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Book Review: A Game of Thrones

gameofthronesWell, that took forever. Three weeks, give or take a couple days. I could have done it faster (my friends who’ve read it say they sped right through it), but I just couldn’t read more than 25 or 30 pages of A Game of Thrones at a time. That’s not to say it’s bad – I thoroughly enjoyed it - it’s just long. Really, really long. I know, I know. Some of my favorite books are long. It’s just that when I’m trying to make it to 50 in a year, something that takes three weeks to finish messes with my schedule.

ANYWAY. You probably know all about A Game of Thrones whether from the books or the HBO series. Everyone else seems to, which is why I broke down and took it off of my tl;dr list, where it had rested comfortably for a year, or so.

The plot is so convoluted that I’m not really going to try to summarize this one. In general, it’s about warring lords wanting to claim a kingdom. They even say “game of thrones” several times in the book. It’s like a big chess game. What’s fun, though, is that it’s not always predictable. You become comfortable with a character, and zing! he or she is dead. Also: there are about ten thousand characters, and I don’t think that’s much of an overstatement. I’m really surprised I didn’t spend half my time confused about what was going on. I have to give George R.R. Martin credit for that because it’s a feat. Oh. And don’t expect this book to do anything but make you want to read the rest of them. The end is not really an end – it’s a big ol' cliffhanger. I just want to read the next book, and I know that I don’t have time right now, and that’s frustrating. I’m tempted to read a bunch of graphic novels to catch up, then dive back into the series, but I’m holding off.

So here’s the point: It’s good and epic, but don’t get sucked into it if you don’t want to finish it.

I haven’t seen the TV series, but someone told me that if I’m going to watch and read it, I should watch it first because I’ll be mad if I read it first. Okay, I have seen the first hour, or so, of the series, but I didn’t have the patience for it, and I’m not planning on watching the rest anytime soon. The books, though, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from because I just can’t help myself.

 

It's National Poem in Your Pocket Day!

pocketpoemThat's right! Today's the day to print out your favorite poem, stick it in your pocket, and pull it out to show everyone! Poets.org has a webpage devoted to it with a handy-dandy tool to print out a pocket poem of your own!

I figured I'd share one of my very favorite short poems. It's called "Oread," by H.D.:

Whirl up, sea--
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.

If you like this one, you can find lots more by H.D., including my favorite, "Eurydice," at the Poetry Foundation. You can also read other people's favorite short poems by searching #pocketpoem on Twitter.

 

Music Review: The Beast in Its Tracks by Josh Ritter

 Artist: Josh Ritter

 Title: The Beast in Its Tracks

Pytheas Recordings, March 2013

“I can’t pretend that all is well.  It’s like I’m haunted by a ghost.  There are times I cannot speak your name for the catching in my throat.  There are things I will not sing for the sting of sour notes.”  - Josh Ritter, "New Lover" 

The Beast in Its Tracks serves as singer-songwriter Josh Ritter’s response to his divorce from musician, Dawn Landes.  Ritter displays humor, anger, and warmth as he honestly processes his experiences and emotions through song. The result is an extremely intimate and rewarding album.

I was first introduced to Josh Ritter’s music by checking out one of his CDs from the library. Luckily, Shreve Memorial Library now offers three opportunities to explore the music of Josh Ritter. The Beast in Its Tracks and 2010’s So Runs the World Away are available for checkout. My favorite tracks from these albums include “New Lover” and “Joy to You Baby” from The Beast in Its Tracks and “The Curse” (possibly the greatest love song between an archaeologist and a mummy that you will ever hear) from So Runs the World Away. You can also download 2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter from SML’s new music service – Freegal.

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band will be performing in Baton Rouge on Sunday, June 30th and New Orleans on Monday, July 1st.    

 

The Makers Fair!


makersfairThe Texas Avenue Makers Fair returns on Saturday, April 27th! The Texas Avenue Makers Fair is a non-traditional arts and crafts fair. Find it at the corner of Common St. and Texas Ave. in Downtown Shreveport. The hours are 10 a.m. to - 4 p.m.

There will be nearly 200 vendors selling various items including delicious food! Admission is free and open to the public.
 Bring your appetite! The Some Like It Hot food truck and the River City Seafood food truck will be there as well as yummies from Ki Mexico, Kern Has Coffee, and more!!!

 And you can visit the Friends of Shreve Memorial Library booth!

 

Book Review: Eric

ericEric was exactly what I needed after the torture that was Kafka‘s Amerika. A Terry Pratchett novel is always funny and enjoyable – and in this case, a relief. I had no idea where to go after Amerika. I wanted to take a break from books. I knew that if I did that, though, my goal of reading 50 this year would crumble. And there was the next Discworld novel waiting patiently on my Kindle. Eric is the 9th of 40 (so far), and it’s (also so far) my favorite. I loved Eric. I even had a Neverending Story-style lunch in my office to finish it. PB&J and the works! Oh, it was so good.

It’s the third Rincewind novel, meaning that it stars a mischievous wizard of that name. After the last one, he ended up in the realm of the demons, and he wanted to get back to the (more) real world of Ankh-Morpork. Turns out, though, that his ticket in is a demon circle opened by a 13-year-old kid named Eric, who has Faustian dreams. He is convinced that Rincewind is a demon and, if Eric signs his soul over, that supposed demon will grant him three wishes: live forever, meet the most beautiful woman in the world, rule the world. Except when Rincewind snaps his fingers, it works, and they visit the Mayans, the Trojan War, and Dante’s version of Hell. And it’s so much fun!

I can always rely on Discworld novel for a chuckle or twelve, and Eric certainly didn’t disappoint. This is an especially short one, too, so I finished it within 24 hours, which is an exception for me. One good thing about the Discworld novels is that you don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way through: though they’re all interconnected, you can pick any one of them up and enjoy it. If you haven’t read any of them yet, I’d say Eric is a good starting place.

Check it out!

 

Book Review: Amerika

amerikaI haven’t hated a novel so much in a long time. Amerika is quite possibly the most frustrating novel I’ve ever read – even more than Kafka‘s other novels. It’s considered one of his three principal novels - The Trial, The Castle, and this one (The Metamorphosis evidently doesn’t count because it’s a novella) – and it’s not even finished. I bet I can tell you why, too: Kafka knew it sucks, and he knew the plot couldn’t go anywhere worthwhile. It would just have to be an endless loop, so he gave up. Which is kind of what his novels are, anyway. They’re certainly frustrating. I’m beginning to wonder why I like the other two (and The Metamorphosis) so much. Maybe it depends on my mood. But I hated this one almost from the beginning. I’m not even sure why I finished it.

And what made it worse: I was done when I realized that it’s unfinished. I dislike unfinished novels, and I rarely read them. Not only am I predisposed to dislike it on that basis, but it just isn't any good. MEH.

It’s about Karl Rossman, who is sent to America by his parents because he got a girl pregnant, and they don’t want to have to pay. And Karl trusts everyone, even if they’re obviously out to get him, so he ends up in trouble pretty quickly. He takes the side of one of the ship’s employees who thinks he’s being treated unfairly even though he (Karl) has just met the employee. As things go south, a businessman asks Karl to repeat his name then claims to be his long-lost American uncle, there to rescue him. Thus ensues lots of creepiness, and trusting ol’ Karl gets into trouble again, though he doesn’t mean to, and his uncle is entirely unreasonable. I really don’t understand the situation. It’s a ridiculous situation that only Kafka could pull off, and this time he does it badly. Then Karl ends up on his own and works in a hotel for a while, then becomes a kind of slave, and then on and on and on.

I seriously wanted to throw this book across the room when I finished it. I hated it that much. The last book I hated that much was Chinua Achebe‘s Things Fall Apart, but I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that because he just died. Except I did.

ANYWAY, Amerika is, as I said, Kafka’s first novel. And it’s not good. And I almost wish I hadn’t bothered to finish reading it just to find out that even Kafka couldn’t finish it. On to greener pastures.

Check it out if you're curious.

 

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

kafkaontheshoreI’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week, now, but I keep putting it off. I think the lesson I’ve learned here is not to read a Murakami book twice because I won’t like it as much. The only other one I’ve read twice is Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which had previously been my favorite novel. Until that second reading, after which it was replaced by Kafka on the Shore. Well, I’m in the same position now, and all of this is rethinking my devotion to Murakami. It’s not that it’s a bad novel, or anything. I just didn’t like it as much. I certainly understood more of it this time around, even though it had been a few years since I’d read it, and maybe that’s why I didn’t like it so much. Or maybe not. I’m just a bit confused.

Kafka on the Shore is about a kid named Kafka Tamura (he changed his first name) who runs away from home, partially because he doesn’t get along with his father, a famous sculptor, who prophesied that Kafka would kill his father and sleep with his mother and his sister. Kafka ends up in another town at a private library. Then things start to get weird in a way only Murakami could think up. There’s also an older man named Nakata. When he was young, something mysterious happened to him and his classmates, and all of them recovered except him. He seems a bit autistic, and he can talk to cats. He gets aid from the state and supplements his income by finding people’s cats. On the trail of one of these cats, he finds himself in an empty lot where one had been last seen. A big dog appears and guides him to the house of a man who calls himself Johnnie Walker who does terrible things to cats to collect their souls to make a flute. (Yep, that’s the plot.) Nakata kills him, and it turns out later that Kafka’s father had been murdered, but apparently under different circumstances. And then more Murakami-ish things happen, some of them involving fish falling from the sky.

Yeah, it’s a strange novel – as are all of them. Most of Murakami’s work is magical realism, kind of like Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s One Hundred Years of Solitude. That’s one of the reasons I like him so much. He’s certainly one of the best living authors (and so is Marquez, though he quit writing). I’ve read every one of Murakami’s novels published in English, even the hard-to-find ones like Pinball, 1973. I didn’t especially like A Wild Sheep Chase or After Dark, and I’m still considering giving them a second read because I should like them. And there’s 1Q84, which plain ol’ disappointed me. All of the others, though, I really like. Even the two I’ve read twice – it’s just that I don’t like them quite as much as I did the first time I read them.

If you haven’t read any Murakami, pick up one of his books at the library. I read somewhere that Norwegian Wood is his most accessible because it’s the most realistic, and I can agree with that. There’s also the movie coming out sometime soon. My first Murakami was Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I was browsing the shelves at the Urbana Free Library in Illinois and thought the title was too interesting to pass up. I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably his best, and as much as I loved it, I don’t think I’ll read it again anytime soon because I don’t want to be disappointed on the second go-round.

 

Family's what you make it

I have two recommendations this time, and they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Yes, that’s right; they’re completely unrelated outside my desire to share them. Or are they?

I do like exploring BBC’s offerings. A wonderful staff member at Broadmoor suggested this one.*  Land Girls is a drama set in World War II England; men are off fighting the war, and women, of course, want to help. Stuck at home, so to speak, English women join the Women’s Land Army, in which they would find themselves leaving their homes and families to work in new situations. Some of the women come from the upper class and are shipped away; others are simply trying to find a way to help while their husbands are off at war. In Land Girls, we get to know four young women with various backgrounds who find themselves on a country estate; we see how the war not so far away affects them and those who must show their national pride by producing food for the rest of the country. We watch as these young women mature, love, and lose. There is a hint of romanticism, found in most historical pieces, but none of the women are presented as saints. While some of the characters we meet border on caricatures, they are all real humans.  

 So,that’s the first one; what’s the second one? It’s so far left of field it’s not even a BBC show, and it’s even set in the US! That’s right; I do watch shows that don’t even have English characters as regulars!

 When I was a school kid, so many many many years ago, I got caught up in the show Hey Dude. The show follows the often times ridiculous exploits of the staff on the Bar None dude ranch. The show almost made me want to go out to the desert and ride horses; who wouldn’t want to be in a barrel race one day, take a long ride into the scenic desert another, and then enjoy a pie eating contest and barn dance the next? Of course, the show has many flaws, but it is often light hearted and enjoyable, even though the cheese factor is quite high. I usually watched this during the summer, so one step outside quickly reminded me why I had no desire to be in the heat. Yet, I so wanted to meet these teens who had built a life and family on a ranch in a world almost as distant to a Louisiana girl as World War II England would be.

 So, how are these two related? They explore families created by location, not by blood. While the situations and tones are vastly different, the connections formed are interestingly similar because they are indeed families and friendships created and strengthened by the imagined solitude of the location. There is a distance from the norm in both cases that allows the women in Land Girls and the teens in Hey Dude to bond as well as grow beyond the expectations of class and gender. Now, do I think these two shows are on the same level? Not exactly. One has a better production value and writing, but the other provides amusement for teens and tweens, even before the word existed.   Both are enjoyable, and both are worth recommendation. At least as far as I’m concerned.

 Start with the women as they begin work for the Women’s Land Army with the first series of Land Girls, or get to know the staff at Bar None with the first season of Hey Dude.

 *Ask the staff for viewing suggestions at any branch. They’re actually quite helpful with this.

 

Real Teens Reviewing Teen Books! Colin Fisher

The review below was written by Emily Hussey, a student at Loyola College Prep.

Colin Fischer   by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz

Colin Fischer, written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, was intriguing to say the least. It is written in the third person perspective of Colin, who is a high school freshman with a gift. He has the deduction skills of a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. However, with this gift comes the perils of having Asperger’s syndrome -- Colin acts socially awkward and, at first, is rejected by his peers. Things affect Colin differently in ways people do not understand - for example, he hates the color blue. Also, he speaks exactly what is on his mind. Even if at times Colin can be blunt or borderline rude, at least he is honest, which is an admirable quality in this day and age.

 

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

wrinkleintimeAs soon as I got into this book, I said to myself, ”Have I ever even read A Wrinkle in Time?” I remember the act of reading it, but this graphic novel isn’t what I remember. I guess I just pictured it differently in my head. I enjoyed it, anyway. For me, graphic novels are like watching TV when I don’t want to watch TV – giving me the pictures along with the words takes all of the work out of reading. And there’s the fewer words to read, allowing me to get through these quickly. That said, I don’t read many graphic novels at all. I went through my manga phase (do those count?) several years ago, and since then, I’ve generally stuck to relatively picture-free books. There are, of course, exceptions. And hey, this one’s even a kids’ book. I don’t read too many of those, either.

I’m not going through the whole story because I assume you’re over the age of 10, and I’m pretty sure the gods don’t let you pass that age without reading A Wrinkle in Time. Or maybe they do these days: book literacy seems secondary to computer literacy. So it goes. Anyway, a guy who works on some secret project for the government disappears, and two of his kids and one of their friends search for him, befriending three old, time-traveling ladies on the way.  They end up in a dystopian world where everyone is exactly the same and there’s no free will. Then Things Happen.

I’d forgotten so much about this book. Like how super-Christian it is, Bible quotes and all. I guess that’s a product of the time in which it was written? And I remembered them getting to the dystopian city where everyone is the same, but I didn’t remember what came after that at all like Hope Larson depicted it. That’s not to say it wasn’t well done or that I didn’t like it, because I did. The artwork is really nicely done:

darkandstormy

If you haven’t read the actual novel, check out a copy because it’s totally worth it. If you have, take a look at this graphic novel version. It’s fun and fast, and I, at least, was entertained the whole time.

 

Book Review: Love in the Time of Cholera

choleraI’ve been meaning to read Love in the Time of Cholera for a couple of years, ever since I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and declared it my Favorite Book Ever (or at least my favorite book of 2011). It’s my third completed Gabriel Garcia Marquez book of four attempts. I’ll somehow get through Autumn of the Patriarch one day and explain. Or you can try reading it. Believe me, you’ll understand.

So. Here we were with One Hundred Years of Solitude (have I mentioned it’s quite possibly my Favorite Book Ever?) and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, both of which I’ve written about in this blog. The former is better than the latter and the latter reminds me of the former and so on. I’ve talked about it before. Both are good and certainly worth a read. What all that means is that I had high expectations for Love in the Time of Cholera.

I’d put off reading it for a long time for various stupid reasons. First, when I’m trying to hit a goal of 50 books per year (as in 2011, the first part of 2012, and this year, I’ve tl;dr-ed most longer books. (Okay, there are huge examples of that being a lie, like Suttree, The Satanic Verses, and Crime and Punishment, to name only a few. I didn’t say that my tl;dr-ing wasn’t arbitrary). And Love in the Time of Cholera isn’t as long as any of those or as long as One Hundred Years of Solitude. But I digress. Anyway, Marquez isn’t exactly a fast, easy read – but he flows so smoothly.

Love in the Time of Cholera is about long-unrequited love. Florentino Ariza sees Fermina Daza when both of them are young, and he instantly falls in hopeless love. They exchange love letters for years, but she ends up marrying Juvenal Urbino, a more attractive, wealthy doctor from a “better” family. They live their separate lives, Florentino Ariza never giving up hope of winning Fermina Daza, until they meet again after Juvenal Urbino’s death. (I promise I’m not ruining everything – we learn about this at the beginning.) The point of view fluctuates (remaining third-person) from character to character throughout the novel, so we learned about the past and the present in very personal bits.

And now, the more I write about it, the more I like it. Though it’s not my favorite of Marquez’s novels, it’s very well-written. The way the perspectives interweave is amazing, and the language flows oh so smoothly (that is, of course, thanks, in part, to the translator, but hey). It’s not a fast read – no Marquez I’ve encountered is – but it’s a lovely one.

But here’s why I don’t like it as much as One Hundred Years of Solitude – or one of the reasons: I got annoyed with Florentino Ariza, his incessant romanticism of Fermina Daza, and his (sometimes gross) affairs with other women throughout his lifetime. I found him tiresome after a while. And I think I mentioned gross (you’ll know what I mean when you get to that part).

Check it out and read it. Curl up somewhere comfortable, and expect to spend several hours glued to this book. You won’t be sorry you did.

 

British Invasion - Flat Screen Edition

By now, most Americans have heard of Downton Abbey, featuring the razor sharp wit of Maggie Smith, but there are many other BBC shows that deserve some recognition. If you enjoy the glittering evening gowns and the lush landscapes of Downtown Abbey, the revival of Upstairs, Downstairs may be right up your ally. The original Upstairs, Downstairs ran five seasons, from 1971 to 1975. Like Downton, the series focuses on the lives of residents at 165 Eaton Place: the servants downstairs and the family, upstairs. If you aren’t quite ready to devote yourself to the entire 1970’s series, there is a new version of Upstairs, Downstairs that began in 2010 (Season One and Season Two) that incorporates elements of the old season, but can be viewed independently without causing the viewer any confusion. Personally, I started with the new Lyn Euros version and now want to go back and watch the original series. On a side note, if you really can’t get enough of the English aristocracy of Downton Abbey, try reading Snobs, written by Julian Fellowes, writer and creator of Downton.

 

Music Review: The Magic Door by The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Artist: The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

 Title: The Magic Door

Silver Arrow/Megaforce Records, September 2012

The Magic Door is the second release from The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Formed in 2011, CRB consists of Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes), Neal Casal (Ryan Adams & The Cardinals), Adam MacDougall (The Black Crowes), George Sluppick, and Mark Dutton.

I have been a fan of The Black Crowes since their debut album, Shake Your Moneymaker, was released in 1990. As a matter of fact, their February 1993 concert at the Municipal Auditorium had a huge impact on me and strongly influenced my love of music. Needless to say, I was very excited to find this gem from CRB available at the library.

The Magic Door is a jam-heavy set of psychedelic/countrified roots music that I just can’t take out of my stereo. This album grabbed me from the opening cover of Hank Ballard and The Midnighters’ 1960 classic, “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go” through the closing Grateful Deadish “Wheel Don’t Roll”.

Admittedly, I do not listen to the music of The Black Crowes or the side projects of Chris Robinson as much as I used to. However, I’m glad to see one of my favorite musicians of all time making some of the most inventive and inspired music of his 20+ year career.  

The Magic Door is available at the Main, Hollywood/Union, and Mooretown locations of Shreve Memorial Library.

Fans of this album should also check out the following titles from the library:

  • The Grateful Dead – Europe ’72 (available at Main)
  • Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger (available at Hamilton/South Caddo and West Shreveport)
  • The Allman Brothers Band – Live at the Atlanta International Pop Festival (available at Cedar Grove/Line Avenue)

 Enjoy!

 

New Movies @ SML!

Shreve Memorial Library offers popular new releases. All you need to do is go to our library catalog and click on "New Video Items". Here are some of our latest new releases!

Alex Cross

A homicide detective is pushed to the brink of his moral and physical limits as he tangles with a ferociously skilled serial killer who specializes in torture and pain.

Starring: , ,

 

 

Clifford Visits the Library!

 

Please join us on Friday, February 22 at 10:30 AM to meet Clifford and hear some great Clifford the Big Red Dog stories! This program is presented by Shreve Memorial Library, in partnership with Barnes and Noble.

 For more information contact Jenifer French or Virginia Walker at (318) 674-8172.

 

North Shreveport Branch

4844 North Market St.

Shreveport, LA 71107

 

 

Announcing Shreve Memorial Library's Digital Collections!

anniversarycoverDid you know that the library opened in 1923 and was originally located around the corner on Edwards Street? Or that we once had a cat named Encyclopedia and named all of her kittens Britannica? Want to see who the very first people to sign up for library cards were? Or what now-forgotten books were popular in the 1950s? We've started our first digital collection with library scrapbooks!

For a start, we have three scrapbooks and the library's first register. One scrapbook includes photos and newspaper articles about the library's 50th anniversary celebration. The next mostly contains library-related newspaper articles from around 1925, including book reviews. The final one also has a lot of newspaper articles, but keep an eye out for several editions of a hilarious internal newsletter called Chop Suey. The register is a handwritten record of the first 2000 people to sign up for a library card, beginning with the mayor and the library board.

Take your time and look through this fascinating window into the past! It's online and available from anywhere: you don't have to be at the library! There are even links to share your favorite images to social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

This collection of scrapbooks is only the beginning of Shreve Memorial Library's Digital Collection! Check it out today, then keep coming back to watch it expand with all kinds of fascinating material!

The address is http://digital.shrevelibrary.org. Bookmark it!

 


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