A Glimpse of Nineteenth Century Life Through the Eyes of a Cocker Spaniel: Flush by Virginia Woolf

While I find beauty and wonder in all creatures both great and small, I must admit to a particular fondness for the canine. In fact, I will often introduce my own dog, a wire fox terrier named Thatcher, as my first child. There seems to be a particular connection, an unspoken bond, between the human and the dog seldom found with other animals.

Additionally and in regards to literature, I count Virginia Woolf as one of my favorite writers. Ms. Woolf, in my mind, penned some of the loveliest and most sophisticated novels to be found in the literary firmament. With her use of various experimental styles, most prominently stream of consciousness, she creates such wondrous scenes with her prose that one feels as if one has actually entered a painting in the impressionist style, where characters and setting do not possess definite lines or boundaries and both are viewed through an enchanting haze of color and light.

flush

How are these two interests connected, you may ask. The answer: Ms. Woolf published a short book entitled Flush: A Biography in 1933 concerning a cocker spaniel of the same name and his experiences, as told from his perspective, with his mistress in nineteenth century London and Italy. Certain historical items are learned, which would, I imagine, otherwise escape the reader. For instance, dognapping for the criminal purpose of demanding a ransom was common at the time, with owners sometimes paying large sums; in fact, in this story Flush finds himself the victim of such an abduction, and his narration of this is quite moving and harrowing.

In addition to the unconventional stylistic approach of relating a story through the internal musings and observations of a dog, Ms. Woolf further employed this book as a means of providing the reader with a fictionalized look in to the life of one of the most popular and respected poets of the Victorian era, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who did indeed own a cocker spaniel to whom she dedicated some lovely poetic lines. Imagine your biography written by a close household pet; what an interesting story that would be.

Flush is a highly readable and entertaining tale that I would recommend to anyone, really, but most especially to the fellow lover of the dog and of the incomparable Virginia Woolf.

In closing, I will cite one stanza from Ms. Browning’s poem To Flush, My Dog:

Loving friend, the gift of one
Who her own true faith hath run
Through thy lower nature,
Be my benediction said
With my hand upon thy head,
Gentle fellow-creature !

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Resources for Local Writers and Authors at LFPL

indielou

Local authors — independent, self-published, aspiring, and mainstream — now have access to a valuable suite of services thanks to the Louisville Free Public Library’s IndieLou Author Series. IndieLou features programs for aspiring authors on how to write and publish, opportunities for indie authors to schedule appearances at the Library, and a way for self-published authors to upload and share their work in the Library’s eBook collection.

The Main and Southwest Regional libraries will be hosting IndieLou author visits twice per month – giving authors the opportunity to reserve a meeting space and promote their book at the Library. Information on scheduling an IndieLou Author Talk, including available dates and times, can be found at LFPL.org/IndieLou.

Scheduling is made possible through ePublishorBust.com.

Self-published and independent authors can also share their eBooks with local libraries through LFPL’s new SELF-e service (hosted by Biblioboard). eBooks uploaded to SELF-e will be added to the Louisville Free Public Library collection and made available to other Kentucky public libraries via the Indie Kentucky feature on Biblioboard.

Participation is free.

Finally, the Library is offering an array of resources to help local writers.  Whether through programs like the Women Writers series at the Iroquois Library in March, the Writers Conference at Southwest Regional Library, and the How to Write a Book in Six Weeks short course at Main (both in May); through self-guided learning using LFPL’s Lynda.com service; or at special library classes on how to use Biblioboard and SELF-e; LFPL is working hard to support writers in our community.

For more information on IndieLou’s suite of services, including upcoming author events, visit LFPL.org/IndieLou.

 

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

kitchenhouse

Seven year old Lavinia doesn’t remember her past or even her name as she is taken in by the Captain and Master of Tall Oaks plantation, on whose boat she was found.  Her parents died unable to survive the voyage from Ireland to America where they were to serve the Captain as indentured servants.  The Captain, having sold off Lavinia’s brother, takes her to serve in his kitchens.

At first Lavinia is unable to eat or speak but soon, comforted and loved by the slaves in the big house she opens up and regains health.  Dory, Belle, Papa, Mama Mae all nurture and become Lavinia’s surrogate family, not letting color stand in the way of love.

Over time, Lavinia learns all of the secrets to the plantation.  She discovers that the head mistress fights a terrible addiction to opium and that Belle, the light-skinned kitchen slave, is the Captain’s daughter.  Lavinia also learns of the tense relationship between Rankin the overseer, Mr. Waters the tutor, and the Captain who is frequently absent.

She and the slaves are apprehensive every time the Captain is gone – which is frequently.  They fear abuse at the hands of the tutor and overseer.  Soon after several beatings and abuses are doled out to the slaves (as well as the Captain’s own son), life on the plantation is thrown into chaos.  The tense line between races is broken, leaving Lavinia unsure where she fits in as a white servant who thinks of her fellow kitchen slaves as family.

This book is an interesting look at gender, family, and slavery in 1790s and early 1800s.  The Captain is described as sympathetic to his slaves’ conditions but leaves much or their care ultimately to two men who are as pro-slavery as they come.  The Captain claimed to have loved Belle yet keeps her working in his kitchens and bought her mother at an auction.

While the issues of slavery and servitude might not be fully developed, treatment of women is very clear within the book.  Female characters are powerless in the man’s world – being left for long periods of time, raped, imprisoned, and bonded.  Even the Captain’s own daughter must beg her father for her papers to be free.

Lines and characters are not clear, perhaps to represent the true nature of the time period where people might have known it was wrong but did very little to change or stop it from continuing.  So also is the interesting shadow with which indentured servitude was cast.  Lavinia is white yet lives in the kitchens with the other slaves.  The Captain dismisses that living and being raised with slaves would hurt any chance Lavinia had at a future, despite other characters asserting she’d never be able to find a husband or a future being raised this way.

The narrator of the audiobook has a lovely Irish accent and overall the book raises many interesting and important questions.  It feels like the author, Kathleen Grissom, teeters back and forth on where her characters stand on the issue of slavery but perhaps that is only to make her readers aware of the failure of society during this time to fully answer such questions themselves.  The plot is a bit convoluted but The Kitchen House is overall worth a listen or read.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Lindsay, St. Matthews Branch

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

thisiswhereitendsThis fictional tale could have been taken from today’s headline news.

It is the story of a teen that has lost contact with reality and blames others for his feelings of abandonment and loneliness.  He enters his former high school armed with the means to lock down the school on his terms, with a deadly weapon to “show the world” and “to be remembered.”  The reader is initially placed outside when the gun shots are heard for the first time, locked out of the auditorium.   As the story progress, the author places you right there inside the auditorium facing death.

The story unfolds in four voices:

  • Claire is a senior on the track team who was excused from the school assembly this morning along with several other team mates for early morning practice. 
  • Tomas, on detention with his friend Fareed, for gluing the desk drawers of a teacher, also excused from the assembly. 
  • Sylv is a senior with her choice of college. 
  • Autumn is a junior and a gifted dancer with a dream.

The last two aren’t so lucky.  They are seated in the auditorium with a thousand other teens listening to the Principal’s speech.  That is until a young man steps up on stage to ask a question.  A young man with a gun named Tyler. 

Tyler is Autumn’s brother.  He is the son of an abusive alcoholic and their mother died two years ago in car accident.  Tyler’s girlfriend broke away from him when she saw the mean, abusive side he had hidden for so long.  In his eyes, he has lost everything and everyone he ever loved.  Tyler believes that it’s his turn to make people sit up, take notice of him, and pay for the pain they have caused him.

You are there, watching while innocent teens are murdered or maimed.  You are running for help but feel helpless to do anything about what is going on inside the school.  You are the heroes that, in spite of their bad boy images, risk their lives to free those students under fire.

Through flashbacks and memories you will learn about Claire, Tyler’s ex-girlfriend and her disabled brother Matt, who is in the auditorium.  Fareed, Tomas’ cohort in crime, is an A student who happens to be Muslim.  Tomas and Sylv are twins who were so close until a year ago and whose mother is mentally drifting away.  Autumn  dreams of going to Julliard when she graduates.  She is also Sylv’s girlfriend.  

The story draws you in and places you in seat at the center of the terror.  It locks you outside, scared for those inside the assembly hall, feeling helpless and places you in a heroes shoes.  This isn’t just a headline story anymore.  The fictional story has all the grit of a true tale.

This Is Where It Ends is a drama filled novel, full of emotion that may have you taking a second look at some of the people around you and realizing that there is more to them than what you can see on the outside.  And while Marieke Nijkamp has given us a diverse group of characters (various ethnic origins, different religions, and gay teens), each has their own perspective of what’s happening and what they are capable of doing.  Some are too terrified to move, some try to escape where there is no escape, some are targeted for death, and a few are foolishly brave, heroes.

By the end of the story, I really cared about this group that I had only met for a few hours before, and wondered where the the survivors would be a year from now.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Spotlight: A Great Way to Find the Books You Are Looking For!

NoveList_ProductButton_200

NoveList is a great tool for those who are either searching for a particular title (especially if one is unsure exactly what the title may be) or are just looking for recommendations.

This database is designed for use by readers of all tastes.  It opens with a clean, uncluttered splash page and has easy to use navigation buttons or tabs.  There is also a search engine if one would prefer to use text as the method of search.

Here’s what Novelist will look like when you click on the link (which can be found on the right side menu here on the Reader’s Corner or under LFPL‘s Research Tools page):

NoveList Display

How does it work?

The easiest way is to use the Basic Search box at the top of each page.  There you will be able to search for a title, author, series, or topic. When you use the default Keyword options from the drop-down menu, NoveList will search for your terms in the full text of all NoveList content, including annotations, reviews, and NoveList articles and lists

You can conduct a more focused search by selecting the Title, Author, or Series options from the drop-down menu.

Searching for books by an author:

Because the Basic Search box searches the full text of reviews and articles, NoveList will search for all instances of the author’s name when you enter it in the Basic Search with the default Keyword option selected. From the Author tab of your Result List, you can click on an Author link to access the Author Detail page.  From the Author tab, you will also be able to access the Detail pages for any pseudonyms that the author uses.

If you enter an author name in the search box and select Author from the search options drop-down menu, NoveList will ONLY search the Author Detail pages. An exact match will take you directly to that Detail page.

At the Author Detail page, you will find all books by the author, all series by the author (when applicable), all NoveList content about that author, and author to author recommendations when available.

Searching for books with certain plot characteristics:

In NoveList, you can search for books with certain plot characteristics using the Keyword option from the drop-down menu at the Basic Search box.

Search for a series:

You can search for a series from the Basic Search box by entering a series name and selecting the Series option from the search options drop-down menu. An exact match will take you to the Series Detail page, which includes a list of all of the titles in reading order. If multiple series match your search, they will be listed under the Series tab of your Result List, where you can click on the link to the Series Detail page.

Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to help narrow your search:

  • AND tells the database that ALL keywords used must be found in an article in order for it to appear in your results list.
  • OR broadens a search by telling the database that ANY keywords it connects are acceptable.
  • NOT narrows your search by telling the database to eliminate all terms that follow it from your search results.

Once you find a suitable title, it will have a wealth of information about the book (Description, Keywords, Appeal Terms, Tone, Writing Style, and Book Reviews).  It will also link you to the database’s info on the Author and give detailed information about the book itself (e.g. Publisher, ISBN, or Dewey Number).  The Book Reviews are especially helpful as they are not overlong or academic but are descriptive of the general storyline and its quality.  Reviews are supplied by reputable sources such as Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly

The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History

artofhorror-atc-300x337When this book first arrived at the library, I knew that it was going to be one that I added to my personal collection just by looking at the cover. The book is heavily bound and literally a monster of a book at over 250 glossy color pages.

First let’s focus on the artwork presented throughout the book. The art presented within the book spans from early century paintings to modern contemporary art created digitally. He doesn’t fail to leave out the famous horror movie posters either. Mr. Jones organizes each section of the book beautifully by horror genre. All images are reproduced beautifully with no distortion or fuzziness. Even the historical images in this book are stunningly beautiful sitting beside their modern counterparts on the same page.

The editor didn’t aim to make just a book full of beautiful pictures when he put together The Art of Horror either. The book starts out with a foreword from legendary writer Neil Gaiman, and then continues on with ten different sections written by leading authorities of each subject. For example, S.T. Joshi writes a stunning essay on H.P. Lovecraft highlighted by gorgeous images throughout. Many of the essays deal with the origination of the genre, for example zombies, and then moves throughout history to modern times.

If you are a fan of the horror genre or just a fan of art in general, I certainly would recommend this to you. This book has become a common piece on my coffee table, and not just around Halloween time.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

 

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

“A bighearted gothic novel, an intergenerational mystery, a story of heartbreak, and romance, all crammed into one grand Midwestern estate.”Los Angeles Times

100yrhouse

 

The Hundred-Year House is a great sweeping saga about the Devohr family, and the seat of all their dysfunction, Laurelfield. Once a burgeoning artists’ colony in the 1920’s, frequented by luminaries of the time, the backdrop for inspiration, romance, violence and mystery; now sits decaying and forgotten.

Rebecca Makkai hints at the family’s haunting past with the first sentences:

“For a ghost story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming. She had lived, she was unhappy, and she died by her own hand somewhere in that vast house.”

Mayhem and mystery unravel over three generations of Devohr women as the house and its provenance looms over their lives and ultimately their happiness. Zee is Violet’s great-granddaughter, a Marxist scholar who is embarrassed by her family, and Grace, Zee’s mother and Violet’s daughter, and the current owner of Laurelfield. Both women grapple with trying to define their place, and their identity apart from the grim history of the family estate.

Makkai chronicles the life cycle of the house into four pivotal years: 1999, 1955, 1929 and 1900. With each year we are given a peek into the lives of one of the Devohr women. In 1999, Zee and her husband Doug move into the carriage house on the property while he works on book about Edwin Parfitt, a poet who may or may not have stayed at Laurelfield while it was an artists colony. In 1955, Grace is a newly married woman to a man her family despises, but she loves him despite this. Grace has taken refuge from her family’s disapproval and her husband’s temper in the attic of Laurelfield, the place where her grandmother took her life. While living there, the house and the grounds become a sanctuary for her but in reality it is a crumbling vestige of its former self. In 1929, shortly after the stock market crashes, Laurelfield is struggling to remain relevant as an arts colony. The staff and resident artists, including Edwin Parfitt, are desperate to convince Gamby Devohr (Violet’s son) that the estate is still profitable. And finally in 1900, when Augustus Devohr buys the land on which he will build his family estate or as his wife saw “it as a prison in the wilderness”, the story’s turbulent beginning is revealed.

In a mere 338 pages, The Hundred Year House, is at its’ core a story about a family whose history is colorful, ugly and full of secrets. It is an engaging novel that warrants a second read.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Type, Large Type)

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

cuckooscallingThe Cuckoo’s Calling was written by Robert Galbraith, the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. When I picked this mystery up I didn’t know what to expect. As a teen I loved the Harry Potter series. I attempted to read The Casual Vacancy, the adult fiction novel that she wrote under her own name, and didn’t really care for it. So I went into The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first book in the Cormoran Strike series, with caution even though I do love a good mystery. I was presently surprised with this book in a good way.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a mystery set in contemporary London. Cormoran Strike is a wounded former SIB with the Royal Army, what would be the military police in the United States. The novel opens with his detective agency in trouble. Strike is in debt to people he really shouldn’t have borrowed money from in the first place; the same people are demanding that he repay the loan immediately or else. To top it off he’s living in his office and he cannot keep a secretary.

A case that could either make Strike’s career or finish it lands in his lap. The brother of one of his former school friends wants him to find out what really happened to the victim of an apparent suicide. The police have written the case off as a suicide but Strike’s client is convinced that the victim was murdered. He soon discovers there’s more to his new secretary than meets the eye. She’s actually quite capable of helping with his cases.

The Cuckoo’s Calling starts out a little slow but that’s to be expected with a first book in a series. It has to set up the storyline and character development. It starts to pick up from the middle of the book onward. The mystery ends with a twist that the reader might not see coming. The Cuckoo’s Calling puts a modern twist on the classic detective novel. Cormoran Strike is the new broody detective quite possibly Sherlock Holmes for a new generation.

The library also carries the next two books in the series, The Silkworm and Career of Evil.

Formats Available: Regular Type, Large Type, Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Beat Cabin Fever

Now that the weather’s actually acting like winter after a gray and soggy December, Cabin Fever is starting to set in, but spring won’t be here for a few months. Here’s four things you can do to beat cabin fever, and get yourself through to the spring thaw.

Get Organized

Don’t wait for spring cleaning to get organized, channel all that squirrelly energy you have right now into getting your living space in shape. Ditch the stuff you don’t need. Tidy up the things you do need. Do just a little bit a day, and feel productive and smug. Smugly productive.

Seriously, though. This book is better than any 10 books on "cleaning" out there. I mean, for real, get ORGANIZED.

Seriously, though. This book is better than any 10 books on “cleaning” out there. I mean, for real, get ORGANIZED.

Make checklists, and post them where you have to deal with them – physically touch them – every day. I post mine on a whiteboard with my daily schedule on it above my wall calendar, and put active checklists on top of my laptop. There are apps for this sort of thing, too, with reminders, and checklists, but those are easily disabled, or ignored. I’m talking about changing your behavior. A physical checklist forces you to deal with it.

Think about processes: “what do I do with and in my space?” Analyse behaviors: “why do these behaviors happen, and how can they be improved?” When dealing with an item while cleaning, don’t think “what should I do with this?” think “Triage.” If it’s DOA, ditch it.

Learn a New Skill

Your library is stuffed with books that can teach new skills, from the ground up.

You like snuggly scarves and warm mittens, and fuzzy sweaters. Everybody does.

crochet

Learn to crochet and make some.

afghans

Make an entire afghan.

amigurumi

Make stuffed animals.

Make cozies for things. Make cozies for everything. If you don’t have a couch-side holster for your remote controls, you should make one. Your exercise bike doesn’t have a drink rest? Make one. That’s what you can do with a new skill: use it in creative ways to improve your life. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to pay people to maintain your computer for you? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could alter the couch to match the walls? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to get someone in to patch that hole in the drywall?

Fix Things

You won’t want to find out why the bathtub drains slowly when it’s April and sunny. Get in there right now with a pipe snake and fix it. If you don’t know how, then learn how:

dare to repair

You’ll feel better.

I dragged a wad of hair out of the bathtub drainpipe once that was the size and weight of a sodden guinea pig. I should have sold it to a circus. Fixing it felt GREAT. (And probably saved a truckload of money, which felt even better.) Fix everything you can indoors while the weather’s bad, and there will be less to deal with later. The more organized you are, and the more skills you have, the more time and effort and money you can save. Get organized now, and fix small problems before they become big ones. It’s easier that way.

(I’m not lazy: I prefer “efficient.”)

Make Plans

Plans give you something to look forward to, to work toward. They’re the best kind of leverage out of the depths of the mid-winter dumps.

Plan a garden.

Plan a garden.

Plan a road trip.

Plan a road trip.

Make any kind of long-term, complex plan you want. It’s even better, if you make it with friends. They’ll keep you to it. You know what goes great with complex, long-term plans? Organization and checklists.

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

 

The Elaborate Life of Stan Lee

stanleeA memoir in graphic novel form?  Say it isn’t so!

Stan Lee, creator of a vast universe of superheroes (The Avengers, Fantastic Four, The Punisher, and Spider-Man to name just a few), recently released a memoir of his journey to becoming an icon in the world of comic books, entitled Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir.  Early in his adolescent years, Lee could always be found with a book close within reach, reading anything he could wrap his hands around.  Lee was greatly influenced by classic characters found in pulp literature (such as Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan), as well as Shakespeare’s works of drama and poetry.  These literary influences were combined with images of what a human could become to produce his intriguing, well-rounded characters for Marvel Comics.

While much of the book is devoted to his character development of the superheroes and villains, there is also a more serious side that details Lee’s time in the military.  One of his first duties was as a graphic artist for a campaign on sexual abstinence.  He also developed materials focusing on how American troops should act in other countries.

Readers also learn about how Lee came to do hysterical cameos in recent Marvel movies.  One such example from the recent Avengers: The Age of Ultron shows him sitting around a table with the characters discussing stories over a few beverages.  Lee is as proud of his appearances as all the work he has done over the years.

Lee presents his memoir to readers as if one were to meet him at a Fandom Fest or Comic Con.  Read Amazing Fantastic Incredible and meet the man behind the worlds of some of your comic and film characters.  Hard work, dedication to his craft, and a roller coaster ride of events in his life have formed Stan the Man, a man who has brought joy to millions around the world.

Lee also dedicates portions of his memoir to staff editors, writers, and artists who have contributed to his career.

For the reader who may traditionally prefer reading graphic novels, this selection will possibly open other opportunities to read similar autobiographical texts.  A brief list of works available through the library can be found below.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch