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Book Review: "Loonshots" by Safi Bahcall

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In “Loonshots,” Safi Bahcall aims to “show you how the science of phase transitions suggests a surprising new way of thinking about the world around us – about the mysteries of group behavior.”  Bahcall combines psychology, history, human behavior, and, surprisingly, physics, to explain “why good teams will kill great ideas, why the wisdom of crowds becomes the tyranny of crowds when the stakes are high, and why the answers to these questions can be found in a glass of water.” While the author achieves the stated purpose, I think the detailed histories weren’t entirely necessary to get his point across. The arguments of “Loonshots” are presented concisely in the prologue. The book continues in three distinct parts: Engineers of Serendipity, The Science of Sudden Change, and The Mother of All Loonshots. If you appreciate understanding the motivations behind decisions, “Loonshots” will be difficult to put down. The book is an easy read for non-scientists with funny subtext, illustrations

Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

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Brilliant neuroscientist Helena Smith set out to map human memory in an effort to save her mother from Alzheimer’s.  She instead creates the means to command time itself through memory, and of course big money wants a slice of the tech.  Helena fights big corporations, time, and memory itself resulting in a page-turning thriller that can only be described as the love child of The Terminator and Quantum Leap .  While Helena fights big corporations,memory, and time, innocent Detective Barry Sutton gets swept along the maelstrom.  He fights his own personal demons and past memories as he struggles to help Helena in her ultimate mission and their connection ignites a love story that nothing can seem to kill.  Recursion is one of those novels that you know is going to be big before it was even published.  It’s the kind of book that you hope someone will turn into a movie - an albeit really expensive movie - but a future blockbuster nonetheless.  Blake Crouch’s latest triumph has ro

Book Review: The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull

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The Ynaa, an alien species, arrive on The Virgin Islands to teach its inhabitants “a lesson.”  They shower their new neighbors with advanced technology but their generosity is tempered by a violence we humans fail to understand, or forgive.  It is also thirst-quenching to hear from people of color about people of color, especially in the speculative fiction community.  Through The Lesson we hear the cadence and spirit of the VI natives while the story touches on issues of racism, classism, and gender roles.  The Lesson combines the ambiance of Rosewater by Tade Thompson with the eerie dread of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey while tensions mount between the humans and the Ynaa.  This book is refreshingly difficult to classify with elements of historical fiction, science fiction, romance, and political thrillers.  Looking at humanity through the eyes of these aliens brings forth our strengths and weaknesses in stark relief, making us ask ourselves, did we learn The Lesson or wi

What Kind of Librarian Are You?

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In my almost ten years as a librarian, I have had the opportunity to work in different kinds of librarianship.  I was a school library media specialist for six years, seven if you include my field experience.  I was also an academic librarian and professor for two years.  Now I am a public librarian in adult services.  I think many of us stumbled along before we happily landed where we are.  Less of a calling and more of an arriving.  You don't need to KNOW where you are going, but you do need to know who you are.  Here is what I have learned along the way for those of you who are still trying to figure out... WHAT KIND OF LIBRARIAN ARE YOU? Elementary School Media Librarianship I began as a school library media specialist for many reasons, but I mainly got the cert because I wanted to be as marketable as possible.  I entered librarianship later in life.  I was married with a kid and dogs and a mortgage and car payments.  I needed a job after graduation as soon as p

Hair in All the Wrong Places: A School Library Journal Book Review

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Published August 2016 Issue Gr 5-8 -- Like most 13-year-olds going through puberty, Colin Strauss has to deal with extra hair, body odor, and growth spurts, but turning into a fledgling werewolf makes things a lot more complicated. Forced to live with his bitter grandmother because his high-powered lawyer parents couldn't be bothered with him, Colin slumps through eighth grade, constantly bullied, harassed by figures of authority, and convinced that he is a total loser. A turbulent and hazy night changes all of this when he gets bitten by a werewolf. Fellow middle schoolers will commiserate with Colin's life challenges. Secondary characters are well-developed, as are the supernatural elements of the story. However, the pace of the first half of the novel often makes it difficult to understand what is happening, requiring frequent rereads. Once the plot is established, though, it is a real page-turner right up until the satisfying end. Several unrealistic characters border

Pinned to the Cause

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Every night, before I go to sleep, I lay out the jewelry I'm going to wear for the following day on my jewelry box.  I'm organized like that.  Guess that goes with the whole librarian stereotype. This morning I realized that the only piece of "jewelry" I had selected to add to my ensemble last night was a lone large safety pin. I dithered.  I've read both sides of the arguments: for and against wearing of the safety pin.  I was at first excited about the concept, but then the potential magnitude of the statement I would be wearing for all to see gave me pause. Was I ready to step in if I saw someone being mistreated?  I've learned through experience that the theory and practice of such are very different things.  You like to think you'll stand up for your principles and defend other's rights to their own, but it's not that easy for many reasons.

The Inspiration Behind Your Procrastination

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When I began reading The Big Thing I was expecting organizational charts, schedules, and/or tips on how to be creative like people who do it well.  I was expecting a convert, but was instead amused to learn that the author herself still struggles with her creative process on a daily basis. The Big Thing by Phyllis Korkki, on How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me , was a fascinating read.  Mostly because I am not lazy, neither am I self-doubting, nor a procrastinator.  I suppose that means that I am also not humble, but the point is that The Big Thing  was not written for people like me.  If I say I’m going to do something, it gets done and it gets done well and it gets done quickly.  That’s just the way I have always operated and I never quite understood why people ever struggled to get things done… ...until I read this book. My husband, like the author, has been struggling with a “big thing” of his own.  He t