Category Archives: Reviews

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

 “I am dead to the world’s tumult

And I rest in a quiet realm

I live alone in my heaven

In my love and in my song.”


-From What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

Who are you when everything is stripped away? Who do you become when your possessions, family, and dignity have disappeared and you are left bare? The future can seem impossible when you start with nothing.  

In What the Night Sings, Gerta has endured two long years in a German concentration camp. Surviving with her is the hint of a song and her dream to sing. In front of her is her heritage, a people she doesn’t know and overwhelming decisions about who she is to become. Gerta didn’t even know she was Jewish and now that empty part of her past makes moving forward even more difficult.

Gerta befriends Lev, a traditional Jewish man who represents Gerta’s personal struggle to shed the traditions of a people and follow her dreams, to be free of others’ rules and sanctions for her. Can her personal dreams survive a Holocaust and thousand year old customs? Will it become another prison? Music has sustained through all the horrors. Will it be part of her future?

Stamper embeds ink wash illustrations within the text. In the Author’s Note she describes how she took some direction from “slow cinema” to tell her story, using elements from directors like Tarkovsky and Tarr to create haunting pieces of art. These gorgeous additions add to the already powerful story. Her use of language and the role of music in Gerta’s life makes this story stand out in a sea of Holocaust books.

Review by Catherine, Main Library

Celeste Ng, Susan Crawford & Dorothea Benton Frank headline spring Author Series

From hi-tech broadband to the family dramas of Shaker Heights and the Carolina Lowcountry, the Louisville Free Public Library’s spring author series is an eclectic mix of hot topics and book club favorites from bestselling authors and policy experts. LFPL’s author programs are FREE and open to the public, but tickets are required. To register, go to LFPL.org or call (502) 574-1644.

The Craig Buthod Author Series presents WIRED columnist and Harvard law professor Susan Crawford

Main Library, Tuesday, May 7, 7:00 p.m.

Susan Crawford is the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor at Harvard Law School and an expert in tech, public policy, and how these affect our lives. She is a contributor to WIRED and the author of three books on technology, including her latest: Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It. The book seamlessly combines policy expertise and on-the-ground reporting to reveal how giant cable and internet corporations use their tremendous lobbying power to tilt the playing field against competition, and hold back the infrastructure improvements necessary for the U.S. to move forward.

Professor Crawford served as Special Assistant to President Obama for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (2009) and co-led the FCC transition team between the Bush and Obama administrations. She also served as a member of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Advisory Council on Technology and Innovation and is now a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Broadband Task Force. Join her at the Main Library (301 York Street) on Tuesday, May 7, at 7 p.m.for a discussion of Fiber: The Coming Tech Revolution—and Why America Might Miss It, followed by a book signing.

Carmichael’s Bookstore presents Celeste Ng, bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

Main Library, Wednesday, May 22, 7:00 p.m.

Celeste Ng is the New York Times bestselling author of two novels, Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. Just released in paperback, Little Fires Everywhere was Amazon’s #2 best book and best fiction book of 2017, and was named a best book of the year by over 25 publications. This complex suburban saga was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick and is currently being adapted for an eight-episode series on Hulu, starring Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

Join Celeste Ng at the Main Library (301 York Street), in conversation with Anne Bogel—author and creator of the popular Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and “What Should I Read Next” podcast—for a discussion of Ms. Ng’s work, followed by Q&A, and a book signing.

The Craig Buthod Author Series presents New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank

Main Library, Monday, June 10, 7:00 p.m.

Fans of New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank’s Carolina Lowcountry will delight in her twentieth novel, Queen Bee. An evocative tale that returns readers to her beloved Sullivan’s Island, Queen Bee tells an unforgettable story where the Lowcountry magic of the natural world collides with the beat of the human heart. Join Dorothea Benton Frank at the Main Library (301 York Street) on Monday, June 10, at 7 p.m. for a discussion of her latest novel, followed by a book signing.

LFPL Supports Teachers and Educators in the Louisville Metro area

Chalkboard

The Louisville Free Public Library is dedicated to supporting teachers and educators in the Louisville Metro area. Please take a look at all the services we provide to teachers.

  • Featured Database:
    • LearningExpress Library – LearningExpress Library is a comprehensive, interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial course series designed to help patrons—students and adult learners—succeed on the academic or licensing tests they must pass. You’ll get immediate scoring, complete answer explanations, and an individualized analysis of your results. Some of the practice tests included are: ACT and SAT prep, GED, ASVAB, GRE, MCAT and more!

Note: Most tutorials require Adobe Acrobat reader

The Bottle Imp and the Limits of Logic

Logic! It’s fantastically useful stuff. Use it all the time for sorting out your options, thinking up plans, and generally making your life easier. There’s some very real limits to it, though, and whether an idea checks out logically doesn’t always have anything to do with its relevance to the real world. Here’s the test: can this idea be used to predict what will happen?

vintage photo of a dog in a top hat and white tie suit
Very dapper, but will this dog hunt? (Also proof that dogs have been putting up with the human impulse to dress them in clothes for a very long time.)

There’s a Robert Louis Stevenson story called The Bottle Imp. Go read it in this collection, here, if you like. No plot spoilers, but I will be discussing the premise of the story, so if you want to read it before we get to that, do. The main idea of the story is this: there’s a bottle that contains an evil imp. It can grant any wish except to prolong the bottle owner’s life, and if you die with the bottle in your possession, you go straight to Hell. The only way you can get rid of the bottle is to sell it to someone for less than you paid for it. Here’s where it gets interesting.

A display of ancient glass bottles of various murky clear shades
Some 17th Century glass bottles in a museum. Probably not full of evil, though.

Truth and Consequences

Let’s play a game, and think about the Bottle Imp problem logically. Eventually, there’s an ultimate loser: someone stuck with the bottle who bought it for a single penny, and they can’t sell it. So, following that, the next person up, who sold it to them, bought it for two cents, and must have known that they wouldn’t be able to sell it to someone for one cent. There must have been someone above them who got it for three, but should have known that they couldn’t sell it for two, because the person who got it for two would have to convince someone to take it for one, which nobody would ever do. Theoretically, nobody should ever take the bottle for any price, because the problem of not being able to sell it for a cent should cascade up the chain of prospective bottle owners. This is, of course, assuming that everyone involved is thinking logically (and whenever you hear that phrase, you should also assume that this perfectly spherical, frictionless dog hunts perfectly spherical, frictionless partridges in a vacuum).

The trouble here is that real people just aren’t rational actors, any more than real hunting dogs are spherical and frictionless. Realistically, everybody in the chain, down to perilously close to the bottom, is probably going to think “eh, I’ve got plenty of time, and I’m sure I can find some sucker to sell the bottle to” – and, in the main, they’d probably be right. The existence of the whole idea of gambling in general testifies to the idea that people – real people – generally do a terrible job of thinking logically and rationally. If the odds could really be in your favor in the long term, casinos wouldn’t exist.

a shack by a creek, with a man and a dog sitting outside
Las Vegas in 1895, before the gambling industry really took off.
a view of the Vegas strip in 2011. Reasonably recent.
A view of the Las Vegas strip. Practically a monument to the irrationality of humans. Keep feeding those one armed bandits, guys…

Sometimes, especially when dealing with real human behavior in the real world, logic does a truly wretched job of predicting real-world outcomes and decisions. There’s a distinction between logic, and actual utility. Most of the time, logic is very useful, but sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with questions of real human behavior, not so much.

— Article by Katherine.

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 Listen up for recommendations on the best in new audiobooks. Each month, you’ll hear about new spoken-word audios to keep you entertained, enlightened and in-the-know.
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Book Sizzle 
 A weekly roundup of reading recommendations including bestsellers, new arrivals, collection highlights and books discussed on television and radio this week. Look for this newsletter in your inbox every Friday afternoon, just in time for the weekend. Then stop by the library to pick up your selections.
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Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe was the daughter of Perse, one of the Oceanids, and Helios, the Titan sun god. You may know her as a witch.  That is all I knew. Yet she is so much more. Yes, a witch. A sorceress. A nymph. A goddess. A phenomenal woman. 

Madeline Miller’s account of Circe’s life is nothing short of extraordinary.

After finishing this book, I feel Circe in me. I feel her pain, her happiness, her anger, her fire, her strength, her sorcery. Her peace. I feel it all. You will as well.

You will rage with her.  You will feel her sorrow and loneliness as it was your own.  You will feel her vengeance and revel in it.  And Circe’s power? UNMATCHED.  I never thought you could truly feel such power through a book.  No, that is not correct.  I have felt the power OF books and OF stories my entire life.  I have felt the power of characters but I have never finished a book feeling the power of a goddess.

Her role in all of Greek mythology is untold. She influenced and was involved with all of them.  Albeit from afar, in her exile at Aeaea.  Helios, Hermes, Athena, Pasaphae, Perses, Aeetes, Daedalus, Odysseus, Jason, Medea, Ariadne, the Minotaur…Circe played a part in each of their tales and so many more.

Be ready to wrestle with Circe’s growing discovery of the price of immortality.  What it means to love and hate as a goddess. Or more importantly, as a mortal.  What we all feel to err.  To fall short.  To not be able to take back grave mistakes.  To atone for our sins.  To live in this wretched world and keep moving forward.  And this is me being dramatic and cliche, but the blessed agony and ecstasy of it all.  But what else is life?

(As a bonus, I would highly recommend the audio book. I used LFPL’s downloadable audio platform RBDigital to listen and the narrator, Perdita Weeks, is divine in her own right.)

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Books&Brews502 – Short Reviews

Do you know about LFPL’s Adult Winter Reading Program? It is called Books&Brews502 and has been running since the first of December 2018. The program will continue until the end of February 2019.

Participants are able to earn points by reading books and attending programs – either at the Library or at Books&Brews502-specific programs with partners like Heine Brothers’ Coffee and Against the Grain Brewery. The more points you have, the more chances you have to win!

One of our patrons, Bonnie G., enjoyed the program enough to do short reviews of the books she read. She has given us permission to share her reviews. The two below are ones that the library has copies available for checkout.

The Kennedy Curse by Edward Klein

I love reading about the Kennedys. This book takes the Kennedy clan from its very beginnings in Ireland, when Patrick first came to the U.S. It tells us how he did that and how he was treated. He was treated uglier than the immigrants are being treated today, maybe worse. It impressed upon me that this supposedly welcoming country is indeed hateful towards all peoples not from America.

This book begs to ask the question, then who is from here? No one. Only the native Americans are and look how this nation has treated them.

Each chapter in this book is about a specific Kennedy and their back story with almost unbelievable tidbits of information on each person. The book reads very quickly if you like dialogue and information all thrown into one. 

Relentless: A Memoir by Julian Edelman 

This is a book written by the slot receiver for the New England Patriots football team. Unlike most books written by non-writers, this book is very well written. Jules is a pleasant surprise as a dialog and descriptive writer on the events in his life, leading up to him being on the Patriots football team and during.

I have recommended this book to everyone whom I believe would be interested. There are definitely some very funny parts, especially behind the scenes. If you are a Patriots fan, this is the book for you.

Mystery Book Discussion Group

Do you like reading Mysteries? Do enjoy discussing what you’ve read but can’t find anyone to discuss them with? Then come to the Mystery Book Discussion Group at the Main Library where we discuss a different mystery every month.

We meet on the third Tuesday of the month from 2:00 pm  to 3:00 pm in the Boardroom on the second floor of the North Building.

Dates and selections for the first six months of 2019 are:

Revisiting a Childhood Disappointment – The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

          When I was a child, I recall stories and anecdotes, related to me by adults, of the power and wonder of the children’s book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  Subsequently, the book assumed a somewhat mythic aura that intimidated me to a sufficient degree that I delayed its reading.  Then one day, I came across a copy and made the decision to open myself to its power and, thus, move to a higher plane of understanding and awareness.  However, I was sorely disappointed and found the story ridiculous and pointless.

          Move forward in time by many years to the present, and I, now an adult, found myself once again gazing at the cover of The Little Prince with its seemingly prosaic sketch, this copy having been returned to the library in which I work.  It is then that I decided to reread this book from my past and gauge the tale from the viewpoint of an older person with far more life experience, and my reaction could not have been more different.  I no longer viewed the simplicity of the story as ridiculous; rather, this only added to the clarity of its messages.  And the plot that I previously saw devoid of any real action and, therefore, pointless, now conveyed to me a story of sublime profundity.

          When I think of how other authors investigate the same themes of this book – the journey from childhood to adulthood, love and friendship, avarice and pride – my awe of what Mr. Saint-Exupery accomplishes in less than one hundred pages only grows. It is no wonder that The Little Prince has sold more than four million copies and been translated in to over two hundred fifty languages and dialects since its publication in 1943.

          This past Saturday, my book discussion group met and discussed The Little Prince, based on my recommendation, and in my fourteen years with this group, this was one of the best discussions, in my mind at least, we have ever had.  And I found it interesting that several who remember reading it when younger were also unimpressed at their first readings (one even threw the book in the trash after its finish), and upon this second attempt, everyone seemed quite moved.  For this reason, I encourage a revisit or even a first reading of what is now a favorite book.

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Reading, Writing, and Reviewing, pt. 1

Really, how hard is it to knock out a book? It’s just a few hundred pages sitting there on your desk. But, hey, you’re a busy cat and you’ve got things to do!

Words on a page ought not to be daunting but sometimes it’s impossible to escape the guilt.  That story keeps haunting you, a ghost lingering in the back of your mind. If it’s good, it’s a welcome tug that will finally pull you back into graceful orbit over a magical world. And if the tale is terrible, well, then it’s like being back in high school with that burnt out teacher. You know the one, he or she took joy in watching you squirm when they asked a master’s thesis level question you had no chance of answering.

You know what sometimes can be worse? Having to write a review about a book, particularly one that may be underwhelming. This is especially true if you have settled into reading a particular sub-genre that you are a little bored with from jump. I mean, urban fantasy is a good ten years past it’s heyday in my mind. So it’s really on me because I wanted comfort. I selected the book using a loose familiarity with the author and a summary on the back of the paperback which teased a slightly new twist to well-worn genre tropes.

What work is this? Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire. I’m not even really going to describe it beyond the following:

“Verity Price is a tough young woman with a secret life protecting ‘cryptids’ (magical) beings from harm who has to take on the hot young zealot out to get them, only to end up teaming up with him to rescue a dragon from an evil cult. Sexy times and ballroom dancing ensue.”

Barring snappy banter here and there, that’s really it. Plus sequels.

Don’t get me wrong, McGuire is normally a great read (I like her other series, featuring the character October Daye) and moments really do shine in the book. There surely are people who must love the series because she keeps writing sequels.  So far, seven novels have been published and another one is scheduled for release in early 2019.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading it because, hey, maybe it’s just not for me. But what I’d like to focus on for the rest of this article (and other upcoming ones) is what to do when you find yourself in a corner such as I ended up. Where does that next book come from?

Usually you ask someone, right? If it’s someone who knows you and they have the right frame of mind, they can match something to you in no time. At the very least you will find out what they are reading. That gives you something to talk about the next time you see them if nothing else.

Maybe you are reading a magazine that gives reviews. Maybe you are watching TV and they interview an author about their latest work. Or maybe you go into store with books and just browse until something strikes your fancy.

These are the things that most people do but — commonly — there is one thing they do not do or do very rarely. What is that one thing? Ask your local librarian for a suggestion.

If you are unable to make it to a library branch, you can always use our online Ask a Librarian form. Short answers will be sent within 24 hours. Longer answers will be returned as soon as possible.

Or during the months of December 2018, January 2019, and February 2019, you can sign up for suggestions from a librarian as part of our Books & Brews 502. All you need to do is attend one of the scheduled events.

For more info on LFPL’s Adult Winter Reading Program, click here.

Article by Tony,Main Library