23 December 2007

I Never Could Get Into...

I never could get into these books that a number of people have said I would enjoy or that are on lists that contain other book I have liked. The reasons vary, but these are books I do not intend to ever pick up again or pick up for the first time or finish, in the case of those I started once.
  • Grapes of Wrath. Why did the turtle cross the road? Why should I care? I have picked this book up more than once because I have heard that the plot parallels what members of my family went through. I thought it was agonizingly slow and will probably never finish it unless I read it as part of a book discussion or assignment.
  • Moby Dick. I read most of this one summer when working at the beach, but did not finish it. I read most, but not all. I did not appreciate the characters and it plodded along. Maybe I would like the one about Ahab's Wife, though.
  • At Home in Mitford series. I read number 1 of this sickenly sweet series and had enough syrup for one lifetime.
  • The Hobbit. I have watched the cartoon version a number of times and the live action trilogy of Middle Earth films, but read this book and thought it was plodding. I do not intend to read others by Tolkien. I tried to read the Silmarillion, too, but didn't get into that, either. I have even read a book about Tolkien and C. S. Lewis's friendship at Oxford, but that didn't make reading Tolkien any easier. I don't get into "old school" science fiction or fantasy much (Tolkien, Bradbury, Heinlein). I much prefer the lighter, more modern books, some of which are written by and for women and those that were written for children such as Water Babies or the Oz books.
  • Wuthering Heights. The reason is that it was above my reading level and maturity level when I told my 6th grade reading teacher, Mrs. Shoaf, I would read it for my 6 week book reading assignment. I read the ending quickly one night and wrote the report starting at something like 4 a.m. and ending at like 6:15 a.m. before catching my 6:40 bus to school.
    I have watched screen adaptations and enjoyed them, but will never go back to Wuthering Heights, the book.
  • Any book that has too many characters. The worst part of this is trying to keep the characters straight when listening to a book on tape or CD. If I read a book for book discussion I start my notes by adding a dramatis personae or cast of characters list. I don't do too well to remember all the characters names even after a few weeks of reading a book although scenes or major plot points stick in my head. Harry Potter was the exception because I kept the main characters straight, but mostly ignored the other characters.
  • Great Expectations. My brother said this book stuck with him after he read it in class, but I never got around to reading it and probably never will because it looks too thick.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I can't say exactly why I didn't finish this. I do like that sort of book in general. I would probably like a Reader's Digest condensed version. It did not keep my interest enough. Maybe if she had a different editor I would have read the whole thing.
  • Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I am not going to read this. I am not interested. I know enough paranoid schizophrenics that visit the library. I don't need to read about conspiracy theories. Our extra special patrons will tell me more than I want to know about conspiracies.

My Favorite Historical Novels

My favorite historical novels and fantasy books are Quests when a group of people work toward a common goal. Therefore, my favorite historical novels are ones of people headed out west in a caravan or families waiting out snowstorms together or groups of people fighting to survive in some way.
I read a few historical books as a child, but didn't read many as an adult until I worked in a library with a director who did not consider science fiction, fantasy, comic books, or graphic novels to be "real" books and did not buy them except in rare instances. Because the library had so few of those books I picked up a number of historical novels meant to appeal to women and enjoyed them.
I can't think of any titles right now, but when I do, I will update this blog.
Betty Zane by Zane Grey (set in Ohio, Kentucky, and (West) Virginia)
Earth Abideth (multigenerational sage set in Ohio)
One Hundred Girls' Mother by Lenore Carroll (about prostitutes in Old Western San Francisco)
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Last Silk Dress by Ann Rinaldi (Confederate women sacrifice their gowns, some of which have been handed down for generations, to aid the troops)

Book Publishers

When looking for a new author to read, I frequently pay attention to what publishing house has signed him or her.
For example, Waterbrook Press is a small publishing house, but I have gotten something out of every book I have read published by them. Waterbrook is a division of Random House.
Little Miami Books publishes local history material on the Miami Valley of Ohio, so I recommend that my library purchase everything they have put out.
Tor and Daw publish some of my favorite fantasy and science fiction books, but their paperbacks tend to fall apart.
Scholastic does well by children by publishing inexpensive books, but theirs, too, fall apart pretty easily.
Once I was so frustrated by a Tor paperback book falling apart before I finished reading it for the first time, that I mailed it back to Tor's customer relations. I did not receive any response, nor did I get my money back. That stunk, but I still keep reading their books. I just check the hardback versions out of the library and don't buy their paperbacks.
The British have some fine presses such as DK and Usborne. Even though I rarely recognize their authors and illustrators, they use excellent photography in their works and Usborne uses fonts for children's materials that use the hand printing-like "a" rather than the typewritten type of the letter "a" that curls around. This makes it easier for young readers to read the letter "a".
http://www.nervline.com/zak1a.html ... "a font that displays the lower case letter 'a' using a vertical line on the right side of the letter - it should not have a 'hat' over the 'a'"

Andy Rooney's Book Proposal

Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes fame proposed that there be three (or maybe four) sizes of books - small, medium, and large. That way libraries and book collectors don't have to worry about how to fit their books on their shelves. Why isn't there a more standard size? Office paper generally comes in 8 1/2 x 11, 8 1/2 x 14, or 11 x 17 sizes. Why don't books?

There can be standard hardback 8 1/2 x 11, maybe a half size for paperbacks. Children's books can be long and short using 8 1/2 x 14 paper, and maps and atlases can be 11 x 17.

When/if I write a book I will make sure that the pages fit conveniently onto a standard photocopier that reproduces 8 1/2 x 11 pages. That just makes sense.


- SorghumGrass

21 December 2007

What's on My Desk March 2008

Funny in Farsi is the annual Big Read Title. Adult nonfiction. DONE.
I enjoyed this book very much. It was much lighter and easier to read than I had anticipated. I would recommend comparing and contrasting with the Kite Runner, although Kite Runner does not have a Bowling for Dollars reference.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Young adult fiction/nonfiction. Recommended supplementary material to the Big Read title Funny in Farsi. Firoozeh left Iran, but this author stayed and experienced the Iranian Revolution events of 1979. This graphic novel is her account of the events as perceived as an Iranian child. It is now a movie playing in the theatres.

Marley & Me : Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan. MOPS book discussion book.

Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hobermann and Nadine Bernard Westcott. Children's fiction. DONE.
Since I heard the children's librarian read this to a group of preschoolers the song has been stuck in my head and won't go away! I think I might have heard the song some time before, but not on any recording. Someone told me it was by a famous female African American folk singer and she saw the singer on Mr. Rogers some time. I don't know if she meant that the song came out in the 1970's or it was re-recorded by this artist then. It isn't one I learned in the playground. Maybe I will see if the library has a recording of this.
FOOTNOTE: I think she meant Ella Jenkins. Yes, our library has some of her CD's.
by Jason Ankeny
From virtually the outset of her folksinging career, Ella Jenkins stood at the forefront of children's music, establishing herself as one of the few musicians in the genre whose charms extended beyond her young target audience into the realm of adults and educators. Born in St. Louis but raised in Chicago, Jenkins began singing professionally in 1956. Over the course of two books, several videos, and numerous albums, she educated children about everything from reading to geography to dance, and over time she even began teaching their instructors as well — through her famous Adventures in Rhythm workshops, Jenkins demonstrated new group-vocalizing and rhythm-building methods to music teachers. And as the times changed, Jenkins changed with them; by the 1990s, her repertoire included up-to-the-minute songs on topics like multi-culturalism and the environment.

Little Dog and Duncan by Kristine O'Connell George and June Otani. Children's fiction. DONE.
A nice, sappy set of poems about two dogs. Enjoyable, but not memorable. This book could be used to show how very short poems can still be effective.

Letting Go of Anger and Frustration by Pam and John Vredevelt. Adult nonfiction. DONE. This brief self-help book shows Biblical principles that people can live by. It is part of a large series of books that this husband and wife team has written. They use the CEV and the Message Bible in their quotes, so readers that are not comfortable with King James language don't feel left out. It is written at a pretty basic reading level, so most adult or teen readers should be able to read this. The word I would use to describe this book, and probably others by these authors is "accessible".

Caring for the Dead by Jonathan P. Vasko. Adult fiction. DONE.
A divorced couple deals with the ex-wife's excruciating cancer ordeal. I would probably not have picked up this thoughtful, quiet book on my own, but the author was a childhood friend of mine so I had to try it out before donating a copy to our hometown library. It is self-published and put out by PublishAmerica. I did find a few typographical errors, which is understandable.
The use of prose means this is not a book to zoom quickly through, but to savor. Have a box of tissues nearby. I have not read very many books told from a Catholic perspective, so that makes it unusual. Many Northeast Ohio places, roads, and destinations are mentioned throughout the book.
Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman, David Clemesha and Dan Yaccarino. Children's fiction. DONE.
Mr. Gilly loves his job as a trash truck driver. It is good to have an appreciation of all the jobs people have that affect our everyday life, so this is a good companion to books like Vicky the Vet and Sam the Chef. What kid doesn't love to hear the rumble of a big truck coming down the street? This was a pretty good book, but I think that the Scholastic video of the book really brought it to life. I know it is blasphemy, but hearing the narrator of the DVD read it, enhanced my reading of it. I got a better appreciation for the rhythm of the words after seeing the video.
Meq by Steve Cash. Young Adult/Adult fantasy fiction. DONE. The author is some country and western singer I have never heard of, but based on this book, maybe I will listen to one of his songs.
In some ways it reminds me of The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme. http://www.venpolypheme.com/home.htm
This was an excellent book! I neglected my family time to read it. I can see this becoming a series, or even a movie or television series since the concept of the main character living for a very long time and seeing many generations of humans come and go during his lifetime can lead to a lot of historical dramas. One reviewer called it a vampire book without the vampires. Someone else said it was like Highlander, except less violent. I don't think Highlander was a book series, though.
Spiderwick Chronicles #1 The Field Guide and # 2 Seeing Stone by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. Children's Fantasy Fiction. DONE. Action-packed adventure all the way, with no boring philosophical stops. I would have preferred to read volumes 1 - 5 in a one-book format since now I have to get on hold at the library for #3, then #4, then #5 before I see the movie. I read # 1 as regular type and # 2 as large type since there was a shorter wait for the LT version. I assume publishing separately was a marketing tactic to sell more books and I see that the publisher was quick to put out a short movie synopsis, some early reader junior versions, guides, etc. like the marketing of the Harry Potter books. Hey, more power to them, that's how free enterprise works.
The Pilgrims Are Marching by Carol Greene and Tom Dunnington. Children's Fiction/Nonfiction. DONE. This is part of a series called Sing-Along Holiday Stories. It was well researched and historically accurate. The pictures are by a Highlights artist and look like they would be featured in this classic children's magazine. The story itself, however, and the rhyming are not too great. I tried to make the words go to the tune of When Johnny Comes Marching Home or When the Saints Go Marching In, but the words just didn't work. The repeating line "in the land of the brave and the free" was plainly annoying as was the main character, Johnny B. who was based on a real boy who, apparently had a death wish. After reading this one I am not planning to pick up others in the series.

My Favorite Chick Lit

These are not necessarily romance. They tend to focus on women's friendships.
Sisterchicks series by Robin Gunn
Turnip Blues by Helen Campbell
Elm Creek Quilts series by Jennifer Chiaverini
Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
Chicks with Sticks by Elizabeth Lenhard

Cleveland does not appreciate Superman

Superman was created by two young men who met at Glenville High School, one of the Cleveland Public Schools. Metropolis, Illinois has monuments, restaurants, a museum, and a festival dedicated to Superman. Cleveland has - pretty much nothing. At least two articles have been written in the Plain Dealer lamenting the fact that Superman is not loved in his home town, his Metropolis. It did not occur to me that the Daily Planet is an approximate anagram for Plain Dealer as was pointed out in the 19 December 2007 PD by Michael Sangiacomo.
Superman and his allies, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al have been loved by four generations of readers since that first Action Comic of June 1938.
Cuyahoga County Pub Lib? Cleveland Pub Lib? University Heights Pub Lib? Western Reserve Historical Society - Help spread the news that Superman is alive and well in Cleveland!

19 December 2007

Three Golden Keys by Peter Sis

Sometimes librarians don't know where to put art books so they put them in the young reader section. I would not call this a children's book, although the dedication in the front says that the author is addressing the book to his daughter, Madeleine. It is more of a mystical tribute to the City of Prague. His illustrations remind me of M. C. Escher or Joann Sfar. The book style is reminiscent of Graham Baese's 11th Hour or Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. In an interview with Sis, the author does say that he was influenced by Sendak and that Sendak played a part in introducing Sis to New York book publishing .
I would not recommend this book to children, but I would to young adults that are into manga or adults planning a trip to the Czech republic or adults with Czech ancestors.

Trivia for Ohioans From Sixth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators entry on Peter Sis:
"My mother's father designed railway stations in Cleveland and Chicago in the 1930s, and my mother lived in the United States as a little girl".

18 December 2007

My Favorite Poetry Books

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
Collected Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Collected Poems of Emily Dickenson by Emily Dickenson

My Favorite Romance Books

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Tyler series by Carla Neggers and others (Harlequin) - a series of romance books set in Tyler, Wisconsin. If you read the entire series the authors reveal information about an old mystery in the town.

Library Thing

I heard about Library Thing at the 2007 Dayton Metro Library Staff Day (if you weren't there, you missed the Drill Team
I will try it out and report my findings here.
It was very easy to add books and find suggestions based on books I have read before. I did not yet see how to say that I read a book and it stunk.

For example, I didn't particularly enjoy Moby Dick or the Hobbit, but I have read them both. Okay, so I read about 95% of Moby Dick before giving up on it. I did not read the end. I tried about 3 times to read the Hobbit before I got through that one. I like the animated movie better.

See links to my librarything books at the bottom of the blog site.

15 December 2007

Mercedes Lackey

Thank you, Mercedes Lackey for getting "books in series" right.

She understands that people like to read, at most, a trilogy. If really interested, then a prequel.

This is something that Robert Jordan, Jack Whyte, and Orson Scott Card did/do not understand.

I really enjoyed reading the first few books in Jordan, Whyte, and Card's series, but couldn't get all the way to the 7th or 12th, or whatever number ended their series, let alone keep track of all the Xanth books. I did manage to read all the Harry Potter and original 12 Oz books, though. I suppose it is because they are childrens' books and easier to read.

I like the way that Lackey lets the reader decide whether he or she wants to continue past a trilogy. She has more than one set of trilogies set in the same universe. The timeline that is in the front of a number of her books is one of the best marketing tools I have ever seen. It clearly shows the reader that if he or she is interested, these are other books that may be of interest - or not. I wish that J. K. Rowling would have done this. Maybe she still will. Might I suggest a prequel trilogy about the founders of the Hogwarts' houses or something else set in the same universe? I see that she just released a very limited edition set of manuscripts called "The Tales of Beedle the Bard".
I completely agree with you about the Trilogy Trend that some authors have abandoned in the attempt to continue wrangling stories out of the same fictitious universe, dimension, or other construct for years and years. My opinion (that others obviously don't necessarily share): If you can't impress me within a two-book minimum, it isn't going to happen.Maybe that's why I don't tend to stick with TV mini-series or ongoing programs that also tend to draw their storylines out over months and seasons.
Shows like CSI might gain some of their popularity due to the fact that each episode has the same characters, but also a clear beginning, middle, and an end. Unlike a book, which one could pick up or put down whenever convenient, a 'cliff-hanger' TV show may strand the viewer forever, if they happen to miss next week's installment.
I still dig Piers Anthony's goofy tales, though--no matter how many he writes.

My Favorite Young Adult Books

Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

14 December 2007

Kent State Ashtabula English Festival Sampling of Books

These books were chosen by 7th and 8th grade teachers, school librarians, public librarians, and academic librarians. Criteria for selection are:

1. good plot that grips most readers (there are always going to be some exceptions among the readers)
2. balance between books that appeal to boys and that appeal to girls
3. age appropriate
4. available in paperback
5. not explicit unless absolutely necessary

This is a sample of the Festival books I have read

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
  • View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
  • Having Our Say by the Delany sisters (Sarah Louise and Annie Elizabeth)
  • Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  • Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
  • Watsons Go to Birmingham- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Holes by Louis Sachar

Shiloh and the Giver were my favorite, followed by Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind.

I thought that Out of the Dust was kind of lame, but it won the Newbery Award, so not all critics agree. If you want a book about a girl overcoming hardships in rural America I would recommend Hattie Big Sky instead.

The 7th and 8th graders I talked to didn't enjoy Having Our Say, but the teachers and parents did.

What's On My Desk - January 2008

Secret Life of Becky Miller. MOPS book discussion pick. Christian fiction. DONE.
Loosely based on the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, this is a good book for today's busy Christian woman to read.

Ralphie's Wives by Christine Rimmer. Romance/mystery. DONE.
This is a pretty good Harlequin, but even a pretty good Harlequin will probably be forgotten in less than 6 months.

Medicine Road by Charles de Lint. Fantasy. DONE.
I have read a number of his short stories in anthologies, but the libraries around here don't seem to have many of his novels. It is probably because he is Canadian.
The author is Canadian, but this is set in Sedona, Arizona, so they still use spellings such as "colour" to describe a place in the U.S.
Apparently the characters were introduced in another book before this one. It is not essential to read the other book first, but is annoying that they refer to events that are not fully discussed in this book. The first book is Seven Wild Sisters.

God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant. Children's picture book. DONE.
Polar bear tells a cub about how he was born.

ABC Cats by Kathy Darling and Tara Darling. Children's picture book. DONE.
Breeds of cats.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Keven Hawkes. Children's picture book. DONE.
A lion visits the library. Will he be allowed to stay? An ode to the New York Public Library lions.

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson. Children's fantasy book. DONE.
I found this on a list of "If you like Harry Potter" readalike books. Yes, it has some similarities to Harry but is more like the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Of course, it has some fine library and librarian references. The evil librarians refuse to let the general public know about the presence of magic and the additional continents (with scholar dinosaurs) that make up our world. Librarians are very stereotypical - they wear buns, glasses, and sensible sweaters. They are also the wielders of great power - information. It is a goofy romp of a book, sometimes a bit boorish with the author's sarcasm, but otherwise a humorous read.
<<"Glasses,," I said. "Snobbish face. Usually has her hair in a bun." "The glasses," Grandpa Smedry said slowly. "Did they have...horn rims?" "Usually." "Hyperventilating Hobbs!" he exclaimed. "A Librarian!">>
<<"The downtown library, to be exact. We'll have to be very careful infiltrating that place." I cocked my head. "I've been there before. Last I checked, it wasn't too hard to get in." "We don't have to just get in, "Grandpa Smedry said. "We have to infiltrate." "And the difference is...?" "One requires far more sneaking.">>

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs. Children's fantasy book. DONE.
I found this on a list of "If you like the Series of Unfortunate Events" readalike books. Lewis is orphaned in the 1940's and goes to live with his magician uncle. As many children do, Lewis gets carried away with bragging about magic and sets in motion some terrible events that may destroy the world when he dapples in his uncle's magical books. It is illustrated by the famous Edward Gorey, so some patrons may be interested in it just for the artwork. The cover says that John Bellairs also writes adult books, so I may see what else is available by this author. My local library catalog shows only children's books by him. I would recommend this book over the Evil Librarians book as it is more polished.

What's on My Desk - December 2007

1. Scepter's Return by Dan Chernenko (pseudonym for Harry Turtledove) Fantasy .
# 3 in the Scepter of Mercy series (Bastard King, Chernagor Pirates, Scepter's Return). I am enjoying this action packed war story, although the moncat thing is kind of silly.

This was a very well written trilogy by one of my favorite authors.

If I had to write a compare and contract book report on Harry Turtledove I would compare and contrast Scepter's Return to A Different Flesh. The author has a fondness for monkeys. (For more monkey books, try Summer of the Monkeys).

2. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison - YA humor/romance. How is that for a title? I accidently read/listened to this series out of order. I already heard the book on CD of another in the series. DONE.

Silly and fun. Fortunately it came with a glossary in the back, since it is chocked full of contemporary British slang. Is there really such a thing as a Scottish wild cat?

3. Hidden Talents by David Lubar. YA fantasy. DONE. Highly entertaining book. Thumbs up. I would recommend this to a boy age 10-15 or to an adult male or female reader. I will probably read the sequel, True Talents, but not right away since I already have about 20 books on reserve. This book, about a group of boys at a reform school, belongs on the shelf with Freak the Mighty, Lord of the Flies, and other boy "buddy" books.

The author's mother is a librarian, which might explain the scene where Martin goes to the school library to do research on psychic powers. Lubar explains how Martin uses the catalog, the "see also" subject references in the catalog, and reference books. Like many students, Martin tries to avoid asking the librarian any questions.
page 91 of ISBN 978-0-765-35766-3
"As much as I hate to admit it, I was starting to have fun in the library. If I told the guys that I was enjoying myself, I'd be kidded without mercy. They'd probably start calling me Bookman or Wordboy, or something like that".

4. Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern - suspense/mystery. DONE. In some ways similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but less innovative.

5. Dorothy of Oz by Roger S. Baum - children's fantasy. DONE. I had not read any of Roger Baum's until now (at least, I don't remember having read them). The writing and the illustrations were top notch. I would highly recommend this book to fantasy readers. It even has a moral - even though Dorothy does not have magic, she has something more important - kindness, consideration, and compassion. Not magic, but her love, saves the day.

6. Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum - humor. DONE. I think I need some comic relief. DONE. If you work at a library you will enjoy at least a few of these jokes. This comic strip is not for everyone, but librarians get it. Joel Hodgeson of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fame once said something like this: "not everyone will get the jokes, but the right people will get the jokes".

7. Household Gods by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove - fantasy. I wonder how well Turtledove will work with a co-writer? DONE.
This was another book that makes people greatful to be alive today, rather than in the past with their diseases, injustice, etc. I could have told the main character to boil the water before drinking it - DUH!

8. Loud Emily by Alexis O'Neill - children's historical fiction/humor. Emily is as loud as a fog horn, which is usually not a good thing...DONE.

Thumbs up, but not recommended for a bedtime story as the reader must be loud. (Another book I do not recommend for bedtime, but is wacky fun, is Bats Around the Clock, a tribute to American Bandstand, which instructs the reader to do different dance moves).

9. Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair. DONE.

I was not hooked on this book. It had too many made-up names, made-up technologies, made-up planets, etc. and it appears to be a sequel to some other book that I did not read. Either that, or it relied on moving backwards and forwards in time repeatedly. There should be some kind of connection with the reader, but I could not connect to this book. I did not finish it. I did skip to the sex scenes, which were supposed to be good since the author won a Rita for some other book, but the sex scenes were not any more interesting than the rest of this book. It was advertised as a science fiction/romance. It was not successful as either.

10. Dragons of the Cuyahoga by S. Andrew Swann. DONE.

Recommended for those women who draw dragons, work at the Natural History Museum, and live in Cleveland. I think you know who you are.

Also recommended for anyone with a connection to Cleveland. (Clevelanders should also read Crooked River Burning). This book is told as more of a police/crime/mystery novel than a fantasy novel, so more than one type of audience should enjoy it. By the way, the Coast Guard is also mentioned in this novel.

Some library and Cleveland quotes from Dragons of the Cuyahoga, page numbers from the paperback version ISBN 0-7564-0009-0.

p. 57: So, after I had again determined that the last caller was from an unknown number, and made sure that it was still before eight, I called up one of my research sources.

"Cleveland Public Library, archives. How can I help you?"

"Eric, it's Kline."

"Kline? I can barely hear you. Where are you?"

"On my cell phone, quick question - how's your Shakespeare?"

"My Shakespeare? What are you working on?"

"Can you ID a quote for me?"

"Speak up, what?"

"'I am determined to become a villain. Plots I have laid' What's that from?"

"Can you repeat that?"

"'I am determined to become a villain!'" I yelled into the phone. "'Plots I have - '"I was just making a blind turn on a road following the edge of the Chagrin River, I looked up and suddenly there was a rider in front of me...

"Hellow? Kline?"

I sighed, shook my head, and said a curt "Yeah." into the phone.

"What happended? I thought you were cut off - "

"Never mind that." I kept staring into the woods. "Do you know the quote?"

"Uh-huh. I found it for you. The full think's, 'I am determined to prove a villain/ And hate the idle peasures of those days. Plots I have laid, inductions dangerous/ By drunken prophecies, libels, and dreams/ To set my brother Clarence and the King/ In deadly hate against one another - '"

"You don't have to read the whole thing. Just tell me what it's from."

"It's from the opening soliloquy of Richard III."

I pondered a moment. "That's the humpbacked king who kills his nephews in the Tower of London, right?"

"You got it."

Macbeth, then Richard III? There was obviously something my anonymous caller was trying to tell me. Something about powerful men, and betrayal. But who, and what...?

Mind games.

Some joker who believed that this was some form of subtlety. I shouldn't be wasting my time on it. What I needed to do was get tomorrow's dragon story into the paper. And, tomorrow, I was probably going to get to talk to a dragon in the flesh.


Library Mistress: I am not sure why he called the archives on this, but I am glad that the librarian was able to help him.


page 121. That speculation took me down to University Circle, to the brand new wing of the Natural History Museum[that part is alternative fiction]...

Cleveland has always had a fair number of museums. However, even before the Portal a noticeable fission had begun. For three quarters of the twentieth century, we had places of genuine, scientific, historical, and artistic value. The old Natural History Museum had genuine paleontologists doing original work in the field. The Cleveland Museum of Art had a nationally recognized collection and the best collection of Medieval and Renaissance armor and weaponry on the continent. The Western Reserve historical society was a place of genuine scholarship.

Then we went and built the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now don't get me wrong, I'm as interested in Janis Joplin's psychedelic Porsche as anyone else. But there's a reason they built it on the lakefront and not in University Circle. It has about as much to do with scholarship and education as P. T. Barnum's original American Museum. Then there was the Great Lakes Science Museum, which I don't think has ever employed a genuine scientist.

By the time the Portal opened, we already had two sets of museums in this town. The old style places run by stuffy PhDs and paid for by grants and donations, and the new style run by marketing MBAs and paid for by tourism.



Then the author has the main character go to the Natural History Museum and talk to a "real scientist".

I agree that the Art Museum has great armor, and the Egypt exhibit and the Degas are excellent as well. I have enjoyed the exhibits and planetarium of the Natural History Museum many times, as well as the Great Lakes Science Center. I have not been to the Rock Hall, so I can not comment on that.

He didn't mention the giant "FREE" stamp. That is kind of odd, but neat.


Page 150. I was watching Bone Daddy's auto-eulogy at one of the PCs in the Cleveland Public Library. You weren't supposed to load outside software on these things, but when no one was looking, I'd slipped Bone Daddy's CD into the base unit, and called it to life...The remains of my notebook [computer] had made it into a dumpster behind a restaurant I passed on the way to the library...[he is still in the library]...I flipped open my cell phne - which has survived the night intact - and hit the third autodial button.


LibraryMistress: Naughty, boy! Breaking the rules. But, I suppose, since your life was at stake that it was okay. At least you weren't viewing porn or downloading viruses to the computers.

I hope that you used your "quiet, indoors voice" when talking on the cell phone in the library.


page 158.

They escorted me up the concrete walkway, past empty flower beds where the mulch was in bloom.

page 210.

O'Malley on the other hand, radiated unease like the heat from a compost heap.


LibraryMistress: I think that is lovely imagery, like the Tree of Heaven in a Tree Grows in Brooklyn.



Pages leading up to and including 257 are set in a library in a private residence in Hunting Valley, a rich suburb of Cleveland. Apparently this is the perfect place for a Matlock-Murder-She-Wrote-revealing-of-the-who-dunnit scene.


Willoughby Hills, and some other suburbs are taken back by towering forests when the elves arrive, restoring the land to pre-Colonial woodland status and Squire's Castle is a mystical place. (Which we already knew).

My Favorite Children's Books

Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Little House on the Prairie Series - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Nancy Drew Series - Carolyn Keene
Harry Potter Series - J. K. Rowling
Half Magic - Edward Eager
Little Golden Books (owned by Random House)- my favorites are Little Mommy, The Poky Little Puppy, and Pussy Willow
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
(rhyme is public domain, various artists have illustrated it)
The Eleventh Hour - Graham Baese
I Spy Series
Fours Crossing by Nancy Farmer

Publishers - Usborne Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK)

Big Read Book Discussion Titles

2008 Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
2007 Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
2006 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2005 Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Links to Annual Book Discussion Sites:

MOPS Book Discussion Titles

MOPS Book Discussion Titles
These are books that will probably be enjoyed by Mothers of Preschoolers, Grandmothers of Preschoolers, other Christian Women, and even by some people who are neither mothers, nor grandmothers, nor Christian, nor women! I have read all of these up until the current date. I may or may not have read any after the current date - yet.

Red Tent
Anita Diamant

Shop on Blossom Street*
Debbie Macomber

Traveling Light
Katrina Kittle – local author

Skipping Christmas
John Grisham

Nicholas Sparks

Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C. S. Lewis

Kite Runner*
Khaled Hosseini
April 2006

To Kill a Mockingbird*
Harper Lee
May 2006

So Big
Edna Ferber
June 2006

Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
July 2006

Vanishing Acts
Jodi Picoult
August 2006

Big Stone Gap
Adriana Trigiani
September 2006

Big Cherry Holler
Adriana Trigiani
October 2006

Red Suit Diaries
Ed Butchart
December 2006

To Know Her by Name
Lori Wick
January 2007

Quilter’s Apprentice
Jennifer Chiaver
February 2007

Hattie Big Sky
Kirby Larson
22 March 2007

Bean Trees
Barbara Kingsolver
April/May 3 May 2007

Sisterchicks Do the Hula
Robin Jones Gunn
6 June 2007

Glass Castle*
Jeannette Walls
July 2007

Going Overboard: Confessions of a Military Wife
Sarah Smiley
August 2007

Oceans Apart*
Karen Kingsbury
11 October 2007

Levi’s Will*
W. Dale Cramer
5 November 2007

Gideon’s Gift*
Karen Kingbury
13 December 2007

Secret Life of Becky Miller
Sharon Hinck
10 January 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Lisa See
February 2008

China Road
Rob Gifford
March 2008

* = also read at Brown Bag Book Discussion

Brown Bag Book Discussion Titles

I lead a series of monthly discussions from September 2006 to December 2007. I then ceased advertising the discussion since attendance was low. I will start this discussion series again if there is interest. The best attended ones were part of the annual Big Read discussion.

08 Sept 2006
Vanishing Acts
Jodi Picoult

13 Oct 2006
Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

10 Nov 2006
Time Traveler’s Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

08 Dec 2006
Shop on Blossom Street
(guest discussion leader: Ginny Palmer)
Debbie Macomber

12 Jan 2007
Runaway Quilt
Jennifer Chiaverini

09 Feb 2007
Bad Ground
W. Dale Cramer

09 Mar 2007
Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls

13 Apr 2007
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind
Suzanne Fisher Staples

11 May 2007
Crocodile on the Sandbank
Elizabeth Peters

08 Jun 2007
Big Sky
A. B. Guthrie

13 Jul 2007
Crooked River Burning
Mark Winegardner

10 Aug 2007
Into the Wild
Jon Krakauer

14 Sep 2007
Levi’s Will
W. Dale Cramer

12 Oct 2007
Sisterchicks on the Loose
Robin Jones Gunn

16 Nov 2007
Third Friday, due to Staff day closing
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon

14 Dec 2007
Gideon’s Gift
Karen Kingsbury

3nd Annual Fain Poetry Contest - 2008

Announcing the Third Annual Fain Poetry Writing Contest

This contest in memory of Alfred P. Fain, sponsored by his family, is open to grade 9 –12 students of Grand Valley High School and home-schooled students of Hartsgrove, Rome, Orwell, Colebrook, and Windsor.Mr. Fain worked his way through high school and enrolled in college as part of the G. I. Bill after serving in the Army Air Force. He became an English teacher and school superintendent, writing poetry in his spare time. In his later years he was a resident of Roaming Shores, enjoying board games, Rotary Meetings, organic gardening and occasionally portraying Santa Claus.


*Authors must be enrolled in G.V.H.S. or home-schooled residents of the Grand Valley School District.*Authors may submit up to three poems, but can only win once per year.*Poems must be submitted on a CD or by email. When printed, the poem should fit on an 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper using a font from 10 - 16 points. The maximum length of poems is one page. There is no minimum length.*The theme for 2008 is "Heroes". This is in honor of the 70th anniversary of the first Action Comic featuring Superman. Superman was created by two young men who met at Glenville High School, one of Cleveland's Public Schools.Your poem may tell the judges who your heroes are, what villains you fight, when you were someone's Supergirl, how heroes act, etc.*Any style of poetry may be used.*The use of profane language or topics is discouraged.*Poems will be judged on1. Originality - freshness of imagery2. Grammar (Please note that typing errors can be mistaken for spelling or grammatical errors-check your work!)3. Spelling4. Comprehensiveness - use of the topic, the wholeness and finished feel of the poem, including image development.5. Adherence to the Rules
*The author’s name, address, and telephone number, and the name of his or her English teacher should be on a separate page submitted with the poem.*The author agrees to have his or her poetry displayed in the Grand Valley Public Library, Star Beacon newspaper, and/or Valley News newspaper and respective websites.*CD entries must be submitted to the Grand Valley Public Library (1 North School Street) by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 11, 2008. Email entries may be submitted by e-mail as MS Word or Works documents or included in a plain text format to cherylfain@alltel.net or fainpoetrycontest@gmail.com *Winners will be contacted by telephone or letter by Tuesday, April 22, 2008 no later than 10:00 p.m.

1st $50
2nd $25
3rd $10

My Favorite Book Titles

portrait of Jonathan Swift

My Favorite Book Titles

I haven't read all of these, but I think they have great wording. Actually I have only read one of them- the Jonathan Swift essay.

Flapdoodle Trust and Obey by Virginia Cary Hudson
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orlean
Carriages and Clocks, Corsets and Locks: The Rise and Fall of an Industrial City - New Haven, Connecticut by Preston Maynard and Marjorie Noyes
Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland, from Being a Burden on their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the P ublick by Dr. Jonathan Swift

My Least Favorite Book Titles

Ghost by Danielle Steel
Ghost by John Ringo
Ghost by Brian Studler
Ghost by Alan Lightman
Ghost by Robert Harris
Ghost by Marc Olden
...and don't forget the movie - Ghost, which is about as bad as naming a movie Cars.

I think there are about 50 books in one library catalog alone with the title Cars.

You can write an entire book, but can't think of an original title? You know how hard it makes it for library patrons to get on hold for the right book? Is that fiction or nonfiction? Who is the author? What year was it written? Is it a children's book or an adult book?

At least try a book title like Cars! Cars! Cars! with an exclamation point or with more words like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

Oh, Danielle! You also have a book named House and so does Frank Peretti and many others.

...to say nothing of The Gift. AAAggghhh!

My Adventure Books

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (nonfiction)
Call of the Wild by Jack London. Did you know he also wrote some science fiction short stories?
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (nonfiction)
many books by Will Hobbs
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

12 December 2007

My Favorite Horror Books

I don't read horror.
Once I tried to read Cujo by Stephan King, but now am so scared that I can't pick up any of these books. My Virtual Library does not contain horror books except for
1. Dracula by Bram Stoker and
2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

I love the scene where the rat terrier saves the day in "Dracula" and Frankenstein's monster is so poignantly adrift at the end of Frankenstein.

Books that are sort of creepy(but not really) have a place in my virtual library. Authors such as:
Phyllis Whitney
Sharyn McCrumb

Okay. I admit it. I do like V. C. Andrews, but I feel guilty admitting that I read her trashy books.

My Favorite Science Fiction Books

numerous alternative history books, sci fi, and fantasy by Harry Turtledove (and his pseudonyms such as Dan Chernenko).

My Favorite Fantasy Books

My all time favorite books tend to be Quests. The kind where a group works together to accomplish a goal or vanquish evil. The best example of this is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I would have to say that the Wheel of Time series comes in second.

Wonderful Wizard of Oz series by Lyman Frank Baum
Eye of the Dragon (Wheel of Time series) by Robert Jordan
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Golden Compass (His Dark Materials series) by Phillip Pullman
High House by James Stoddard (the sequel is not so great)
Half Magic by Edward Eager
Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Singing Sword by Jack Whyte
Wicked by Gregory Maguire