Category Archives: Books & Reading

Friday Reads: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people’s heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from moths, silver-fish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches.”fahrenheit451

I find it somewhat hard to believe that I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 until now. In addition to its status as a classic, it would seem that, given, my chosen profession, I’d have managed to read it already. As the above quote illustrates, the message of this book should appeal to librarians.

Before I started reading this book, I was familiar with the general premise, a dystopian future in which books are outlawed. The book’s protagonist is Guy Montag, who works as a fireman. In this future society, firemen don’t put out fires; they set them, in order to burn illicit books. Montag becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the state of the society in which he lives, and he takes steps to oppose the status quo.

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying finding out all the details of this book that has existed in my consciousness only as a cultural icon all this time. I think it is very well-written, and I love Bradbury’s prose. Although the book was originally published in the 1950s, I find many of its descriptions of everyday life and technology very similar to our current society. Reading about how, instead of interacting with one another, people focus their attention on televisions that take up three walls of their living rooms and constantly listen to earphones made me feel guilty about the amount of time I spend mindlessly using my TV, tablet, and iPod. (However, I did use my iPod to listen to this audiobook, so maybe electronic devices are not all bad!)

The particular audiobook I am listening to is narrated very well by actor Tim Robbins, which adds to my enjoyment. Robbins does a great job of bringing Montag to life and provides distinguishable, believable voices for the supporting characters.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Newark, NJ: Audible Studios, 2014.

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Sisters in Crime Love Libraries

Did you see that great article in Novelist’s RA News newsletter about the Sisters in Crime organization? This group of women mystery writers will give a $1000 “We Love Libraries” grant to a lucky U.S. public library each month. See the RA News article (and maybe sign up to get the newsletter in your email) at See more about the SinC grant opportunity at

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Friday Reads: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain

kitchenconfidentialI remember hearing buzz about Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s account of what it’s like to work in a restaurant kitchen, shortly after it was published in the summer of 2000. Interviews and reviews that surfaced in the media piqued my interest, but I never got around to reading it at the time. Since then Bourdain’s fame has grown due to his participation in several television series, most notably No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Finally, last week, my husband checked out the eBook edition from Lincoln City Libraries’ OverDrive collection. He laughed so hard he cried as he consumed it nightly before bed, interrupting my reading to share excerpts so frequently that I felt compelled to check out, download, and listen to the audiobook edition, read by Bourdain, himself.

Early in the book Bourdain describes the life lived by restaurant kitchen workers as a subculture. From his anecdotes, which my husband swears aren’t exaggerations (he cooked for two years while I attended library school), that sounds spot on. This is not a ponderous or philosophical book, though Bourdain does share interesting insights and opinions. The prose is raw, in-your-face, and eloquently crude. As Bourdain reads his own words one imagines this is just the way he speaks in real life, when not restrained by television censors. If profanity bothers you, this is not the book for you!

By the end of the book any illusions the reader might have had that cooking for a living is glamorous will have been completely shattered. Bourdain paints a picture of a physically and psychically hard life, where drug addiction and dysfunction reign. Kitchen crews are described at various times as pirate crews and mercenaries. It wouldn’t be the life for me, but I enjoyed reading about it!

Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2001. Internet resource. (Listen to sample)

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NCompass Live: Reading & Sharing: The System Directors Talk About Books

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live, “Reading & Sharing: The System Directors Talk About Books”, on Wednesday, May 20, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

The directors of the Nebraska Regional Library Systems, Anneka, Denise, Eric, Scott, and Sharon, get together to do one of their favorite things-talk about the books they’ve been reading. The hour is sure to include some great suggestions-and maybe some surprises.

  • Anneka Ramirez, Director, Three Rivers Library System
  • Denise Harders and Sharon Osenga, Co-Directors, Central Plains Library System
  • Eric Green, Coordinator, Western Library System
  • Scott Childers, Director, Southeast Library System

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • May 27 – IT Security for Libraries
  • June 3 – Connecting to your community through the Human Library program: The Pace University Library experience
  • June 10 – Making The Most of The Cloud
  • June 17 – NebraskAccess Expansion
  • June 24 – Metadata Manipulations: Using MarcEdit and Open Refine to Enhance Technical Services Workflows

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

NesboAlong with millions of others, I am a fan of Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium” trilogy of crime novels.  Seriously, is there a more compelling character than Lisbeth Salander? Those were the first novels I’d read by a Scandinavian author. Having enjoyed Larsson’s series I was curious to learn more about Jo Nesbo, a popular Norwegian author who writes crime fiction – a lot of crime fiction. Harry Hole is the main character in a series of, so far, ten crime novels written by Nesbo. Hole is described as a “classic loose cannon” in the Oslo (Norway) police force. He’s flawed, but, of course, brilliant.

Thus far I’ve read Nesbo’s Nemesis (#4) and The Devil’s Star (#5). Had I known more about the series I would have started with the first book. Even so, the books need not be read in sequence. There’s sufficient detail to fill in the pieces.

Nesbo is a prolific writer. His books have universal appeal (at least for the crime fiction crowd). His books have been translated into over 40 languages and have sold over 23 million copies.

In addition to Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels, he’s written books in series based on other characters (Doctor Proctor, for one). He’s written stand-alone works (Headhunter is another I read recently) and children’s books. He even finds time to be the lead singer for a band performing a hundred or so gigs a year.

Those who enjoy crime fiction, as I do, will find it worthwhile to give Nesbo’s books a try.

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How to Set Up a Citizenship Corner at Your Library

Citizenship-cornerLibraries play an important role in raising awareness about the naturalization process and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.

Create a dedicated space in your library where immigrants can find information about becoming a U.S. citizen.   USCIS has developed educational materials to help prepare individuals for naturalization. These materials are ideal for setting up a Citizenship Corner in your library. Here immigrants can find the information and resources they need to start the path toward becoming a U.S. citizen.

A typical Citizenship Corner includes citizenship test preparation materials along with information about the naturalization process. Libraries can also add information about community resources, English teaching materials, and other relevant books and videos from their collections. While there are a number of immigration topics that may be of interest to libraries and their customers, USCIS recommends displaying only citizenship and naturalization-related resources in the Citizenship Corner.

How to Set Up a Citizenship Corner at Your Library

  1. Order one free copy of the USCIS Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. The Toolkit contains immigration and civics publications, handbooks, and multimedia tools. Additional copies are available for purchase through the U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. Build your collection by purchasing other USCIS materials. Most of the following publications are also included in the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit:
    • The USCIS Naturalization Interview and Test video
    • Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test
    • Vocabulary Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test
    • Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test (English and Spanish)
    • Civics and Citizenship Multimedia Presentation
  3. Download Form N-400, Application for Naturalization and provide copies in the Citizenship Corner. (Remind your customers that all USCIS forms are free.)
  4. Display and distribute free USCIS informational resources:
  5. Enhance your Citizenship Corner with other citizenship-related and English as a Second Language (ESL) resources from your library’s collection:
    • Locate the Citizenship Corner near ESL textbooks and resources or post signs directing customers.
    • Feature books and magazines that address the content of the 100 civics questions on the naturalization test such as famous Americans, historical events, and important founding documents.
  6. Arrange your Citizenship Corner to be welcoming and helpful. Here are some additional suggestions:
    • Decorate the Citizenship Corner in a patriotic theme.
    • Distribute promotional flyers for citizenship or ESL classes offered at your library.
    • Distribute flyers from local BIA-recognized organizations that may be able to help immigrant customers with USCIS forms. Visit for more information on finding legal services and BIA-recognized organizations.
    • Create and distribute a referral list of local community organizations that provide citizenship services and ESL classes in your community. Start by visiting the Find Help in Your Community page on the USCIS Citizenship Resource Center. Another resource for finding community organizations that offer ESL, civics, and citizenship education classes is America’s Literacy Directory. Search for programs by zip code.
  7. USCIS often hosts naturalization information sessions and administrative naturalization ceremonies in libraries. View the list of upcoming naturalization information sessions at libraries nationwide. Contact your local USCIS Community Relations Officer if you are interested in USCIS hosting a similar session at your library.
  8. Create a virtual Citizenship Corner on your library website:
    • USCIS offers many free web resources in the Learners section of this site. You may want to add a link on your website.
    • Link to USCIS resources by adding a widget to your website. The widgets are small online applications in English and Spanish that can be embedded on social media sites, blogs, or other web pages.
    • You can also include information about immigration and citizenship resources available at your library.
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Nebraska USDA Rural Development Announces Funds Available for Low Interest Home Repair Loans and Grants









The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has announced adequate funding remains available to assist very low income households with home repairs.   For those who own and occupy homes in need of essential repairs and who are wondering how to get financing, USDA Rural Development can help with grants and low-interest loans for homeowners in rural communities. All communities in Nebraska are eligible for housing programs with the exceptions of Fremont, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha and South Sioux City/Dakota City.

Applicants must own and occupy the home and not exceed income guidelines established by county and household size. The family’s income must below 50 percent of the county median income.  For many counties in Nebraska, the income limit for a one person household is $21,350; two person, $24,400; three person, $27,450; four person, $30,500 and five person, $32,950.  However, some counties may have higher income limits.  Please contact your USDA Rural Development office for the details in your county.

Available Low-interest Loans:

Rural Development’s Home Repair Loan program offers low-interest (1 percent) loans, up to $20,000, to very low income rural homeowners. Loans may be used to repair, improve or modernize homes or to remove health and safety hazards.  Homeowners must meet household income guidelines, have an acceptable credit history and show repayment ability for the loan based on a household budget.

The USDA repair loan may be made up to $20,000 at a 1% interest rate, with a repayment term up to 20 years.   Loans of less than $7,500 may not require a mortgage against the property.  The low interest rate and extended terms of the loan make repayment more affordable for households with limited income.  For example, a $10,000 loan at 1% interest for 20 years would have a monthly payment of $46, compared to a conventional loan with an interest rate of 5% for 10 years, with a monthly payment of $106.

Available Grants:

Rural Development’s Home Repair Grant program is available to owner-occupants of a rural home, who are 62 years of age or older, are very low income and are unable to repay a loan. Grant funds may only be used to remove health and safety hazards, such as replacing a roof, electrical and plumbing repairs, sanitary disposal systems and accommodations to make the home handicap accessible.  Maximum lifetime grant assistance is $7,500.

Eligibility for the program is based on household income and applicants must be unable to repay a loan.  If applicants can repay part, but not all of the costs, applicants may be offered a loan and grant combination.

For more information, go to the Nebraska RD website at  You may also contact Single Family Housing Specialist Krista Mettscher at 402-437-5518,

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.  USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Helping people stay in their home and keep it in good repair helps families and their communities.  Households interested in affordable home improvements may contact their local USDA Rural Development office or visit the Agency website at for additional information.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users)

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Friday Reads: The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold

chalioncoverIn The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold, creates a fantasy world based on Reconquista Spain, a world shot through with divinity and magic. The hero, Cazaril, returning home from the wars betrayed by his superiors and broken in body and spirit, finds a new job as tutor-secretary to the royal heiress, and finds something new to believe in and care about as he attempts to guide her through political intrigue and family tragedy.

The world building in the book is well thought out and incredibly detailed. The magic in this world flows from the gods, and is often indistinguishable from miracles. The characters, even minor ones, are well fleshed out; even the villains have understandable motives and emotions. The main plot takes a little time to get rolling, but plenty is happening to keep the story moving along briskly, and the writing is compulsively readable.

Ms. Bujold has set two more books in this same world, Hugo award winner, Paladin of Souls (a direct sequel) and more distantly related, The Hallowed Hunt.

I’m a great Bujold fan, and will read whatever she writes, but this book is one of my favorites.  Chalion is not a brand new book, but it is one worth suggesting to readers looking for a human story set against an epic background, or a fantasy grounded by very human characters.

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What’s Sally Reading?

Malinda Lo’s Four-Part post of “Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews”

Take some time to read and think about the things Malinda Lo has to say to us all.  You will have to scroll down to read the posts in order since the web page has them lined up with the fourth post first and so on.  While she is specifically addressing phrasing in book reviews, her message is well worth consideration.  I intend to reread this often as I write my blurbs for presentations on recent books I recommend to Nebraska librarians.  I am certain that in the past I have made similar assumptions and I hope to stop it completely.  If you are interested in following Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon on their blog, it is located here.

Applegate219Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla  by Katherine Applegate is a nonfiction picture book that tells the story of Ivan, who was the main character in the author’s Newbery Medal winning title, The One and Only Ivan.  Here she tells of his capture in Africa and travel in a crate with another baby gorilla named Burma.  The man who owned a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington had paid for their capture in 1962.  He eventually put him on display at the mall and Ivan was there for 27 years until a protest by the people of the area convinced the owner to send Ivan to Zoo Atlanta.  There he once again walked on green grass and met other gorillas.  A two-page spread at the back of the book tells older children and adults more about Ivan and has a couple of photographs.  This book is great for kindergarten through third grade children.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers.  After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff) graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965 where he later taught as an assistant professor. He earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973. These are only a few of his credentials but he came to my attention when his book Plainsong was announced as the very first One Book One Lincoln in 2002. That book marked the beginning of my own book group and a relationship with the One Book One Lincoln program that remains to this day.

Plainsong takes place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado and is based on the town of Yuma where Mr. Haruf lived in the ‘80s. In a Newsweek review, Jeff Giles called the book “a moving look at our capacity for both pointless cruelty and simple decency, our ability to walk out of the wreckage of one family and build a stronger one where it used to stand.” Many local readers were miffed at the lack of quotation marks throughout the book and this caused a bit of kerfuffle. As I listened to the audio version, it wasn’t an issue.  Another Haruf title follows some of the same characters in Holt and is entitled Eventide.

Kent Haruf died at the age of 71 in November of 2014. To honor this writer, you may wish to select some of his titles in our collection: Eventide, Plainsong, The Tie That Binds and Where You Once Belonged

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Friday Reads: Fables

FablesFables is a multiple Eisner Award-winning comic book series written by Bill Willingham. It tells the story of characters from fairytales, folklore, and mythology who have been ousted from their homelands by the mysterious Adversary. They have been living in hiding in New York City for centuries, attempting to blend in with the non-magical human population. They stick together as a tight-knit community called Fabletown. Many of them live in an apartment building called the Woodland Luxury Apartments, which also houses the Business and Security offices of Fabletown, their own town hall and sheriff’s station. Any Fables who are unable to pass as human, such as animals or monsters or giants, live on The Farm in Upstate New York. Spells are in place to keep it hidden from Mundys, short for Mundane, the human natives of this world. People like you and me.

Well-known characters appear in the books, but with slightly different histories than you may remember. And of course, these tales take place long after the time of the stories we know, so things have changed quite a bit. Snow White and Prince Charming are divorced (he’s just TOO charming…and can’t resist sharing that charm with all the women he can); she is the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, handling the day-to-day operations for the Mayor, King Cole; Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf, is the Sheriff. And we can’t forget Bufkin, the flying monkey librarian from Oz.

In the first collected volume, Legends in Exile, Snow White’s rebellious sister, Rose Red, has been murdered. So, the series introduces us to these unique characters through the telling of a complicated murder mystery, with the classic surprise ending.

A bit of a warning: these are not fairy tales for small children – there is a very bloody murder, sexual situations, and adult language. These books are definitely for a mature audience, teens and older.

The series isn’t new – it started in 2002 and is currently ongoing with monthly issues of the comic. Sadly, Willingham has announced that he will be ending Fables this year, with issue #150. But, it has been released in collected volumes, 20 so far. Each volume collects 5-12 issues of the comic book, making it very easy to start and catch up.

I’ve not caught up myself yet. But, I am really enjoying this interpretation of traditional fairy tales and stories. The characters are well developed and the writing makes you want to learn more about who they are and how they got where they are today. The artwork is very good, and incredibly detailed in many places. I may have spent way too long on the pages in the Business Office of the Woodland Apartments, which is magically larger on the inside than you would expect, trying to find every little detail of the accessories that the Fables brought from their Homelands to our world. I think that’s Excalibur in the stone back there…behind the Magic Mirror…and is that Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger floating by?

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New Government Publications Received at the Library Commission

NEState SealNew state government publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for April 2015.  Included are titles from Nebraska Colleges and Universities, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, the Nebraska Fire Marshal and University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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Friday Reads

Baseball season is underway and many of us head out to the ball park when we can.  Along that line of thought, the 2016 Summer Reading Program topic is about being active, with slogans “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!,” “Get in the Game: Read” and “Exercise Your Mind – Read.”
  (I know, the 2015 summer reading program is just getting underway, I am reading ahead now.)  All of this brought me to read Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick.

Casey Snowden’s father and grandfather run a sanctioned school for baseball umpires, and Casey (12) and his best friend Zeke help each fall.  This September they have only 80 students instead of the usual 100 and Casey begins to worry about the future.  He wants to be a sports writer, not run the camp, but he knows it is his father’s calling.  As the school gets underway, Casey realizes one instructor is not teaching this year.  He was usually in charge of the culminating event: “You Suck, Ump! Day” where many people from the town gather to yell at the students to help them learn to deal with noise and irritated fans.  So this year Casey and Zeke will organize the day.  Though I am not first in line for sports books, this one grabbed me, especially its title.  A fun look inside the mind of a twelve-year-old boy, and at what it takes to be an umpire.

After reading the book I enjoyed looking over this page to find out more about actual umpire schools.

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Friday Reads: Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing


Despite being two years old this book by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman is a great introduction to all of the major concepts behind 3D printing. Not only does it explain the technology but looks at different types of printing materials from ABS plastic to shortbread and 3D printing’s impact on everything from education to architecture.

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004–2006 and spoke in many venues around the state and the country during his tenure. I heard him speak at the Lied Center in Lincoln, NE and I recall him sharing that he had been compared to a hobbit. In fact, one of his speeches at Wartburg College in 2012 was entitled: American Hobbit or a Great Storyteller. In 2003, I helped select his title Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, for the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction and as a One Book One Lincoln finalist in 2005. It was also selected as One Book One Nebraska for 2011. I have given copies of this book to many friends and family members. Here is my favorite quote from that book:

If you can awaken inside the familiar and discover it new you need never leave home. Local wonders.

I remember Ted sharing how he hoped to make poetry more ubiquitous and approachable to readers. If you reread the line above it may not register as poetry or at least, not the kind you dealt with in your high school or college literature classes. If your book group would like to branch out and read something besides a fiction or non-fiction selection, try Local Wonders. Have your readers pick their favorite parts and read them aloud at your discussion. You may do the very thing Kooser hoped he could accomplish and make a poetry lover out of you.

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Friday Reads: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

FridayReads Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreRobin Sloan has written a yarn that stretches from books to technology to ancient knowledge, typography to coded secrets, intrigue to cults, friendship to love. He uses historical facts combined with present day real life ‘Google” to take our champions on a quest for the “key to life”. Our main character, Clay Jannon, needs a job, and where does he land but the strangest bookstore he has ever set foot in. In the beginning Clay does what he’s told, but we all know rules need to be broken, the books must be read, so he does, and read them he cannot do. The bookshelves in this store are lined with volumes coded with puzzles, and Clay must find the key to solving them. He finds that the important codex vitae is 500 years old and is stored in a “cave” below a New York City corporation complete with black robes and solemn ceremonies. The capable Clay really does know where to find resourceful & talented friends, backers, and hackers. Together they form the Rebel Alliance as they become the warrior, the wizard, and the rogue.

“You know, I’m really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.” –Clay Jannon, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Robin Sloan indicates that he is a media inventor. In his own words, he says a media inventor is “someone primarily interested in content—words, pictures, ideas—who also experiments with new formats, new tools, and new technology…. Media inventors feel compelled to make the content and the container.”

Do fantasy novels intrigue you? Does solving puzzles fit right up your alley? Do you want to go on your own quest? Have we maneuvered you into checking this out? Then our goal here is met.

Annette Hall & Janet Greser

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Alex Kava

Alex Kava writes full-time and lives in Omaha, Nebraska and Pensacola, Florida. She is a bestselling author known for her psychological suspense series featuring FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell. Fans of Maggie O’Dell will be interested in Kava’s new spinoff series featuring Ryder Creed, a retired marine dog handler. Creed’s investigative and rescue work with his dogs leads him to team up with O’Dell in both Breaking Creed, the first book in the Ryder Creed series, published in January 2015, and Silent Creed, the second book, scheduled for publication in July 2015.

Kava’s book One False Move was selected as the One Book One Nebraska for 2006. My book group read this title, much to the delight of one member who is an avid mystery reader, and had a good discussion about genre books as well as the book itself. As often happens when readers have first-hand knowledge of the location where a book’s actions take place, the familiar Nebraska setting also stimulated discussion.

We have several of Kava’s books in our book club collection including: At The Stroke of Madness, Black Friday, Fireproof, Hotwire, A Necessary Evil, One False Move, A Perfect Evil, The Soul Catcher, and Split Second. If you are concerned about reading the books in order – here is the series listing. Perhaps for the summer you may want to select several from her Maggie O’Dell series? Visit our book club kit page to make your selections!

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The Data Dude – Wednesday Watch: Lilyhammer

dvd_holdings_netflixThis week will be the beginning installment of Wednesday Watch. At first, the Dude was going to focus exclusively on what he’s currently watching, namely: (1) Lilyhammer (Netflix streaming); and (2) Boardwalk Empire (HBO via DVD from the local public library). And while the focus will be (yes, I did in fact start this sentence with And, and I did read Richard Miller’s Friday Reads post last week about the Grammar Lady—sorry, Richard, this is a low-brow column) on Lilyhammer, I decided to take a look at Nebraska public library holdings (at least those cataloged on WorldCat) of the top original series DVD’s from Netflix, HBO, and Showtime. The reason for this is that while streaming services are becoming more and more affordable, many (including the Dude) still simply cannot afford to buy subscriptions to premium content, including the newly available HBO Now. The chart includes the four Netflix original dramas (Hemlock Grove, Lilyhammer, Orange is the New Black, and House of Cards), and two of the most viewed drama series offerings from both HBO (Sopranos and Game of Thrones) and Showtime (Dexter and Homeland). But let’s first turn our attention to some filler material.

Lilyhammer, billed as a Netflix original drama series, is actually part drama part comedy (just like some of the others in the chart). The main character, underboss Frank “the Fixer” Tagliano (played by Steven Van Zandt –Silvio Dante from the Sopranos), flips on his mob boss and enters the witness protection program. As a part of the deal, he requests to relocate to Lillehammer, Norway. The show originally aired on Norwegian TV, even though it is generally known as the first Netflix original series. It’s probably more appropriate to label this as a joint venture between Norwegian TV and Netflix. Anyway, Frank adopts his new identity as Giovanni “Johnny” Henriksen (born to Italian and Norwegian parents). The show is as much about his integration into the Norwegian town and culture as it is about Johnny’s criminal ways. As Jimmy Darmody said in Boardwalk Empire: “You can’t be half a gangster.” The Dude would venture to say that in Lilyhammer (at least at the point where he is at in the series) Johnny has more relatable than detestable qualities, if that is possible for a gangster. The show is a mix of Norwegian and English languages, so expect many subtitles. While the typical comedic mafia elements exist, it doesn’t come across as completely recycled, and the Norwegian elements add a freshness that is, well, refreshing. The Dude finds himself nodding at times during Boardwalk Empire; he hasn’t had that problem with Lilyhammer. One thing to note, though, is that the budget for Lilyhammer (16 million per season) is obviously much less than say House of Cards (60 million per season), and that is apparent.

dvd_bookOK, so I extracted the holdings figures from Worldcat for the chart to at the top right. HBO’s Game of Thrones tops the list. Surprisingly, (at least to the Dude) House of Cards (tied with Homeland – another great offering from Showtime) beats HBO’s the Sopranos and Showtime’s Dexter for the number of holdings by Nebraska libraries. I also extracted the holdings information for the corresponding books (see the chart to the right of this paragraph). House of Cards is the only one where the DVD holdings exceed book holdings, with DVD holdings 3 times more than the book.

The Dude should mention that sans Hemlock Grove (he gets a little skittish with Horror) he’s seen and recommends all the series titles mentioned in the charts. He’s only read some of the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) books (got bored about midway through A Feast for Crows), and frankly, does not have the desire to read on, or any of the other titles mentioned. And that’s OK. All in all, any of these DVD series titles would be a welcome addition to your library collection. Shaka.

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NCompass Live: Every Hero Has A Story: Summer Reading Program 2015

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live, “Every Hero Has A Story: Summer Reading Program 2015″, on Wednesday, April 8, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Sally Snyder, Coordinator of Children and Young Adult Library Services at the Nebraska Library Commission, will give brief book talks of new titles pertaining to the 2015 Summer Reading Program themes: Every Hero Has A Story (children’s theme) and Unmask! (teen theme).

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • April 15 – What We’ve Learned: Tips & Tricks for Webinars That Deliver The Goods
  • April 22 – Explore Wearable Technologies and Book Connections for Youth
  • April 29 – Tech Talk with Michael Sauers: Wreck the Library: How to Host a Tech Take Apart

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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Friday Reads: The Grammar Lady: How to Mind Your Grammar in Print and in Person

BookCoverThe Grammar LadyOK. I admit it – I’m a bit of a grammar snob. I know I’m opening myself up to criticism if I were to make a mistake. [Notice how I used the subjunctive – “were” not “was,” just now.] I ask for your sympathy. I attended a high school in eastern Pennsylvania that, in English classes from grades 9 through 12, we learned grammar, spelling, diagramming sentences, and vocabulary every year. The point I’m making here is, we had all this drummed into our wee heads, so we could not help but become somewhat obsessive about it. However, when I taught ninth-grade English in a high school in western Pennsylvania just  four years later, there was no place in the curriculum for grammar – that’s how quickly matters had changed. (I taught some grammar anyway.)

If you are interested in learning more about English grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and usage – and learning about these in a way that is perhaps more fun than the methods my classmates and I were exposed to – you couldn’t do much better than acquiring a copy of The Grammar Lady: How to Mind Your Grammar in Print and in Person, by Mary Newton Bruder.  Starting a Web site in Pittsburgh entitled, “The Grammar Lady,” the author set herself up to answer any question that might be thrown at her related to grammar, whether directly or tangentially. I think she realizes that she is a bit of a grammar snob too, but she delivers her message in amusing ways with laugh-out-loud examples of how grammatical, spelling, vocabulary, and language usage mistakes can get in the way of communicating what one really wants to get across.

Bruder begins the book by laying out why grammar is important. Some of the major reasons:

  • It can save time by keeping us out of situations (through misunderstanding or offense) that we later have to apologize for. [Yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition – excuse me!]
  • It enhances communication.
  • People are judged on the basis of their grammar (especially important during job interviews).

The author makes the point that students should be taught the basics of grammar by the third grade, and after that spend time refining that knowledge and learning vocabulary and more complex sentence structure. She also says it’s a waste [not “waist’] of time diagramming sentences. I disagree with that. [I really enjoyed learning to diagram sentences. I learned parts of speech by that method which, I think, helped with foreign languages too.]

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the amusing examples she offers of unintentional mistakes she sees in advertisements, company memos, school assignments, with many of these sent to her Web site. Here are a few:

  • From a government-contract proposal: “We have ascertained that the project will require 66 man-moths of experience.”
  • “The guest book is in charge of Mary Jane,” rather than as it should be, the other way around.
  • “They referred a woman with a broken exhaust pipe and three flat tires.”
  • “Hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow,” rather than “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow.” [Later in the book she describes this development as a battle that may already be lost.]
  • The bugaboo of the parts of speech related to the verbs “lie” (meaning to recline), and “lay” (meaning to place something on a table, for example).
  • A sportscaster and weatherman on a local television station described what they called a “heart-rendering” story.

In one sense I do the author a disservice. She may be a bit of an elitist, but she does allow for the fact that the English language does change, and that there is a difference between the written and the spoken language. However, there are some things she cannot abide, one of them being overuse of the word “like,” in a sentence such as, “It was . . . like . . . cold.” She refers to this as, an “inarticulate stutter,” all the while admitting that she has never seen it in print since it is mostly a bothersome habit of some speakers.

I recommend that you pick up this book – if you want to learn about grammar, spelling, vocabulary, language usage, and so forth, or if you just want to be amused at the many ways that we can mess up what it is we are trying to say to each other. For those who are interested, you may also want to look up another related book – Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.


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