Rosemary’s pale shadow bébé

Oi. Wassup. I’m in a foul mood, for a variety of reasons. And in order to prevent further trouble, I am rewatching Deadwood (yet again) while typing loudly to make sure everything – and everyone – else stays silent.

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So have a fucking book review. Hmmmmm… maybe, Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. Let’s fucking do this.

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Cover Talk

I hate all of the Sager covers. They’re just lazy. And that colour is vile.

The Summary Heist

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

Robyn Says

Ugh. I had such high hopes for this one. Just as I’ve had for every Sager book. And like his first two books, this one also let me down.

It started off very strong, with sufficient overtones of Rosemary’s Baby to keep me reading, but I loathed every character, thought the premise of the novel was flimsy, and, when I came to the reveal, wanted to burn this book to a pile of disappointing ashes.

This isn’t horror. It isn’t even mystery. It’s a weekday afternoon showing of a B-movie with all the suspense of an episode of Friends. It’s a lukewarm cup of Ovaltine in book form. Shit. Listening to my grandma talk about the petty intrigues and rivalries of her neighbours was more entertaining, and had a fuckton more suspense than this watered down paint-by-numbers bullshit.

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Verdict

Don’t read it. Read the OG fucked-up hotel story, Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin. Shit, read a goddamn Goosebumps. Any one of them will give you a more compelling narrative than this.

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Best Lines

I will never ever remember to take notes while I read, will I? And this is where my website soulmate comes in. Goodreads, what have you?

“Never take anything you haven’t earned, my father used to say. You always end up paying for it one way or another.”

Sure, why not.

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Fancasting couch

Jules

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Resting Idiot Face

Greta

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We stan

Dr. Nick

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Hot diggity damn.

Book Boyfriend material

Dr. Nick, obviously. Listen, I know he turned out to be a murderous organ-harvesting bastard, but he’s a single doctor of marriageable age with dead parents and a penthouse overlooking Central Park, so really… Dr. Nick.

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Clark Sex-King Gable

Rating

Two out of 10 idiot jobless millennials who’d probably willingly sell a kidney or two to get out of debt in a futile attempt to escape the crushing hellscape wrought by the heartless capitalist model of modern Western society.

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

I don’t give a fuck what colour my fucking couch is, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m told what colour my fucking couch will be, if you know what I mean.

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– xo, R

 

 

How now, spirit!

Words, as promised!

The reading blitz continues – yes, I’m as surprised as you are. Who would have imagined that married life would afford so much time to spend in fictional words. Although here’s a hard truth for us all – curling up with a good book and some tea is just NOT THE SAME when you don’t have a cat or two with you. And I intend to remedy that very soon, indeed.

Just, um, don’t tell Georgie.

Today I’m talking about a book I was very excited for: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. Let’s boogie!

Wanderers

Cover Talk

Meh. I don’t hate it, but man, I would have gone for something way more interesting (I mean, compare this to the covers for Wendig’s Miriam Black novels). This is just so effing boring. And believe me, this book is anything but boring. Feels like a late Stephen King cover rip-off… and that was probably intentional.

The Summary Heist

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Robyn Says

I liked this one, guys. Wendig is hit or miss for me – I loved his early Miriam Black books but hated where the series went, and I was lukewarm on his latest releases. But I think he’s a very strong writer with a distinct and entertaining voice, and I was really eager to read this one, considering the subject matter and the frequent (and justified) comparisons to The Stand.

It’s classic Wendig – the writing is the standout here, quick and nimble and unputdownable. The most notable thing about this book was how fast I read it, and how much I wanted to be reading it when I wasn’t. And it was enjoyable – I had fun, and I wanted to know what was going to happen. I mean, I read 800+ pages in a few days – if that doesn’t tell you something…

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While I really enjoyed this book, I had a few issues. The strongest thing about Wanderers is the story, and the potential end to civilization that is envisions. You read to find out what’s going to happen next. However, while the characters were, for the most part, richly drawn and complex, I didn’t really care about them. And they weren’t all compelling – I may be alone on this one but I felt the entire Pete storyline was redundant. I ended up skimming those portions. They served no real purpose and made the story drag.

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I also had felt the pacing was uneven. The story took some time to start, and even halfway through I felt like we were still being “set up” for the actual events. And then there was the, um, shall we say “objectionable” content. I expect profanity and violence from Wendig, so that was no surprise, but the rape in this one was a little too gratuitous for my taste, and the hyper-realistic portrayal of religious extremists and white nationalists – fucking Nazis – was chilling, given the world we live in right now.

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And the final plot twist was batshit fucking crazy, no question. And not really satisfying from a narrative standpoint. And fucking infuriating from a reader’s standpoint, too, tbh.

But the good remains – a well-written, interesting story that is easy to read, full of pop culture references, apocalypse tropes, and strong, well-researched science… and a depiction of a  crumbling world close enough to the one we currently inhabit to be genuinely frightening.

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I will also add – this book is already being compared to The Stand but in my opinion, the only similarities is that they are both door-stopper books about the apocalypse. That’s it. This one only has a whiff of SFF, heavy emphasis on the S (science, for you non genre nerds.) I would have preferred more speculative aspects, actually… less frightening than the grimly realistic world Wendig has painted. (As for which book is better, well, as much I dislike current King, there’s no beating classic King.

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Verdict

Read it. Pretty effing scary, and overall, an enjoyable read.

Best Lines

Oh, lordy, you know I forgot to track this. Wendig’s a good writer, though, and there were some really great lines. Sampling from Goodreads in 3… 2… 1…

“…the outside air was so hot and so humid it felt like you were the meat in a sandwich whose bread was the Devil’s moist thighs.” 

Ah, classic Wendig. And fitting, too, for the current temperature outside. *Cough* global warming is here and we’re all doomed *cough*

Fancasting couch

Benji

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Omar Epps, you’re welcome

Shana

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The hick vibes are strong with this one

Matthew

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Everything is better with a lil bit of Walton

Ozark

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Rip, Opie

Pete

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Ugh

Black Swan

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Don’t @ me

Book Boyfriend material

Listen, I’m gonna go with my gut and say NO ONE. Everyone in this book is horrible with just a enough redeeming qualities that they’re not straight up evil, with a few glaring exceptions… pretty much like real life, ha ha ha, hashtag is it pessimism or is it realism, WHAT.

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Rating

Eight out of 10 sentient computer programs. Oops.

ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

I’ve been waiting forever for this moment to come… When it all goes to shit, you guys know where to meet.

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– xo, R

 

 

Honeymoon reads

Ahoy, mateys. Now that the wedding is done and I never have to plan anything ever again, I am back to my normal level of stress – and my normal level of reading. In the week running up to the wedding and the week after, I actually put quite a dent in my TBR pile. Pre-wedding, I needed to distract myself from worrying about all of many terrifying ways in which everything could go wrong. Post-wedding, I spent a lot of time travelling with my new husband (!!!!!) – first we flew to L.A., and didn’t even end up sitting together on the plane, FYI, and then we drove to Corona, California, to visit G’s family there. We also took a three-day vacation-within-a-vacation to Las Vegas so I could live out my Sharon Stone fantasies, which was a 5-hour drive each way.

So I spent a lot of time reading, both physical books and ebooks. Actually,  ebooks were a lifesaver on this trip. I jumped from one book to another, and if I’d packed everything I ended up reading, I would have definitely been over the airline’s allotted weight for checked luggage, considering I spent about 2 million dollars on souvenirs at Disneyland.

Anyway. Here’s a few of the books I read, and what I thought of them, with bonus WWDITS gifs, because why the hell not.

1. Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Hated it. Over-hyped hipster nonsense. Wasn’t even well-written.

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Rating: 2/10

2. The Ghost Notebooks by Ben Dolnick

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So slow and sooooo forgettable. No ghosts OR notebooks, wtf.

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Rating: 2/10

3. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

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I’ve had this one for ages. It got so many positive reviews from people whose bookish opinions usually align with mine – and it has library in the title – but I was just never in the right mood to start this one, until suddenly, I was. This book did NOT disappoint – it was weird and interesting and different from anything else I’ve read. It was also a hell of a page-turner. My new hubby was a teeeeny bit sulky that I was spending more time at the Library at Mount Char than I was with him 😉 Anyway, I strongly recommend this one, but it’s quite dark. Even I had to put aside a few times, and that’s kind of impressive.

Rating: 8/10

4. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

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Loved this one. Another library book – this one about a librarian accidentally kidnaps a kid and goes rogue. Overtones of Russian-flavoured nostalgia, which is 100% my jam.

Rating: 9/10

5. Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith

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I mean, was there any question that I was going to go on my honeymoon and NOT read the greatest love story every written about a human woman and an insectoid alien occupying an unabashed District 9 AU? No. No there was not.

Rating: 10/10, obvs.

Adios, chicitos. Next up, a monster review of a monster book that is, alas, not actually about monsters.

– xo, R

Nonverbal Referral: Okay okay okay okayyyyy

No time for actual words, I am losing my mind, someone send cake or a teeny tiny mushroom sprite who can grant wishes and plan weddings.

Today I’m nonverbally reviewing Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, which pretty hyped in my gothy little neck of the bookstagram woods.

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The Summary Heist:

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs—particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

A story at once mythic and strikingly timely, Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the “primitive minds” of our ancestors. 

Sounds good, right?

The Nonverbal Referral:

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Pleasantly surprising! Can’t ask for more!! That’s it, that’s the review!!!

To quote the amazing and witty blogger that is myself, back eventually with actual words.

– xo, R

No thank you please

Hey hey, my tender chicken dumplings. Did you know it’s possible for a (generally) sane, (relatively) even-tempered, (ostensibly) rational adult, human woman to have a nervous breakdown over 3 yards of tulle? IT’S TRUE, don’t ask me how I know.

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As you can see, I’m on a reading and blogging roll, thanks to the INDESCRIBABLE STRESS I’M UNDER. Silver linings, etc.

Today, let’s talk about a book by a new literary “wunderkind” (ugh). It’s Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Prepare to get salty!

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Cover Talk

Hate it. That colour is offensive to my artistic sensibilities. And one of those women is missing a shoulder, mate.

The Summary Heist

A sharply intelligent novel about two college students and the strange, unexpected connection they forge with a married couple.

Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed, and darkly observant. A college student and aspiring writer, she devotes herself to a life of the mind–and to the beautiful and endlessly self-possessed Bobbi, her best friend and comrade-in-arms. Lovers at school, the two young women now perform spoken-word poetry together in Dublin, where a journalist named Melissa spots their potential. Drawn into Melissa’s orbit, Frances is reluctantly impressed by the older woman’s sophisticated home and tall, handsome husband. Private property, Frances believes, is a cultural evil–and Nick, a bored actor who never quite lived up to his potential, looks like patriarchy made flesh. But however amusing their flirtation seems at first, it gives way to a strange intimacy neither of them expect.As Frances tries to keep her life in check, her relationships increasingly resist her control: with Nick, with her difficult and unhappy father, and finally even with Bobbi. Desperate to reconcile herself to the desires and vulnerabilities of her body, Frances’s intellectual certainties begin to yield to something new: a painful and disorienting way of living from moment to moment.

Robyn Says

No no no no no. Did not like AT ALL. This was basically my literary hate fuck. Pretentious beyond description. AND WHERE WERE THE QUOTATION MARKS?

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A bunch of rotten, poorly crafted characters, created with the mistaken belief that flaws equal depth and complexity. A nothing plot. Bloodless, half-assed writing. Enough occurrences of the words socialism and communism to make me want to blind myself. A maybe-baby-turned-diagnosis-of-endometriosis sub-plot. Stereotypical views on millennial conceptions of sexuality. Shitty sex scenes. God, burn this fucking book and scatter the ashes to the winds. Fuck me, can we stop with this shit? Halfway to thinking that the fastest way to become a literary success is to scrawl a few poorly punctuated, carelessly written stories about miserable people bumping gentialia and being miserable together. I HATE IT.

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Verdict

DO NOT READ IT.

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Best Lines

NO.

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Fancasting couch

JE REFUSE.

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Book Boyfriend material

LITERALLY NO ONE.

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Rating

One (1) out of 10 literary “wunderkinds” ew gross ew ew ew

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

ERASE THIS FROM MY MEMORY AND MY GOODREADS HISTORY, GOOD DAY TO YOU.

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– xo, R

 

 

NONFICTION BENEDICTION: Booooooooooooks

Greetings, internet-lings. Yes, I am back on the blogging bullshit, witness me, etc etc. Things are happening, and as always, I keep a tenuous grip on sanity by shoving as many words-units in front of my eyeballs as possible. And aside from the usual personal woes and worries, we’re in the middle of a weeding blitz at work, and it is the WORST. I hate getting rid of books, even when they’re not my books (a thought so ghastly I refuse to even acknowledge it).

Today, I’m talking about a book about one of my favourite topics: books. It’s The Library Book  by Susan Orlean.

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Cover Talk

Boring? Classy?? Both?????

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The Summary Heist

On the morning of April 28, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

Robyn Says

I don’t even know what to say. This book is amazing. I loved the double narratives: the mirco level investigation into the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library’s central branch, and the macro level story of libraries, from their beginnings as private lending collections to the monumental industry shift that occurred in the 19th century, to the strange, ever-evolving role they play in modern society. Orlean touches on so many different topics and yet somehow, the entire book feels perfectly cohesive.

And it is stunning prose. She is an amazing writer, with a gift for describing the institution of the public library in a way that feels at once familiar and fresh. My favourite passages were the ones that described the peculiar, almost magical atmosphere of the public library, which is somehow exactly the same no matter which library you go to.

I mean, obviously, I’m incredibly biased. This book was basically written for someone like me, who as a child saw the library as a safe haven, a refuge from the chaos of an abusive household, a place to get books, which were the ultimate form of escape from a troubling reality, and then grew up idolizing (and idealizing) the public library as a sacred space, and who even now, working in the library profession, when all illusions ought to come crashing down, remains blessed with a wholehearted belief in the  indisputable importance of the library in any healthy, functioning society.

But it’s also just a really fucking awesome book. and if you’re reading this blog, you must have some appreciation for books and libraries, or else why would you even be here dude, and so I say to, GET THEE TO THE LIBRARY.

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Verdict

READ. IT. It’s a book about books, what more do you want?

Best Lines

Every single line of this book was amazing. Some favourites:

“The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.” 

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“All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here I am, please tell me your story; here is my story, please listen.” 

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It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured, collected here, and in all libraries — and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up–not just stopped but saved.” 

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“People think that libraries are quiet, but they really aren’t. They rumble with voices and footsteps and a whole orchestral range of book-related noises—the snap of covers clapping shut; the breathy whisk of pages fanning open; the distinctive thunk of one book being stacked on another; the grumble of book carts in the corridors.” 

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“The publicness of the public library is an increasingly rare commodity. It becomes harder all the time to think of places that welcome everyone and don’t charge any money for that warm embrace.”

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Fancasting couch

Los Angeles Central Library

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Book Boyfriend material

Mary L. Jones, City Librarian and HBIC

Mary L. Jones

Basically she pissed off  her board of directors, who then decided to fire her and replace her with a man. She wrote the following to her mentor, Melvil Dewey : “I am asked to resign to make way for a MAN.” When she was fired, she refused to resign or surrender the keys to the library, saying : “At first it was my inclination immediately to yield to the request relayed upon me by the president. But, upon reflection, I have concluded that it would not be fitting for me to tender my resignation as the head of a department where only women are employed. When such a resignation is tendered solely on the grounds that the best interests of the department demand that its affairs no longer be administered by a woman. Ever since the adoption of the present city charter, the library has been presided over by a woman with a staff of assistants composed exclusively of women.”

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Rating

Nine and a half out of 10 books about books about books about books about –

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ROBYN’S FINAL THOUGHT

Sometimes, I tell my fiance that I love him more than books… and sometimes, I tell the books I love them more than… er, as much as my fiance. Yes. “As much.”

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– xo, R