Category Archives: Reviews

Born to Run in the U.S.A.

What can anyone say about this album that probably hasn’t been said a million times before?  I mean, it is a transcendent slice of American rock ‘n’ roll that made rock ‘n’ roll fun again without losing any punch as to the stories it told. The album’s tales nearly burst from exuberance and hope. The young and disenfranchised protagonists still believe they will, as the title track puts it, “get out while [they’re] young,” and will enjoy themselves along the way.

Well, how about saying Born to Run is a forgotten classic?  This may strike many as a weird statement considering the long shadow that The Boss has extended over the American rock landscape in his 47 years (as the very first version of the E Street Band – known then as the Bruce Springsteen Band – was formed in 1971). Yet this characterization really is apropos because while familiar with individual tracks in some form, usually a live version, many haven’t listened to the original album at all or in the manner it was meant to be listened to at the time of its release.

In 1975, the full length album was meant to be a total experience, over and above any tunes that might get cut from it to play as singles. Often the album versions of songs varied in length or composition because the album was for the musician and lovers of music while the single was for the radio and the casual listener.  Further, there was no easy way to change the artist’s presentation of his or her music.

Tape recorders – which would have made it possible to reorder the album – were only just making headway in the market but had not yet become dominant as they would only a few years later when punk broke in the U.S.  Only DJ’s had the equipment to mix songs but these (just emerging) hip-hop techniques were still found only in the ghettos of New York City, cultivated by an audience that completely eschewed the kind of music Springsteen played. Singles – with their radio-friendly edits and B-sides – were about the only way to listen to an album in a different way other than to go to a concert.

What is so striking about Born to Run is that it feels like you are listening to a live band. No, not the kind of cheesy live albums with canned crowd noise that would make Kiss famous. Born to Run definitely has some studio polish with music business veterans Mike Appel and Jon Landau behind the boards but they so well capture the energy of the road-tested E Street band that this album seems as if it’s being played right in front of you, and by a much faster, louder band. After all, the album mostly sticks to mid-tempo songs!

So, no one in the 33 1/3 series – which I highly recommend for music fans with  time constraints – has written on Born to Run (yet). But Geoffrey Himes, music critic for a number of publications but particularly the Washington Post, did pen a really interesting look at the writing process and production of Springsteen’s 1984 classic, Born in the U.S.ABorn in the U.S.A., much like Born to Run, captures its own time period in a striking way. However, we find similar characters to those on Born to Run, years older and much more jaded, looking for some kind of recognition that their wild dreams of youth have been endangered by the economic shifts that struck American industry and towns in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Review by Tony, Main Library

As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

Did you ever wish upon a star?  Careful what you might wish for…

In the city of Madison, people don’t need a star. They have a special place that gives them one wish on their 18th birthday. Eldon’s birthday wish is coming up in just 25 days but he still isn’t sure what he wants.

Ebba, his little sister, is on life support after an accident. Eldon lost the star spot on the football team. And the girl he loves dumped him for the Calvin, the new star of the team. Now there is nothing left but his wish.

His mother is pressuring him to wish for a way to bring his sister back. His father is consoling but ineffective, locked into a life controlled by his wife’s life-long wish for his love, a love that has made both of them miserable. So what can Eldon wish for that will make the world right again in his eyes? After all, there is always someone who can wish away what his wish has given him?

Those under eighteen dream of their wish, long for the moment they can will get their greatest desire. Many who have made their wish now live with regret or are ruled by their greed for power or money. In high school it has even become part of the curriculum to discuss what to wish for and how to word their wish.

Eldon has the answer, he thinks. Merrill, his best friend, and he join forces with Norrie, a very religious young lady in a town of non-believers, to set out and talk with those who have made their wish. What did they wish for, why and how did it turn out? Along the way Eldon will see a side of himself he never saw, the way others see him, arrogant, self-centered and quarrelsome.

In his search for wisdom, he makes a hash of things. Eldon’s behavior includes fighting, letting others (especially his father) down on the football field, drinking, and even divulging the town’s long-kept secret to outsiders. Intertwined with Eldon’s growing realization of himself and how others view him, are the stories told by those who have already made their wish, why and how it changed their lives.

Before and after they wish, people are driven to protect their secret source. This effectively closes off the town from outsiders and what goes on beyond its limits. Eldon and others, who have yet to wish, are so focused on what will give them their heart’s desire, they forget that life is full of choices and one bad choice/wish shouldn’t control your future.

Merrill and Norrie, with their common sense and vision of a possible future outside Madison, are a good balance for Eldon’s self-centered attitude. So, has Eldon gained any wisdom from his mistakes and from listening to other’s stories? Will he simply make a wish for himself or one that will change Madison forever?

We don’t get the full picture of all the characters in this book but you don’t need it to walk with Eldon, see his mistakes, watch him grow and meet some curious characters along the way. This is a story of how being given something you don’t have to work for rarely makes you happy. It’s also the tale of a town, closed off to the opportunities from the larger world, given the chance to grow up as well.

Match As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti with Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters for an example of what happens when small town secrets are shared with the world. Learning from other’s mistakes in life means listen first and then make your own choices.

Format Available: Book, eBook

Review by Katy, Shawnee Branch

The Tiger: a True Story of Vengeance and Survival

Cats are adorable little serial killers, as The Oatmeal would say. What if the cat in question were about fifty times bigger, and actually did decide to turn its predatory instincts on humans? It does happen, occasionally, that a big cat decides to put soylent green on the menu, and go hunting for long pork.

Cover art of The Tiger

Make a housecat fifty times bigger: the scariest thing you can think of, or the scariest thing possible to think of? Oh, and you’re trapped in the taiga with it. On the other side of Siberia. Good luck with that…

There have been other books about tigers, lions, leopards, and even lots of other non-cats that eat people. We have told stories of predators eating people for as long as stories have been told. Below: mammoth ivory carving of a cave lion, Panthera leo spelea, about 40,000 years old, from Vogelherd Cave. This is literally one of the oldest works known to be from our own species.

mammoth ivory carving of a cave lion's head.

By Rainer Halama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

With head reattached to the recently-recovered body:

whole cave lion figurine

By Museopedia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By the late 19th Century, the stories people told were different: dangerous big cats were obstacles in the way of progress, and tigers were treated as vermin to be exterminated, prizes to be shot and counted.

a stack of dead tigers after a hunt

You get the idea. A large, relatively slow-breeding animal with a low rate of survival to adulthood and huge energy and space needs can’t make it against this kind of pressure.

As human settlement encroached on tiger territory, and old patterns of human and tiger behavior that kept both insulated changed, tigers came into increasing conflict with people. In this context, professional hunter Jim Corbett wrote the landmark book Man-Eaters of Kumaon, detailing why – in his experience – big cats became predators on humans, and that humanity and Earth would lose a part of their heritage and soul if they were to become extinct. Nature’s reserves were not infinite, and could be hunted to exhaustion.

cover of a new edition of man-eaters of kumaon.

A modern reprint of the classic. To give the book it’s due, it cemented the common wisdom that cats that eat people do so because they can’t catch their usual prey, and our world is richer for having tigers in it. Without this book, maybe all of our nature reserves and parks would be without any large predators in them.

The Tiger by John Vailiant adds to this robust body of literature, and, as it is written in the shadow of Corbett, far from being a straightforward “hunter vs man-eater” tale, touches on the instinct, myth, religion, and folklore of feline predators. Although in the main, this doesn’t go beyond a means to build up the beast into an almost supernatural force of vengeance, and ultimately it feels incomplete, as if in fleshing out this killer tiger tale with these details, there is another, more academic treatment that goes down to the bone marrow waiting to be made into its own book. Overall, while it left me hungry for more, this read is more modern, nuanced, and substantial than the earlier hunter-savior-proto-conservationist genre, epitomized by Jim Corbett’s Maneaters of Kumaon.

— Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Riverdale

When I was a kid my parents played oldies all the time around the house (they both grew up in the 60’s) and we listened to the oldies radio station all the time in the car.  My very favorite was “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies.  YES, the cartoon band!

I still love this song and as a children’s librarian I use it in storytime all the time to dance with toddlers and babies.  This song introduced me to  Archie Comics which I loved as a child. Yeah, those comics you bought in the grocery store checkout lane and detailed the never ending drama of Betty and Veronica’s competition for Archie.

My love for all things Archie and Betty and Veronica has never died.  So when the new CW show Riverdale started in 2017 I was ECSTATIC.  If you are looking for a blast from the past and also loved Archie as a kid I highly recommend checking out our Archie graphic novels.

You should also check out the show Riverdale, which is so much fun. Oodles of drama and mystery with all the classic characters that you know and love including Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Cheryl Blossom (my FAV!), Kevin Keller, Midge, Moose and Reggie.  And don’t forget, Josie and the Pussycats!

It’s like my childhood all brought back with a sexy edge and updated storylines.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

I highly recommend The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch is getting a new television reboot as well to coincide with Riverdale as Sabrina’s hometown of Greendale is right down the road from Riverdale.  Now just as a warning this isn’t your 90’s Melissa Joan Hart kind of SabrinaThe Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is dark and bloody and fantastic!  If you like dark and bloody kinds of things, that is…

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will be coming to Netflix in September]

Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Afterlife with Archie by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is a spooky take on Riverdale as Jughead’s beloved Hot Dog becomes a zombie due to a very ill fated attempt to save his life with the help of Sabrina. Soon the entire town is in the fight of their lives against a zombie horde led by their former friend, Jughead.

Betty and Veronica by Adam Hughes

Betty and Veronica by Adam Hughes is my very favorite of all the Archie graphic novels so far.  Betty and Veronica are America’s sweethearts and best friends.  Until they turn on each other in a battle for Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out The Art of Betty and Veronica for a look at the first 70 years of the duo’s story]

Josie and the Pussycats by Marguerite Bennett

In this series opening Josie gets the band together in her hopes of achieving musical fame but are her ambitions more important than the girls’ friendship?

So many new Riverdale and Archie titles have been coming in and I can’t wait to read them all!

Check out all things Riverdale at LFPL!

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Body Music by Julie Maroh

The Library just received this graphic by Julie Maroh a few days ago and it hasn’t circulated yet. But the cover of Body Music was delicate and pretty at first glance…

…so I picked it up just to flip through it. And I ended up reading it all straight through in one setting. It was that good.

The interior art is less delicate, using fluid yet solid black lines for the characters and softer lines for the background. The coloring ranges from grey to sepia, matching the emotional tone of the vignettes. The human figure is not always proportional or technically correct but expressive. The crudity of it in places reminds me a little of the work of (fellow Canadian artist) Jeff Lemire.

This book takes a look at love from many perspectives in its twenty-one set pieces. It’s 2018 and I shouldn’t have to say this but if you are the kind of person who has trouble with depictions of same-sex or non-traditional gendered relationships, then you need to just move along. But if your mind and heart are open, you will find the sweet melody alluded to in the title.

Maroh is also the author and artist of Blue is the Warmest Color, which I will definitely read in the near future.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Review by Tony, Main Library

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

“There’s a living thing, a culture. I guess it’s more American to say ‘starter.” You mix the starter with the flour along with water and salt, and it makes gas, which makes the dough rise. It gives it a certain flavor, too.”  — Beoreg from Sourdough

Start with the essence of friendship, mix in culture, add a pinch of magic, flavor it with a dash of spunk, and you have the beginnings of an adventurous journey that will take the reader from big industry to big dough, the food variety.

Lois Clary is a single young woman, working in the tech industry, still a man’s world, as a software programmer in California.  Life has become repetitive for her, the same task at work, then home, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. There is some small comfort in the form of two brothers who run the local restaurant and catering service.  Sharing good food and pleasant company is her one bright spot in the day.

That is until the brothers must close their restaurant and return home to their home country. But the brothers have one last treat for Lois, one last delivery – a starter bag of culture for their sourdough bread.  Told to, “take care of it feed it, play it music and sing to it and bake with it,” she isn’t quite sure what to do with it.

Indeed, Lois soon finds herself learning to make bread. A bread so delicious, it might even open new opportunities that could alter her future. But is the bread really good enough to sell in the mysterious underground?

Well, it has certainly caught someone’s eye and Lois better be careful or her starter won’t be all she has to lose.

(Think of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club but with farmers and local merchants).

This magical, adventurous journey Sloan has written for readers to follow along and perhaps share similar circumstances with Lois.  Not to mention the potential for love, humor, and the art of questioning.  After reading Sloan’s second novel, I understand how fellow readers follow particular authors, not only subsequent standalone works but also series.  I’d say Sourdough sparked the beginnings of my journeys in the pursuit of upcoming and new releases of authors.

Robin Sloan, who previously wrote Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore released Sourdough in September of last year.

Formats Available:  Audiobook, Book, e-Book

Reviewed by Micah, St. Matthews Branch

 

Bop Apocalypse by Martin Torgoff

 

 “HighI’m telling youhighWhat’s the law against being highWhat’s the use of not being highYou gonna be low?” — JACK KEROUAC, VISIONS OF CODY

This book, published in 2017, grew from the seeds of an earlier, and very good, book that Torgoff wrote titled Can’t Find My Way Home (2004). The title of the second chapter is the title of the current work.  It deals with his and America’s drug use after WWII to the end of the 20th century. But his current book is even better than that.

This is a book that I think everyone should read. From the subtitle one could think that Jazz and The Beats are ancient history, if they even know who the Beats were. Even a concise history of these for subjects could take up a few thousand pages, but Torgoff cooks it up boils it down to less than 350 remarkable pages. I’m a fan of modest chapters and he divides the 347 pages into 30 Chapters.

Each chapter bleeds into the next much like my remembrance of reading Grapes of Wrath. Both are books I didn’t want to put down.  These four subjects are intertwined so gracefully they seem like one couldn’t exist without the other and perhaps the apex of each couldn’t.  With race and drugs so much in the news and fabric of current everyday life, this was a perfect time for this book to appear.  Both the issues and conflicts of race and drugs have been around for centuries but it is the invention of Jazz that really brought both to the forefront in both.  Black musicians found a new freedom in Jazz and marijuana. But people of all colors and social strata were doing drugs, although race and position always played a part in how the legal apparatus handled the drug user.

What is great about this book is that you will meet all kinds of REAL CHARACTERS. Many are famous, but some you may not have heard of before. Members of the Underclass don’t get much notice unless it is a small article for an arrest or they get notoriety later for being a poet, musician, etc. With my background in The Beats and other outsiders, I had heard of most of the people, but even with the ones I knew, I learned many new things.

You get to meet:

And then there are the Jazz Geniuses:

You will find things about them you probably didn’t know unless you read tell all bios. Some of the things that are included in here about Billie Holliday are still messing with my mind. But I came away with a deeper love for her and Lester Young.

And the unknowns too:

  • Ruby Rosano is my favorite chick whose chapter 19 title is Blues for a Junkie Whore. When asked what was heroin like, she replied, “Like being back in your mother’s womb.  Like being in this place where nothing could ever touch you.”

My favorite (unknown, then known) hipster is in here too:

  • Herbert Huncke, the Original Beat who used the word Beat to mean down and out, tired, which he was. Kerouac picked up on that use of the word and added the Christian Beatific to it and coined the phrase BEAT GENERATION. It began as a small group of friends who were writers, and later became a sort of literary movement that had worldwide social significance.

All of the original Beats were drug users and most were Jazz lovers and they are here too.

And then there is the Greatest Enemy of them all:

Anyway, Just READ IT! You will thank me.

Reviewed by Tom, Main Library

 

 

 

 

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry is a retelling of the story of Peter Pan with a unique twist with the premise that J.M. Barrie got it wrong.  This book takes the view that all is not what it seems in Neverland.  Most retellings of the story of Peter Pan don’t stray too far from the original.  This one does, it turns the original story on its head. Lost Boy makes you question everything you thought you knew about Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

It makes you rethink who’s the villain of the story and who’s the hero.

This story isn’t told from Peter’s point of view or even Wendy’s or any of the Darling children’s. No, it’s told from the point of view of Captain Hook, who in this story is known as Jamie. In this tale he’s not the fearsome Captain Hook, he’s just a young boy and Peter’s friend. According to Christina Henry’s version, Jamie is the first lost boy that Peter bought to Neverland the one that started it all.

I enjoyed Lost Boy more than I thought I would.  Going into it I didn’t think that would be the case due in part to the fact that most Peter Pan retellings just repeat the original story but with twist and turns.  This one took the story in a whole new direction, one that I’ve wanted to read for years after seeing Hook as a child.  Even as a child I just knew there was more to the story than what Barrie had revealed.

Every retelling that I’ve read in the last few years has fallen flat.  Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen was from Hook’s point of view but was still missing something vital.  Never Never by Brianna Shrum, while a good and quick read, was still too much like the original story for me.  Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell was a retelling that becomes too much a fantasy for me, but if I had known it was a fantasy going into it I probably would have liked it better.

Lost Boy gave me everything that I was looking for in a retelling of my favorite childhood story from the viewpoint that I wanted. Unlike most kids’ intro to Peter Pan being the Disney movie mine was the actual book by J.M. Barrie. Even as a small child, Peter Pan scared me more than the Pirate Captain James Hook. To me, Hook’s not the villain of the story.  He never was.

Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

History Nuggets – Chicken

Three bite-size non-fiction reviews tied together with a delicious topical dipping sauce!

The theme: chicken. Underappreciated, delicious, and nutritious. But the ubiquity of chicken on our plates and eggs in our frying pan only became possible due to advances in chicken nutrition itself. Meet the Red Junglefowl.

Red Jungle Fowl rooster and two hens.

By Lip Kee Yap [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Red Junglefowl is to the domestic chicken as wolves are to dogs. They live in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Since they’re a tropical bird, they can lay eggs year round, and they some breeds of domestic chicken lay an egg every day. Up until the last several decades, though, chicken was very expensive to eat. If you sheltered your chickens in a shed, and fed them corn, trying to farm them in large groups, then they’d get rickets. It wasn’t until the discovery and addition of Vitamin D to chicken feed that it was possible to farm chickens in large numbers, driving down the cost, and transforming the bird from a Sunday treat to cheap chicken nuggets. Advances in understanding nutrition didn’t just put an end to several deficiency diseases, it changed the availability of the food we eat. If you’re looking for an upshot to how all life on Earth really is (in the literal sense) one big family, this is it. You’re close enough to a chicken that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Roast duck with sauce.

By cyclonebill from Copenhagen, Denmark (Andebryst) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Like this, but vitamins. Also, this is duck.

Want to take a closer look at nutrition and poultry keeping?

Vitamania cover.

Surprisingly gripping reading about the interplay of marketing and the nutrition revolution of the early 20th century.

Before the discovery of vitamins and essential nutrients, people’s relationship with food was mostly based around how filling and energy-packed it was. Even before germ theory really took off and the adoption of first-generation antibiotics, vitamins were the first “miracle cure” for several fearsome and debilitating diseases. Vitamins completely changed our relationship with food, and opened up whole new horizons of marketing for food manufacturers and medicine.

Tastes Like Chicken cover.

Read this to explore in greater depth the rise of chicken as a cheap source of protein.

Tastes Like Chicken details the monumental changes in the way Americans have raised chicken over the course of the 20th Century. From a cost-effective sideline for farmers, to the focus of a massive industry in its own right, chicken has had a strange journey to the factory farms of today. As conventional farming practices for chickens face more criticism, it pays to have a good grounding in how the animals we eat came to be kept the way they are.

Chicken Whisperer's Guide cover.

Which brings us to this book, whether you want to raise your own chickens or just know more about them, this comprehensive treatment is a good starting place.

Keeping chickens at home is making a roaring comeback, as objections to conventional intensive farming rise, and prices for free range chickens and eggs remain high. The lure of endless eggs is a powerful draw. Chickens and vitamins are a reminder that everything is connected, sometimes in weird and unexpected ways.

Reviews by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Possibly one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever read.  I’m going to warn you straight out, it’s weird.  The flow is different from any other book I’ve read.  You’re confused at first by the syntax and tide.  Then all of the sudden a few chapters in….you get it.  It clicks.  From then on it’s a remarkable supernatural and thought-provoking ride.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo describes the death of President Lincoln’s beloved 11 year old son Willie.  When he dies he becomes stuck, so to say, in a sort of purgatory set in the graveyard where he was buried.  Over a single night the book is told by an incredible chorus of ghost voices.  These ghosts understand that Willie cannot linger in this limbo with them.  Children cannot remain where they exist.  So they set out to help him move on to the next destination, with the help of his bereaved father.

An extraordinarily powerful and moving story that left me speechless by the end.

Review by Heather, St. Matthews