Nonfiction Review: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

5 out of 5 stars!

In the morning hours of April 29, 1986, a fire broke out in the Los Angeles Public Library.  Seven hours later, the building was severely damaged and over 1 million books, maps, microfiche files, musical scores, and many irreplaceable manuscripts and rarities were either destroyed or heavily damaged from water and smoke.  Arson was soon suspected and a massive effort to save the 700,000 damaged items was quickly underway.

Author Susan Orlean first heard of this devastating fire when she moved to Los Angeles and visited the library.  Being a life-long lover of books and with fond memories of childhood library visits, Orlean set out to learn more about this destructive fire and the man accused of arson.  The result is The Library Book.

The Library Book is more than just a story about the fire and the search for a suspect.  We learn about the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and some of the more memorable characters who helped create it, including Mary Foy, the first (and youngest) woman to become city librarian;  the adventurous Charles Lummis; and the forward-looking Althea Warren, who led the library through the Depression and World War II and adding services such as an advice line for parents and a phone-in reference service while envisioning even greater advancements in the future.  Orlean also talks to current employees and we discover their love for “their” library as well as the concerns on current issues they face on a daily basis.

And, of course, we learn about Harry Peak, the man who was arrested for setting the fire.  Sorry, no spoilers here though.  You’ll have to read the book to discover the outcome.

I loved reading this book.  It combines true crime, history, sociology, and even a lesson on how to rescue a large number of water-logged books.  I found Orlean’s writing style to be engaging and accessible.  You don’t have to be a bibliophile to enjoy The Library Book and I highly recommend you give it a go.

 

AAUW Used Book Sale Coming Soon!!

It’s that time of year!!

The local chapter of the American Association of University Women (Chehalis, Lewis County, Washington) is getting ready to have their big used book sale next week!  I can’t wait!!  The money goes to helping girls and young women achieve their higher learning dreams through scholarships, hands-on learning in the middle grades, etc (with the focus being on science, tech, and mathematics).  The following is from their website, the pics don’t do justice to the amount of books they offer every year!

 

USED BOOK SALE  held each year to raise funds for branch activities and scholarships.  The 2019 sale will be held on March 28-30 at the Lewis County Mall in Chehalis.  Books are collected throughout the year. To make a donation, call 360-736-2147.

BookSale1 BookSale2

BookSale3

 

I donated 7 boxes of books back in January.  I am so excited to check out what others have donated to a very worthy cause!

 

Monday Mash-Up #010 A Simple Week of Reading

 

This past week was pretty uneventful around here, which gave me plenty of time to finish up a great variety of books!

The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke — 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (rounded up to 5 for goodreads)

To say I am a fan of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series would be an understatement, so I was very excited when I found this latest installment at the library.  Burke’s writing always transports me to the deep south; I can almost smell the swamps and feel the humidity as a late day storm approaches.  And I think Burke is the only author who has made me tear up a bit when a psychopathic killer dies.  If you haven’t read any of the series, never fear.  You can jump right in and not feel lost (I’ve been reading it out of order since I first picked up Crusader’s Cross nearly 15 years ago).  Highly recommend.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker — 4 out of 5 stars

This was chosen by one of my goodread groups for the March selection, and the second time I’ve read it.  Many things improve with age, and a great classic is no exception.  I know I appreciated this story a lot more now than I did when I was 19 and read it for the first time.  I felt the heartbreak and pain, and I was able to connect more with the characters.  I recommend giving this a go, and the movie is worth watching as well.

Elevation by Stephen King  — 3 1/2  out of 5 stars

I knew going into this one that Elevation wasn’t the usual King chiller/thriller, and I was totally fine with that.  Overall the story was good, but all of the outdated character stereotypes were distracting at best, annoying as hell at worst.

Death By Dumpling   and   Dim Sum of All Fears  by Vivien Chien — 3 1/2 out of 5 stars for both

Books 1 and 2 of another cozy mystery series, but Chien breathed a bit of new life into the genre….at least with book 1.  Book 2 was definitely going with the cozy blueprint, sadly to the detriment of the story as a whole.  Still, I’m more than willing to read more of Lana’s adventures in the future!

Black Feathers:  Dark Avian Tales, An Anthology edited by Ellen Datlow — 2 out of 5 stars

I was really disappointed with this supposed dark anthology centered around all things avian.  There was only one I really liked and the rest I either disliked or just skimmed through.

Tales From the Arabian Nights (Reader’s Digest Limited Edition version) — 4 out of 5 stars

Classic stories!  I remember having an illustrated version of some of the stories, this was the first time reading them in their original form.  This volume offered 19 stories, including The Fisherman, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor, and The Jealous Sisters.

Have a wonderful week, Happy Reading!

 

Monday Mash-Up #009 Library Day

Library day!

I always look forward to visiting my local libraries.  I have fond memories of hanging out at the Bellingham library as a kid, enjoying not only the vast array of books but also the puppet shows, crafts, and storytimes.  Our local Timberland library system (several branches linked together in a three county area) is a favorite stop for my son as well, his interests leaning more towards the DVD selections and Garfield comics, where I love to browse just to see what catches my attention.    Even though I have literally hundreds of unread books in my personal reading stash I always wind up with an armload of titles, ranging from cookbooks to the latest Stephen King.  I came home with ten, my limit, and these were the three I finished this past week:

 

The Sky Manifest by Brian Panhuyzen  —  5 out of 5 stars!!!  I absolutely loved this book!  This title just jumped out at me from the library shelves and I’m glad I decided to add “just one more” to my check-out pile.  It’s the story of Nathan, who lost his wife and child and seemingly his reason for living.  As he travels across Canada in an attempt to flee from his tragedies, he encounters several characters who help him keep his resolve to “keep moving.”  I’ll admit it took me a bit to get into this one, as I agree with other reviewers that the author probably had a thesaurus open throughout the entire writing process.  However, once I got into the stylistic prose I was hooked.  Beautiful read and highly recommended.

Sugar and Iced by Jenn McKinlay —  3 out of 5 stars.  I enjoy a good “cozy” mystery.  Since I’ve gone through my stash of Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke titles I thought I’d try out this new-to-me author I spotted on goodreads.  Sugar and Iced is actually the 6th book in McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series and is a fun, quick read.  While I probably could have benefited from reading the first books, I had no problem getting into the story or figuring out the characters and their relationships.  A good book for a rainy afternoon.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen  —  2 out of 5 stars.  Why, why, why do I keep picking up chick-lit thrillers?!?!  Perhaps it’s the promise of spine-chilling psychological drama, or the idea of unseen plot  twists and turns.  Or, maybe, I’m just a masochist who feels the need to read unoriginal stories filled with lackluster writing and unlikable characters (and let’s not forget a plot “twist” that can be seen from the beginning but needs another 300+ pages to finally arrive).  This one wasn’t completely horrible, it actually started out pretty good.  But I couldn’t even make it to the 1/3 mark before it started to irritate me, which made the rest of the book a chore.

 

Happy Reading and remember to support your local library!!

Monday Mash-Up #008 Spring is almost here!

It’s already the first week of March!  And after a wacky and weird February, I can honestly say I am sooooo ready for spring!

This month usually finds me starting some much needed spring cleaning, as well as celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and eagerly awaiting the annual AAUW (American Association of University Women) used book sale at the end of the month.  There may still be a lot of snow on the ground but that doesn’t keep me from poring over seed and flower catalogs, imagining beautiful flower containers and a bountiful vegetable garden…..I still haven’t fulfilled those goals but hey, this could be the year!  😀

An interesting variety of books this past week:

 

The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt —  2 out of 5 stars.  It seemed like I was reading this book for months, and I kept wondering if the author was trying to create some sort of world record for the number of characters in a totally boring story.  Byatt’s writing style is lyrical at times, but her storytelling ability left me wanting a nap after reading 20 pages ( and with a 879-page tome, you understand how it took me seemingly forever to get through this one).  It wasn’t completely terrible, when it was good it was very good.  There was just too much blah between the bearable.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon —  3 1/2 out of 5 stars.  Overall I liked this one.  The chapters from Sara’s journals and her husband’s point of view seemed to flow better and tell a more compelling story compared to the modern day chapters from Ruthie and Katherine, which kept this story under 4 stars for me.

Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton —  4 out of 5 stars.  The true story of an American Special Forces team who set down in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban alongside the Northern Alliance.  Very interesting, a definite must for your history shelf.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King —  4 out of 5 stars.  The sequel to The Shining, however this could easily be read as a stand-alone thriller.  As a longtime fan of King, it’s interesting to see how his writing has changed over the years.  While he keeps the chills and thrills coming, there is also an added level of introspection and maturity in his newer works, and this one is no exception.  There were a couple of twists towards the end that I didn’t think really fit into the story, but otherwise another solid hit from the master of horror.

And so we start another week.  I’m heading to the library tomorrow, never know what I may find!  Until next week, Happy Reading!

Monday Mash-Up #007

Things have been pretty quiet around here over the past week.  Still surrounded by a blanket of white, waiting patiently for signs of spring.  On the plus side, my reading slump seems to have disappeared!  Since last time:

 

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich—  3 out of 5 stars.  This series starring Stephanie Plum, inept New Jersey bounty hunter, is always a fun, quick read.  While predictable and often annoying (“Do I want Ranger or Morelli?  Why am I getting fat when I live off doughnuts and fast food?  So unfair!!”), sidekicks Lula and Grandma Mazur make these books more entertaining than they should be.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn—  4 out of 5 stars.   Yes, I am the only person left in the modern world who has not read Flynn’s Gone Girl, let alone any of her other fiction.  Well, that came to an end this past week, and I must say I am impressed.  I tend to shy away from what I consider “Chick-Lit Thrillers” (you know the ones, Ware, Hawkins, Slaughter, the list goes on) simply because the ones I’ve read tend to be over-rated and annoying as hell.  What made this one better than the others?  I have no idea.  It had the same unlikable main character, the same over-done family drama ,  the same unsatisfying ending, but for some reason it worked for me.  Of course, I’ve been stuck in my house for the past couple of weeks due to snow so perhaps cabin fever has messed with my brain!

 

Granta #122:  Betrayal—  4 out of 5 stars.  I so want to subscribe to this quarterly publication!  I found this 247 page ” issue” at the library and I am hooked on the  superb variety of short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie—  4 out of 5 stars.  As a fan of Alexie, I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to finally read his first short story collection.  All the stories are connected, yet easily stand alone.  Alexie’s stories are a blend of sadness, despair, violence, and humor, and I recommend this volume as the perfect introduction to his work.  Quick note:  my 20th anniversary edition included two stories that were not part  of the original publication.  I felt they were like the third wheel on a date, not quite fitting in with the rest.  While they were good on their own, I thought they could have been left out, perhaps added to one of his other collections.

Days By Moonlight by Andre Alexis—  ???  This was my January giveaway win from LIbrarything’s Early Reviewers and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to rate, let alone review, it!  Stay tuned, review coming soon!

And so we wrap up February.  Please feel free to leave suggestions for future posts or book recommendations, my life is pretty quiet right now!!   Until next week, Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Monday Mash-Up #006

Ah, winter.  Mother Nature’s gift that keeps on giving, whether we like it or not!  And this was pretty much how I was feeling last Tuesday and Wednesday…..

While in hibernation mode this past week, I found myself catching up on some television shows.  Anyone else watching I Am the Night?  Great series.  My guilty pleasure has been The Masked Singer……I even had a couple of correct guesses!

I’ve been a bit restless with my reading, finding it difficult to focus on any of the ones I’ve started.  I did finish up a few:

San Diego Noir — 3 out of 5 stars.   Another title in the Akashic Noir series, one of my favorite series going.  This one started out strong, but about halfway through I found the stories becoming a bit lackluster.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe — 3 out of 5 stars.  A classic that I had on my 2019 to-read list.  Overall, yeah, it was good and I understand why this is on many reading lists.  It just didn’t grab me like I thought it would.  I do think I should reread it when I’m more focused, as I may not have given it the chance it deserves.

Stalking the Dragon by Mike Resnick — 4 out of 5 stars!  This was a fun romp through an alternate Manhattan, complete with a miniature dragon named Fluffy, a living wax museum, zombie bodyguards, and a sassy cell phone (yes, you read that correctly).  Added bonus:  it takes place on Valentine’s Day, perfect reading for the 14th!

Have a great week, and, as always, Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Review– Among the Lost

4 out of 5 stars

There are times when I finish a book and wonder what the hell I just read—was it truly brilliant or merely crap adorned with random acts of brilliancy?

In the case of Among the Lost by Emiliano Monge, I can honestly say I’m not sure, but I liked it.

The stark narrative involves human trafficking and illegal immigration, a hot-button issue nowadays.  Among the Lost does not go into the politics, rather it goes to the underbelly, the reality that mainstream media usually doesn’t acknowledge.  There are those wishing for a better life and willing to pay, only to find out their life is payment.  There are the traffickers and their “employees” and a sadistic priest as well.  Strangely enough, there is also a love story between two of those who “survived” and now find themselves wanting the same freedom that those they kidnap and trade wanted as well.

Surreal, disturbing, and dark.     And I totally recommend.

Thank you to librarything Early Reviewers giveaways and Scribe Publications for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.