Factor: Never ever, ever.  That is soooo not what his books are about.

Cover Art: I dunno.  It's a new day, he's in a better place, etc. etc. Most of Haruf's novels have these simple covers with lots of sky or landscape in them.  Whatever.

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: Maybe if Reverend Lyle was getting laid on a regular basis he wouldn't be such a idiot.  Or rather, he'd keep his stupid trap shut because he doesn't want to rock the boat.  Now I'm not saying that our community leaders  (which pastors obviously are) shouldn't speak up for what they believe.   But when you're in a small, kind of redneck town, you should close your mouth for the sake of your family's safety.  That's all I'm saying.  I love Lorraine.  I just want to hug her and marry her and ride off into the sunset to give her everything she ever wanted.  Tanya is a gross human being.  And a bitch. 

What's the Story?: We begin with "Dad" Lewis, owner of a local hardware Store, who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  His devoted wife Mary does all that she can to make Dad comfortable.  The book focuses a lot of glimpses into Dad's past and we see him grapple with events of which he is not proud as he slips in and out of consciousness.  Soon, the couple's daughter Lorraine arrives from Denver to help her mother.  But there is a fourth presence in the house, an elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss.  The Lewis boy, Frank, ran away from home years ago and is a painful memory for all three relatives.  It is this relationship more than any other that plagues Dad's thoughts in his final weeks.  

Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother.  Her mother has recently passed away from cancer.  Alice is a breath of fresh air for all of the Lewis's and their friends in a painful time (though Dad's condition often reminds her of her mother).  An elderly widow and her daughter, along with Lorraine Lewis take an interest in the motherless girl and she becomes the center of their simple lives.

Across town, the new preacher is dealing with his own demons.  He's been removed from a big church in Denver and sent to hole-in-the-wall Holt as a sort of punishment for his outspoken ideas.  His teenage son is devastated to have left all of his friends behind and strikes up a tenuous relationship with a local girl before he begins his sophomore year of high school.  His wife is on the brink of leaving due to the shame of having left Denver only to end up in a dusty country town.  But Reverend Lyle just can't keep his opinions to himself; dividing his congregation in two and turning his family relationships to rubble.

Like in Haruf's past novels, all of his characters' lives intertwine in a story that gives a glimpse into one corner of life in a small plains town.  It is the austerity of the everyday that makes this novel such an addictive read.  Readers who appreciated the stark beauty of Haruf's simple prose in his previous novels will enjoy the new inhabitants of Holt, Colorado that are visited in Benediction.  This book is a story of quiet losses.  Of the pain that people live with  every day after a loved one passes or disappears from your life.  Of living each day though sadness and grief may be part of every step.  It is a simple story.  And one that is beautiful because of that simplicity.

X-Factor: Kent Haruf is the Master of Prose.  His novel Plainsong is the most beautiful book I have ever read.  If you have not read it, I demand that you do so.  You will not regret it.  Benediction builds on his literary history and opens yet another section of Holt to Haruf's readers.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Boy 30529: A Memoir

Book Type: Holocaust memoir

Stereotype Alert: Nope. 

Cover Art: Cute kids+ID+train tracks

Bed/Bride/Bludgeon: N/A

Character Score: N/A

What's the Story?:  Felix Weinberg survived not one, not two, but SIX concentration camps/death marches.

X-Factor: Talky talk.

What's the Story?: There are a lot of Holocaust memoirs out there.  This one is a little bit different.  Czech-English physicist Felix Weinberg does not like to refer to himself as a “camp survivor.”  He considers it a series of miracles that he lived and his family did not.  But I find it hard to call Weinberg anything but a survivor.  This book tells the story of a teenager who survived not only Terezín, but Auschwitz-Birkenau, Blechhammer, the Blechhammer death march, Gross-Rosen and Buchenwald.  Once the war was over, Weinberg vowed only to look toward the future.  But years of not talking about his experiences left him feeling that he owed it to both his living and deceased relatives to put his story on paper.

Much of this book is a monument to his family.  Weinberg’s memories begin when he was a young child living in Aussig (Ústí nad Labem), Czechoslovakia.  He speaks fondly of the beautiful family home. How he and his mother, father and brother went to visit his mother’s parents in Prague during the holidays.  He talks about his health obsessed father, Victor,  who always took the family on nature outings, fed them all vitamins and even went so far as to hire a gymnastics trainer for young Felix. 

In 1939, Weinberg’s father left Czechoslovakia for London where he was arranging to move the entire family.  Hitler invaded the country in March of that year.  Victor had secured three Red Cross transportation passes for the remaining Weinbergs but through some sort of red tape or missing documents, they were not allowed to leave the country.  Nelly, Felix’s mother, moved them all to the small town of Wildenschwert (Ústí nad Orlicí) to live with the family of Rudolph Pick, a family friend.  Things continued to deteriorate in Czechoslovakia.  Soon, Felix was refused access to the local school due to his status as a Jew.  Food shortages worsened.  The SS even had the nerve to confiscate all of the skis belonging to Jews living in that mountain town.  Rudolph and Nelly decided to send inexperienced Felix to live at a nearby farm where he would be well fed.  This arrangement lasted about a week.  The Germans requisitioned the Picks’ large home in 1942 and the Weinbergs were soon after deported to Terezín; beginning a five year journey of horror and chance survival.

Weinberg’s short memoir is striking in its straightforward tone but is not filled with ghastly details of Nazi atrocities.  Felix explains that he does not remember large portions of those five years; that his mind enabled him to “see without seeing” as a coping mechanism.  Weinberg defied so many odds by surviving the war and his everyday account of life in Nazi concentration camps makes for an enthralling read.  Boy 30529 is a thoughtful account of one man’s family and his experience during the holocaust.  

X-Factor: Talky talk. Weinberg's voice is very appealing.  He is warm, funny and very frank.  I found myself wanting to hug this guy.  Not because I felt sorry for him and all he went through, but because he just seemed like a really likable guy. 

 I feel about this book (and many others about about genocide) the same way I feel about books where the main character is a kid dying of cancer: I can't say that I love this book, but I can say that it is a good book.  It is a book that is so well written and moving that I would recommend it to others time and time again.