Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Great Reading Challenge Update

The Great Reading Challenge has now reached the half-way point!

The GRC, as we like to call it, is the reading program we are offering adults this year, instead of the traditional Adult summer reading program we have had in years past.

The goal is simple: Read 24 books by December 31, 2016.

So what is the challenge part, you might ask: You can pick any books you like, BUT they do have to fit into one of the 60 categories we have chosen. One book for one category. No duplicates.

Fun categories include: Read a book with a blue cover,  Read a book that scares you, Re-read your favorite book, Read a book with an ugly cover . . . and many more!

Since we are well into July, some may be worried they won't have time to complete the challenge with half the year gone. Well, we say, "the glass is half full" and you have almost 6 more months to complete the challenge!

Also, to make things easier we have a couple of "cheats" for you: If you attend events at C-SPL that are held by Adult Services and let us know at the Recommendations Desk, we will consider that attendance to be the same as one book. You can substitute up to 12 of your 24 books by coming to events.

Or you can do a short review of a book you read for the challenge (we have bookmarks at the Recommendations Desk with more info on writing the review) and that will count as a book!

We have already read 1339 books this year. Care to join us?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Staff Review: Five Days at Memorial

I have vivid memories of being glued to the television watching the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina.  Though the coverage was thorough, only those who lived in the areas hit by the hurricane can truly know what it was like.  Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink, the July discussion title for our Adult Book Discussion Group, details the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans.  Fink, an investigative journalist, spent countless hours over the course of 6 years interviewing 500 plus witnesses, doctors, and nurses, re-watching news footage and gathering information for her book. In 2010 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for the article about Memorial that sparked the writing of the book. 

The first part of the book is all about actions taken before and during the storm.  Initially it was overwhelming, the sheer number of people involved made it difficult to keep track of who was doing what, and where.  It felt chaotic, frantic, and disjointed.  Was that by design?  Was it meant to mimic what the staff and patients at Memorial felt?  The confusion, the uncertainty, the fear?  I found the part leading up to the storm and the following five days engrossing, I had a hard time putting the book down.  I had so many emotions and questions.

I felt anger. Anger at the situation and at the decisions made.  I felt sorrow. Sorrow for those who didn't make it out of the hospital, their family members, and for those who had to make the tough choices.  I felt anxiety, wondering what would happen to the patients, doctors and nurses.  I also felt disbelief.  Disbelief that it was common practice in the case of hurricanes for the staff to bring their family, pets and 3-days worth of food to the hospital to ride out the storm. Disbelief that there was no plan in place in case the water rose above the ground floor electrical and generators.  Memorial Medical Center (formerly known as Southern Baptist Hospital) was 80-years old, that should have been plenty of time to plan for such a disaster.  Disbelief and anger at some of the seemingly selfish actions of the hospital staff.  Why would you evacuate the sickest patients last? At the end of the 5 days, 45 patients had died at Memorial, and at least 9 had what could possibly be lethal doses of morphine in their bodies. Some of the dead, according to witnesses, had been alive on the morning of the final evacuations. The question had to be asked, were these patients murdered?
The second part of the book is all about the aftermath of the storm and the legal implications of what happened at Memorial during those five days.  One doctor and two nurses were arrested on 4-counts of second-degree murder.  The case dragged on for over 2 years as evidence was gathered.  During that time, New Orleans was facing multiple problems and legal cases stemming from the storm.  Police brutality, questionable deaths at hospitals and nursing homes, plus backlash against all levels of government agencies for their actions, or lack thereof, leading up to, and during the storm.  Hindsight is 20/20 and after the water receded it was clear that nobody was prepared for the catastrophic flooding.  Fingers were being pointed at anyone and everyone. 

I will admit the second half of the book had a few high points, but it did drag.  I found myself struggling to finish without just skipping to the end.  I'm glad I plodded through the slow parts however because in the second half I learned about the actions of some of the doctors and nurses that I found absolutely shocking.  Memorial Hospital was connected to another building, a cancer center, that had power for those five days.  Why weren't the patients moved to that facility? The staff claimed that there wasn't enough water and everyone was suffering from dehydration, but in the weeks following the storm, investigators found large supplies of bottled water in the hospital.  Another hospital, Charity, faced the same conditions, but with a totally different outcome.  Fink mentions in the forward of the book that as more time passed, memories changed or became hazy.  I believe that the doctors and nurses remembered the events in a way that allowed them to live with their actions.  I also kept asking myself why only one doctor and two nurses were arrested and charged.  Based on the first half of the book, I would have expected more of the staff members to face charges. How could they claim to not know what was going to happen? 

Fink's epilogue talks about other natural disasters after Hurricane Katrina.  New Orleans seemed to have learned its lesson, but did other states learn too?  When Hurricane Sandy hit, hospitals in New York State and New Jersey were suddenly faced with the same problems.  Rising water, failing power and patients that hadn't been evacuated.  Hospitals were exempt from the mandatory evacuations because in the face of a disaster, a hospital is a much needed commodity. I do understand the hospitals and hospital staff are essential, but why wouldn't the patients be moved to safer locations? She also talks about the conditions in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and how the medical professionals had to make tough decisions based on lack of resources. 

Sitting in my air conditioned house, on my comfortable couch, it is easy for me to say "why didn't they do this or that". I tried to ask myself "what would I do?"  I've never faced anything like the people of New Orleans, I can't even imagine the conditions or the fear.  I honestly don't know what I would have done. I would hope that I would have fought tooth and nail to preserve life.  I would hope that I wouldn't have stood passively by while someone else made a decision about a patient I swore I would take care of.  I would hope that my will to survive wouldn't keep me from helping others to survive as well. Most of all, I hope I never have to find out.

Fink's goal isn't to point fingers or sway people's opinions.  She presents a fairly balanced accounting of conditions at Memorial and the following investigation.  I certainly have my own opinions after reading this book.  You can probably glean, from my review, what I think happened. This book sparked a very interesting discussion among our book club members about morality and ethics.  I believe that is one of the main goals of Five Days at Memorial, to make people think, ask questions, and start a discussion. 

~ Amy, Adult Services

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Staff Review: The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

[Note: This review contains mild spoilers.]

I've been in a reading slump for about three years now. I start books and don't finish them. I take books home and don't even open the covers. It's frustrating, but at the same time it's nice. I'm spending more time on my other hobbies, like gardening. Life is all about balance, and this has been a period of readjustment for my life, a rebalancing that I'd like to believe has been a net positive.

Of course, I wouldn't be so optimistic about the changes in my reading habits if I were convinced a sentient computer program was influencing my choices as part of its larger plan to change the entire world to suit its purposes. There's a fairly large difference between making my own choices and being someone's or something's puppet.

Which brings me to The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata, the first in a series of near-future military science fiction where the characters slowly realize that their choices are being influenced by a mysterious power whose intentions are not entirely clear. It's a fascinating question, and I'm fascinated to see how it plays out over the next books in the series.

The near-future setting of the novel means that many of the issues the characters face feel very familiar. I found that this helped draw me into the story by making the high-tech super soldiers seem a bit more like people I know. While I'm unquestionably a fan of military science fiction, my tastes tend more towards far-flung space adventures than gritty stories set in something very similar to the real world.

The best science fiction gives you a new perspective on the real world, pushing the reader to reexamine how our choices today might change the future. Let's just hope that Linda Nagata's prediction of a future guided by a computer program with a mind of its own stays fictional.

~Sarah, Adult Services

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nine Books for Home Makeovers

Whether you're a fan of Marie Kondo's Spark Joy or you're less impressed, you might be feeling the need to give your living space a bit of a makeover, and Carnegie-Stout is here to help. Our book collection includes a wide variety of design, decoration, and organization titles to fit any taste. Whether your style is modern minimalism, vintage eclectic, or something else entirely, we've got a book to keep you inspired.

We've gathered together nine of our newer books to get you started. Check them out below!

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels
(747 MIC) You can love your home. Join Melissa Michaels as she shares humor, lessons learned, and encouraging advice so you can: get motivated with the 31-day Love Your Home challenge; declutter, organize, and decorate your rooms with ease; and leap from dreamer to doer with confidence.

Cut the Clutter: a simple organization plan for a clean and tidy home by Cynthia Townley Ewer
(648.5 EWE) A guide to conquering clutter and cleaning your home from one of America's leading housekeeping experts. Whether you want to organize your closet, tame your fridge, or conquer the whole house one room at a time, Cut the Clutter will inform you, entertain you, and save your sanity along the way.

The Joy of Less: a minimalist guide to declutter, organize, and simplify by Francine Jay
(648.8 JAY) Jay introduces a five-step family program that will help you downsize, declutter, and maintain a streamlined life. Her minimalist lifestyle techniques will help you maximize space, free up time and energy, and keep things organized. Start living your life!

Shabby Chic: sumptuous settings and other lovely things by Rachel Ashwell
(793.2 ASH) Provides an inexpensive approach to casual elegance, showing how to give one's home unique charm--for both everyday and special occasions--through the use of materials acquired in a local antique mall or flea market.

Monochrome Home: elegant interiors in black and white by Hilary Robertson
(747.94 ROB) Hilary Robertson celebrates the stylish simplicity of the monochromatic home - elegant interiors in black, white, and every shade of grey in between. In the first chapter, Living in Black and White, Hilary analyzes successful monochrome interiors, providing moodboards for different schemes.

Absolutely Beautiful Things: decorating inspiration for a bright and colourful life by Felix Forest
(747 SPI) Anna Spiro shows you how to create an interior that's just right for you. To her, it's all about the mix, not the match, and, with her help, you'll find beauty in unexpected places. She'll give you the confidence to put together a layered and very individual home using elements you love, and make you see your old belongings in a new light.

Habitat: the field guide to decorating by Lauren Liess
(747 LIE) Lauren invites readers to bring nature inside by mixing the textures of natural elements such as wood and stone with eclectic groupings of modern and quirky vintage pieces. Readers will be inspired by the unique style of these rooms, which include lovely framed botanical prints and Liess's own textile patterns inspired by wildflowers and weeds.

Design Mom: how to live with kids: a room-by-room guide by Gabrielle Blair
(747 BLA) Blair offers a room-by-room guide to keeping things sane, organized, creative, and stylish. She provides advice on getting the most out of even the smallest spaces; simple fixes that make it easy for little ones to help out around the house; ingenious storage solutions for the never-ending stream of kid stuff; rainy-day DIY projects; and much, much more.

Styled: secrets for arranging rooms, from tabletops to bookshelves by Emily Henderson
(747 HEN) It's easy to find your own style confidence once you know this secret: While decorating can take months and tons of money, styling often takes just minutes. Even a few little tweaks can transform the way your room feels.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Staff Review: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
If you're a fan of Jane Austen and other 19th century novelists of life and love in quaint villages of long-ago England, you should not miss The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. Although it begins in 1914, on the eve of World War I, it quickly put me in mind of those earlier authors, with its exquisite village setting, its jumble of aristocrats and commoners, and its lavish period detail about dress, food, furniture, customs, and manners.

The novel begins slowly, as a charming tale of coastal village life at "the end of England's brief Edwardian summer." The weather has rarely been so glorious. Young, pretty, free-thinking -- and penniless -- Beatrice arrives to take her controversial place as the local grammar school's new Latin master, a position that until now has always been filled by a man. Her conditional hire situates Beatrice within a large cast of characters and allows Simonson to tackle the subject of the subjugation of women in the early twentieth century, which she succeeds at doing very well without being heavy-handed.

The rumblings of war draw closer however, Belgian refugees soon arrive in the village, and before long all are swept up in the years of bloody and tumultuous fighting that will eventually claim over 17 million lives, wound 20 million more, and end forever many of the old European ways of living. Despite the chaos into which the period descends, Simonson succeeds in bringing history vividly to life and her characters and story to satisfying conclusions.

Simonson's mastery of her material is astonishing, especially considering this is only her second novel, the first being the highly acclaimed and equally delightful Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. She's a natural born storyteller. Her characters rarely hit a false note, historical detail is fluidly rendered, and the writing is well-crafted, witty, and intelligent. There's no treacle here either; certain scenes are hard to take. People suffer atrocities, reputations are hurt, class cruelty abounds, and a few characters do not survive to the end. In constructing this intricate tale of love, class, and war, Simonson never settles for confection but hews to the genuine and authentic.  

~ Ann, Adult Services