Saturday, July 11, 2015

Murder on Bamboo Avenue and Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara

Ever since I went to LA last August to see Lil Bub, I have been thinking about a trip to explore the city LA has a long noir and crime lit tradition, but I'm not familiar with recent stories set in the city. I was thrilled to find this new series with a young protagonist and a lot of issues any young woman can recognize. Plus, bikes!

Ellie Rush is a LA native, a new cop on bike patrol, and an expert at code switching. She's half Japanese American but looks more white than Asian, and speaks Spanish fluently. She has a college degree, and a native's understanding of LA and its cultures (including an ability to use public transit) along with deep roots in the city, but realizes she's in a job where as a minority and a woman she's battling the LAPD boys' network and dealing with issues of racism and sexism. She's ambitious and hardworking, but wants to get ahead on her own merits and avoid being seen as helped too much by her aunt Cheryl Toma, second in command in the LAPD ("more like fourth according to the org chart," Ellie's mom sniffs.)

Murder on Bamboo Avenue starts with Ellie being first on the scene at a woman's murder, and surprised when it's someone she knows. Jenny Nguyen's death is shocking but the mysteries of her life--Where was she living? Why do some swear she was interested in a job at LA City Hall, but others say she knew nothing about politics? Where is Jenny's notebook?--intrigue Ellie. Grave on Grand Avenue finds Ellie dealing with the theft of her car, and the death of a Mexican gardener. Supposedly the gardener was trying to steal the cello of a Chinese superstar classical musician leaving Disney Hall, but why was he answering Ellie's questions five minutes earlier if that was his plan? Ellie's best friend Nay quickly gets involved working the journalism angle (her new major) and adding to the havoc, and we meet additional allies and friends of Ellie.

Hirahara is best known for her other series with elderly gardener Mas Arai, modeled on her dad. I'm hoping for more Ellie Rush books in the near future. They are a solid mysteries with a great detective who is sensible and smart, and have a new and unusual look into police work.

Friday, July 10, 2015

For People Who Are Too Afraid To Go To ComicCon (Like Me)

This is hands down my favorite song of 2014. I love how Neko Case is positively unhinged when she sings about how girls will rule and and compares Shackleford's journey to the search for a man who knows about clitoral stimulation.

Kelly Hogan told the Chicago Tribune about the process of contributing to the lyrics. I did not care for the album 2776 (a CD copy is up for grabs). I thought the concept was too broad, the plot was rambling, and it was crude.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Lumberjanes, Vol 1 "Beware The Kitten Holy"--Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis

Did you go to summer camp? Did you read books about summer camp? Did you wish you could go?

Lumberjanes is a happy little comic about 5 friends at a Girl Scouts style summer camp. The central tenet of the Lumberjane code is friendship. April, Jo, Molly, Mal, and Ripley are residents of Roanoke cabin, headed by by-the-books counselor Jen. The girls are busy earning their badges (The Robyn Hood Badge, The Up All Night Badge, Naval Gauging Badge) and bonding though adventure and ritual.

However, the Miss Quinella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp For Girls Hardcore Lady-Types is a little different. Let's just say that it's kind of got a very "Welcome To Night Vale" feel to it. The local fauna tend to have three eyes or belong to myth, and the camp director is awfully unfazed by reports of a bear woman. What is "The Kitten Holy?" And why are there these glowing gems in odd places?

I'm a little over the Night Vale weirdness (it's starting to look like "Lost" to me, which I thought was just random and grasping for ideas and pretending to be going for a greater big, important reveal--ha ha ha). But while I am not totally into Lumberjanes, I still like the emphasis on female friendship, bravery and problem solving. The use of famous female role model names as an interjection gets a little old, and in some ways it's just aggressively twee. But you know what? Who cares? This comic is fantastic for teens and hardcore lady types. I just wish Peaches were about 5 years older to share this with her.

I first heard about Lumberjanes last summer when it was published. I'm not into comics anymore, so I put the collection on my list of titles to add to my ever-growing library list. I pulled the trigger and ordered it when I heard it had been optioned for a movie. Issues with it aside, I am looking forward to reading and seeing more about the adventures of April, Jo, Mel, Molly and Ripley in the future. Additionally, with the new fiscal year on July 1st, Phoenix Public Library's subscription to Hoopla includes comics and all issues of Lumberjanes are included.

Want my used copy? Let me know.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Please: Fiction Inspired By The Smiths--Edited By Peter Wild

It turns out that if you've never sat down and listened to The Smiths until you are 33 or 34, you have no deep background with or emotional attachment to the band. And therefore, short fiction by writers you've never heard of about the band are about 5 degrees too far removed from your interests.

If you'd like to read this, speak up and I'll send it. I have no opinions on quality or enjoyability of this collection, but maybe you are excited by it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer 2015: I'll Send You A Book

As someone who raised herself reading anything she could get her hands on and became a librarian of all things, I have a lot of books. Of course. And now I have to get rid of them.

I do tell people bluntly that books are just piles of rotting paper attracting bugs to your house, but I'm not an absolutist about their continued existence. Actually, I am quite pro the book as a physical object as I find they are still the best way to share. I work in a medical library, and we maintain a book exchange for patients, family and staff to donate books and magazines and swap them back and forth. This is widely used--oh, you think everyone has a Kindle or likes watching "Ellen?" YOU ARE WRONG. Plus hospitals are places where you get stuck somewhere with nothing to keep yourself busy, lots of other stressed out folks, and a variety of weird. Hospitals, prisons and the city bus are where you will find readers--all places where you have time on your hands, little control over the situation, and where the ability to mentally disappear is so, so helpful.

So for my summer project, I am working on reading through some/most/all of my books and recycling by getting them into other people's hands. This past year or so I have started dropping them off at our book carts, sometimes with little messages about what (positive) things I thought about them. But I would also like to send them to anyone still reading here, friends, hams, and strangers alike. Just leave a message in the comments or drop me a line at atomiclibrarian @ yahoo. Anything I can't send I'll note in my comments about it. Anything I write a review or commentary on after this date is up for grabs.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Because Paulie Walnuts Wanted To Know About My Valentine's Day Bus Suitor

So last spring I was sitting on the bus reading a book (A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews--highly recommended, starts out hysterical but spirals into despair. Mennonites, man. Not quite the charming, loving, Old-World simple folk that Rhonda Janzen tried to pass her kin off as being). Anyway, this fellow strikes up a conversation and it really piques his interest that I'm a librarian. "Oh I have some old illustrated Bible pages, how can I display them? I love old books." And I tell him a bit about the dangers of direct sunlight and why you prop up books so not to bend the spine, show off my 1 credit hour of archives knowledge.

And then he asks me if I want to meet sometime and go to a movie and I say no. I mean whatever, but I am not attracted, his breath smells, and he seems a bit weird. Also, I reject the idea that just because I dare to be a woman in public doing things I should be macked on by men, especially men who interrupt my reading time. I mean I'll give him points for trying, but I have learned my lesson and I know I cannot be going places with someone after a 10 minute conversation. After 10 minutes my conversational skills are exhausted and I don't need to talk to anyone for at least 6 hours unless we are really on the same page. Like same references, listen to all the same podcasts, have extensive overlap in our reading materials. And I don't "go to the movies" anyway. Have you seen modern movies? I go to the movies with my mom and I don't even like to watch sex scenes with her, and she thankfully has barely acknowledged either of us has ever had sex since she did car sex ed when I was 6. And then of course, I must not want to go out with him because I'm married or have a guy or something and no, I just don't want to go out with you, dude.

So anyway, because my commute is LONG and the bus starts off crowded but thins out (I am usually one of the last 2-3 on the bus after an hour) I would occasionally see him but could avoid him for the next couple months. And then one day he sits next to me and I don't remember how exactly the this conversation gets started, but he makes the assertion that the United States is a ridiculously pro-abortion country. OH, REALLY? EXPLAIN TEXAS. And we are off to the races as I start calling him on his bullshit.

He is not an A+ arguer/discusser. Like maybe a B-. His argument is basically "abortion is bad because GOD" but he won't actually come out and say that. Instead he tries a lot of assertions based along the line that human beings are special, because they bury their dead (this is a big point with him), and you can't explain our evolution fully, and I poke holes in the argument all the way up Scottsdale Road. Which no, because animals mourn their dead. And humans are human because of a series of lucky environmental coincidences and anything could have evolved into humans based on enough time and luck. Maybe we could have been The Cat from Red Dwarf. Oh well there must be something other than evolution because of gaps in the fossil record. Oh you stupid intelligent designist. He tries the old "you must be pro-choice because you've had an abortion" angle. I say if or not, it's not relevant because I am a person with a brain and voting rights, you know. Because as a woman I can't have any opinions that don't stem from personal experience, apparently.

And his final summation, which he delivers with his supposed triumph clear in his voice is, "Well, if women don't want to get pregnant then they should be abstinent." And then I laugh because this fucker has no chance ever with me.

I don't even know what this guy's name is.

Then we abandon the Peak for the summer and then the bus schedule changes and I get on before 7am and I never see him again and that's fine with me.

So on Valentine's Day evening, I'm on the bus again on my side of town and holy hell he gets on. And he sits next to me and he's clearly feeling like "oh, I see that dumb liberal pro-choice girl and maybe I can win her over on Valentine's Day." And I say hello and he starts to talk and 15 seconds later I excuse myself as it's my stop anyway.

And I get off the bus.

Sheesh. My mom is right; I need a car.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Your House Is On Fire, Your Children All Gone--Stefan Kiesbye

If there's one thing I've learned as a librarian, it's that if you can display an item, someone will get interested in it.

This is how I wound up with this book, an impulse borrow as I was checking myself at the library*

It has a fantastic cover design, featuring a girl modeled after the original "Village of the Damned" look with some rustic dead animals hanging in the background. There's an additional nice touch if you turn the book about 30 degrees to the side--the message "IF YOU TELL ON ME YOU'RE DEAD" appears on the cover. Super scary. It promises a tale about a small, isolated town and four friends who grew up there and compares it to both the Brothers Grimm and Stephen King.

The problem with this book is that Kiesbye had one great vignette that exposes the depravity of the town, a village cooking contest that puts various people on edge and ends with the murder of one contestant and her family by the whole town once the social order of who wins the contest is disrupted. Plus they have possibly just eaten human flesh and the murdered were newcomers anyway. After that, it's just going through the motions of murder, witchcraft, incest, rape and maiming until he caps it off with a mention that, hey, there was a concentration camp down the road. When the Nazis show up, they are not even frozen Nazi zombies And like in all horror films, the characters are thinly drawn and second to the shock factor.

There's a reason "The Lottery" is a classic. It's a short story, the horror builds, and once revealed it ends.

At just under 200 pages, this book was great for commute reading--I finished it on one day. But overall, it was just an irritating waste of time.

*Yes, in Arizona you check out your own books at a machine. We did not have that back in Ohio--has it finally become a thing there?