Monday, June 23, 2008

Book-Loving Iowans

I am proud to say that my fellow Iowans are doing great during this time of crisis, keeping books from being spoiled by the flood waters.
I am posting an excerpt from an article on the internet, along with the URL for the full article at the bottom.

University of Iowa Bookstore Under Water
As college store directors ready their stores for fall, George Herbert Jr., director of University Bookstore & Hawk Shops, University of Iowa, Iowa City, was watching water recede on his campus. Flooding in that area left much of the university and his store under water.

On Tuesday, floodwaters had seeped into the University of Iowa's main library but the university says the damage appears to be minimal. The water was about two inches deep in the basement of the building, according to the university, but all the books were removed prior to the flooding as a precaution. The library had remained dry prior to Tuesday even as 16 other campus buildings took on water.

Herbert, a past president of NACS, said the entire community responded quickly last week as it became apparent the university would be hit by the rising waters. Sixteen buildings took on water during the flooding despite the sandbags and the advance warning. The water in his store was at least five feet deep.

"Unbelievable," Herbert said. "We've had thousands of people volunteer to sandbag. There were people in town for a conference that volunteered, community members, businesspeople—you almost had to see it to believe it."

Herbert said about 95% of the store's stock was moved to a secure location, but a dwindling timeline forced them to leave about 5% on upper floors of the Iowa Memorial Union, where his store is located.

Although originally told they had until Saturday afternoon, June 14, to clear the store, that deadline quickly turned to Friday night, then Friday afternoon, and finally staffers were ordered to leave at 9 a.m. on Friday.

Herbert said there are concerns about the air quality on the floors above his flooded store, where his merchandise is stored. Until the water recedes to a safe level, he won't know how bad the damage is to the merchandise or the store itself.

"I've never seen anything like this and never thought I would," Herbert said.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Three June Reads

June has been a beast of a month, with Crohns flares dogging me, a car that refuses to be fixed, and depression creeping up on my husband and I both, which is not that amazing, considering that the first 6 months of 2008 were fraught with death and mayhem.
It has also been unusually cold and wet this month, only this past week giving us any sunshine at all, and today was humid and warm, but not sunny. All this makes for good reading weather, though, because most people don't like running around outside when it is raining, myself included.
So I've read Jim Butcher's latest addition to the Dresden Files, Small Favor, and I caught up with Charlaine Harris' famed Sookie Stackhouse in From Dead to Worse. Both novels were welcome distractions, and I have to say that Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden just keeps getting hotter and better with each book in the series. In this latest, Harry is asked to rescue mob boss Gentleman Jonnie Marcone from the clutches of a fallen angel/demon by Queen Mab, ruler of the Winter Fae. Harry owes Mab three favors of her choosing, and though he's already risked life and limb to give her what she wants once, now she wants even more. The chaos that surrounds Harry this time is, as usual, imaginative and bloody, but still manages to keep the reader hooked until the final scene. And fortunately, Butcher seems inclined to allow Harry a little romance in this installment, so we're provided with a bit of HEA, or at least enough nookie to keep us hoping that Harry will finally fall in love and be happy. Officer Murphy of the Chicago PD, Michael the Angel and Thomas, Harry's hottie vamp brother all make their appearances, as does the fascinating Archive, who is a little girl with a very old soul. Small Favor was pure pleasure to read, as Butchers prose is always as clean and clear as a snowy Chicago night. His plots move like a bullet train and you have to have read the previous volumes to keep up, trust me. But its well worth it, as the Dresden Files just keep getting better with age.
From Dead to Worse was something of a 'knitting up loose ends' kind of book, where a number of plot lines from past books were finally resolved, though often not in a happy way. Sookie's area of Louisiana is ripe for takeover after Hurricane Katrina. Se also hasn't seen her boyfriend, weretiger Quinn, in a long time, and her ex-boyfriends Eric and Bill, both vampires, still lust after her. Sookies worthless brother has married, but his wife fools around (and Sookie has to pay the price) and on top of all that, Sookie has to be a pinch-hitting bridesmaid in a big local wedding. If all that weren't enough, she has to deal with meeting her elven great-grandfather and housing a displaced witch. Though she's always in trying circumstances, Sookie is nothing if not a trooper, and she manages to deal with the various crisis in her life with grace, if not aplomb. Even when she has to break up with Quinn, she does so in such a way that minimal damage has been done, at least at the outset. I admire Sookie, mainly because she has guts and a code of ethics that she strives to maintain, when all around her are more worried about their own skins. Her sense of humor and common sense are also so refreshing in the face of the fantastic, you can't help but root for her to win the day, or at least come out of it all alive. Harris makes her characters seems so real and alive that you almost expect to meet them at the local bar, Merlotts, and have a round of beer with them. Harris' plots are fast-paced, her prose solid and unaffected and her dialog crisp and witty. I enjoyed this latest in the series, though the cracks in Sookies composure are starting to show, and I worry that she's becoming a bit more 'sup' than human.
The last book I completed this week was Markus Zusak's The Book Thief" about a young orphan, Liesel Memenger, growing up in Nazi Germany during from 1938-1945. The narrator of the tale is Death, who seems like a decent enough chap, and his obvious affection for Liesel shows as he walks us through her adoption by a German family, the Hubermans, and her affection for Hans Huberman, the painter and accordion player, and his foul-mouthed wife Rosa. The Hubermans hide a young Jewish man in their basement, where Liesel takes her precious books, stolen from the mayors library and the smoldering piles of books burned by Nazis. She becomes a storyteller and reader during the air raids, and is eventually saved by her love of books. All the horrors of the Holocaust are writ large here, and its not a book for the timid, but I felt like the account brought home the harsh circumstances, the cold, the famine, the cruelty and the murderous Nazis who were a fact of life at that time, and death was a common thread to daily life. Though its not a light read, the chapters are short and the prose is written in short, staccato paragraphs with frequent boldface subheads that give us a nutgraph of what's really happening or the outcome of a given situation. The plot tends to wind around and come back on itself, but Death manages to stitch it all together into a cohesive whole by the heartbreaking end. This is a book that I feel should be required reading for older teenagers or young college students. Nothing can bring the horrors of WWII home as well as the personal journey of an insightful young girl who loves books and people. A highly recommended read, one you will never forget.