Since I’m a librarian you are probably not surprised that I very much prefer a physical book when reading. The feel, heft and smell are part of the pleasure I get from reading.

However, despite my preference, I cannot deny the convenience of eBooks. Joplin Public Library offers a pretty good selection and it just got bigger and better. Through our affiliation with the state consortium, MOREnet, library users now have an additional 41,792 titles to read and checkout.

Added to the Ebsco eBook Collection already available these titles will check out for 21 days and unlimited simultaneous use means you will never have to wait to for one.

Given the holiday we are celebrating this weekend I searched the collection using “July 4th”. This isn’t a good search to find Fourth of July materials but it’s a great search to highlight the diversity of titles available. Following is a sample of the results from my search.

For children, The Case of the July 4th Jinx by Lewis B. Montgomery, is one of the Milo & Jazz mysteries. Milo and Jazz, detectives in training, find that things are going wrong at the town’s Fourth of July Fair. They will have to follow the clues to find out if it’s a jinx or sabotage!

History scholars can get Slaughter on the Somme, 1 July 1916: The Complete War Diaries of the British Army’s Worst Day by Martin Mace. The Battle of Somme was fought from July 1 to November 18, 1916 between the British and German Empires . An estimated 60,000 British soldiers died on the first day of battle. In this one volume, Mace has assembled the diaries from each of the Corps along the British front who “went over the top” that fateful day.

‘Old Slow Town’: Detroit During the Civil War by Paul Taylor gives a social and political view of the rebellion. Though removed from the battlefields Detroit became a city nearly torn apart by the division between pro-Union and antiwar sentiments. This book explores the effects of this division on the city and the role of the media, including the Detroit Free Press.

Adventurous cooks might enjoy Bake Me I’m Yours ..: Seasonal Push Pop Cakes. Katie Deacon has created some impressive, fun desserts using mini cupcakes and frosting. You’ll get recipes, instructions, and ideas to create push pop cakes for holidays and events throughout the year.

Fans of biographical fiction will find Shame On the Devil: A Novel fascinating. Fanny Fern was a remarkable 19th century novelist, journalist and feminist. Debra Brenegan’s novel is based on her life and includes other historical figures of the era.

If music is an integral part of your life, try Walk Like a Man: Coming of Age with the Music of Bruce Springsteen. Bookstore owner and author Robert Wierseman explores the influence and meaning of music in his life. Songs by Bruce Springsteen take center stage in this autobiographical work.

Poor Folk is the first novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Written as letters between the two main characters the author highlights the life of poor people and their relationship with the rich.

The final title is a reference work you may choose to just use and not check out. Holy People of the World: a Cross-Cultural Encyclopedia by Phyllis Jestice spans all the major religions. Over 1100 biographical sketches are included of holy people from around the world.

These titles officially became a part of the library collection on July 1st. The download option was turned off. Our request to allow downloads and for records to add to our catalog may take a few days to fill. So if you don’t see a download link it will be there soon.

I encourage you to explore this collection found under Reference, Online Resources on the library webpage (www.joplinpubliclibrary.org). There is something for everyone and if you have questions call the reference department at 624-5465, we are happy to help.

Having followed the debate on the cost of healthcare for some years, I was intrigued to see  on our new book shelves. Dr. Welch is a practicing physician and a professor at Dartmouth Medical School. He has written two previous books, one of which (Overdiagnosed) we also own. I’m checking that one out next!

The book is broken down into seven chapters, based on often made, but erroneous, assumptions. We, as medical consumers, make assumptions based on incomplete, overstated, and just flat out wrong information and “common sense.” Making healthcare decisions based on bad assumptions leads to wasted money, time, and effort and (far too often) bad outcomes for our health. At least that’s what Dr. Welch is telling us and I found his arguments persuasive.

Assumption 1, that “All risks can be lowered,” causes us to scare ourselves silly on a regular basis when we read (and believe) all the medical news out there. Coffee will kill you. Eggs are deadly. Apple juice and rice are lethal. Too much (or too little) sleep causes premature death. All these, and far more, are among the things constantly being touted as risks for illness and/or death. Some of these alarms are later downplayed or refuted. Have some coffee with those eggs, they tell us this week. Problem is, even if there are risks associated with something, what degree of risk are we talking about? Some things have well-known, documented, statistically significant risks. Smoking is a prime example. Smoking is a known cause of lots of cancer and heart disease. Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health (aside from not starting). It’s well established that some amount of exercise is good for your health. Controlling really high blood pressure or extreme diabetes are no-brainers. Wearing a seat belt? Darn good idea. These are risks that are real and that can be controlled. Many other risks are maybe not so much a risk as the media would scare you into believing, and trying to control them may do more harm than good. What is often overlooked is whether the benefit of risk reduction outweighs the cost, both financially and in outcome. There are always risks associated with medical interventions. You might be allergic to a drug or simply suffer more of those lovely side effects they race through on the television ads. “Including death” is often one of those “side effects” mentioned. Even controlling known risks can have bad consequences. Medications taken to control high blood sugar can cause low blood sugar, which can lead to unconsciousness or worse. That’s not to say you should ignore diabetes, but it may be better to ask your doctor about trying to lower it some, through diet and exercise, and look at A1C levels to determine what your blood sugar is over time than to monitor closely and try for tight control. For those with Type-2 diabetes, that may be the wave of the future—moderate control over long term blood sugar with less intervention and less frequent (stressful) monitoring. Dr. Welch points out that he was responsible for a patient’s broken neck because he diagnosed him with diabetes, and tried (as was the only practice at that time) for very tight control. Testing had shown treatment was working, but one day the control got too tight, his blood sugar got too low, and he passed out and crashed his car. He survived, and later testing showed his blood sugar was only moderately elevated and Welch stopped his medication and kept an eye on it. No more loss of consciousness, no diabetic coma, no problem.

Assumption 2 is that “It’s always best to fix the problem.” Well, maybe not. If you’re a man of a certain age and are diagnosed with prostate cancer (as a prime example), the best thing to do may be “watchful waiting.” By age 60, over half of men autopsied (who did not die of prostate cancer) were found to have some degree of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is often very slow growing, and treatment can cause severe side effects. It may well be, in many cases, better to watch and wait than to “fix the problem” immediately, particularly for illnesses that may progress slowly and for which treatment is problematic.

Assumption 3, “Sooner is always better” builds on that, while Assumption 4, “It never hurts to get more information” ain’t necessarily so. For Assumption 5, “Action is always better than inaction” fleshes out more of the subject of Assumption 2.

Assumption 6, “Newer is always better,” is fairly obvious if you think about it. There have been numerous drugs introduced in the past few years that have been pulled off the market because it turned out they killed people.

Assumption 7, “It’s all about avoiding death,” reminds us all that death is inevitable and we need to consider quality of life versus quantity. If treatment will only (probably) add a short time to your life and will (probably) make you sick or keep you in the hospital, you should weigh the risks and rewards. Perhaps you want as much time as possible, period. Perhaps you would rather have more quality than quantity of life. Whichever you would prefer, you need to have the risks and options explained and your wishes carried out without the medical professionals making assumptions and proceeding accordingly. It’s your life.

To sum up, I found the book very interesting in an intellectual way (sort of a medical Freakonomics) on one hand and, on the other hand, a much more visceral read about life, death, and what comes along with each. There are lots of personal stories, and nothing excessively academic and the author writes with a good deal of humor, as well. Interesting and thought-provoking, and I’m off to read Overdiagnosed!

Skink: No Surrender by Carl HiaasenTeen Fiction

Richard and his cousin Malley often meet on their Florida beach at night to walk and talk–they’ve grown up together almost as brother and sister. They also use this time to look for loggerhead turtle nests so they can help wildlife conservation authorities mark it for preservation and protection.

On the night our book opens, Malley is a no-show and Richard begins to worry. After dozens of texts and calls, Malley finally replies with an implausible reason for standing Richard up. Not knowing what else to do, Richard pushes back the niggling worry and stays on the beach for a while longer.

There, through an amazing series of events that involve a fake loggerhead nest and a drinking straw, Richard meets Skink, the former (and presumed dead) governor of Florida.

When it becomes apparent to Richard that Malley has run away with someone she met online, he alerts the authorities. Amber Alerts are issued, Richard and his parents are interviewed, Malley’s parents are interviewed, security footage is gathered, hotlines are set up, and leads begin to go nowhere.

Feeling desperate, Richard heads back to the beach to find Skink. When he is finally successful, Richard helps Skink get passed police unnoticed after Skink beats up a man who tried to steal loggerhead turtle eggs (which is illegal as loggerhead are endangered).

Thus begins Richard & Skink’s amazingly Hiaasen-esque journey to find Malley and bring her home unharmed.

If you’ve never read a Carl Hiaasen book, here are some things you should know:

They’re all set in Florida. They all contain incredibly strange (yet believable) characters. They all feature really outrageous events and coincidences. They’re all pretty darned funny.

“Skink” is no different from Hiaasen’s typical, grown-up books except that his main character is a teenager. Hiaasen does a great job surrounding Richard with fully fleshed-out adults who react to his sudden road trip in typically responsible adult like ways. Richard’s mother is a lawyer who is understandably worried–threatening to call the police about his road trip with Skink. Richard wants to do the right thing by her, but also needs to do something to help find his cousin and best friend.

Hiassen also gives us plenty of strange secondary characters who are completely believable despite their strangeness. If you’ve watched any reality shows on the History Channel, you’ve seen enough to know Hiaasen isn’t being overly hyperbolic in his characterizations.

Despite the mystery of tracking down Malley and the adventure of traveling with a presumed dead ex-governor, slogging through swampland, and helping to save his cousin (who is pretty capable of saving herself), “Skink” is truly a coming of age story. Richard has a lot going on in his head and this journey helps him to identify for himself who he is and who he wants to be. Even Malley matures through this process.

Overall, “Skink” is a great choice for teens and adults alike. It will help satisfy several hours of reading for this year’s Teen Summer Challenge. It even satisfies some of the requirements for our Adult Summer Reading program.

“The Stranger” is an incredible story of deception, mystery and suspense about the power of a secret and how a lie can completely snowball into something much larger and how conspiracies can spiral dangerously out of control.

Adam and Corrine Price are living the American Dream, or so it seems. The Prices have a comfortable life in a rich New Jersey suburb — a big house, good jobs and two wonderful sons. What they don’t realize is that their world is about to fall apart.

One evening at a school sports meeting, “The Stranger” sidles up to Adam as he waits for the meeting to start. He tells Adam something that completely rocks his world — that Corrine faked a pregnancy that supposedly ended in a miscarriage. The Stranger provides a couple more details and then disappears. Adam gets a description of the car and the license plate number.

Adam is clueless as to why a complete stranger would approach him or even know these things about his wife. When his curiosity overcomes his doubt, he investigates Corrine’s computer history. To his dismay, he learns that his wife purchased items from a website called Fake-A-Pregnancy.com.

When Corrine returns from a conference, Adam confronts her with what he has learned. She doesn’t deny his accusation, but she doesn’t want to discuss it with Adam at that moment. She wants time to think. The next morning she is gone. Corrine texts Adam that they need some time apart, and she asks him to take care of the boys.

Adam tries to find Corrine, and in the process, he understands her reasons for lying. He wonders if it really is a big cause for concern or if it will even damage their relationship. While he is searching for his wife, Adam becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance.

In efforts to trace The Stranger, Adam discovers that The Stranger has shattered other people’s lives with frequently tragic consequences. When a woman is murdered in Ohio, small town Police Chief Johanna Griffin gets involved. Chief Griffin tries to understand why her good friend Heidi was killed. Her investigation uncovers a connection between Heidi and The Stranger.

Chief Griffin and Adam work together to find this stranger who seems to be sharing destructive secrets from people’s pasts, some of which turn out deadly. What is his motive for ruining complete strangers’ lives?

In this psychological thriller, the author gets inside the heads of his characters and presents them in such a way you understand their thoughts, the good and the bad. The short chapters alternate between the main characters and their perspectives.

A totally unpredictable plot, with numerous twists and turns, causes the tension to build throughout this chilling novel. Coben’s novel touches on themes of living the good life, the love of family and Internet privacy. His is a fascinating take on how little privacy you really have online.

Television and film actor George Newbern delivers an outstanding performance in his narration of the audiobook. He brings Coben’s fully drawn characters to life, especially that of main character Adam Price. In addition to the audiobook, regular print and large print copies are available at the Joplin Public Library.

I’m enjoying this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program, “Unmask”, at the library! You didn’t know the adults have their own Summer Reading Program? Well, we figured “Why should kids get to have all the fun?”, so designed a program especially for adults.

It is simple to participate. There is a list of categories of books. (You can find the list on our Facebook page, our website, or just pick one up in the library.) This isn’t a list of TITLES you have to read, but a general list of genres or other characteristics.

It includes ones like: A book you can finish in one day; A book with a blue cover; A mystery or thriller; A classic romance, and many other fun choices. After reading the book, just complete a card with your name and contact number, info on the book, and a brief rating of it. Then, put the form in a special box for prize drawings to be done each week.

A winner will be drawn each week from these entries. Prizes include all kinds of goodies – from prize baskets to gift cards to doo-dads with the “Unmask” theme.

I selected “A book by an author you’ve never read before” for my book review this time. I selected “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman. and this one was available on downloadable audio, so I picked it.

When I began to listen and Gaiman was listed as the narrator of the book, I almost audibly groaned. I’ve listened to too many audiobooks read by their author, and as a general rule, even good authors are lousy narrators. They tend to read woodenly and without much characterization.

Not so with Gaiman’s narration. His characters came to life with their personalities bursting through his renderings. Each character has a distinct dialect and tone. Just by hearing their words, one can envision how they look, speak, and act.

In “Neverwhere” Richard Mayhew leads a good, but unexciting life. His life is unsurprising. He has a good job, but one I’m not convinced he loves. He has a beautiful fiancée, but one I’m not convinced he loves. Life is predictable. Life is good.

Until one evening when he is accompanying his fiancée to an important dinner with her boss. While walking down the sidewalk, he encounters a bleeding, hurt girl who is asking for help. Against his fiancée’s wishes he takes the girl to his apartment to care for.

This one decision costs him everything in life as he knows it. He “falls through the cracks” of London. Passersby on the street do not see him. His ATM card will not work. His apartment is rented out to others. He simply does not seem to exist any longer.

The young girl he rescues goes by the name Lady Door. She is from London Below, an alternate reality to which Richard now belongs. London Below is a parallel civilization, beneath the current day London. It is seemingly medieval, but has some trappings of today’s world.

London Below is filled with a cast of unique, and sometimes odd, characters: unstoppable, immortal villain assassins, a “Marquis” who will do anything for large favors, a rat-worshipping society, a female bodyguard extraordinaire, and the waif-like Lady Door for a start.

Richard has no choice but to join Lady Door on her quest to figure out who murdered her entire family, and why. Along the way they meet angels, vampire-like creatures, and danger around every corner. The unassuming Richard discovers things about himself surprise even him.

Lady Door’s quest takes the travelers to solve riddles, fight danger, face evil, and learn what they truly want from life. In so doing, they also manage to save London Below from the evil that wants to claim it.

Gaiman brings the book to a satisfying conclusion, but one that would equally support a sequel. He claims one is possible, but seeing as this book was first written in 1997 and there is none yet, I tend to doubt it. I would love to see one, however.

Through the years, various versions of this book have surfaced in both the UK and the US. This summer, however, “Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text” is due to be published. It contains the author’s reconciliation of these versions and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books. Joplin Public Library has this book on order.

You will enjoy reading this book, AND I can count at least eleven Summer Reading Program categories this book might qualify for!

(NOTE:  The image shown above is for the new version that is on order.  As of the date of this posting, it has not yet been received.  An alternate version is available, however.)

Work and other matters have been keeping me busier than usual, so I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t done much reading lately, other than the occasional Entertainment Weekly. A few things managed to hold my attention, however, so I thought I’d share them with you.

The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, by America’s Test Kitchen

Area farmers markets are going strong and my herb garden has been planted, which means the growing season is upon us. From a vegetarian’s perspective, this time of year is a dream.

Vegetarian or not, you should find inspiration in this cookbook. If you’re unfamiliar with American’s Test Kitchen, you should check them out. There is a magazine (Cook’s Illustrated), a PBS show, a call-in program on public radio and an entire line of wonderfully instructional cookbooks, covering everything from cooking equipment and techniques to the best recipe for a particular dish.

Whether you’re just starting to explore your cooking abilities or you can handle a knife like a professional chef, there is something in this book for you. It is divided as many cookbooks are, with separate chapters covering grains, salads, sides and main dishes, sandwiches and so on. As with every America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, there is a great deal of helpful information preceding the recipes. Sections I found particularly useful were “Flavor-building ingredients for the vegetarian cook” and “Vegetables from A-Z.”

One quibble: The authors could have addressed the challenges inherent in maintaining a strict vegetarian diet – among them, getting the right amount of protein, B vitamins, iron and calcium. However, many of the dishes use dairy and eggs — which does make them vegan unfriendly — and there is an entire chapter devoted to beans and soy.

Many of the recipes are familiar to me – Eggplant Parmesan, Gazpacho, Greek Salad, Huevos Rancheros – but there are new ones I am eager to try, such as the Stir-fried Eggplant with Garlic-Basil Sauce (although I would add tofu, which the recipe omits), Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, Korean Barbecue Tempeh Wraps and Kale Caesar Salad.

In recent years, I have all but stopped buying cookbooks because my collection has gotten out of control, but this America’s Test Kitchen volume is one that I’m seriously considering purchasing.

C.O.W.L., volume 1, Principles of Power, by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel

I try to read most graphic novels that the library purchases. Some blow me away with their writing or artwork, while others leave me unimpressed. Occasionally, I’m ambivalent, as is the case with “C.O.W.L.”

Set in 1962 Chicago, this adult graphic novel features the Chicago Organized Workers League, a group of superheroes who team up with “unpowered” individuals to fight organized crime and super villains. In Volume 1, the league is in contract negotiations with city leaders and attempting to prove its value to a disenchanted public. Despite some internal struggles, the heroes – some of whom qualify as anti-heroes – begin a crackdown on mobsters and search for a potential mole in their midst.

I loved the artwork. It’s dark, atmospheric, very noir; much of the action takes place at night, in alleys, nightclubs and warehouses. The heroes are a motley assortment, with enough problems — family troubles, alcoholism, sexism — to distract them from their mission. They’re intriguing, sharp and witty; some of the one-liners had me laughing out loud.

My major complaint? I had difficulty following the story. Too many plot points and characters were crammed into this introductory volume. I repeatedly found myself referencing the list of characters on the first page to keep myself on track. Overall, however, I’m interested in finding out what happens next, so I hope the library purchases Volume 2 when it becomes available in August.

Dear White People: A Guide to Inter-Racial Harmony in “Post-Racial” America, by Justin Simien

Inspired by the movie of the same name, this short read is meant to inspire laughter while it provokes thought. With the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, many felt our country had moved past its long history of racism. This is, unfortunately, not the case. People continue to judge others by their skin color, often in subtle ways, and they still say hateful things or violently lash out.

Film maker Justin Simien chooses to address this sensitive issue with humor. Chapters entitled “Please Stop Touching my Hair,” “Please Stop Insisting that You’re Practically ‘Black’” and “We Don’t Know Why Kanye West Did That” will have you giggling – sometimes uncomfortably. There are also charts and written exercises, such as “The N-word: a Decision Tree” and “Are You a Post-Racist?”

Make no mistake, “Dear White People” is not all jokes and quizzes. There is a serious message beneath the fun, and it sneaks up on you unexpectedly at times. Trust me; just go with it.

 

Tuesday kicks off summer reading at the Joplin Public Library. Everyone is used to summer reading programs for children and teens, but the library also holds a program for adults. The unofficial motto for Adult Summer Reading is “Why should kids get to have all the fun?”

This year’s theme is Unmask with a superhero bent to it. During the summer you’ll see masks and capes galore at the library. There will also be lots of interesting and entertaining programs for the whole family. For the adults, programming will cover a variety of topics, all with a hero theme.

You can listen to retired MSSU Professor Dale Simpson talk about heroes, and good vs. evil, as seen in the Lord of the Rings books and movies. Marsi Archer, also a MSSU Professor, will discuss about forgotten female scientists.

For local heroes, we have Newton County Coroner Mark Bridges and a representative from City of Joplin Animal Control doing presentations on their jobs. Both of these are jobs that we rarely think about until we need them. I’m sure both presentations will have some interesting stories shared.

The Joplin Humane Society will also be here to show how we can be heroes through donating, volunteering or adoption. They will also have some of their animals on display that are available for adoption. The Joplin Public Library will also be collecting food and supplies for the Humane Society leading up to the program.

What’s a superhero summer reading program without actual superheroes? Wonder Woman will be the focus of a presentation, with a look at her creation in the 1940s and her many changes throughout the years. As a little bit of a Wonder Woman fanatic I’m very excited about putting together this program. I’ve even tried to convince my husband that buying more comics for my collection was necessary for research.

A Superheroes Murder Mystery Finale caps off our summer long program. The Finale will have limited spots so we’ll start taking reservations in July. All in all, there will be different topics to hopefully appeal to everyone.

But I don’t call it Adult Summer Reading with just those programs. By reading books fitting a wide range of topics, participants will have a chance to win a multitude of prizes over the summer. This year books can be chosen from thirty-three different areas. Some of the choices include a classic romance, a trilogy, a book with more than 500 pages, or a book you can finish in one day. You also have a book with superheroes as a choice.

A book I read recently fits that perfectly. “After the Golden Age” by Carrie Vaughn is not your normal superhero book. It takes the superhero genre and tells it from the viewpoint of a non-superpowered family member.

Imagine growing up with your city’s most famous superheroes as your parents. Celia thought having crime-fighting parents was hard enough, but it got even harder when her parents’ secret identities were blown. Afterwards Celia felt like she was more professional hostage to every villain in town than loved daughter to her parents. The feelings of inadequacy got even worse when it become apparent that she didn’t inherit any superpowers from her parents. Now, years later Celia has cut herself off from her parents and made a life of her own as a forensic accountant. But when Commerce City’s worst super villain is finally arrested and Celia is asked to help examine his finances for the upcoming trial, her past issues threaten to destroy all she has built. What’s a girl to do when she has no cape or costume of her own?

The author, Carrie Vaughn, did a great job of creating a book that grabbed me from the very beginning. So many comics and books look at the people behind the masks and the issues they face. But very few picture the difficulties encountered by their loved ones. What would it be like to have parents born with superpowers, grow up in their shadow, and then face a life without powers of your own? This book also had lots of adventure and intrigue with some romance thrown in to create a plot that had me eagerly turning each page.

“After the Gold Age” is just one book out of many available to gain entries into our prize drawings during summer reading. Fly on down to the Joplin Public Library anytime starting Tuesday, May 26th, and pick up a flyer to get started reading. This promises to be a “Super” summer!

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