Category Archives: Books & Reading

Friday reads: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

hundred thousand kingdomsIt’s a Greek god like rollercoaster, with the politics of nations, the politics of gods (a family), and the politics of the emperor’s family and succession, and all of it interrelated and convoluted. All of it in a city created by magic in a palace that resembles a rose which towers far above the capital city. Into all of this you follow the trajectory of Yeine Darr (a forgotten, dismissed, “half breed” heir, but ruler of her own country in the heretical North), from the start, plunging into this seeming tranquil pool, to plunge through its roiling depths.
Yeine, also has her own agenda, to discover why her grandfather, the emperor killed her mother, after letting her live for 20 years in a foreign land. Not to mention why she’s now an acknowledged heir, and competitor for the throne (excuse me, stone chair.)
And of course, there’s magic and gods. But the gods are bound, and living at the palace, doing the ruling family’s every whim. No matter who gets hurt, including themselves, or entire nations.
Watching Yeine try to manage her way through all the protocols, snares, and attacks, without injuring the innocent, is worth the read. A fresh voice, and a very different world view. This is the first book of The Inheritance Trilogy.
Reviews & an excerpt:

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Free Unshelved Ebooks for Libraries

Unshelved+1Thanks to the generosity of our Kickstarter backers, Unshelved is allowing libraries to circulate DRM-free ebooks of its first eleven collections to their patrons absolutely free.

We’ve offered to make these books available for circulation by all library ebook vendors.

The first vendor who has taken us up on this is Mackin. Go Mackin! Information on how to access the ebooks can be found on this page. Anyone with questions about how to access the ebooks can contact Mackin directly at or 800-245-9540.

We’ll update this page as others take us up on this offer. If your ebooks vendor isn’t listed here, please let them know you’d like them to carry the Unshelved ebooks (they can contact Gene for more information). That may be the push they need!

Meanwhile you are also welcome to circulate our ebooks to your patrons directly. Read the following license, then sign up and we’ll send you download instructions.

In addition to the free books, our cataloger Emily has made MARC records available for these titles, all ready for you to download and import into your OPAC.

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Timothy Schaffert

Timothy Schaffert teaches in the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the director/founder of the (downtown) Omaha Lit Fest, and is a contributing editor to Fairy Tale Review. He grew up in rural Nebraska near the city of Aurora and I had the good fortune to meet him at my neighbor’s house and talk with him about his books. Timothy has written five novels, all of which we own in our Book Club collection. I read the first chapter of each book and one thing was evident in all of them, Nebraska settings and very quirky characters. Timothy writes the kind of literary fiction that book groups are always looking for because they provide rich discussion and strongly-felt opinions. His latest book, The Swan Gondola, is set during the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair and has recently been described as a costume-drama novel every intelligent woman needs to read. The best thing to know about this Nebraska author is that he has attended book group discussions in the past and would consider your invitation if you would like to include him in your discussion. Timothy makes for charming company, so please think about selecting one of his titles and perhaps scheduling an author visit for your group!

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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 February 2015.  Included are titles from Administrative Services, Colleges and Universities,  Education, and Public Power, to name a few.

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Friday Reads

brown2Andre the Giant: Life and Legend by Box Brown is graphic nonfiction, a biography of Andre Roussimoff told in graphic novel format with black, white, and grey art.  I picked this up wondering both about Andre’s life and how the author/illustrator would choose to present it.  Brown opens with a three-page explanation of professional wrestling as it was during Andre’s time in the World Wrestling Federation.

Andre had gigantism, the result of an excessive production of growth hormone during his childhood.  During his adult life Andre suffered pain, his brow became more pronounced, his joints were affected, and he had back surgery to ease his pain.  He was presented as a kind and considerate person, but he could get upset at times and not many people wanted to push the point with him.  Not surprising, I also learned that Andre enjoyed drinking and partying.  While reading about specific wrestling matches and heavy drinking is not my usual reading choice, I also learned about his life, how tired he became of people gawking at him, and the difficulties of being so large.

This title will appeal to older teen and adult fans of wrestling, graphic novels, and of “The Princess Bride.”

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Nebraska Learns 2.0: QR Codes and Cyberbooks

The Nebraska Learns 2.0 Thing for March is QR Codes

For this month’s Thing, we’re going to explore QR Codes, those square barcodes that you can scan with your mobile phone. QR codes are useful IF your library patrons know what to do with them and if your staff knows how to generate them to connect your physical and online spaces.

Another facet of Nebraska Learns 2.0 is BookThing. Each month we pick a single title that we feel has relevance to librarianship and/or information theory. Some of the titles will be very obviously related, while others may not seem so on the surface but there is a connection. Your assignment will be to read the book and create a blog post answering some questions about the title.

The BookThing for March is Cyberbooks by Ben Bova.  

Nebraska Learns 2.0 is the Nebraska Library Commission’s ongoing online learning CarhengeCrop5program. It is a self-discovery program which encourages participants to take control of their own learning and to utilize their lifelong learning skills through exploration and PLAY.

Each month, we offer you an opportunity to learn a new Thing (or lesson). You have all month to complete that Thing and receive one CE credit. You may choose which Things to do based on personal interest and time availability If the Thing of the month doesn’t interest you or if you are particularly busy that month, you can skip it.

If you are new to Nebraska Learns 2.0, your first assignment is to sign up to participate. This program is open to ALL Nebraska librarians, library staff, library friends, library board members and school media specialists.

We hope you’ll join your library colleagues in the fun as you learn about new and exciting technologies!

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Mary Pipher

If your book group would like to select a nonfiction title to read, let me suggest getting to know Mary Pipher. Mary lives in Lincoln with her husband Jim and has written 9 books – four of which we have in our Book Club collection. My book group read The Middle of Everywhere a few years ago and as the setting for the text is Lincoln, many people recognized several locations and people mentioned. That is always an intriguing element of a book with a local author. The book is also informative as Mary presents Lincoln as a refugee relocation center and illustrates how new citizens of Lincoln need assistance. She coins the expression cultural broker and explains the sorts of ways she provides help to refugees earnestly trying to make the United States their home. My group had an excellent discussion with this title and I think yours could too.

A colleague and I both read Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World at the same time and had great discussions. With this book we learned about Mary’s background and her personal life especially in terms of negotiating balance between her family and promoting her books. Mary read from this book at the Nebraska Book Festival sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book and it was a pleasure hearing her voice present her own text.

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What’s Sally Reading?

Amelia Bloomer Project Announces the 2015 Booklist

As part of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association, the Amelia Bloomer Project focuses on feminist books for readers age 0-18.  Each year the committee creates a booklist to recommend to librarians and others.  The 2015 list also includes a Top Ten list selected by the committee.  I hope you all have a few of these titles in your collections, and maybe you will find another one or two to add.

MiddletonElya012Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya is a good picture book choice for the upcoming summer reading program.  When the wolf tricks Roja into picking some flowers for her grandma, he sneaks off with her red cape to visit grandma.  Can Grandma and Roja handle a wolf and save the day?  The sprinkling of Spanish words are understood within the context of the story, and the author has included a pronunciation guide and translation of each in the front of the book.  Watch the pages for the Three Blind Mice and a couple of tiny troublemakers:trickster elves.  A good read-aloud for Story time, and a 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book.

(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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Booklist Reader Discusses Hi – Lo Books

BooklistReaderLogoDo you read the Booklist Reader blog?    Recently, it included a short survey of some good hi-lo books–sometimes tough things to find.  Check out “High Interest-Low Vocab Books: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

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Recently on the NCompass Podcast

Podcast IconHave you listened to the NCompass Podcast lately? Here are the episodes from February 2015. To get all of the episodes delivered to you automatically be sure to subscribe via RSS or iTunes.



Episode 321: Youth Coding Resources – Programs and Resources for Youth in Your Community

Episode 322: Strategic Planning in a Nutshell

Episode 323: Fun with Friends: Integrating Programming for Adults with Special Needs Into Your Library

Episode 324: Anatomy of an Ad Campaign

Episode 325: Tech Talk with Michael Sauers: Adding True SMS Service to an Integrated Library System (ILS)

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Friday Reads: Weird Fiction Review

Weird Fiction Review #5From the publisher:
“The Weird Fiction Review is an annual periodical devoted to the study of weird and supernatural fiction. It is edited by S.T. Joshi. This fifth issue contains fiction, poetry, and reviews from leading writers and promising newcomers. It features original stories and essays by Jason V Brock, Dennis Etchison, John Butler, Sherry Austin, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Darrell Schweitzer; a lengthy interview with Michael Aronovitz and one with Ray Bradbury; an 8-page full-color gallery of art by Travis Louie; regular columns by Danel Olson and John Pelan and much more.”

This wonderful journal from Centipede Press, a small publisher located in Colorado, generally runs about 300 pages and contains fiction, poetry, articles and interviews. At $35 per copy and with a limited print run of just 500 copies per issue, it isn’t available in most libraries but there are a few that do have it in their collections.

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Willa Cather Foundation gets new website

Willa CatherThe Willa Cather Foundation has launched a new website in celebration of its 60th year.

At the new, users will find a streamlined interface where they can purchase products, register for events, buy tickets and make donations. There are also virtual tours, a newsletter library and educational content.

The site was designed and developed by UNANIMOUS, a Lincoln-based marketing agency.

The Willa Cather Foundation was founded in 1955 and is headquartered in Red Cloud, Nebraska. The foundation will hold a number of events to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Cather’s “The Song of the Lark.” Upcoming events include the Willa Cather Spring Conference and the International Cather Seminar. For more info, go to or call 866-731-7304.

Read the full article @

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Finalists Announced for the Nebula Award

NebulacolorThe Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced the finalists for the Nebula Awards in six categories.  Contenders for the awards are nominated and voted upon by members of the SFWA.  Winners will be announced at the Annual Awards weekend the first weekend in June.

Nominees for best novel are:

The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu ( ), translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

Nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy are:

Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

For a list of the nominees in all categories, and of past winners, see the Nebula Awards.


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Friday Reads: Dreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King

bookDreamingSpiesDreaming Spies, by Laurie R. King, is the 13th novel in the popular detective series featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes.  Sherlock Holmes is such an iconic character that he has survived many different authors and interpreters.  The Sherlock Holmes of these books, seen through Russell’s eyes, is a mellower character than the one described by Dr. Watson.  Mary Russell is an intellectual, thoroughly liberated protégé who succeeds as his partner and her own woman.  In this volume, they continue their travels—this time from England to Japan and back.  The book gives a wonderful feeling for Japan circa 1925, as Russell and Holmes get involved with international intrigue, Hirohito, and a ninja.  A book trailer on You Tube, and Laurie R. King’s Website offer a little more information and some marketing material.  King fans will devour this new adventure; those new to the series might find it preferable to start with the first volume, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, in which Russell meets Holmes.
Dreaming spies: a novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, by Laurie R King. New York: Bantam Books, 2015.

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The Data Dude – Game of Thrones Data Visualization

Gold Guy Surfing On Business ReportsWell, this week’s post almost didn’t happen because the Dude has been swamped with surveys, Monday was President’s Day, and the Dude is home today with a sick kid. As an update to the public library survey (the deadline was last Friday the 13th), thank you e-mails have been sent out to those of you who have submitted and finalized your surveys. There are some surveys that have issues that are in need of a little TLC, and you should have received e-mail questions or calls about those by now. If all your issues are cleared up (or if you had no issues to begin with) you should have received an e-mail about the supplemental survey. If you haven’t, please let me know and I will check on the status of your survey. Since the Dude is still working on finalizing some surveys, wait a few weeks for the final numbers on our survey response rates.

With the Dude suffering from a bit of a survey hangover, there is a shortage of material for this week’s post. Now, some of the abstract ideas ranged from word clouds, stories about robots in libraries, and more statistics on technology. But let’s be honest; the Dude finds most word clouds to be a bore, so they will be saved for another day when boring is on the menu. So for today the Dude will keep it simple, and note his interest in Reddit’s DataisBeautiful, mostly because the data there is usually interesting but also because it is often uniquely presented. Using data in a simple way such as this not only gets a point across, but fits the innovative bill as well. Enter this image, illustrating the number of deaths in George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series. For GOT fans, the image says it all. For the record, the Dude is a fan of the HBO series (since the Dude doesn’t have cable, he wishes to thank Lincoln City Libraries for selecting the DVD’s in their collection), but found the books (after about the first 1/3 of Storm of Swords) to be long-winded. The Dude ain’t afraid to say it. Shaka.

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What’s Sally Reading?

Read Across America Day is March 2!

Sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) Read Across America Day is usually held on March 2, in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, but you can choose a day that works for you and your community to celebrate.  Visit the NEA for some artwork and downloadable items you can use, as well as fact sheets and media tips.

If you are planning to celebrate Read Across America Day, you may want to take a look at the Central Plains Library System’s Pinterest page with plenty of different ideas!  I took the Dr. Seuss Trivia Quiz and only missed a few!  And thank you to Denise Harders for sharing the ideas she found.

Yelchin183Arcady’s Goal by Eugene Yelchin tells of Arcady (12) who lives in an orphanage in Soviet Russia for children of people declared to be enemies of the state.  Miss Hannigan is a push-over compared to the director and guards of the orphanage.  It is the late 1930s, Arcady can earn an extra piece of bread if he defeats several other children, one at a time, with his soccer skills.  He is unbeatable.  But when he is adopted by a gentle man he begins to call “Coach” he finds himself lost in a world he doesn’t know.  A look at another place and time, this title is aimed at grades 5-8.

(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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Friday Reads: Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

funny girlIt’s been almost five years since Nick Hornby released a novel, and I have been waiting eagerly for this one. So far, it has not disappointed me. While most of Hornby’s other works are contemporary fiction, Funny Girl is set in the 1960s. It follows Barbara Parker (or Sophie Straw, once she starts using a stage name) as she rises from a small-town beauty queen with a desire to make people laugh to a national television comedy star. The book explores the theme of light entertainment versus serious art and the importance of each.

Though many of Hornby’s earlier books, such as High Fidelity and About a Boy, are considered to be targeted toward men, I enjoy his books in general. I think that Funny Girl in particular will appeal to both male and female readers. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Hornby, Nick. Funny Girl. New York: Riverhead Books, 2015.

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Mockingbird Read-Alikes

BooklistReaderLogoWhile we’re waiting for Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman, the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird,   Bill Ott offers some Mockingbird read-alikes in The Booklist Reader blog.

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The Hub Reading Challenge Starts Now!

The Hub is “the literature blog for YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association.”  Starting today, The Hub is challenging all who wish to participate to read or listen to 25 titles off of the eligible title list.  A PDF of the list is available here.  Their rules state you must read the 25 books during the challenge period: 2/9/15 – 6/21/15.  Be sure to read all the rules and register if you are going for the prize.  If you complete the challenge within the time period and fill out a completion form, you will be eligible for the grand prize drawing for a tote bag filled with 2014 & 2015 YA titles!

If you, like me, want to participate in your own way, that’s great too!  I am going to try to read all of a couple of the lists, but am not going to compete for the grand prize.  Join in and blog or tweet about how you are doing on you own challenge.  Hope you enjoy it!

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Friday Reads: Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

eleanorandparkI know Eleanor & Park has been out for almost two years and many librarian-types have already read and loved it, but I just got around to listening to it this past week. I’m glad I did. It was evocative, filled with both angst and sweetness. The tragedy is that in the end Eleanor’s family situation is too dire to overcome by any other means than escape. I don’t want to provide a plot summary or review – those are plentiful elsewhere – but I will share a few personal thoughts/impressions:

  • The fact that the story was set in Omaha in 1984, when the characters were 16, definitely brought back memories. Though I graduated from a Lincoln high school in 1983, Rowell’s descriptions of students’ styles and (sadly) interactions rang true. References to music, the Old Market, and coffee at Village Inn also firmly grounded the narrative in a familiar time and place.
  • I loved Park’s parents, the way sometimes one was the good guy while the other was the bad guy, and then at other times the roles would be reversed. It seemed realistic, since as parents we each have blind spots as well as soft spots. I also loved the way the point of view switched back and forth between Eleanor and Park, sometimes moment by moment.
  • While high school definitely wasn’t a high point in my life (I considered myself somewhat disaffected at the time) I was completely sheltered from the type of dysfunction in which Eleanor’s life was steeped. However, I’m sure I had classmates who, unbeknownst to me, lived lives very similar to Eleanor’s. This is why I absolutely abhor the fact that parents try to ban books like Eleanor & Park from school libraries. If a book accurately portrays the lived experiences of some students, it strikes me as condescending and dismissive to claim that it is “inappropriate” for other students to even read about it, especially if the subject matter is handled compassionately, in a way that may cultivate empathy. And what about the potential value to students living lives similar to Eleanor’s in seeing their own experiences in print? Eleanor is beaten down, but she retains a sense of self, her quirky point of view, and is able to experience moments of sweetness and acceptance with Park. Although she doesn’t get the proverbial fairy-tale happy ending, she survives long enough to escape – and sometimes in real life maybe that takes precedence over the stereotypical though not universal “happy highs” of high school (e.g. boyfriends/girlfriends, parties, football, prom). That seems like an important message to me.

Having finished Eleanor & Park, I’ve now moved on to Fangirl, another book by Rainbow Rowell. This one is set in Lincoln, on the University of Nebraska campus. The main character lives in Pound Hall, is an English major who hangs out in Andrews Hall, and haunts the north basement of Love Library. Ditto, ditto, ditto.

Rowell, Rainbow, Rebecca Lowman, and Sunil Malhotra. Eleanor & Park. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2013. Internet resource. (Listen to excerpt)

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