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Book Review: The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

fifth-season

I picked up The Fifth Season for two reasons: one, it’s by N. K. Jemisin, whose Inheritance Trilogy I greatly enjoyed, and two, it recently won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Those two reasons are why when I was tempted to put the book down and walk away (twice in the first fifty pages), I kept going.

The Fifth Season starts slow, or as slow as a book that starts with a murder and a cataclysm can. The story is told from three different perspectives, and each viewpoint character (and their supporting cast) needs to be introduced. One viewpoint is told entirely in the second person. There is a lot of setup.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of payoff, too. Jemisin is really good at fitting things together, at making these disparate accounts converge in a satisfying way. She’s a master of world-building – the Stillness feels rich and alive, with a deep history.

The Fifth Season takes place in a world that is literally coming apart. Earthquakes and volcanoes are a constant threat, and everyone knows the rules for living through a “fifth season”  – an extra-long winter brought on by the ash and dust kicked up by an event. Orogenes are people with the power to control the earth, and they are used to quiet quakes and protect the empire.

This is not a happy story. It begins with the murder of one child and the loss of another. Orogones are seen as monsters or tools to be controlled rather than human, and that attitude is reflected in their treatment.  The school for orogones is like a Hogwarts run entirely by Umbridges. The empire is built on a system of castes and oppression. And from the beginning, the book tells you this is a story of the end.

Oh, but what an end.

Read if you like: interesting magic systems, deep world-building, diverse characters.

Avoid if you don’t like: Constant impending doom.

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…A Look Forward

Summer Preview – The Mr. Gette Version

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Ah, Summer! A time to relax, rejuvenate, and – of course – read! I’m going to be traveling this summer, so I wanted to make sure my Kindle was packed with diverse and interesting titles. And I’ve got my eye on a few books on the shelves as well…

Afterparty, by Daryl Gregory: This is cheating a bit, since I read it over Memorial Day weekend. A scientist who’s been in and out of mental institutions after overdosing on her own drug tries to stop said drug from being made again. Which is heard in a a future where drug recipes can be downloaded from the internet and printed to order on chemical printers. Oh, and the drug makes you see God. It’s a fun book, with deeply strange characters.

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie: Won the Clarke, won the Nebula, a finalist for the HugoI want to read this so badly.  An AI which used to control a spaceship and thousands of bodies is now limited to just one. A space-opera revenge story.

Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer: Four women form an expedition in an attempt to explore the mysterious Area X – and maybe find out what happened to the previous ten expeditions.

Bellfield Hall, by Anna Dean: Regency period historical mystery. Caught my eye because it had a starred review on Kirkus. And I love historical mysteries. (On Kindle)

Charm and Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn: A boy with anger issues thinks there’s a wolf inside him. There’s some central mystery here, and I can’t wait to find out what it is. (On Kindle)

Company of Liars, by Karen Maitland: The Canterbury Tales, but with more plague. (On Kindle)

Death of a Dyer, by Eleanor Kuhns: Did I mention that I like historical mysteries? This is the sequel to A Simple Murder which I read and enjoyed last summer. (On Kindle)

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison: An exiled prince becomes emperor when the rest of his family is killed, and is dropped into an unfamiliar world full of palace intrigue. It’s been getting rave reviews. (On Kindle)

Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker: Two magical creatures from different mythologies and cultures meet in turn of the century New York City. Also it is blue.

Longbourne, by Jo Baker: Pride and Prejudice, from the servants’ point of view. Oh, Jane Austen fanfiction. (On Kindle)

Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson: The Junior School went crazy for Steelheart this year (there was an actual fight over it at one of the Bookmobiles). Sanderson is famous for his inventive magic systems. And I love a good thief tale.

The Ocean at the End of the Laneby Neil Gaiman: Given my massive Neil Gaiman fanboyism, I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet. (On Kindle)

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab: Superpowers! Prison breaks! College!  (On Kindle)

 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler: Any book that is supposed to be outrageously funny is good with me. When she’s five, Rosemary’s twin sister Fern disappears. If you read anything about this book, even the cover, it gives the twist away, but I won’t spoil it here.  (On Kindle)

Winger, by Andrew Smith: I enjoyed Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle and the creepy The Marbury Lens. And Winger’s drawings make me think of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, which I adore.  (On Kindle)

Books that I forgot about until I read Ms. Barrow’s blog post:

Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell – How could I forget about Rainbow Rowell?! And Landline comes out in July…

So that’s my preliminary list. We’ll see what else catches my eye as the summer goes on.

You can see my summer reading list on Goodreads.

Signing off, Mr. Gette (who checked out Annihilation today! Take that, Barrows!)

 

Junior School Bookmobile: October Spooktacular

Photo credit: Justin Snow via Flickr

Photo credit: Justin Snow via Flickr

JB: Fall foliage → Trees → Books. Fall should make you think of books…because they are made from trees.

KG: Except for Kindle books. Those are made from Benjamin Franklin and kites.

JB: PRINTING PRESS! PRINTING PRESS! Ben Franklin can also remind you of REAL BOOKS.

KG: Everything makes you think of books. Coffee? Curling up with a book. Clouds? That one looks like a book. Taking books up to Thompson so students can check them out and read them over the weekend? Makes you think of books, for some weird reason.

JB: Mmmmmmm books. I have been gently brainwashed to think only of books, have you? You have? Excellent. Good news. We have done our jobs.

KG: And since you’re as obsessed with books as we are, you should join us this Thursday (that’s tomorrow!) at 12:10 in the Thompson South Atrium (that’s on the left).

JB: Mr. Gette and myself (Ms. Barrows) will be laden with books and Kindles, so please stop by and pick out a book (or books) to enjoy over the long weekend.

KG: If you’d like to get a preview of what will be available (and plan out what you’d like to get), check out our J School Bookmobile shelf on Goodreads.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and Kit Gette (who are looking forward to seeing you tomorrow)

Calarco Library Welcomes You Back

*brushes off keyboard*

*takes vacuum to cobwebs*

*checks cautiously for mold*

*throws up shade*

KG: Hello, and welcome back to Hopkins! I hope you all had a good summer – I certainly did!

JB: Yes! My summer was filled with reading…and more reading. I never fail to fulfill my most beloved of librarian stereotypes.

KG: Whereas I managed not to read most of the stuff I said I would. But that’s a different post.

JB: Yes, let’s lament what we did or did not read on another day. For now, our only task is to welcome all students, faculty and staff back to the Calarco Library. So. Welcome.

KG: It’s the same four faces here at the library this year: Mrs. Prendergast, Mrs. Dubois, and, of course, Ms. Barrows and myself, Mr. Gette.

JB: For those new to Hopkins, we are providing a crash course in Calarco.

KG: The library is in Baldwin Hall, by the patio next to Hopkins House. We have two floors.

JB: Fiction and reference is upstairs, as well as some fantastically comfy seating, tables and computers.

KG: There’s also a reference desk, with an embedded librarian, for all your questions and book-finding needs.

JB: The librarian is actually part of the physical structure of the desk.

KG: Please bring snacks. For us.

JB: Non-fiction, DVDs and CDs are downstairs, as well as MORE computers, another desk with a structurally embedded librarian in need of snacks, study rooms, and the infamous library classroom.

KG: It’s haunted.

JB: With the research, papers, and presentations of projects past.

KG: We provide books, Kindles, DVDs, VHS (yes, still), and more, that can all be checked out and taken home with you. For a time. For use IN the library, we have computers, laptops, headphones, and textbooks. Also two copiers. And a lot of tissues.

JB: The structurally embedded librarians and the currently mobile ones eagerly await you! Especially the structurally embedded librarians – they get quite lonely.

KG: We love answering questions, as we are actually cyborgs that are wired into all of our databases.

JB: AND, as was alluded to earlier, we are benevolent book monsters

KG: B is for Book, that’s good enough for me.

JB: In your many travels today and during this first week, please stop by to visit the sideshow of librarians attached to desks, cyborgs, monsters, and more. For the many of you who will not peer cautiously inside this week, we hope to see you this year. And by “hope,” we actually mean, “We will see you this year, muawhahaha!”

KG: …Yes. Anyway. Happy first day, and happy learning, all!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and Kit Gette (who also need to dust off their blogging skills)

New Graphic Novels on the Kindle Fires!

Hello comic fans (and the rest of you, too)!

Today we added ten new titles to the Kindle Fires’ growing graphic novels collection. They are:

Batman: Year One – Frank Miller’s reimagining of Batman’s origin, though I would argue the real draw of the story is the tough-as-nails Jim Gordon. Year One was a definite influence on Christopher Nolan’s films, particularly Batman Begins.

A Contract With God – Will Eisner’s collection of four stories centered on a tenement in 1930’s Bronx. It is one of the earliest graphic novels.

Daytripper – a series of vignettes that move forwards and backwards through the life of an obituary writer, with one thing in common – he always dies at the end. A book about life, mortality, and the choices people make.

And then we have 7 more volumes of Neil Gaiman’s classic series, The Sandman, which follows Dream, one of the Endless, a group of seven beings that are the personifications of abstract powers. The series is full of literary and historical references (as well as pretty art). The new volumes are:

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes – chronicling the Dream Lord’s imprisonment and escape.

The Sandman: The Doll’s House – a tale filled with monsters both inhuman and all too human.

The Sandman: Dream Country – a collection of four stories including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the only comic to ever win the World Fantasy Award for short fiction.

The Sandman: A Game of You – revisits a character from A Doll’s House as she explores her childhood dream world.

The Sandman: Fables and Reflections – another collection of four stories.

The Sandman: Brief Lives – follows Delirium as she searches for her lost brother with the aid of a reluctant Dream.

The Sandman: World’s End – has strangers swapping stories in an inn where they’ve all taken shelter from an odd storm.

Which means we now have The Sandman, volumes 1-8 on the Kindle Fires. For readers new to the story, I would suggest skipping the first volume (Preludes and Nocturnes). While it is technically the start of the series, I find it rather different from the other volumes, and not the best introduction to the comics. Try Dream Country or Season of Mists.

Happy reading!

Here’s an example and explanation of the Panel View that Dr. Cox raved about. Demonstration starts at 1:08:

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who wants to be Jim Gordon when he grows up)

Tales of the Vagabond Library: Day 1

And so begins day one of the Vagabond Calarco Library. Our slogan: Calarco Library, Breaking the Mold. Witty, right?

Maybe I should back up and explain why there is such a flattering photo of myself and Mr. Gette imitating Santa…in September…with black trash bags…sans white beards. For those who do not already know, or for those who have fallen victim to that elusive beast known as the “rumor mill,” the Calarco Library facilities are temporarily closed due to elevated levels of mold. As of right now, the estimated time of closure is 10 school days.

Don’t fret! The Vagabond Library is up, running and ready for business. Maintenance kindly transfered 2 library laptop carts, textbooks, and a printer to Upper Heath this morning. Even more resources were carried up in those fashionable bags modeled in the photo above. At the bottom of the post is a FULL list of services, as well as some fantastic photos depicting the progress of our migration.

This is a great opportunity to remember that libraries AND librarians are so much more than books. A fellow school librarian, Buffy Hamilton, did a supremely awesome job of explaining what a library really is during her own dilemma last year.

While I love my physical library space, that is not what I’m trying distribute throughout my building, but instead, it’s the experience of library and myself,  the human resource and all the energy, expertise in many kinds of literacies, and desire to help students learn, that provides the most benefits to my school…As long as I have a space to teach in the building and the means to teach  teachers and students, I can bring the experience of library anywhere.

Not only do we still have the resources to offer books, magazines, databases and more, we still have…us! The physical library may be currently inactive, but the librarians certainly are not. Come visit us in Upper Heath for research assistance, technology help (Evernote, NoodleTools, Webspiration and more), printing, laptops, reading material, textbooks or a designated place to study.

We cannot be defeated. Seriously, did you think daring librarians of fortune would really be stopped by a bit of mold?

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Library Resources in Upper Heath (And Beyond!)

        • Textbooks
        • Laptops
        • Headphones
        • Printing
        • Kindles (books)
        • Kindle Fires (magazines)
        • Paper Magazines
        • Research Assistance

-Signing off, the slightly disheveled but definitely not disheartened librarian, Jenny Barrows

Choose Privacy Week: Facebook

Click on this image to enlarge and read the "fine print"

 photo credit: kristiewells via photo pin cc

Wired magazine’s Epicenter featured the article “Report: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Believe in Privacy on April 28, 2010. Written by Eliot van Buskirk, the article discussed Facebook and its tenuous relationship with privacy:

Facebook has been on a relentless quest over the past six months to become the center of identity and connections online. The site unilaterally decided last December that much of a user’s profile information, including the names of all their friends and the things they were “fans” of, would be public information — no exceptions or opt-outs allowed.

Buskirk goes on to explain that Zuckerberg defended the change as an effort to keep up with the openness of Twitter. Just prior to the publication of the Wired article, Facebook announced it was sending user profile information en mass to companies like Yelp and Pandora, which allows users to see personalized services if they are using one of the sites while logged into Facebook.

Around this time, Buskirk explains, Facebook began to push the then-new “Like” button.

Clicking that button sends that information to Facebook, which publishes it as part of what it calls the Open Graph, linking your identity to things you choose online. That information, in turn, is shared with whatever sites Facebook chooses to share it with — and to the sites you’ve allowed to access your profile.

 photo credit: Nouhailler via photo pin cc

The Wired article is just one of many broadcasting the contentious argument of Facebook privacy. A Google search of “Facebook privacy” reveals only a superficial exposure to the issues. The controversies are endless: Zuckerberg doesn’t value privacy, user information is made available to third-party applications, customizable privacy settings are buried and arduous, photos deleted as long as three years ago still exist on Facebook servers…the list goes on.

The Calarco Library wants to use this post as a way to 1. inform you of the privacy issues surrounding Facebook and 2. provide some how-to information that will help you protect your information while maintaining an active Facebook account.

Awareness

A small portion of the laundry list of privacy issues associated with Facebook was rattled off above, but let’s focus on two: customizable privacy settings and third-party apps.

http://mattmckeon.com/facebook-privacy/

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook via kwout

Content attributed to Matt McKeon

Here is a still image of an interactive infographic initially created by Matt McKeon, but improved over time through reader/user input (a crowd-sourced product). This image explains Facebook default privacy settings by displaying the default availability of any Facebook user’s information online in 2005. The most private level of availability is “You” (completely private) and the least private level is “The Entire Internet.” As of 2005, when Facebook became available on a large number of college/university campuses, nothing was available to “The Entire Internet.” Only Gender, Name, Default Picture, and Network were available to “All Facebook Users.” Take note that in 2005, “All Facebook Users” consisted only of individuals with university associations (i.e. a university/college e-mail account).

http://mattmckeon.com/facebook-privacy/

The Evolution of Privacy on Facebook via kwout

Content attributed to Matt McKeon

Let’s jump to April 2010. First, observe the availability of Facebook to Internet users. By this point, “All Facebook Users” had become anyone with an e-mail address, thereby decreasing privacy level of “All Facebook Users” and increasing the complexities of privacy level settings on Facebook. In 2005, default settings kept the bulk of user information at the “Network” level or lower. By 2010, everything except Birthday and Contact Info is available to “The Entire Internet” if you maintain the default privacy settings that are applied to a newly-created Facebook account.

A post on Electronic Frontier Foundation website titled Facebook’s Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline published April 28, 2010, explains the erosion of privacy on Facebook in plain terms:

Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.

Author Kurt Opsahl concisely connects the controversy surrounding the availability of private information to the public and the use of that information by Facebook. Some Facebook users argue that they have nothing to hide and find few problems with the evolution of Facebook privacy. However, that argument is often made without the awareness of Facebook’s relationship with third-party apps.

Mark Zuckerberg opens the Facebook f8 conference with user growth numbers alongside major product launches.

photo credit: niallkennedy via photo pin cc

Lori Andrews published an op-ed piece in the New York Times on February 4, 2012 titled “Facebook is Using You.” In it, Andrews explains:

Facebook makes money by selling ad space to companies that want to reach us. Advertisers choose key words or details — like relationship status, location, activities, favorite books and employment — and then Facebook runs the ads for the targeted subset of its 845 million users. If you indicate that you like cupcakes, live in a certain neighborhood and have invited friends over, expect an ad from a nearby bakery to appear on your page. The magnitude of online information Facebook has available about each of us for targeted marketing is stunning.

While Zuckerberg is notoriously lauded as a man who idealizes openness and “the richest man who doesn’t really care about money,” other people very much care about money. Targeted advertising is disconcerting to some, but it is (sometimes grudgingly) accepted in a Googlized world. More controversial is Facebook profile information being made available to third-party applications such as Instagram, Pandora, Yelp and location-based services (Twitter, FourSquare, etc.). The new tool Privacyscore for Facebook was recently released as a means to detail the privacy policies and tracking practices of more than 200 Facebook apps. Byron Acohido writes in USA Today:

According to PrivacyChoice, 140 different tracking entities routinely collect information about users of the top Facebook apps. Trackers can correlate that data to profiles of individuals’ browsing behavior across multiple Web pages in order to deliver more relevant ads. “It’s up to users to know the privacy risk of sharing personal data with apps,” says Jim Brock, PrivacyChoice founder and CEO.

Facebook Privacy How-To

The good news is that Facebook privacy settings have evolved and are now incredibly customizable. It is important to remember that the default settings (as displayed in the second Infographic chart) are applied to all new Facebook profiles. It is your job to customize everything from your basic information, to photos, to timeline, to likes. If you are concerned about third-party applications, don’t approve (or disconnect) connections to Facebook. If you cannot figure out how to separate your Facebook profile from a third-party app, you might have to choose between access to the application and privacy controls. Learn how to create lists (similar to Google+ circles) and use lists as a means to protect your information. Below are several links and a video with some how-to information. For further instruction, please visit our Choose Privacy Week LibGuide Facebook Page which includes a selection of articles from Mashable.

Helpful links:

  1. How to Update Your Facebook Privacy Settings
  2. How to Opt Out of Facebook’s Instant Personalization
  3. How to Protect Your Privacy on Facebook Timeline
  4. Facebook Timeline Privacy Tips: Lock Down Your Profile
  5. How to Set Facebook Privacy Settings

Finally, here is a brief video showing an overview of 2012’s Facebook privacy settings. More detailed explanations are readily available on Youtube.com.