Book Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith


Author: A. J. Hackwith
Title: The Library of the Unwritten
Narrator: Lisa Flanagan
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2019
Summary/Review:

I typically don’t include an official publisher’s description in my book reviews, but I can’t find the words to sum up this book any better:

Sounds quirky, doesn’t it? The premise also feels like a crossover of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series with Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens.  But the similarities are superficial.  This is a creative and beautifully strange book.  And while the characters are mostly demons, angels, muses, fictional beings and, well, the dead, it is also a very human story.

I’ve learned that this is the first book in a series, and while I won’t be rushing out to read the next book, I will definitely read it at some point.
Recommended books:

Rating: ***

Movie Review: Party Girl (1995)


Title: Party Girl
Release Date: June 9, 1995
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Production Company: First Look Pictures
Summary/Review:

Not many movies can truly be said to change you life.  I watched Party Girl in the 1990s and watching protagonist Mary (Parker Posey) decide to become a librarian made me think that I wanted to be a librarian.  A few years later, I was working in a library, and few years after that I’d earned a masters in library and information science.  Today I work as an archivist within a library.  Granted, I’d always loved spending time in libraries so I probably had a predilection for librarianship, but the positive way it’s depicted in this movie really made me think it was a possible career choice.  That and Parker Posey dancing on a table while shelving books is one of the hottest things ever put to film.

Ironically, Mary is not a sympathetic character.  She is selfish, fashion-obsessed and often rude to her friends.  But the sense of directionless one has in one’s 20s is relatable.  There’s a good supporting cast, including Leo (Guillermo Diaz), Mary’s roommate who’s an aspiring DJ; Mustafa (Omar Townsend), a Lebanese immigrant who runs a falafel stand while hoping to become a teacher; and Judy (Sasha von Scherler), Mary’s godmother and a librarian who hires Mary as a clerk in order to pay off her debts.

The movie remains popular in the librarian community with some funny moments with patrons that are memeable.  The finale where all of Mary’s friends convince Judy that Mary’s librarian skills have really helped them is also a big selling point.  The movie also has a banging soundtrack full of dance tracks from New York’s queer club scene of the 1990s.  It remains one of my all-time favorite comedies.

Rating: ****1/2

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:  ****