If you are an academic librarian-type in the Northeast US who is looking for a great professional development opportunity, why not check out our Tumblarian-produced event?
If you have some funding to attend conferences this fall, perhaps you can consider this one? Even if you cannot attend, can you spread the word to those who might?
Thanks all, and happy Monday!
I’m not sure I’ll be able to go, but I’m definitely passing this along to my director because she’s been talking recently about wanting to partner with Student Affairs. And of course reblogging for exposure!
A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A Certain Summer is, as the title suggests, a decent beach read. Personally, I found Beard’s writing a little too stiff for my tastes, and I was not able to easily empathize with the core cast of characters. Despite long passages of exposition and characters gossiping, by the end, I still did not feel emotionally Invested. For some reason, the dramatic parts of the book never rose above a swell for me when what I wanted was a big cresting wave of tension. The most interesting part of the book actually came at the end in a completely different country from where 98% of the book took place. That said, it’s perfect for a vacation or a plane ride, or whenever you want something light that won’t leave you depressed!
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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Your family is not your choice.
Full disclosure: this is an ugly, shocking, difficult to read book about war that you will be unable to put down from the moment it begins. It is also a beautifully written novel of the human condition in times of war and peace that explores themes of family, displacement, revenge, and courage.
There is a lot to love about A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, but my favorite thing is how the central characters—Ahkmed, Dokka, Havaa, Khassan, Ramzan, Sonja, and Natasha—are themselves a constellation. Their unexpected connections are the backbone that supports the entire novel. Jumping around a timeline is a tricky thing that can make or a break a book, but in this case it is well done, and provides a great deal of momentum and “aha!” moments.
Of course, I also love that even the most minor of characters have rich backstories, such as the Imam in the Pit, or Alu and his brother, a story that exemplifies Marra’s dark and subtle humor. Some passages especially are reminiscent of Catch-22 in that you will laugh out loud while reading a tragic book about a brutal war. It will mess with your head in a good way. Marra’s style, too, with its lenghty sentences and the aforementioned rich character backgrounds also has flavors of J. Heller. This is not to say that ACoVP is a Chechen version of Catch-22. It is wholly its own novel and a worthy addition to the bibliography of wartime fiction.
Marra may be a “new” writer, but it’s impossible to tell. For such difficult subject matter, this book reads like it was written by a seasoned vet. And it was refreshing to read about a war and a people that don’t get written about often enough.
Lastly, a personal note. The irony of the fact that I had never even thought much about Chechnya until what happened here in Boston on Patriot’s Day is not lost on me. I had already downloaded ACoVP to my kindle by then, but I didn’t start reading it until a few days later. I think that this book is exactly what I needed to read following the bombing. It didn’t provide answers to deep questions or anything like that, but it has been an excellent reminder to me that a people are more than the deeds of their sons, and that even in the most dire of conditions, goodness can survive.
Verdict: read this book. I have no reservations about recommending it to one and all (adults. Some themes may be too mature for young adults/adolescents. Use your judgment!) If you’re reading the ebook version, you will undoubtedly find yourself highligting passages that resonate with you, just so you can go back and read them again and again.
View all my reviews