HCPL Staff Pick Best of 2010 | Harris County Public Library


HCPL Staff Pick Best of 2010

http://www.hcpl.net/content/hcpl-staff-pick-best-2010


This message was sent by rhymeswithlisten@gmail.com via http://addthis.com. Please note that AddThis does not verify email addresses.

Make sharing easier with the AddThis Toolbar: http://www.addthis.com/go/toolbar-em

2010 in review


    The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

    Healthy blog!

    The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

    Crunchy numbers

    Featured image

    A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

    In 2010, there were 56 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 110 posts. There were 106 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 9mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

    The busiest day of the year was October 26th with 48 views. The most popular post that day was Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe Series .

    Where did they come from?

    The top referring sites in 2010 were ifreestores.com, facebook.com, en.search.wordpress.com, en.wordpress.com, and lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com.

    Some visitors came searching, mostly for kay hooper bishop series, anna godbersen, genghis khan, envy by anna godbersen, and arukiyomi.

    Attractions in 2010

    These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

    1

    Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe Series December 2009

    2

    Kay Hooper’s Bishop/Special Crimes Unit Novels April 2010

    3

    Norman Itzkowitz & Enid A. Goldberg’s Genghis Khan : 13th-century Mongolian tyrant (A Wicked History) July 2010

    4

    Sean Stewart Price’s Cixi: Evil Empress of China? (A Wicked History) July 2010
    1 comment

    5

    Sean Stewart Price’s Attila the Hun: Leader of the barbarian hordes (A Wicked History) August 2010

Isabel Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea


Allende, I., & Peden, M. S. (2010). Island beneath the sea: A novel. New York: Harper. 9780061988240

A few years ago, I picked up Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune. Allende cast her spell on me with her characters and her storytelling. Oddly enough, several years passed by before I read another Allende work. As it happened, I chose her latest work Island Beneath the Sea which I requested through HCPL.

Allende tells the stories of numerous people living on 1700s Saint-Domingue (Haïti). First, she introduces readers to the young Toulouse Valmorain. He and the female Valmorains live comfortably in France thanks to his father’s sugarcane plantation, Saint Lazare, in Saint-Domingue.

His planter father sends a letter, requesting Valmorain to come the island in 1770. Valmorain arrives on the island, receiving a rude awakening. The elder Valmorain can no longer run Saint Lazare. So, it falls to Valmorain to make a go of it, turning Saint Lazare into a profitable plantation. Settling into Saint-Domingue, Valmorain marries a Spaniard Eugenia living in Cuba. In the midst of all of this, Valmorain purchases a slave to serve Eugenia.

This slave is a child named Zarité – called Tété. She’s the daughter of an enslaved African woman and a sailor. Tété leads a harsh existence and discovers comfort in voodoo and the slave community. Numerous passages in the book are related by an adult Tété. The rest of the novel told in third person.

Tété endures many abuses and hardships at the hands of Valmorain, who aims to be a “benevolent slave owner.” Yet, they later flee to New Orleans – together.

All I can say without further spoiling the plot is that I found the storytelling and character development of Tété mesmerizing. I also enjoyed learning about the enterprising courtesan Violette and Dr. Parmentier, the man of science with twenty-first century ethics. I even appreciated the complexity of Valmorain. Characters such as Gambo, Maurice, Rosette, Zacharie, and the Murphy family seemed unrealized, though. I could’ve easily done without Hortense! Nonetheless, I guess there was need for such a catalyst.

I also felt Allende did well with the rising action and then slammed the reader into a wretched nightmare that was Tété’s early life. Then, in the New Orleans part, the novel seemed rushed. I wanted to find out more about New Orleans life as well as denouement for Tété and her family. Overall, it was good storytelling but the plot needed help.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Places:

France, Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Cuba, New Orleans

For more on Isabel Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea, please check out the following links:

James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain


* 1001 Books Book
Baldwin, J. (1995). Go tell it on the mountain. New York: Modern Library. 9780679601548

The title of this book alone piqued my interest. Prior to  checking it out from HCPL, I was quite wary of this book. Nevertheless, my curiosity beat out my fear; after all, I’m strong in my beliefs.

Generally speaking, this semi-autobiographical novel follows characters connected to a storefront Pentecostal church in 1930s Harlam. It’s a day in the life sort of thing as well as a multi-generational  story.

The main character is John (James Baldwin), a young teenage boy being reared by his victimized mother Elizabeth and her husband, the strict, violent “preacher” Gabriel.  Gabriel abuses his family and seems to “have it in” for John, more so than John’s siblings. In return, John despises his father and fantasizes about killing him.  When John has such dreams and homoerotic feelings, he feels the wrath of God.

John shares center stage with his parents and his Aunt Florence as well. Still and all, it’s mostly John’s story. In addition to all of the abuse, John carries the burden of being held to high standards. He is expected to be a preacher when he grows up, unlike his impish younger brother, Roy. So, the reader sees the fateful day where John must decide between duty and temptation.

I have a feeling that this was a good book. The prose is clear and illustrative. These could be people I know. Yet, I didn’t enjoy it much. I’m tired of reading about abusive fire and brimstone spouting types at the moment. I felt Baldwin’s pain but I’m weary of reading about violent Christians. Maybe I should reread Cry, The Beloved Country.

Three Out of Five Pearls

Word Bank: (pending)

  • Come to Jesus
  • Fundamentalist
  • Pentecostal
  • Seventh Day
  • Storefront
  • Threshing Floor

Places: Harlem & Manhattan, New York; Georgia

For more on James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, please check out the following links:

Sean Stewart Price’s Attila the Hun: Leader of the barbarian hordes (A Wicked History)


Price, S. (2009). Attila the Hun: Leader of the barbarian hordes. New York: Franklin Watts. 9780531207376

When I discovered “A Wicked History” series, the biography of Attila the Hun was among the first I checked out from HCPL. I knew next to nothing about Attila but looked forward to reading the book.

The Roman Empire ruled most of the known world for over 400 years. Towards the end of the Roman Empire’s dominion, the brutish Huns imposed their own reign of terror. The Romans weren’t immune, either. The Huns were a scary cavalry which galloped through Eurasia and broke up “civilization.” The Huns were united under one man, Attila. Under his direction, the Huns extorted emperors, bullied neighbors, and made themselves known. The civilized people called him the scourge of God.

Only one record remains from an historian who encountered Attila. This Attila biography intrigued me. I’m still astonished by the hostage exchange of Attila and Flavius Aetius (a West Roman). It amused me how the Huns extorted Theodosius III, the East Roman Emperor. Also, I was impressed with how the citizens of Constantinople dealt with disaster. Yet, Attila would be no friend of mine. I definitely think he was wicked. What do you say?

Four Out of Five Pearls

Quote:

He was a man born to shake the races of the earth, a terror to all lands. . . .

– Priscus of Panium, describing Attila the Hun

Word Bank: (from the glossary of this book)

  • ambassador – a person sent by a government to represent that government in another country
  • assassinate – to murder someone who is well-known or important
  • avenge – to inflict harm in return for a wrong done to oneself or another
  • barbarians – people from various tribes that invaded the Roman Empire during the third to fifth centuries A.D.
  • battering ram – a large wooden weapon that was used to break down city walls
  • cavalry – soldiers who ride on horseback
  • consolidate – to bring several different parts together into one
  • corruption – to bring several different parts together into one
  • coup – a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power
  • demoralize – to cause to lose confidence or hope
  • deploy – to move troops into position for military action
  • depose – to remove from office suddenly and forcefully
  • devastate – to cause great distress, damage, or destruction
  • devout – deeply religious
  • divine – to do with or from God
  • empire – a group of countries or regions that have the same ruler
  • envoy – a person appointed to represent one government in its dealings with another
  • formidable – inspiring fear or respect through being impressively powerful
  • impale – to torture or kill by piercing with a sharp stake
  • legion – in the late Roman Empire, a military unit made up of about 1,000 men, each armed with a long, thrusting spear
  • monastery – a group of buildings where monks live and work
  • monk – a man who lives in a religious community and has promised to devote his life to his God
  • negotiate – to discuss something in order to come to an agreement
  • nomad – a person who wanders from place to place
  • pagan – a person who is not a member of the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim religions; such a person may worship many gods or have no religion at all
  • pillage – to rob using violence, especially in wartime
  • proposition – an offer or suggestion
  • province – a district or region of a country or empire
  • refugee -a person who is forced to leave his or her home because of war, persecution, or a natural disaster
  • reprieve – a postponement of a punishment
  • savagery – behavior that is fierce, violent, and uncontrolled
  • scourge – a cause of great harm and suffering
  • siege – the surrounding of a place, such as a castle or city, to cut off supplies and then wait for those inside to surrender
  • successor – one who follows another in a position of leadership

Places: Hungary, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Turkey, Central Asia

For more about Attila the Hun, please check out the following sites: