My Bookshelf 20/3/2015

The World that Made New Orleans by Ned Sublette

My family is from the city and I studied Louisiana history at school, but boy did I learn a lot reading this engaging and well-written book. Music is woven throughout, as it should be, but that is not the main aim, which is namely, a social and political history of the Crescent City from about 1700 to post-Katrina. One thing I learned was the close links musical and otherwise between New Orleans and Caribbean island nations such as Cuba and Haiti. Well worth a read but please, no long ‘e’ sounds!

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New Orleans at Night (NASA, International Space Station, 01/26/11). Image credit: NASA.

The Remembering by Steve Cash

This is the final novel in the Meq series that I’ve been reading. The previous book ended with the bomb being dropped on Nagasaki and The Remembering picks up in the aftermath. I enjoyed it, especially the surprises in the plot, though the pacing was sometimes slow. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, this series is definitely worth a read.

Lamentation by C.J. Sansom

Another masterpiece in the Shardlake series (part of me hopes he carries on but poor Shardlake could really use a break after six novels). This one takes him deep inside the glamorous and cutthroat court of an aging Henry VIII. Queen Catherine Parr is a principle character as the plot centres on the theft of a religious book she’s penned. Sansom does a brilliant job of conveying the uncertainty and terror under which people lived during this time of great change in what constituted orthodox religion.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

An interesting novel that is a sort of loose, surreal autobiography. I struggled through especially when his 11th year went on for what felt like 25 chapters. Rushdie also covers the political history of India and the region in the mid-twentieth century, a subject I knew little about. Otherwise I felt as if I was caught up in a psychedelic, stream of consciousness flow where the social commentary got lost in the jungle.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
Similar type of novel to her Sepulchre (historical fiction with two heroines connected across time) and just as gripping. I also learned a lot about medieval southern France and the persecution of the Cathars.

Reflective Writing by Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams and Jane Spiro (Pocket Study Skills series)
Handy little book I’m reading as I thought it would help with my academic writing and my blog. It is very useful, written in plain English and utilises a lot examples. Mostly geared toward an academic context but there is a section on ‘reflection for career planning’ as well.

Articles:

One of the best articles I’ve read on copyright and what it means in everyday life: Jonathan Band on Jon Stewart and Fair Use 

This NY Times article describes the educational opportunities of the Internet, “information overload” and how we’re coping, but takes a glaringly narrow view. It omits any mention of information professionals in the discussion of who can handle the vast amounts of information available today, limiting the candidates to visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan who apparently have some magic ability to function in the information age. But read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

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My Bookshelf 12 Nov 2014

Dominion, C.J. Sansom

Another masterpiece from Sansom, whose Shardlake series I’ve also recommended. This is a weighty tome, at just over 700 pages. While reading it propped up on various pillows and small tables, I starting seriously considering the benefits of e-readers. Dominion is a historian’s “what if…?” tale set in 1952 London. The backdrop is that Britain followed an appeasement policy in World War II resulting in Pearl Harbour never occurring, America never entering the war and subsequent Nazi Germany domination of Europe. It is truly disturbing as you can imagine but also a compelling story of ordinary people standing up for freedom.

Time Dancers, Steve Cash

Second book in The Meq series about a race of ageless children (they stop physically ageing at age 12) with magic powers and their search around the world and through history for ultimate meaning. All I can say is, it’s mesmerising. And the second book has improved on the first.

Book fountain IMG_3587. CC-BY-NC 2.0.

Neat book-related image: Cincinnati Public Library ‘Book fountain IMG_3587’ by OZinOH, Flickr, CC-BY-NC 2.0.

Sepulchre, Kate Mosse

I picked this up for 40p at a charity shop and man, was it worth it. A well-crafted novel that jumps between present day and late nineteenth-century France. I couldn’t put it down. Also for my music friends, Debussy and his circle crop up.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

I was recommended Gaiman by a school book seller. She said something along the lines of, “Other schools automatically buy any new title by Neil Gaiman, without bothering about what it is. He’s that good.” So I got this from my local library. It is a whimsical, charming and truly fantastic story written from the perspective of a young boy but aimed at adult readers. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh

I recently saw this listed in a newspapers’ list of Best Books Ever Written (or something similar) list though I’m not entirely sure why. I read it recently as someone recommended it to me. Set in the early twentieth century, it was very funny, in a P.G. Wodehouse style of humour. The difference being where Wodehouse is all lighthearted and carefree, Waugh had elements of the bizarre and repeatedly underlined the depressing randomness of modern life.

All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

A beautiful, sad and sweeping novel of Mexico and rural America set in a vague time in the mid-twentieth century. The language is as spare and barren as the landscape. Recommended by my local librarian, and well worth a read.

My Bookshelf 17.2.14

Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

The second in the series from my school library. I read the first book, Mortal Engines, earlier in the autumn. Predator’s Gold picks up two years after this and follows the two surviving main characters. These are quite dark for children’s books, with (spoiler alert!) many of the main characters dying. I did enjoy this adventure novel, but the ending was incredibly cliched and I decided to quit the series after finding out that the third book starts twenty years later following the now grown-up child of the two main characters from Book 2…

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

This is the last novel written by Dickens and he died before completing it, so you enter in knowing that the mystery remains unsolved. I last read Dickens in high school and found it difficult and uninteresting. Thankfully I’ve matured as a reader since then and really enjoyed this book though the language does take some getting used to. Since I’m not a Victorian literary scholar, I did feel that I missed some of the subtleties in language and references to contemporary events, but would recommend this book if you like murder mysteries. The edition I read (Vintage Classics) also included The Trial of John Jasper which puts the main suspect ‘on trial’ before various authors such as G.K. Chesterton. Worth reading just for the humour and theories put forth as to what happened, though it doesn’t reach any consensus.

The Meq by Steve Cash

I couldn’t put this down! The Meq is a science fiction fantasy epic which spans roughly 100 years, and again is quite a dark novel. The main characters are part of a people group who when they reach age 12, stay physically the same but can live for hundreds or thousands of years. A few of them carry magical stones that allow them to control the ‘Giza’ or normal humans (dare I say, Muggles?) and they often have special powers as well. Cash takes the characters around the globe, and has a good eye for detail in his writing. The only downside to this book is the passages of poetry/lyric writing which introduce every chapter. They would have been more useful at the end as a reflection, otherwise I found them distracting and irrelevant to the story. I’m keen to read the rest of the trilogy.

SLA blog

I’ve enjoyed reading on the SLA blog the various “How I Got to the SLA Conference” posts. I haven’t applied to go this year as I will be at IFLA #WLIC14, but this advice will be useful in the future.

The Wikiman blog

Ned Potter recently published a very interesting blog post about making your own library degree. Instead of getting the piece of paper, why not devote the same amount of time, energy and money to creating your own degree by means of conferences, MOOCs, writing essays, CILIP PKSB, etc. The comments by others are very interesting (I missed the Twitter firestorm) and though no one comes up with a solution, the conversation is starting and it’s good to hear others’ thoughts on this tricky issue.