Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg


palacesA few months ago, sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times called “To Restore Civil Society, Start with the Library” and subsequently published the book Palaces for the People which describes his work around the concept of social infrastructure.

News of both publications immediately started flowing into my email box and social media feeds. The concept of public libraries as social infrastructure captured the attention of many people. As I read Klinenberg’s book, I recognized many of the concepts library leaders have for decades struggled to communicate to funders and stakeholders. Libraries aren’t always thought of as “essential services” when municipalities are facing difficult budget years, so having a different way of describing what libraries do as “infrastructure” is very valuable.

Klinenberg defines social infrastructure as “physical conditions that determine whether social capital develops and whether human relationships and connections are formed.” Simply put, it refers to places or things that bring people together, that help create a community. Libraries are an example. What happens when people gather in these places? People who are very different from each other come together and become part of a community. They very likely have differing political and religious views, support different sports teams, watch different television shows, or read different kinds of book. The *place* brings them together.

In his book, Klinenberg primarily gives examples of how people benefit from the social infrastructure created in certain places. He talks a lot about neighborhoods and opens Palaces for the People with a data story he collected on a deadly heatwave in Chicago. More people died during that event in neighborhoods he describes as “forgotten.” These are neighborhoods where there is little to no interaction among the people who live there and where neighbors don’t know each other because there are no places for them to gather. There were no relationships bolstered by community spaces so no one checked on each other to make sure people were okay during the heatwave.

He writes: “When hard infrastructure fails…it’s the softer social infrastructure that determines our fate.”

Klinenberg singles out public libraries as the ultimate example of social infrastructure that works. He provides example after example of how people connect at libraries. One woman he interviewed described the library as a “place of permission” where you can follow your own interests and not be pushed in a certain direction. Libraries are a place that is judgement free, where you can explore whatever interests you.

Libraries in Monroe County have a long and rich history, and most of our mayors and town supervisors and other entities responsible for the funding our libraries understand the role libraries play in community and are committed to keeping our doors open.

Years ago, when I worked at the Ogden Library in Spencerport, I was doing some research for a book. I learned that when the Town of Ogden was founded in 1815, the first three institutions created were a church, a school, and a library.

Imagine that group of pioneers, who had literally cut their way west from Connecticut and Massachusetts through untamed wilderness, arriving in Ogden, building their homes, then setting about creating a community. I think it says a lot about those pioneers that they created a library in the middle of the wilderness. They knew that a library would provide something valuable and necessary in their new community.

Today, public libraries all over the world are providing social infrastructure for their communities. In Monroe County, there are dozens of examples of the library creating and enabling communities to form.

People who live in Rochester’s 19th Ward point to the Arnett Branch as an anchor in their community. The library provides a safe space for children to gather after school where they are supervised, fed, and given homework assistance until picked up by their parents after work is done for the day. Adults can apply for jobs, or participate in a writing group. Teens learn about college and work opportunities. All ages come to play. A local artist, Richmond Futch, has created beautiful murals on the exterior of the library, which only reinforces the role of the library as a community anchor and has made the library a selfie destination.

arnett

The Phillis Wheatley Community Library is located at the corner of Ford Street and Dr. Samuel McCree Way in Rochester. In 2017, a community project called the Storywalk was completed there, where children and families created a story that is told through kiosks alongside the building and enhanced by gorgeous sidewalk murals that were painted by community members. This project brought dozens of people together and gave them ownership of the library. The people who live nearby consider library staff as family and the library as home. Recently, I was present at Wheatley when there was a shooting outside and several bullets hit the windows of the library. The library was locked down by police with no one in or out. Once the doors opened again, I was astonished and deeply moved by the crowd of neighbors who rushed in and enveloped staff members in hugs, making sure they were okay. The library staff and neighbors are like family.

wheatley

The Monroe Branch recently started a new service that relies on the kindness of strangers. They took an empty book cart and put some canned food and couple loaves of bread on it with a sign that reads “Take what you need. Leave what you want.” It is available for anyone who is in need and gives community members an opportunity to give to those who are in need. This is the result of staff noticing an increase in the number of homeless and hungry people taking shelter in the library.

monroe

Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of social infrastructure when it is applied to libraries is that library space requires people to confront radical differences in a shared space. Nowhere is that most evident than the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. At Central you are guaranteed to run into to someone who is vastly different from you. A person might be homeless, or of a different ethnicity, or transgender, someone with mental health issues, lawyers, doctors, techies, business people, young mothers, teens, grandparents, and so on.

Everyone is welcome there, and we attempt to provide the right service at the right time to the right person. When Midtown closed in 2008, the Central Library became the only public place downtown with clean restrooms, and where it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That meant we had a great influx of homeless and transient people who no longer had Midtown as a hangout. Instead of viewing these newcomers as a problem, we adapted our services to help them. We created Health Central on the 3rd floor where people who need help can get connected to healthcare, housing, and legal assistance. We have Nurse Barb on duty a couple days a week. She’s a retired nurse who volunteers her time to take vitals and counsel people on their health needs. Central is also now a regular stop for mobile health services providing dental care and mammograms.

I am sometimes confronted with people who resent the inclusiveness at Central and see it as threatening. I have had librarians from suburban libraries say they will never attend another training session at Central because it’s too dangerous. I’ve had an older gentleman tell me he doesn’t understand why we allow “young thugs” in the library, and have had people voice objections about sharing space with the homeless. These reactions are based in fear of the unknown, and sometimes people are willing to learn, sometimes not. The people who are comfortable with the stew of visitors to Central outnumber those who are afraid, as seen in our annual attendance numbers, which top 600,000 visits. More visits than all our sports stadiums, more than Strong Museum, more than the Zoo.

How does all this fit with the concept of social infrastructure?

Libraries are adapting services in response to community needs and activities. We are creating community. Most libraries do that very deliberately, but libraries have also shown up during times of crisis.

When Superstorm Sandy hit the downstate region, the NYC boroughs were devastated. In Queens, many libraries were flooded, and some destroyed. Within days of the storm, Queens librarians had opened libraries and became disaster centers in their neighborhoods, handing out food & clothing, providing electricity for people to charge phones, and doing storytimes in makeshift encampments to entertain weary and bored children.

When riots erupted in Ferguson and Baltimore, libraries stayed open and provided safe spaces for neighbors afraid for their lives. And then those libraries turned around and started discussions on race and healing, providing a safe space for people to have hard conversations.

Libraries provide valuable social infrastructure in a community, not only by the things they provide, but by the experiences offered and the people who offer them. When the Rochester Public Library conducted a study of branch facilities and services last year, the overwhelming response from community members when asked what they liked the most about their library was….STAFF. Our staff are our lifeblood. It is through them that community is created.

Visiting a library will remind you that there are different people with different ideas out there, and that is not a bad thing. Libraries allow communities to form and reform organically. New parents connect at baby storytimes, people looking for work help each other out, kids come together to learn about any number of things. Adults come together to discuss books, for craft classes, or to build with legos and end up forming new friendships that extend outside the library.

There is emerging research on the alienating effect of the internet on human behavior. Anyone who is on any social media platform has probably experienced a “troll” – someone who deliberately says nasty things to elicit a negative response. The relative anonymity of online communication has provided an outlet for the worst in us. It’s easy to say something hurtful when you don’t have to look someone in the eye. I see people looking for alternatives, and they are looking back into their communities for opportunities to connect in real life with other people. What better place to do that than the public library?

Social infrastructure – real community – provides an alternative to that kind of negativity. Klinenberg ends his books with this: “We need smart civil engineering to fix the critical networks that are failing, but we also need to engineer civility in societies that are at risk of breaking apart.” Libraries can provide a conduit for growing that civility.

Reader Profile – Jessica Lewis


Jessica Lewis headshot1Jessica Lewis is the Communications Specialist for ROC the Future and Principal Publicist & Owner of LáLew Public Relations. She is a 2018 ATHENA Award Young Professional finalist and a Woman to Watch for the Democrat & Chronicle Newspaper. Jessica is a successful entrepreneur, owning the fastest growing, Black-owned public relations firm in Rochester, New York. Jessica is also the host of Ujamaa Rising, a television show that features Black-owned businesses and real-life stories of entrepreneurs. Jessica received her Bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College in Social Studies Education grades 7-12 and a Master’s degree in Teaching and Curriculum from the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education at the University of Rochester. Jessica holds membership in the Rochester Association of Black Journalists, the Democrat & Chronicle Young Professionals Advisory Council and the Theta Omega Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.

What are you reading now?
I just started reading the Autobiography of Assata Shakur.

Are you a fiction or non-fiction reader?
I like both.

What book would you love to see made into a movie? Who would play the lead role?
I would love the Autobiography of Assata Shakur to be made into a movie. I’m only on the 3rd chapter and am fascinated by her life story. It’s striking how her experiences as a child living in NYC in the 50s and 60s attending a predominantly white school mirrors the experience I had in the 90’s.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy DeGruy and Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi.

What book changed your life, or changed how you view the world? In what way?
I would say Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy DeGruy and Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. Those two books opened my mind to a new perspective on race relations in America. I was educated in predominantly white institutions all my life. In school we learned about slavery, then jumped to the Civil Rights Movement, only learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and maybe a few others. We never delved deep into what actually happened during slavery and the ramifications of slavery such as laws enacted by the federal government which instituted racist policies that still have an effect today. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome dives deep into these issues and Stamped from the Beginning gives insight into how racist ideas spread from Europe to American and how anti-black thinking has entrenched itself in the fabric of American society. The book also talks about the role of media and how media perpetuates stereotypes only further influencing the minds of the American people (exacerbating bias) which then effects behavior and subsequent actions.

Does reading influence your decision-making process?
Yes, it does because I’ve been enlightened by several books that I’ve read and now am not ignorant to certain things like before.

Are you a “finisher” or do stop reading a book if you’re not connecting with it?
I think I’m a stopper. If a book is uninteresting I’ll just put it down.

Why do you read?
I read to learn and to open my eyes to things I did not have knowledge about.

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?
I would say Becoming by Michelle Obama, Outliers and The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?
No, but now I’m more intentional about reading the Preface and Foreword.

Would you rather be your favorite author or your favorite character?
I’d like to be my favorite author because I’d like to be skilled enough to tell a story in a way that’s compelling and interesting.

If you were to get a bookish tattoo, what would it be?
I would get a tattoo of my favorite passage or scripture. Maybe in a nice script font.

Author Spotlight: Crystal King


Crystal KingCrystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow and The Chef’s Secret.

What genre do you write and why?
I write historical fiction. It’s something I never thought I would write, until suddenly there I was writing a book about the historical past. But I don’t think I’ll always write historical fiction. I have several shelved fantasy novels that I hope I can get back to someday. I also have a couple ideas for some non-fiction books. I think that the publishing industry likes to have an author write in only one genre but I hope that I won’t be limited to that in my writing career.

What or who inspired you to first write? Which authors have influenced you?
I was a very early reader and that led me to begin writing when I was very young, at the age of five or so. I had great, encouraging teachers. I remember being chosen by my school to attend a young writers conference when I was ten. The author speaking was Madeleine L’Engle and I was so excited because I loved her books. My influences over the years have been eclectic, ranging from poets like Anne Carson and Czeslaw Milosz to authors such as Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, Anais Nin and MFK Fisher. I also love reading the classics such as Tacitus, Virgil, Herodotus, Dante and Shakespeare.

Do you ever cook any of the recipes described in your book?
Yes! That’s one of the most exciting things to me about exploring the lives of Italian culinary heroes. I think to really know my characters I have to cook the foods that they would have cooked or at least make a grand attempt to. The recipes aren’t always easy to decipher, and many of the ingredients are not as familiar today to a modern palate. Or they are things we just don’t eat any more. For example, peacock, crane, calves eyeballs, hedgehog, or porcupine. But there are many things in the 1570 cookbook that Bartolomeo Scappi wrote that we would find delicious, including apple crostata, braised beef, mushroom soup, fritters, and so much more. I include many of these recipes in The Chef’s Secret Companion cookbook, which can be found here. And if you are interested in ancient Roman food, check out my page all about the cuisine of that time, and you can also download the Feast of Sorrow companion cookbook too.

Do you write every day?
I don’t write every day although when I have made a practice of writing every day, I find that the book really sits with me and I can write quite fast. But since I have a day job and a lot of other activities it sometimes hard for me to write on top of all the other work I’ve done during that day. For the most part, I tend to write on the weekends. Usually I will clear all my Sundays and write several hours on that day.

Do you have a writing group?
I do. It’s a group of women that I’ve been meeting with for 12 or 13 years now. We meet every two weeks and usually go over a few chapters of whoever has chapters to share. They have helped me hack apart and reassemble all of my novels countless times. We call ourselves the Salt + Radish Writers because of our tradition of having salt, butter and radishes to nosh on during our yearly writing retreats in Maine, but also because salt is flavor, radishes are nourishment and those are things that we deliver to each other, and almost always, over a meal.

Name a quirky thing you like to do.
I don’t think this is actually terribly quirky but most people are surprised to know that I love video games. I tend to like games with rich story arcs, usually sci-fi or fantasy. My husband got me an Oculus Rift for Christmas and I have really had a lot of fun with that exploring virtual worlds. I’m super excited to see where that technology is going to take us in the next 5 to 10 years!

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King


The Chef's SecretA captivating novel of Renaissance Italy detailing the mysterious life of Bartolomeo Scappi, the legendary chef to several popes and author of one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time, and the nephew who sets out to discover his late uncle’s secrets—including the identity of the noblewoman Bartolomeo loved until he died.

When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion.

Book Details:

  • Book Title: The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King
  • Category: Adult fiction, 352 pages
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publisher: Atria/Simon & Schuster
  • Release date: Feb 12, 2019
  • Tour dates: Feb 11 to 28, 2019
  • Content Rating: R (for a couple of explicit, but loving, sex scenes (no abuse or rape) and minor curse words)

To follow the tour, please visit Crystal King’s page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:
 

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Indiebound ~Books-a-Million ~ Kobo ~ iTunesGoogle Play ~ Book Depository

 
Meet the Author:

Crystal King Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast, and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language, and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University, as well as at GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US.

A Pushcart Prize–nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in critical and creative thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She resides in Boston but considers Italy her next great love after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin. She is the author of Feast of Sorrow.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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Stranded by Greil Marcus


stranded“He triggers memories like you were a jukebox and he was the man with all the quarters.”
This quote comes from an amazing book that I have just rediscovered: Stranded: Rock & Roll for a Desert Island by Greil Marcus.

Sometime in the 70’s, Marcus decided that it would be really cool to ask music critics and performers what music they would absolutely have to have if they were stranded on a desert island. This book is a compilation of those answers, and it contains some brilliant essays on rock and roll and the people who made it part of the fabric of our lives.

Most notable is the astonishing essay by Ariel Swartley, “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.” She dissects Springsteen and his band at a time when they were at their most raw. This was before The River (quite possibly the most perfect album ever made) and Born in the U.S.A., back when Bruce and the boys were still those grungy “boy-prophets” from the streets of New Jersey, before Bruce married and divorced a super-model, before he had kids and moved to Beverly Hills, before he became kind of ordinary.

The whole book is filled with essays like Swartley’s, and it is a psychadelic memory romp that includes music as diverse as the Ronettes and the New York Dolls. If you were alive and listening in the 70’s, you need to read this book. It will make you remember what it was like to feel the music you listened to.

It’s believed that certain smells can trigger strong memories. I believe the same is true for certain songs. There are songs that always take me back to a certain time, place or person. For instance, Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain takes me back to the parking lot of Grants on Jefferson Road, Rochester, NY oh, maybe 1973. It was the first time I heard a song that made me want to stay in the car and listen instead of heading inside with my mother. Then there’s Peter Gabriel’s Solsbury Hill, which transports me to 1983, and the Journey’s End bar in Canton, NY with Tom Wanamaker, Jeni Armeson, Mary Foster, Liz Yeomans, Mike Collins, and Alan Haberstock. And of course, Genesis’ Follow You, Follow Me always puts me in 1985 at the bar of the Holiday Inn at the Airport in Rochester, with Cosmo. Very likely the night we fell in love, so this is a suitable post for Valentine’s Day!

24in48 Readathon


A couple times a year, the good people at 24in48 produce a weekend readathon where participants are challenged to read for 24 hours out of a 48 hour time period. This weekend was the winter version of the event. I was not at my best as I was down with a cold, but I did manage to get in about 16 hours of reading time. Here are the books I read:

lastwomanThe Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets – What would you do if you suspected the person you loved was a sociopath? Not really a question we encounter often in our lives, but Diane Les Becquets does a masterful job of imagining how that might go. She has written a suspenseful and surprising story that starts out with a kick-in-the-gut scene that is every woman’s worst nightmare – when your car breaks down on a lonely road in the middle of the night and you have a bad feeling about the handsome guy who stops to help. I admit, though, that the tense and horrifying prologue set me up to expect that same tension all the way through the book. That didn’t happen in quite the way I expected. It’s a little like the difference between “Criminal Minds” and “Sherlock” – the beginning is raw and physical, while most of the rest of the book is more cerebral. However, all that thinking and worrying and doubting evaporates with a big twist towards the end. Recommended for fans of Lee Child.

Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

williamThe Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen – Is there anything more fascinating than the Dead Letters Depot? That’s where all the letters and such that go astray in the mail end up, and where our protagonist, the titular William Woolf, works. All those letters to Santa, God, and Elvis Presley. Those heartfelt love letters with the incorrect address. The wedding invitations and birthday cards. All those lost words and feelings, collected and cared for by 30 Letter Detectives. What a smashingly cool job!

I would have liked this book much more if it had focused on telling all those stories waiting to be told. Instead, we are treated to a rather uninteresting marriage on the verge of collapse and one woman’s search for her Great Love. William and his wife Clare are written as though they are middle-aged, but their ages were never clear. At one point, Clare is upset at how her lower body has grown since she turned 30 when she was so “effortlessly slim” in her 20’s. She may be in her 30’s, but she’s having a mid-life crisis.

The “Great Love” plot line is more interesting, but about halfway through I realized it was really just William fantasizing about the perfect woman. And we all know how that ends. You finally connect and (surprise!) the person you have idealized is really just a messy human like the rest of us.

Publication Date: June 4, 2019
Published By: Graydon House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Daisy Jones daisyand The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This one is getting major love on Goodreads, with lots of 5 star, essay-length reviews rhapsodizing over the brilliance. It’s been picked up by Amazon for a series and will be produced by Reese Witherspoon, so it’s got all the earmarks of a cultural phenomenon. For me, this is a solid 4 star book. Plenty interesting, especially for those of us who grew up in the 1970’s, but it doesn’t hang together as a novel mostly due to the text being presented as a series of interviews. It felt like a refreshed version of Almost Famous.

Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Published By: Random House/Ballantine
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

January Micro-Reviews

1

devouringThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman – This creepy, eerie, and imaginative story grabbed me by the back of the neck and held on from first to last page. The plot is a refreshing take on the “monster in the woods” trope and features some sassy, kick-ass characters. The premise of four founding families (shades of Hogwarts, anyone?) isn’t new, but the relationship of the families to the monster and to the town they protect is pretty darn original. The author does a good job of making teens sound like teens, although the adults are portrayed as bullies or dopes. The plot flowed easily and kept my attention. It looks like this will be the beginning of a series, which makes me happy. It would also make a helluva TV series in the vein of Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Recommended.

Publication Date: April 2, 2019
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

prosperThe Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken – How did I miss this book when it first came out? It has everything I love about middle grade fantasy – hip and likable characters, clever humor, a multi-faceted villain, a surprise twist at the end, and a superb story. Here, the likable characters are Prosper and Nell and the villain (one of them!) is Alastor, a fiend who has waited hundreds of years for revenge on the family that bound him. The competing themes of revenge & betrayal and friendship & love can lead to some interesting discussions about relationships. The nods to some of my favorite classic stories (The Crucible and Doctor Faustus) only made this more enjoyable. Bracken successfully delivers what appears to be a prologue to some serious world-building, as she prepares to publish the sequel to this in February. The twist at the end was one of the best I can remember and set up the sequel beautifully.

lastThe Last by Hanna Jameson – This title has been sitting in my To Be Read queue for months and I finally opened it last night out of guilt. Holy smokes! I read it in one sitting, resulting in a foggy day spent at work today! I am not, as a rule, a fan of dystopian fiction which is probably why it took me so long to open this one. However, when dystopian fiction is blended with a tautly plotted, inventive mystery it becomes a book I cannot put down. The author has done everything right here – good dialog, evocative description, memorable characters, and an unusual plot. I’ll be recommending this a lot in the coming months.
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

arloArlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon by John August – I am late to the Arlo Finch party, having missed the first in the series. However, this second-in-the-series stands pretty sturdily on its own. August explains enough about the Long Woods and the Rangers so a reader new to the series can follow along, although the characters are cool enough that I will definitely go back and read the first in the series. Here, Arlo and his fellow Rangers Wu and Indra, along with other Rangers, find themselves facing some really weird experiences as they head into their two weeks of camp. There are the usual suspects – the trio of friends who overcome great evil, the obligatory bully, the hip adults, and the scary monsters – all stirred up into a stew of steady action and hair-raising adventures. Kids who enjoy imaginative adventures will thoroughly enjoy Arlo Finch, in all his books. Recommended for middle grade readers.

Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Published By: Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Bestsellers in 1919


books6In 2010, I started a year-long reading project as part of the Rochester Public Library’s 100th birthday. My goal was to read one book from each decade that the library had existed. I spent some time researching bestsellers and other books published in each decade from 1911-2011, and then spent even more time tracking down copies of the books I selected. I found many print copies in the stacks of the Rundel Building, but also found plenty of e-books that had been digitized through the Google Books project.

As happens on the internet, things you wrote and posted years ago pop to the surface at odd times. That happened today with my very first post about 100 Years, 100 Books – a review of The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum. That made me go back and look at the books I’d identified as published and popular 100 years ago. Below are two lists: one of notable books published in 1919 and one of the bestsellers of the year. 

1. Sherwood Anderson — Winesburg, Ohio
2. Edgar Rice Burroughs — Jungle Tales of Tarzan
3. Joseph Hergesheimer – Linda Condon
4. Hermann Hesse — Demian
5. W. Somerset Maugham — The Moon and Sixpence
6. Baroness Orczy – The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel
7. Mary Augusta Ward – Fields of Victory
8. Virginia Woolf — Night and Day
9. A. A. Milne – The Camberley Triangle
10. H. L. Mencken – The American Language

Publishers Weekly Best Sellers of 1919

1. Vicente Blasco Ibanez – The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
2. Joseph Conrad – The Arrow of Gold
3. Zane Grey – The Desert of Wheat
4. Mary Roberts Rinehart – Dangerous Days
5. Ralph Connor – The Sky Pilot in No Man’s Land
6. Harold Bell Wright – The Re-Creation of Brian Kent
7. Eleanor Porter – Dawn
8. Temple Bailey – The Tin Soldier
9. Elizabeth von Arnim – Christopher and Columbus
10. Robert W. Chambers – In Secret

And, finally, my review of the book I read for 1919 – The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.

scarletI have fond memories of reading the book to which this one is a sequel – The Scarlet Pimpernel– one hot summer in between high school semesters. I was reading anything I could find about the French Revolution, and a librarian at the Gates Library recommended Baroness Orczy and the Pimpernel, which I devoured.

I had not realized there was a sequel until I started creating the lists for this reading project, and was delighted to find my old friend Percy Blakeney among the choices. In fact, I discovered there are a great many sequels to the original Pimpernel, which I’m sure will lead to much more reading for me!

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel picks up with Sir Percy still rescuing unfortunate maidens and righting wrongs in post Revolution France, albeit in a collection of short stories instead of one longer novel. Each vignette has Percy or another member of The League righting wrongs committed against members the aristocracy or members of their staff. Children are rescued, fortunes restored, and lives set aright, all at the hand of the man with the twinkling blue eyes that can turn to steel in a second.

An entertaining read for fans of the spy genre and historical fiction.

Murder at the Palace by Margaret Dumas


9781635114638_06b62Murder at the Palace is the first in what promises to be a successful and addicting new mystery series set in San Francisco and featuring Nora Paige, former screenwriter/Hollywood wife/about-to-be-ex-wife/classic movie expert and cast of memorable characters, both alive and dead.

The series set-up has Nora taking over the management of The Palace, a vintage theater owned by her best friend, while she begins recovering from a messy end to her marriage to a high profile Hollywood actor. In the best mystery tradition, Nora finds a body in the basement of the theater on her first day, setting in motion a rollicking good mystery that includes the ghost of an epaulet-wearing usherette who died in the theater 100 years ago, a mysterious and gorgeous Columbian “entrepreneur,” and a whole cast of colorful characters.

Nora shows her deductive chops as she untangles a very complicated mess and ultimately solves two murders while making some friends in her new town. Interspersed throughout are “blog posts” about old movies, which made me want to go watch all of them. The focus on “old Hollywood” and classic movies put me in mind of the old George Baxt books, which I adored, but also stands with the best modern “cozy” mysteries like the Lily Ivory series by Juliet Blackwell. Nora is an appealing, strong, and resourceful protagonist who functions quite well independently of her Hollywood husband. The plot was a little thin at times (I guessed the MacGuffin early on) but the story is well-written and engaging. I’m adding this to my list of must-read series. Recommended.

Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Publisher: Henery Press
Thanks to Edelweiss.plus for the review copy