Friday, September 17, 2021

Music Book Review: Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist by Marc Ribot

Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist
by Marc Ribot (Music 781.66 Ribot)

Marc Ribot is one of those guitarists that many people may not know by name, but they’ve probably heard him play. He’s been featured on over 500 recordings, including those by artists like Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull, Elvis Costello, John Mellancamp, Neko Case, Diana Krall, David Sandborn, Laurie Anderson, and many, many more. For those who do know him by name, he’s led his own bands and solo projects for years as well, crisscrossing many genres of music but always with a lot of soul and a sense of joy and adventure. His very personal yet inclusive approach to the guitar takes him between pop music albums, modern avant-garde works, and all kinds of roots and Americana-based musical forms with ease. And he’s just published his first book, a collection mostly of short essays about his life and music. The book is called Unstrung: Rants and Stories of a Noise Guitarist, and you can borrow it from the Polley Music Library.

 

Unstrung is an extremely approachable book, and you don’t need to be a musician to follow what’s happening here. Ribot’s style of delivery has similarities to his guitar work: he is direct, he isn’t afraid to let readers peek behind the curtain that often divides artists from their audiences, and he knows how to paint a picture without exhausting every color at his disposal. Novelist Lynne Tillman tells us a bit about Marc Ribot as a writer and thinker in her thoughtful introduction, and then Ribot immediately invites us inside his world with an insightful essay about using guitar amplifiers at high volumes. There are so many memorable observations about the electric guitar and music more broadly in the seven pages of this essay that it feels like its own song, ready to be played back again and again to look for more insight.

 

The book is divided into four parts, and this first part focuses on music the most. There are discussions of musicians’ rights in the era of streaming music, the difficulties of perceiving rhythms from different musical traditions, and heartfelt remembrances of musicians who have recently departed. Of note, two musicians so eulogized here are the first victims of the COVID-19 pandemic that I’ve seen mentioned in new books: bassist Henry Grimes and producer Hal Willner.

 

This leaves us three more parts of Unstrung to explore that are more about life experiences: living in New York and watching it change over time, life on the road, childhood memories. There are some music-related scenarios that crop up, of course, but these are fundamentally glimpses at the human experience. Then we get into pieces of short fiction in parts III and IV. In Part III, they’re all called “Film (Mis)Treatments — short, mostly humorous ideas for short films. In Part IV, we have more general short fiction, sometimes very short, approaching flash fiction territory, incorporating the occasional memory from Ribot’s life but presented in fictional form. These are of varying quality, and they move by quickly — if you’re not digging one, you’re only a page or two away from the next. One of these in particular really stuck with me, “The Man With the Fun Job,” which tells the story of an average, moderately successful musician whose life story might look pretty dramatic if told from slightly embellished angles, but in reality is pretty simple, modest and satisfying.

 

I didn’t go into this book with a lot of expectations, other than having read a couple of Ribot’s musically-focused essays before—that opening essay about loud amplifiers, for example, was first published in the debut edition of John Zorn’s Arcana series of books back in 2001. And I must admit to being a little surprised at first that so much of the book focused on non-musical subject matter. One can’t help but suspect that the pandemic conditions of 2020, the lack of recording sessions happening and the standstill in musical tours, might have led to collecting this material into a single volume. I’m sure that otherwise many parts of this book would have remained strewn about between various magazines, anthologies, and unpublished pieces. But upon sitting with it for a while, I’m glad an opportunity presented itself to collect these writings as a book. The contents are a little mixed up and not altogether stylistically coherent, veering from nonfiction to fiction and back again in a way that folks don’t often behave in print. But in music, that sort of thing is more common, and the coherence of a project comes more from the voices playing the music than the particular stylistic context they’re dressed in at a given moment. And this book is musical in the same rough-and-tumble way as much of Ribot’s music, with an immediately recognizable voice.

 

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try New York Noise: Radical Jewish Music and the Downtown Scene by Tamar Barzel, Arcana: Musicians on Music edited by John Zorn or The History of Bones: A Memoir by John Lurie.)

 

( publisher’s official Unstrung web site ) | ( official Marc Ribot web site )

 

Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!


Check out this, and all the other great music resources, at the Polley Music Library, located on the 2nd floor of the Bennett Martin Public Library at 14th & "N" St. in downtown Lincoln. You'll find biographies of musicians, books about music history, instructional books, sheet music, CDs, music-related magazines, and much more. Also check out Polley Music Library Picks, the Polley Music Library's e-mail newsletter, and follow them on Facebook!

 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review: The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot

The Lord God Made Them All
by James Herriot (B H43551)

This summer I have read every book in our collection by the English author James Herriot (Alf Wight). I had become obsessed with the PBS series All Creatures Great and Small last year and wanted to hear more of the stories about life as a Country Vet in the highlands of Yorkshire. I have enjoyed all of the books written by this author, but I especially enjoyed this one. James gets the opportunity to travel to Russia during the Cold War on a ship with cattle. Sections of the story are written as if you were reading his personal diary, seeing situations from his point of view. There are also stories of events that happened during his tenure as a veterinarian in the small town of Thirsk, referred to as Darrowby in the books. Some of the stories made me laugh out loud, others brought me to tears. I highly recommend any of the books in this series, especially if you love stories about animals.

 

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try All Creatures Great and SmallAll Things Bright and BeautifulAll Things Wise and Wonderful, and Every Living Thing or James Herriot’s Yorkshire all by James Herriot.)

 

( official jamesherriot.org web site ) | ( Wikipedia page about James Herriot )

 

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Book Review: Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Archivist Wasp
by Nicole Kornher-Stace (eBook)

Archivist Wasp is one of the most ambitious genre blends I’ve encountered. This young adult novel starts with a post apocalyptic Earth, turns into a wonderland journey, and also looks back at a military science fiction past just before the apocalypse. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

 

Wasp is a town outcast because of her job as, more or less, a ghost buster. Wandering spirits are real troublemakers in this world and it’s her job to capture them and study them for clues about the past. Unfortunately, the ghosts tends to be very dull. One day per year, she has to fight several girls to the death who want her job. She killed her own predecessor with poison blades, which is why she got stuck with “Wasp.” It’s all utterly miserable until she encounters a ghost who not only talks, but wants her to go on a quest to find another ghost. Then it gets far more weird.

 

If you enjoy the kind of book where the modest hero transforms on a journey and then comes home in a whole different league (e.g. The Lord of the Rings), check this out. I’d also recommend it to teen+ fans of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

 

( official Nicole Kornher-Stace web site )

 

Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Book Review: A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet

A Children’s Bible
by Lydia Millet (Millett)

The teenage narrator of the novel, Evie, is navigating a multi-family vacation gone awry. Between a lack of supervision and a supercharged storm a group of children experience a whirlwind of events. This story is a snarky, at times silly, social commentary that focuses on the climate situation and the ways in which people handle new realities.

 

It is a timely, entertaining and unique read.

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The 2084 Report: A Novel of the Great Warming by James Lawrence Powell, Lord of the Files by William Golding or the movie Moonrise Kingdom directed by Wes Anderson.)

( official Lydia Millett web site (also official website for the book) )

 

Recommended by Meagan M.
Walt Branch Library

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Audiobook Review: The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Result
by Graeme Simsion (libraries have as print book under Simsion; I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Dan O’Grady, borrowed through InterLibrary Loan)

This novel brings the trilogy of books focused on Don Tillman to a satisfying conclusion. In The Rosie Project, Australian geneticist Don Tillman (think Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory) takes a scientific approach to finding the perfect woman for him…except the woman who seems to the the right one doesn’t really match his checklist for optimum “mate” material. In The Rosie Effect, Don and Rosie are married, have relocated to New York City, and face a series of life-changing events as they approach parenthood.

 

In The Rosie Result, over ten years have passed. Don and Rosie, having moved from Australia to New York City in the previous volume, uproot their family and return to the land down under. Don finds himself between jobs and decides to focus his scientific and creative energies on bonding with their 11-year-old son, Hudson, who is facing some educational and interpersonal challenges. Both Don and Hudson are approaching their likely (but not technically diagnosed) places on the Autism spectrum in completely different ways, and Don’s highly-analytical method of studying everything in his life leads to some very funny, but also very touching observations on life.

 

I found this final volume in the trilogy to be bittersweet but enjoyable, though the ending felt a bit rushed. Hudson is a terrific character, as are the oddballs and misfits he surrounds himself with. Temporarily prevented from working in an academic setting, Don launches a specially-themed cocktail bar called “The Library”, and I’ll have to admit — I want to visit!

 

I’m sorry to see this series end, but if it had to end, I’m glad that Simsion finally addressed the Autism plotlines that have lingered throughout the earlier volumes. And audiobook narrator Dan O’Grady does another stellar job on this one!

 

(Obviously, you’ll want to have read or listened to The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect before reading or listening to this book. Although this third volume can stand on its own, the character relationships between Don and most of the other adult characters will make much more sense if read in the context of this being a third in a series.)

 

( Wikipedia page for The Rosie Result ) | ( official Graeme Simsion Twitter feed )

 

Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

DVD Review: 1917 directed by Sam Mendes

1917
directed by Sam Mendes (DVD 1917)

There have been many great movies out this past decade covering events that happened during World War I and World War II, but this movie is among the best war films that I have seen. Set during World War I, a young soldier is given the task to deliver a message to the General on the front lines to stop an attack on German forces that have led them into a trap. Unless the soldier can get through, there will be a massacre of English forces. One of the men preparing to fight the Germans is the soldier’s own brother. The soldier, Blake, and his friend Schofield know that everything depends on them. This is an extremely tense film with scenes that are very bloody and difficult to watch, but the story is excellent. I highly recommend it.

 

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try War HorseHacksaw Ridge or Dunkirk)

 

Internet Movie Database entry for this film ) | ( official 1917 Facebook page )

 

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

 

Have you watched this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Music Book Review: Relax Baby Be Cool: The Artistry and Audacity of Serge Gainsbourg by Jeremy Allen

Relax Baby Be Cool: The Artistry and Audacity of Serge Gainsbourg
by Jeremy Allen (Music 780.63 Gainsbourg)

 

Singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg never become a household name on this side of the pond, but he’s regarded as a pivotal artist in French pop, with a career that spanned the 50s to the 80s. Even when he wasn’t working as much in the 80s, he continued to enjoy a kind of star status, appearing frequently on French talk shows in his final years until his death in 1991. Unlike a lot of pop artists, he has somehow continued to rise in popularity posthumously. Some of his 70s albums that only sold copies in the five figures during their initial run ended up going gold in the decades after his death, and there have been lots of tribute albums featuring his work in recent years as well.

 

What has been lacking is an English-language biography describing his unusual and varied musical career, but that issue has now been addressed with the publication of a great new book by Jeremy Allen called Relax Baby Be Cool: The Artistry and Audacity of Serge Gainsbourg that you can check out from the Polley Music Library.

 

In many ways, Gainsbourg’s popularity, even in earlier times within France, is a little surprising: his voice, though one grows to enjoy it, isn’t particularly noteworthy. He doesn’t cut the most handsome figure for a pop star. And it’s said that he wasn’t a remarkable performer, either, seeming a little stiff and uncomfortable on the stage, and struggling with stage fright as well. But he was a phenomenal songwriter, who is said to have raised the modern chanson (or “song” — a chanson in the modern sense is basically any French-language song) to a true art form again. And his lyrics were clever, layered, and sometimes controversial, all of which surely contributed to his reputation.

 

In Relax Baby Be Cool, we first learn that Gainsbourg came to a music career relatively late as pop artists go. In the mid-1950s, when he would have been in his mid to late 20s, he was making his way as a fairly low-key jazz musician, following in the footsteps of his father. The book doesn’t get into this much, but at the time he still considered himself more of a painter. Then a chance meeting with novelist and songwriter Boris Vian gave him the courage to give performance of his own music a try. He tried out different stage names as a musician: born Lucien Ginsburg and known as Lucien Guimbaud during the Occupation, he first chose Julien Grix as his stage name around 1954. By ’58, he was registering songs and performing as Serge Gainsbourg, when he recorded his first record, “Du Chant a La Une!” This record was followed by three more that all found him working in a very jazz-influenced idiom. None of them were big hits in France upon release, but now some of the songs on them are among his best-regarded.

 

By the early 1960s, he was transitioning from jazz toward the French style of rock and roll-influenced pop music of the time, known as “ye-ye.” While he still wasn’t seeing a lot of success for his own albums, he was writing songs for other performers that were getting popular. On his own records, he experimented with African percussion on the 1964 album Percussions, and of course lots of his other music, from jazz to rock and roll influences, was heavily inspired by American music, which had already started to dominate international approaches to pop music by that decade. And we learn that 1965 was a pivotal year for Gainsbourg’s popularity as a songwriter, when he wrote “Poupee de cire, Poupee de son,” which won the Eurovision Song Contest as performed by France Gall. He began to write more music for television and movie use, and appeared on French screens as well, which began to raise his level of recognition. The rest of his career featured a combination of music and television appearances — as mentioned earlier, he was a regular guest on French late-night shows into the 80s.

 

Relax Baby Be Cool starts out more or less chronologically, but by the middle of the book, it becomes divided into a variety of different perspectives for understanding Gainsbourg: the “aesthetics” chapter looks at the very particular form of organized disorder he maintained in his home. “Muses” investigates the three women with whom he spent most of his time, and how they affected his work. Several chapters focus on specific albums throughout his career. And later chapters like “Fame” and “Provocation” investigate his latter-year tendencies, when he created a “Ganesbarre” alter-ego to represent his more boorish tendencies.

 

Throughout the book, various controversies follow Gainsbourg around: he was a fascinating but very flawed person, and author Jeremy Allen tries to portray that total picture of his work including his sometimes poor behavior. And it’s an interesting time for a fairly thorough biography on Gainsbourg to appear: issues of cultural appropriation, or the inappropriate relationships that many male pop artists had with much younger women in the 60s and 70s are discussed with acknowledgement of the contemporary discussions we’ve all been having. Books about Gainsbourg or 60s pop figures more generally written 10 or 20 years ago often lacked a lot of the more worldly nuance that attempts to bring balance to this book. Perhaps we’ll start to see more books about the icons of those days with more of a broad social conscience in the coming years.

 

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Sounds French: Globalization, Cultural Communities, and Pop Music, 1958-1980 by Jonathyne Briggs or Cult Musicians: 50 Progressive Performers You Need To Know by Robert Dimery.)

 

( publisher’s official Relax Baby, Be Cool web site ) | ( official Jeremy Allen Twitter feed )

 

Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!


Check out this, and all the other great music resources, at the Polley Music Library, located on the 2nd floor of the Bennett Martin Public Library at 14th & "N" St. in downtown Lincoln. You'll find biographies of musicians, books about music history, instructional books, sheet music, CDs, music-related magazines, and much more. Also check out Polley Music Library Picks, the Polley Music Library's e-mail newsletter, and follow them on Facebook!

 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Book Review: Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

Surrender Your Sons
by Adam Sass (YA Sass)

Surrender Your Sons is a thriller for high school readers about a boy, Connor, being kidnapped and taken to a small island near Puerto Rico. He soon realizes this is a secret conversion therapy camp. Conversion therapy is a practice that’s currently (2021) banned for use on minors in almost half of the States and Puerto Rico. It’s legal in Nebraska. The idea is to force queer kids to become straight and/or cisgender through psychological and sometimes physical abuse.

 

Connor connects the camp to a strange note from a disabled man he took care of and soon finds out the man was once a camper. Was he injured as part of the process? This story is combination escape thriller and cold-case mystery. Things get messy in terms of both bloody violence and, well, people are complicated, including terrible people.

 

I found it hard to put down.

 

(If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth or The Grace Year by Kim Liggett.)

 

( official Surrender Your Sons page on the official Adam Sass web site )

 

Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Service

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Book Review: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11

by Garrett M. Graff (973.931 Gra)

 

Pause to consider — It has been 20 years since the terrorist/jihad attacks of September 11, 2001 on the eastern United States. It was one of those moments where time froze as soon as you learned what was happening.

Four jumbo-jet passenger airplane flights were hijacked and then aimed at: the Two Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, which were ultimately completely destroyed; The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., heavily damaged; a 4th unrealized target somewhere in that same area, thwarted by brave passengers at the cost of their lives. So many people lost, but tens of thousands of survivors, too.

 

This painstakingly assembled documentation is at once starkly cognizant of the senselessness of it all while also recognizing the courage, fortitude, and optimism that characterize this still-hard-to-comprehend catastrophe. Heartbreaking and yet hopeful, we journey back to the fateful event in the voices of those who lived through it and a number of those who died, as well as catch up with how some have dealt with it up to now (2019).

The title derives from the eventual fact that Air Force One, with then-President George W. Bush on board, was the only non-fighter airplane traveling in the sky that day after all other air traffic over the U.S. was grounded. Although there are a couple of chapters which focus on this, there is much more of the content that deals with the New York and Pentagon aspects. Nebraska will always be connected to this day as the place where the President came in to Offutt Air Force Base for a couple of hours and video-conferenced with government and military leaders who were hunkered down in the Nation’s Capitol before returning there himself once the threat appeared to be contained.

 

The book was made possible in large part by the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Many of the survivor narratives can also be accessed in the newly-released 6-part documentary “9/11: One Day in America” on National Geographic television, which I found even more affecting due to also having the visual impact of the narrators’ emotions involved.

 

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson, or 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn.]

 

( publisher’s official The Only Plane in the Sky web page ) | ( official Garrett Graff web site ) | ( ( National September 11 Memorial and Museum ) | ( 9/11: One Day in America — streaming On-Demand — requires a cable or streaming service, which you must log into )

 

Recommended by Becky W.C.
Walt Branch Library

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Book Review: The Magical Reality of Nadia by Bassem Youssef

The Magical Reality of Nadia

by Bassem Youssef (j Youssef)

 

Nadia Youssef loves bobble heads, fun facts, and her diverse Nerd Patrol group of friends. Nadia moved to the United States from Egypt when she was six, and has just returned from a vacation to Cairo. Now she is ready to tackle sixth grade and middle school.

 

Her first mission: to win a contest with her friends to design a new exhibit in their local museum. But middle school is not as easy as she anticipated. New classmates have prejudices. Old friendships are tested. She wonders if her family would have been happier staying in Egypt. But Nadia discovers she has acquired a secret magical “weapon” of sorts. During her trip to Egypt she purchased an ancient hippopotamus amulet. Inside is a “genie” called Titi. Instead of wishes, Titi (an Egyptian teacher in his earlier life) materializes on the pages of any book or paper close by to locate information from any date or time. All Nadia has to do is ask for help. But will Titi be enough to help her solve all her problems, or create new ones?

 

I found The Magical Reality of Nadia to be enjoyable for any student in third to fifth grade. It incorporates the occasional graphic comic to make the book a fun read. It also offers a timely viewpoint of how it feels to be bullied for having a different background, and offers a caring insight into how to bridge gaps of prejudice and stereotypes showing that we all have at least one thing we can share and that we aren’t so different after all.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, the Planet Omar series by Zanib Mianor, or Dragons in a Bag by Zeta Elliott.]

[ publisher’s official The Magical Reality of Nadia web page ] | [ Wikipedia page for Bassem Youssef ]

 

Recommended by Cindy K.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Monday, August 30, 2021

Book Review: Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Fighting Words

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (j Bradley)

 

Fighting Words is a wonderfully written children’s novel (not young adult novel) about sexual abuse that could really make a difference in the lives of kids either directly affected or who may know what’s going on with their peers.

 

Della and her older sister, Suki, are being placed in what turns out to be an incredibly supportive foster home after a series of bad events in their lives. There’s a dual storyline going on where Della is dealing with sexual harassment from a boy her age at school, while she reveals her and her sister’s history to readers. In both situations, a variety of realistic reactions to abuse and harassment are portrayed, not all of them constructive (this includes a teen suicide attempt). Readers also see equally realistic ways to band together with peers and the right kind of adults to stand up to abusers.

 

While this isn’t a great book for pearl-clutching adults, it’s an honest, sensitive, and important book that respects its young audience. Glad to see it won a Newbery Honor!

[ official Fighting Words and Kimberly Brubaker Bradley web site ]

 

Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Book Review: The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling

The Ickabog

by J.K. Rowling (j Rowling)

 

From the creator of Harry Potter comes a wonderful fairytale called The Ickabog, a story that served as a bedtime story for author J.K. Rowling’s own children when they were small. During the year of COVID when most of us were staying safe at home, Rowling dusted off her notes about the story and released it online in serial form, a gift to all those children who were unable to venture out and discover new books. The story is about two small children who are neighbors and best friends in the land of Cornucopia. The country is ruled by King Fred the Fearless who goes north in his kingdom to seek out the Ickabog, a monster that no one has seen — until now.

 

The story spans several years as the prosperous country is taken over by evil Lords and driven to poverty and despair. The prevailing themes of friendship and hope make this one of the best fairytales I have read. Rowling’s ability to create memorable characters and witty dialogue make her one of the best writers of her generation. I literally could not put the book down and finished it in one day. The Ickabog is not a light fairytale as it deals with death and child abuse, so caution should be taken in reading this to small children. When the book was published in November 2020, the author included artwork created by children from many countries who participated in an online contest to illustrate the story. I highly recommend this book!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart or Uprooted and Spinning Silver, both by Naomi Novik.]

[ official The Ickabog page on the official J.K. Rowling web site ]

 

Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Review: Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams

Goldie Vance, Vol. 1

by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Larson)

 

Goldie Vance is a fresh take on the childhood mysteries of Nancy Drew. Goldie Vance is a 16 year old who uses intelligence, friendship and intuition to solve the mysteries that occur at the Florida resort that she and her father run. She and her friends are people of color, presented as smart protagonists who are saving the day. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story is heartfelt. The mysteries will intrigue the young and teen reader.

 

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try The Backstagers by James Tynion IV, or Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson.]

 

[ Wikipedia page for the Goldie Vance series of graphic novels ] | [ official Hope Larson Twitter feed ] | [ official Brittney Williams web site ]

 

Recommended by Caitlin L.
Bennett Martin Public Library — Public Services

 

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New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Music Book Review: Music and the Myth of Wholeness: Toward a New Aesthetic Paradigm by Tim Hodgkinson

Music and the Myth of Wholeness: Toward a New AestheticParadigm

by Tim Hodgkinson (Music 781.1 Hod)

 

From 1968-1978, one of the most interesting bands in the world was a British group called Henry Cow, who combined elegantly detailed composition and wild, almost freeform improvisation in exciting ways. After Henry Cow broke up, cofounder Tim Hodgkinson continued to work in music on a variety of fronts as a composer, as an improviser and performer on clarinets and lap steel guitar, as a recording studio engineer and producer, and as a musical thinker and writer. Regarding that last discipline, he published a book in 2016 entitled Music and the Myth of Wholeness: Toward a New Aesthetic Paradigm, which is a unique and thought-provoking read that seems to combine his early training in social anthropology with a lifetime of participating in and simply being surrounded by music. Let’s talk a little about his ideas that you’ll find in this book, starting with his first proposition as laid out in the introduction or “prelude”:

 

“The projection of the sacred is the human response to the untranslatability between the two informational modes that above all other factors define the condition of that being’s being.”

 

What exactly is he talking about here? Music making is a cornerstone of where he’s going with all of this, but first he has to lay out how he feels that we relate to music. In most cultures, there has been a spiritual or ritual relationship with music, that music somehow expresses the ineffable in a way that we can’t quite put into words, yet we have some broadly-shared feelings and responses to it. At its core, there’s non-verbal communication and expression happening here. From another polarity, we have oral and written language-based communication, which helps us to express ideas and feelings pretty accurately among one another, yet it seems like it often falls short of depicting those subtle, transcendent moments. We write around them and hope that the reader can pick up on them.

 

As mentioned earlier, Hodgkinson’s early scholastic interests were in social anthropology, and in an oversimplified way of putting it, this book combines his interests in music and anthropology or musicology, along with a healthy dash of critical theory and philosophy, to try to identify the “hows” and “whys” about music and its effects on us, individually, culturally, and globally. He begins to look at forms of biological intelligence, forms that don’t necessarily express themselves through the structures of contrived language but are inherent and always working. In doing so, he takes a fresh look at our conceptions of imagination, and differences between discursive, ritual and aesthetic modes of human behavior. Eventually he interprets these modes musically, looking at their effects on improvised and composed music and particularly that interesting gray area that can be found between them, which often demands a new way of listening. Once we’ve had a chance to absorb all of these concepts—and it’s a very novel path down some less-traveled philosophical roads — Hodgkinson then looks at three composers up close through this new lens. John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer, and Helmut Lachenmann, whose bodies of work are quite different from one another, indeed seem to hold up through this kind of conception.

 

While you’ll find some other books in Polley that approach music from this more philosophical side of things, this is certainly one of the most interesting of the lot. I’m still not sure what I think of it in total, and I’m sure I’ll be reading again sometime after I’ve had some more space to think about how it all works in my own conceptions of music, art, cultural studies, and life. But if you’re the kind of musical thinker who likes these kinds of deep dives, I would highly recommend trying out Music and the Myth of Wholeness. Even if some of its points don’t resonate with you, it’s a lot to think about.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Henry Cow: The World is a Problem by Benjamin Piekut.]

[ publisher’s official Music and the Myth of Wholeness web page ] | [ official Tim Hodgkinson web site ]

 

Recommended by Scott S.
Polley Music Library

 

Have you read or listened to this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?


New reviews appear every month on the Staff Recommendations page of the BookGuide website. You can visit that page to see them all, or watch them appear here in the BookGuide Blog individually over the course of the entire month. Click the tag for the reviewer's name to see more of this reviewer’s recommendations!

 


Check out this, and all the other great music resources, at the Polley Music Library, located on the 2nd floor of the Bennett Martin Public Library at 14th & "N" St. in downtown Lincoln. You'll find biographies of musicians, books about music history, instructional books, sheet music, CDs, music-related magazines, and much more. Also check out Polley Music Library Picks, the Polley Music Library's e-mail newsletter, and follow them on Facebook!