Tuesday, April 25, 2017

burning page

The Burning Page is installment three in the Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. So this is it, its a waiting game from here on out. Books 4 and 5 are in the works.

The Burning Page brings back Irene's nemesis. He's the bad hombre that all stories like this need; one part selfish, one part smarter-than-you, one part disenfranchised, and two parts evil. You know the guy.

This time, our baddie has it in for not just Irene but the Library itself. And its up to Irene to stop him. We're led to believe that the higher ups in the library are actively working to prevent Baddie McBadguy from taking over the whole multiverse, and presumably they're pretty kickass themselves--having trained our Irene to kick some ass her own bad self--but what exactly they're up to, and how effective it might have been before Irene opens up the proverbial can o' whoop-ass, we're never really sure.

So I guess the secret is: don't look to hard. Pay no attention the man behind the curtain, and you'll have a grand time.

Cogman is not writing the great American novel here. This is YA-SF-BG* we're talking about here, so lets have some fun. 

spoiler ahead, y'all So, overall thoughts: book three and no movement, or not much movement, on romantic entanglements, exciting, and a little trippy, fun to read. I guess it is also telling to note that I have no idea when the next volumes come out, and I'm sure I could try and look that up, but really, I'm not sure I care that much. I'm sure I'll pick them up when they do come out, but I'm not Burning for it, as it were.


* YA = Young Adult, SF = Spectulative/Science Fiction, BG = Bubble gum

Thursday, April 20, 2017

masked city

The Masked City is book 2 in the Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman, so yes, contrary to what I said last week, I did run right out and get the next two installments in this series, knowing that the next two won't be out for a while.

I think Cogman has come up with a great heroine for young people, even if her character descriptions are a little light. I'm pretty sure Irene is medium height, medium build, with medium brown hair (medium length.) Her sidekick Kai, is a little more visible, with dark hair, piercing eyes, and really handsome and dapper. That's about all you get. Its funny, this is not something I typically notice, so it must be that everyone describes their characters in enough detail that I don't notice, and move on. I tend to think in pictures and I just don't have enough to go on. Genevieve Cogman, I'm looking at you

The majority of this story takes place in an otherworldly Venice, inhabited by some really shady folks, and a group called the Ten something or other, who are extra shady. So shady, that they hardly show up in the story at all. A lot of the folks in this Venice wear masks. The world itself is sort of masked from the rest of reality, and the bad guys behind the bad deeds which ultimately brought Irene to this place, are unknowns, and therefore metaphorically masked. So its a triple entendre.*

This story is fun and light, and overall a good follow up to the first one. It is episodic, so you don't need to read them in order if you'd rather not, but like anything else, they are chronologically organized, so it may make it easier on you to read them as they were released. Its fun to see Irene & Co. unmaskify the place, kick a little ass, and generally take care of business.

I was quickly on to the next installment, my thoughts about which, will follow shortly.

* Once there, they needed to find someplace that ended up being hidden. Its Masks within Masks, within Masks, a la Inception.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

two words for public libraries

My office recently hosted a  library visioning round table discussion on the future of libraries. The topic: Library as Place.

The Wordle (at left) grows from a simple question we asked our participants:* What are two words you think of, when you think of the future of libraries? Community, Flexibility, and Opportunity were the big winners, but all of those other words are great too! This simple question comes from a summary paper of a conference at the Library of Congress in 2014, whose participants were also looking into the future of the library. Some of the participants seemed disappointed that they didn't come up with original words, but I think the fact that a few words were repeated is terrific, and shows that within the library service industry, its pretty clear which direction we're heading. Just looks at some of the other terms that came up: Diverse, Adaptable, Transformational, Evolving. Those are good words!

The overall discussion centered on what public libraries are doing to fill the role of Third Place in the lives of their patrons and users. Whether its for more formal, structured learning and programs, or more casual, drop-in use, the idea that libraries serve in this capacity more and more is a trend that seems to be increasing, even as libraries continue to shed the outdated model of a 'warehouse for books.' It seems pretty clear to those of us who use public libraries, that their need is just as central and vital to the education of the citizenry, even as the services they offer grows and expands to meet the needs of our increasingly interconnected, digitized, and virtual society. And that's really where the magic is: libraries provide that real space, with real human connections, in a world that is increasingly moving away from these types of connections. People want--and I believe, need--these connections, and are looking to the library as one place to get them.

The most pressing need from the library's point of view, is getting that message out to the segment of the populace that still views the library as they did when they were kids. Public libraries are notoriously bad at self-promotion and marketing. Given their budget constraints, and the expertise of the folks running the place, its no wonder that marketing is not something they excel at. Its just not in their wheelhouse, and the budget isn't there to hire the professional help they need to get the message out.

So we meet, we talk, we share, and we attempt to get a ground swell rising. What is the best way to share all of the wonderful things libraries can do? Some of the suggestions from our participants included interesting ways to bring the public into their space, hopefully including some that wouldn't normally come to the library. Ideas included:

Volunteer Fair - All of the local groups that need volunteers set up tables, and potential volunteers shop around for a cause they'd like to help.
Technology Fair - Tables where you can learn about various on-line databases the library offers, along with STEAM, audio/video editing, maker, telescopes, Girls Who Code, and other things available at the library.
Indoor Green Market - At the library, even a baby animal petting zoo in a plastic lined pen!
Town Government Fair - Tables for each department, staffed by town workers who explain what they do and how you can get services.

These programs, and so many others; from programmable robot dance contests, to simple brochures at the desk titled "I Didn't Know You Had That!" are helping to chip away at the old notions many still hold about what their library is, and what it could be. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Our public libraries are what we make them, and if we don't do it, no one else will.

Then where would we be?

* My personal thanks to all of the wonderful folks who came out last week to the Lunenburg Public Library last week. We had a great discussion, and I learned a lot. And thanks to Lunenburg for hosting us!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

invisible library

I knew that The Invisible Library was a series before I took it out of the library, tho I didn't know that when I first saw the book on display at another library. When I picked this one off the shelf, there were two more sitting there, so I thought; I'm all set, here they all are.


According to Genevieve Cogman's website, volume 4 is in its final edit, and number 5 is in the works. So, my loose, half formed plan more of a good intention, really of not starting a series until its finished, has again, fallen apart. I'm sure authors, and especially publishers would rather I not feel that way, but with so much to read, I figure that I can wait. I think this thinking has caught on with television series; folks wait until a season is complete, and then just freebase the entire season in one sitting with a jumbo bag of cheetos.

Frankly, I can see the traction necessary in the first volume for a larger episodic series, rather than a single story arc, written as a trilogy, for example. I liked it. Its fun, easy to read, has a lot going on, and is carefully crafted so it hangs together nicely. This is Cogman's first novel, but she has worked as a freelance writer on role playing games, so I can see how those skills would translate to a larger storyline, with multiple characters and factions, all of which need to be kept track of, and slowly revealed as relating to the same story. That is not to say that this reads like a video game transcript, but there are some similarities in the general make up of the players, from the Library itself, to mysterious groups like The Iron Brotherhood.

Cogman doesn't spend a lot of time on physical description of her characters, altho details sometimes pop up. Its pretty clear that two of the women in the story are attractive, based on some anecdotal evidence. One is described as looking good enough in both a catsuit, and a gown, to turn heads, and another is propositioned almost immediately by a young man described as handsome. Circumstantial at best.

I think I read this in two days, but after finding out that there is still more work to do, I probably won't run out to the library to get volumes two and three. Amazon lists these books as volumes 2 and 3 of 4, not 5, as I mentioned Cogman's website said, so there may have been some mission creep in the writing OR some cash cow milking going on.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Conversion is, according to Katherine Howe's description in the backmatter of this book, a mash-up of a case of conversion disorder that had recently hit the news, and her re-reading of The Crucible in a class she was teaching. She has woven together the story of the Salem witch trials with a modern outbreak of conversion disorder suffered by a number of high school students.

The stories aren't connected so much as they are strung along in tandem so that the reader can draw their own parallels and conclusions. And if it sounds like I'm giving away a little more of the plot lines than I usually do, its only because everyone knows the Salem witch trails, and I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear how that ends.

I guess this falls into the teen lit category. It was a fast read, and there were some fun parts, but I didn't love it. There was some insight into how high school girls behave, especially around each another, that rang true to me.