Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Monsters don’t really exist, do they? But what if they do…

The Winter People goes back and forth between present day and the early 20th century. West Hall, Vermont is a place where strange things have happened for many years. Sara Harrison Shea lost her young daughter, Gertie, in a horrible accident. She is overcome with grief, and when she discovers a way to bring Gertie back, she can’t resist. Sara quickly discovers that sometimes the dead are better left alone.

Ruthie’s mother Alice has gone missing. While looking for clues, Ruthie stumbles across Sara’s secret diary. Ruthie realizes that maybe her mother wasn’t wrong to insist that she stay out of the woods.

The Winter People is the perfect Halloween read. If you liked this book, you might also enjoy The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Could You Pass the Test?

[photo source]
A few weeks ago, I saw this article on the Mental Floss website about U.S. citizenship. It has 10 questions that might be on the test immigrants take when they want to become U.S. citizens. As a natural-born citizen, I've never had to take the test. I looked through the questions, and was horrified when I realized I couldn't answer all of them correctly.

That prompted my next learning assignment. I challenged myself to research the answers to each question. Below is each question, the answer, and the source where I found the answer.

1. How many amendments does the Constitution have? 
A: 27 
Source: Archives.gov 

2. What is the economic system in the United States?
A: Capitalist/Market Economy 

3. Name your U.S. Representative. 
A: Peter Roskam, 6th Congressional District
Source: House of Representatives

4. What are two Cabinet-level positions? 
A: Department of Commerce, Department of Education
Source: White House 

5. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now? 
A: John G. Roberts, Jr.
Source: Supreme Court 

6. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
A: Native Americans 
Source: World Book Online Reference Center (one of my library's databases) 

7. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name ONE of the writers.
A: Alexander Hamilton
Source: Archives.gov

8. What is ONE thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for? 
A: He was the first to propose a monthly magazine in America. 
Source: Library of Congress

9. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in? 
A: World War II 
Source: Biography.com 

10. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
A: She was an activist and reformer who supported women’s right to vote.
Source: Infoplease 

How many of these questions did you know the answers to?



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I've Learned About Sci-Fi

At the start of the new fiscal year, I took over the Science Fiction collection. I don’t know a lot about Sci-Fi, so I started reading the chapter on Science Fiction in Genreflecting. The first thing I’ve learned about the genre? There are so many different categories! Below is a list of the categories with a short definition of each, as well as one must-read in each category. This post is just a start to learning about Science Fiction, but it’s helpful to have an overview to refer back to when I need it.

Space Opera
Defined as “colorful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflict.” (Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 1999)

Hard SF
Defined as “narratives of an imaginary invention or discovery in the natural sciences...something that the author at least rationalizes as possible to science.” (Pilgrims of Space and Time, 1947)

Military SF (SF subgenre)
“more interested in military strategy, the chain of command, and the pressure that technology puts on space-age warriors.” (Genreflecting, 2013)

Time Travel
“enables the reader to see for themselves what has been - or what is to come.” (Genreflecting, 2013)   

“Steampunk marries time travel and alternate history with the dark techno-chic of Cyberpunk.” (Genreflecting, 2013)

Techno SF (Cyberpunk)
Defined as “focusing on the effects on society and individuals of advanced computer technology, artificial intelligence and bionic implants in an increasingly global culture.” (Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, 2007)

Slipstream and the New Weird
Slipstream is defined as “a blend of SF and Mainstream storytelling.” The New Weird is defined as “grotesque Urban Noir and cross-genre experimentation.” (Genreflecting, 2013)

Dystopias, Utopias, and Armageddon
“Modern utopian fiction tends to conceal dystopian worms deep in the utopian apple, or depicts an outside threat to the utopia’s existence….Contemporary dystopian tales are often set in a postapocalyptic world.” (Genreflecting, 2013)

Alternate History and Parallel Realities
“the ultimate ‘what-if’: major differences result from one crucial change in the historical record.” (Genreflecting, 2013)

The Shape of Things to Come
“what awaits us tomorrow, as we deal with challenges that were not foreseen by the technology-loving futurists…” (Genreflecting, 2013)

Earth’s Children
“characters who have motivations and response that are very like ours, who are nonetheless not human…” (Genreflecting, 2013)

Aliens and Alien Invasions
“They are the ultimate ‘other,’ the Alien. Most unsettling, of course, when they are just like you and me.” (Genreflecting, 2013)
    The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Go. Learn Things.

[photo source]

Scott Bakula plays Dwayne Pride, one of the main characters in NCIS: New Orleans. Pride can often be heard telling his team, “Go. Learn Things.” For some reason, that phrase really hit home with me during one of the last episodes of the first season. It really hit me as a call to action, not only for the characters in the show, but for me personally. In a way, a lightbulb went off.

I’m passionate about lifelong learning, but in past year or so, I feel like I haven’t done much learning. When I heard Pride say, “Go. Learn Things,” I realized that I had to make learning a priority again. The point of my blog has always been to have a place where I can synthesize what I’ve learned, and also share thoughts on all kinds of topics. I haven’t blogged nearly as often as I should, but I’m about to change that.

My library’s new fiscal year begins tomorrow. One of my goals for the coming year is to blog twice per month about things I’ve learned. I have a few ideas in mind for what I might blog about, such as: using Microsoft Publisher, weeding library materials, content curation, and using Canva to create images.

Now that I’ve told the world my goal, the next step is to make it happen. Expect to see posts twice per month on things I've learned. I'll also post at other times on other topics that are dear to my heart, like scrapbooking, and running. 

So, here’s to accountability. Stay tuned to see what I learn next!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson is the director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. EJI’s mission is to help people on death row, incarcerated children, and those without a voice. Just Mercy tells the stories of the people who have been wrongly accused, those who can’t speak for themselves, and those who are affected by our broken justice system.
This is the best book I read all year. Bryan Stevenson is a wonderful storyteller, and I often forgot that this is nonfiction. He is obviously passionate about what he does and is trying to make a difference. Just Mercy was an inspiring read.
If you like this book, you might also like The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Writing from the Grave

Many things about the publishing world make little sense to me. One of them is the reluctance to say goodbye to deceased authors. I shouldn’t say that it doesn’t make sense; in fact, it makes perfect sense. Publishers still make money on authors who “write” from the grave, and several are still writing. For instance, Robert B. Parker died in 2010, but his books are still being written by Michael Brandman, and Ace Atkins. A new Dragon Tattoo book is in the works. Steig Larsson died in 2004, and David Lagercrantz has been recently hired to write the newest book in the series. Other authors who “write” from the grave are:

Dick Francis died in 2010. His son Felix has taken over the writing of his books.

Robert Ludlum, of the Bourne trilogy fame, died in 2001. His books are now written by Kyle Mills, Eric Lustbader, Jamie Freveletti.

Ian Fleming died before I was born, but he’s still “writing,” thanks to Raymond Benson, William Boyd, & Jeffery Deaver. They’ve all worked to keep the 007 franchise alive.

Publishers are able to cash in on these big name authors, even though they’re no longer with us. I've always been annoyed by authors who “write” from the grave, but it really hit me recently when I was placing a book order. There are several reasons that I think we should let deceased authors rest in peace.
  • I can't order many books I'd like to, because the money is tied up elsewhere.
  • I can't replace withdrawn copies, because I'm spending money on dead people.
  • I can't order debut novels, because I'm spending money on dead people.
How can we turn the focus from these dead authors to living and breathing ones? One option is readalikes. Introduce readers to authors who have a similar writing style to a dead author.

I’m glad that an author’s popularity doesn’t die with them, but I wish that we could focus on those authors that are still here with us. What do you think? Should publishers stop releasing books from authors who have died? Or do you think it’s OK to keep buying books from ghostwriters?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's In a Name 2014

The What's In a Name reading challenge was started by Annie, taken over by Beth Fish Reads, and this year, continued by The Worm Hole.

My Thoughts

I've tried participating for the last couple of years, and so far, haven't completed the challenge. I decided to try it again in 2014, and I'm going to make it a priority this time around.

Here's some info about the What's In a Name reading challenge. Feel free to join me!

The Basics

The challenge runs from January to December. During this time you choose a book to read from each of the following categories (examples of books you could choose are in brackets):
  • A reference to time (Eleven Minutes, Before Ever After)
  • A position of royalty (The People’s Queen, The Last Empress, The Curse Of The Pharaoh)
  • A number written in letters (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, A Tale Of Two Cities)
  • A forename or names (Rebecca, Eleanor & Park, The Unfinished Work Of Elizabeth D.)
  • A type or element of weather (Gone With The Wind, Red Earth Pouring Rain)
Remember the titles I’ve given here are only examples, you can by all means use them if you want to – some are classics after all – but it’s not necessary. There are plenty of other books that will fit the categories and you may have some in mind already or even some on your shelves you can read. 
Extra Information
  • Books can be any format (print, audio, ebook).
  • It’s preferred that the books don’t overlap with other challenges, but not a requirement at all.
  • Books cannot overlap categories (for instance my first example, Eleven Minutes, could be used for category 1 or 3 but not both).
  • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!
  • You don’t have to make your list of books beforehand, you can choose them as you go.
  • You don’t have to read your chosen books in any particular order.