International Mystery

A couple of years ago I took a class while I was in undergrad about detective fiction. And that is what the class was called… “Detective Fiction”….not mystery, not crime novels, and not thrillers. The basis was to explore different ways that novels are written from the point of view of the detective…or private eye….or police officer. It came to my attention that there are a multitude of ways to not only write detective fiction but different ways to define detective fiction. One of the most interesting books I read was Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. A particular reason for why this intrigued me so much was because it was a Swedish book. And it was popular in America. It was my first step into international mystery books.

The Bat Cover

 

Recently, my interest in international mystery books has been piqued again. The library I work in received a new shipment of books by Jo Nesbo and I began to do research. He is also a Nordic writer who has become popular in the US for his mystery writing. Therefore, I picked up one of his books and loved it. The Bat is the first book in his Harry Hole series, and I think it is wonderfully written.

The book easily grabs the reader’s attention and Nesbo has a style of writing that is fun and easy to follow. The book takes place in Australia (which means the book is written about a Norwegian detective in Australia) but doesn’t focus on all the differences and does not make the story hard to understand. It goes by rather quickly for a murder mystery.

The Troubled Man cover

Of course I couldn’t base my judgement on international mysteries on just two authors. I had to make it three, so I read The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell, which happens to be the last book in the Wallander series. I’m going to be honest, I had to Google him to remember the book I read. Now that doesn’t actually mean the book was bad, for me it means that it was long.

The book is written about a detective who meets a submarine captain and the ensuing mystery that takes place. It has spies and intrigue…but also talks a lot about the technical aspects of submarines (which I can’t begin to comprehend completely) and a lot about his personal life, which made the book very long. However, if you start from the beginning and like the character the last book might be much better than I think.

Enjoy solving some mysteries! And maybe traveling to a new place through reading.

-Abbey

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Arrow Hits The Bullseye For TV Supers

Arrow-cover  I just spent the last weekend watching Season One of Arrow.  Regular readers of Eleventh Stack know that I consume a lot of superhero material in any number of mediums.  Arrow might just be the finest television adaptation of a comic book hero I have yet to encounter.  If you’re unfamiliar with the whole DC Comics  Green Arrow  mythos, here’s a quick summary.  Oliver Queen lived a life of leisure as a rich, vacuous playboy until he was shipwrecked on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean.  While there he learned many hard lessons, but chief among them was the value of life, and the inherent wastefulness of his previous bon vivant existence.  Oh, and he also became a badass archer.  You can apply this basic summary to both the comic book Ollie Queen and Stephen Amell’s amazingly kinetic television version.

While Arrow takes great pains to develop a strong supporting cast, Mr. Amell shines in the titular role.  His character returns from five years of exile on that lonely island to exact vengeance on Starling City’s rich elite who continue to drain the wealth and vitality from its middle and lower classes.  While Amell’s Arrow (also referred to as “The Hood” by Starling City’s police and media) does take on street criminals, his principal mission involves righting the wrongs wrought by a specific and mysterious group of super-elite rich folks from a list furnished to him by his now dead father.  There’s more than a bit of class war in Arrow, but the show’s creative team turns that concept on its head a bit because Ollie himself dwells and walks among the city’s ultra rich.  Like the Robin Hood of legend, he robs from these rich scoundrels and gives the money back to their victims.

Among the many fine actors in Arrow, David Ramsey and Katie Cassidy stand out.  Ramsey portrays John Diggle, Afghanistan war veteran and Queen’s bodyguard.  He eventually becomes his confidant and conscience.  Ms. Cassidy portrays Dinah Laurel Lance, Queen’s erstwhile lover, and a continuing source of romantic angst for our hero.  She’s also a crusading attorney for the poor and disenfranchised.  She and her father, homicide detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), have deep and sometimes troubling ties to Queen that reverberate throughout this twenty-three episode run.  Arrow uses these complex character relationships to take the focus off of the sort of zaniness and super powers you might see in a normal show in the genre, and place it firmly into the wheelhouse of gritty action and suspense.  The tone of Amell’s Arrow feels more like Christian Bale’s Batman than the old Adam West version.

That does not mean we don’t get to meet other denizens of the DC Comics universe.  While not always overtly named, the show offers up compelling versions of various DC heroes and villains to tangle with our hero.  The action and fight choreography in Arrow delivers big budget thrills on a TV show budget, and the Vancouver cityscape becomes a character all its own, taking on the role of the fictional Starling City.  Heavily influenced by Thai classic Ong-Bak and the parkour movement, Arrow’s fighting style takes advantage of this urban terrain, and includes plenty of acrobatic takedowns to go with the hero’s truly dazzling archery skills.

If you like action and a bit of melodramatic romance, Arrow  nicely checks both of those boxes.  I’m also not going to lie to you here–Arrow‘s cast is beautiful.  I mean, really beautiful.  Easy on the eyes indeed.  So if you think watching beautiful people doing dramatic stuff in a fictional, superhero setting will work for you as well as it does for me, jump in!  The hard part will come with waiting for Season 2 to arrive at the library!

–Scott

 

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Because Poetry

Happy National Poetry Month!

Spotted at Jennifer Grassman's blog - click through for a 2014 poetry writing challenge.

Spotted at Jennifer Grassman’s blog – click through for a 2014 poetry writing challenge.

Occasionally I wonder if we should call poetry something else, like lexicography gymnastics or maybe the grand sensual buffet. Something sexier, peppier, less likely to make people break out in hives. People who love poetry see the word quite differently of course. It even sounds different: all those uninhibited vowels floating around (broad o, bridge of eh, musical tweet of ee), anchored solely by p and t, with the r kind of gliding by, like the tail of a kite. Just enough consonants to hang on to, sturdy fence posts in a windstorm.

Hm. Maybe we should stick with “poetry” a little longer: like a bracing spring gale, it has hopeful possibilities.

Every year or so I make a case for exploring poetry. This year, though, I’m taking the next step and writing my way through the exercises in The Poet’s Companion. It’s messy, joyful, splendid work, and if you’re ready too, there are a whole lot of other books to guide and inspire you. If you’re not quite there yet (never say never),  the Academy of American Poets has other suggestions for celebrating National Poetry Month, including celebrating “Poem in Your Pocket Day” (April 18) and playing Exquisite Corpse, which not only sounds edgy and dangerous, but is also guaranteed to rescue any meeting stretching into its third hour, provided you can find some co-conspirators.

Here are some other ways you can explore poetry in April, and all year ’round:

  • 3 Poems By… is a great opportunity to be social with other poetry-curious folks, and try a poet on for size with small chunks of her/his work. This month’s discussion spotlights Edna St. Vincent Millay, the “First Fig” fraulein; e-mail newandfeatured at carnegielibrary dot org to get the scoop, and the poems.
  • Curious about how poetry intersects with the mundane world? Don’t forget Sam Hazo’s presentation, Poetry and Public Speech, on April 7th, 2014, 6-8 p.m.
  • Consult the Pittsburgh Literary Calendar to find a reading that’s convenient for you. You’ll be surprised and pleased at how much diversity and range there is on the local poetry scene.
  • Pressed for time, but have your phone with you? Download some poetry from our Overdrive digital collection. Busy Apple users can also download the Poem Flow app and share the communal reading experience of a new poem every day.
  • Countless options for streaming and recorded poetry online abound, both on the free web and via the Library’s subscription to Naxos Spoken Word Library (valid card number required for login). Bonus: NPR’s Music and Metaphor has just kicked off its 2014 Poetry Month programming.
  • Shake up your perceptions of what poetry is by flirting with cowboy poetry! You know you want to. We’ll never tell.
  • Like videos? You can watch everyday people reading their favorite poems at the Favorite Poem Project.
  • More of the research and facts type? Check out this report on the state of poetry in America.

And, of course, we’d be thrilled if you’d consider stopping by the library to meet the poets in person, as it were. Introduce yourself to Yona Harvey, Nikky Finney, David Whyte, Rumi, Sonia Sanchez, anybody whose cover art looks interesting, or whose titles grab you. Go for an anthology, so you can meet a whole lot of poets at one time. Keep throwing things against your heart to see what sticks. Borrow then as audiobooks, Playaways, or DVDs, and don’t forget that musicians can be poets too.

Just don’t let National Poetry month go by without giving it a teensy bit of a whirl. Because poetry is for kidsadults, and teens, working people and retirees. Because poetry covers every single point on the erotic spectrum, and is produced by as many different kinds of people as there are in the world (and, sometimes, their cats). Because…well, why not?

Because poetry.

–Leigh Anne

who promises she won’t corner you in the elevator and ask your opinion on drafts

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Now Streaming @ Your Library

Binge watching.

Apple trying get its own “pipeline” in Comcast’s cable infrastructure.

Netflix accounting for up to half of broadband traffic during peak hours.

These are just a couple of concrete signs that we’re in the midst of a big shift in the way we watch TV, which is big news when you consider that TV watching accounts for about one sixth of the typical American’s day. Evidently streaming is where it’s at.

This isn’t a new story — WNYC’s excellent syndicated radio show On The Media (which you can catch locally on WESA) did a great roundup of the various new ways in which people are watching tv almost two years ago,  and the conclusion even then was that streaming models were disrupting the industry in a big way. And anecdotally, I have noticed that a number of my more media-savvy friends have cut their cable TV packages and replaced them with a carefully curated selection of streaming services: a little Hulu here, a dash of Amazon Prime, and a heaping helping of Netflix. Even the most avid TV watchers (or perhaps especially those alpha couch potatoes) are finding a lot to like about a la carte programming served up over broadband.

And while the Library was in fact an early supporter of binge viewing — how can you not watch episode after episode when there’s an impending due date and 100 holds on your DVD? — the world of streaming video so far has not worked with our business model, namely that of free access to content.

Until now, that is.

Eleventh Stack readers, allow me to introduce you to digital streaming at the Library, the latest addition to our eCLP lineup.

Now you can access free feature films, TV shows, and music with your valid library card from any Allegheny County Library. Here’s how it works:

  • Visit the the Library’s landing page for all things digital, eCLP. Click on the link for streaming media.
  • Register an account using your library card number and PIN. Please contact our Customer Services department if you have need to update your account or reset your PIN.
  • If you plan to watch or listen on an Android or iOS mobile device, download the appropriate app; there are direct links on the streaming video site. A Kindle Fire app is said to be under development, as is compatibility with Roku, ChromeCast, and gaming consoles.
  • Search, browse, and “check out” videos and albums. Each cardholder can access up to eight items a month; you generally have three days to watch a movie (with some exceptions) and seven days to listen to an album.

There’s great stuff in there, especially things that appeal to those “long tail” interests that often get buried in commercial services. I’m planning to blow my April allotment on the following:

  • Seasons 1 and 2 of the UK Office television series. The American series was the only TV show I regularly watched for about a decade, from around the time of the 14th season of the Simpsons until Parks and Rec started up a few years ago. I hear the English one is even more cringe-worthy than our version, and I can’t wait.
  • Monster Black Holes, a National Geographic Special. Because, Black Holes.
  • A Perfect World, a 1993 Kevin Costner film that I remember liking when it came out but I have absolutely no recollection of why.
  • Robert Altman’s head-scratching live-action Popeye from 1980. I consider Segar’s Popeye comics and (most of) Altman’s films to be iconic Americana, and then there’s this combination of the two, and it is…something.
  • Bill Cunningham’s New York. Cunningham, who rides around on his bike and takes pictures of people wearing interesting clothes on the streets of Manhattan for the New York Times, seems to be one of the last holdouts of the old, weird, art-damaged New York City of legend. Watch this documentary about him!
  • A couple of albums — electro/punk/dance band Liars new album Mess, because their releases are consistently interesting and usually scary, and, from the Remembering the 90’s Collection, Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly, because I think I left my copy in one of those big CD binders in a friend’s car at some point around the beginning of the millennium.

Of course, what will actually probably happen is, in a moment of weakness, my daughter will convince me to get 8 seasons worth of Calliou, Madeline, or Sid the Science Kid. And who cares if it does happen? I’ll get another eight tries at streaming media greatness next month. And besides, I can always keep my Freegal allotment for myself.

So add the library to your list of streaming media sources!

Also, if you’re interested in online resources, read more about our plan to go 100% digital by 2016 by getting rid of all of our print books, DVDs, CDs, and other physical materials here.

-Dan, who guarantees that 99% of this post is not an April Fools’ Day joke.

 

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The Books We Turned To When Our World Stopped Turning

We left the developmental pediatrician’s office holding two things:

A diagnosis (“your son has clinical features of autism spectrum disorder“) and a practically translucent handout photocopied so many times that the information was hardly readable through our tears.

What we didn’t have in those very early days, thanks to the renowned specialist we consulted for our then 2-year-old boy, was hope.

This was a decade ago, in early 2004. It would be awhile before I completed my medical degree from the University of Google, I wasn’t blogging yet, and social media hadn’t exploded into the share-every-detail-of-your-family’s-lives-behemoth that it is now. Even if I had, the notion of sharing my family’s autism journey (which I now do, in various publications and blogs) was still too new.

At that moment – and in the days and months and years afterward – what I needed and what I craved most were the experiences of other families. I was on a quest for information, absolutely, but also the experiences and knowledge of others who were a few mile markers down this potholed, curvy New Normal Road that my family was driving down without a GPS (we didn’t have that either).

During those days and throughout the decade that followed, I turned to what I knew, what I could count on.

Books.

And you know what? I still do. Ten years into this, I’m not done learning. Not by a long shot. As different challenges come up, as our family’s journey takes different turns, as we explore different paths, I always come back to the books.

I almost hesitate to share a reading list, because what resonates with me may be vastly different for you. Like those of us who know and love someone with autism are so fond of saying if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Same with the books. The books that I’d recommend and that have helped me and my family may be very different ones for you and yours.

But an Eleventh Stack post like this almost demands such, especially with tomorrow being the first day of National Autism Awareness Month. Perhaps you’re starting out on that journey where my family was ten years ago.  Perhaps you have a family member on the autism spectrum, or a close friend’s child has just been diagnosed. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to learn a little more.

Father's Day - Buzz BissingerI think there is something intrinsic that compels us to seek out the stories of others and to share ours. That was the case with me. My favorites have been the memoirs written by the fathers (Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism, by Paul Collins; Father’s Day: A Journey Into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son, by Buzz Bissinger, and Not My Boy: A Dad’s Journey with Autism, by Rodney Peete).

The first books I read that made me realize that there were other families having similar experiences as mine (which of course I knew, but there is something validating about seeing such in print) were Making Peace with Autism: One family’s story of struggle, discovery, and unexpected gifts, by Susan Senator and the anthology Gravity Pulls You In: Perspectives on Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, edited by Kyra Anderson and Vicki Forman.

There are more books, of course - so many more that this post could be twice as long and go on to praise how people with special needs are being incorporated into children’s and teen fiction (maybe that will be part two. Or three). And that’s the point, really.

It goes without saying that I was – and am – able to read most of these books because of the library.

At a time when we thought we were being handed heartbreak, the books we discovered gave us hope.

–Melissa F.

 

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Welcome to the Music, Film & Audio Department!

Welcome to the Music, Film & Audio Department! We are located on the second floor of the Main Library. Let me show you around.

 

tour1In the front room the music CDs are organized by genre, including jazz, international, orchestral, new age, soundtracks, etc. This collection includes sound effects. The side wall holds all of the opera CDs. The framed Bakaleinikoff Tablecloth hangs in the back corner.
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The back wall holds CD box sets of all genres.
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On the other side of the room are audio books on CD: fiction shelved by author and non-fiction by call number, even famous speeches. There is a special section called Family Listening. For more children’s audio books, visit the very large selection downstairs in the Children’s Department.

Here are “Playaways” - MP3 devices that hold one audio book each.

 

 

 

 

 

This last wall is our Lecture Series collection on CDs and DVDs, spanning many subject areas. People rave about them!tour 6

 

 

 

 

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In this next room are the DVD collections. Here are the TV Series, and then Foreign Films – filed by language, not by country. Yes, they all have English subtitles.

We have Feature Films, shelved by title, with a few shelves of best-sellers – DVDs of popular titles that just came in to the library. There are a few separate sections: Horror, Anime, Blu-Ray, and a shelf for Video Games.

tour 12The Non-fiction DVDs are organized by subject call number and contain history and science documentaries, music and art instruction, exercise, a travel section, and so much more—music concerts, plays, ballets, religious subjects, etc. etc. etc.

Here are the public computers. We also have a CD player, a record player, and a cassette tape player for public use.tour 2

tour13This is the Music, Film and Audio reference desk where you can get help from librarians. We have some non-circulating collections here including vocal scores and vocal selections from (almost) every musical. There are circulating copies of these as well.

At the Customer Services desk you pick up CDs, DVDs and other AV materials on hold. You can check out all of our circulating material at this desk as well as the Customer Services desk on the first floor.

tour21Here is the audio collection of language learning. We have CDs for English as a Second Language (ESL) for speakers of different languages, and a large selection of foreign language instruction CDs and Playaways that usually come with corresponding booklets. You’ll also find a shelf of dialect CDs for “Acting with an Accent” and DVDs for learning Sign Language.

tour15Next to this is a collection of Pittsburgh documentaries on DVD, and feature films that were made in Pittsburgh.

tour16On this wall is a full set of bound concert programs from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1926 to the present. Under this is the Pittsburgh LP Collection (vinyl records).

Whew.

In the next two rooms are music scores, books about music, and musical instrument instruction. Why don’t you just take the virtual tour?

-Joelle

*All photos by J. Killebrew

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The Waiting Game

1559568_536003949850058_1098489423_nRecently I picked up The Name of the Star thanks to Abbey’s post, The Ripper. I managed to devour this book in less than 24 hours and then spent the rest of the weekend counting down the minutes until I was back at work and could grab the second book in the Shades of London series, The Madness Underneath. I was hooked with the suspenseful story and relationships. Rory, an American High School student, travels to London to attend boarding school. While there she becomes embroiled in a series of murders that are mimicking the original 1880s murders attributed to Jack the Ripper and she ends up with protection from a special police unit. This book scared the living bajesus out of me. I was reading it in my MIL’s basement while we were visiting and I had to trick my husband into turning on all the lights for me so it wasn’t so dark. (I even sent my five year old up the stairs in front of me. I win parenting.) Then I had scary dreams! No kidding.

When I got back to work I immediately went for the second book in the series and managed to finish it that night. This was a bone-headed move, not because I scared myself again but because The Madness Underneath ends with a gigantic cliff hanger, and by gigantic I really mean soul-crushing. Worst of all the third in the series isn’t scheduled to come out until Septemberish 2014.

raining_david_tennant_nosedrip

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? SEPTEMBER? I am sitting here still waiting for spring and this book is talking about FALL?!?! Not cool. But at least I was lucky enough to have that information; when book two was originally published last year author Maureen Johnson hadn’t put out ANY indication of when the third book might be available. So now all I can do is sit. AND WAIT. Well I have also spent an embarrassing amount of time on Goodreads and other like forums talking to Shades of London fans (who are all at LEAST a decade or more younger than me). Amy-Poehler-as-cool-mom-in-Mean-Girls-GIF

I think this is unfair. I mean I am one of those people who also had to wait for all the Harry Potter books to come out too…these kids today can just come to the library and check out the whole series in one go if they want to. Also … get off my lawn.

Oh well. If anyone wants to form a ‘waiting for publication’ support group you know where to find me.

-Grumpy Nat

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