Information, Answers & Reviews

Year Zero

ISBN: 
9780345534415

Take a touch of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, add to it a smidgeon of John Grisham, a dislike for the music industry, (not music, just the industry behind it), stir well and you have Rob Reid's book Year Zero. It's about a universe of beings that have discovered that humans have the best music of any race in the entire universe, only they can't contact us because we aren't part of the "Refined League." In a moment of universal insanity, their solution is to pirate every song ever made, and distribute these to every being in the universe. Suddenly, after coming out of their music- induced rapture, they realize that under earth law the universe owes the people of earth a very large amount of money. Read more »

The Lost Hippies of New York State

ISBN: 
9781401340872

During the Byzantine Empire, the Greek district of Arcadia was famous for being a simple pastoral place where people, mostly herdsmen, lived at peace in nature. Later writers described it as a kind of Utopia. In Lauren Groff's intriguing second novel, Arcadia becomes a place of both good and evil: a New York state commune where people share idealistic dreams but never fully translate them into reality.

Bit Stone, a tiny scrawling kid, is the first child born on the commune after visionaries and druggies complete a nomadic journey across the country from the west coast. This group decides to create an intentional community of shared work and dreams. And what an intelligent, enquiring boy this protagonist is.

Although the author was too young to experience the late 60s and early 70s, she does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the era (except for those cassettes which had not become popular yet.) Read more »

Ghost Town

Image"Ghost Town" takes the M. Night Shyamalan movie," The Sixth Sense" and stands it on its head.   The tagline for the film says it all; "He sees dead people ... and they annoy him."  After a near death experience, Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) finds he has the ability to see dead people. The dead want his attention so that they can close out the incompleteness in their lives and move on.  Pincus is a very good dentist but very inept as a human being and the type of character Gervais plays well. The role of a competent loser suits him.  His sudden ability to see the dead doesn't leave him impressed nor does it fill him with fear. Instead, it seems to annoy him.  He would much rather be left alone to be the perfect loser. Read more »

ReferenceUSA - The Premier Source of Business and Residential Information

Did you know that the library has a powerful database available to its members?  ReferenceUSA is a leading provider of business and consumer research.  The site was initially designed as a powerful research tool for small businesses, students, and job seekers.  The database has information on over 20 million businesses as well as 222 million consumers.  You can use ReferenceUSA to look up the phone numbers and addresses of any of these businesses or people in the database. Image

Do you own or are planning on opening a small business here in Bloomington?  You can use ReferenceUSA to scope out the competition.  This database will allow you to select a location and conduct a radius search of similar businesses in an area defined by you.  You can look up how long the competition has been in business as well as how good their credit rating is. Read more »

Hurricane Books

IsaacsStormI hope everyone on the east coast is staying safe after the destruction of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy.  Today's storms are met with an overload of information: pictures on social media, non-stop news coverage, live reporting and high tech computer models of the storm's projected path.  But if you are in the mood for a more in-depth read about storms, check out a few of these titles.

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane was one of the deadliest on record.  Over 6,000 people died in this massive storm, which was complicated by the lack of technology and a complete understanding of weather patterns.  Erik Larsson is an excellent non-fiction author and in Isaac's Storm he tells the detailed story of the storm, but also of the meteorologist, Isaac Cline who failed to make the best use of the information he saw.  The historical details of weather prediction combined with the suspense of the building storm make for an excellent read. Read more »

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

UnbrokenUnbroken tells the amazing true story of Louie Zamperini, a rascally little boy who grows up in Southern California to Italian immigrant parents. As a child, Louie is constantly in trouble and has a restless energy. His saving grace is being introduced to long distance running by his older brother. Louie ends up running in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and is focused on the 4 minute mile and another chance at the 1940 Olympics.

Back home, he enrolls in USC and continues running when the War interrupts. Louie joins as a gunner in the Army Air Forces. He is eventually sent to the Pacific theater and after a few successful missions, his plane crashes in the Pacific during a search mission. Three members of the aircraft team make it to two small liferafts and his unbelieveable story continues. Louie's 40+ day survival on a life raft seems impossible. Then he is shot at and captured by the Japanese and unofficially is held in horrible war camps. Here too, his survival is seemingly impossible.

Louise does survive, his spirit is damaged, but also hopeful. Louie's story will stay with you. I kept thinking of him and his story well after I finished the book. Read more »

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?

ISBN: 
9781455522606

Rhoda Janzen has a gift for describing an ordinary life in ways that make it seem extraordinary. Humor is key as in this chapter opener, "How do you tell your PhD friends, far-flung across the world at their various academic postings, that you are attending church on purpose?" And it's not just any church that this feisty ex-Mennonite has joined, but a Pentecostal one.

In Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? Janzen has interwoven two other threads: how she met and married a man very different from herself, and how she dealt with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Read more »

Sound of Noise

ISBN: 
876964004671
Sound of Noise is an odd, quirky Swedish comedy about 'musical terrorists' (with ideas taken from this Futurist manifesto). I remember missing it at the Ryder film series awhile back, so it caught my eye when I found it on a cart here. The film revolves around a collective of misfit musicians who decide to stage forced public performances for each of the four movements of their 'genius work' entitled "Music for Six Drummers and One City". The plot involves a tone-deaf policeman (from a family of musicians) trying to catch them. This involves a lot of hard-to-believe situations with a lot of amusingly not-quite-laugh-out-loud moments, but the interesting part comes from the choreographed performance pieces. These are all made with found objects as instruments (an oxygen tank, a paper shredder, a bulldozer, etc.). The musician characters have the same names as the actors playing them, presumably because they really performed the music. If you enjoy the clip below, you might like the movie. The DVD extras include several other short performances made outside of the film.

Buddha in the Attic and Narrative Mode

BuddhaAttic"On the boat we were mostly virgins" begins Julie Otsuka's gem of a book, The Buddha in the Attic.  One of the noticeable things from that first sentence is the unique narrative mode.  The whole book is written in the first person plural style.  This type of narration can be awkward -- most fiction is written in either first person or third person.  Convention can be comforting, we know immediately how to read the story and relate to those characters.  In first person plural, the story is told from the group's perspective, and with no main character, the rules are different.

Otsuka said in an interview that she wanted to tell the story of Japanese picture brides -- not just one bride, but that as a group.  And in this case, the narrative mode makes perfect sense.  Between 1908 and the 1920s, thousands of young Japanese women came over to the United States after an arranged marriage agreement.  Instead of focusing on one story, this book introduces the reader to many stories, some devastatingly sad, some happier, but all of them are sympathetic.  And by not focusing on just one story, we read the book with a fuller picture and are moved by their collective experiences and struggles.  The stories begin on the boat, and follow them through marriage, manual labor, child raising and the heart wrenching internment following the attacks on Pearl Harbor.  I can imagine that this book might appeal to a wide range of fiction readers -- fans of historical fiction, women's fiction, immigrant stories, Asian-American experiences, World War II home front, and readers of fiction set in California and the West. Read more »

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