A View to A Kick

Everyone has their limits. But limits exist to be tested, yes?

Normally I draw the line at fiction that contains child abuse as a plot point. There’s quite enough of that in real life, thank you. And while it means I miss out on some mysteries and thrillers, it also means I don’t have horrible nightmares, either.

So when I picked up Chelsea Cain’s new novel, One Kick, I almost put it right back down. Missing children, child pornographers? No thank you.

And yet.

The first chapter of One Kick is, hands down, the best story-starter I’ve read in a long time. When the FBI swoops in to capture a long-hunted suspect, they don’t expect to find one of his victims there for rescue. But there she is, Kick Lannigan, whose videos are among the most popular with internet predators. Confused beyond belief, and firmly in the grip of Stockholm Syndrome, Kick makes a decision that she’ll eventually regret, one that will lead her to a life of vigilante crime-fighting, in the hopes of atoning for her own guilt. My jaw practically fell to the floor as the scene unspooled, and I realized what was going to happen (Ever yell at a character? This is definitely one of those thrillers).

Flash forward to Kick’s wobbly adult life, with only her dog, Monster, and a fellow abuse survivor, James, for company (her family ties are…complicated). She’s a lean, mean, pervert-busting machine, armed to the teeth and maxed out with physical combat skills to boot. Still, when a mysterious man named Bishop shows up on her doorstep and asks for her help finding yet another missing child, Kick is understandably wary. A man of few words, with his own painful past to protect, Bishop gains Kick’s begrudging respect (trust is a bit much to ask), and the unlikely team springs into action. Given, however, that it’s also the tenth anniversary of her own rescue, it’s questionable whether Kick can hold it together, especially when the past and the present smash together in an ugly tangle of revelations.

Author photo and book cover

Photo courtesy of OregonLive. Click through to read a news article on Cain.

 

Characterization is definitely the novel’s chief selling point. I’ve never run across a protagonist quite like Kick. She’s flawed, obviously, but what’s really compelling is that she’s flawed despite her best efforts to become whole. She’s tried therapy, meditation, kava-kava, positive mantras, emancipation from her over-controlling mother (who exploits her “victim mom” status in a way that made me want to slap her silly), and a whole host of other healing and coping techniques. She’s also taken lessons in just about every confidence-boosting, self-protective art under the sun (Kick is awfully fond of her Glock)..and yet, she’s still just barely hanging on by a thread. As you barrel through her adventures, you want her to win so badly, to get some measure of peace, respite, justice.

Instead, she gets Bishop…which might be almost the next best thing, given that they have an awful lot in common (with the exception of Bishop’s dislike of firearms). Not in that “here comes the big strong man to make it all better” kind of way. More like the “here’s somebody who knows what it’s like to hurt” kind of way. They say there’s somebody out there for everybody; is it possible Bishop is the one for Kick? Or is he just using her the way so many other people in her life already have?

I suppose we’ll have to wait until the next book in the series to find out. Yes, this is the first of a projected series, which puts me in the tooth-gnashing position of looking for something else as exciting to read while I wait. Luckily, Cain’s Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell series is hanging around the library system just begging for some comparison/contrast. And Confessions of a Teen Sleuth looks pretty amusing, to boot.

Where do your limits lie, constant readers? Is there any kind of book or subject material you just cannot even? Or are you fearless in your pursuit of fiction?

–Leigh Anne

with apologies to James Bond and Duran Duran

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Important Issues

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There is no better way to look at the current state of affairs, or research changes in any and every aspect of society, than by reading magazines.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a huge and amazing variety, in multiple formats. We have titles that go back to the year 1731. We have current subscriptions both in print and electronic formats.

Searching for an article? Start with these databases.

We have Periodical Indexes for article searches in book format as well: Over 1500!

Want to browse our current print subscriptions by Subject or Alphabetical List?

Want to see a list of all the Music Periodicals, historical and current, that we have in our entire collection?

Want to peruse every periodical in our collection old and new? OVER 10,000!

Want to read magazines on your electronic device?

Want to check out our Zine Collection and read our Zine Blog?

Whether for professional or entertainment purposes, research or curiosity, hobbies, health, family, finance, sports, pop culture, politics, fashion, music, art or science, the list goes on and on. We have something for everyone!

-Joelle

*The photos are different places in the Main Library in Oakland, but there are browsing magazine collections in all of the library branches in the city.

**All photos by Joelle.

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Concerning the Adobe Digital Editions Data Log Issues

Some recent news has come to light surrounding Adobe Digital Editions and the way it collects information about eBook use. In an effort to stay on top of the situation, we wanted to provide some background to the news and how Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is responding.

What is happening

Adobe Digital Editions is a piece of software designed to handle Digital Rights Management, or DRM. It’s a security tool that protects things like eBooks from being copied and widely distributed. Publishers often require DRM in their materials as a safeguard against piracy. In the library context, this also enables library eBooks to act like their print counterparts – that is to say, books that are “returned” once they hit their expiration date. If you check out eBooks from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on your desktop or laptop computer, you were probably required to download the Adobe Digital Editions client.

Blogger Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader discovered that Adobe Digital editions is keeping an ongoing record of any items that have checked in with Adobe Digital Editions, as well as the items held on any device that syncs with Adobe Digital Editions. So if you have Adobe Digital Editions on your computer, and you connect an eReader or tablet to it, it will check in with that “mother ship” and ADE will log the eBooks on that device.

This data collection is limited to eBook data that goes through the Adobe Digital Editions on your desktop computer. However, if you connect a device to that computer, ADE will log those ebooks to its record. So if you connect an iPad, Nook, or other eReader to your computer, Adobe will look for eBooks on that device and track that information.

On one level, this is both overly invasive and troubling. But the biggest problem is that this data is then sent to Adobe in an unencrypted format – which raises some serious red flags from a security standpoint.

What isn’t happening

Adobe isn’t crawling through your hard drive. A series of independent tests demonstrated that Adobe is keeping an ongoing record of any items that have checked in with Adobe Digital Editions, and checked a number of variables to verify the extent of the data logging. While these data logs are certainly a serious issue, Adobe Digital Editions is not searching your computer for other types of private or personal information.

adelogo

 

 

What you can do

If you’re checking out eBooks through the OverDrive app, sending eBooks to your Kindle, or using OverDrive READ to view eBooks through your browser, this issue won’t affect you. Likewise for eAudiobooks, which don’t use Adobe Digital Editions at all.

If you are downloading eBooks through your desktop computer, a good temporary solution would be to use the OverDrive READ feature to read books through your browser. Adobe has promised a fix, and we will be looking out for any updates to Adobe Digital Editions 4.

The previous version of Adobe Digital Editions has been found not to collect data in this way. If you like, you can uninstall ADE 4.0 from your computer, and download ADE 3.0 from the Adobe website.

What we’re doing

We love our eCLP collection, and we know you’ve come to love it as well. Using new online services always raises some major concerns about the balance between privacy and convenience. As an institution that holds your privacy in extremely high regard while making things as convenient and easy to use as possible, we definitely have to weigh one issue in contrast with the other.

We are sending a letter to OverDrive (our primary eBook vendor) alerting them to our concerns. Given that we have a direct relationship with OverDrive, we think raising the issue to them will be the best way to make our voice heard. We are also discussing this matter with members of ReadersFirst, a national organization devoted to improving eBook access and services for library users. The American Library Association has also issued a statement.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make sure to keep you informed about any issues we encounter regarding our third-party vendors.

If you have concerns, we want to hear from you. Please contact Toby Greenwalt, Director of Digital Strategy and Technology Integration at greenwaltt@carnegielibrary.org.

 

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Our Ever-Shrinking World

This past month, my family had the wonderful privilege of hosting an exchange student in our house for two weeks. In that all-too-brief stay with us, it became very clear through our interactions with this German teenager at how small our world is getting. Whether it was his very excellent English, choice in cologne or his one site-seeing request of visiting a Wal-Mart, the overwhelming evidence was there that we are indeed living in a global society and thus a shrinking world. But as enjoyable as his visit was, I didn’t need it as vindication for me. As someone who works throughout the city of Pittsburgh, I see this on almost a daily basis.

Pittsburgh has been a magnet for visitors, whether long term or short, for centuries now, and thanks in part to a great mix of travellers who have landed on the shores of our three rivers, we now can boast to be one of the “most…(pick your favorite top-ten list Pittsburgh has made it on recently)…cities” in the world. And as usual, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is right there to help the recent traveler, and those who love them, meld into this ever-present global society.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers a variety of language classes and conversation salons throughout the city, including our newest program Let’s Speak English for those whose native language isn’t English and would like to learn through conversation. The conversation salons allow native English speakers to converse with experts of various foreign languages. Just click here to search our events page for language-related programming going on at a neighborhood branch near you.

In addition to these fantastic events happening, there’s also our Mango Languages online learning program. Mango Languages allows you to practice a language of your choice (there are dozens available) in the privacy of your own home, office or wherever you choose to access this resource remotely, not to mention that it’s available on the computers in the libraries throughout the city. And don’t forget about Little Pim, which is a language program specifically geared toward children. The whole family can get in on the action!

foreign language

“Language Laboratory” – A language laboratory at one of Pittsburgh’s public schools, date unknown. Courtesy of the Western PA Historical Society collection.

Whether you want to brush up on your English, German, French or any number of other languages, your local Library is a great place to start your own personal journey through our global society.

-Maria J. (who failed miserably at Latin in high school, but is getting her Pittsburghese dahn pretty well.)

 

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An Inspector and His Companion

It’s a bold move to claim that your book is Doctor Who meets Sherlock. If you’re going to call out two of the biggest names in nerdy-Anglophile culture, you’d better have the goods. Luckily, it seems that first-time author William Ritter does.

Abigail Rook is a girl looking for adventure. Before even arriving in the tiny New England town of New Fiddleham, she had run away from home to join an archaeological dig in the Ukraine, then skipped off to Germany before sailing across the Atlantic. And yes, it’s 1892.

Abigail quickly finds herself a job as an assistant to R.F. Jackaby – an investigator who takes on cases with a supernatural twist. Much like Sherlock Holmes, Jackaby is often lost in his own head (Abigail is hired for her knack of noticing the mundane yet important things about a crime scene). Aside from one young detective who recognizes that things are a little hinky, Jackaby is barely tolerated by police but has a backlog of grateful clients.

While Jackaby displays very clear Sherlock tendencies, Abigail is definitely filling the Doctor Who companion role. And without question, she is very much a Rose Tyler. She’s a bit sassy, quite clever and resourceful, and has that same willingness to jump right into things.

Probably an accurate representation of our characters…

This is a quick read with a fun paranormal mystery – perfect for this time of year. I can’t wait to see Abigail and Jackaby’s next adventure!

- Jess

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And the winner is …

“I do not share the pessimism of the age about the novel. They are one of our greatest spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual inventions. As a species it is story that distinguishes us, and one of the supreme expressions of story is the novel. Novels are not content. Nor are they are a mirror to life or an explanation of life or a guide to life. Novels are life, or they are nothing.” – Richard Flanagan, winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction and author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North

As I was saying, I’ve been a little – okay, fine, call me obsessed – with The Man Booker Prize for Fiction this year.

Finally, after what seemed like endless online speculation from bloggers like yours truly, Richard Flanagan was announced this week as the 2014 winner of the prestigious literary award for a book that took him 12 years to write,  The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

I admit, I haven’t read Flanagan’s novel yet – but it’s high on my list.

That has as much to do with the author’s personal story as it does the plot of the novel itself.  The Narrow Road to the Deep North draws inspiration from Flanagan’s father’s experience as a prisoner of war on the Burma-Thailand “Death Railway” during World War II.

Not my usual fare, this.  But one of the things I’ve tried to do as a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh staff member is to break out of my literary comfort zone from time to time. It’s good to try a new genre every once in  awhile in order to better talk books with our customers.  I mean, after all, it’s only a book; the worse that can happen is that I don’t like it and I return it unfinished for someone else to potentially enjoy.

I had never heard of Richard Flanagan before he made the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction shortlist; however, in his acceptance speech on Tuesday, Flanagan endeared himself to me and perhaps to many other aspiring authors who may feel as if our roads to literacy greatness are narrowing.

“Much has been made about the death of the novel and the end of literature as it’s seen to be assailed by technology, by the web, by the many and varied new forms of entertainment and culture. I don’t share that pessimism because I think it is one of the great inventions of the human spirit. So it strikes me not as a dying medium but as an ever more remarkable one.”

Here at the Library, we think of books and literature and novels as remarkable things, too.

Congratulations.

–Melissa F.

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Lost and Found

Lending libraries have an interesting characteristic. We own stuff. We let private individuals borrow this stuff, take it into their cars, homes, offices, hotel rooms, school lockers, and then expect them to give back this stuff. But due to the Law of Accumulation of Stuff, sometimes things don’t come back quite the way they left. Sometimes, there is more….

I’m the last person who will judge you for your choice in bookmarks. It would be generous to say that I’ve been creative in my choice of bookmarks, having used other books, mixing bowls, furniture, people, etc. My brothers insist that I once used a peeled banana, but I’m reasonably sure the peel was still there when I left it. I once found the program from a friend’s recital, which had apparently been sitting in the book since I borrowed it myself a year before.

It turns out I’m not the only one. Michael Popek, a used-book seller, has been collecting some of these things-found-in-books since he started helping out in his father’s bookstore at age seven. He has a website, Forgotten Bookmarks, where he posts pictures and stories of his finds, and has released two books with some of the best. Looking through the website and the book of the same name is a delightful mix of anthropology and voyeurism. Between some pages may be found love letters, vacation photos, and intriguingly specific invitations. Between others, cap gun ammunition, seven razor blades, “Dear John” letters, an emergency exit sign, and an advertisement for an automatic sealing burial vault.

Popek’s second book, Handwritten Recipes, is less about peeking into other people’s lives and more about peeking into their brains. The recipes are transcribed exactly as found, which leaves room for a lot of ambiguity and incompleteness, besides accounting for strange tastes. He has called upon several food-blogging friends to fill in the gaps and review recipes, though I wish he had done so for more than a handful of the recipes. A few of the recipes, including Barbecued Beef and Paul’s Pumpkin Bars, are getting added to my own collection. Others have ingredients that concern me, such as Noodle Pudding (Velveeta), Italian Cookies (11 eggs, 1 lb sugar, ½ lb lard, etc.) or the Italian Pie (1 lb butts, ground or cut up in small pieces).

Contrasting with the forgotten bookmarks, we have several stories involving messages deliberately left within books. In his memoir Running the Books, Avi Steinberg falls into a job as a prison librarian. One of his responsibilities is removing “kites” (handwritten notes) from books, in between batches of prisoners who are not meant to communicate. “I would walk around like a shell collector on a beach,” he writes of these clean-up periods, “gathering up legal documents, love letters, queries, manifestos, grievances, marginalia, scribbled receipts, remnants of illicit transactions, wrap dates, rap sheets, rap lyrics, business plans, country songs, handmade advertisements for ‘entertainment’ businesses, journal entries, betting lines, greeting cards, prayers, recipes, incantations, and lists. Many lists.”

For more lost and found voyeurism, here are a few titles worth perusing:

For fictional tales of the things between our pages, try:

I’ll leave you with a found bookmark of the library’s own, left tucked inside a rollicking adventure book in the children’s section.

bookmark

-Bonnie T.

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