Category Archives: Reviews

Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a true story): Nayeri, Daniel: 9781646140008:  Amazon.com: Books

Inspired by Daniel Nayeri‘s real life, Everything Sad is Untrue is the phenomenal story of twelve year old Khosrou or as his American classmates call him, Daniel. Settle in as Nayeri weaves a tale that is all things magical, beautiful and dangerous. Daniel and his mother and sister have fled Iran and ended up in Oklahoma to start a new life. Daniel sets out to tell his story at school to his disbelieving classmates and we have the pleasure of joining them.

In a world where Daniel feels untethered, where details and dates are fuzzy, he makes connections and builds his history with stories of his relatives and ancestors. Gathering inspiration from 1001 Nights and the tradition of Scheherazade (a story about stories), Nayeri shares the rich and vibrant stories of Persian myths and legends. He weaves in his own story with literary mastery in the most moving way.

This is an adventure story filled with kings and drug lords, persecution, and carpets woven with gems. The story makes it’s way from Iran to London, Abu Dhabi, Italy, and the United States. When finished, the reader will sit with stunning imagery of Persian culture. Although this story is written from the perspective of a twelve year old boy, the rich language and cultural references, along with Khosrou’s struggles make this a stunning book for all ages.

An important component of this novel is the art of storytelling and unearthing what makes a good story. It’s about how stories blend together and how people’s stories in particular connect and in turn bind humanity together. It’s a commentary on how the stories of our past and of ourselves live on and mold us into who we are and who we are becoming. This book celebrates not only Persian literature but the writer in all of us. As Nayeri says “Every story, is the sound of a storyteller begging to stay alive.”

For this work of art, Nayeri has been recognized with the following:

– Review by Catherine, Main Library

Katherine’s Bookshelf – Atomic Energy in the Coming Era

Bohr model atom in gold on a dark blue cover.
Nothing warms the cockles of my heart like old timey stylized Bohr atomic model atoms on an old book cover.

I love it. Everything about this book is great. Look at this stylish cover. You know exactly what it’s about: ATOMS, and THE FUTURE. Check out the spine:

The spine of the book with the title Atomic Energy in the Coming Era. Nice.
ATOMIC ENERGY in the Coming Era. Perfect. Just perfect. I can feel the boundless optimism, the promise of cheap, bountiful electricity radiating off it like… well, ionizing radiation.

This next paragraph is going to be bibliophile heresy, so you might want to sit down first.

Most of the time, you CAN judge a book by its cover. This is because publisher’s marketing departments exist for a reason. They exist to sell books, and get those books into the hands of the people who will want to pay for them, as quickly as possible. One of their methods is cover design. It’s actually a very rare cover that does a truly terrible job at conveying what the book is about, commercially, in a target audience sense, rather than a plot sense. Imagine a romance novel cover. Imagine a sci-fi space opera book cover. Imagine a teen dystopian fiction book cover. Imagine a shojo manga cover. You can. You know what these books look like, because they’ve all drifted into similar designs, so that someone expecting a romance novel doesn’t get stuck with a dry, navel-gaze-y sci-fi book instead. You know what you want and you know what it looks like. This book looks like pure, uncontaminated optimism and faith in a future that is only going to get better. Through SCIENCE.

If there’s any scientists reading this post, please keep reading and talk to some historians. This epic tragedy of the late 20th Century and the use of scientific cachet for marketing is a piece of the puzzle of why a good chunk of the American public has lost trust in scientific messaging. Throughout the century, there was a whole endless parade of products and innovations sold to the public with the promise of science. A lot of which turned out to be terrible ideas (ironically often discovered to be so with more science): DDT, plastic everything, throw-away culture, tetraethyl lead in the gasoline, eugenics (don’t get me started on the intensely creepy history of beauty pageants), radium suppositories. Not kidding about that last one. There were a few decades there in the early 20th Century when they were putting radium in everything. Including butts. In case you think this was an isolated thing, here’s a completely different brand of radium suppositories. Both of these courtesy of Oak Ridge Health Physics and Instrumentation Museum Online exhibits. Fun!

Yet, every once in a while, I read a very depressing article from scientists wondering why the public has so much skepticism about important issues. There’s a history here, which is part of the problem that I rarely see explored or even acknowledged by scientific publications. Never underestimate cultural memory or the power of marketing, whether to sell a product to the public, or to distract the public from the damage that same product is causing. Look to the tobacco industry for a history lesson in marketing and using scientific authority – or the appearance of it – as a means to shield an industry against the interests of defending public health. This is why academic disciplines need to talk to each other. Go read The Cigarette Century, and learn.

The title page of the book. 1945!
1945! That’s some blisteringly fast research and writing. Also, it’s a very good looking book inside as well.

Here’s the punchline: this book, written in 1945 – when atomic energy was a mere possibility on the horizon – is eerily, stunningly accurate. This is in fact a very sober and measured accounting of the possibilities and challenges of using nuclear reactors to generate electricity. Weren’t expecting that, were you? I bet that giddy images of mid-century futuristic flying cars and jetpacks and moon colonies were practically dancing through your head up to this point. NOPE. I was so shocked and impressed by how grounded this book was, and how disciplined its journalism, that it’s one of the few vintage books I own that I have read absolutely cover to cover. In this case, science got it right at the dawn of an age, even in conjecture.

— Article by Katherine, Shawnee

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

Do you find yourself looking at your cellphone multiple times a day? Enjoy access to Wi-Fi, GPS, or Bluetooth? Would it surprise you to know that these inventions that we take for granted everyday were made possible by a woman?

This woman didn’t get the recognition that she deserved until the 1990s for something she created during WWII. A woman that the majority of the US wrote off as nothing more than a pretty face. She is the Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr. But Hedy was more than just a pretty face, she also had a deep interest in science and a personal history that made her determined to find a way to to defeat Germany in WWII.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict, who’s also written Carnegie’s Maid, tends to write historical fiction about lesser known women or women who historically were standing in their husband’s shadows. However, in the case of Hedy Lamarr, you cannot exactly say she’s lesser known or standing in her husband’s shadow. In Hedy’s case it’s simply being overlooked as just a pretty face. Hollywood and history saw her as an actress and a pretty face because, gasp, at the time many believed that a woman couldn’t be both beautiful and smart.

The novel focuses on the years 1933 to 1942. It may only be a brief period of time but Hedy had a heck of life in those nine years. It shows what life in prewar Vienna was like for a Jewish woman hiding in plain sight. We see how Hedy went from the darling of the Vienna stage to the wife of an arms dealer to Hollywood’s it girl.

I do have to say the first few chapters aren’t the most exciting to read, but they do have you turning the page wanting to know what happens next. The book picks up the pace once she marries Friedrich Mandl and Hedy comes into her own. Though trapped in a dangerous marriage she used both her beauty and brains to escape. And once Hedy did escape, she knew she had to speak out, had to do more if possible.

“I had stared the leaders of our enemies in the eyes and turned my ear to their voices, and I knew the terror they meant to wreak upon our world.” (The Only Woman in the Room)

Benedict was able to take this amazing woman off the screen and out of Hollywood legend, highlighting her brains instead of her beauty. I love that Benedict shows readers that these aren’t mutually exclusive qualities. The book made me want to find out more about Hedy so I’ve also picked up a few of the biographies the library has in the system, such as Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes, and Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film by Ruth Barton.

– Reviewed by CarissaMain Library


In Vino Duplicitas by Peter Hellman

For whatever reason I’ve spent most of my life thinking of the true crime genre as play-by-play retellings of gruesome murders and unsolved disappearances, and have only dipped into that section when in the mood for something really spooky. Recently however an account of the Isabella Gardner Museum heist came across my desk, and now to my great delight I have a backlog of thirty-something books on great art and jewel heists, solved and unsolved, ancient and modern. Likely for the same reason Robin Hood movies keep getting made, there’s just something addictive about stories of fabulous thefts, especially ones where the wealthy get a comeuppance (and nobody is really hurt once the insurance companies pay out anyway) that captivates the imagination…if told with that sense of adventure in mind. In Vino Duplicitas, a summation of the greatest wine fraud event in this century, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to a criminally twisted tale or imaginative telling.

As a wine journalist and appreciator himself, author Peter Hellman’s talent in explaining a fairly blue-blooded hobby to the everyday reader is evident from page one. He doesn’t just toss names and dates around and expect the reader to understand his context like elite wine collectors: Hellman leverages his experience describing wines and what makes them special to draw the reader in from the preface, before even diving into the story of infamous wine forger Rudy Kurniawan. An immigrant to the United States with an expired student visa and alleged access to a family fortune abroad, Kurniawan began infiltrating the world of wine in the early 2000’s. Armed with easy charm, a naturally talented palate, and enough real rare wines to generously uncork for his friends at every opportunity, he was accepted as a comrade and expert by elite names in predominately older, wealthy, white circles. They saw the passionate young man with a formidable collection of his own who hosted large parties at expensive restaurants (with a notable habit of always having the empty bottles and corks shipped back to his home as “mementos”) as a breath of fresh air, and once accepted by the wine connoisseur boy’s club, Kurniawan exploited their trust in his taste to mix counterfeit rare wines and unload them at auctions in the U.S. and internationally for untold millions of dollars.

Had his reach of his scheme not exceeded its grasp, he might have gone on counterfeiting wines for years longer than he successfully did: his marks found it unthinkable that another hobbyist would be so blasphemous as to violate the integrity of the hobby they loved, but after a point it was also unthinkable that so many bottles of wines thought lost or extinct could suddenly be procured by one person. Once the proprietors of the French wineries Kurniawan specialized in replicating started talking to each other and investigating the source of the “Frankenstein wines,” Kurniawan’s days were numbered and the FBI agents who had been dogging his tracks closed in. The book then recounts how the situation devolved into several millionaire wine collectors suing each other alongside Kurniawan in a legal flurry of betrayal and wounded pride, desperate to make an example out of anyone they could. Even a member of the politically recognizable Koch family was swindled by Kurniawan.

Despite his admissions of the lasting damage Kurniawan dealt the rare wine world and many testimonies from angry hobbyists, Hellman even still seems to hold a note of respect for something about him – perhaps his undeniable palate, perhaps the sheer amount of chaos he sowed, or perhaps like many of us who will read this book, the understanding that sometimes it’s fun to see the underdog triumph over the decadently wealthy, even if that underdog is just a shady little criminal. As the author himself supposes, “…do these folks not bear some responsibility for not doing their due diligence before throwing silly quantities of money at Kurniawan wine? Absent the guile of a consummate con man, they would have held tight to their money and their common sense.” Hellman, who includes his own conversations with Kurniawan during the time he was active among the scores of referenced others who once counted him as friend and confidante, clearly researched his book extensively as a labor of love for years during and after the fallout from Rudy Kurniawan. Using his professional profile as a wine writer the way Kurniawan used his gifted palate, Hellman was able to conduct incredibly candid interviews with almost everyone touched by Kurniawan’s schemes, from legacy winemakers to federal agents to lifelong connoisseurs, everyone who contributed to the book seemingly eager to spill the beans on the fraud that had walked among them.

In Vino Duplicitas is juicy enough as a crime story to stand on its own, but what really made the ride enjoyable for me was Hellman’s passion for the art of wine, a subject I’m generally ignorant of as a fancy hobby for the rich with little impact on me, personally. But Hellman takes us on a leisurely tour through his narrative, pausing at useful intervals to explain the story behind the 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, harvested just after the Germans were driven from France and its label emblazoned with a “V” for “victory”, and to recount the raptures of one of Kurniawan’s mentors after the con man shared with him a 140-year-old Volnay Santenots the man described as, among other things, a “mythical creature”. If a wine is rare or special, Hellman will describe for you in lush detail exactly what it is that makes that wine unforgettable. Hellman takes the reader by the hand and invites them to the lavish dinners at which Kurniawan wooed his marks, gatherings of supposed friends dining in the kind of decadence most of us can only dream of, and as a wine journalist given a glimpse of this world as an outsider himself (a working professional, not there for pleasure), Hellman seems to relate to the reader in that regard. He certainly taught me several things about wine over the course of the story I would otherwise never have picked up. Other writers without a personal interest in the world Hellman crafts for us could not have told the story of Rudy Kurniawan with half as much charm or intrigue.

I would heartily recommend In Vino Duplicitas to any fans of crime or heist television such as Catch Me If You Can or Leverage; to anyone who enjoys the schadenfreude of witnessing extremely bamboozled billionaires; and to anyone who’s always wanted to know more about the exclusive art of wine, perhaps from a helpful friend willing to share with us just what makes wine special enough for some to risk everything for.

– Review by Sarah, Middletown

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2017
Locus 
2017 Recommended Reading List

Claudio Bianchi sees a unicorn on his farm.  He can’t keep it a secret for very long.  Then there are two of them.  Then comes trouble.  This is basically a story about a middle-aged man who meets a much younger woman, which is a typical plot. However, this story is far from the average romance.

Claudio lives on a small hillside farm in Southern Italy.  His companions include cows, pigs, a goat, and three cats.  Later, Giovanna shows up while delivering the mail.  She sees the unicorn and everything in Claudio’s solitary life begins to change.  Claudio is also a very amateur but quite dedicated poet.  His writing, like every other aspect of his life, takes on new meaning.  Is it the unicorn or is it Giovanna?  Maybe it is both of them that change him.  This story shows that it may take a few miracles, but good can prevail.

The one thing I don’t like about this book is that the author writes in gruesome detail about the murder of one of Claudio’s cats.  Otherwise, this is a nice, sweet, quaint romantic story about a poor, Italian farmer and the sister of the village postal carrier.  A romance, that is, which is interrupted by violence, monsters, gangsters, and thugs.

– Review by Elaine, Main Library

3 Dead Princes by Danbert Nobacon

The heroine of this humorous, satirical fantasy is Princess Alex, also called “Stormy” (her middle name).  She goes on an accidental and occasionally chilling adventure, fulfills a witch’s prophesy, and manages to kill off three princes. In her effort to save her homeland, Morainia, from the threatening Oosarians she becomes a legendary, almost magical, figure.

The clever, specialized vocabulary used in this story is well defined in the Glossary.  But, this was the only part of this book that I did not like.  It obviously required significant creativity and effort.  It somewhat detracts from the story and slows down reading of an otherwise fast moving and charming fantasy in which time has yet to be “invented”.    

It may seem odd that this not very anarchistic and would-be fairy-tale with a teenage heroine is found in the adult Science Fiction section of the library.  The story appeals to both age groups but it might be more popular as a Teen book. 

– Review by Elaine, Main Library

Two Tales about Northern Ireland

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and fiction shines a light on real events so well it seems true. That’s the case with Northern Spy by Flynn Berry a mystery/thriller set in Northern Ireland in present day, and Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe the true story of a murder and mayhem in Northern Ireland during the height of The Troubles.

In Northern Spy, Tessa – a producer for the BBC – claims to be largely non-political. Like everyone living and working in Northern Ireland she is impacted by conflict between Irish republicans and British loyalists, but she herself has never been involved. Then one day she looks up to see news footage of her sister Marian pulling a ski mask over her head and participating in an armed robbery. Tessa insists her sister must have been kidnapped or coerced into participating in the heist, but eventually comes to realize the sister she thought she knew so well has been secretly working for the IRA for years. When Marian tells her she may have a path for peace Tessa has to decide where her loyalties lie and how far she will go protect everything that is dear to her. This book is a fast read. The chapters are short and the plot moves quickly. This is a great read for anyone who likes mysteries and political thrillers.

Say Nothing is also about two sisters, Dolours and Marian Price. While the fictional Tessa and Marian in Berry’s book were not raised to be political, the real Price sisters were raised in a well-known republican family. Marian and Dolours were participants in several high profile bombings in the UK in the 1970’s. Both sisters spent time in jail, both were subjected to force feedings when they tried to go on hunger strikes, and both received widespread press coverage. Keefe’s investigation also turned up audio recordings, interviews Dolours Price gave to oral historians at Boston College that seem to implicate one or both sisters in the murder of Jean McConville, a single mother of ten children in 1974. Keefe’s book is wonderful at examining 400 years of conflict through the lens of a handful of IRA members and one murder. There’s a surprise twist at the end that is guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps. Say Nothing is perfect for fans of Erik Larson who want a fast-paced, well researched look at the ongoing struggle in Northern Ireland.

– Review by Jenny, Middletown Branch

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

In 1935, the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt founded an important federal program intended to provide employment opportunities to the throngs of workers left unemployed as a result of the Great Depression: the Works Progress Administration.  And it is from this unprecedented federal program that the Pack Horse Library program was born, a program whose primary purpose was the distribution of books via horse to isolated communities in the eastern Appalachian counties of Kentucky.  Those who engaged in this venerable work became known as Pack Horse Librarians.

When Kentucky native Kim Michele Richardson learned about this program, she became fascinated with those who worked so hard to bring enlightenment to so many and set off on a multi-year research endeavor.  The result?  In 2019, Ms. Richardson published her debut work of fiction, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which tells the story of Pack Horse Librarian Cussy Mary Carter, called the book woman by those she served.  While a fabricated character, the research Ms. Richardson executed in preparation for her writing of this book is obvious.

Cussy is a well-drawn character for whom it is easy to cheer, since her life is one with many difficulties.  Among these challenges is the fact that she is one of the last of the “blue people of Kentucky,” a group of Kentuckians of the past who, due to a genetic disorder, possessed skin the color of blue and were treated with disdain and prejudice by many.  Add to this poverty and a lack of opportunities of any kind, and one is left with a rather sympathetic character.  But Cussy is not one to let any obstacle stand in her way, and her journey is one fraught with both hardship and danger, but also of love and deep friendship.  And the reader accompanies Cussy through this amazing story, sharing in her losses and triumphs.

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Now the only thing overdue at the Library is you!

Your Louisville Free Public Library has gone fine free!

LFPL no longer charges fines for overdue items. With this change, LFPL officially joins library systems across the country who recognize that fines statistically do not ensure the return of borrowed materials. They merely create a barrier to library services that disproportionately affects the people who need access the most.

While this proposal eliminates overdue fines, library items not returned will still result in a patron being billed for the replacement cost and blocked from additional checkouts until the items are returned or paid for.

Why is LFPL going fine free?

  • To provide more equitable access to the library’s materials and resources.
  • To encourage previous patrons to come back to the library and attract new users.
  • To improve customer service and the patron’s overall library experience.

What this means for you:

  • You will no longer accrue a daily late fee on overdue materials.
  • If you have overdue fines (not replacement costs) accrued before we were fine free, you are no longer required to pay those fines.
  • You are still responsible for your items. We encourage you to return all items in a timely manner.
  • The library will continue to send you courtesy reminders to return your items.
  • Past replacement fees for lost or damaged items still apply.

2021 Eisner Awards Nominations

These are often called the comic book world’s version of the Oscars

Comic-Con has announced nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2021. The nominees are for works published between January 1 and December 31, 2020 and were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges.

All professionals in the comic book industry are eligible to vote.

The deadline for voting is June 30, 2021. The results of the voting will be announced in July in a virtual ceremony as part of Comic-Con@Home.

For a list of items in the library that are Eisner Award-winning works, click here.


Hey, if you are interested in discussing comics, manga, or comics-related media, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group.

Upcoming meetings will take place on the following dates:

  • Patriotism & Superheroes – Saturday, July 03, 2021 – 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM
  • Free Comic Book Day – Saturday, August 14, 2021 – 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM (yes, there will be free comics for attendees!)

 Article by Tony, Main Library