Thursday 29 October 2015

Between the World and Me

Finished October 27
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, read by the author

This book, especially with the author reading it, felt almost like a stream of consciousness performance. It is written as a communication from Coates to his teenage son and, while focused on the social truths of being black in America, is about the larger culture, the history of issues of "the other", the concerns of parents for their children and their children's future, and the future of the country itself.
This book is emotional, yet steeped in history and facts. It is a story of Coates' life, and the lives of other Americans struggling against the history and culture of the United States that defines someone by what they look like.
I found it moving, thought-provoking, and enlightening, and urge others to read or, even better, listen to it.

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder

Finished October 26
Wonder Woman: Love and Murder written by Jodi Picoult; drawing by Drew Johnson, Ray Snyder, Rodney Ramos, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, and Paco Diaz; Colorists: Alex Sinclair, Lee Loughridge, and Dave McCaig; Letterers: Rob Leigh and Travis Lanham

This graphic novel consists of five chapters, and begins with an introduction to what happened previously to set up the action.
I loved the kitschy Wonder Woman TV show when I was young, and picked this up with interest to see what was up with her now. I found the storyline a bit disjointed and felt that more introduction was needed to some of the characters that suddenly appeared. The flow between chapters wasn't smooth, but the story did continue through the entire novel.
I found the depiction of Wonder Woman in her Diana guise to be dumbed down to an alarming degree, not something I ever pictured her as. Other characters seemed rather slow on the uptake or easily fooled as well, not the strong females I was expecting.
The drawings were great, and showed continuity despite different artists for different chapters.

Monday 26 October 2015

Emerging Technologies

Finished October 24
Emerging Technologies: A Primer for Librarians by Jennifer Koerber and Michael P. Sauers

This book begins with a discussion of the book's premise which is to provide a snapshot of new technology important to libraries and use that to show readers how to look at technology at it appears and gets applied in library environments. The chapters on technologies each have a brief overview of the technology giving background and current events, advantages and challenges to the technology's use in libraries, highlights of the most useful or well-known tools and/or devices in that technology and how libraries might use them, and some examples. The authors define emerging as those technologies just hitting the middle of the acceptance bell curve, so not leading edge, but also not mainstream. They also look at older technologies used in new ways.
The first technology they look at is audio/video. They cover hardware such as cameras and microphones, software such as screencasting, video-editing, and platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo, and Soundcloud. Uses include virtual library tours, training, memes, community engagement, events, and supporting makers.
The second technology is self-publishing. They look at the environment, platforms and tools, including some library-specific tools. There is discussion of the library's role.
The third technology is mobile technologies. Here the question is not if your library will use mobile technology, but which services should be provided. It looks at mobile websites and library apps, and proposes three sets of questions to ask: who creates and maintains the technology and its content; how are connections to third parties handled (ebooks, streaming media); and how is it serving, how are they accessing it, and what services does it provide. Hardware includes both the patrons' own as well as library-provided, through lending. Interfaces discusses range from native to apps to mobile web. Applications range from reference to ecommerce to collection access.
The fourth technology is crowdfunding and the main discussion is on platforms. Not all platforms allow non-profit use, and there is information on appropriate applications.
The fifth technology is wearables. Hardware includes activity trackers, life loggers, smart watches, and augmented and virtual reality. Not all uses discussed are patron-oriented. Some libraries use this technology for staff wellness programs.
The sixth technology is the Internet of Things. There is a long list of some that are becoming more common, but no library examples of use yet. Some ideas are given for future use by libraries.
The book now looks at the issue of privacy and security, noting that privacy is a core library ethic, and that it is part of our responsibility to help patrons learn how to keep their information secure as well as keeping public access computers as secure as possible. To do that, library staff have to know the basics themselves. Software includes browser controls and PAC resetting, as well as password managers, two factor authentication, and VPN.
The last chapter looks at how to apply this knowledge to other technologies as they emerge, and works on the basic ideas of read, play, and teach. Read widely, not just in the library field, but also social media, geek sources, and mainstream media. Play with technology by using devices in stores, reading instructions, pushing the buttons, spending time with different technologies and not being afraid. Teach by writing about what you learn, going beyond the basics, being prepared for random questions, knowing what next steps might be for learners, and setting goals for students in more formal settings. Several tools are mentioned here including Lynda, Gale Courses, edX, and Coursera.

Batgirl Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection

Finished October 24
Batgirl Volume 1: The Darkest Reflection written by Gail Simone, pencilled by Ardian Syaf, inked by Vincente Cifuentes

This graphic novel starts as Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, moves out of her father's house into a shared apartment. She saves a couple from a random house invasion, but soon finds there is a new enemy out there who draws on his own grief to inflict the fate of death on others.
As she grapples with this enemy, she encounters another who also draws on her own painful past as she launches her own crimes. There are appearances by both Nightwing (formerly Robin) and Batman. Barbara is still recovering from the injury that lost her the use of her legs, and she has fought to regain her independence and strength. When someone from her own past reappears, she doesn't know how to deal with it, and this volume doesn't resolve that conflict.
Delving into both the inner woman, and the larger, more dangerous world around her, this volume gives Batgirl a voice, showing her discovering herself as she tackles the world.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Cat Person

Finished October 24
Cat Person by Seo Kim

This graphic novel is split into five sections. The first encompasses cartoons focusing on the author and her cat Jimmy and captures nicely the nuances of cat behaviour and cat-human interaction. The second is just about her showing her struggles with confidence, distractions, work motivation, and life in general, The third section continues on from the second, showing her social interactions. The fourth has images of her and her boyfriend Eddie, from their up close relationship to their long distance communication and the meeting of their cats. The fifth is a collection of miscellaneous cartoons that don't fit into the categories above.
Her cartoons are open and revealing about her life and her feelings and capture the nuances of behaviour, both human and animal.

The Dog of the Marriage

Finished October 22
The Dog of the Marriage: the Collected Short Stories by Amy Hempel

This book is actually four short story collections brought into one volume. Reasons to Live (1985), At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom (1990), Tumble Home (1997), and The Dog of the Marriage (2005). The stories range widely in length, with the shortest, Memoir, being just one sentence, and Tumble Home running to 68 pages. The stories themselves are generally told in first person, with the self not usually identified overtly. Hempel shows her range here, from humour to grief, with characters as flawed as we all are. Her writing is strong and often intense, bringing up images from the words.
A collection where every story seems original, not a repeat of situations or feelings from previous stories. Well worth reading.

Getting Started with Evaluation

Finished October 21
Getting Started with Evaluation by Peter Hernon, Robert E. Dugan, and Joseph R. Matthews

This book starts with a definition of evaluation, looking at different ways to measure, benchmarking, and best practices. EBLIP, evidence-based library and information practice is discussed. There is a chapter on library metrics, looking at where we get the data we use. Following chapters look at subsets of this data.
Internal Evaluation for Planning and Decision Making includes a road map and a discussion of the three different types of data to collection: input, process, and output. External Evaluation to Inform Stakeholders and to Guide Continuous Improvement talks about the importance of thinking first about what and how you want to show the data, and about the quality of the data you collect. Types of data here include partnerships, customer satisfaction, supporting education and reputation.
There is a chapter dedicated to measuring satisfaction, looking at the different gap models that can be used, methods of data collection, and some samples. Measuring service quality is differentiated and gets its own chapter, looking at the two components: what is provided and how it is delivered. This discussion includes e-services.
The authors then move to ROI, looking at the economic benefits of direct use, indirect use, and non-use. It also includes ways to look at the cumulative impact on the community in areas such as community development, social inclusiveness, and an open democratic society. Measuring the value of the library and its service is also differentiated, and split into many categories: cognitive results, affective results, meeting expectations, accomplishments in relation to tasks, time aspects and money aspects. There is specific mention of the public library here with its role both as a traditional library, and as a community member.
Chapter 10 looks at what to do with the data we collection, including both how to use it and how to communicate it. This is split into sections of who to communicate to, what to communicate, and how to communicate it. It discusses the importance of aligning the three parts so that the what and the how are appropriate to the intended audience. Raw data should never be used, and libraries should be selective in the use of graphics. If a paragraph has more than five numbers in it, a table would be preferred to text. graphics are best with minimal text, and simple is always better than complex. Libraries should do test runs to ensure that the tool communicates the message that was intended. Another good reminder here is that colour can also play a subtle role, and choosing the appropriate type of chart for the message is important. An example of this is the guideline that pie charts show proportions, bar charts show relationships, and time series charts show change.
Any communication is to influence a particular group or groups of stakeholders. The timing of communication relates to the method. Libraries can be creative in the use of human interest stories placed in newspaper articles, written reports should always include an executive summary, presentations should be thought of in terms of visual appeal and good design, and newsletters should include information on progress towards goals.
The final chapter is a look at how evaluation leads to positive organizational change.
Every chapter has exercises, so this book would work well for classes in library school as well.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Early Warning

Finished October 18
Early Warning by Jane Smiley, read by Lorelei King

This book follows the Langdon family from 1953 to the early 1980s. As the book opens, the patriarch of the family, Walter, has died, and the family convenes in Iowa for his funeral. His wife Rosanna remains on the farm, as does one of the sons, Joe, who married Lois, and has a son Jesse, and later a daughter. Frank has made his way to Washinton, D.C. where he becomes a mover and shaker in the corporate world, drawing on some of his experiences as a sniper in World War Two. Frank has married Andy, a woman with her own issues, and had first a daughter and then twin sons, who have a lifelong rivalry. Lilian has been swept off her feet and to the East coast by Arthur, a CIA planner, and they have four children, two boy and two girls. Claire marries thoughtfully, but finds her husband a very controlling man, and it takes her some time to find her own place in the world, after having two sons.
The novel takes us through all the major events of the time period, from Vietnam to anti-war demonstrations, from the Cold War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Watergate, from LSD to Jim Jones. The characters become involved in some ways peripherally and in others directly, and we see tragedy, joy, marriage, divorce, addiction, psychoanalysis, and of course the growth of a new generation of characters. It continues the story started in Some Luck, which I haven't yet read, and a third volume is expected. The characters vary in depth, and we see growth in all the main characters, both in experience as well as age. A very enjoyable book that gives a taste of the times it is set in. A book of America in the mid-to-late twentieth century.

Clockwork Prince

Finished October 13
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This is the second book in the Infernal Devices series, set in the late 1800s in London, England. Tessa Gray has found a home at the headquarters of the London Shadowhunters, but that home is in jeopardy. Charlotte's place as the head of the London group has been challenged, and a deadline has been given for significant progress on the hunt for the mysterious man known as the Magister. Tessa still is searching for her own origins, and looking for a connection to the people she now lives with. She wants to help Charlotte, but will her efforts work in the ways that she intends.
Also in the mix here is the warlock Magnus Bane, a man who has become involved despite himself. He seems to have a soft spot for Will and curiosity about Tessa that leads him to help when he can. As Charlotte calls in other favors from Downworlders, the group also begins to wonder whether someone in their inner circle is betraying them, and what the motives would be for that.
A novel with romance, danger, and growing knowledge of the self for many of the young characters, this has many elements that will appeal to teen readers.
The historical setting and paranormal genre will also bring many readers in. It continues the story begun in Clockwork Angel in a natural way, and introduces new characters as well as adding depth to existing ones.

Monday 19 October 2015

Teaching Social Media

Finished October 12
Teaching Social Media: The Can-Do Guide by Liz Kirchoff

This book starts with an introduction that includes an overview of social media, why we teach about it, how to get organizational support if you don't already have it, and where to start. It outlines the preparation and planning that pertain to this type of teaching, ideas around format for the teaching, and the arguments for either live teaching or canned powerpoint teaching.
There is discussion of tone, and this is important as a casual tone fits well with this content. People have a lot of questions and they should be made to feel comfortable to ask those questions. For each class, you need to assess your audience and adjust your teaching for any difficulties particular to that group.
The following chapters deal with individual social media programs and follow similar outlines, covering common questions and concerns, variations for teaching, notes for the instructor, ways to use that program, sample handouts to use, and a list of some users of that social media that you may want to follow. Not all social media programs have all these sections, as they may not apply.
Chapters that dedicated to a particular social media include Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Then there is a chapter that gives shorter overviews of some other programs, including Goodreads, MyFitnessPal, TripAdvisor, Reddit, Tumblr, Ravelry, Pandora, Prezi, and GoogleDrive. It is interesting to note that some popular ones are missed, such as Instagram and Flickr. Of course, there are so many social media programs now they couldn't possibly cover them all. Here's a link to a Wikipedia list.
The Conclusion wraps things up nicely, talking about how to tailor these classes to your community, ways to evaluate whether the learning is happening, and how to stay effective and relevant.
This is a useful guide for those libraries just starting out teaching these programs.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Clockwork Angel

Finished October 11
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is the first volume in the Infernal Devices series, a prequel to the Mortal Instruments series. It is set in the late 1870s in London, England. Tessa Gray arrives in Hampstead looking to join her brother Nathaniel after the death of her aunt who raised the two after their parents died when Tessa was only a toddler. She is met by two elderly ladies who have a letter from her brother entrusting her to their care, but soon finds herself a captive, forced to do things she had no idea she was capable of.
When she finds that she is soon due to meet an even deadlier captor, she finds the courage to fight back, and just in time as others also working against the same dark forces discover her and want to both help her and use her powers for a different aim.
This is a story of good versus evil, of those who seem to be no threat to others deeper in evil than they appear, and those who appear the epitome of evil not as dangerous as they would have others think.
Tessa is an American girl who finds herself in a city she doesn't know, unsure of who to trust and finding herself able to do things she never dreamed were possible. As she tries to unite with her missing brother, she also wants to defeat those who tried to use her abilities for their own ends. Tessa is just emerging into adulthood and not immune to the young males she now comes into contact with. There is lots going on here, and plenty to keep you turning the pages.

Monday 5 October 2015

The Ragtime Fool

Finished October 5
The Ragtime Fool by Larry Karp

This book is the third in a series featuring ragtime piano player Brun Campbell. Karp mixes real life characters with invented ones, to create a story of a man who claimed to be the only white pupil of Scott Joplin, and a man who wanted Joplin to get the fame that he deserved. Campbell was a real man, and much of his story here is based on fact, but the mystery here is an invented one.
Here, there are several people interested in Scott Joplin's journal, a book which has recently come to light. They include a man who has already written a well-received book on the history of ragtime, Brun, a woman who claims to be Joplin's daughter, and a New Jersey boy who only wants to keep playing the music that he has come to love.
This book has racial issues, social issues, romance, murder, and intrigue. The action centers on the town of Sedalia, Missouri, where Joplin was from, on the occasion of a ceremony in 1951 to honor the composer and musician. As the characters come from the east and west coasts to converge on the small town, they bring with them their own dreams, not realizing the town has its own issues.
A nice mix of history and fiction, the characters grew on me as the book progressed, and by the end I was eagerly turning the pages.

The Nature of the Beast

Finished October 4
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, read by Robert Bathurst

I have to admit that I was a bit worried about this audiobook. Not for the book itself, but for the reader. Penny's previous reader for her audiobooks died since the last one came out, and for me he was the voice of this series. Penny acknowledges this worry in a brief introduction to the audiobook, where she both honours her previous reader and introduces her new one. And Robert Bathurst does a great job of the book.
Now, on to the book itself. As the book begins, all is well in Three Pines, despite the tall tales of Laurent Lepage in his wild adventures through the woods and around the village. His exuberance, at first indulged, has now grown into irritation for many. His tales have included alien invasions, dinosaurs, fires, and explosions, but none have been real.
When the young boy disappears the day after telling his latest tale, the villagers begin to wonder whether he might finally have been telling the truth. As the search for Laurent goes on to include what happened to him, and where it happened, and part of the answer includes murder, Gamache finds himself being drawn back into the homicide career he thought he'd left behind.
Something from the past has reared its ugly head, and someone was trying to prevent it from being discovered. Some in the village know at least part of the story, and they fear it, for it changed their lives. As local poet Ruth Zardo writes "And now it is now. And the dark thing is here."
As the police begin their investigation, new faces appear in the village. Why they arrived appears obvious, but why do they stay? What do they know?
This story reaches into the past, into the dark heart of evil, and into lives that were changed forever. It is a story that I found engrossing.

Why We Work

Finished October 3
Why We Work by Barry Schwartz

This book came out of a TED talk by Schwartz in early 2014. Schwartz's research into the reasons behind why people work belie the accepted answers and show that the real reasons are complex, and unexpected. Research shows that most people are dissatisfied with their work, even those that are paid well for it. It also finds that some people who are not paid well find great satisfaction in jobs that would not seem to lend themselves to such fulfillment. Looking at jobs in many industries and at many levels, Schwartz identifies trends and patterns, and shows that neither the carrot not the stick is the answer to motivating people at work. What is?
The answer is in giving people control. Without that, even good jobs can become bad jobs. This book isn't long, but it will cause you to examine your work, and the way that your workplace is structured.
Insightful and interesting, this book will have you thinking about work in new ways.

Friday 2 October 2015

Sweet Dreams

Finished September 27
Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley

I hadn't read this author before, and I found myself quite enjoying this romance novel. From the cover I didn't guess how sizzling the plot would be or how Ashley brings deeper elements of self-confidence, and trust into the plot. There is also a suspense element here that adds to the plot.
Lauren Grahame is wandering following the breakup of her marriage after she discovered her husband cheating on her and his decision to stay with the woman he cheated on her with, her best friend. She has arrived in the small Colorado town of Carnal, and likes the look of it, deciding to try to stay. She applies for a waitress job at the local bar, Bubba's, and gets a room at the local motel. Even before she been there a day she sees a local man Tatum Jackson and takes notice. She isn't looking for a relationship, but she is drawn to him despite herself.
Lauren is a farm-raised girl from a close family, who went on to college and made a corporate career for herself until her divorce. This is a new start for her at 39, and she isn't afraid to take chances. She knows she's a hard worker, and that that can go a long way toward making a new life. What she doesn't have is self-confidence in her own value and attractiveness, and this is what makes the novel deeper than the average romance novel. The personal growth that Lauren undergoes takes the book further than I guessed from the cover.
The suspense element is the serial killer of women that is out there. Tatum is a bounty hunter and has been hunting the killer off and on for a while. When one of the waitresses becomes a victim of his torture, the plot gets a new layer. There is lots going on here with both Lauren and Tatum's families, previous relationships, the biker town setting, and the romance and suspense layers.
I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Too Bad to Die

Finished September 24
Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews, read by Matthew Brenher

This World War II spy novel has Royal Navy intelligence officer Ian Fleming as the main character. Early in the book there are flashbacks to Ian's childhood, where we see the beginning of his long friendship with American OSS agent Michael Hudson. This allows us to better understand the motivations of Fleming as well as the relationship between the two men who have met again as adults.
The book is set in real historical events, with real historical figures, and Mathews has done her homework in bringing these real figures to life.
The story begins in Cairo in late 1943 where Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt have met to confer before the Tehran Conference with Joseph Stalin. Besides the two leaders, we have present Churchill's daughter Sarah and daughter-in-law Pamela Harriman, as well as Roosevelt's son Elliott . Other real life figures include Alan Turing and Lavrenti Beria, It continues in Tehran where the three leaders meet. Through listening to Enigma-coded messages, Turing has discovered a Nazi assassination plot against the three leaders. While this is hardly surprising, the realization from some of the messages that the one sending the messages, code-named The Fencer, and his Kitten, are actually within the trusted inner circle of the Allied camp is a game changer.
Ian has been largely a behind-the-scenes man focused on gathering and analyzing information, but here he is forced into a more active role. Mathews shows the beginning of Ian's later spy novel writing and gives origin stories to several of the plot elements from his novels from James Bond to "shaken, not stirred".
There are plenty of beautiful women, British, Russian, and Chinese, and they are also women that do more than just look good. The character Ian isn't in his element here, but he is earnest and sympathetic. While some of the bad guys are discoverable early, the plot is interesting and the historical elements a great setting. I liked the weave of fiction into fact and the attention to detail.