by Jason Paulios on January 7th, 2015
Teenager Holly Mackey (daughter of a Detective featured in French’s previous detective novels) is living and studying at an all-girls boarding school outside of Dublin, Ireland. The administrator of the school posted a notice board where students can anonymously leave notes called, “the secret place”. The novel opens with her having discovered a note saying, “I know who killed him.” She understands it refers to the unsolved murder of a student from the nearby all-boys school whose body was found on the grounds the previous year. She takes the note to the only cop she trusts, cold case Detective Stephen Moran. He wants a promotion to the murder squad and is savvy enough to know he can approach the newly partner-less, gruff Detective Antoinette Conway and hope to impress.
The story is told mostly from the Detective’s point of view with chapters interspersed following the back-story of Holly and her friends’ experiences at the school the prior year. The solve happens over the course of a day of intensive interviewing at the school; the Detectives’ frustration and desperation for a collar ends up creating a locked-room mystery vibe that can feel quite suffocating. Since most of the book is devoted to the testimony of independent teenagers (e.g. puberty, rebellion, in-fighting, and inherent distrust of adults) you soon find yourself suspecting everyone and wondering if these cops should just give up.
French’s books are always extremely detailed and, since you’ve the Detective’s point of view, you get the feeling that you’re meant to be taking good notes in order to solve this. There’s generally a foreboding feel, sometimes hinted as supernatural but often manifested as unease about every character’s motives. Her stories are dark and meticulously plotted, they lean towards police procedural rather than the more typical bestseller suspense.
by Jason Paulios on October 2nd, 2014
David Mitchell is my favorite writer and I was so excited for this book to arrive. Like many of his earlier books (Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas) this is another novel broken up into novellas/chapters focusing on different characters that are interwoven to create a more nuanced tale. This changing point of view can be tricky because just as you find yourself settling in with a character it ends and you’re shuttled off a decade in the future and a different setting. I thought it worked so well in Cloud Atlas, possibly because he brought us back to the characters through the second half of the book but probably more that it read like an audacious novel puzzle. In The Bone Clocks I thought at least three of the stories either weren’t necessary or just lacked the payoff he meant them to have.
The story mostly follows a path around the life of Holly Sykes, beginning with her angsty teenage years living above a pub with her raucous family and ending in a all-too-believable post-climate change crash Ireland. Her brother vanishes early-on and she finds out it is probably a supernatural kidnapping. She soon encounters various people that are sort of immortal, they are being reborn into new bodies but retain prior knowledge. They are secretly battling another form of predatory immortals who have devised a way to harvest innocent souls in a special ancient church to grant extended life.
Despite my reservations about some of the chapters, Mitchell remains a master of language and character building. There are many positive reviews out there for this novel (and a 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist nod) so it’s probably one to try if you’re a fan of Mitchell’s earlier books. If you’re new to him, I would instead recommend the classic Cloud Atlas.
by Jason Paulios on June 21st, 2014
Today a patron needed to quickly scan his paper-based homework in order to turn it into his teacher electronically as a PDF. We have a number of flat tabletop scanners for use with the public Internet PCs but his homework included drawings that were done in pencil. Often you can change the DPI to their highest settings and it will pick up the lines but this time it just wasn’t working.
The patron came up with the idea of taking a photo of the homework but preferred a PDF format. I used my cell phone to download a free PDF scanner app called “PDF Document Scanner” (there are many others but this one was free and didn’t watermark the image). I took scans of each of his pages, cropped out the background tabletop and compiled them into a multi-page PDF. I emailed the files to him and he was able to open them on his iPhone to verify that they would work as submissions.
by Jason Paulios on March 10th, 2014
Image courtesy of theatlantic.com
Last week I received a call asking for the voting record for the recent nomination to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The patron wanted to know which Senate Democrats had voted against Mr. Debo Adegbile’s nomination.
This vote was high profile enough that many newspapers such as The Washington Post answered her question, but I thought it best to go right to the source : U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 2nd Session (2014). Using the Senate’s votes summary page allows you to easily search through recent roll call votes with detailed summaries. After selecting the vote number (in this case, 0048) you can view the vote question and result, number required for majority, and the count. The count may be sorted in various ways, I sorted by vote position which allowed me to see who in the “NAYs” were Democrats.
I used this government tool to supply the names, but the Post article also helped me explain the rationale for some of the voters. This gave the patron a better account so she could write to the dissenting voters.
If searching for results for a House vote, the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives also has a Roll Call votes page though I don’t find their summaries to be as comprehensive or easy to sort through as the Senate version.
by Jason Paulios on December 11th, 2013
Are you sick of the same tired Christmas interpretations? Try something from this collection of CDs for an R&B Christmas.
Soundtrack to the new Malcolm D. Lee film “The Best Man Holiday” featuring contemporary R&B artists such as: Jordin Sparks, Fantasia, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, and Ne-Yo.
A holiday compilation of Atlantic Records’ Cotillion imprint featuring performances by 1970s R&B/Soul singers including a young Luther Vandross.
A new Verve Christmas release of classics from Mary J. Blige called, “A Mary Christmas” (we see what you did there).
Christmas with a little New jack swing, it’s “Christmas With Babyface.”
Christmas soul originals with James Brown, it’s no Sex Machine but it’s still funky.
Despite the ridiculous cover, this CeeLo Christmas album, “Cee Lo’s Magic Moment,” is the real deal.
Many of the songs included on the Jackson 5 “Ultimate Christmas Collection” have become modern Christmas classics.
“A Motown Christmas” collects songs from Motown legends from 1965 through the early 1970s including tracks by: Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and Diana Ross & the Supremes.
by Jason Paulios on September 23rd, 2013
The ICPL Local Music Project has had some really great press lately and we hope it has helped more Iowa City, Hills, University Heights, and rural Johnson County residents discover this new project of ours. I’m always on the lookout for more local artists to add and a goal for this year is to add more of the underrepresented genres such as: classical, electronic, avant-garde, country, jazz, and hip-hop. I’m excited to introduce you to a few new signings that have happened since July:
Pen to Paper by Chasing Shade
This folk-rock album came out in 2011 and, like much of the best IC music, was recorded at Flat Black Studios. You may have heard the guys at Camp Euphoria, Friday Night Concert Series, or one of their solar powered shows during recent RAGBRAIs. The boys have recently moved to Los Angeles to sell their souls (kidding) but we hope they enjoy their time on the coast! Be sure to catch them on their next visit to Iowa City in the coming years.
85 Decibel Monks and Chained Reaction by Tack-Fu
Lucky for us, Tack saw an article in the DI promoting the Local Music Project and approached me about getting his albums added to the catalog. We have two of his early 2000s hip-hop compilations, he’s featured as producer alongside a variety of DJs, MCs, and co-producer Chaircrusher/Kent Williams. The albums feature a mix of some vocal and instrumental tracks, sounds tend towards old-school rap beats, jazz/string samples, and soul/funk sensibilities.
Stay tuned for more additions! Be sure to contact me at jason-paulios[at]icpl.org if you know of other acts that you feel would be a good addition to the collection.
by Jason Paulios on February 28th, 2013
This was an album that, for whatever reason, I kept putting off listening to last year. I finally got around to it after seeing how many “Best Of 2012” lists included Mike and it now tops my “Best of 2012 that I didn’t listen to until 2013” list.
This is an aggressive album both musically and lyrically. The production is tackled by El-P who is known for his dark, tense beats, mixing synths, grime and classic samples; they are a soundtrack to a dystopian urban future. His soundscapes are detailed and crafted with Mike’s delivery and content in mind. A less skilled rapper would be swallowed by these sounds but Mike’s swagger and righteous anger fit hand and glove with El’s beats.
Lyrically this album is message-heavy with nods to classic hip hop (Eazy-E and Public Enemy are referenced) as well as R&B/Soul/Jazz/Blues legends that infused politics into their art (Nina Simone/Miles Davis). His song “Reagan” details government and political lies (“We invaded sovereign soil going after oil, taking countries is a hobby paid for by the oil lobby”), “Don’t Die” is a story of running from dirty cops (“Cause if I get caught it’s my life they terminate, or stick me in a cell at Guantanamo Bay … I’ll be an outlaw before I ever behave, I’ll die a free man before I live like a slave, and nothing changes if they catch me today, f*#k the police is still all I gotta say.”).
For me, Mike is probably at his best when he’s rapping about the difficulties of growing up poor in a racist society and the impact family and music can have. He ends the album with two inspiring tracks “Willie Burke Sherwood” and the title track: “What I say might save a life, what I speak might save the street, I ain’t got no instruments but I got my hands and feet … And the words that I put in the wind, coming back like a boomerang, when I take this microphone, point it at the crowd they start to sing.”
Be sure to check out Killer Mike live at the Blue Moose on April 6th as part of the Mission Creek Music Festival!
by Jason Paulios on December 19th, 2012
We had a blast at November’s Guys Read meeting held at The Wedge and Capanna. We’re excited to get together again for a special Winter Break Guys Read this Friday, December 21st from 12-1 p.m. in Meeting Room E upstairs at ICPL for all guys in Grades 5-8. We’ll be discussing Scott Westerfeld’s amazing steampunk alternate history novel Leviathan.
We’re excited to bring in a special guest this month, we’ll be joined by local tinkerer inventor Michael Webb and his hand built 3D Printer! He’s kindly offered to show us how it works and we’ll have a chance to print off some cool Leviathan-inspired choice coins where one side will have a double-helix for the Darwinists and the other a wrench for the Clankers. If you’ve never seen what these printers can do, be sure to check out the yoda video below!
Guys Read, is a larger literacy initiative founded by children’s author Jon Scieszka, and is designed to draw attention to boys’ literacy and to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.
No reservation required but if you think you’ll come check it out then shoot me an email so I make sure to have enough food!
Questions? Email Jason at teens[at]icpl.org or call 319-887-6075.
by Jason Paulios on December 13th, 2012
Here is a short list of books that I enjoyed from the last year:
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
Signature John Green elements are evident throughout this heartbreaking Young Adult love story : quirky characters, whip-smart dialogue, unattainable love interests, a sidekick, and a quest to find meaning in this world. This time he deals with the growing relationship between two teenagers who meet through a cancer therapy group and end up going to great lengths to find out the unwritten ending to a life-changing book.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
A fluffy weekend thriller novel that can be compared to a Lifetime movie plot, I enjoyed the conversation this book sparked more than the book itself. A difference of opinion regarding a book can be just the thing to get you out of a reading slump (no, this does not mean I’m going to read 50 Shades). I rarely get a chance to discuss books with colleagues and patrons to the degree that I’ve been able to with Gone Girl. Some loved the carefully revealed spoilery twists and others slogged through and wondered who cared? Would make a great book club choice.
Broken Harbor – Tana French
Although French’s mysteries follow most police procedural conventions, the emphasis is generally on a deeply personal connection between the Detective and their assignment, usually with difficult resolutions. Detective “Scorcher” Kennedy is paired with a rookie and their roles of teacher and student are tested while assigned to a homicide in Broken Harbor, a failed new housing community outside of Dublin, Ireland. French’s plotting is flawless, her descriptions are vivid, the police dialogue is authentic and convincing, and the outcome is devastating.
Londoners : The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told By Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long For It – Craig Taylor
I’m an unabashed Anglophile, so when I saw Craig Taylor had edited a 400 page book of tales from London’s residents I knew I had to be first on the hold list. Taylor spent years interviewing a wide variety of residents of London and their impressions about the city, we’re treated to some short humorous tales interspersed with truly heartfelt odes to a hometown with a long history. I was reminded of Studs Terkel’s collections at times but found it worked best to read only a few chapters in a sitting. It would make a great travel companion guide, I often wished I was walking around the boroughs referenced in the tales.
by Jason Paulios on December 3rd, 2012
United Action for Youth’s Winter Teen Clothing Drive is this coming Wednesday, December 5th from 3:30-7:30pm at the Youth Center (355 Iowa Avenue)!
All young people ages 12-18 are welcome to “shop for free” by attending this event.
It is not too late to donate clothing items and toiletries – donations are being accepted at the Youth Center on Monday and Tuesday from 9am-5pm!