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Thursday, October 30, 2008

One in a Million

One in a Million by Kimberla Lawson Roby

What would you do if you won $30 million?

If you're Kennedi Mason, you don't get a chance to fantasize about how to spend your winnings. Before you can announce your newfound fortune, your husband makes an announcement of his own--he's leaving for another woman.

After dealing with her husband's betrayal, Kennedi soon becomes suspicious of almost everyone else, which isn't surprising considering the multitude of scavenging strangers and lowdown relatives asking for money.

After several soap opera-worthy twists and turns, One in a Million finally closes with a somewhat unsatisfying ending. It's unsatisfying because despite her potential to be otherwise, Kennedi remains a shallow, unlikeable character who doesn't really grow much throughout the course of the novel. This is especially difficult considering how self-righteous and preachy she generally sounds.

In fact, the entire tone of the book was preachy...whether it was covering obvious subjects like adultery and financial planning or just referencing sexual harassment or child support. Its one redeeming feature was that it was mercifully short. At just less than 200 pages, if (for some reason) you choose to read it, you'll likely be finished quickly.

I'm a librarian, so I don't like to not like books. Unfortunately, this is one that, like the lottery, is just not worth playing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Last Oracle

The Last Oracle by James Rollins

For Gray Pierce, it's just another day at the office. A man mysteriously dies in his arms, leaving behind three clues--an ancient Greek coin, a link to several secret government organizations and radiation poisoning.

Soon Gray's investigation of the man's legacy takes him from the Oracle of Delphi to the Taj Mahal to Chernobyl, fighting power-hungry Russians and power-hungry Americans, befriending Gypsies, learning about autistic savants and trying not to fall in love as he saves the world. All in a day's work for the Sigma agent. If you like Jack Bauer, you'll like Gray Pierce.

The Last Oracle is predictable but only in the sense that most action novels are. Nice plot development, interesting characters and, of course, a few surprises by the end. Rollins even manages to bring in a bit of comic relief, which is much needed because there is disturbing violence--particularly disturbing when it involves children.

Also, The Last Oracle is a sequel to The Judas Strain, so if you haven't read that, you might have a few pages of feeling like the new kid in school. Rollins is inclusive, however, so you won't end up missing much. He also hints at an upcoming third part to the Gray Pierce story if you just haven't had enough.

Don't want to wait? Learn more at

Fall Photo Installment

It's been a busy and fabulously chilly few days here in Texas. Here are the pictures to chronicle our goings-on.

We've been loving this football season. These are our happy faces as we watched the Tide roll over Tennessee (yech)...

Having my college roommate in the DFW area makes the games much more fun. Hooray! (And, yeah, we like each other, but it was also freeeeezing that night, and we were trying to keep warm.) ;)

I'm still enjoying my digital camera. Can you see the water on this one? Not quite the effect I was going for, but it still turned out nice, I think.

A wider shot of the same fountain on campus...

And, of course, the fluffiest member of the family. I finished up his Halloween cards for a card exchange with his little Bichon friends. He's gotten more mail than Jason and me combined during the last week. It's really funny to see how much he loves getting the mail now!

Hope everyone has a happy Halloween and is enjoying Fall as much as we are!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Queen of the Road

Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion

Can you imagine living on a giant bus for an entire year while traveling 22,000 miles across 47 states? Oh, and with two cats and a standard poodle in tow. You might need a drink...or two.

Happily, Doreen Orion provides a different drink recipe at the beginning of each chapter, which are just as fun to read as the chapters themselves.

I identified with Doreen early in the book. Happily married, happily childless, pet-lover, fashion-lover and "concrete as a sidewalk." She also somehow let her husband talk her into going on this grand bus adventure, much as I let mine talk me into moving to Texas.

I knew instantly that Doreen was a kindred spirit when I read...

Living in our house is like living with furry little Helen Kellers before the arrival of Annie Sullivan.
A Princess can do anything she puts her mind to--provided she's wearing the right outfit.

It was hard to stop laughing long enough to write down my favorite quotes!

Anyway, Doreen (the self-described Princess) and her husband, Tim (the Doreen-described Project Nerd) get off to a bit of a rough start on the bus, as you might imagine--picture glasses crashing and bus doors flying open--but they are soon traveling like pros, joining up with various RV communities, railing against the GPS and, of course, writing about it all along the way.

Her humorous and insightful comments actually make historical sites from the Underground Railroad to Mount Rushmore to Graceland seem like fascinating places to visit. But, because of my Southern connection, my favorite stories were the ones from Arkansas, where her husband's family lives. The first time someone referenced a "chigger," the Long Island native thought the person was a racist. Oh my.

Living in the land of chiggers evidently makes you tough.

Yes, yes, it does. But it was also great seeing Doreen become a little tougher as her priorities shifted during the time on the road.

Spending time this way, without any of the distractions I used to consider essential made me start questioning just how essential they were.

I don't want to spoil the happily-ever-after ending, but Doreen is not quite the same Princess by the end. I thorougly enjoyed reading about both of her journeys.

If you need further convincing...not sure why you would...but just in's the website for the book:

And Doreen's blog:

Go! Read! Now!

Six Things You Can't Tell Just By Looking At Her

Thanks, Becky, for tagging me for this. I've had a bit of blogger's block lately, so I tag anyone else suffering from the same malady.

Six things you might not know about me...and one random picture

1. I love most sports, but I only pay attention to them in their "appropriate" seasons. Appropriate according to my definition. This means I never watch the World Series because it's college football season. Same with basketball games during baseball season. In my world, basketball season begins after the Super Bowl and runs approximately February-April. When the weather starts getting nice, and it's warm enough to hang out at the ball park at night, that's baseball sometime in April until college football starts at the end of August. Then, of course, football runs until the end of the Super Bowl. And when I said I love most sports, I apparently meant baseball, basketball and football. :)

2. Similarly, I only like to eat and drink certain things at certain times of year. Lemonade runs from April until the end of September because it's so hot. I love most things pumpkin-related, but I only eat them in October and November. By December I've moved on to hot chocolate. Warm, hearty foods like soups and chili in cool weather, salads and fresh fruits when it's warmer. Now that I'm writing it, this doesn't seem all that unusual. Oh well.

3. My favorite food is pineapple pizza (with thin crust), and I seriously think I could eat it for supper every single night. No matter the season.

4. If I can't easily make a decision about a semi-trivial matter (like where to eat or which shoes to wear), I flip a coin. Simplifies life.

5. Jason and I have names picked out for six daughters and three sons. We're not even sure we want kids (much less nine of them), but if we end up as parents, our little buggers are all set with a name.

6. The clothes in my closet are organized according to color and then sub-organized on a rotating basis (to make sure clothes are worn as equitably as possible). It's a complicated little system, but it's worked for me since I was a kid. Jason asked the other day if it was something my parents had introduced to me when I was young, but I apparently thought of this one all by myself because I remember my mother thinking it was really really strange. ha

So now you know me a little better.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Booking Along

Thanks, Laura, for providing me with some much-needed inspiration!

What was the last book you bought?
Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland. We were reading it for our book club, and I couldn't find it at any libraries, so I had to buy it. :)

Name a book you have read MORE than once.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I've read it almost every year since 9th grade.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Several have. Most recently, Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was a big one, too.

How do you choose a book?
As Laura said, reviews and recommendations carry a lot of weight with me. Also, if I enjoy one book by an author, I tend to put the rest of his/her work on my to-be-read list.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Fiction, but I've been in a non-fiction mood lately.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Why can't I have both? :)

Most loved/memorable character?
Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Good before-bed reading. I'm also browsing through Columns by Russell Dilday.

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
Havana Nocturne. Just finished it this week. There's also a "currently reading" list on the side of this blog. :)

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Usually, if I make it through the first two chapters, I'll finish it. I think the only exception is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I just couldn't deal with it any longer.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Havana Nocturne

Havana Nocturne by T.J. English

"How the Mob owned Cuba...and then lost it to the Revolution."

Well, I actually never knew the Mob owned Cuba. To me, the word Cuba conjured up images of an ailing Fidel Castro and a distant memory of once talking about the Bay of Pigs in high school history. The only thing I knew about Cuban entertainment was Ricky Ricardo. (Sad, I know.)

I had certainly never heard...The music they created was sultry, adventurous, lusty--the perfect sound track for an era marked by gambling, drinking, dancing and fornicating into the tropical organic, exotic foreign culture mixed with the most adventurous aspects of Afro-Americana.

My loss!

Anyway, as it turns out, some of the major American gangsters from the 1950s were in the process of turning the island into the "Monte Carlo of the Caribbean" when Fidel and his gang took over instead.

One place where Castro's manifesto was rarely seen was in the tourist hotels, cabarets or casinos where revelers gambled, danced, drank and screwed the night away, oblivious to the political climate around them. The fact that the Cuban people were being surreptitiously radicalized by the writings of a dynamic new political thinker while at the same time hedonism reigned in the domain of the mobsters was a harbinger of things to come.

T.J. English does a great job of explaining how the Mob (Meyer Lansky in particular) dreamed up the idea of turning Cuba into a personal money-making empire. And he weaves Castro's story in so easily that Havana Nocturne ends up reading like a thriller--even more so when you realize this stuff actually happened.

It is an odd quirk of history that the two most powerful forces behind the Havana Mob--Batista [Cuban president] and Lansky--were both born into harsh poverty, while Castro was weaned by the social elite. Having contributed to the flowering of lavish hotels, casinos and cabarets in Havana, Batista and Lansky would devote their lives to the betterment of the bourgeoisie, while Castro, the son of privilege, would become an advocate for the poor and dispossessed. It was an inverse reality that would ultimately push the Havana Mob past the point of moral credibility and help Castro to destroy everything that Lansky and his associates had hoped to accomplish in Cuba.

I found myself frequently wondering what might have been--what if the Cuban president had been more realistic about his country's status, or if the revolutionaries and the Mob had been willing to work together.

[But] Lansky had a casino to run and an economic empire to cultivate, and he was not about to get sidetracked by the intellectual ramblings of a spoiled rich kid turned revolutionary leader.

English seems fascinated by the mobsters and the revolutionaries alike, but he never fawns over either group. He highlights the mistakes made and the injustices suffered by both.

To the enemies of the Batista regime, a moral rot had taken hold in Havana that was a natural consequence of the president's unholy relationship with what Castro referred to as desfalcadores (embezzlers), his term of choice for those behind the economic plundering of the island.

Then, after the revolution...

The tenor of government in Cuba became more and more totalitarian, as Fidel became the sole decision-maker in all matters of state. Many who had played major roles in the Revolution became disenchanted and spoke out--they were either shot or given decades-long prison sentences, or fled into exile.

What has happened to this country over hundreds of years really is regrettable, as is the fact that we as Americans often know nothing about its history prior to Castro coming to power (or the reasons behind his rise). Of course, the Cuban people are the ones who helped Castro come to power...

Emotionally, the revolutionaries and ultimately the Cuban people had come to identify the Havana Mob with everything they despised about the Batista regime.

...but they have also been the victims of his evolution into dictatorship and the resulting policies.

Havana Nocturne ultimately not only helped me understand Cuba's history and culture, but it also reminded me that I should appreciate the freedoms we currently have and take advantage of participating in the elections next month. Despite the dissatisfaction with my choices, I'm reminded it could be worse.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Catching Up...a Little

Besides working on a semi-friendly "No food or drink" sign, here's what's been keeping us busy at the library lately...

Meanwhile, if you'll check out my reading list on the right sidebar, you'll notice that it has blessedly been whittled down a bit. I've finished my class, we're doing a reading roundtable (of whatever we're currently reading) for book club next month, and I have an open weekend.

Reviews coming Monday, or I'll do a double giveaway!
(Stay tuned for a regular giveaway regardless.) :)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Not-So-Flat Pooh

Have y'all heard of the Flat Stanley project? Well, here at the library, we've kicked off a not-so-flat Pooh project. Pooh was found hanging out on the sidewalk outside of the library, so we decided to bring him in and pass him between departments. Good times.

The pictures are from Pooh in Circulation (one of my departments). He is now learning to catalog books, and you never know where Pooh will be next. :)

Riding on one of the book carts...

Checking out the supplies in the file cabinet...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Words, Words, Words, I'm So Sick of Words

Despite the title of this post, I like words. I'm not always a big talker, but I'm a big fan of writing. Big words, small words, the right word for the right situation. It's a fascinating process.But some words get more than their fair share of use. Pandora has an option to "not play this song for a month," and I started thinking about a few words and phrases I would like to not hear least for a month. OK, probably longer.

budget crisis
I don't know if this is any of my business, but...
Do you have a minute?

Meanwhile, thanks for the award, Leann! How could I choose anyone to tag? All of you fellow bloggers are brilliant. ;)

It Was All Fun and Games Until the Cowboy-Wrestlers Threw a Book at the Golfing Barbers

Who says libraries can't go a little crazy?

You can play golf here, take in a little wrestling there, meet some reading cowboys or discuss the latest novel with your barber.

Still need inspiration? Take it from these films.

Meanwhile, enjoy learning how to organize...and even get your books on demand.

Read from the beginning...