Friday 27 November 2015

The Ghost Runner

Finished November 26
The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal

This is the third book in the series featuring Makana, but the first that I've read. Makana is from Sudan, but now living in exile in Cairo. He was a police officer in Sudan, but with the change in regime, he lost everything: his job, his family, and nearly his life. In Cairo, he has created a business as a private investigator and he and his partner have taken on the mundane job of following a man around to see if his wife's suspicions of a mistress are true. The man seems to be innocent, and therefore the job is quite boring until one day when he stops at a private health clinic. Makana finds him to be visiting a severely burned young woman. As his curiosity takes him further, and he confronts the man, he gets hired for a different job. Find the man who did this to the young woman. His job takes him out into the desert community of Siwa, where both of the girl's parents were from. There he finds a very insular community, with corrupt police, a drunken doctor, and many secrets past and present.
This is a story of a man haunted by his past, with a strong moral sense, and very good instincts and investigative skills. He is a man who notices things, and that means that he isn't easily fooled, and that he isn't willing to take things at face value. This is not a nicely wrapped up story, but a story that feels representative of a certain place and time in the world. A very interesting read.

Thursday 19 November 2015

Make Me

Finished November 18
Make Me by Lee Child, read by Dick Hill

Classic Reacher here, wandering into a small town on a whim because of its name, finding something wrong, and, even though it would be easy to walk away, he doesn't. The town is called Mother's Rest, and it lies out in the middle of the prairie. To Reacher, it evokes images of a wagon train stopping for either a new mother to rest before carrying on, or for an older woman's passing. He decides he will stop for a day, look for the historical marker that will tell him the story, and move on. He arrives by train, with Mother's Rest the only stop on the route to Chicago. As he leaves the train station, he finds a woman obviously waiting for someone with a similar build to himself, but he has been the only passenger to alight from the train.
He finds the town odd, and after wandering through the streets and even a little ways out, finds no marker to answer his imaginative musing. But he does notice more and more odd things and when he compares notes with the woman, Chang, he begins to suspect something bad has happened. When the two are threatened and forced to leave town, he is sure, and the chase for information has begun in earnest.
With the two traveling from the Midwest, to L.A., Phoenix, Chicago, and San Francisco as they follow leads, they find the trail leads deep, deeper and darker than anything they imagined.
This book does mark a change in that Reacher shows vulnerability here, something I haven't really seen for him before. It adds to the suspense, and adds to the story in an interesting way. I didn't expect just how dark this plot would get until very near the end. Unputdownable, as expected.

Monday 16 November 2015

Staff Development on a Shoestring

Finished November 16
Staff Development on a Shoestring by Marcia Trotta.

This manual is aimed at library managers and covers a lot of ground. The first chapter looks at the reasons to engage in staff development, first giving a definition of what staff development can include. The second chapter is a how-to guide on creating a program for staff development for your library. Chapter Three looks at more than just training opportunities using in-house expertise. It covers creating a team of people in your organization through figuring out tasks and determining needs and delivery methods. Chapter Four looks at what the Manager's responsibilities at for staff training, from making sure the training relates to the library's vision to addressing specific needs, tying in job descriptions, giving feedback, and a self-audit tool for the manager.
The fifth chapter looks at best practices, giving some good ideas from what some libraries have done successfully already. Chapter Six looks at the role of mentoring in developing staff. Chapter Seven goes beyond the in-house and looks at opportunities for development outside your library, from the larger organization, to professional organizations, other agencies with similar goals or mandates, local partnership opportunities, institutes of higher educations, and e-learning.
The eighth chapter gives several models for specific training sessions. Topics here are Effective Communication, Orientation, Teamwork, Time Management, and Customer Service. Some are quite extensive. Chapter Nine looks at both developing staff in terms of technology and using technology to provide staff development. The tenth chapter looks at the role of evaluation, including a section on responding to resistance to change. Chapter Eleven covers performance rewards from recognition to more tangible rewards, and motivators.
The last chapter is a collection of resources, some lists, some referrals, and some bibliographies.
A useful book with many tools to get your library organized around this important element for successful library practice.

Safe as Houses

Finished November 15
Safe as Houses by Susan Glickman

This mystery novel is set in Toronto, and begins with Liz Ryerson discovering a body while she was out walking her dog, Jasper, in the nearby Wychwood Park. Liz owns a bookstore and has a library degree. She is divorced, but since her ex-husband and her jointly own the building both have their businesses in, he lives on the top floor in his photography studio and she lives on the middle floor with their children, above the bookstore.
When Liz discovers that she had met the victim before, it really hits home, and she starts to have problems sleeping and with her twins in the last year of high school, and her ex looking to sell his share of the house to move his life forward, she has a lot on her plate.
Just before getting to the park, Liz meets a new resident to the neighbourhood while waiting on the corner for the light to change, and when he comes to visit her bookstore, the two begin a friendship. He is a retired classics professor and with their common researching skills, the two decide to research the murder to help put Liz's mind at rest on that subject at least.
With interesting characters, and local landmarks, this mystery captured my interest and told a good story.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

The Poacher's Son

Finished November 10
The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron

This debut novel is the first in a series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, and was a finalist for the Edgar Award. Mike had a rough upbringing, beginning with poverty and arguing parents. His father Jack is a backwoods man, eking out a living hunting, not always legally, working at camps, and comfortable with little in the way of material possessions. He also drinks too much, is quick to anger, not afraid of a fight, and has an eye for a good-looking woman.
After leaving with his mother when he was young, Mike tried to reconnect with his dad both as a teen and as a young adult, but never was able to manage it. He did gain a love for nature and wild things though and became a game warden. He still has a lot of issues and some of them have affected his relationships and his attitude towards difficulties that arise.
When his father leaves a cryptic message on his answering machine and Mike finds out that his father has become the prime suspect in the murder of two men, one of them a police officer he knew in school, he can't believe his father capable of such an act. He knows his father can be violent, but in a bar brawl kind of way, and he can't believe in the motives that the authorities are ascribing to Jack. As Mike becomes obsessed with finding Jack and getting him to trust in the justice system, he finds new friends and discovers how many people have come to care about him along the way.
This is the story of a young man, still aching to be a man his father can be proud of, a man who must sort through his own myths about his father to find the truth. It is a coming of age novel that will having you thoroughly engaged in the story and characters.

Dog Years

Finished November 6
Dog Years by Mark Doty

This memoir by poet and nonfiction writer Mark Doty speak to more than just his experiences living with dogs. He philosophizes, talks about his relationships, his experiences with finding people and places to look after his dogs when he couldn't be with them, and the effect that having dogs has had on his life.
Mark's profession means that he hasn't lived in one place for a long time, so while there is a summer home base that he continues to go to, his job has taken him to a variety of places and that means long road trips with the dogs each time he moves. His speaking engagements have also taken him away, and sometimes that means that both he and his partner are away at the same time, so friends and students have moved in for a period to look after and fall in love with the dogs, and sometimes that means that he boards his dog(s) somewhere. He describes all these experiences with compassion and humour.
He also takes about the ways that dogs react to changes in the household, the loss of another dog, the loss of a human companion, and new additions of both dogs and humans into the family.
Because he is reading the memoir himself, that brings an added level of intimacy to the book.
A great read.

Saturday 7 November 2015

The Book That Changed My Life

Finished November 3
The Book That Changed My Life: 71 Remarkable Writers Celebrate the Books That Matter Most to Them edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannessen

This collection of short essays by a wide variety of writers on books that influenced them was put together by bookseller Roxanne Coady inspired by the numerous author events that she hosted as well as the Read to Grow Foundation that she is a co-founder of. At some point, all the authors included here have read their work at her bookstore R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut. All proceeds from this book go to the Read to Grow Foundation which works with hospitals so that every family with a newborn infant goes home with books, and a literacy packet to encourage early childhood development.
Many well-known authors are here as well as memoir writers, science writers, and history writers.
Many choices by the authors reach back into their childhood or teenage years, but others speak to a book that opened them to a new way of looking at things, a new subject, or a self-realization.
A good collection that includes a list of the books chosen as well as reading lists by both editors.

Happy City

Finished November 1
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

I really enjoyed this book. Montgomery is a journalist particularly interested in the urban experience, and that interest definitely drives this book. Montgomery looks at a number of cities that have tackled the issue of livability for their inhabitants to see what the process has been for them, what barriers they faced during implementation, and what the outcomes were.
He discovered that the advent of the automobile changed urban planning significantly, and this change is still the driving force behind much of the planning models used by cities, particularly in North America. Some of the changes he looks at feed into those that decry the "war against cars", but he reminds us that cities should be for the inhabitants first, not one mode of transportation that some of them use. Many cities that underwent significant changes that lessened the importance of the car on planning decisions had initial pushback, from a number of sources: people with cars, people with retail establishments, and industrial organizations. But after implementation, many of these groups agreed that the change was good. Many of the changes to improve the lives of urban dwellers, also had positive environmental impacts, positive impacts on retail areas, and positive impacts on the city's finances.
While many changes had to do with lessening the role of cars on the urban plan, they also included good transit planning, good housing planning, good neighbourhood planning, good greenspace planning, and good networking between stakeholders.
I learned a lot about the trends in urban planning, the ways that cities learn from each other's experiences, and the importance of involvement at all levels from the neighbourhood level to the national level to see a variety of changes take root.
Montgomery has done his research and includes references to it here, so others can study and learn what might apply to their own neighbourhoods, communities, and cities.

Dashing Through the Snow

Finished November 1
Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber, read by Allyson Ryan

This novel has elements of suspense and romance. Ashley Davison is studying for her master's degree in social work in San Francisco, and with the deli she works at undergoing renovations finds herself with unexpected time off over Christmas. She plans to go back home to Seattle to spend the holidays with her mother. As the book begins, she is at the airline counter trying to book a flight, and the desk attendant seems to both refuse to give her a seat, but also wants her to wait. Ashley, after trying hard to change the situation, including speaking politely to the person directly behind her in line, decides to try another option, car rental.
At the rental counter, she finds there is only one car left available, and the same man is behind her in line. As they are both going to Seattle and there are some adverse weather reports for the trip, the rental agency suggests that they share the vehicle. After some consideration, and talking with a character reference for the man, Dashiel Sutherland, she agrees to the solution.
As the pair drive north, they get to know each other, have some disagreements, find that they connect in unexpected ways, and acquire a puppy in an unexpected way.
Meanwhile they are being pursued by a couple of FBI agents, one of whom is sure that Ashley is the person that he has been seeking for years. I found this part of the plot a bit keystone kops, but still amusing.
So with the travellers developing a romance, the pursuers gradually closing in, and the Christmas season, we have a plot that will keep you interested.