Maira's Books

In January of 2005 I started this blog as a record of books I’ve read as I was afraid I would forget what I have read. I have often referred back to my own blog to remember a book's contents or see what I have read by an author. I have enjoyed passing my books on to friends or recommending books to read. I know I have missed recording some, but in general I try to keep up with what I have read or listened to.

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Location: Kalamazoo, MI, United States

I am a librarian at Waldo Library at Western Michigan University.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Gin Game by D.L. Coburn (1977)

This was one of the plays that the visiting Latvian actors asked for. Thought I'd read it myself. It is about two elderly people at a nursing home, who play gin and talk a bit about their lives. Slowly you see their personalities uncovered and why they are quite alone in life. I am not sure how this will translate into Latvian - the emotions are real and similar, but there are no nursing homes in Latvia, so the setting and circumstances will have to be altered.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sidetracked by Henning Mankell (1995, trans. 1999)

This was one of the Swedish authors suggested to me in Sweden for good light reading. He has both been on European best seller lists and gotten literary prizes. The only other book I read was a young adult one. This was a mystery from the Kurt Wallander series, and I will definitely read more of them. Two things I liked right away. First there was a map of the southern tip of Sweden, so one could keep track of the action between the towns there and get a sense of distances and relations. I didn't realize how close Denmark and Sweden are at that point. and that Copenhagen is just a ferry ride away. The other thing that I liked, was that detective Wallander (I don't know his official title) has a Latvian girlfriend named Baiba. I liked the Swedish countryside and small towns - and kept thinking of my visit to Nykoping.

Though in some ways a typical mystery - starting out with seemingly unrelated scenes in the Domnican Republic and an awful suicide by a young girl, and then it moves into the murders. They all seem to be pretty despicable men, but did they deserve to be axed and scalped? Kurt Wallander leads the investigative team. I mostly like the way Wallander thinks. He has some sixth sense that some investigators seem to have, and then a thoroughness and lots of sleepless nights. There was a slightly similar feel in Steig Larrson's books. We also see the murderer's thoughts and actions, and as they slowly are brought together with the murder investigation, I felt a growing sense of horror as I realized what was going on. Very well done.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (2010)

In general, I liked this book about Valentine, a woman of Italian descent, who inherits the family shop making custom shoes for weddings. She goes to Italy to attend her grandmother's wedding, sad about losing her mentor and friend, slightly embarrassed by the family, in love with one of the Italians. Her grandmother leaves the company to her and her brother, with whom she does not get along, but who is good with finances. I liked the author's delving into relationships. Valentine is still friends with her former boyfriend Bret, and has a great friendship with an old roommate Gabe, who is a bit stereotypically gay - redecorating her apartment, etc., but I think the depiction of the friendship is solid. She also has complex relations with the different family members. Interesting to have a branch of the family in Argentina. What I liked most were some of her reflections on committing to someone completely. I totally could relate - she got so engrossed with what she was doing, so that she forget to call or inform the other person. I also loved June, a free-spirited friend of grandma's that works in the shop. I definitely related to her life style and explanation of relationships.

My quibbles with the book are minor. I would have liked a more in depth explanation of how a shoe is constructed. We got to see some of that in the shoe factory in Buenos Aires, but I would have liked to know more. As I was listening to this in April 2010, I did not like the fact that the story was set in 2010 and went through the end of the year. What if something major like 9-11 happens this year that would affect the whole story line? Why set a book in a specific year anyway? People get that it is a current novel from references like texting on cell phones, etc. And the last gripe I have with the story is that (spoiler alert), when Valentine finally decides she wants to commit to her Italian boyfriend, they never talk about the logistics - both own and run family businesses, so how are they going to manage companies in New York and Italy? Again this reflects on my personal life where a few men have been very important to me, but because of living in different parts of the world, I never considered a serious relationship with them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz (2004)

I don't think I have ever read anything by Koontz, though the name is familiar. I picked this book up, because it came up randomly when I was searching for books on life expectancy for a patron. It was definitely engaging. I guess Koontz is known for suspense or even horror fiction, which I tend to avoid (like Stephen King).

On the day Jimmy Tock is born, his grandfather dies first predicting Jimmy's time of birth, length, weight, slight deformity and five perilous dates in his life. At the same time a circus clown loses his wife in childbirth and goes on a killing spree. The most time is spent on the first perilous date. The only thing I didn't understand is why Jimmy left the house on that day at all, but he ends up in the library, where the librarian has been killed and a psychopath and his buddies are preparing to blow up the building. A woman and Jimmy end up being hostages and find they have a lot in common throughout the ordeal.

I don't plan on reading any more Koontz, but this was good. I liked the characters, they were well developed, and I liked the power of family and love. I don't know why I like this kind of suspense less than the Baldacci spy/adventure stories or JD Robb mysteries.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson (2010)

Subtitle: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save us All.

Interesting to read a book about my library world by a non-librarian, but one that obviously got into her subject in a big way - attending our conferences, reading librarian blogs, visiting various libraries and, of course, interviewing librarians. Johnson manages to tackle many of the issues and trends facing the library world today. I know I find the library world an exciting one and I am glad that Johnson has also found the excitement in our field, plus she writes engagingly with entertaining chapter titles:

  • The Frontier
  • Information Sickness
  • On the Ground
  • The Blog People - Yes we librarians blog, you are reading one now, and I have a few less populated blogs going out to a limited audience. I just hadn't thought of it as such a phenomenon. There are none that I read on a regular basis, but have run into postings of interest.
  • Big Brother and the Holdout Company
  • How to Change the World
  • To the Ramparts!
  • Follow that Tatooed Librarian - I love being part of a profession, where you can be tatooed and respected, even as tatoos become more mainstream. Librarians come in such a huge range from mousy to punk. Most of us are pretty practical, but we have a few clothes horses. I like the younger more edgy librarians.
  • Wizards of Odd- The author goes and immerses herself into Second Life. I tried- made myself an avatar and tried to learn basic ways of moving around in Second Life, but could't find anything interesting and felt I did not have the time to waste to learn to use this better. I do realize there are a lot of virtual libraries out there, so maybe I should check it out again.
  • Gotham City- this was one of my favorite chapters, as it tells the story of the New York Public Library, and how the sanctuary on 42nd and 5th Ave has lost its research focus because of the economy. That branch of the NYPL has been a Mecca to me for as long as I have been in librarianship, and I thought it was just the Baltic & Slavic section that was closed down- now it turns out all the heavy research reading rooms have been closed in favor of a more general public library atmosphere. I am afraid to go visit it. The author gave some great of examples of amazing information found and activities held in NYPL over the years.
  • What's Worth Saving? - good discussion on what to save, especially in an archival sense
  • The Best Day

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