Archives for category: Danya Walker

Working at the library has many benefits for an avid reader such as myself. One of them is getting to check out the sales shelf each day and finding additions to my ever-growing book collection. The library has a constant sales shelf filled with donations we can’t use in our collection, including books, magazines, movies and the occasional record album or puzzle set, and books pulled from our collection. At the rate that I buy books from the sales shelf I’m sure to be featured if a “Book Hoarders” television series is ever filmed.

This week I was delighted to find a couple entries in a favorite series that the library has in its collection as well. The “Incarnations of Immortality” books by Piers Anthony are old favorites that I’m rereading after having them come to my attention again. The series has the premise that Death, Time, Fate, War and Nature are jobs filled with actual people.

The first book in the series (and I’m of the opinion that you should always read books in order) is “On a Pale Horse” and features the role of Death. The book opens with Zane accidently killing Death, which means he must immediately fill the vacant position. Zane has a steep learning curve and makes mistakes, but he’s determined to do a good job. Zane is introduced to the other Incarnations and becomes mired in an intrigue masterminded by Satan. He soon comes to the conclusion that this job may the Death of him.

The following books are “Bearing an Hourglass,” featuring Time; “With a Tangled Skein,” for the Aspects of Fate; “Wielding a Red Sword,” focusing on War; and “Being a Green Mother,” with Nature front and center. These books explore questions of good and evil, world religions, and the afterlife. I also have to say that they’re action-packed reads with romance, intrigue and supernatural aspects combined.

Piers Anthony’s series featuring these larger-than-life characters is a great read, and the first five books can be found at the Joplin Public Library. You can also check out the sales shelf while at the library to see what treasures can be found for a low price. One nice thing about buying a book off the sales shelf is that you don’t have to worry about late fines if you forget to return it on time!

For my final book review of 2016, I spent a long time looking at the books I’d read so far this year, trying to pick the perfect one to talk about. Instead, after perusing the list, I decided to share a few of the top reads I’ve enjoyed in the last 12 months.

Top of my list would have to be the Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn, since I’ve devoured 20 of them this year. This mystery series is set in England following the Great War, and the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple is trying to make a living by writing articles about manor houses, famous English landmarks and other such things. Of course, she finds herself constantly stumbling over dead bodies, with Scotland Yard Detective Alec Fletcher called in to investigate. A growing attraction between the two develops over the course of the series. I recommend starting with “Death at Wentwater Court,” but all of the books are a delightful cozy mystery to enjoy with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Another great series of British historical mysteries are the Sebastian St. Cyr books by C.S. Harris. I came across the first one, “What Angels Fear”, which features aristocrat Sebastian St. Cyr as the prime suspect in a young woman’s brutal murder. He must clear his name and find the real killer while avoiding the clutches of the law and a mysterious figure who serves as the power behind the throne. Book 11, “When Falcons Fall”, was just added to the Joplin Public Library collection in October.

Reading so much, I find myself picking up books from all sections of the library, including the Teen Department. There were three books that were so outstanding I’ve been recommending them to others galore. First up is “Jackaby” by William Ritter, which can best be described as Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who. This is the first in a trilogy that features a young woman helping a detective investigate supernaturally bent crimes.

Another read that my teenage daughter and I both enjoyed was “The Jewel” by Amy Ewing. If you’re looking for a book that combines “The Hunger Games” with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this is the one for you. The plot consists of young girls being tested for special abilities, with the successful ones chosen, trained and then sold to royalty to serve as surrogates. It was dark, compelling, thrilling and romantic, all at once.

Finally, if you’re looking for something lighter to read, I can’t recommend “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” comic book novel enough. Squirrel Girl is one of the standout Marvel creations, with her optimistic attitude and her ongoing quest to kick butt and eat nuts. There are four volumes so far in the library collection, with each one filled with some of the funniest comics you’ll ever read.

One book that had me laughing throughout, and I mean loud, wake-people-up laughing, was “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (a Mostly True Memoir)” by Jenny Lawson. The author is the creator of a blog, and this covers not only some of her funniest blogs, but also her awkward childhood and marriage to her long-suffering husband. Lawson is also quite open about dealing with her overwhelming social anxieties and issues. My poor husband had to listen to various excerpts that I found so hilarious that I was forced to read them out loud to him.

My final recommendation that I really enjoyed this year is “Dracula vs. Hitler” by Patrick Sheane Duncan. During World War II, Romanian resistance fighters, desperate to overcome the Nazi invaders, call on the Undead Prince, Dracula. The resistance, led by Van Helsing’s daughter and Harker’s grandson, hope that Dracula is, above all else, a patriot and lover of his homeland. But Hitler, once aware of this dark force, is determined to capture Dracula and gain his powers and immortality for himself. There are a multitude of mash-up books out there, but this is probably one of the best I’ve ever read. The author stays true to the story of Dracula and the characters penned by Bram Stoker, while merging them into Hitler’s quest for supernatural icons. While this may not appeal to everyone, it was a fun read that I whole-heartedly recommend.

These are just a few of the books I’ve read during 2016, but all stood out as ones that were my top reads for the year. All of them are available at the Joplin Public Library, and I hope at least one intrigues you enough to pick it up to read in the new year.

For some book reviews I dilly-dally on choosing a book, either because nothing as jumped out as absolutely wonderful or because there are too many options to pick from. But as soon as I saw “When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II” I knew this would be my review book.

Molly Guptill Manning’s “When Books Went to War” covers reading and censorship during World War II and the impact of both on the war. On May 10, 1933, over eighty thousand people watched or participated in a massive book burning in Berlin that started a conflagration of flames that crossed Germany. Crowds cheered as “un-German” books were burned in 94 different book burnings. “Un-German” books included all works by Jewish authors, and a multitude of other authors including Upton Sinclair, Jack London, Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway and H.G. Wells.

People across Europe and America were outraged at the destruction of books and censorship of ideas. Demonstrations were held in America, while H.G. Wells established the Library of Burned Books in Paris in 1934. The library held copies of all books banned or burned by the Nazis, and also held in safekeeping books and writings donated by anyone who thought their collections were at risk. In an ironic twist, when the Nazis took Paris, they took the Library of Burned Books into safekeeping, carefully preserving the items in the collection.

By 1938, over 18 categories of books had been banned by the Nazis, with 175 titles and 565 authors on the list. Hitler was fighting his war on the battlefields and in the libraries. The ALA, or American Library Association, felt that the best weapon against Hitler was a book itself. By encouraging Americans to read, his book burnings and censorship would stand in sharp contract and his propaganda would be diluted.

Books had been found in American wars ever since the Civil War. In 1921, the Army Library Service was created by the War Department to be responsible for 228 libraries at Army Posts at that time. But the service quickly had its funding cut, fell into neglect, and state libraries were allowed to take books for their collections. By the time WWII came around, there were no desirable titles left and new camps had no books or libraries at all. With the draft enacted, soldiers were pulled from their civilian lives, stationed far from home, and many times stationed places with very little means of entertainment. Reading was their only outlet.

To help with the drastic need of reading material for soldiers, the ALA started the National Book Defense Campaign. The public was encouraged to donate books to be sent to Army Camps in America and to soldiers overseas. The response was overwhelming, but the logistics in sorting the books, filling the need for wanted reading material and shipping heavy hardbacks made the job almost impossible. It was quickly realized that a soldier carrying a heavy pack of equipment would have difficulty carrying hardback books around, conveniently sized, featherweight volumes were needed instead.

When the Council on Books In Wartime was formed in 1942, they wanted to see how books could help the war effort. They took as their motto “Books are weapons in the war of ideas”. Before the 1940s and paper rationing, paperbacks were almost unheard of. Most bookstores wouldn’t stock them at all. Pocket Books was the first American publishing company to mass produce paperbacks, selling them five-and-dime chains and drug stores. As of 1943, no book existed that met the specific needs of the soldier on the frontline, it would have to be invented. Thus, the “Armed Services Edition” or ASE, was born.

The ASE was small, durable, and of topics that would educate and entertain soldiers. By the end, over 1300 different editions were printed. History, popular fiction, westerns, poetry, educational texts, plays, and a variety of subjects were selected. Every new printing had soldiers eagerly devouring books, trading them, and searching for titles. These little books fit perfectly into a pocket, so they were found where ever the Army and Navy were.

As soldiers made their way across Europe, they carried ASEs that were titles that had been banned by the Nazis. After years of oppression and censorship by the Nazis, there was basically no longer an independent publishing industry in Europe. To help with this, Overseas Editions, OEs, were printed to replace books that had been banned and destroyed in occupied Europe. The ASE model was so popular, and so cost efficient in regards to paper use, that it was used by the British publishing industry to help rebuild after the war.

Because the ASEs, a multitude of soldiers returned home with a love of reading that they did not have when they first went off to war. They brought that new appreciation for reading with them to college as many of them used the benefits of the new GI Bill. Many other veterans carried home their ASEs that helped them survive a trying and difficult war.

The history of the ASE was fascinating and I barely brushed the surface of the fight against censorship and how the love of reading impacted WWII. I finished this book with a list of “new” old titles to read, and an appreciation of how important books have been and still are. Come by the library and pick up “When Books Went to War” to enjoy this read yourself.when

It seems like television and film have turned more and more to literature for inspiration. One of last season’s book spin-offs was MTV’s “The Chronicles of Shannara,” which was based off of “The Elfstones of Shannara” by Terry Brooks. After seeing the show and complaining to my family about the multitude of differences from the book, I had to re-read the books to remind myself of how much I always enjoyed them.

I’ve been a fan of Terry Brooks’ fantasy novels since the late 1980s when I discovered them in middle school. (Don’t do the math, let’s just go with me as a child prodigy and being incredibly young for middle school.) The series were eagerly devoured and I’ve read the books a few times over the years. While the show on MTV is very violent and sexual at times, the books were more innocent, appropriate for a wider audience.

The Shannara books are very similar to the “Lord of the Rings” books, with dwarves, elves, magic, and quests filling both. Terry Brooks was heavily influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien and you can see it in the vivid descriptions and struggle of good against evil. There have been a multitude of entries in the Shannara world over the years, with prequels and sequels galore. Suggestions for reading order vary but I have to admit I’m old school and prefer to read the books in the order that the author wrote them. As such, I’ll always start off with “The Sword of Shannara,” which was written in 1977 but still stands as a solid fantasy read.

The last Druid, Allanon, comes to quiet Shady Vale looking for Shea Ohmsford, the last true heir of Shannara. Only Shea can wield the Sword of Shannara against the dark forces threatening their land. Shea must flee the Skull Bearers chasing him, find the sword and face the Warlock Lord to save not only himself but the world. The book is filled with adventure, magic, and creatures that leap off the page. The following books, “The Elfstones of Shannara” and “The Wishsong of Shannara” finish out the trilogy.

But unlike Tolkien, Terry Brooks has continued to write many more books. I’ve already worked my way through the original trilogy and I’m almost done with the next Shannara series in my latest read through. The Heritage of Shannara books are “The Scions of Shannara”, “The Druid of Shannara”, “The Elf Queen of Shannara”, and “The Talismans of Shannara,” all of which take place over a century after the first trilogy.

There are also several prequel series that fill in missing history along with other fantasy books by Terry Brooks. For fans of fantasy and/or “The Lord of the Rings,” the Shannara books are a great read that will keep you entertained for many pages. Hopefully the television show will continue to attract new readers to this outstanding author and his wonderful books.

 

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!

Working at the Circulation desk gives me the chance to see many interesting books come across the counter. Many times a patron will check out something that I know I’ll want to read when it comes back. “The Enemy Among Us: POWs in Missouri During World War II” by David Feidler was one such book.

 

I pride myself on being a history buff but I hadn’t realized that we had held prisoners of war in the United States, much less in Missouri, during World War II. In World War I, America held about 5,000 German sailors captured from ships, but that was all. But in WWII, after Pearl Harbor, America was in the middle of the war, for the long haul.

 

No one was thinking about POWs at first, but Great Britain’s resources had become strained from their prolonged time in WWII and the amount of war prisoners they were already holding. The United States agreed to help hold POWs, and it was decided that it would be more efficient to keep them in America. Transporting POWs once was cheaper than transporting supplies to the war zone to keep the prison camps stocked, and it reduced chances for escape with prisoners rejoining the war.

 

Almost half a million POWs consisting of mainly Italian and German soldiers, with a small number of Japanese, were held in America. Almost 15,000 were housed in Missouri in 30 different camps. There were four main camps, including Camp Clark in Nevada and Camp Crowder in Neosho, six boat camps and a variety of branch camps close to work sites.

 

Camps were set up not only with housing barracks, but also mess halls, latrines, and recreation areas. The compounds also had POW canteens for the prisoners to buy not only necessities but also luxuries such as cigarettes, sodas, toiletries, chocolate and even beer.

 

Canteens were part of the guaranteed treatment of prisoners under the Geneva Convention. Prisoners received a $3 monthly allowance — the same allowance given to enlisted American soldiers — and could also earn 80 cents a day working. The U.S. Army prided itself on their treatment of POWs not only because of the Geneva Convention, but because they wanted to ensure fair treatment of American POWs and give returning German and Italian prisoners a positive outlook of democracy and the American lifestyle. At times, there was backlash from the American public and media over the perceived lush lifestyle of POWs, especially when the everyday person in American was facing rationing.

 

The German and Italian soldiers were used as labor during the war, helping fill a need for manpower with so many American men serving overseas. They were used to help staff positions in the prison camps, including laundry, kitchen and maintenance duties, and also filled labor needs off-camp as well. POWs detassled corn, picked potatoes, sorted shoes, as well as many other jobs. While the laborers were paid only 80 cents a day, the Army charged the going labor rate for them, resulting in the Army earning millions dollars from the internee labor program.

 

 

One of the most interesting facts that I learned from this book was that at the end of the war, the POWs were not immediately shipped back home and released. It took over a year after the end of the war for the last German soldier to be shipped back overseas. Once returned to Europe, the Germans were required to work in Great Britain, France and five other countries to help rebuild their economy and infrastructure, and to punish the Nazis. America finally had to put pressure on France in April 1947 to release the POWs they were still holding as laborers.

 

I was also fascinated to learn that prisoners of war were treated much nicer and more humanely than the Japanese-Americans held in U.S. internment camps during this same time period. Because the Japanese-Americans were citizens and not POWs, the Geneva Convention rules of treatment did not apply to them. While America can be proud of our treatment of prisoners of war, our treatment of our own citizens was shameful.

 

While no numbers have been tallied, quite a few Italian and German POWs returned to America to live after the end of the war because of the positive impression they gained from their time as prisoners. Many others wrote back and forth with not only their guards but other Americans they became friends with during their internment. There have been POWs reunions with prisoners returning to see the camps they called home during WWII.

 

This is a wonderful book for anyone who would like to learn more about the Italians and Germans who lived and worked in Missouri as POWs. David Fiedler has done a great job researching this topic and has included some wonderful pictures that bring the time period alive. You can find this book at the Joplin Public Library in our new nonfiction section.enemy

There are a variety of murder mystery genres to fit just about any taste. Selections range from historical-based mysteries for just about every time period, mysteries featuring authors and/or historical figures (such as Jane Austen solving crimes), hard-boiled detectives and little old ladies sipping tea while solving crimes, forensic-based mysteries, and even mysteries featuring animals. One of the more popular genres now seems to be the food-based mysteries featuring recipes. The Joplin Public Library carries a good selection of choices for those interested in one of these tasty books.

Isis Crawford has just had her tenth book come out in the “Catered” series, A Catered Fourth of July. Sisters Bernie and Libby are busy running their shop, A Little Taste of Heaven, but in between making lemon meringue pies and gingersnap cookies, they still have time to stumble across bodies and find killers. Each book features recipes at the end, but even if you don’t want to whip up a treat in the kitchen, these books are a fun read for mystery fans.

Continuing the cooking theme, Diane Mott Davidson is another writer who has mixed muffins with murder in her books. Goldy Bear is a caterer who is starting a new life for her teenage son and herself after a nasty divorce, but her tendency to stumble across dead bodies doesn’t help. Goldy also turns to cooking whenever she’s stressed, so food plays an integral role in the novels. These books tend to feature recipes with complicated instructions and expensive ingredients, so while I won’t fix any of the desserts myself, it’s still fun to read about them. Diane Mott Davidson’s first book in this series is Catering to Nobody, and while you don’t have to read them in order it does make it easier to follow the later books.

Another author who likes to feature more labor-intensive recipes in her mysteries is Katherine Hall Page. Faith Fairchild runs a catering business, and also enjoys cooking for her pastor husband and their two children. Unfortunately, Faith seems to stumble across a high number of bodies (which nobody seems to find amiss) and always manages to suss out the killer before the police can. Her newest book, The Body in the Piazza, has Faith and her husband traveling to Italy, so the recipes include Biscotti and Spaghetti alla Foriana.

If you want a mystery with more plain cooking instead of hoity-toity recipes, Joanne Fluke’s series featuring Hannah Swensen is a sweet treat. Hannah runs a cookie shop, and, again, she seems to find a lot of dead bodies. (At some point, I’m thinking the cops just need to follow these ladies around instead of waiting for the phone call.) Fluke’s series is lighter and less serious than the previous two, and the recipes reflect it as well. One of her books feature a recipe that calls for a pound of meat, a pound of frozen potatoes and a can of cream of “your choice” soup to make what is called a Minnesota Hot Dish. I’ve actually made some of the cookie recipes from these books, and the Chocolate Highlander Cookies have become a family favorite at Christmas. My mother-in-law even asked for the recipe! While Blackberry Pie Murder is the newest book, I recommend reading this series in order from the beginning.

Finally, we have the Magdalena Yoder series by Tamar Myers. Magdalena is a Mennonite who runs an inn in Hernia, Pennsylvania. Due to the ineptitude of the police chief who is a cousin (and everyone in the town seems to be a cousin of some sort), Magdalena ends up investigating a lot of murders. This has got to be one of the funniest mystery series, and Magdalena is not your normal heroine. These books feature some of the oddest characters, including a sister who carries a small dog in her bra. These Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries feature lots of home cooking recipes mixed with lots of humor. While the earlier books in the series would have to be requested via inter-library loan through our Reference desk, we do have 10 different ones in the series. Gruel and Unusual Punishment is the oldest one in the series in our collection.

While I would hesitate to have any of these women cook for me because they would most likely find a dead body (probably mine), I have no problem picking up their books. Murder and food seems to go well together when picking out an entertaining mystery to read, and these authors are some of the more popular in this genre.