Reviews

Want to know what our librarians and staff are reading? Browse through a variety of reviews added to our catalog from a variety of genres.

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  • Programming Arduino : getting started with sketches by Monk, Simon.
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on May 23, 2018

    Tagged: Computers House & Home Music

    If you are a self-taught nerd who knows enough about coding to know what Arduino is capable of creating then you will have no trouble (or distraction!) while putting this guide to use. Presumably, you are reading about Arduino because you are actually interested in creating some sort of light display. Why not use this book to futz around with your living room lights? You could program the bulb to change color every hour on the hour or something silly but tech-ridden. Or you could be in the music industry. So I might not have finished the manual and my coding skills are beginner but I'm giving a 5 star rating because you are in good safe hands with Simon Monk.

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  • Rise and grind : how to out-perform, out-work, and out-hustle the competition by John, Daymond,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on May 23, 2018

    Tagged: African American Self-Help Business & Entrepreneurs

    Review in Progress* 

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  • Everything all at once : how to unleash your inner nerd, tap into radical curiosity and solve any problem by Nye, Bill,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on May 23, 2018

    Tagged: Science

    Bill Nye the Science guy was a staple of my high school education 20 years ago and ever relevant today in a bustling world where people are much less likely to break down even the most finite simplistic of scientific principles on camera. This book will convict you not just about your role as a participator or contributor to science but to being creative about how to practice living for justice and exploration in this world. Review in Progress*

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  • Creative quest by Questlove,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on May 23, 2018

    Tagged: African American Author Events Biography & Autobiography Music

    Questlove is back(!) Let him take you on a tour de force of his life, the life of music greats, and more! The best part of this book is that it's here, it really sounds like him speaking to you verbatim and boldly from his heart. Full of a pleasant amount of the intricate details of studio production, to waxing nostalgic about how the music scene at his house on St. Albans' street in Philadelphia used to be before everyone had achieved "Madonna single name level stardom" this book will transform your desire to make Art or consider overhauling Art's current presence in your life. For years the Self-Help section in Barnes/Noble has been ridden with an artistic guide that forces an emphasis on spirituality and dogma or God concepts. Creative Quest does non of that it is truely a Makers Guide for the Makers Universe. I really enjoyed the personal anecdotes, but also the Meta-realization that at a certain point in life, he will be gone, as will we all, and this book is a stand-out attempt to cross that spiritual void that his great lifes work not be forgotten and in times saturated by Media we will not loose sight of how to build things from scratch. Thus all the food metaphors. 10 billion stars.

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  • A confederacy of dunces by Toole, John Kennedy,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Brian C on Apr 28, 2018

    Tagged: Fiction

    Amazing! Comedic literacy at its best!

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  • To Siri with love : a mother, her autistic son, and the kindness of machines by Newman, Judith.
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on Apr 18, 2018

    Tagged: Biography & Autobiography Psychology Teens

    This book seems to have accrued some criticism for Judith's 'baring of her soul and telling of her sons' most apauling secrets' on the interwebs. However: In her defense I must emphasize that only the truly necessary has been divulged. Additionally: please note 1) a very slight amount of actual dialogue between Gus and Henry is quoted verbatim, and 2) considering her prowess as a journalist we must assume that "tweekage has occured". Therefore in life, given the opportunity to discuss with Mrs. Newman her sons proclivity to discussing say: "turtles" as described therein, I must assume that "turtles" is just an example category (which could really have been "stegosaurus") and the point is that autistics like to discuss details of things and focus on particular subject areas extensively on occasion. If I do get to meet Mrs. Newman in person I will ask her if she has plans to write more about her life as a synesthete because that interests me most. If I get to meet Gus I will ask him to sing something because Autistics don't just enjoy music they LOVE-want-to-marry-it. What this book provides best is a melange of wit, at once a mothers' semi-autobiographical experience of raising autistics in New York (with help), and a sort of 'action catalogue' of possible behaviors that 'might' occur for someone within the spectrum or close to it. Therefore depending on whether or not you are a researcher, a parental unit, or a synesthete or autistic person what you will take home and identify with most will vary greatly for the reader. Another Journalist who has written auto-biographically about herself as well as her child and should be praised for it not condemned is Adair Lara. (Highly recommended for parents of difficult teens) Judith is that rare journalist who can provide movement, nonfiction factoids, as well as parental coping strategies all wrapped up in one neat package. Read it before you judge.

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  • Zero : the biography of a dangerous idea by Seife, Charles.
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on Apr 18, 2018

    Tagged: Mathematics Science History

    The idea of begining counting from ZERO not one might be un-intuitive for non-programmers or non-mathematically inclined types, however different cultures counted age in-utero, mayan's represented numbers using facial masks, and a wide variety of the history of pre-western calendrial systems are discussed and explained by Seife. Quite the possibly the first book of this genre in the history of publication Seife deserves much more lauding than he's getting so if you enjoy this book, please consider buying a copy. This book will not sit well with non-scientists (possibly Catholics or any religious extremists) who can't comprehend the historical inaccuracy of the Roman (as well as other non-lunar calender systems), or who can't stretch their mind enough to realize B.C. and A.D. are just arbitrary labels. For the non-math genius there is a plesantness that comes from having pictures of spatial mathematics graphed out for us as some of us think about math in color or very flat concepts in a pattern based algebraic way. Seife's book is easy to understand for all ages and would be great summer reading for Pre-college, Pre-high school or anyone who wants to stretch the left side of their brain.

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  • Off the charts : the hidden lives and lessons of American child prodigies by Hulbert, Ann.
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on Apr 18, 2018

    Tagged: Biography & Autobiography Psychology General Research

    Equal parts academic historian and psychological researcher, Ann Hulbert immerses us slowly but thouroughly into the waters of prodigy-ism as it has been documented. The biographical detail of the lives covered is fascinating, for myself I particularly enjoyed Nathalia Crane, poet and likely synesthete, and Bobby Fischer chess champion extrordinaires' early years and precious photos. The book begins with chapters covering 2 prodigies at a time allowing a certain comparison between the tangent lives then midway through the book Hulbert style changes by forcing an examination of programmers which then triggors a sort of pandoras' box question: "What is the difference between genius, autistic prowess, and Savant Syndrome?" When have these categories overlapped? Clearly there are many more cases to be examined. This book is well suited to a parents as the parental dynamic involved in the raising and shaping of each over-achiever is documented. Extensive Bibliography included; this book is everything we would have expected from a Harvard graduate, bravo and "Encore!"

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  • A Secret History of Witches by Morgan, Louisa
    ★☆☆☆☆

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Apr 10, 2018

    Tagged: Fiction

    I had such high hopes for this book, but they were dashed again and again.  The story opens in Brittany and soon moves to Cornwall, settings that should have been a compelling part of the story.  

    A Secret History of Witches chronicles the story of a family, the Orchires, as they pass on knowledge of their religion from mother to daughter.  I had a difficult time finding a character I actually liked and I made it up until the last 100 or so pages.  When one character's mother is murdered due to her betrayal, instead of using this as a way to connect to the emotional life of the character, the story just skips a few decades and moves on.  There is a lot of antagonism between the mothers and daughters in this book.  Rarely is love expressed.  Cruelty seems to be the norm.  This could have been a rich and interesting story.  Instead it was boring and a waste of time.

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  • The Winter People by McMahon, Jennifer
    ★★★☆☆

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Apr 10, 2018

    Tagged: Fiction

    The Winter People ties together a mysterious death in 1908 with the current disappearance of Alice Washburne.  Alice's teenage daughter, Ruthie, must try to unravel the mystery of what happened to her mother.  Ruthie's little sister, Fawn, discovers secret hiding spots in the house where she finds all manner of mysterious items.  Part mystery and part horror story, this book keeps the reader's interest until the end.  I was surprised not to like it more than I did, however.  

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  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Chbosky, Stephen
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Apr 10, 2018

    Tagged: Fiction

    Told in a series of letters to an anonymous reader, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, chronicles Charlie's first year in high school.  Charlie is sensitive and analyzes everything, but he also sees things that other often miss.  I chose this book because it was listed in an introvert-INFJ forum and I can certainly see why.  Charlie is often overwhelmed by his emotions and what he sees going on around him.  He feels the pain of the world and can't let it go.  But along the way he does makes some really good friends and manages to come out on the other side of his troubles stronger and more confident.

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  • Speaks the Nightbird by McCammon, Robert R
    ★★★★☆

    Reviewed by Teresa G on Apr 10, 2018

    Tagged: Fiction

    Speaks the Nightbird tells the story of a settlement in Colonial North Carolina where, when murder and other terrible crimes occur, a woman is accused of witchcraft.  When a magistrate sent to investigate the claims disappears without a trace Magistrate Isaac Woodward and his assistant, Matthew Corbett, are sent to Fount Royal to discover what is going on.  An encounter at an inn along the way from Charles Town to Fount Royal almost costs them their lives, but through luck and quick thinking they make it to Fount Royal, naked, but alive.  

    Magistrate Woodward takes ill and is close to death leaving Matthew to investigate.  It is obvious that Fount Royal's founder, Robert Bidwell, wants the matter resolved with the hanging of Rachel Howarth, guilty or not.  And, he expects it to be done quickly.  Matthew has doubts from the beginning about Rachel's guilt.  Uncertain of his own beliefs in the validity of witchcraft, he must try to find both the answers he seeks as well as a way to hold the angry townspeople at bay until the truth is uncovered.  As he delves deeper and deeper in the lives of the town's residents he learns some of them are not who they seem and others want to hide things from their past at all costs.

    I was thoroughly engaged in this book from the beginning.  It is well researched and tells a compelling and interesting story.  Plot twists and surprises keep the reader wanting more.  The reason I couldn't give it a full five stars is that the ending comes rather abruptly and doesn't feel entirely believable.  While the bulk of the book's 726 pages takes place in just a few days with almost every detail along the way being detailed, the resolution to the mystery at the center of the book is handled in several "behind the scenes" events that don't fit in with the detailed account that comes before.  Given the personalities of several of the characters the "happily ever after" ending seems contrived.  

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  • Age of ambition : chasing fortune, truth, and faith in the new China by Osnos, Evan,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on Apr 7, 2018

    Tagged: History

    Age of Ambition by Kranos is ambitious from start to finish. Hellbent on giving a complete, accurate, modern account of
    what China has experienced throughout the past 50years Kranos is the ideal auteur d'exellence to leave no stone uncovered. Tracing a wide panoply of individuals who lived radical lives; from Taiwanese defectors turned intellectuals, to 
    the artist Ai Wei Wei, Deng Xiao Ping and current President Xi Jing Ping, we are left with a masterful portrait of all 
    the complex issues arrising in a market economy when power can be bought and dissent can be squashed. Nonobstant, Krasnos offers a thrillingly objectivist glimpse of communist biographical vignettes. These jarring protagonists are juxtaposed as astoundingly good products inter-acting within the current system despite the under-current of party politics which have turned sour and how modern media plays an important role in sequestering the power of the mighty. This book is likely 'nearly banned' on the mainland as it exposes widespread corruption. I advise readers to read a hard-copy in USA, do not bring it to the Mainland when you fly. For the curious non-asian enthusiast the names will be hard to keep track of as they all sound similar but please persevere nevertheless in the name of universal freedom.

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  • In order to live : a North Korean girl's journey to freedom by Park, Yeonmi,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on Apr 7, 2018

    Tagged: Biography & Autobiography Literature New Americans Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Digital Collections Social Science

    In Order To Live by Naomi Park is a fast read and completely spell-binding. This book will either paint an accurate
    detailed account of life in the far northern territory annexed from China which is North Korea for the unfamiliar, or bring
    back sensitive memories for anyone who has ever been to the Gobi desert whether tourist or refugee. This book is a historical
    novel and real life is stranger than fiction in a tangled economy where people can be sold, reunited, smuggled, saved and
    rescued for generations systemically. This is the cutting edge best-seller on the taboo topic of human-trafficing women
    have been waiting for. This book is in a category to itself; Ms. Park's riveting life bypasses even Sheryl WuDunn's 'Women
    Hold Up Half The Sky' (exact title: Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide) which is perhaps the only recommended similar reading which can hold a candle to this biography. 

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  • Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, Ray,

    Reviewed by Laura M on Mar 14, 2018

    Tagged: Technology

    A classic and things are classic for a reason. Bradbury is a storyteller and not a poet and I love poets more, but, I think about this book frequently. I am reminded of the 3D entertainment projections every time I turn on my "smart" TV. I think about the personal surveillance when I see crime and traffic cameras. Recently, as there have been calls to punish Americans for criticizing public officials I shudder and think of Fahrenheit 451.

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  • Bones Season 12, The final chapter
    ★★☆☆☆

    Reviewed by Robert N on Jan 19, 2018

    Tagged: Movies & Television

    An abbreviated, half-length season for a show that burned out creatively years ago. All the expected impending finale gags are here - returning recurring guest stars, recycled plot devices, cameos from departed cast members, weddings, funerals, set destruction, and hastily and improbably completed story arcs.  Squeezing so many cliched tropes into only half season is actually the most impressive part of it.  Watch if you're a completist, but you lose nothing by skipping it - most fans gave up several seasons ago.

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  • The Dark tower
    ★☆☆☆☆

    Reviewed by Robert N on Jan 19, 2018

    Tagged: Movies & Television

    A series of eight doorstoper novels are reduced to a 95 minute movie, and the end results please neither casual nor rabid fans.  By faithfully adapting none of the entries in the series the producers exhibited a shortsighted cash-grab philosophy that practicaly eliminates the possibility of any sequels as well. If you enjoy the novels, you won't like this, and if you are unfamiliar with the books there are better films to spend your time with.

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  • Wonder boys
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Ellen A on Jan 18, 2018

    Tagged: Fiction

    Wonder boys is my favorite movie. Ever wondered what your academic professors' real life is like outside the classroom? Fear not. Tobey McGuire (without any spandex) and Michael Douglas (followed by his cannabis cloud) are here to rescue you from the banal existance of suburbia and show you what real writers' lives look like. Did you ever punk something just so you could write about it? This movie will give you the courage to get away with whatever you want to get away with in life. mischevious Hollywood ending.

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  • Michael Chabon's The escapists by Vaughan, Brian K.,
    ★★★★★

    Reviewed by Robert N on Jan 16, 2018

    Tagged: Comics & Graphic Novels

    An amazing tale on its own merits, and accessible without familiarity with the source material.

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  • Valerian and the city of a thousand planets
    ★☆☆☆☆

    Reviewed by Robert N on Jan 16, 2018

    Tagged: Movies & Television

    The visuals are stunning, but everything else is a mess. The two leads have no chemistry and can barely act, the script is wooden and stilted, the plot is nonsensical, and the supporting cast (aside from the surprising turns from Ethan Hawke and Rhianna) is unremarkable. The opening world building is wonderful but after that prologue, everthing goes  downhill. It's quite disappointing considering how enjoyable Luc Besson's films have been in the past, but the msot fun you will have with this one is pointing out all of the recycled sci-fi tropes and imagining how much better the film would have been with Bruce Willis and Milla Jojovich starring in it as a sequel to The Fifth Element.

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