Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson


Author: Brandon Sanderson
TitleAlcatraz Versus the Dark Talent
Narrator: Ramon de Ocampo
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2016)

Previously Read By the Same Author:  Alcatraz Versus the Evil LibrariansAlcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones, Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia and Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Summary/Review:

The fifth and possibly final Alcatraz book picks up where the previous one ended with Alcatraz having destroyed all of his family’s talents.  Now he must ally with his mother – an evil librarian – to stop his father, a Free Kingdomer whose desire to give every one on Earth a Smedry Talent which could have disastrous consequences.  Smedry and his team go to the Evil Librarian’s Highbrary – a.k.a The Library of Congress in an alternate universe version of Washington, DC.  Unfortunately, Smedry’s friend and defender, Bastille remains in stasis for the better part of the book.  Smedry and Bastille’s love/hate chemistry when they are together is one of the best part of the series and this book suffers from its absence (although when Bastille finally makes her entrance, it’s spectacular).  The book has the usual clever wordplay – including a chapter of delicious puns – but it feels like Sanderson’s heart is not really in it anymore, and it is the weakest book in the series.  Or it could be Alcatraz, who obstinately states this is the last part of his biography after an uncharacteristically dark ending to the book.  But Alcatraz is an unreliable narrator who has lied to us before, and there are clues that this is all just a big cliffhanger leading to yet another book.

Rating: ***

Podcasts of the Week Ending January 5th


The Anthropocene Reviewed :: Teddy Bears and Penalty Shootouts

John Green reviews the history of the teddy bear and offers a solid defense of penalty shootouts in soccer games through the story of AFC Wimbledon.

Code Switch :: America’s Other Anthems

Songs that are unofficial anthems including “This Little Light of Mine,” “Whittier Avenue” by Chicano rock band Thee Midniters, and two songs called  “Fight the Power” by The Isley Brothers and Public Enemy.

Fresh Air :: ‘Punishment Without Crime’ Highlights The Injustice Of America’s Misdemeanor System

How the American criminal justice systems tangles up the poor in Kafkaesque web of debts and punishment.

This American Life :: The Room of Requirement

Stories about libraries and librarians.  I’m particularly touched by the woman is reunited with the children’s librarian who helped her when she was a homeless child.  I’m also a fan of Richard Brautigan and W.P. Kinsella, so I liked that story of the Brautigan Library.


 

Running tally of Podcast of the Week appearances:

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson


AuthorBrandon Sanderson 
Title:Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Narrator: Ramon De Ocampo
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2012)
Previously Read By the Same Author:  Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones, and Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Summary/Review:

The Alcatraz series continues with the great humor and cleverness of the previous books, including a great running gag on chapter numbering.  The book focuses in on the history and meaning of the Smedry Talents bringing alight some fascinating details.  The story also finds Alcatraz and his friends in the middle of war, with all the loss and sacrifice that entails.  While humorous and never comes to a point that death seems possible, the book does exposit on the frightening reality of children in war.  Finally, Alcatraz makes an unexpected alliance.  Another great book in this series, and I look forward to the next and final volume.

Rating: ****

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones by Brandon Sanderson


Author: Brandon Sanderson
TitleAlcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones
Narrator: Ramon De Ocampo
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2012)
Previously Read by the Same Author: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Summary/Review:

Six years ago I read the first book in the Alcatraz series and really enjoyed it and meant to continue with the series.  Now at last I’ve read the second book in the series and it was worth the wait.  Sanderson’s Alcatraz Smedry is an unreliable narrator who keeps interrupting the story to deliberately make the reader question everything.  It’s gimmicky but in-universe it works since the concept of this world is that evil librarians control reality.  It’s a funny adventure set in the Library of Alexandria, and Sanderson is committed to the idea of the wraith-like curators persistently trying to trick the human visitors into taking a book in exchange for their soul.  It’s a clever and enjoyable read and I should not wait so long to continue the series.

Recommended booksA Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Suicide Hotline Hold Music: Poems by Jessy Randall


Author: Jessy Randall
TitleSuicide Hotline Hold Music: Poems
Publication Info:  Red Hen Press, April 2016.
Summary/Review:

Jessy Randall, the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College, and blogger at Library Shenanigans used her librarian skills to track me down and offer me free copies of her books in exchange for an honest review.  While I’ve never quite figured out how to review poetry, I’ll give it my best shot!

This is a collection of humorous poems on various topics from childhood, to work, to parenting, to popular culture. And pantsing.  There’s a heartfelt poem pantsing.  There is also a selection of “poetry comics” – simple drawings and diagrams where a picture says 1000 poetic words.  This is funny stuff.  If you like humor and poetry, this is for you.

Recommended books: Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton and Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings by Shel Silverstein
Rating: ****

Book Review: There Was an Old Woman: Poems by Jessy Randall


Author: Jessy Randall
TitleThere Was an Old Woman: Poems
Publication Info: Unicorn Press, December 2015
Summary/Review:

Jessy Randall, the Curator of Special Collections at Colorado College, and blogger at Library Shenanigans used her librarian skills to track me down and offer me free copies of her books in exchange for an honest review.  While I’ve never quite figured out how to review poetry, I’ll give it my best shot!

In this volume each poem starts with a line from a Mother Goose rhyme, usually “There was an old woman…” and then goes off entirely different direction.  Usually there’s an anachronism putting that old woman in contemporary times with modern sensibilities, with no shortage of feminism.  Sometimes it’s a lot more absurdist or has meta-commentary on nursery rhymes.  But each poem is quirky and funny.  I enjoyed this book

Recommended books: Cow Poetry and Other Notes From the Field by M Frost and The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Bookhunter by Jason Shiga


AuthorJason Shiga
TitleBookhunter 
Publication Info: Sparkplug Comics (2007)
ISBN: 097427156X
Summary/Review: This graphic novel is a crime procedural set in an alternate universe of 1970s Oakland where the public libraries have a criminal investigation unit.  Many of the procedures used to solve crimes are totally antithetical to librarian ethics, but otherwise it is an enjoyable adventure where the clichés of detective stories are mimicked in a library setting.
Recommended booksLost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde and Rex Libris Volume One: I, Librarian (Rex Libris) by James Turner
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson


Author:  Brandon Sanderson
Title:  Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
Publication Info:  Scholastic Paperbacks (2008)
ISBN: 9780545024938
Summary/Review: Another audiobook I downloaded based on title alone from the public library and one that shows that Young Adult literature is far ahead of grown up fiction for imagination and creativity.  Alcatraz Smedry is a teenage orphan with a talent for breaking things who learns that he is from a heroic lineage and must rescue his inheritance – a band of sand – from the hands of the evil librarians who secretly control the world.  The deadpan delivery of Alcatraz’s satirical narrative is greatly enhanced by reader Charlie McWade.  I found it a hilarious send-up of fantasy/sci-fi conventions yet at the same time sneakily getting a few messages in as well.  If you don’t like at first, at least stick around for the dinosaurs.

(Looking at Library Thing, I’m amused that many of the reviews are by librarians.  Most of us like it.  Don’t tell the evil librarian in charge.)

Recommended Books: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins.
Rating:  ****

Banned Books Week 2010


It’s Banned Books Week again where we celebrate intellectual freedom by reading and highlighting books that have been banned, challenged, or otherwise suppressed.  Usually I pick out a banned book or two to read but I’m behind the curve on this one and haven’t even finished reading a book I started a couple of weeks ago and don’t have time to pick out new books to read.  So I decided to go through the ALA list of frequently challenged books and highlights the ones I’ve read.

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey (one book in series)
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22 Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23 The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25 Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26 Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28 Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29 The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30 We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32 Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33 Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36 Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37 It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38 Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39 Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40 Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41 Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42 The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43 Blubber, by Judy Blume
44 Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45 Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46 Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48 Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50 The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

51 Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52 The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53 You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54 The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55 Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56 When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57 Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58 Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59 Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60 Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61 Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62 The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63 The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64 Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65 The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67 A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68 Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69 Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70 Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71 Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72 Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73 What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74 The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75 Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76 A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77 Crazy:  A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78 The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79 The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80 A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81 Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82 Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83 Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84 So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86 Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87 Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88 The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89 Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90 A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91 Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Graighead George
92 The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93 Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94 Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95 Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96 Grendel, by John Gardner
97 The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98 I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99 Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100 America: A Novel, by Frank, E.R.

I have to say, of the books left there are not many I want to read.  I guess just because a book is banned doesn’t make it good, but more power to the people who want to read them.

More coverage of Banned Books Week 2010:

Related Posts:

1 Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2 Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3 The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4 And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7 Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8 His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9 TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11 Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12 It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13 Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15 The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16 Forever, by Judy Blume
17 The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18 Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20 King and King, by Linda de Haan
21 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22 Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23 The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24 In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25 Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26 Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27 My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28 Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29 The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30 We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31 What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32 Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33 Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34 The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35 Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36 Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37 It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38 Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39 Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40 Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41 Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42 The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43 Blubber, by Judy Blume
44 Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45 Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46 Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47 The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48 Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50 The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51 Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52 The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53 You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54 The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55 Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56 When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57 Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58 Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59 Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60 Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61 Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62 The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63 The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64 Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65 The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67 A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68 Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69 Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70 Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71 Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72 Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73 What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74 The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75 Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76 A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77 Crazy:  A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78 The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79 The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80 A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81 Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82 Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83 Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84 So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85 Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86 Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87 Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88 The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89 Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90 A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91 Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Graighead George
92 The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93 Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94 Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95 Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96 Grendel, by John Gardner
97 The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98 I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99 Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100 America: A Novel, by Frank, E.R.

Library Blogs


I keep hearing that Library Blogs are a thing of the past, something I’ve been hearing since I started following Library Blogs about five years ago.  Luckily, just like the frequently misreported death of libraries themselves there are many Library Blogs alive and well.  I follow dozens of them in my Bloglines feeds. Coincidentally, today I found two of them reporting on bigger projects for people looking for Library Blogs:

  • Swiss Army Librarian reports on a customized Google search engine that searches over 500 library blogs.  You can check out LISZEN Search yourself as it should be a valuable resource.
  • Walt at Random is working on a more ambitious project to create a directory of over 1000 library blogs and looking for submissions for more.  He even graciously includes Panorama of the Mountains although my posts with library content are few and far between.

Related Posts: