Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pet Sounds by Quinn Cummings

Pet Sounds, new & improved stories from the QC Report by Quinn Cummings is a collection of the author's recollections of the various pets she has had in her life. As a volunteer at an animal shelter, and all-around soft-hearted person, the author often fosters kittens from the shelter as well as having a menagerie of old dogs, cats and the odd small animal for her young daughter in her small California home.
I count Ms. Cummings as one of my favorite humor writers. I follow her on Twitter and read her blog and I recommend her first book, Notes from the Underwire to many of our library patrons if they are looking for something funny, light, you know, GOOD! I've had a lot of satisfied customers because of her talents at getting readers to actually laugh at loud. Many thanks, btw, to our patron who first brought this author to my attention. That's the kind of book this is; word of mouth will spread the good news that you don't have to read depressing books to find good writing. I think all the dogs I've had in my life would recommend this book too, but first they might give it a little chew around the binding edges...
My Granddog, Reggie - would definitely like this book

Related links:
The author's blog: the QC Report
Interview with the author: Write Online
The author on Twitter @quinccy

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Self-Help Book by Kermit the Frog

Before You Leap, a frog's-eye view of life's greatest lessons by Kermit the Frog (2006)
Whilst hopping down the stacks, looking for Aristophanes "Complete Plays' which of course includes his best work: 'Frogs', I happened to spy my dear friend Kermit's picture on the spine of a book of wisdom, not just for frogs, but for everyone, amphibian or, purely land-dwelling, and maybe even flying, swimming or other creatures of the earth. To jump at the chance to check out such a font of wisdom was the work of the moment. I produced my Berkeley Heights Public Library card at the Circulation desk and the staff that work there very kindly came around the desk to put it in my backpack after they checked it out to me.
Here are some of the bon mots I have gleaned so far from this book:
In the very useful, and strangely familiar sounding chapter, 'The Seven Dreams of Highly Effective Amphibians.' Kermit tells the reader, "It always starts with a dream" (75) and goes on to enumerate 'Kermit's Seven-step dream identification system' (77). The reader can use this system as a blueprint to success in or out of the swamp.
Addressing the common fear of public speaking, Kermit advises:
"Imagine the audience is naked. If this doesn't help, do what I do and just work naked yourself." (89) Now there's a bit of advice you won't find just anywhere.
As for "Fear of Pigs. This is just good sense. Go with it." (89)
Again, I can't find anything wrong with that advice.
In the chapter, 'The Wealth of Frogs', Kermit starts by saying, "Money is not a big issue with frogs." (97) If, like me, or any other frog, you agree with that, you could just skip right over this chapter and go to chapter 11: 'Finding Your Inner Tadpole, a frog's spiritual journey.' (139) If you don't nurture your inner tadpole, you will have to face your outer toad, (140) so it's best to attend to your spiritual self before you turn into a toad.

For other self-help books, take a look at this aptly-titled blog post: Self Help Books

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waiting for new books in series: George R.R. Martin and the Eager Fans

There may be nothing more impatient and enthused than a fan waiting for the next installment of a beloved book series. Whether it's fans of George R.R. Martin's series 'A Song of Ice and Fire' or readers of Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' series or of Jean Auel's 'Earth's Children' series, fans are caught up in a world of internet author sites, fan sites, Twitter hashtag hysteria, Facebook 'likes' and even publisher-fueled rumors. The next book is right around the corner! here's an interview with the author! the last book is just out in paperback! the movie is in the works! and so on. All false hopes to the series-starved reader.
Here are some of the misunderstandings that can come about with books published in series.
  • Often a series is referred to by the first book in the series, but this may not be the actual name of the series. The series known as 'A Game of Thrones' is actually titled 'A Song of Ice and Fire.' Remember that Auel's first book 'Clan of the Cave Bear' is not the name of the series which is 'Earth's Children'. 
  • The name of the TV show or movie may not be the same as the name of a book or series; it may be the name of the first book, but cover all or part of various books in the series. Think: 'All Creatures Great and Small,' the TV series, drew from many of the books and no doubt made up some material and altered some too. 
  • Now add in the fact that about a year after a book comes out in hardcover, it will be released in paperback to as much fanfare as the publishers can give it. Sometimes, the book will be re-reviewed. This often gives readers the idea that their favorite author or series has a NEW BOOK OUT! But no, really no, trust us on this, we can check the catalog, check Amazon, check Fantastic Fiction and there still will not be that new book you have been yearning for. We feel your pain.
And so there are many a slip between cup and the lip when it comes to sequels in series fiction. Sometime authors rapidly churn out the first few books in a series and then j u s t 
s l o w doooowwwwn. And who can blame them? Series, especially fantasy series, tend to be real door-stoppers in size. And even in the non-fantasy area, think about Ken Follett's series: his 'Century Trilogy' started with - 'Fall of Giants' (2010) which clocks in at an impressive 985 pages, while the second in the series, 'Winter of the World' (2012) came to an equally impressive 940 pages. Not a week goes by that patrons don't ask where the third in that series is. Ken? Oh, Ken? Typing away, are you, I hope?

Resources we use to verify series sequels rumors:
Fantastic Fiction lists authors' books by series and in chronological order
The Berkeley Heights Public Library catalog with enriched content from Novelist and Goodreads that lists read-alikes and books in series
Good old standby
Author websites often tell the next book an author is working on with a target date for completion, to be taken with a grain of salt.

Note to fellow librarians and collectors of weird professional lingo: the process of figuring out exactly what book a patron wants by piecing together the clues that are given is called 'bibliographic verification'. Right, anyone remember that? I was totally mystified when my professors went on about that, but now, I know. it can be tougher than it sounds. A cigar might just be a cigar to Dr. Freud, but to librarians, it could be any number of book titles, subtitles, authors or just plain unsubstantiated rumors. The watchword for bibliographic verification: mistrust & verify. For related post see: Butchered Book Titles

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Libraries on Pinterest

The Berkeley Heights Public Library has a Pinterest account where we post pictures of books to read, local history images from our archives, summer reading selections and book art among other topics. Just posted: the two images above that were made from photographs taken around the library and then made into posters using free photo-editing software Picasa. We hope you enjoy a glimpse at the inside world of libraries. Check out our Pinterest boards at

Pinterest boards created and contributed to by librarians around the world can be found here:

To download Picasa to your own computer: Picasa is a great way to start editing your photographs without purchasing expensive software.

Related post about the library's summer reading program using Pinterest

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gone Girl: the definitive review


When I think of my book group, I always think about how many people will come to the meeting, how many will have read the book, did they like the book, should I have questions ready to ask about the book? The book group starts in 45 minutes. Where to start? I finally read the mega-bestselling thriller/mystery Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012) and I did not go into the reading with an open mind. People either love this book or hate it. The opinions I heard from patrons at the library and from friends and family and the reviews I read had already made me dread reading it. I don't like to read bestsellers; they sell themselves; I like to read literary orphans. I don't like dark books with twisted characters; I like sunny distractions, the book equivalent of a situation comedy on television.

AUGUST 26, 2013

Tra and la! I am a happy frog blogger reading the nifty bestseller for the library book group. I am so happy I finally got my book from the holds list so I can see what all the excitement is about this huge bestseller. I put the book in my perfect little froggy book bag and went home to make a cup of green tea and sat down with great anticipation to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Even though she's not a frog, I hear she's a really good writer. My parents are the famous authors of the 'Fantastic Fleur the Frog' series about the perfect little frog who always does the right thing. They based the books on me because I'm perfect and always cheerful and also I like to make up puzzles just like Fantastic Fleur does.
1. Do I pretend to like this book even if I don't?
2. Do I just read reviews and get back to my fun books that I want to read.
3. Do I read the book, take notes, write a review and ask questions from a list at the book group meeting?
Answer: I think you know that Fantastic Fleur will do #3, don't you? Don't you? You don't? Oh, I might have to punish you, dear reader.


The clock on my computer says 6:56 PM so I have to finish my review before the group meets. I have read the book. I'm not sure I liked the book. The book was compulsively readable, but nasty. Oh, I feel so dirty. It drew me in, and I ate it up, but I hated the characters and the plot was so contrived and unbelievable at the end, but I kept reading anyway. I felt like putting it down and reading something fun like Alexander McCall Smith, something light and sunny and uncomplicated, not dark and twisted like Amy and Nick Dunne's story. But that would be cheating. On the book, turning my back on the book group. So I read it. I couldn't help myself. I loved this book, but I hate it too, I just don't know how to tell the truth about this book.

AUGUST 29, 2013

I'm so fantastic. I finished the book in less than three days! Here's a quiz I made up about the book:
1. Do you hate Amy or Nick more?
2. Did you guess what the plot twist was?
3. Did you want to kill Amy more than Nick does?
4. Did you want to make as much money as that lawyer of Nicks?
Answer: all of the above!!! Duh.


You can "Google" the title and find reviews and, as the vernacular saying goes, unless you've been living under a rock,  you know that this book is the story of a marriage, a failed marriage, between two really twisted people. On their fifth wedding anniversary Amy, the wife, disappears and soon after, Nick the husband is suspected of her murder. The book is told from the point of view of Nick alternating with Amy's journal entries chronicling the story of their marriage up until the day of her disappearance. The second part of the book, and here's the spoiler, is told from Amy in the present tense and continues with Nick's narration too.
1.Did you see the spoiler there?
2. Did you see it coming? I did.
3.Do you feel cheated, manipulated as a reader or
4. Do you just not care anymore.
Oh, wait, I'm Marian, not Fleur. Fleur's the character who makes up quizzes.  I think our characters are merging. Help I hate that frog, I love that frog, I am a frog.

Posted by Fleur: Fleur's other contributions to the blog
Posted by Marian the Librarian: Ms. Librarian's previous posts

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Growing old: The Best Exotic Quartet, er Marigold Hotel-like Movies and TV Shows

I've been borrowing lots of DVD's from the library for the last few weeks, probably because the TV shows I watch are between seasons so there's not too much to watch if you like scripted comedy/dramas like me. I noticed a trend lately in my borrowing habits. The trend could be called:

If you liked 'The Best, Exotic Marigold Hotel' (2012), try these DVD's:

'Quartet' (2013), like 'Best Exotic MH', features lots of famous, older British actors. In 'Quartet' they play retired showbiz types and opera singers who are now in a home for retired musicians and the setting is a country house-turned-nursing-home set in the English countryside. The hotel in 'Best Exotic etc' was a dilapidated hotel in India run by an idealistic, but somewhat impractical, young Indian man played by Dev Patel, the star of 'Slumdog Millionaire.' You might also like 'Slumdog' if you haven't already caught that Academy Award-winning 2008 hit, although it has nothing to do with the aging British actor in bittersweet film theme that I'm enumerating here. In any case, 'Quartet" and 'Marigold' are often mentioned in the same breath because they are so similar in theme and casting as well as being released within a year of each other. The other title often confused with 'Quartet' is 'A Late Quartet' (2013) also about aging musicians. Patrons often come to the Reference Desk and ask for the 'Quartet' movie or the 'Marigold' movie so we know the three movies get confused very easily.
Continuing the theme, 'Waiting for God' is an early 1990's UK series about two feisty old people in a retirement home who question the authority of the youngish bean-counters who run the home for profit. Each episode is less than an hour and I'm enjoying the first season now.
'New Tricks' is a current BBC TV series about an unsolved crimes unit made up of old, retired police detectives who are curmudgeonly and eccentric, but always get their man.

By searching our catalog for the subject heading 'Retirees -- Drama', I see in the catalog that we have a British TV series called 'One Foot in the Grave' and a movie 'Is Anyone There?' both involving retirement or retirement homes. I have not yet taken either of those out, but I am really sensing this is a big trend in movies at least in the U.K.

Related subject headings to use in our catalog are...

Older people.
Eccentrics and eccentricities.
Retirement communities.
Television comedies -- Great Britain.
Video recordings for the hearing impaired.

Retirees -- Drama.
Musicians -- Drama.