Friday, January 29, 2010

50 Days Till Spring

If mail order catalogs filled with model families wearing short sleeves and flip flops are making you long for mild spring breezes & green grass, perhaps some library books will get you through the last of the cold? Click on the collage if you'd like to read the titles of the books more clearly.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

This is not the first time I've posted about my favorite mystery series, but there's something I just love about a detective who goes home at night and reads true cases of people who disappeared out on the Icelandic moors during a blizzard. Each book in Arnaldur Indridason's series gives us a bit more of the story of the disappearance of Erlendur's own brother when they were children. The narration is fantastic: impersonal and succinct, but recording every important detail, as if the books were films meant to be played in your head.

Arctic Chill revolves around the stabbing of a half-Thai, half-Icelandic child, and you don't read the book so much as to see who did it (obviously it's got to be someone horrible) as to watch the portraits of human nature as Erlendur and his police team work through all the leads and breaks in the case.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and venture a guess that the mysterious Marion Briem character (who reappears throughout the series with nary a "she said" or "he said") is a man, despite the fact that most people named Marion are women (at least according to some Google-based algorithm). It's unusual for the last name not to reveal gender, because Icelandic last names are patronymic, the father's last name (or occasionally the mother's) + "son" or "daughter". (If that weren't the stuff of genealogist's dreams, Iceland has a nationwide genealogy database.) But read the book and let me know your theory about Marion.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Author Visit: Robert Daniher

BHPL: Today author Robert Daniher visits the BHPL Book Blog to talk with us about what it's like to launch a writing career. Bob, tell us about your writing. Do you have a specialty at this point?
Bob:I write primarily short stories in the mystery genre, although I've also written some poetry and a bit of non-fiction. In 2007, my short story "Deadline" was published in "The 2007 Deadly Ink Short Story Collection" published by Parsippany, N.J. mystery publisher Deadly Ink Press.
I had my second story "Ball-Point" published the following year in the 2008 Collection.
BHPL: Why mysteries and tell us some of your favorite mystery authors.
Bob: I began writing through my love to create and tell stories, and mysteries were always my favorite books to read. There are so many I could mention, but Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming were the first two authors I began reading regularly. That’s when my love of the mystery/thriller novel began. They were also wonderful short story authors as well. I also love Chandler and Hammett. Some contemporary authors I enjoy are Laura Lippmann, Joyce Carol Oats, Christa Faust, Megan Abbott and the late great Edward D. Hoch. As well as being great novelists, they have amazing talent with the short story, especially Ed Hoch who passed away in 2008. He was incredibly prolific and a true master of the short form.
BHPL: I'm assuming that as a writer starting out in your career that you have had to work at various jobs to pay the bills. Can you tell us about those experiences?
Bob: Since finishing college I've worked as a janitor, radio producer, school cafeteria worker, television broadcast technician, freelance video editor, filmmaker and a crime fiction writer.
My main career (day job) over the past 12 years has been as Master Control Operator for a cable network.
BHPL: Have any of these jobs provided ideas for stories?
Bob: All of them have provided ideas for stories. In fact, ideas come from everywhere. A conversation overheard in a coffee shop, something you witness in line at the grocery store, what you read in the newspaper, as well as what you might do for a living.

BHPL: Speaking of eavesdropping... I met you at an author book-signing at the Berkeley Heights Public Library and based on your conversation afterwards with Jeff Markowitz, the visiting author, which I couldn't help overhear, it seemed like you go to a lot of author events and belong to various professional writers' groups. Is that a helpful approach and I would guess an antidote to the solitary nature of writing?
Bob: Writing can be a very solitary occupation. But Garrison Keillor has said that writers also need to go out and be with others. Experience life so they can actually have something to write about and feel passionate about. I am currently an affiliate member of the NY chapter of Mystery Writers of America, a national organization of established and aspiring mystery writers. I also belong to a writers group that meets once a month at the Morris County Library as well as an online organization called “The Short Mystery Fiction Society”. The SMFS is free to join and a great way to learn about the business of publishing and how to market your short stories via their free Yahoo newsgroup. All of those organizations offer a wealth of information and are extremely helpful.

BHPL: OK, the dreaded "R" word. How do you deal with rejection letters from publishers which I assume are a part of every writer's life?
Bob: I've had a couple of stories published in the past few years, but this is only the beginning of a long and winding road toward further publication and establishing myself as a writer. Writing is a never ending learning process full of joys and disappointments. But the thrill of an acceptance letter greatly outweighs the many rejection slips that come before.

BHPL: So you take the long view or are essentially a "glass half-full" kind of person?
Bob: I think I am both really. The glass is always half-full because I write. And to just write in the first place is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Published or not. But I also take a long view because I always hope to better myself and learn more about the craft. I’ve been writing as a hobby since I was in eighth grade (which was in the 80’s) but I’m still new to this thing.

BHPL: Thanks,Bob, for stopping by the BHPL Book Blog. Now that we've met you, we hope you will stop by again to tell us about what you are working on and other tales from the writer's life.
To our readers: please post any questions you have to the comments section of this post (or email or call us), and we'll send the best and most frequently asked questions on to the author to be answered here on the blog when Bob stops by next time for a blog visit. As always, click on the links in the text to find relevant websites, including the writers' organizations that Bob mentioned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Author Robert Daniher to Visit the BHPL Blog

This blog has featured author visits for mystery writers Susan Wittig Albert and former Berkeley Heights resident Roberta Isleib. Their blog visits were popular with the authors’ fans and with our regular blog readers. Given that widespread interest in the writing process and authors’ lives, we have asked New Jersey author Robert Daniher to give us the inside view of the writer’s life. Coming to this blog next week, Mr.Daniher, will post about his experiences as an author. We will check in from time to time as he goes through the process of writing, submitting manuscripts, staying connected to the writing community through professional activities and seeking support and advice from other authors.
Check back with us next week (week of January 25, 2010) and email any questions you have for the author to or write them in the comment section of this blog post.

A Morning at the Reference Desk: Questions, We Got Questions

This morning has been what I still think of as a "typical" shift on the Reference Desk, When I started out in a big-city library, the Reference Desk had 3 incoming phone lines, lines of people around the desk waiting for help, and librarians took one hour shifts on the desk, one hour off to recharge. It was like working at a fast-food joint, but handing out answers instead of burgers. Now, libraries are busy, but in a different way, with questions coming in by email, blog comments, faxes and sometimes Twitter. We don't take text messages yet, but it could happen.
This morning's questions:
A late-breaking (8:55 pm Tuesday says the call slip) research question about commodity prices.
A Girl Scout leader asking about the best way to publicize G.S. programs and distribute flyers.
A colleague at another library asking about what databases we have and which might be discontinued due to lack of state funding.
Emails with incoming blog comments in Chinese to approve or reject. We don't accept comments that are selling things.
A public internet computer froze twice on the same patron and needed to be fixed.
I started to try out a new database using a trial subscription, but immediately ran into technical problems with it.
Questions about our downloadable audiobooks and how to renew them.
A man wanted recommendations of mysteries for his wife, but not "spy stuff."
A caller wanted the music and lyrics to a song by Irving Berlin.
Many interlibrary loan requests piled up on my CPU.
Request for the phone number of the Better Business Bureau.
Caller asked for book with funny title, something about "Guernsey potatoes."
Request for a book that went out yesterday for a local book club.
Do we have a copy of the 9/11 Report? (yes)
That's it so far at noon, 9 hours to go.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Call Me Ishmael

Having progressed passed the pages of epigraphs at the beginning of Moby-Dick, I couldn't even get past that epic first line, "Call me Ishmael," before I had to find out what that meant. has an interesting article on why this is the first sign that Ishmael is not going to be the most forthcoming narrator. But how can you not love someone who says things like,

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet... then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

or describes a painting hanging in the inn in New Bedford while he waits for the ship to Nantucket this way:

A boggy, soggy, squitchy picture truly, enough to drive a nervous man distracted. Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvellous painting meant.

or who agrees to spend the night in the same bed as a "harpooneer" when the inn is full?

Moby Dick fun fact: Moby the artist/DJ was nicknamed that because he is supposedly a descendant of Melville (and that's his middle name).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Icy Inspiration

Snow is beautiful but treacherous; sometimes a book is better than the real thing. This collage might inspire you to:

Wake up to midsummer snowballs (this happened in London in 2000).

Marvel over Ice: The Nature, the History and the Uses of This Astonishing Substance and weird snow globes.

Curl up under a velvety quilt;

Peruse The Art of the Snowflake: a Photographic Album (this one's for anyone who used to run outside with a piece of black construction paper when it was snowing).

Be glad you're not Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches on a Frozen Earth.

On the Trail of a Barrel

Today a patron came in looking for the exact wording of a Benjamin Franklin quote that he heard a politician use: something like "New Jersey is a barrel emptied at both ends." Googling, we found it worded various ways on different web sites; and Franklin's entry in the Encyclopedia of New Jersey made it seem like Franklin might not have even said it, without shedding any light on the wording. ("The famous remark attributed to him - that New Jersey was like a barrel tapped at both ends by New York and Philadelphia - does not represent Franklin's published views.")

American Quotations (edited by Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich) listed the quote as:
[New Jersey resembles] a beer barrel, tapped at both ends, with all the live beer running into Philadelphia and New York." - Attributed to Benjamin Franklin by Abram Browning, in an address at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, quoted in Miriam V. Studley, Historic New Jersey Through Visitors' Eyes, 1964.

So the first time it appeared in print, it was a quote of a quote that would have had to have been made almost 100 years before. Just to make things more confusing, it seems that Abram Browning might have coined the phrase "Garden State" during his speech at the Centennial Exposition. According to the 1926 work Jersey Waggon Jaunts,
"In his address Mr. Browning compared New Jersey to an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and the New Yorkers from the other. He called New Jersey the Garden State, and the name has clung to it ever since."

A New York Times columnist thought that the quote might be the world's first New Jersey joke. Yup, today's just been a barrel of laughs.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stephen Fry in America Makes Mistakes

Stephen Fry is an English actor, perhaps best known in the U.S. as Jeeves in the Jeeves and Wooster BBC/Masterpiece Theatre television adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse's series of comic novels. Mr. Fry, who claims to be a lifelong fan of the United States and of all of our quaint colonial ways, filmed a television series, Stephen Fry in America, which aired in the U.K. in 2008, but has not yet been broadcast in the U.S. The accompanying book, Stephen Fry in America, fifty states and the man who set out to see them all, was released in November 2009 in the U.S. In the book's Introduction, the author distances himself from Britons who sneer at
"American ignorance...crassness...isolationism...materialism...and vulgarity," (p.2).
Furthermore, Mr. Fry continues, the "broad general knowledge" which his countrymen feel they possess in spades, as Bertie Wooster would say, is no reason to be all snooty about us poor, pitiful colonials. Well, shucks, Steve, thanks and right back atchoo! Much of the book takes a simlar tone of being a back-handed compliment: Mr. Fry loves those salt-of-the-earth New York hunters, but please don't shoot any deer while he's filming you.
Ironically, "broad general knowledge" or even the ability to fact-check and proofread, seem to be qualities sorely missing in this travelogue, which is actually as much of an ego trip as a road trip for Mr. Fry. A casual reading revealed the following errors which an average American fourth grader would have noticed without straining a muscle. An Actual Editor might have found more mistakes, but you get the idea.

Grant's Tomb is in Washington, D.C. (p. 78) No, it's in NYC and three guesses who is buried there.

N.J. has a town called Brunswick (p. 61) Really, is that where New Rutgers is? Oh, I'm sorry, we colonials are incapable of irony (p. 2.)

George Washington crossed the Delaware from N.J. to PA to invade Trenton (p. 66, in the State of Delaware chapter, don't ask) OK, that would be a difficult military maneuver, even if it was just to defeat a bunch of drunken Brits carousing in the Trenton saloons on Christmas Day.

OTB refers to "on track betting" in New York and is the only legal kind of betting in America (p. 58) OTB refers to "off track betting."

Submarines are named after state capitals, (p. 46) Would that be like the (submarine) Nautilus, named after the capitol of ...? Oh, wait, there is no capitol city named Nautilus.

The Mississippi River flows from Chicago to New Orleans. Stephen, why do you find rivers so confusing?

Architect of the St. Louis arch, Eero Saarinen is referred to as Danish. He is Finnish, as any Finnish school child can tell you, and which I, barely literate Yankee that I am, know off the top of my head.

Excuse me for not having the page numbers for the last 2 errors. For a while I was writing mistakes on Post-it notes as I read, but my supply dwindled rapidly.

Fans of Stephen Fry will enjoy this book, but otherwise, give this book a fact-check-fail.

Friday, January 8, 2010

American Expatriate Memoirs

The evening book group members are reading memoirs by American expatriates for this month's meeting (January 12 at 7:30 p.m.). There have been several waves of Americans who left the U.S. for political or artistic reasons, from British sympathizers after the Revolution to men drafted for the Vietnam War; read an excellent overview here.

I read Off the King's Road: Lost and Found in London, which is Phyllis Raphael's memoir about rediscovering herself in London in the early 70s after her husband of 12 years, a Hollywood producer, leaves her for a teenaged actress just weeks after they arrive in London to shoot a film. Raphael is on the writing faculty at Columbia University now, but at the time she was a theater actress/mother of three who spent a lot of time with her counterculture artist friends in London (her Spanish servants are always willing to babysit). Being in a different country gave her freedom; she couldn't imagine going back to L.A. or New York "without a husband," but in London she felt free to try out anything: acid, counter-psychoanalysis psychoanalysts, and any man she liked.

Here are some questions for the book group; be ready to discuss your choice.

Why did the author you chose leave the U.S.? Was it by choice, by force or by accident?

Why did the author decide to tell their story in a memoir?

How does the foreign country or city the author settles in change his or her life?

Does being "the American" change the author's sense of identity in any way? How?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

24/7 Resources for Your Resolutions

Whether you've made a New Year's resolution or are attempting 101 things in 1001 days, the library's online subscription resources are always available for you here if you want to:

Learn a Language.
BYKI, used by the Foreign Service Institute and Defense Language Institute, provides online courses for over 80 languages. Like Rosetta Stone, BYKI focuses on teaching vocabulary with flash cards, so you can start speaking the language quickly.

Find More Time to Read.
Try downloading audiobooks to your computer or MP3 player for free via ListenNJ. Some titles can be burned to CD (always good for a commute). Among its thousands of titles, ListenNJ has over 100 self-help audiobooks that will get you inspired, from Creative Visualization Meditations to Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating.

Go Back to School/ Get Certified.
LearningExpress Library has online courses to prepare you for the SAT, GED, or GRE, plus the exams that real estate agents, air traffic controllers, cosmetologists, firefighters and many other professionals must pass.

Find a New Career.
Find lists of the fastest growing jobs, and the highest paying jobs at Ferguson's Career Guidance Center. Ferguson's provides information on thousands of careers (including education requirements and salary ranges), sample cover letters and resumes,

Research Your Family Tree.
Come in to the library to search for free. You'll find census records, military records like World War I draft cards, and more.

Impress Your Book Club.
Look up the author (no matter how obscure) you're reading this month in Contemporary Authors. If you're reading literary fiction or classics, you can usually find some analysis of your book in EBSCO Literary Reference Center and Bloom's Literary Reference Online.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Questions of 2010

Q: I need the audiobook on Italian I checked out three months ago. It has a green and white plastic case and comes with a book.

A: There is no record kept of what you check out, except for things you owe overdue fines on. So I went over to the foreign language learning CDs and DVDs, which are in alphabetical order by language. There were three possibilities, but when I asked if there was a gondola on the cover, that seemed to clinch it.

Q: What is the phone number of Honda headquarters in the US?

A: If you go to, you'll see "American Honda Motor Co." in small print at the bottom of the page. I typed that into ReferenceUSA, a website the library subscribes to, and looked for the company in the search results with a down arrow under the Corporate Tree column. (You click on the down arrow to see subsidiaries; only the top level company has just a down arrow.) You can search ReferenceUSA from home by going to and clicking on Remote Databases.

Q: What are the side effects of coenzyme Q10?

A: I kept getting different answers for this one. I went to and clicked Custom Search. Then I scrolled down to Health and clicked on Health Source Consumer Edition (otherwise you will get highly technical articles on medical studies) and searched for coenzyme Q10. This brought up an article from CRS Medication Advisor. I also Googled "coenzyme Q10 side effects" and which brought up this Mayo Clinic article. WebMD also had some different side effects listed for this dietary supplement.

Q: Where are the audiobooks about sales and selling?

A: I searched the BHPL Catalog for sales as a subject, but kept getting too much fiction. So I searched for books with sales in the title and wrote down one book's call number. Once we got to that place on the shelf, all of the sales audiobooks were there.