kenjari: (Eowyn)
March: Book Three
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

The conclusion of this series is rather amazing. March: Book Three concentrates on the push for voter registration and the events leading up to Bloody Sunday and the march from Selma to Montgomery, AL. It begins with a wrenching account of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and ends with the march and its aftermath. Given the escalation of violence, this book is a more intense read than the first two, and every bit as gripping. The graphic novel format is quite effective in all three books, too, giving the events an immediacy and a concrete reality that text alone could not have provided.
kenjari: (Govans)
March: Book Two
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

March: Book Two picks up where the earlier volume leaves off. After the success of the lunch counter sit-ins, SNCC expands the protests to fast food places and cafeterias. In addition, the Freedom Riders program to integrate interstate bus lines starts up. SNCC, other related groups, and John Lewis himself become more visible, but their successes and growing visibility also bring increased danger. The members of the movement face arrests, imprisonment, and beatings, but they carry on, gaining increased support from more powerful men, including Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy. When Lewis is elected chairman of SNCC, he becomes on the the Big Six of the Civil Rights movement.
This book is every bit as compelling as its predecessor. Once again I enjoyed finding out about the details and the work that went on between big events. The theme and role of non-violent action continues and becomes even stronger as these ideals are tested via the increasing violence towards the protestors.
kenjari: (Eowyn)
March: Book One
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

This is the first of a graphic novel trilogy based on the Rep. John Lewis' life during the Civil Rights movement. Framed by Lewis' attendance at Obama's first inauguration in 2009, this volume covers Lewis' childhood through his college years as he became aware of Martin Luther King's efforts and the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. When Lewis attends college in Nashville, he becomes increasingly involved with the movement and joins the SNCC. He participates in the lunch counter sit-ins, staring down bigotry, getting attacked, and being arrested.
This is such compelling reading. It's written to be accessible to younger audiences, but it is not simplified at all, and it doesn't pull many punches. Lew is is frank about the violence and danger the protestors faced and endured. He is also clear about the rightness of their cause, and the personal conviction he felt. I particularly enjoyed the way his narrative filled in the spaces between the major events of the history we have all been taught. The way the lunch counter sit-ins started, developed, and grew is fascinating and instructive.
kenjari: (Govans)
LaRose
by Louise Erdrich

The plot of this book, which takes place in small-town North Dakota, is set in motion when Landreaux Iron accidentally kills his neighbors' 5 year old son in a tragic hunting accident. To atone for this act, he and his wife Emmeline decide to follow an old tribal tradition and give their own 5 year old son, LaRose, to their neighbors, the Raviches. LaRose is able to integrate himself into his new family, forging important bonds with his new mother Nola and new sister Maggie. After some time, LaRose is able to start having visits with his original family and this shared custody gradually heals the two grieving families. However, this fragile peace is jeopardized by the actions of a man seeking retribution upon Landreaux for events of their youth.
While not a cheerful read, LaRose was entirely engrossing and lovely. Erdrich delves into the dynamics of grief and guilt with great sensitivity and depth. Even when the plot takes on themes of vengeance and retribution, Erdrich eschews melodrama, instead opting to look deeply into the way events, complex relationships, and their consequences unfold. The reconciliation between the two families is instead built up gradually, through individual moments and actions, small gestures, and individual decisions. Through it all, she also weaves the tales of the Iron family's forbears and a strand of mysticism that adds extra resonance to the story.
Overall LaRose is a wonderful novel of redemption that does not take the easy, sentimental route. Instead, Erdrich treats her themes with great subtlety and complexity, preferring gradual development over sweeping gestures.

Book Review

Sep. 9th, 2017 09:18 pm
kenjari: (St. Cecilia)
Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician
by Christoph Wolff

This was one of the best and most enjoyable composer biographies I have ever read. It is extremely detailed, but Wolff makes the meticulous detail a source of richness rather than an exercise in either pedantry or tedium. Despite the lack of personal correspondence or other such information that history has preserved for us, Wolff also portrays Bach as living, breathing person rather than just an iconic figure, and furthermore, give the modern reader a very good sense of what an 18th century musician's life would be like. The coverage of Bach's development as a composer and musician, and of his professional struggles all were extremely interesting and enlightening. I have more appreciation not only for Bach and his music but also for the whole corpus of Baroque music making.
kenjari: (illumination)
All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders

This book is a marvelous mixture of fantasy and sci-fi. Patricia and Laurence are two very odd children, both outcasts among their peers, who find each other and forge a friendship that is equally tenuous and tenacious. Patricia start developing magical powers , which includes the ability to communicate with animals and tap into the powers of nature, Laurence turns out to be a scientific and technological genius, building an AI in his closet, among other things. While they end up on sharply separated paths, they meet again as young adults in San Francisco. Laurence is part of a group attempting to avert an apocalyptic future through dangerous technology. Patricia is a member of a loose collective of witches who work quietly under the radar to alleviate the world's ills. As the world teeters on the brink, events bring Patricia and Laurence both closer together and into conflict.
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were very interesting - I liked how despite their powers and accomplishments, both Laurence and Patricia were often awkward and not always perfectly likeable. I also loved the themes around balance and inter-relatedness that came out in the ways magic and technology worked in the world. There's a lot of charm and wit to the story and the writing, but it doesn't get too precious. Plus, the plot puts it into the rare category of a pre-apocalyptic novel. My only complaint is that it could have been longer so as to have more space to linger on some of the details of world-building and the inner lives of the characters.
kenjari: (St. Cecilia)
The Cambridge Companion to Schoenberg
Edited by Jennifer Shaw and Joseph Auner

As is typical of the Cambridge Companion series, this volume about Arnold Schoenberg was a fascinating and often enjoyable read. Given how central Schoenberg is to modern music and how much existing scholarship there is on him, I was happy to find that this book included a very thoughtful and fresh selection of writings about Schoenberg. I especially enjoyed the chapters on Schoenberg's row tables and how he used them, his piano concerto, and his relationship to modernism and metaphysics.
kenjari: (Default)
The Castle of Otranto
by Horace Walpole

This short novel was one of the first Gothic novels, and was a big hit when it was published in 1764. It was indeed very entertaining. The story concerns the misdeed of Prince Manfred of Otranto, the dark secrets his family history holds, and the ultimate collapse of both his dynasty and his castle. It has all the hallmarks of a its genre: supernatural events, a dastardly villain, dark secrets, virtuous maidens, a gloomy castle, star-crossed lovers, and dramatic tragedy. What I wasn't expecting was the way the plot is pretty over-the-top, at times verging on absurdity. The events of the book open with Manfred's heir getting crushed by a giant helmet that falls on him out of nowhere on his wedding day. Yes, really.
kenjari: (piano)
Satie the Bohemian: From Cabaret to Concert Hall
by Steven Moore Whiting

This book covers Satie's involvement with fin-de-siecle popular and avant-garde entertainment as both an audience member and a participant. Whiting pays especial attention to the ways in which cabaret songs and music-hall entertainment influenced Satie's music. It's extremely interesting and really illuminates Satie's compositional process and the inner workings of his music. I especially liked the exploration of Satie's use of quotation and his incorporation of humor in his works.
My only significant criticism of Satie the Bohemian is tha tWhiting's prose, while clear, is rather inert. This has the unfortunate effect of making the book plod along at various points, resulting in a slow and dull reading experience.
kenjari: (Default)
Effective Management of Student Employment: Organizing for Student Employment in Academic Libraries
by David A. Baldwin, Frances Wilkinson, Daniel Barkley

I read this book for utilitarian reasons, as my job involves supervising about 18 student workers. It's a pretty solid book, and covers everything a supervisor would need to know. My only complaint is that, becuase it was published in 2000, it is now kind of dated when it comes to wages, student loans and aid, and a couple non-discrimination issues.
kenjari: (illuminated border)
The Confession of Brother Haluin
by Ellis Peters

This Cadfael mystery is a bit of a departure from the rest of the series in that the central mystery does not revolve around a murder and most of the action tgakes place at some distance from the abbey and Shrewsbury. During the winter, one of the brothers suffers a serious fall while taking part in the repair of an ice damaged roof at the abbey. Although he recovers, Brother Haluin's brush with death sets him off on a pilgrimage of penitence to pray at the tomb of the long-lost lover whose death he feels responsible for. Accompanied by Cadfael, Haluin, partially crippled from his injuries, sets off eastward towards the dwellings of his youth only to find his past shrouded in unexpected secrets and mysteries. After 15 of these books, I could pretty much see it all coming very soon into the book. Luckily, Peters' characters and writing are good enough that I still enjoyed seeing it all play out to a satisfying conclusion.
kenjari: (mt greylock)
The Hermit of Eyton Forest
by Ellis Peters

In this fourteenth Cadfael mystery, everything hinges on the arrival of a holy hermit and his young servant to the lands surrounding the abbey. When an arrogant and harsh visitor to the abbey is murdered and one of the abbey's schoolboys goes missing, things get quite complicated indeed. Along the way, we get some of the hallmarks of a Cadfael novel: lovers in some difficulty, an obvious suspect who turns out not to be the culprit, and the concealment of true identity. It was good and diverting read.
kenjari: (Default)
Uncle Silas
by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Uncle Silas is an early example of the suspense/horror novel. Maud Ruthyn is a 17 year old girl recently orphaned by the death of her father, who has also left her heir to a very large fortune. She is placed under the guardianship of her sickly yet sinister Uncle Silas, whom she has had no prior relationship due to a terrible scandal that left Silas in utter disgrace. Despite Maud's at times naive determination to see her uncle in a positive and charitable light, her life as her uncle's ward soon becomes frightening as mysterious and menacing events start piling up.
This novel has a lot of the Gothic in it - gloomy old manor houses, brooding landscapes, strange people, dark secrets, and a few hints of the supernatural. It also has a lot of the "sensation novel" as well - suspense, mysteries to be solved,and crimes committed. The combination is very successful and satisfying. Sheridan Le Fanu's writing can at times seem a little overwrought, but it works in Uncle Silas because the narrator, Maud, is a teenaged girl attempting to cope with a very dangerous and disturbing situation. while the suspense does build more slowly than in modern thrillers, it was still effective and made the last couple of chapters exciting reading.
kenjari: (St. Cecilia)
Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World
by John Szwed

This biography of song collector, ethnomusicologist, and singer Alan Lomax was endlessly fascinating and wonderful to read. This is one of the rare non-fiction books that is as compelling and absorbing as a good novel. Szwed takes an all-encompassing view of Lomax, delving into his beginnings as an assistant to his father's song-collecting, his alliance with progressive causes, the FBI's investigations of him, his sometimes contentious views on the importance of folksong - especially that of African-Americans - to American national identity, and his complex relationships to the worlds of academia and popular culture. The only thing that gets a little shorted is Lomax's personal life and relationships, as Szwed concentrates mainly on Lomax's career.
Although the biography is clearly not a hagiography, it is clear that Szwed admires Lomax and it is hard not to share in that admiration. Whatever Lomax's personal failings, Szwed makes it clear that Lomax was an important figure in the preservation and popularization of American folk music, an ardent promoter of the musicians who played it, and a true believer in its value.
kenjari: (Christine de Pisan)
Managing Student Assistants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians
by Kimberly Burke Sweetman

Sweetman's book is pretty much what it says on the cover. It's a very easy, straightforward read. I liked the inclusion of real-world examples and explanation, although there are a few out-dated pieces of advice as the book was published in 2006. Sweetman heavily concentrates on the pre-hire steps: including determining the need for student staff, defining student positions, and setting up a hiring procedure. Thus, the book was less useful for those of us who stepped into institutions where the student staff is well-established.

Book Review

Jul. 2nd, 2017 10:49 pm
kenjari: (illumination)
The Kingdom of Gods
by N.K. Jemisin

This last book in the Inheritance Trilogy begins several decades after The Broken Kingdoms, and is told from the godling Sieh's point of view. As the Arameri rule begins to weaken, Sieh returns to Sky, the place of his long enslavement. There he meets the two young Arameri heirs and makes a pact of friendship with them that has unexpected results that precipitate crises in both the Arameri and in Sieh himself.
The Kingdom of Gods was very good and an excellent ending to the trilogy. The plot is intricate and compelling, and the emotional depth and complexity is beautiful and at times wrenching. Nothing is simple or easy - not the characters, not the problems they face, not their relationships with each other. Jemisin takes on a lot of deeper themes - the nature of friendship, the nature and consequences of relationships between deities and mortals, revenge, forgiveness, and growing up. It was surprisingly moving and very rewarding.
kenjari: (illumination)
The Broken Kingdoms
by N.K. Jemisin

This sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms takes place ten years later, and most of the action occurs in Shadow, the city underneath the palace of Sky and the World Tree. Oree Shoth is a blind artists making her living selling trinkets in a heavily trafficked plaza of the city. She takes in a mysterious homeless man who glows at dawn and is clearly not human. This is not alarming to Oree, as Shadow has become home to many godlings, newly returned to the mortal realm after the events of the previous book. What is alarming is that godlings start turning up dead, and, at least partly because of her relationship with the homeless man, Oree finds herself in the middle of the mystery and conspiracy around the murders.
The Broken Kingdoms is even better than its predecessor. The plot is tighter and has some great turns, the characters are even more interesting, and the world-building continues to be terrific. I especially liked the smaller scale setting combined with large-scale issues - most of the story takes place in the poor and more marginalized parts of the city and among people without wealth or access to great resources yet involves cosmic-level conflicts and problems. I also really loved Oree. Her blindness never renders her helpless or passive, not does it dictate everything about what she does or how she experiences things.
kenjari: (St. Cecilia)
Music in Pacific Island Cultures
by Brian Diettrich, Jane Freeman Moulin, Michael Webb

This volume in the Global Music Series covers music in Melanesia, Micronesia, and French Polynesia, with each of the three authors covering one of the areas. Despite the constant switching among authors, the prose is pretty seamless. The subject matter is fascinating - I started this book knowing nothing about the music of the Pacific Islands and really got into it all over the course of the book. Even though Music in Pacific Island Cultures is by necessity an overview, it still conveyed all the richness and depth of a wide variety of musical cultures and practices.
kenjari: (illuminated border)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
by N.K. Jemisin

I really enjoyed this novel and was a little blown away by it, too. A fantasy novel st largely in the castle of Sky, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms tells of Yeine, barbarian daughter of a the disowned princess of the Arameri king, called back to her mother's home to be one of three heirs contesting for the throne during the king's last days. Yeine must acclimate to the refined yet vicious society of Sky, figure out how to deal with the other two heirs, find out more about her mother's mysterious death, and determine her relationship with the Arameri's enslaved god and godlings (yes, this is indeed quite messed up).
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms has an engrossing plot and some great characters. There were many things that were more or less as I expected, but also many things that were rather surprising. I especially loved the deities and mythology that Jemisin created. It managed to both fall into recognizable patterns and to have a lot of originality, and the balance between these two aspects made it all really work. I also liked the way Jemisin turned a couple of fantasy cliches on their heads - the castle of Sky, despite having all the makings of a glorious place of beauty and wonder that is worth fighting for is instead anything but. The conflicts between the gods are not clashes between good an evil but are instead predicated on jealousy and anger.
This novel grapples with a lot of deeper questions. Yeine must work out what the right thing to do when she must engage with a deeply unjust and cruel system and at least partially take part in it. How does one try to fix relationships between gods, and between gods and humans that have become horribly unbalanced?
kenjari: (Default)
Mentoring and Managing Students in the Academic Library
by Michelle Reale

This short volume on working with students in a college library was fairly useful and an interesting take on the role of a supervisor. Reale concentrates more on the mentoring than the managing, and provides some nice guideposts for the kind of mentoring a librarian can do with her student workers. I wish there had been a little more real-life examples and concrete advice based on those examples, but the advice and direction she did give was helpful. Reale's prose is on the chatty side, but clear and easy to grasp.

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