Friday, December 31, 2010

10 in '10-Reading New Mexico

The Pueblo Imagination: Landscape & Memory in the Photography of Lee Marmon with writings by Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo, & Simon Ortiz This is a lovely book, featuring primarily the photographs of Lee Marmon (father of Leslie Marmon Silko), but interspersed with essays by Silko & poetry & prose by Simon Ortiz & Joy Harjo. Most of the photographs are black & white & were taken in the Laguna & Acoma Pueblos. These photographs, many of people, paint an evocative picture of pueblo life from the 1940s-90s. Marmon's landscape photography is also very beautiful. The book begins with a "Photographer's Statement" by Lee Marmon (almost a short autobiographical essay), followed by a "Preface" by Leslie Marmon Silko which helps to set the scene. Silko's essay "Rain" is next-the longest piece of writing in the book. "Rain" talks about many Native American tales, with characters such as Corn Woman & the Twin Brothers. The short pieces by Ortiz & Harjo make up the rest of the writing in the book. Part memory, part poetry, these pieces seem to speak to & about the photographs they face. All in all, a very special introduction to the Native American culture in New Mexico.

& now, a special guest post from Alysa to round out our 10 in '10 reads! Confessions of A Berlitz-Tape Chicana by Demetria Martínez This book is a memoir and social commentary that explores issues of cultural identity, female beauty and spirituality. Martínez’s essays are short but powerful reflections of her personal experiences and opinions on social justice issues. Confessions is an inspiring read for activists, women and students. Check out this book! Finished just under the wire! Check out our complete 10 in '10 reviews here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

"I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold on to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad-as I am now. Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?"
~Jane Eyre's conscience

This was a second reading of Jane Eyre for me, & a much more painstaking one (I confess, when I was younger, I skimmed it). At my first reading, I was not very interested-the most vivid memory I have of the book from my younger years was the death of Helen Burns at Lowood School, which completely creeped me out at the time, & the rest of the book was rather a muddle-Jane loves Rochester, Jane leaves Rochester, yada yada yada. I enjoyed Charlotte Brontë's masterwork much more the second time around. I still don't love it. Brontë-wise, I still like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall best. But I prefer this to Wuthering Heights.

To give it its due, Jane Eyre is well-written. Charlotte Brontë has a wonderful turn of phrase, whether she's vividly describing nature or Jane's rich emotional life (see above, or how about her thoughts on travelling to India as St. John Rivers' "female curate" rather than wife-"...My heart and mind would be free. I should still have my unblighted self to turn to: my natural unenslaved feelings with which to communicate in moments of loneliness. There would be recesses in my mind which would be only mine, to which he never came; and sentiments growing there, fresh and sheltered, which his austerity could never blight, nor his measured warrior-march trample down"). Charlotte Brontë's writing can get slightly fevered in its intensity & a little verbose, but most of her prose is beautiful to behold.

As you might imagine, the titular character, & all her emotions, principles, & opinions, is the heart of the book. The reader-or at least this reader-can forgive Charlotte Brontë some missteps in plotting, such as the ridiculous gypsy scene, or the pat manner in which our heroine is delivered into the laps of her relatives-of all the manor houses in all the world, she has to walk into the one owned by her cousins!-because Jane is such a well-drawn characterization. Her life runs a course full of ups & downs-& either very up, or very down, which can start to seem a little far-fetched-but Charlotte Brontë never fails to summon a true, thoughtful voice for Jane; & the author, as skilled with the written word as her heroine is artistically, has drawn an unforgettable portrait. I'm not planning any more Brontë reading in the near future (unless I take up The Tenant of Wildfell Hall again), but I have a new appreciation for this tome.

Fans of Jane Eyre might also consider reading Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, which gives a voice to Bertha Mason, "the madwoman in the attic". I see that, more recently, there has also been at least one other book written about another minor character (Adèle: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant) & I have Becoming Jane Eyre by the always amazing Sheila Kohler at home-though it seems this Jane hasn't quite become the cottage industry that Jane Austen & some of her characters have. Yet. Plus, I would also like to recommend, if you aren't put off by its massiveness, Juliet Barker's excellent biography, The Brontës, which is completely fascinating.

If you have been following my Victorian reading challenge foibles this year, thanks for checking in! I only have 100 pages left of Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret & a rather sizeable chunk of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives & Daughters to make it through for a last minute finish of my 12-book goal! Check out the blog in January for next year's reading challenges!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

10 in '10-Reading New Mexico

Elsie Karr Kreischer We've saved the best for almost last! Elsie has been a longtime friend & customer of Cherry Hills Library & we're delighted to review two of her children's books. Read more about Elsie here.

Bigger than a Button This picture book is a poem about love. The illustrations show a family-parents & children-gathered together. The charming text begins by telling readers "I have something to give you/It is bigger than a button/But it is something you can't see." This is a good read for very young children-not many words, but very gentle & evocative. Maria Montoya Martinez: Master Potter For upper-elementary (& above!) readers interested in the life of the potter, this is a great book-Elsie's most renowned title! Elsie was a personal friend of Maria Montoya Martinez & she ably chronicles the potter's life from her early battle with smallpox aged 10 through her journey to becoming a master potter-first falling in love with throwing pots & then developing her technique. Maria Montoya Martinez is famous for accidentally recreating the black-on-black pottery style that had been used by Pueblo artists during the Neolithic period.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

10 in '10-Reading New Mexico

Gossip Can Be Murder by Connie Shelton Remember our 2010 reading challenge? We're still trying to finish it! Here's book # 6. This is Connie Shelton's 11th entry in her Charlie Parker mysteries, which we have enjoyed in the past-particularly character of the sleuth, Charlie, a female C.P.A. & P.I. based in Albuquerque. Charlie & her brother Ron run the detective agency together, & Charlie's husband Drake, a pilot, also sometimes lends a hand in the investigations. The Albuquerque settings are very fun to read about & make us curious to check out venues mentioned. In this outing, Charlie heads to a Santa Fe spa for a "weeklong spiritual/nutrition retreat". Of course, there is a death, not accepting the assumptions of "accidental", Charlie begins to do some detecting on her own. Kidnapping & other mayhem ensues as Charlie searches for the truth...& a hamburger & fries to sustain her after a few days of spa food. This was not our favorite of the Charlie Parker mysteries, but worth a read!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ubiquitous Steampunk

I've been reading a lot about the steampunk phenomenon this year, so the Omnivoracious blog's post "Steampunk Unloaded, Uploaded, Reloaded, Remixed, Cooked, Stuffed, and Codified" made me wonder why I had not written more about it (although in August I recommended Cherie Priest's Boneshaker). Not familiar with the steampunk genre? Check out this New York Times article, "Steampunk Moves Between Worlds", or "Steam Dream" from the Boston Phoenix. Also TVTropes has a good explanation of the genre, which they start by summing up as "Retro-style Speculative Fiction set in periods where steam power is king."

Looking for steampunk fiction in the catalog? Our collection is small, but growing! Click here to see some titles.

Also consider visiting The Steampunk Workshop & Steampunk Magazine. has many book reviews.

Check out this video from the steampunk episode of ABC's show Castle!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is a week long African American celebration observed from December 26th to January 1st each year. This year's theme is "Kwanzaa and the Nguzo Saba: An Ethics of Sharing Good in the World".

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays from ABC Libraries!

And, especially for you on Christmas Day, another 10 in '10: Reading New Mexico entry!
The Farolitos of Christmas by Rudolfo Anaya A sweet story & a great family readaloud of how the Christmas tradition of farolitos came to be (though we can't find any record of who actually invented farolitos, Anaya's tale is charming). Set in 1944, it is the story of Luz, a little girl who is waiting for her father to come back from the war & worrying over her sick grandfather. In Luz's village in Northern New Mexico, it is the tradition to light small bonfires of piñon in front of the house on Christmas Eve-but with her family's troubles this year, who will stack the logs for burning? Luz must find another way!

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the Night Before...

Just click on these links to read the rest of the parodies of Clement Moore's famous poem. & whatever you may be celebrating this season, hope it's happy!

'Twas a Star Trek Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas on the Enterprise-D,
On a routine short hop to Starbase 03,
With Data on duty in the command chair,
At Warp 6, the Enterprise soon would be there.

A Visit from St. Nicholas in the Ernest Hemingway Manner

It was the night before Christmas. The house was very quiet. No creatures were stirring in the house. There weren't even any mice stirring. The stockings had been hung carefully by the chimney. The children hoped that Saint Nicholas would come and fill them.

'Twas the Night Before Catmas

'Twas the night before Catmas,
When all through the house,
Not an animal was stirring,
Not even the mouse.

Xena's Night Before Solstice

'Twas the night before Solstice and all through the village,
There were no celebrations, not even a light pillage;
Joxer was nestled elsewhere in his bed,
While heroic visions danced through his head.

X-File Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas and all of the Feds,
Had gone home to their families and were tucked up in bed.
Fox Mulder was stirring, he'd be up for a while,
With high hopes that Santa would bring him an X-File.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Today in Music History

Today in 1858, Giacomo Puccini, Italian composer, was born! Here is a clip of Maria Callas performing Puccini's opera Tosca.

For more Puccini operas, check out the library's DVD selection!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Winter Solstice!

The longest night of the year is honored by many traditions as a sacred and rich time. In the past, it's been a night to gather 'round the fire, or set out candles to call back the Sun. On the calendar, it falls between December 20th and 23rd in the Northern Hemisphere.
~from Astrology

Monday, December 20, 2010

Doodling in Math Class

I recently read about this "recreational mathematician" on NPR. I was intrigued by the idea of teaching math "more intuitively, more joyously"-I was never good at math in school & dreaded math class. I like her videos, which you can find on YouTube.

Check out Vi Hart's website for more mathematical doodles, mathematical food, mathematical balloon twisting, & how to make a paper didgeridoo!

For a related take on math education, check out the essay "A Mathematician's Lament".

I've also heard good things about the books Danica McKellar has written for teenagers, with user-friendly titles like Math Doesn't Suck.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mystery of Nikumaroro

In June, Discovery News announced that "Tantalizing new clues are surfacing in the Amelia Earhart mystery, according to researchers scouring a remote South Pacific island believed to be the final resting place of the legendary aviatrix."

As of December 18th, the big news is that "Bones found on island might be Amelia Earharts's". To see a slideshow of pictures of Earhart & the discoveries on Nikumaroro Island, click here.

What do you think? For more information on Amelia Earhart, visit her official website, her listing at, or your friendly library webpage.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

It's crunch time for my Victorian reading challenge! Way back in January, I swore I would read 12 Victorian books by year's end. Well, as usual, I've waited until last minute & I have just a couple of weeks to read Jane Eyre, Wives & Daughters, & Lady Audley's Secret. Yikes! If only Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter counted (I'm finding that really amusing)...but I have to read more books written during the Victorian era, not faux Victorian zombie lit. At least I have finished Kidnapped.

I always feel the book should be titled Kidnapped!, as though it were a tabloid headline. But really, Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel is anything but sensational & lurid. I was excited to realize that Stevenson was a Victorian writer, because I read & re-read Treasure Island as a kid, & I thought Kidnapped would be more of the same. However, while it is in a similar vein to Treasure Island, it's a very different book.

According to the introduction by John Seelye that opened my edition, Kidnapped (written in 1886, three years after T.I.), was the "second of Stevenson's so-called 'boys' books'. a carefully constructed fiction, with intentionally strong connections to historical circumstance, namely the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland." Seelye suggests that T.I. was more of a slapdash affair, geographically inaccurate, purely a fantasy. He also refers to Stevenson's criticism of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, set in the same era but with nary of mention of Jacobites, & Stevenson's debt to Sir Walter Scott for his romantic history Waverley, set during the same period. One of the characters in the book refers to the protagonist's journey as a kind of Scots Odyssey. So you can see that, even with clocking in at just over 200 pages, Kidnapped really packs a literary wallop.

Set in 1751, it's the story of the adventures of David Balfour: as the opening page attests, "how he was kidnapped & cast away; his journey in the Wild Highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart & other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he suffered at the hands of his uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely so-called." & that pretty much sums up the action, right there. I think the novel's title is misleading-the kidnap is actually a small part of the plot, though a vital part. A lot of the novel concerns David's travels, alone & later with Alan Breck (which, in less capable authorial hands, could have degenerated into a kind of 'buddy movie' material).

What I so enjoy about Robert Louis Stevenson is his writing style. David Balfour & Alan Breck Stewart are vividly portrayed characters who quarrel & make up; help each other & betray each other, all while saying "Hoot!" & "Wheesht!". The uneasy camaraderie that develops between these two characters is very realistic. (Ebenezer Balfour is a bit of a hobgoblin, but a real baddie is called for in the narrative.) Everything Stevenson writes about is so detailed & intense, so compelling, that the reader is irresistibly drawn into the action, despite, in my case, knowing nothing about the Jacobites. Stevenson, showing geographic due diligence this time, takes you through a detailed tour of Scotland, from Queen's Ferry to the Isle of Mull & back again; through wood, heather & moor, under less than pleasant conditions (mainly cold & wet). David also meets Cluny Macpherson, another famous Jacobite, hiding out in a kind of wattle & moss treehouse known as "Cluny's Cage" & Stevenson takes you through a bit of the history of clans, or at least which clans don't get along & the fact that the wearing of tartan had been outlawed.

I would highly recommend the entertaining works of Stevenson & I think I will be reading more of his adventure stories in the future. Meanwhile, if you really like Kidnapped, you should consider its 1893 sequel, Catriona, though John Seelye says it is a lesser work. At the end of Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson indicates, however, that "all went well with both [David & Alan Breck], in the limited and human sense of the word 'well'; that whatever befell them, it was not dishonour, & whatever failed them, they were not found wanting to themselves."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Church of Beethoven

Last Sunday I went to see local poet Joy Harjo perform at the Church of Beethoven. This local institution has been going on for a few years now, & I had been once before. However, now that I work Sundays, it's a bit of a stretch for me to attend. I'm so glad I didn't miss this!

The website says "Not church . . . more than Beethoven. Arrive early and enjoy the complimentary espresso bar. Our one-hour program of ensemble music and poetry begins promptly at 10:30 am. We usually open with a short work— something out of the ordinary— followed by a reading by our poet of the morning. Intermission is a two-minute celebration of silence and we close with a substantial work of chamber music." The Church of Beethoven was founded in 2008 by musician Felix Wurman, who has since passed away, to showcase ensemble music, poetry, & performance. It takes place at The Kosmos & attendance ranges around 100-140 "enchanted listeners", even with tickets at $15 a head.

For Sunday's event, because Joy Harjo is a poet & musician (she played at least 3 instruments at the Church of Beethoven), the show began with the amazing Ikuko Kanda on violin as the only other performer besides Ms. Harjo & the musicians who accompanied her. Ms. Kanda performed the Adagio & Fugue of Bach's Sonata in G Minor. I found the Adagio especially compelling, but Ms. Kanda performed both brilliantly.

For the rest of the time, it was Joy Harjo's event. Accompanied by Larry Mitchell & Tony James, she performed many of her poems in song with music, although her latest piece she chose to read while music played because she hadn't gotten the rhythm down yet. Her songs included "This is My Heart", "Equinox", & "Goin' Home". Ms. Harjo also read from her children's book, For a Girl Becoming. Whether singing or reading, it was a truly inspiring performance. For other works by Joy Harjo, check the library catalog.

Don't miss next Sunday the 19th, when Vivaldi's The Four Seasons will be performed in its entirety, interspersed with readings of sonnets originally created for the work!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Today in Art History

Today marks the birthday of Edvard Munch, a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker, and an important forerunner of expressionistic art. For books about Munch, check your library catalog, using either a keyword or subject search.

Also consider visiting the website of Oslo's Munch Museum. If you like Edvard Munch, another Norwegian artist you might check out is Gustav Vigeland-his sculpture park is something to see!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Period Pieces

It's Jane Austen's birth anniversary on December 16th, & this always makes me want to settle down with a hot cup of tea & the BBC production of Pride & Prejudice to celebrate one of my favorite authors. However, not everyone has 6 hours to spare during the holiday season for TV watching, so here are a few more costume dramas that we recommend to wile away a couple of hours of a long cold afternoon!

Jane Austen
Persuasion (with Amanda Root & Ciaran Hinds)
Sense & Sensibility (Emma Thompson)

19th century
Horatio Hornblower (C. S. Forester)
Daniel Deronda (George Eliot)
Bleak House (Charles Dickens)
Cranford (Elizabeth Gaskell)
The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins)
The Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton)
Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry)
Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sharpe's Mission (Bernard Cornwell)

20th century
The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy)

Also try: The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World of Warcraft

We've got a few diehard World of Warcraft fans in our library system who are very excited at today's release of the WoW expansion, Cataclysm! In honor of Cataclysm going live, here are a couple of titles WoW fans might enjoy, available from ABC Libraries! (At least, you might enjoy reading them sometime down the road, when the thrill of flying in Azeroth & race changing into a worgen has worn off.)

The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World by William Sims Bainbridge

Cycle of Hatred by Keith R. A. DeCandido

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Walt Disney!

Enjoy this short about the creation of Snow White & the 7 Dwarves.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Today in Cinema History

French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard celebrates his 79th birthday today! Check out a Godard movie from your local library to celebrate. (the folks at the Guild Cinema recommend Pierrot le Fou & Alphaville.) Also consider the 2008 book Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith to learn more.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Today in Art History

George Seurat, a French Post-Impressionist painter, was born December 2, 1859. The image displayed above is A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, painted between 1884 and 1886, which started the Neo-Impressionist movement. It is one of his most famous works and an example of pointillism, a technique which Seurat developed. He died in 1891.

To read more about Seurat & his art, check the library catalog! A keyword search of Seurat will bring up many items about or including this wonderful painter, including exhibition catalogs. Also try a subject search.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah begins at sunset on Wednesday, December 1, 2010. Its celebration continues on Thursday, December 2, 2010, and finishes at nightfall on Thursday, December 9, 2010.