Thursday, July 31, 2014

[Book Review] Snow Falling on Bluegrass

Snow Falling on Bluegrass / Molly Harper

A weekend work retreat gets extended when winter fury descends onto Kentucky.  For Kelsey this proves both a blessing and a curse.  She can escape from the presence of her feckless ex and spend some quality time with her long time crush.  Only being snowed in with one's co-workers with limited resources falls short of romance, and handsome park ranger overseeing the lodge wouldn't mind getting to know Kelsey better.  It may be frozen outside, but inside things are heating up nicely.

I adore Molly Harper's romance novels.  In them she displays fantastic wit, as well as growth in relationships (even if over a very short period of time), a friendly approach to sex, friendships between characters, and love interests that aren't overbearing alpha male cliches.  Snow Falling on Bluegrass is my first exposure to her contemporary romance work, instead of her highly enjoyable urban fantasy/paranormal works (including the Half-Moon Hollow and Naked Werewolf books).

She snared me on the first page with "black lace undies of questionable structural integrity," and kept me entertained and engaged from there.

From the start of the book, Kelsey is in a rather shit situation.  Not only is she recovering from a bad relationship, the ex keeps heaping more trouble on her, including destroying her credit through fraud.  She's technically in the clear to pursue other relationships, but she has that baggage tagging along and her long time co-worker crush has been alternating between distant and friendly as of late.  Ultimately, she gets through things with the help of a great, if rather mischievous, support network of friends.

This is not the first book in the series, but you can dive in and enjoy it without reading the previous novels.

Snow Falling on Bluegrass is a rather warm and entertaining novel.  The wit keeps the mood light and moving.  Fans of Molly Harper's paranormal romance novels will recognize her writing style, and should enjoy this contemporary romance if they don't mind the lack of supernatural.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A public librarian walks into an academic science library

I've been busy with displays recently.  Not saying that academic libraries don't every do much in the way of book displays, but based on the reactions and feedback, it seems like the inspiration I've brought from working on displays in public libraries is greatly appreciated.  I'm not the wizard at displays that some librarians are, but I'm having fun.

First up - the new books space in the entrance way.  Books and their dust jackets part ways during processing, but we periodically get a big stack of dust jackets sent our way to do with as we wish.  Historically a selection has been displayed on an entrance-way bulletin board, and the rest given away or discarded.  I spent some time sorting and cutting apart dust jackets, then figuring out how to arrange them.  Getting everything up took a little monkeying around, but I had fun.

Previously the signage was plain black text on white paper, so I used extra book covers to make more colorful (if showing up poorly in photographs) signage.  It actually looks pretty awesome in person.

I'm actually pretty proud of how close to level the letters ended up considering this was a freehand effort.
On the opposite side of the entry way we have a small display case that I was also asked to populate.  The challenge here was height, only about 6" between base and lid, meaning I need books with engaging covers in a library that removes dust jackets.  The other challenge was what to even do for concept.  Being the classy and tasteful person I am, my mind went immediately to science pun/joke memes.

All part of a morning's work.
Clearly I dug deep for some of these.

Once I had the images I went and found books that matched the subjects of the jokes.  Of course, I grabbed too many books, but I expected that.

For the books I kept I made up little slips with the LC call numbers and subject headings to assist in finding related material.

Books & Science Puns:

[QD1-65  General chemistry]
  • The periodic table: a very short introduction / Eric Scerri
  • Chemistry: the impure science / Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent & Jonathan Simon
[QD450-801  Physical and theoretical chemistry]
  • The periodic table and a missed Nobel prize / Ulf Lagerkvist
"I lost an electron!"   "Are you positive?"
"Periodic Table -  I bet that bench is really unstable"
"You want to hear a joke about nitric oxide?"  "NO"
"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate"

[QE 601-613.5  Structural Geology]
  • Active Faults of the world / Robert Yeats
Geologists: Masters of Subduction

[QC170-197 Atomic physics. Constitution and properties of matter
Including molecular physics, relativity, quantum theory, and solid state physics]
  • How to teach relativity to your dog / Chad Orzel
[QC793-793.5  Elementary particle physics]
  • Elementary particle physics / Brian R. Martin
"Einstein developed a theory about space, and it was about time too"
"A photon checks into a hotel and is asked if he needs any help with his luggage.  'No, I'm traveling light.'"
"The Cat in the Box by Dr. Schrodinger"
"Schrodinger's cat walks into a bar... and doesn't."

[QA1-939  Mathematics]
  • The joy of x: a guided tour of math, from one to infinity / Steve Strogate
"Math puns are the first sine of madness"

[TL787-4050  Astronautics.  Space travel]
  • Forever Young: a life of adventure in air and space / John W. Young
"We got here with a computer less powerful than your cell phone"

There are many other fantastic puns and science jokes that I could have included, but I like the range of topics included.

The other display I put up dealt with our cookbooks collection.  This one actually went up the other week, but it made more sense in my mind to talk about the displays in relative geographical order.

Cookbooks and books on food are fantastic for displays.  They often have appealing graphic covers, are of sturdy construction, and additionally are often beautiful to flip through and read.  The space I was directed to use for this display is one of the sets of shelves that new books live on.  Rather than use the whole shelf unit, I decided to use just one side of the shelves.  Makes for a more contained display and avoids massive loss of new book storage space.  With the end of year purchasing and all of that, the new books neared overflow before taking away any shelf space.

I had this cool idea to do a clump of books on different areas of food and cooking: history, culture, flavors, etc.  That totally didn't happen.  Instead I ended up with several armfuls of interesting food related books that didn't fit at all neatly (or evenly) into the different sub-category concepts.

So some shelf-shifting and sign making later, I put out a little display of mouthwatering books.  Even with this being the (extremely) slow season for this branch, the books are circulating, giving an opportunity to add titles.

So many delicious books...
Depending on how things pan out (temp placement extended/permanent job offer here or elsewhere/etc) I have ideas for displays come fall, including some sort of library scavenger hunt with clues in the entryway glass case.

Please do yourself a favor...

...and don't use your credit card as a book mark.

Thank you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

[Book Review] The Game and the Governess

The Game and the Governess / Kate Noble (Powell's Books)

An interesting combination of good writing and some rather dis-likable characters.

The (incredibly self-assured) Lord Ashby is challenged to a wager by his friend and secretary, John Turner.  That much of Lord Ashby's "luck" (particularly with women) is all due to his station and very little due to his qualities as a person.  If Mr. Turner wins, Lord Ashby will award the funds needed for Mr. Turner to fix his family's mill.  If Mr. Turner loses, he loses the mill.  The stage for their game is two weeks spent out of town hammering out the sale of Lord Ashby's childhood home.  There they each learn quite a bit about the other's station and about themselves.

There are really few pleasant characters in this book, particularly at the beginning.  Both Lord Ashby and Mr. Turner are rather insufferable, and the family (and all their lady guests) are short-sited, petty, and self-centered.  Even the townsfolk are a bit much.  In the first few chapters the only characters I have any fondness for are Miss Phobe Baker and her two young charges (actually, I take that back, the valet is a fun minor character, and the horses seem nice too).

As the book progresses both Lord Ashby and Mr. Turner lose some of their smugness and self-satisfaction, which makes them a bit more likeable.  But it's not really until the end when everything hits the fan that I found either sympathetic.

I have nothing to say against Kate Noble's writing style, I think she wrote a clear tale.  I think that a large amount of the dislike I felt towards her characters was the intended response.  It just was just too much of characters that I couldn't stand, even if they were running towards comeuppance and redemption.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

[Book Review] Reputable Surrender

Reputable Surrender / Riley Murphy

Lauren has given up on finding what she wants in a relationship and is throwing it all into her work.  She wants a bad boy dom, but she's afraid of getting close after several toxic relationships, and even more afraid of turning a good man bad.

Michael has made some mistakes in his inexperienced youth, but he has spent the intervening years growing past them and establishing his reputation as a man of good judgement, deliberation, and someone you can rely on.

Unknown to Lauren, they've met before, and neither of them can shake the memories of that unfulfilled night.  Now Michael has the chance to pursue the woman of his dreams, but the question is, will she let down her guard enough to be wooed?  Micheal's everything that Lauren is afraid of ruining in a man, can she live with herself if a relationship turns yet another man into a monster?

First off, this is the fifth book in the series, something I did not realize when I requested (and was approved for) a copy of this title.  Reputable Surrender assumes reader knowledge of character history throughout the book, and in ways that are at times quite confusing.  Much of the primary romance can be enjoyed without too much confusion, but major plot threads rely on events that took place in previous books, and they pop up with little introduction or context.  There is a huge villain reveal with a character who is a complete unknown if you have only read this book, but one who seems to be an established part of another couple's history.  The book largely ends with glimpses into the personal lives of several other couples who formed in the previous books, again, taking a reader who starts with Reputable Surrender, out of the main plot line into a different focus.

In many ways this is a book about Lauren coming to terms with her desires and how they can be met in a safe and mutually satisfying way.  It seems that the series overall has a theme of finding family, security, and community.  Lauren needs to learn how to face the skeletons in her closet, and learn to trust herself and others.  Ultimately she finds a way to be happy with another and pursue her career her own way.

Personally I object a little bit to the sheer amount of assumption of consent on the part of Michael, but the author makes Lauren's enjoyment and consent clear.  Most of my issues relating to Michael come early in the book (and early in the relationship).  I mean, who in their right mind thinks it's a good idea to steal a kiss from a company consultant when leaving a company gathering?  That's not just risking personal insult and ire, that's risking a sexual harassment lawsuit.  Also, in the prologue when Michael and Lauren first meet, he's working security for a kink event, and goes off to play with her.  How is that 'reputable'?  If you're working security you do not abandon your post to get your jollies off, particularly when one of your duties is to make sure that no one ends up violated or injured (outside of consenting parameters).

I find parts of the villain story lines to be a bit heavy handed in Reputable Surrender, but I do acknowledge that there are many manipulative bastards out in the world, as well as others who take someone's interest in consensual and controlled roughness as a license to injure with impunity.  The types of harassment that Lauren faces are not unimaginable, as is her misplaced guilt and sense of responsibility for the abuse.  I think this could have been better balanced had not the previously utterly unmentioned off-his-rocker villain simply not popped up in this book.

One thing that Reputable Surrender (and I assume the other books in the series) makes clear, is that the adults in these relationships are sane and consenting.  There is no "I'll endure this because he likes it," nor are the adults treated as 'damaged' for their desires.  This is a book focusing on adults who know their desires and are looking to fulfill them, both desires for their life overall and desires of a more intimate nature.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Monday, July 21, 2014

[Book Review] The Book of Life

The Book of Life / Deborah Harkness (Powell's Books)

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book, but I was curious how the story started in A Discovery of Witches and continued in Shadow of Night.  I found the the story up till now interesting and compelling, but it serious pacing issues.  I spent the first two books with a feeling of "come on now, just get to it!"

The Book of Life picked up at with the tension built up at the end of Shadow of Night and ran with it.  The plot and story moved along at an engaging pace and I ripped through this 600+ page monster in a little over a day.  A fantastic improvement over the first two books, resulting in a book I greatly enjoyed reading.

Diana really blossoms in this book.  She has come into her power and grows from a witch without magic seeking to avoid any and all attention, to a personality to be reckoned with all on her own.  The relationship dynamics between characters are well done, with development and growth as they weather challenges.  Additionally growth and depth is added to characters we have encountered along the way as the threads of the story are woven together.

In The Book of Life we follow Diana and Matthew, along with their clan of friends and family, in their frantic search for the pieces of Ashmole 782 and for genetic clues in their own DNA.  This is a story of growth, of discovery, of closure, and of new beginnings.

Definitely read the first two books before picking up The Book of Life, this is a capstone, not a stand-alone novel.  Be warned that the first two books weigh in close to 600 pages each as well, heavy on meticulous detail and moment descriptions, but it all builds up to this solid conclusion.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of NetGalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer Reading

So, one perk of not working in a public library this summer is that I can take part in the Summer Reading program at the public library I borrow books from.  I'm a few weeks late, as Summer Reading generally starts in June and ends mid-August around here, lets go with it.  My local library's program has a reading challenge for adults, with 10 categories to fit books into, and a raffle prize for each.  10 books in a month should be doable.

The Challenge:
  1. Book into a movie
  2. Biography or Memoir
  3. Mystery/Horror
  4. Love story
  5. Outside the US
  6. Adventure Story
  7. Fantasy/Sci-Fi
  8. Classic
  9. Local Author
  10. Reader's Choice
I'd have the list half done or more if I included the books I read since the start of Summer Reading, but I want to keep it to books finished since I signed up.  In some cases the hardest part will be deciding which category to shove a given book into.