Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guest Review: Invisible Murder by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Review by Shirley Ayres:

"Invisible Murder by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis is the second installment in this Danish crime series. Set in Denmark, this is the story of Public Health Nurse Nina Borg and her doctor friend, Peter, who care for Hungarian Gypsies in Danish refugee camps. Nina and Peter are called to an empty garage filled with thirty refugees who are battling a mysterious illness. Soon Nina becomes sick and is diagnosed with radiation sickness. 

Well-written although there are too many characters to keep straight. A first-class terrorist plot." 

Who comes up with this stuff?! 

I'll be  posting my review of Proof of Heaven within the next few days.

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guest Reviews: Phillip Margolin Madness!

Another informative batch of guest reviews by the lovely Shirley Ayres:

1) Wild Justice by Phillip Margolin (c2000)

This is the first book in a series of four featuring the Portland, Oregon, based Criminal Defense lawyer team of Amanda Jaffe and her father, Frank.

In Wild Justice, Frank represents Dr. Vincent Cardoni accused of being a serial killer. When Vincent is found innocent, Amanda represents Cardoni's wife, Dr. Justice Castle, who is accused of being the serial killer once thought to be her husband's doing.
[***SPOILER ALERT***]Events prove Cardoni guilty, then innocent, then guilty again.
The same happens with Castle. [***END OF SPOILER***]
Victims are tortured before being put to death. Graphic descriptions are sometimes hard to take if the reader has a vivid imagination.
The plot twists are surprising and exciting. If you like well-written murder mysteries, you will love this series. Be sure to read them in order.

2) Ties That Bind by Phillip Margolin (c2003)

The second book in the Amanda Jaffe series has Amanda being the appointed lawyer (no other defense lawyer would take the job) to a known drug dealer and pimp. He is accused of murdering his lawyer while in a lawyer-client conference at the jail.
Meanwhile, evidence is found that convinces the County Prosecutor that the pimp may be guilty of killing a Senator who liked to hurt prostitutes.
Amanda is kidnapped and tortured by enforcers for a highly placed group of politicians called the Vaughn Street Glee Club. They want Amanda's client to be found guilty and executed.
This proves to be a good mystery that will hold the reader's interest until the exciting end.

3) Proof Positive by Phillip Margolin (c2006)

Defense lawyer, Amanda Jaffe, and her sometimes boyfriend, Prosecutor Mike Greene, team up with Amanda's father, Frank. They uncover evidence of tampering and falsifying materials related to capital cases by a well-known and respected Criminologist. Then, key witnesses are murdered, one by one.
Another good and very exciting story with great plot twists. You will love it.

4) Fugitive by Phillip Margolin (c2009)

Amanda and her father, Frank Jaffe, criminal defense lawyers, get involved with an accused murderer, Charlie Marsh also known as the Guru Gabriel Sun.
After being accused of murdering his girlfriend's husband and fleeing to Africa for twelve years, Marsh comes back to Oregon to stand trial for murder.
The plot twists and a multitude of characters make the latest and (unfortunately) the last Amanda Jaffe serial novel one that cannot be put down.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book 6: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is one of my favorites. She delves into the fascinating & sometimes confusing realm of science without batting an eye and makes even the most complex scientific theories accessible to the least scientifically-inclined mind. In my opinion, she ranks right up there with Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) and Stephen Dubner (co-author of Freakonomics). She first showed up on my radar when I stumbled upon her mind-blowing book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers in the stacks a few years ago. I walked home from the library that day with my nose buried in its pages. Roach takes a unique approach to her research, and she gets bonus points for making me chuckle and write "Haha" all over my Post-It notes. Admittedly, her humor is not everyone's cup of tea, and she has a crassness about her that is all her own. Fortunately, her intelligence and open-mindedness with regard to her subject of research trump all.

In Spook, Roach details the many attempts by professionals in various fields to prove, or disprove, the existence of life after death. Throughout history, many scientists have dedicated their lives to seeking out, through many different means, the answer to that always-elusive question: What happens to us when we die?

Mirrors must be involved somehow...

I have always been content with the idea that someday I will "shuffle off this mortal coil" and return to the land (as a child, I was told that my father's side was part Cherokee....a very small part but still...). I've always imagined my remains growing into a towering oak tree or an uncharacteristically cheerful willow, but I'd also settle for being responsible for a few sprigs of grass or even a dandelion...I'm not picky. As I'm sure you've guessed, Roach does not offer any definitive answer with regard to whether there is indeed an afterlife, but she does take us on a spectacular journey as she explores the numerous studies that focus on a wide range of topics from reincarnation to the weight of the soul to the existence of ectoplasm. While some of the researchers involved in studies of the paranormal or parapsychological are obviously nutters (like W.J. Crawford who was obsessed with proving the existence of ectoplasm and who had a bizarre underwear fixation), others perform exhaustive research that lends some interesting insight into what might await us when we die.

For me, the most intriguing research mentioned in Spook is the work of Michael Persinger, a neuroscience professor, who believes that certain patterns of electromagnetic field activity can trigger hallucinations in human beings. After analyzing 37 years worth of data, Persinger found a nice correlation between electromagnetic fields and supposed hauntings. Basically, we're being haunted by moving electrically charged objects! Persinger designed a "haunt box" that uses laboratory-generated EMFs to create synthetic ghosts. The results of Persinger's work suggest that you CAN use EMFs to make individuals feel as if they're being haunted. A shocking 80% of people (out of one thousand) who have been subjected to the haunt box have felt a ghostly presence.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever been transfixed by the paranormal or if you've ever lingered just a little too long on shows* like Psychic Kids or Ghost Hunters International.

*I accidentally typed "paranormal shoes" into my Google search bar and, before I knew it, I was staring at a glowing pair of "ParaNorman" Air Foamposite Ones....a Nike creation.

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hail, Jane!

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice last month, I have been reading Ms. Austen's novels in order of publication. I finished Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice and am in the midst of Mansfield Park.

Some thoughts:

Sense and Sensibility deals with some daring themes: not one, but two, women run away and become pregnant. It's a complicated story but she keeps all the characters and action moving along. I like the way no one is all good or all bad (although Willoughby comes close :) and the frank portrayal of family life: different for each group of people, but universally including chaos and tolerance.

Every time I read Pride and Prejudice my disgust with the father, who originally was one of my favorite characters, grows. For some reason, I was more sympathetic toward the odious Mr. Collins. And, having read PD James' Death at Pemberley, I was more alert to Lizzie's change of heart coinciding with seeing Darcy's magnificent home. I also noticed how much the influence of one person on another -- mostly for good, but sometimes not -- was a theme.

Mansfield Park gets off to a slow start but the father and son have already been shipped off to the Caribbean to investigate "business troubles" and the son has been sent back because those troubles are turning into dangerous slave rebellions. And then there's the drawing room activities....

Please join me in this Jane-a-thon and share your thoughts on her books and movies. You can post your comments here or email them to me at

And let's play: It's a truth universally acknowledged that....(fill in the blank).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Goodbye 000s, Hello 100s!

After five weeks in the 000 Generalities class of the Dewey Decimal System, I'm headed into the land of Philosophy (and the supernatural and psychology!). Before I post my review for the first book of the 100s, I wanted to touch upon some books from the 000s that didn't make their way onto my to-read-immediately list... YET. These are books that I found while I was browsing the 000s. Books that piqued my interest. Books that I WOULD read......if only there were more hours in a day.

Books To-Read-Sometime-In-The-Future-When-Things-Slow-Down-or-When-I'm-Retired:

1. Click: What Millions of People Do Online and Why It Matters by Bill Tancer

Why I want to read this book: 
I'm obsessed with our obsession with the Internet.

From Booklist:

Tancer, a search-engine data miner, takes a look at our culture by evaluating the millions of search queries on the Internet. He crunches the numbers to quantify our desires, our fears, our quest for knowledge, and our aspirations. From porn to prom dresses to politics, the content of our search queries reveals much about our private thoughts that we would not reveal to loved ones, friends, or a stranger taking a survey. His lists include the top “fear of” searches; fear of intimacy and fear of rejection were ranked high, while the fear of public speaking, usually sited as number one, came in at number nine. “How to tie a tie” just beat out “how to have sex” in the how-to category, with “how to levitate” clocking in at number six! For businesses, searches can reveal surprising information that dispels assumptions about customer behavior, such as the seasonality of clothing purchases. Tancer brings humor, clarity, and insight to the trends that are revealed by the ways we seek out and consume information on the Internet. --David Siegfried

2. Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime by Miles Harvey

Why I want to read this book:
There are people out there that are so smitten with rare maps that they actually sneak into libraries and cut them from rare books. This is fascinating and unfamiliar territory!

From Publisher's Weekly:

Harvey himself sometimes seems obsessed as he explores the obsession of those who collect maps. Still, this is a challenging and erudite exploration of the explosion in "map culture" and the damage wrought by one determined con man with cartographic passions. Harvey's primary narrative (which originated as an article for Outside magazine) concerns the exploits of Gilbert Bland, a man who on the surface, according to Harvey, did indeed seem bland but who stole approximately $500,000 in antique maps from poorly secured rare-book libraries. Bland was apprehended in 1995 at Baltimore's Peabody Library; he was ultimately charged in several jurisdictions after numerous universities discovered extensive losses, but he plea-bargained for a light sentence. Harvey painstakingly reconstructs the map thief's various identities for Bland, a "chameleon," had abandoned a number of spouses and children and had engaged in questionable business ventures. Thus is Harvey launched into a larger meditation on the lure of "terra incognita," both literal and metaphoric, whether of Bland's enigmatic life or of undiscovered continents. Harvey uses the Bland case to explore both cartographic history and the dangers of obsession. One collector he examines is controversial map megadealer Graham Arader, considered responsible for cartography's newfound commercialism. Harvey's pursuit of all possible tangents (he even visits a map factory) causes his narrative to become unwieldy at times. But he offers dry wit and a fine sense of the dark places in our contemporary landscape, and he successfully captures both the story of Bland's bizarre "map crime spree" and the underexamined history and politics of contemporary cartography. Agent, Sloan Harris. (Sept.) 

3. The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge, Second Edition: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind by the New York Times

Why I want to read this book: 
I don't want to read it so much as I want to peruse it at my leisure. I'm a fact junkie. 

From Library Journal:

"This widely expanded update to the original 2004 edition defines nearly every facet of contemporary life—from arts, grammar, mythology and culture to science, economics, and geopolitical issues. Though bearing an authority and informational wealth that might rival the voluminous Oxford Dictionary of English, this surprisingly manageable volume is organized alphabetically by subject and contains thousands of highly accessible essays, tables, and lists, all composed by New York Times field experts. It also includes an introduction by longtime "On Language" columnist and Pultizer Prize winner William Safire. An essential background referenec for almost every subject: highly recommended for all public libraries."—Library Journal

4. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries (P.S.) by Marilyn Johnson

Why I want to read this book:
What an interesting topic! Obituaries are so brief but are used to sum up and honor what are supposedly the most memorable pieces of a person's life. 

From Publisher's Weekly:

Starred Review. A journalist who's written obituaries of Princess Di and Johnny Cash, Johnson counts herself among the obit obsessed, one who subsists on the "tiny pieces of cultural flotsam to profound illuminations of history" gathered from obits from around the world, which she reads online daily—sometimes for hours. Her quirky, accessible book starts at the Sixth Great Obituary Writers' International Conference, where she meets others like herself. Johnson explores this written form like a scholar, delving into the differences between British and American obits, as well as regional differences within this country; she visits Chuck Strum, the New York Times' obituary editor, but also highlights lesser-known papers that offer top-notch obits; she reaffirms life as much as she talks about death. Johnson handles her offbeat topic with an appropriate level of humor, while still respecting the gravity of mortality—traits she admires in the best obit writers, who have "empathy and detachment; sensitivity and bluntness." The book claims that obits "contain the most creative writing in journalism" and that we are currently in the golden age of the obituary. We are also nearing the end of newspapers as we know them, Johnson observes, and so "it seems right that their obits are flourishing." (Mar. 1) 

My review of Mary Roach's Spook will be posted shortly!

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Las Vegas Library

Isn't this the most adorable ad? Your intrepid librarian spied it in the airport and snapped it for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Guest Review: Phillip Margolin's Washington Trilogy

The reputable Shirley Ayres has volunteered her thoughts on The Washington Trilogy by Phillip Margolin:

1. Executive Privilege - Bringing down the United States President

2. Supreme Justice - Saving the life of a Supreme Court Judge

3. Capitol Murder - Foiling a terrorism plot

There are three couples in these novels:

1. Dana Cutler, former cop, private investigator and sometime reporter for a sleazy supermarket tabloid, and Jake Teeny, a photo journalist who travels the world to get his photos.

2. Brad Miller and Ginny Striker - both lawyers practicing in Oregon and Washington, DC. 

3. Keith Evans and Maggi Sparks - both FBI agents

Readers MUST read these books in order because they refer back to each other. I hope Margolin writes another book using these characters. He made them seem very real and the conversations between them (and the other characters in the books) were believable and sometimes humorous. 

Margolin is a former criminal defense lawyer who writes about what he knows best, murder mysteries involving complicated plots. 

Try them, you'll like them!

Thanks, Shirley!

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

Book 5: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook- A tale of sex, money, genius, and betrayal

Hello, Friends,

I apologize for this very late blog post. I would blame it on Super Bowl weekend, but the closest I got to actually watching the game was when I watched myself inhale half a dozen football-shaped cookies from the delicious Italian bakery near my house. Ah, the sweet, chocolaty taste of victory.

This week's book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook- A tale of sex, money, genius, and betrayal written by Ben Mezrich and published in 2009, was a quick & easy read. This is not hard-hitting journalism. It's a nonfiction book that contains imagined scenes and patchwork conversations. The author includes a note to the reader with regard to this element of the book on its opening pages. He also mentions that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, declined to comment for the book while Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's original financial backer and business partner turned betrayed ex-best friend, was quite cooperative. This makes for a bit of a one-sided view, which irked me a bit while I was reading.

 Prior to opening the book, I had no idea that it was the basis for the movie The Social Network starring Jesse Eisenberg. I've seen the film, and, after reading this book, it's clear that the movie stayed true to Mezrich's account.This led me to create my first infographic. I'd claim that the time that I labored on this was what delayed this blog post, but.....well, I'd be stretching the truth.....and you'd know it.

Next week's infographic: Do you have too much time on your hands?
Here's the big question: Have you ever read a book, seen the movie adaptation, and thought the movie was (gasp) actually better?

Until next time....

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director