YA (Canadian) Spotlight: Little Brother

We’ve been playing a lot of Canadian Spotting in our office as we gear up for the Winter Olympics, so I was gleeful when I came across a list of Canadian Authors which included Cory Doctorow–co-editor of the popular blog BoingBoing and author of several books including the YA bestseller Little Brother.

I will say up front that Little Brother has made me an extremely paranoid little lady. If you ever needed a book to slap you into paying attention to privacy and online security issues, this is it. Little Brother begins when a very technologically savvy high-schooler (aka Hacker) named Marcus skips school with his friends to play their favorite ARG (Alternate Reality Game) when they are interrupted by a bomb blowing up the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Marcus and his friends are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security within minutes of the attack and spend the next several days being interrogated and tortured. Upon his release, Marcus discovers that they are still imprisoning his best friend and have completely stripped San Francisco of personal privacy. So he begins to use those hacking skills the DHS was afraid of in order to create an underground movement to bring down the DHS–actions that soon lead his peers to proclaim him a hero and the American media to declare him a terrorist-supporter.

Check out Cory Doctorow’s website for Little Brother where you can download a free copy of the book and other readers’ remixes (Remixing ain’t just for music anymore, baby!). You’ll also want to mark your calendars for the ICON 35 conference held in Cedar Rapids on Nov. 5-7, 2010 where Doctorow will be the guest of honor!


They’re back! The Winter Olympics return with the Opening Ceremonies tonight. Taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, they’ll serve as a showcase for obscure (to most Americans!) winter sports and the beautiful country of  Canada. Join the blogging librarians over the next two weeks as we discuss all things Olympics, winter sports and Canadian!

I’ll start things off with a look at one of the iconic moments in sports history – the defeat of the mighty Soviet hockey team by the little regarded United States team at the Lake Placid Olympics in 1980 – an event that can still send chills down your spine.

The Cold War was still at its height and relations between the Soviet Union and the United States were tense at best. The Soviet team was stocked with seasoned professionals that had played together for years; the American team was made up entirely of college players, thrown together just a few months earlier. The US had never been considered a hockey powerhouse on the international stage, yet Coach Herb Brooks was able to mold this ragtag group of players into a team that challenged – and beat – the best in the world.

You can relive these events through the movie Miracle, starring Kurt Russell and Patricia Clarkson. From the recruitment of the players to the rigorous training and team building to the tense game situations (this team did not win every game that they played!) you never loose sight of the fact that these are ordinary people thrown into an extraordinary situation, achieving more than they – or anyone – dreamed possible. In the words of Al Michaels, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

Love, Love, Love Sonnets

Short on time?  With just a few minutes you can sneak a little literature into your day with the fourteen-line poems offered by Garrison Keillor in 77 Love Sonnets.  The topics range wider than the title suggests.  And the writings seem to be written off the cuff, not heavily edited, expressing Keillor’s momentary thoughts and takes on places and events.  In “Obama” he conveys his experience as one of the crowd on inauguration day.  In “October” he revels in the security and joys that fiscal security allow.  Among these pages you will discover sonnets that explore each of The Four Loves:  affection, friendship, eros, and charity.

In “Long Career,” Keillor states that “The secret of a long career is simply to not fade….”  This prolific author appears to be taking his own advice by publishing this collection the same year as novels Life Among The Lutherans, Pilgrims: A Wobegon Romance, and A Christmas Blizzard.


Robert Sellers’ Hellraisers: The life and inebriated times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole, and Oliver Reed is a well-written new book chronicling the Bacchanalian excesses of this UK theatre version of the Rat Pack from the cradle to the early grave (except for O’Toole).

However, believe you me, there is no way Frank, Dino, or Sammy could have kept up with these guys.  They must have a different kind of craftsmanship of men across the pond…the kind of guy that can ingest literally 4-5 BOTTLES of high octane spirits per day and still memorize lines and stagger to their stage marks.

To be honest, I may not finish because I can only marvel at their cast iron guts for 50-100 pages.  I’m also starting to get a bit queasy.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

The setting for David Benioff’s City of Thieves is grim and brutal – the siege of Leningrad during World War II – yet there is also light and optimism, even laughter in this book. Lev Benioff, is a naive, 17-year-old is picked up for looting, a sentence punishable by death. Instead of the firing squad, he is thrown together with brash, confident, Red Army soldier Koyla Vaslav (arrested for deserting). They are given a task: find 12 eggs for the general’s daughter’s wedding in five days. If they succeed, they’re free; if not, they’ll be shot.

What follows is the nearly impossible search for fresh eggs in a city that has virtually no food (conservative estimates place the number of Soviet deaths during the siege at 1.7 million, most of whom starved to death) The unlikely pairing develops from forced to begrudging to a true partnership. What these two see, both the cruelty and kindness, is almost unfathomable now in our comfortable, well-fed lives, from the desperate couple resorting to cannibalism (who they barely escape from), to the former call girl that shelters artists and surgeons made homeless by the relentless bombing, to the Nazi commander they must outwit, the book is full of unforgettable characters and heart-stopping tension.

At first, you will want to hate Koyla. He is arrogant and brash and a bit of a braggart. He is also charming and charismatic and at heart, a kind and generous man who does the right thing for others time and again. Lev, who narrates the story, is full of self-doubt and (he believes) weakness, but finds unimaginged courage and strength when he needs it, partly because of Koyla.

Based on Benioff’s grandfather’s memories, this is storytelling at it’s best, the kind of book that stays with you – a story of cruelty, desperation and hardship, but also of kindness, strength, loyalty, love and friendship.

Frugal Librarian #20: Frozen Credit

Another tip from the new book by NPR personality Chris Farrell, New Frugality… freeze your credit card.  No, not do a security freeze to prevent people from accessing your credit file, another great idea.

He means take the card out of your wallet or purse and put it in a container full of water.  Then give it the ol’ Han Solo treatment in your Frigidaire.

“Put the credit card away when you’re eliminating debt.  One technique is to store the card in the freezer.  That’s right, place the credit card in a container of water and stick it in the freezer.  You have to wait for it to thaw before you can use it again.  It gives you the time to think whether you really want to use it.  Yes, the card will work once it’s thawed.”

Are you ready for some Puppies?!

The Super Bowl means one thing to me: PUPPY BOWL! Why would I want to watch men run into each other aggressively when I can watch puppies roll around together adorably?! This year’s Puppy Bowl VI airs Feb. 7 on Animal Planet at 2 pm central time , and it is going to be awesome–Animal Planet has just announced that in addition to the playful Kitty Halftime Show, there will also be Bunny Cheerleaders and a Hamster Camera Crew! Can’t wait for all the action? Head on over to Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl website and you can check out the Puppy Starting Line-up (so far my pre-game favorites are Bandit, Kiva and Fava), play puppy puzzle games, learn how to adopt and care for a puppy, and meet the equally adorable Puppy Bowl Ref:

It is nice to know that no matter what happens in the Super Bowl, the puppies always win!

Liberace Likes It.

Hey, if its the kind of swill this rugged devil slugs back after a hard day at the ol’ salt mine, it must be good enough brew for a roughneck like myself.  Just discovered this neat link, Vintage Ad Browser.  Naturally I gravitated to an old favorite.

However, if you’d like to peer into the marketing of over the last 100 years (some of which quite politically incorrect) in a number of industries (food, clothing, automotive) give it a l00k.  It will make you smile.

I really should watch that show Mad Men everyone is talking about (seasons 1 and 2 available at the library!)

How to be a Geek Goddess

How to be a Geek Goddess“Could someone just tell me what I need to know without trying to convince me that I need the latest gadget, assuming I have all the time in the world to trudge through geek speak, and wasting my time with a lengthy explanation of how it all works?” Christina Tynan-Wood, a female geek, could hear these subliminal pleas for help whenever a friend asked her a question about technology–a question they usually chased with a “I’m sorry to be so clueless (page xviii).” GIRLS! YOU ARE NOT CLUELESS! You had the brains to ask the question, right? Well now Christina has made it easy to find the answer–Ta da! How to be a Geek Goddess: Practical Advice for Using Computers with Smarts and Style.

Finally everything a girl needs to know to feel technologically confident in ONE BOOK! Christina explains what you should know before buying a computer, how to set up wireless, how to organize your desktop, what security software you might need, how to shop online, and so much more! Her writing is fun, conversational, and full of illustrations and screenshots. Only downfall is that the book is very PC-heavy (which she admits up front), so some of the very useful topics, such as installing software, will not apply to Macs. Despite that, How to be a Geek Goddess is must-read for all women who want (or need) to be in control of their technological life. You may also want to check out Christina’s website at www.geekgirlfriends.com.

Okay, lets get our geek on!
Get your geek on. Show your support. | geekthelibrary.org

Food Rules!

Michael Pollan, the popular author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, has another book out which may prove even more popular.  Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual is a short, easy read — some pages have just one sentence in large print and there’s lot of white space.  And if that’s not easy enough, he’s further simplified his 64 rules into 3 main parts which anyone can remember.

  • Part I – What should I eat?  (Eat food).
  • Part II – What kind of food should I eat?  (Mostly plants.)
  • Part III – How should I eat? (Not too much.)

Some rules are cute, such as # 7,  “Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.”  Others are familiar standbys, such as #25, “Eat your colors.”  Still others, such as #46, “Stop eating before you are full”  are not only practical but have been proven effective in several cultures.  Do yourself a favor and read this book.  Even if you don’t need to diet or lose weight, it will encourage you to keep developing those healthy eating habits.   After all, as he mentions in his very last rule (and my favorite) it’s okay to “Break the rules once in a while!”  Bon appetit!