Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patron's Pick Slays

Take a social club for wrongly acquitted murderers, add the house full of artists next door, stir in a dead body or two (that none of them want the police to find out about), and you get The Wooden Overcoat. This madcap murder mystery by Pamela Branch, originally published in England in 1951, is compared in the introduction to contemporary British film comedies such as “Kind Hearts and Coronets”. If you’re familiar with that movie (shown at the library as part of a film series a few years ago), you know what fun you can expect, and Branch’s descriptive storytelling brings the scenes vividly to life as the misunderstandings between the two groups escalate into increasingly farcical attempts to hide the crimes.  It’s a quick and enjoyable read that was every bit as entertaining as its cover copy made it out to be.

How’d I discover this obscure little gem, you might ask? While cataloging it for a patron suggestion—that’s right, another patron wanted to read it, suggested it for the collection, and now other readers are able to benefit from it, too! It’s a good reminder that community suggestions help build the collection-- if you can’t find what you’re looking for in our catalog, feel free to suggest it via our website or with one of our green “suggestion for purchase” cards … and if we’re unable to get an item, there’s also the option of interlibrary loan!

Branch only wrote four novels, most out of print for decades and unavailable in the U.S. until The Rue Morgue Press brought them to American audiences in 2006. In fact, I think I’ll make a patron suggestion for more of these Pamela Branch mysteries myself…

Dale - Tech Services

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Party Crashers

Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions, edited by Daniel Simberloff and Marcel Rejmánek

This could be a very helpful resource for anyone interested in flora or fauna biodiversity. This encyclopedia will be a great starting point for both researchers and inquisitive novices. There are entries focusing on Bryophytes and Lichens, climate change, competition (animal and plant), Darwin, databases, earthworms, endangered and threatened species, hybridization and introgression, integrated pest management, ladybugs, Kudzu, mutualism, “Native Invaders”, pollination, range modeling, risk assessment and prioritization, seed ecology, transformers, and many more!

 * Note: Unfortunately, this is a reference book that cannot be checked out of the library. I recommend that more libraries consider buying a copy of this important book.

Shriley - Reference

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shocking Product Placement

The last time I blogged about “lightning rods,” we were talking counterrevolutionary icons in Marie Antoinette’s France.  This is not that kind of lightning rod.

Helen DeWitt’s newest book has gotten juicy reviews, and with good reason.  Because this is a family-friendly blog, I’ll describe the plot as delicately as I can: a salesman tries selling Encyclopedia Britannica and Electrolux vacuum cleaners, and fails.  Then he tries selling something a little more risqué -- “Lightning Rods” -- to small companies, and viola: success!  As another reviewer has said, “let's just say it's about an innovative solution to a workplace challenge and that this innovation is controversial.”  It’s these risqué bits that have gotten Lightning Rods so much attention, and sure enough, the story is shocking and fun for those who enjoy that kind of thing.  But the joke’s on the reader, because these parts of the story are written in such a matter-of-fact, utilitarian way that they don’t ultimately satisfy in the way you might expect.  As the leading lady, Elaine, would say, “It’s a lot like going to the toilet.”

And that’s the point.  Lightning Rods is not really meant to titillate, but rather to satirize the absurdity of a corporate sales culture in which the weirdest things slide in the spirit of turning a profit.  The story follows the same arc as those nineteenth century American novels that have scrappy little shoeshine boys pulling themselves up by their bootstraps to make a living in the land of opportunity.  Sales!  Progress!  But, asks Lightning Rods, what happens when we stop talking about shoes and start talking about other, more morally ambiguous, stuff?  DeWitt especially shines when she deadpans about the techno-rational focus groups, test cases, and scientific studies (with baboons!) that we use to justify obviously terrible sales choices.  Lightning Rods is bawdy, yes, but more than that, it’s just hilarious.

Finally, Lawrence readers will appreciate DeWitt’s Kansas City vignette, in which the protagonist, Joe, travels to the Big K to open up his second office.  There he sees a dwarf on a bus reading John Foster Dulles (“JFD”), and has this epiphany about Kansas:

"Joe was wondering why it was that Kansas had never acquired a reputation for being strange. If somebody can go around calling John Foster Dulles JFD and nobody bats an eyelash you have to ask yourself what are the rest of them like?  And no sooner had he asked himself why word hadn't gotten out than the answer came to him, just like that. The reason nobody knew about it was that normal people never came to see what was going on. Not realizing what the state had to offer they went elsewhere for their kicks. People from out of state tended not only to be but to stay just that: out of state."

Lightning Rods is not DeWitt’s The Last Samurai, and it’s not Nicholson Baker’s classic erotic workplace novel Vox, but it is a pretty perfect little piece of corporate satire.  Recommended for anyone who needs a little break from office culture.

Rachel - Programs

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gurl Talk

Here’s a fun fact: Katy Perry’s fans refer to themselves as “Katy Kats.” I gleaned this info off an SUV I’ve noticed parked around my neighborhood.  This vehicle has been painted sky blue and cotton candy pink and is bedecked with a giant rendering of Ms. Perry’s head. It’s really something else. Hats off to the crew over at Maaco.

As further evidence that Katy Perry is the pop starlet of the day (when you can't get Lady GaGa) she was recently given a hosting gig at Saturday Night Live. She did a respectable job with her skits, but apparently wasn’t up for the double-duty of host/performer (Britney Spears managed it - twice). The musical guest that evening was instead, Robyn. Do you remember her? In the 90’s she had a big hit with “Show Me Love” but since then has kept mostly to the dance charts. I had sort of forgotten about her until I saw the SNL performance (it gets real funky at 2:35). I was floored by what a wonderful little weirdo she is. She was wearing what I think was a girdle over spandex pants and had her white hair trimmed into a fetching bowl cut. Her moves were like a fly girl doing interpretive charades. It sounds like a mess, but she's fantastic – so fantastic she merited a send-up by some members of the cast.

I’m probably late to the conversation about Robyn, since her official video for “Call Your Girlfriend” has nearly two million views and the track was nominated for a Grammy a couple weeks ago. But in case you haven’t seen it, I’ll post the video below (warning: some of her gyrations are suggestive). You can borrow the album Body Talk here at the library.  Now if only there was a cute animal name for Robyn's fans.

Ransom - Reference

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Few More of Our Favorite Things

Name and department:
Rachel, Adult Programming Librarian

Staff Pick:
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

What’s an alternative title you would give the book?
The Metaphysics of Family

Summarize the book in one sentence:
Bizarre magical elements take a mundane little story about teenage girl angst into the realm of the inexplicable, the confusing and the sublime.

I would not recommend this book to my mother because...
It's just too weird. My mom is a straight-shooting cowgirl who grew up on an Idaho ranch, and she likes nonfiction and adventure stories. This book is a little too precious and twee for her tastes--although I'm sure she'd give it a fair shot!

Name and department:
Tricia, Tech Services Coordinator

Staff Pick:
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

What’s an alternative title you would give the book?
Self Awareness in the Jungle

Summarize the book in one sentence:
A scientist goes outside her comfort zone to embrace adventure.

I would recommend this book to my mother because...
I liked the characters and the plot was completely engrossing. I had a hard time putting it down!

Name and department:
William, Adult Services

Staff Pick:
Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

What’s an alternative title you would give the book?
Love in the Time of Dystopia

Summarize the book in one sentence:
A thought provoking, and kind of startling, look at how our focus on commercialism, capitalism, and youth can and may lead to the deterioration of the individual to clueless, superficial droids obsessed with pleasure and living forever.

I would not recommend this book to my father because...
Shteyngart’s imagining of the dystopian world might catch is interest, but he’s not much of a reader. He’d probably like a film adaptation, though.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Kind You Don't Take Home To Mother

Almost exactly two years ago, I gave my mom and four siblings each a copy of War and Peace for Christmas. The premise was to do a long-distance book group, at a nice and easy clip of 1200 pages in one year. That's only 100 pages a month! But I've since concluded that book group etiquette asks a commitment of at most 300 pages from each person at a time, preferably less. Although most of my family said they really wanted to read it, the execution itself was a little more... challenging. A year is a long time. 1200 pages is a lot of pages.

2009 came and went, but still I'd read only half. Then, in November of last year, with 800 pages under my belt, I decided enough was enough. And I finally finished, on Dec. 27, squeaking in just under the two-year mark.

And? It's brilliant! Obsessed with the microcosm, Tolstoy deconstructs major historic events through the eyes of half a dozen characters whom we watch grow-up from childhood. He's a starry-eyed romantic, yet he's also one of the most weirdly hilarious guys I've ever read. Drunken frat boys wrestling bears, crabby old men with sneezing problems, Tsars throwing biscuits from balconies, anagrams of Satan's name... When Tolstoy wants it to, the story really soars, and he's the best drama queen that ever was a drama queen. He definitely writes from the perspective of a privileged 19th-century white guy, but I can forgive him that by thinking of it as a campfire story told by someone's grandpa. Everyone knows Grandpa's a little old-fashioned, but boy he spins a good yarn! And the toasted marshmallows taste great.

OK, so there's your obligatory glowing review. But now I'm going to tell you how I really feel.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Things: More Staff Picks

Name and department:
Matt, Security Coordinator

Staff Pick:

Horse soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan by Doug Stanton

What’s an alternative title you would give the book?
Real American Heroes

Summarize the book in one sentence:
Chronicles the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan—the first cavalry invasion since the Civil War.

I would not recommend this book to my father because...
He’s had his own chronicles of war in Vietnam.

Name and department:
Rebecca, Youth Services

Staff Pick:

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

What’s an alternative title you would give the book?
No alternative, it's the perfect title--a humorous play on words, poignant, and says everything about the main character's mindset.

Summarize the book in one sentence:
A middle aged professor struggles with encroaching deafness that isolates him and lands him in hot water with an unhinged graduate student.

I would not recommend this book to my mother because...
It's too funny for her and she wouldn't appreciate the relationship between the professor and the student.

Name and department:
Ransom, Adult Services

Staff Pick:

I Am Not Myself These Days: A Memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

What’s an alternative title you would give the book?
Dude Looks Like a Lady and Smells Like a Distillery

Summarize the book in one sentence:
A New York City drag queen drinks an inordinate amount of vodka while maintaining a day job in advertising.

I would not recommend this book to my mother because...
Who do you think recommended it to me?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bubbly Personalities

Much like professional wrestlers and wives of philandering politicians, every comedian of even middling success is mandated to write a book.   I don’t think that a week goes by where I don’t notice another questionable addition to this already underperforming sub-genre.   It’s not hard to see why these books are being published, with Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler having penned such monster bestsellers.   But when Ms. Handler’s hangers-on start getting book deals (even Chuy), it’s a signal that we are in the midst of a comedy book bubble – and like all bubbles, its chief characteristic is a wanton disregard for quality control.

So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I picked up Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)I might have passed it by had the title not been so adorably self-conscious and relatable.  The book is filled with accounts as cute as the title promises and Kaling manages to steer clear of the two main pitfalls endemic in other comedians’ written work: 1) she doesn’t get so wrapped up in telling her life story that she neglects being funny and 2) she doesn’t repurpose an old routine as a chapter for her book (which was probably easy since she doesn’t do much standup).  The only complaint I’d lodge is that Kaling is less vapid and conniving than her T.V. persona Kelly Kapoor, leaving the book without any saltiness to cut the sweet (entire chapters were devoted to her expressing how much she loves her friends and family).

Since Is Everyone Hanging Out… is receiving a major advertising push all over the internet, I’ll let those getting paid to laud it do so and instead take this opportunity to recommend an overlooked title in the same vein.   Earlier this year, Michael Showalter released Mr. Funny Pants, which touches on themes shared in Kaling’s book, such as: childhood embarrassment, Brooklyn living, and rising up the ranks in comedy – but what is so special about his book, is that he seems to bore quickly with the traditional patter of mildly funny anecdote and veers many of his chapters into the realm of nonsensical weirdness.  His refreshing absurdity challenges the convention that every standup comic should also be David Sedaris.  Showalter captures buffoonery in a very smart way.  Plus, it's something fun to read while you are on the ballooning wait-list for Kaling's book.  (There's also no wait for Chuy's.)

Ransom - Reference

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Magically Delicious

I can understand why The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake gets mixed reviews. It's not for everyone, and it might not even be for you.

It's a very weird book, with a very weird premise, and it's hard to know what exactly even happens. On the surface, it's a story about a disaffected little girl whose parents grow distant via an extra-marital affair, and an older brother who disappears one day. You could get away with leaving it at that, and say there's just a little derivative magical realism sprinkled in for good measure, and you'd be kind of right. "She can taste other people's emotions in her cake. Big deal."

And so maybe it's just the mood I was in when I picked it up, but the fact is that I couldn't have loved The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake any more. For me, the bizarre magical elements take a mundane little story about teenage girl angst into the realm of the inexplicable, the confusing, & the sublime. I won't give away what happens to her brother -- it's so weird! -- but the thing is, even though what happens is physically impossible, it still feels a real way that I've felt before. In dreams? In small, secret places.

Rachel - Programs

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Staff Picks

Over in adult services, we've set up a display staff favorites. A number of nonfiction, novels, graphic novels and audiobooks will be featured there throughout the month. Next time you're in, be sure to check them out--but in the meantime, we'll be sharing some here on the blog all month too!

Name and department:
Lynn, Adult Services Coordinator

Staff Pick
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

What's an alternative title you'd give the book?
Second Chances

Summarize the book in one sentence:
A woman leaves a bad situation to start over.

I would recommend this book to my mother because... shows that no matter how bad things get, you can always get through it.

Name and department:
Dan, Collection Development

Staff Pick:
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt

What's an alternative title you'd give the book?
How the European Union Came to Be

Summarize the book in one sentence:
The book discusses how Europe rebuilt itself from the rubble after World War 2, with a lot of help from the U.S.

I would recommend this book to my father because...
...he was very in to history. I thought a lot about him while I was reading this book.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last Day of Patron Review Week - Thank You!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

So, for starters, author Isaacson pretty much tells you up front that Jobs asked him to write a biography and at first, he wasn’t really interested. That was about six sentences into the introduction and struck me as strangely arrogant, and maybe apropos, that someone would ask to have a book written about their life. But it sets the tone of the book and shadows the narrative of Jobs’ upbringing, his disdain for authority, his often cruel personal and business behaviors, and most importantly, his utter brilliance. You will see his warts, his humanity, and his lasting legacy in a chronicle that began with his childhood adoption and ends with an unmistakable impact to our technological symbiosis.

There are ample opportunities to be abhorred by Jobs’ personality or behavior, but to do so would be to miss the genius of the man. Like so many historical figures, Jobs’ feet are those of clay and his imperfections are often hard to visualize along with the wisdom. His intensity, vision, and maniacal pursuit of perfection in function and form have embedded within our culture words like iPod and download. His skill in persuasion and the power to recognize his dreams have made worldly changes in animated movies (Pixar), digital music, mobile communications, and much more. He broke eggs but made omelets, and along the way made his passions transformed into what we as a consuming public truly wanted (Jobs didn’t believe in market research but rather believed that consumers didn’t know what they wanted until he showed them).

Perhaps his greatest legacy was that he challenged himself, and those he allowed to share in his vision, to “Think Different” – later an Apple slogan. Great minds have always had to dispel with conventional wisdom and challenge the unknown, and Jobs was no exception. His father instilled in him an instinct for perfection and his quest for achieving perfection in his work never wavered, even in the face of failures. Oddly, there is no mention of his death – no time, date, place – and while that absence is unusual, so was Steve Jobs.

Tom V.F.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Garfield Assassinated, Hates Mondays

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard tells the fascinating true story of the assassination of President James Garfield. This episode in American history is not very well known, but it is an incredibly interesting story about, as the title indicates, madness, medicine, and murder. This book tells the whole story of Garfield’s short presidency and long, difficult death. The book starts at Garfield’s unusual nomination for president, and ends with the trial and death of his assassin. Charles Guiteau, a mentally unstable man, former cult member, and deluded political office seeker, shot Garfield after he believed he received instructions from God to do so. However, the bullet did not immediately kill Garfield, that job was left to his team of doctors who treated Garfield without using sterile medical practices despite a growing world-wide movement to practice antiseptic surgery. The book also chronicles the work of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who worked to create an induction balance in hopes of locating the bullet inside the President’s body. However, the work done by Bell and the doctors as well as the prayers of an entire nation could not save Garfield from the infection spreading throughout his body that was caused by his doctors poking and prodding his wound with their bare, unclean fingers and performing surgery without sterile tools. After over two months of suffering, Garfield died from what an autopsy revealed to be profound septic poisoning. Millard writes about the final moments of the President’s life in a very touching and emotional way. While many nonfiction historical writings can be detached and unemotional, Millard writes in a way that makes the reader feel the pain of Garfield’s friends, children, and widow. The book’s narrative writing style is incredibly assessable even t o those who do not usually read nonfiction which makes this book very readable and enjoyable for everyone. Millard’s account is a well-researched, well-written, and touching telling of the work done to save a president's life, the delusions of his would-be assassin, and his eventual death.

Alison W.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Two Patron Reviews, Same Low Price

Eleanor Roosevelt - PBS Home Video

This was a wonderfully captivating, stimulating and engaging video about the life of a woman who was hands down, the most extraordinary first lady we have ever had. Regardless of where on the political spectrum the viewer sits, or whether or not you agree with the policies she supported, you cannot help but be awed by Eleanor's dedication, energy, caring and intelligence.

Through news and original footage from her life, excerpts from journals, and interviews with her living relatives, and historians, this DVD takes you on a remarkable journey that left me feeling like I actually knew Eleanor. Beginning with her dysfunctional early childhood, and becoming orphaned after her father drinks himself to death and her mother dies suddenly of Diptheria, you come to understand her and gain insight into the time period as well. An average human living her early life, might have spent the rest of their life in therapy trying to overcome their demons -- the fact that she managed to extract so much value from the opportunities she did have, and then do her best to give back to others is inspiring beyond words. Then to see how she was betrayed by some of those closest to her -- yet never succumbed to bitterness or revenge make her a very important role model for all of us. Eleanor Roosevelt's life is something I will always be able to look to for inspiration and to see the very best of what humanity can be.

I have been so moved by the experience of watching of this video, and think that it was so well done, I hope that everyone can view this. Eleanor Roosevelt sits alongside, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln Albert Schweitzer, and Lucretia Mott as one of the most extraordinary, gifted and compassionate humans who ever lived. We all get pulled up a notch just by learning about the life of someone like this.

Watch this video for your own benefit, then share it with your children, grandchildren and friends for their enrichment as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Patron Review: Day Two

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

I enjoyed this book very much, but I am afraid it might only appeal to a fairly specific demographic. It takes place in the early 1980s at a selective college. The three central characters are very bright students facing graduation. The main character is a literature major and there are some fairly obscure references to postmodern lit crit. If you know the stuff, Eugenides' take on it is pretty funny, but if you aren't familiar with it you might be put off. One of the other main characters has bipolar disorder, and if you have any experience with that I think you will appreciate Eugenides' sympathetic representation of it. The book also has a lot of detail, which I mostly really liked but every once in a while I would forget where he was going with it. The main story line is a love triangle, which of course is not unique, but I was very much drawn in and I found it hard to put down. I cannot resist the temptation to point out this book is not _Middlesex_, so if you have read that and are hoping for something as wonderful, you will be disappointed. However, if you can take it for what it is, you may enjoy it. I probably would not recommend it to anyone who is not at least a little familiar with postmodernism and the 1980s.

Jennifer B

Monday, November 28, 2011

Full Week of Patron Reviews! Enjoy...

If you love tales of King Arthur (especially the parts about Excalibur), can name Frodo's and Gandalf's swords -- and both the names of Aragorn's sword -- from Lord of the Rings, and/or ever wondered what it was really like to use a sword in battle, this book is for you.

In The Book of Swords, Hank Reinhardt steers the reader through the history of the sword, throwing in some metallurgy, archaeology, poetry, and applied research as needed along the way. The focus is on how these weapons were used in combat and how they were adapted over time to changing technology (i.e., the discoveries of iron and then steel), battle conditions, and societal conditions. Each chapter ends with suggestions for further reading, most from Reinhardt himself. (The book was edited and published posthumously by Reinhardt’s wife, Toni Weisskopf Reinhardt.)

Whenever possible, Reinhardt tried out reproduction blades himself and described the results (sacrificing innumerable pork shoulder roasts in the process) — what kinds of wounds different swords made; how well they penetrated chain mail; which were good for cutting, thrusting, or both. He also takes time to discuss armor and other weapons used against swordsmen to give readers a clearer context for how swords were used. Finally, he discusses the differences between the sport of fencing and sword combat, and dispels a few myths and excessive liberties taken with the facts, perpetrated by the movies and other popular sources.

It’s an interesting topic, and Reinhardt made it a delightful read, full of quirky asides and fascinating details. Highly recommended.

Sarah K.

All week long, we will be posting reviews submitted by patrons, so a big THANK YOU! for those submissions. We encourage everyone to send in a review - they are much appreciated and (while supplies last) you get Lawrece Public Library promotional items for the effort.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

You'll Be Disappointed If You Were Expecting Vampires

In Kevin Wilson’s debut novel, we are introduced to a peculiar family of performance artists, the Fangs.  Caleb and Camille Fang, artistic directors and (to a lesser extent) parents, create pieces - or maybe happenings? - aimed at stirring frenzied responses from unwitting bystanders in public places.  Think Punk’d as funded by a MacArthur Genius Grant.  Their accomplices are Child A and Child B (Annie and Buster), the Fang children, who have grown up only knowing this bizarre and insular environment and struggle with their familial obligation to wreak havoc in the name of art.

When you pick up The Family Fang, the first thing you might notice is that the cover image seems allusive to a Wes Anderson movie, and while I’m no marketing guru, my guess is that the nod was intentional (also the blurb on the back likening it to a Wes Anderson movie was a tip-off).  The book is rife with Andersonian touches:  quirky melancholics, off-kilter academics, vain depressives, and unmanageable artists begetting world weary children – the whole shebang, really.   I don’t want my mentioning the similarities to come off as a slight, because it’s a fantastic book, but it should just be noted that the Fangs’ family tree shares a common root system with the Tenenbaums. 
Each chapter alternates between the past and present (a favored device of authors these days), jumping between scenes of the early Fangs, an inseparable band of ne’er-do-wells, and then twenty years later when Child A and B have grown up and moved out, having purposefully distanced themselves from their parents and the Fang Family brand of art.  Annie went on to become an Oscar-nominated actress and Buster a noted novelist.  Unfortunately, neither Fang child stayed ascendant for long, both buckling under personal drama (such as Buster being shot in the face), and they each return home for a chance to recuperate.   Soon after the homecoming, though, A and B find themselves again enmeshed in Caleb and Camille’s art-at-all-costs hijinks.

The Family Fang is a funny read - not in the fits of laughter sense, but more along the lines of dryly conceding aloud “that’s funny.”   Still, humorous fiction can be hard to come by, and Mr. Wilson’s efforts are much appreciated.

Ransom - Reference

Monday, November 21, 2011

For a Better Black Friday - DIY

The winter holidays are nearly upon us.  At the library, we realize a lot of our patrons are trying to save a little cash this year.  And because we are tuned-in to those needs like aliens to the mothership, we’ve got our eye on DIY gifting titles to recommend for your crafting pleasure.  If you're really quick about it, you might even snag a spot in the final workshop of our free "Thrifty Gifter" series on December 22

My family has also been trying to work more thrifty DIY projects into our holiday routine.  Going out on a limb last year, we typed into our Google browser: “what to give everyone for Christmas,” and the Internet gave us this brilliant gift: a pattern for MarthaStewart felted pigs. Amazing!!  (If we'd been really smart about it, we could have skipped Google altogether and used the library's fabulous Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center. And so my husband and I joined the throng at the fabric store on Black Friday, picking out our assortment of colorful patterned fleeces:  Hot-pink!  Giraffe-print!  Horse-heads!  Camo!  Plaid!  We had never sewed anything before in our lives.  But over the next four weeks, interspersed with work and highway travel, we brought 16 little piggies into fruition.  We also drank a few adult beverages and watched sooo many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It was a perfect storm.

And they were pretty adorable!  You can see the entire photo gallery on Flickr , or you can just take my word for it.  We wrapped them up in pretty little boxes with one bar of Mo’s Bacon Chocolate each.  So save a little cash this year and get a little closer to the ones you love.  Make some felted pigs together.  Or stroll on over to the library and get inspired to create something else.  I already know what I'm going to be making…

Suggested Crafting:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spirited Graphic Novel

One Soul, by Canadian writer/artist Ray Fawkes, is a graphic novel that tells the story of one soul as it passes through 18 different incarnations. The book came my way after reading a lot of good pre-publication notices, so while I knew a bit of what to expect, I was still pleasantly surprised by it. Using a 9-panel grid, Fawkes gives an impressionistic glimpse of each life in every spread. While their personality characteristics are only briefly sketched out, the arc of their story still manages to convey a full sense of a life lived. By reading across the grid, the reader discovers nice synergies as the different lives find similar experiences. Fawkes presents this well through the occasional repeated layout (p. 14/15) or designed spreads (p. 52/53) that often pack greater impact than the script alone conveys. Additionally, thanks to his strict use of the grid, the reader can also drill through the book, following the story of each life from its beginning to its (often unexpected) end, watching the grid gradually darken as lives come to their end. While the grid did fall apart a bit at the end for me, it's still highly recommended for readers wanting to experience a different storytelling structure; less so if you prefer a thorough insight into your characters.

Dale - Tech Services

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Patron Reviews Are Rolling In (we've got one!)...

The Call by Yannick Murphy explores the emotions and actions of a father who is caring for a son in a coma after a hunting accident.  In balancing the demands of his veterinary practice, caring for his injured son, and meeting the needs of his family the main character struggles to keep up.  While searching for the person responsible for his son’s injuries the main character learns about himself and his family.  Aside from the plot, Murphy includes a lot of veterinary details.   This adds an element of interest as the solutions to various farm animal health complications are presented.

The most striking aspect of The Call is the format.  It is not presented in a traditional form with chapters.  Instead the novel is told in a structure that looks somewhat like field notes.  There are basic headings that are used for each call the veterinarian answers.  The responses, presented in paragraphs, tell the story about the main character and his family.  While at first I found this distracting, after adjusting to this storytelling method this structure that added interest to the novel.  Overall, this is a memorable novel that stands out from others both in regard to plot and the storytelling method used.

Kristin W.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Submit a Review, Win a Prize!

The Spotlight is eager to hear about the books, movies, and music that you have been enjoying lately.  So much so, we want to offer you this swell deal:  you send us a 200-400 word review, and we’ll give you some awesome LPL branded library swag.  Plus, your efforts will be posted on the internet!

You can make your submissions here or email them to:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Player's Playlist

In Ready Player One, Ernest Cline imagines a grim future where many people live in poverty with out basic necessities such as food and heat. Almost everyone, however, has access to the OASIS, which is a simulated environment where users can learn, work, play, and pretty much live their lives. It provides people an escape from reality. The creator of OASIS died some time ago, and he left a "magic egg" hidden somewhere inside the game. Whoever finds the egg will inherit a vast fortune, and become the owner of the company that controls OASIS.

The book focuses on Wade, a poor young man whose entire life revolves around OASIS and the search for the egg. Not only would the money help Wade create a better life for himself, but he is also determined to stop an evil corporation from finding the egg and shutting down free public access to the OASIS.

Strangely enough, although the book is set in the future, it also manages to make a lot of references to 80's pop culture, movies, and music. Throughout the book, Wade's knowledge of 80's trivia proves to be very valuable. It also made me want to go back and listen to some of my favorite 80's songs and watch some 80's movies.

We have included a few songs that the author, Ernest Cline, mentions on his website. If you are interested in listening to the full "Official Ready Player One Soundtrack" you can visit

Also, if you, like myself, now feel like watching some of the movies mentioned in the book, we do have a lot of them in our collection!

Jenny R - Reference

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time's a Goon

This past April, Jennifer Egan was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her fourth novel, A Visit from the Goon SquadIt’d be easy to fill this post by rattling off the accolades the book garnered (National Book Critics Circle Award, PEN/Faulkner finalist, Best of 2010 list in every newspaper and magazine), but actually describing the story is a bit of a challenge. It’s a nonlinear narrative with clear contempt for the forward march of chronological order.  It hops between times and narrators at each successive chapter.  The characters themselves are loosely connected to one another, in the Kevin Bacon sense of connected, their commonality being a close proximity to rock-and-roll. The story is a knotted acknowledgment of the consequence of time and place.  Or if that wasn’t abstruse enough for you – maybe think of it like a guitar shaped piece of origami, each character and timeframe folded and overlapping, with the two main characters, Bennie, a former punk rocker turned record exec, and his assistant, Sasha, a former prostitute and lifelong klepto, as the first bisecting folds.

When the book came out, there was some discussion about if it should be classified as a novel or collection of short stories.  Each chapter stands on its own, creating a dramatic arc that unfolds in a disjointed way.  The only real issue with this technique is that the writing is so well crafted that it’s tough not to get engaged with any one character or storyline - and once their chapter is up, they may not return in any substantive way.  Like my favorite chapter was from the perspective of a fallen-from-grace publicist who was rebuilding her career by representing a genocidal dictator - but I should have known better than to get attached, because she receives scant mention throughout the rest of the book.

As the chapters progress, so does the growing cast of characters, each adding to what feels like an incongruous patchwork of story-lines – that is until enough characters have piled on and the web of interrelatedness tightens, forming a coherent system.  It’s a very cool effect, although exhausting to keep track of.  It’s like attending a bizarre rock-and-roll family reunion and trying to map out who is second cousins with whom ("So, that girl's mom used to work for that guy whose ex-wife used to be the girl's mother's assistant?).  I've read other multiple voice narratives, but this was the only one where I found it a little distracting. Still, the book (and soon to be HBO series) is smart, expertly written and completely enjoyable.  It is a superior example of literary fiction.  But did it Rock?  Almost.

Ransom - Reference 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pearl's Picks

Nancy Pearl - NPR book reviewer, bestselling author of the BookLust series of reading guides, the American Library Association’s 2011 Librarian of the Year, and the inspiration for the awesome “Librarian Action Figure” – stopped by the library last week.  She was the featured speaker at the Library Foundation’s fall fundraiser.  She delighted the audience with a talk about “The Pleasures and Perils of a Lifetime of Reading” and brought along ten book suggestions just for Lawrence readers.  If you couldn’t make it to the event, KPR recorded her presentation for an upcoming episode of KPRPresents, so listen for it on a Sunday night in the near future.  And if you are looking for a good read for yourself or others, check out these “Pearl’s Picks”:

The Room and the Chair by Lorraine Adams
The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Bridsall
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
To be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

Susan - Marketing

Friday, November 4, 2011

Role Model: Bill Cunningham

One person who inspires me is the fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, the subject of a recent documentary entitled Bill Cunningham New York (available in our Documentary section). Mr. Cunningham, now in his 80s, continues his life's work of photographing what people wear each day on the streets of New York City using only a film camera and a bicycle as his tools. Cunningham has created one of the greatest image archives of daily life ever to exist for any city, and over the course of 5 decades he has remained true to his own sense of ethics by not allowing his photos to be used to make fun of people, and striving to keep his work independent of the influence of financial reward. His weekly spreads in the New York Times reflect a contagious love for what he does, and while I am not particularly interested in fashion, Cunningham is an inspiration to all to seek joy in their work (or seek work that brings them this kind of joy), and to stay true to their mission in life. And ride their bike to work. While it's difficult for most of us to maintain Cunningham's level of devotion to our daily labors of love, as he stated in his acceptance speech for the title Officier de l'ordre des Artes et des Lettres, bestowed to him in 2008 by the French Ministry of Culture: "He who seeks beauty will find it."

Dan C. – Collection Development