Saturday, 7 May 2016

One Foot in the Grave

Finished May 4
One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, read by Tavia Gilbert

This is the second novel in the Night Huntress series, but the first I've read. Cat Crawfield is a young woman who is half-vampire, half-human. Her mother hates and fears vampires and Cat found out her nature when she was sixteen. She is now in her early twenties and is a special agent for the FBI, leading a team who goes after rogue members of the undead. As the book starts, Cat learns that she has been targeted for assassination, and is facing great danger. When someone from her past reappears in her life, she must decide whether he offers a real future and protection or more danger than she can live with.
The voice of Cat here comes across as young, loyal to her men, yet a tad on the over-confident side. She doesn't just do her job, she engages in trash talk while doing so. She lets her emotions rule her actions sometimes, leading her into more difficult situations.
This is a book of fantasy and eroticism, with graphic sex scenes, and crude language. It is an action novel with a strong dose of paranormal.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Letting Go of Legacy Services

Finished May 2
Letting Go of Legacy Services: Library Case Studies edited by Mary Evangeliste and Katherine Furlong

Libraries are being asked to do more with less these days, and many of us find it difficult to stop offering services that we've been offering for years to free up resources for those new things people want us to provide. The libraries here looked at the concept of planned abandonment, a concept popularized by Peter Drucker, and how it applies to libraries. Also included are several interviews that look at solutions to common pressure points.
This book contains a number of case studies of libraries who have taken a good hard look at either those things "we've always done" or things "we've always done that way" and determined if they are still worth doing or if they should be done differently. Each case study is wrapped up with a summary by the editors called Bookend.
Case studies included here are:
* a college library that changed the way they provide periodicals to their patrons.
* a county library system that took a good look at their web-based services, overhauled their website and improved community outreach.
* a university library that eliminated their reserve services.
* a university library that redefined reference service.
* a university library that used a series of crisis situations over six years to redefine mission critical services.
* a university library that used ethnographic research techniques to help them redefine library spaces to better meet student needs, reexamine resource delivery, checkout service, fines, ILL, and equipment lending.
* a university library who used collaborative strategic planning to facilitate the shift towards electronic resources.
* a public library who responded to a natural disaster and a financial crisis to look for efficiency opportunities in technical services, acquisitions, and cataloging.
* a university library used surveys and space analysis to create more useful spaces for their patrons

Interviews include:
* talking with David Consiglio about data driven decision making in a library context
* talking with Valerie Diggs about communication strategies for successful change

The conclusion to this book provides a lot of reflection on change in the library community. One sentence in particular spoke to me: "Among the many things we need to abandon is the nostalgia that unfortunately gives us an inaccurate perception of the past and hinders discussions of the present, and the future of libraries." Insights here range from the urgency of library as space for our communities to come together in a variety of ways, you can never had enough communication, and that fostering leadership and diversity is a necessity.

Sophie's Throughway

Finished May 2
Sophie's Throughway by Jules Smith

This short novel was fun and insightful. Sophie is a writer for an unnamed magazine, and struggling with her personal life. She has two teenagers, Bryony, who is 14, and Brendon, who is 15.  Brendon has been recently diagnosed with Asperger's and PDA. I hadn't heard of PDA before, and learned it stands for Pathological Demand Avoidance, and is often associated with Asperger's. Brendon is very bright, but is having behavioural issues, which is particularly a problem at school. At home, it has created enough issus that Karl, Sophie's husband has left the family.
Sophie has been missing work to deal with Brendon's issues, and while she has an understanding boss, and makes up her work from home as much as she can, she worries about how this affects the other staff members.
The novel has a chicklit feel to it, with the social nature of Sophie's job, and her open communication with her children, but also more substance with the insight into having a child affected by these conditions. Sophie's got a good approach to it, and is better able to handle Brendon when he is in the midst of an inappropriate episode than Karl, but she's not a saint and that makes the book feel more real.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Consciousness of Cats

Finished May 1
The Consciousness of Cats by Nigel J. Borthwick

This short novel tells the story of Nathan Blakemore, a young man with a master's degree in philosophy, who, as the story begins works as a part-time professor of philosophy and as a salesman for music equipment. When he was a bit younger, he was a sound engineer for a moderately successful rock band. He has a good friend that he talks philosophy with, Charmaine, who is a few years younger than him. Charmaine works as a cocktail waitress and is at university studying psychology. Her mother has had some issues with alcohol as well as psychological challenges. Charmaine is a very calm, reasoned young woman, and even as the two become closer, she holds Nathan at a distance.
Nathan feels his life is missing something, so he is determined to move on and not wait for Charmaine to tell him what is holding her back. He volunteers for a long-term assignment in the Philippines and enjoys the projects there and the people he meets. When a crisis occurs that changes his life forever, Charmaine re-enters his life briefly, and then leaves him to recover on his own. As Nathan learns strategies and tools to help him live with his new reality, he also finds that his life has grown larger and more satisfying.
This is a book of a man learning how to deal with his life more thoughtfully, taking a step back to control his impulses and gaining something for that.

Sleeping Giants

Finished April 30
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This debut novel is a winner. This is wonderful science fiction, with a very human touch. When Rose Franklin turned eleven, she took her new bike out at dusk for a ride and made a discovery she didn't understand until years later. Following a strange light, she fell into a hole that hadn't been there before, knocking herself out and waking hours later while being rescued. Later one of the rescuers brings her a picture that shows her from above, in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Rose always loved science and went into physics as her career. Now, years later, she is being asked to head a research team involving that hand, and potentially other body parts.
The story is told in a series of interviews and journal entries, similar to that of World War Z, and for me it had a similar feel to it. The interviewer is an unnamed man, one with power and influence, who sees a bigger picture and plans far ahead. He chooses most of the people involved in the project as it develops and changes, but not all.
The other main characters here are two US military pilots, a woman, Kara Resnik, and a man, Ryan Mitchell, as well as a French Canadian linguist, Vincent Couture.
As they realize what they are dealing with they must reconcile their own feelings about it and the power it possesses. This discovery will change the world, but in which direction will it take us. Not all questions are answered here, and the ending provides an interesting twist. This is the first in a planned series, and I will be looking with interest for the sequels.
I found it interesting that the author has a similar background to one of the characters, and, of course, I always love to find out about a new Canadian author, so lots to love about this book.

Indian Horse

Finished April 26
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

This novel follows Saul Indian Horse, a man who has hit bottom in his life, and while at a native healing centre looks back on his life to see what brought him to where he is now.
He looks back at his early life on the land with his brother, parents, grandparents, and other family members, particularly when they camp on the remote island that is special to his family.
He tells of his experience being brought to residential school, and of the priest that introduced him to hockey. Saul gradually reveals his life, those that influenced it for good and bad, those that he still feels something for, and the things that matter most to him.
Saul has natural skills for many things, and he gradually comes to accept these for what they can do for him.
This is a story of the impact of residential schools, here fictional, but real for so many. This is a story that brings some of that impact to readers in a meaningful way. This book had me laughing, crying, and touched deeply. Wagamese is a master writer, and when telling stories like this you can see that clearly. An amazing read.
A colleague urged me to take this book off my shelf where it had been lingering and once I did, I had trouble putting it down. I urge every Canadian who hasn't already read this book to do so. Besides being winning the 2013 Canada Reads People's Choice, this book was also shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, winner of the First Nations Community Read, and on the Globe and Mail top 100 list for 2012.

The Great American Whatever

Finished April 26
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle, read by the author

This YA novel tells the story of sixteen-year-old Quinn Roberts from his point of view. Quinn wanted to be a screenwriter from a young age, after meeting the older brother of his new neighbour who was just starting out in the industry. He corralled his older sister Annabeth and his best friend Geoff into his dream. Annabeth directed the movies he wrote and Geoff was the main actor.
But as the book opens, we learn that Annabeth died six months ago in a car accident, and Quinn has retreated into his room since then, with little contact with others. His mother has also retreated into a world of sadness, leaving mail unopened and not going out. Quinn has been getting some therapy, through Skype sessions, but it isn't until Geoff forces him out on an excursion to replace his dead air conditioner that he starts to move on. The two buy the air conditioner, but go on to a party hosted by Geoff's older sister, who's at college, and Quinn begins to interact with others. At first it is with these college kids, who don't know about the tragedy in his life, but it gradually expands.
Quinn begins to understand that he's not the only one grieving Annabeth, and he needs to realize his dreams still have possibilities.
Quinn is gay, but has never admitted that to anyone, not even Annabeth or Geoff, and as he comes out of his self-imposed retreat from the world, he also begins to come out personally. This is a story of loss and grief, of growth and risk. It is a coming of age story with a twist. There is humour and sadness, but above all great writing, and the author's reading makes it come to life thoroughly.