John Gaines

04/10/2013 - 10:49pm
Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer

One of the most popular humanitarian nonfiction books of the 2000s was Greg Mortenson’s best seller Three Cups of TeaThree Cups of Tea was marketed as a call for humanitarian aid to impoverished Central Asian nations such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Mortenson’s life story of dedicating himself to providing education to the people of Central Asia was the emotional connection that sold many readers on the book.  Mortenson traveled across the U.S., giving lectures, setting up charities to provide money for his Central Asia Institute (CAI), and appearing on numerous talk shows to promote his book.  As beautiful as his humanitarian mission seemed, it was ultimately revealed as too good to be true by writer Jon Krakauer, whose expose Three Cups of Deceit explored the lies in Mortenson’s story and the lack of effectiveness in the CAI’s schools program.  Although Three Cups of Deceit can be a depressing read at times, it also makes for a fascinating study in media awareness and image manipulation.

03/26/2013 - 8:18am
The Grimm Reader by Maria Tatar

Modernized versions of traditional fairy tales have become popular in recent years, with television series such as ABC’s Once Upon a Time and graphic novels such as Bill Willingham’s Fables providing creative and original narratives utilizing characters and concepts from old folk tales. Although popular, these newer variations on older fairy tales have created controversy for altering the traditional characterizations and stories that many people grew up with. This exposes a major flaw in many people’s understanding of fairy tales and traditional folk culture—which versions are the “most correct” version of the story, and why? Maria Tatar’s The Grimm Reader is a collection of many of the traditional fairy tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm, providing an English translation of some of the oldest written versions of these stories.  Notable for being far more violent than the “traditional” versions of the fairy tales popularized in the Victorian period (and later, by Disney films), the typical Grimm story is a combination of children in jeopardy, adults that range from neglectful to destructive, and flat narrative that is driven by plot rather than by characterization.

03/19/2013 - 3:31am
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

What was it that defined the 1960s and made it one of the most important decades of the 20th century?  This question is often asked, even by those who lived through its tumultuous events. Many classic novels portrayed and influenced the counterculture of the 1960s, including Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Another classic novel indelibly linked the culture of the 1960s was The Crying of Lot 49, one of Thomas Pynchon’s earliest works.  Supposedly the story of a woman seeking to sort out the estate of her dead boyfriend’s will, The Crying of Lot 49 is a kaleidoscopic narrative that ventures through centuries-spanning conspiracies, bizarre characters, and an American rock band desperately pretending to be part of the British Invasion.  One of Pynchon’s earliest and shortest novels, The Crying of Lot 49 is a surreal whirlwind of 1960s literature.

04/22/2013 - 11:50am
Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison

Military science fiction has been a major part of the science fiction genre since the publication of Robert A. Heinlein’s classic Starship Troopers in 1959.  For the most part, military science fiction is not thought of as humorous, but one exception to this rule is Harry Harrison’s hilarious satirical novel Bill the Galactic Hero.  The story of a cowardly, naïve, and none-too-bright young man who becomes an unwitting enlistee in a deadly, galaxy-spanning war, Harrison’s novel is filled with deadpan humor, bizarre situations, and satire of the conventions of military science fiction.

02/15/2013 - 3:33am
The Expats by Chris Pavone

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Expats by Chris Pavone is an international spy thriller about a former CIA agent who moves with her family to Luxembourg where everything is suspicious and nothing is as it seems.

If you like The Expats, you may also like these titles:

An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer
When the CIA's Department of Tourism is dismantled by an elaborate Chinese intelligence scheme that has caused numerous agent deaths, survivor Milo Weaver is placed at risk by his former boss, Alan Drummond, who uses one of Milo's aliases to exact revenge. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

 

The Blackhouse by Peter May
When a grisly murder occurs on a Scottish island, Edinburgh detective Fin Macleod must confront his past if he is ever going to discover if the killing has a connection to another one that took place on the mainland. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

 

02/08/2013 - 6:50am
The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen: Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew--a reclusive, real-life gentle giant--she realizes that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life.

If you enjoyed this book, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The antics of a group of women in a small town where they were expected to raise babies, not Cain. The story is recounted by a mother to a daughter, the daughter thinking she is so much better because she got out of that town and is now a theater producer. The moral: mothers too were once rebels. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

Julia's Chocolates by Cathy Lamb
Cathy Lam has created a passel of characters so weirdly wonderful that you want to hang out with them all day just to see what they'll do next. It's a ride that's both hilarious and poignant, and all the while you cling to the edge of the pick up truck because you'll want to make sure you stay in for the whole trip. (worldcat.org)

 

 

 

02/05/2013 - 9:58am
Dracula: Prince of Many Faces

Although most people are aware that the fictional character of Count Dracula was based on a real person, very few people in the U.S. know the details of his life and how he was viewed by the Romanian people today. The political career, battles, and world that the historical Prince Dracula lived in remain a source of enigmatic fascination for the vast majority of people who associate the name with the classic film starring Bela Lugosi. Radu Florsecu’s biography of the historical Dracula, Dracula: Prince of Many Faces, illuminates the true events of Dracula’s life and compares and contrasts them to Bram Stoker’s classic novel.

01/23/2013 - 9:17pm
Windows 8 graphic

2012 saw the debut of the latest version of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8.  Windows 8 debuted in an unusually tense atmosphere for a Windows device, as “Wintel” (Windows PCs powered by Intel processors) faced unprecedented threats from tablets and smartphones in the marketplace.  Windows 8 PCs faced sales declines over the 2012 holiday period, and the changes in the interface of Windows 8 from Windows 7 have been a major cause of concern for many consumers. Questions such as, “How can I find my old files if I upgrade to Windows 8?” and “Will Steam run in Windows 8?” are extremely common. Another common topic for questions is the difference between Windows 8—the operating system for conventional Windows desktop and laptop PCs, and Windows RT—the operating system for Windows tablets.  In this article, let’s take a look at how compatibility in Windows 8 works and what the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT mean.

01/16/2013 - 1:58pm

It’s no secret that the newspaper and magazine industries are under a period of terrible financial stress, as I reported in my article, "Where Have All the Magazines Gone?"  Since then, even more magazines and newspapers have ceased publication of their printed format, including Newsweek at the end of 2012. As print magazines and newspapers become less viable, the companies that run them face a vexing choice—rely on Internet advertising on an open site for funding or charge fees for access to a pay wall site that inherently limits the size of their audience.  Inspired by the New York Times’ recent implementation of a pay wall, many news magazines are implementing or plan to implement pay walls, including the Washington Post.  As consumers, many find the concept of formerly free sites implementing viewing restrictions on content frustrating and counterproductive to their desire to know what’s going on in the world.  But does it even benefit the companies themselves in the long run?  Financial magazines and Wall Street praise the Times’ pay wall as the future, but the overall history of success for pay wall news sites is considerably less hopeful than it may first appear.

01/02/2013 - 8:42am
How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

Have you ever wanted to become a writer and brave the strange and confusing world of trying to sell your work to the publishing industry? Do you feel you might need a refresher course in creating a marketable thriller or romance novel?  If you are curious about improving your writing technique to make your work more compelling, concise, or appealing to publishers, you may benefit from How Not to Write a Novel, a writing guide from Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman.  This guide is a compilation of examples of common writing mistakes that can make novels confusing, boring, or unappealing to read.  Humorous and well-organized, this book is both a great educational resource and a good comedic read.

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