Monday, August 31, 2015

Delicious! - by Ruth Reichl

A long-locked library at a food magazine (Delicious!) provides a treasure hunt for Billie Breslin, the only employee left at the publication after its shut down. Left to field calls from subscribers who are  either taking advantage of the magazine's money-back guarantee on any recipe that doesn't satisfy, or needing to find an old recipe, Billie discovers a secret room in the unused archives. The files in the hidden space contain letters written during World War II from a young girl (Lulu Swan) to legendary chef James Beard. Billie discovers that a complicated cryptography on color-coded cards in the old wooden card catalog was developed by former librarian, Bertie. The cards contain to clues as to where more letters can be found.  I was baffled by this at first - wondering why a librarian would make finding information so difficult, but all is made clear by the end of the book. Billie also does some research at the Cleveland Public Library in hopes finding out what happened to Lulu. The libraries in the book are safe, welcoming places, as they should be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Read-A-Romance Month: Adrian's Librarian - by Hollis Shiloh

I discovered late last week that we were in the midst of Read-A-Romance Month. I don't read much in the way of romance novels, but I also try not to be too dismissive. I also like to have a variety of genres represented on my blog. With all this in mind, I set out to find a romance with a librarian in it. I found several titles through a simple google search, but as I searched on iBooks for one I could download it turned out the first one with that qualification was a gay romance. I've included a few romance titles on this blog, but up til now haven't any same-sex romances. Time to fix that.

Adrian's librarian is Oliver (Ollie) whom Adrian rescues from his evil pimp by offering him a boondoggle - organizing his personal library. The books had been perfectly ordered, but he had the rest of his staff put them in disarray in order to provide an opportunity for the handsome lad he'd met at a masquerade ball.

The "about the author" blurb at the end of the book says that "Hollis's stories tend toward the sweet rather than the spicy." That is an accurate description of this work. While there is no doubt that the two young lovers share a bed, what they do there is left mostly to the reader's imagination. One thing that is clear is that these two enjoy reading aloud to each other, a practice I find both sweet and sexy. Adrian and Ollie are both portrayed as rather vulnerable, and there is a long, frustrating build up toward their happy ending.

Read more about same sex romances here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

In the Unlikely Event - by Judy Blume

Judy Blume did a lot a research in order to write this novel about real life events that took place in 1951-1952 when three planes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey over a two month period. The story is of lost lives, and dashed dreams. It is also about hope and community and moving on. Fans of Judy Blume know well that she has never forgotten what it was like to be a child, or a teenager. This book demonstrates that she also has not forgotten the thrill of first love, the rush of first sexual excitement, or the devastation of first heartbreak, or what it feels like to lose a friend.

Ms. Blume thanks five librarians by name, and three different libraries in her acknowledgements. In this work she also created characters who were book lovers, and library users. Smart Daisy Dupree loves to read and to give books as gifts. She uses the library a lot, but "the bookshop is for books [she] just has to own." Former first-grade teacher Jo Foster always has a stack of library books ready to read to her two daughters at bedtime. Their babysitter Miri Ammerman, fantasizes an alternate reality in which Jo took the girls "someplace, to the library maybe..." after a plane crashes into their house and kills one of the young girls. Miri also uses the convenient "I'm going to the library" excuse when she decides to get her hair styled and cut like Elizabeth Taylor's so as not to have her mother Rusty ask a lot of questions, or forbid her from doing it. And when Miri runs into her boyfriend with an older woman on her way home from school she wishes for a "do-over" in which she would take a different route, or maybe go to the library. Writing this I realize that it seems that Miri thinks about using the library a lot, but it is unclear whether she actually ever went. She mentions a lecture her stepsister gave at the library on "channeling your past lives" during one of her book tours, but even there we are not sure if Miri attended. We do know Miri's mother used a "penny library" (presumably a subscription library?) to check out From Here to Eternity.

Blume has created sympathetic, strong characters who also have regrets and flaws. This well- researched work was hard to put down.