Thursday, March 26, 2015

YOUR TURN, Part 2! Our patrons rate their "Blind Dates with a Book."

As promised, we have some more responses for you from our Blind Date with a Book responses.  Without further ado: 

The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner
  • Stars:  NA, but remarked "Excellent"
  • Tell us about your date: "Kept me interested.  Felt I knew the characters--loved the descriptions of the places and countryside."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes"
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
  • Stars:  5
  • Tell us about your date: "Good mystery.  Thought provoking subject matter.  Too true to be just fiction."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes"
The Woman who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
  • Stars:  NA
  • Tell us about your date: "Returning the book unread.  Not interested in spending the time or energy to immerse myself in the language and/or culture."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes--It would depend."
What the Dog Did by Emily Yoffe
  • Stars:  4
  • Tell us about your date: "Truthful, funny nostalgic, sometimes sad."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes"
Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • Stars:  3
  • Tell us about your date: "Probably aimed at a younger audience.  Fun and different."
  • Would you recommend?:  "No"
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Stars:  4
  • Tell us about your date: "Short, sweet, poetic, simple yet profound."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes"
Born to Bark by Stanley Coren
  • Stars:  4
  • Tell us about your date: "A good story about overcoming obstacles and stereotypes."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes"
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Stars:  5
  • Tell us about your date: "Fun fantasy.  Fast easy read, hard to put down."
  • Would you recommend?:  "Yes"

That's it for now!  If you would like to add your comments to a Blind Date book that you read this February, please stop in for a bookmark, or just add your comments to this entry.  As always, we'd love to hear from you!   -BR

Serenity by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Georges Junty, Zack Whedon, and others

As with all fiction, sometimes when I sit down with a graphic novel,  I look forward to being impressed by the artistry on display.  Sometimes I'm simply looking for a good read.  And sometimes I'm catching up with old friends.  The graphic novel series that, for several years now, has been playing in the Serenity/Firefly 'verse created by Joss Whedon manages to fit into all three of these expectations. If you haven't seen Whedon's tv show or film, you might want to start with these to explore a rich world set some 500 years in the future which has been described as being about the sort of  people that the Starship Enterprise would just sail right by.  Our main characters are the crew/makeshift family aboard a freighter spaceship called Serenity, Firefly class, who struggle to survive by taking jobs of dubious legality out "in the black."  They move through Western-ish stories set on dusty and neglected outer planets, all the while attempting to avoid notice by the authorities.

The first three volumes of the graphic novel series fill in some gaps in the storyline, focuson the backgrounds of characters like Shepherd Book and Wash, and also feature some fine derring-do.  I've just finished "Leaves on the Wind," the fourth installment, and the first of the set that truly feels like a sequel to the 2005 movie.  It begins several months later and brings back a couple of nemeses that fans will fondly remember, while introducing new wrinkles such as a resurgence of the rebels against the planetary Alliance. who would like our captain, Malcolm Reynolds, to lead their crusade or at least be their mouthpiece. Meanwhile the Alliance reveals more of its plans to create super-soldiers, as it attempted to do with another of our Serenity family, River Tam.  Naturally, these opposing forces collide and leave our heroes trapped in the middle of the mess.

The book moves quickly, and sometimes feels a bit like a storyboarded movie script, but the artwork is top-notch and the action well thought out.  I found particular interest in the collected cover portaits of our heroes, as well as a couple of short illustrated stories at the close of the volume which were originally published as part of Free Comic Book Day.  In all, I found it deeply satisfying as a fan who has been wanting more ever since the film ended.   -BR

Check out this volume and the previous three.

If you are interested in the series, BPL has it, here.  For the movie "Serenity", click here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

YOUR TURN!: Our patrons Rate their "Blind Date with a Book" experiences. Part 1

When we created our Blind Date with a Book displays this February, we provided bookmarks that patrons could use to let us know how they felt the date went.  The questions were simple.  We asked for the name and author of the wrapped book that the patron had checked out on the strength of the clues our staff members wrote for each title.  We also asked for a star rating from 1 to 5, whether the reader would recommend the book to a friend, and to write a brief note about their date. 
Our patrons seemed to enjoy the displays, even if they did not ultimately enjoy the book as much!  We thought we would share some of the bookmark responses here, both the thumbs-up reviews and the thumbs-down: 
Memory's Keep by James E. Kibler
  • Stars:  2
  • Tell us about your date:  "Good story but not well-written."
  • Would you recommend?:  No
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
  • Stars: 4 1/2
  • Tell us about your date:  "This was a great date.  Easy to read but still satisfying to the mind."
  • Would you recommend?:  Yes
Snowblind by Christopher Golden
  • Stars:  4
  • Tell us about your date:  Almost prophetic, not as scary as advertised, but fun fast read."
  • Would you recommend?:  Yes
The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
  • Stars:  4
  • Tell us about your date:  "I read this book in the 80's; reading it again gave a different perspective.  Has a lot of violence against women."
  • Would you recommend?:  Yes
Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto
  • Stars: 3 (Good read for 16-20 yrs old)
  • Tell us about your date:  "Interesting."
  • Would you recommend?:  Yes
We hope you enjoyed this installment!  We have more to come, so check back here next week.  ALSO, if you picked up a Blind Date Book, but didn't get a bookmark, please let us know--we'd be happy to know what you thought of your title, and will post more of your reactions in the future.   -BR

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Big Hero 6 (DVD)

Hiro Hamada is not your typical teenager. Raised in a futuristic city known as San Fransokyo with his genius older brother Tadashi, Hiro spends his days tinkering with robotics and competing in illegal bot fights. But a tragic turn of events thrusts him into a dangerous plot, and he teams up with his misfit band of genius friends to form an unusual group of superheroes. But this movie is really about Baymax, an adorable medical bot created by Tadashi. Hiro and Baymax form a unique emotional bond, and it is with Baymax’s help that Hiro is able to ultimately heal from the disaster that afflicts his life.

Big Hero 6 was one of the most popular movies of 2014, and it is no surprise that it just won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. The storyline is fresh and endearing. I absolutely love that it promotes the idea that being smart is cool. Baymax is right up there with Wall-E in terms of non-human characters who know just how to pull at your heartstrings. And in the tradition of “kids” movies these days, the storyline appeals to adults as much as it does to kids. I highly recommend this movie. -LT

Periodic Tales : A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

This is quite an interesting book, more so than I was expecting from the title. The author describes the discovery of each of the elements that make up the Periodic Table. He also gives quite an interesting vignette about how Dmitri Mendeleev set up the first periodic table, and how his discovery thereof actually predicted where new elements would fall within the table.  The author discusses chemistry, mining, physics, mineralogy, and many other topics as they relate to the use through history of all the various elements, and how this still goes on in the modern world.

His chapters are more or less in chronological order of the discovery of each element, starting with those known in ancient times and working forward to the present.  Each element is described, its discovery related, and its cultural impact as it changes through time - for example, how chromium as chrome went from the most expensive metal in the world, worth more than gold, to the current association with flashy decorations. The author also describes his own quest to acquire a sample of every element for his personal collection, and how that gets very difficult for the noble gases, and for elements like cobalt and uranium that are associated with bombs, or radioactive, or both.

I really enjoyed reading this book, more than I expected to when I checked it out. It's a fun read, but not a fast one.   -LP

Reserve this book

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Indian Lawyer by James Welch

Sylvester Yellow Calf is a promising young lawyer with a prestigious Helena legal firm in James Welch's novel, The Indian Lawyer.  Having grown up in Browning, Yellow Calf had been a high school and University of Montana basketball star, later graduating from Stanford Law School.

He serves on the state parole board and is somewhat well-known because of his sports accomplishments and his being a minority in a predominately white profession.  Approached about considering a run for Congress, Yellow Calf is caught between two worlds as he contemplates his future but retains ties to his Blackfeet heritage.

His confused love life leads him into dangerous territory when a romantic encounter turns disastrous.  A client he begins dating is really the wife of a Montana State Prison inmate to whom Yellow Calf has denied parole.  The woman and her husband entangle the young lawyer in a blackmail scheme that threatens to derail his political aspirations.

The late James Welch wrote about what he knew well; he was born in Browning, studied at the University of Montana, and served on the state parole board like his protagonist in the story.  The novel reads smoothly, the story is compelling, and the characters and dialogue are entirely believable.

The Indian Lawyer is the One Book Billings selection for March.  -MS

Reserve this book

After the book discussion groups taking place this week, the Library and One Book Billings will present a special talk about James Welch on Saturday, March 7th, at 1:00 PM in the Community Room.  Here's a link to our March newsletter for more details on this presentation.  Hope to see you there!  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon

Amy Alkon is an award winning newspaper columnist who has written three books. These titles include: Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck , I See Rude People, and Free Advice. In Good Manners, Alkon addresses the rudeness she has encountered in modern society. In the first chapter, Alkon states clearly the book isn’t about etiquette. Instead, she reminds her readers how to treat others with respect and gently stresses commonplace courtesy that is sometimes forgotten in our busy, impatient society. Her book is written with humor and wit; it’s far from preachy advice. Highlights of Alkon’s book include chapters on email and dating.

In Chapter 6, Alkon gives common-sense advice on many aspects of the internet. She talks about email reminders on brevity, including a subject line, and not sending three messages when you can send one. Alkon also explains the concept of responding to a message with a small amount of information when it’s not possible to give a full reply. These are all good suggestions that many of us forget to put into practice.

In a matter-of-fact, humorous manner, Alkon describes some of her own dating experiences as well as those of her colleagues in Chapter 7. As an advice columnist, she also writes about some of the individuals who have contacted her over the years.  Alkon begins the chapter by writing about how a male admirer had been watching her at a local coffee shop and left a creepy note on the windshield of her car which stated, “I bet you look great naked.” In a light-hearted manner, she shakes off the incident, but is unnerved at the prospect of being watched by a possible “creeper” and by the unwanted attention she received. Further into the chapter, Alkon explains, “In dating, a good bit of the hurt and anger people feel is caused not by rude behavior but misconceptions about the opposite sex and the way things ‘should’ work as opposed to the ways they actually do.” Through the ages, Alkon emphasizes much heartache has occurred due to the differences between the way in which men and women perceive one another.

Overall, Alkon paints a witty, down-to-earth picture of rudeness in our society. We have all encountered many of the situations she describes in her book, as recipients of rude behavior and as offenders. Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is a good read for anyone who likes to laugh and be entertained. It also serves as a humorous commentary on the level of rudeness that exists in our modern society. --JK