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Search tags: General-Fiction
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review 2017-04-25 07:42
The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures
The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures - Carla D. Hayden,Library of Congress

 This is probably the most pleasant, and by extension, interesting, history of something as mundane as a card catalog as I'm likely to ever run across.  From the first example of a book catalog, pressed into clay in cuneiform, to the modern day usage of MARC records, the text flows in a tight, succinct narrative that is neither chatty nor dry (and I'm sure nowhere near comprehensive).

 

Where the book truly shines is in its photographs and illustrations.  The author and publisher were generous with the photographs and they fill at least 1/3 of the pages.  Most of them are photos of the old cards and the books they belong to, but there are many old pictures of the Library of Congress and other related images.  The number of cards the Library of Congress had to deal with daily in the mid-50's is staggering.  I can't even imagine the logistics.

 

Did you know that the Library of Congress still has their old card catalog and it's still in use?   (Most of it.)  I think that's wonderful and the perfect example of how old and new methodologies can complement each other instead of competing.  

 

This isn't the kind of book that's going to have wide appeal, but for those that find the subject interesting, it's a beautiful book, thoughtfully put together.

 

 

Page count: 220
Dollars banked: $3.00

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review 2017-04-24 16:57
600 HOURS OF EDWARD by CRAIG LANCASTER
600 Hours of Edward - Craig Lancaster

When I started this book I was wondering if I would finish it after description, after description of Dragnet's color episodes and the weather. Then the book started getting a little more interesting, and then a little more, until I was fully invested to find out what happened to Edward. I was afraid it was going to be a bad turn but it ended up being a HEA (happy ever after) for Edward - not over the top happy but for him it was huge. Loved the book.

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review 2017-04-18 05:55
Dead Interviews: Living Writers Meet Dead Icons
Dead Interviews: Living Writers Meet Dead Icons - Dan Crowe

Several modern day writers answer the question, if you could go back in time and talk to any famous writer, who would it be? by imagining how such interviews would go.

 

Some are straight-forward, some are really very clever, like the Samuel Johnson/Boswell interview imagined by David Mitchell, or Rebecca Miller's take on how an interview would go with the Marquis de Sade.  Some of them aren't even authors; Douglas Coupland interviews Andy Warhol, who he imagines finds heaven very dull.

 

I bought this because I saw Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the list and he's just about the only author I'd travel back in time to talk to, if I could.  Ian Rankin did the honours, but I was rather disappointed with his efforts, to be frank.  Very little came out of the exercise except perhaps a wicked hangover for Rankin if he was lucky, a court-ordered psych eval if he wasn't (fictitiously speaking, of course).

 

The weirdest by far was Joyce Carol Oates' disturbing and intensive extended grilling of Robert Frost.  I think it's fair to say, fictional imaginings or not, she does not like Robert Frost!  At the end of it, she is careful to remind readers it's a work of fiction, "though based opon (limited, selected) historical research", and then points the reader in the direction of Meyer's biography of Frost.  I'm betting there's a story to tell there somewhere.

 

It's an amusing collection of what-ifs, some of which, like with all such things, are better than others.  

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review 2017-04-14 12:22
The Delight of Being Ordinary
The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama - Roland Merullo

The subtitle of this novel says everything about why it appealed to me from the start:

 

A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama

 

Then there was the author's note:

 

I am inclined to put my trust in spiritual figures who show a sense of humor, rather than those who take everything—including themselves—with a miserable seriousness. Life can be harsh, yes. The struggle to live a meaningful life, however we define that, can be rich with problems and challenges. But humor exists to soften the sharp edges of things. And so Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, both of whom laugh a lot, seem to me like wise teachers, extraordinary men in the difficult position of guiding billions of followers, of steering vessels with a heavy cargo of good and bad history, in the same general direction, across the rough seas of modem life. 

 

That right there is guaranteed to get my attention.  At school, part of the curriculum was world religions, because, as the nuns said, you can't respect what you don't understand.  

 

So, a story about the Pope and the Dalai Lama dodging their security teams and going on a 4 day road trip?  Yes please!  When it arrived I couldn't wait to get stuck into it, and what better day to read it than Good Friday?

 

It was so much more than I expected; true, I didn't quite know what to expect - I bought it on blind faith and the subtitle, but there was the humorous road trip I'd expected, plus theology, and mystical adventure and ultimately, the story of a marriage in crises and a startling narrative on the emotional baggage a relationship accumulates over time.

 

I didn't go the whole-hog 5 stars because even though I loved it, it did drag in a few places.  I think this is my fault; I couldn't put the book down and there's a lot of (really interesting) theology here; real, everyday, relatable theology, and I think the pacing would have worked better had I read this over several sessions, savouring instead of devouring it.  Also, the MC and narrator, Paolo, and his wife Rosa are a little too real.  The reader is truly inside Paolo's head and that insight to his thoughts is not always comfortable; he's a good man, but he's deeply flawed.

 

As much as I love this book, I can't honestly say it's for everyone.  Those who have confidently turned away from faith in anything greater than man need not bother, although the book does offer an accurate view of what faith should be about.  Those who do categories themselves as spiritual or religious or faithful might find this interesting, but it's going to depend on the rigidity of those beliefs. There are as many flavours of Christianity as there are stars in the sky (almost/not really) and RC offends quite a few of them.  And even RCs might have a tough time swallowing the ending; I admit I balked myself, at first.  What Merullo offers as a plot twist is confronting and I can't say reacted any better than Paolo did (at first).

 

Still, I loved this book; there are so many parts that resonated, from the faith through to the marriage.  I adored Pope Francis before this book, and still do, but now, I might have a bit of a crush on the Dalai Lama.  :)

 

 

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review 2017-04-13 11:48
Letters From Paris
Letters from Paris - Juliet Blackwell

A Cajun woman who escaped her rough childhood to live the corporate life in Chicago, returns home to take care of her dying grandmother.  While she's there she rediscovers an old death mask in the attic (death masks were made from plaster moulds taken after someone died - it was a thing about a century ago), that leads her to Paris, searching for answers about the elusive face of L'Inconnue.

 

I really enjoy Juliet Blackwell's writing and this book did not disappoint.  It's not a perfect read; there are moments that aren't followed through at all or very well in the first half of the book, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

 

I bought this for the mystery and the setting; I've read her other book The Paris Key and remembered how vividly she brought Paris to life in my mind.  Paris came to life again here, although the mystery sort of fizzled. (I don't know how to explain it without spoiling so I'll leave it at that.)

 

The big surprise (for me) was the romance.  It was excellent!  I expected it to be more a suggestion of romance (as she did in her last Paris book), but here it was much more a part of the plot, and it made the book so much better.

 

What can I say?  I liked it - I'd recommend it.

 

 

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