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Tessa’s Paranormal Romance Review: Burn for Me: A Hidden Legacy Novel by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews is a husband-wife team known for urban fantasy. They already have two great series going: Kate Daniels and The Edge. Both these series start off with some great world-building and entertaining characters. Now the Andrews have another new series which veers more towards romance than the others, although the first two series have elements of romance as well.

Readers have already commented on the cover—it’s misleading. The half-naked man and sexy outfit on the woman would make you think this was a bodice ripper or steamy romance. Instead this book has enough plotting, substance and character that my husband is enjoying it.

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This series is set in Houston, where the main character, Nevada, runs a detective agency with her family’s help. But the Houston in the book is way different from our reality: superpowers have appeared, result of a serum created in the 1800’s, and most power and influence resides in the Houses (families) of those who have the greatest powers.

Two catastrophically powerful men are on a collision course as one uses the other’s teenaged nephew to rob a bank. Nevada is employed by the huge detective business that holds her loan—but it’s all for show, since the firm knows she doesn’t have the magic to bring in this incredible fire mage. If she refuses, she loses her home and business, putting her family out on the street. But if she contacts him, he will probably kill her. Nevada must be skilled and wily to get herself out of this situation.

All the books by this team are recommended! Give them a try. ~ Tessa July 2015 3.75 out of 5 stars

The Munificent Gift

Andrew Carnegie circa 1880

Andrew Carnegie circa 1880


Industrialist Andrew Carnegie established the Carnegie Library Fund to create libraries around the country. In 1900, a library committee in Jackson applied. Funding was calculated on a strict formula based on population. The city agreed to purchase the necessary land and provide annual operating funds. Carnegie generously awarded Jackson $50,000, but “JACKSON WANTED A LIBRARY LIKE NONE OTHER.”

Plans went over budget by $20,000.


 

Old Friends

Mrs. R. H. ( Zelie) Emerson, a member of the Jackson Library Committee, wrote Carnegie, via his secretary, asking for the additional funds to “build the building Jackson deserves.”

Mr. Bertram, The current Library is located on the second floor of a good block on a business street, about in the center of the town. There is no elevator. Its quarters are pleasant, but as it occupies the whole floor; there is no chance of expansion. The book space is cramped, and the reading-room entirely too small for the growing attendance of the public-especially the children who are there in great numbers. The reason my previous letter was not typewritten is that it is in a way a personal letter to Mr. Carnegie. We were old friends in Pittsburgh years ago. Will you kindly see that it meets his eye? — Zelie Passavant Emerson: 1900

Zelie Emerson circa 1880

Zelie Emerson circa 1880

They were indeed old friends. As a young girl, Zelie Passavant and Andrew Carnegie had even spoken of marriage. Her father, William Passavant, a well-known Lutheran minister, objected on religious grounds. Zelie took the train to Pittsburgh to make her case, and in honor of their past friendship, Carnegie granted Jackson an additional $20,000.

 

My Dear Mr. Carnegie: Two years ago you gave us $70,000 for a Public Library. The City bought a magnificent site on Main Street. The bids overrun the sum given us at least $25,000 owing to the great advance in the cost of materials and labor. Nothing could be done to lessen the cost without cheapening the construction and so spoiling the building. You would not wish us to change it in any single particular. We would deeply appreciate your favorable consideration of this matter. Yours ever sincerely, Zelie Passavant Emerson: Feb. 14, 1903

Mr. Carnegie said “no.”

My dear Mr. Carnegie, believe me that the people of Jackson deeply appreciate your generous gift. The library building in its simple and serene beauty has set a new and high Ideal for public buildings in our town, and its perfect adaptation to all library needs will provide for the city a library home for ½ Century to come. — Zelie Passavant Emerson


The Building is a Peach

The building was due to finish in 1904, but labor unrest and construction problems increased the costs and delayed the opening for two years. The Carnegie building finally opened on August 21, 1906, to great fanfare.

There will be no more jibes and jeers as to when the new library will open its doors. They actually opened Monday morning. It’s safe to say Librarian Waldo was the happiest woman in Jackson. But the building is a peach–and its magnificence and convenience goes far to compensate for the long delay. Hundreds of our townspeople visited the library Monday and Tuesday to inspect its beauty and several ladies left flowers. — Saturday Evening Star: August 1906

Carnegie Building circa 1906

Carnegie Building circa 1906

My grandmother regularly attended the library to upgrade her skills and keep current with what was going on. I remember her taking us there and she told us the whole story of how Mr. Carnegie gave us the money to build the library and it was a place of learning and a place to be revered and held high in esteem in the community. — Interview with Dr. Edward Mathein:2014

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Rollicking Fun Series Review: Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding

What a fun series—these would make excellent action adventure movies! Having read books one and two—Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain—I recommend this series to anyone who wants a light-hearted romp through a fantastic world populated with flawed, funny characters. Frequently throwing readers reminders of Star Wars mixed with Indiana Jones and, especially, Firefly, the entertainment factor of these books is A+. If you loved any of these movies, don’t miss the Ketty Jay series.

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The Ketty Jay is an airship captained by Darian Frey, a man too handsome to die. Darian’s crew knows their secrets are safe on this ship, although it means they might not get paid. Often. Maybe ever. They take the occasional pirate treasure deal, smuggle, and, of course, rescue those in distress no matter the cost.

 

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By the end of the first book, you know their secrets, too—the doctor’s drinking, the daemonist’s horrible crime and his huge metal companion, the new navigator’s strange lack of a heartbeat, the two fighter pilots—Pinn the lovelorn and Harkins the traumatized, a silent engineer, the captain’s love ‘em and leave ‘em disasters. Even a feral ship cat named Slag. Slag has a major role in the second book, look for him and the Cowardly Fighter Pilot Harkins to stalk one another into hysteria. I read the first chapter of the second book and started laughing…I didn’t stop laughing often, either. Hmm, might even have to buy these. ~ Tessa 4.5 stars out of 5 June 2015

Note: These aren’t true steampunk books, but there are a lot of things that feel that way…

The Free Public Library

While the YMA was open only to members, public-spirited men such as W.H. Withington, George Dodge, and Michael Shoemaker were instrumental in the opening of a free public library in Jackson.

As YMA president, George Dodge declared:

Let this free library be once established, and every citizen will
look upon it with pride, would willingly be taxed for its support,
and the time will not be far distant when as a city we may justly
be proud of a library which is positively free to both the rich and
the poor alike. Its influence for good could not be estimated; its
power as an educator of the people would be unmeasurable. — George Dodge: YMA Minutes 1882


The free public library moved to the Bloomfield block on Mechanic and West Washington in 1895.

The free public library moved to the Bloomfield block on Mechanic and West Washington in 1895.

The Free Public Library

Many groups took advantage of the programs and literature offered at the public library. Jackson had a large German population, and the library served it by regularly acquiring German books. Lists of new books were published in the local newspapers, including the German paper, the Volkefreund.

While men used the library reading room to read their newspapers and periodicals, the most active users of the public library were women. Many belonged to women’s clubs, literary clubs and book clubs. They not only eagerly borrowed books but also frequently used the library to conduct research for programs they presented at their club meetings.

Jackson's Tuesday Club circa 1885

Jackson’s Tuesday Club circa 1885


These women’s clubs, of no mean size, come here to find help in
their work, often taxing the Library’s usefulness and capacity
to its utmost extent. — Celia Waldo, Head Librarian: 1889 Annual Report

Children were frequent users of the library. Staff designed programs such as Storyhour and magic lantern shows to encourage reading and to familiarize children to the library.

Children flock here by the hundreds every day. Out of a circulation
of a hundred thousand books every year, a generous third of them
are charged to these little men and women. The boys and girls of
today are the legislators of tomorrow. — Celia Waldo, Head Librarian: 1889 Annual Report

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Book Review: At the Waters Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Set in the time frwaters edgeame of WWII, three friends, Ellis, his wife Maddie and best friend Hank make fools of themselves and disgrace Ellis’s parents at a ”high society” New Year’s Eve Party.   Ellis has already embarrassed his father, a Colonel, during WWI, by being classified 4F for color blindness, and unable to serve. He decides the only way to redeem himself is to go to Scotland to complete the search the Colonel botched several years earlier, for the Lock Ness Monster.  At this point, I found all of these characters immature, condescending, irresponsible, and thoughtless.

The three of them find themselves in a small remote village Inn on the shore of the lake. The two men become even more disrespectful, arrogant and supercilious. Maddie becomes, more meek and timid. Predictably, as the passage on the book cover says; “Maddie makes friends with two young women who help her see a larger world she never knew existed….and begins to see that nothing is as if first appears and …and monsters lurk where they are least expected.”

Although I did not like this book as much as Water for Elephants, I liked it better than The Ape House, There was one passage, descriptions of domestic violence, that was a bit graphic.

I listened to the Audio version of this book and found myself at times, not wanting to stop listening when I reached my destination.

If I measure this book on my usual criteria, how much do I like these people, will I miss them when I am finished, do I want to know what happens to them next, I would give this a 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

The Collective Good

 Jackson, Michigan circa 1865

Jackson, Michigan circa 1865

In 1854, young businessmen in the Jackson community formed a mutual improvement society. Jackson’s Young Men’s Association (YMA) aimed to address issues of moral and political philosophy.

In its early years, the YMA sponsored debates, provided free public lectures, and attempted to establish a reading room. Strong political feelings of the day prevented the organization from developing further. The political turmoil of the 1850s increased, and fiery debates followed. The desire for libraries, reading rooms, and books was supplanted by talk of slavery, succession, and war.

War did come, and the local militia group, the Jackson Greys, led by William H. Withington answered the call. Talk of libraries would have to wait. The public focused on blow by blow battle descriptions and the fire-eater language of local newspaper editors. Having survived both prison camp and the First Battle of Bull Run, Captain Withington came home a hero. In 1863, he helped revive and formally organize the Young Men’s Association.


 

The Object of Mutual Improvement — Essentially, a Gentleman’s Club

By early 1864, the YMA had 50 members. Yearly dues were set at $2.00.

The object of this Society shall be the promotion of literary and scientific purposes by means of a library, Reading Room, literary exercise and lectures and such other means as are usually adopted for such purposes. — W. H. Withington: YMA Minutes 1863

In preparation for the opening of their Reading Room, the second floor of the Durand Building on Michigan Avenue was rented at a cost of $65 a year. An additional $45 was spent for tables, a dozen chairs, and a stage. On March 15, 1864 the YMA Reading Room was officially opened. It was essentially a gentlemen’s club. Week nights the janitor lit the gaslights and members came to relax, play a friendly game of chess, read periodicals from as far away as England, and smoke their cigars.


William H. Withington Portrait

William H. Withington


In consequence of the increase in number of those who frequent
the reading room, and the growing taste for reading, the Board
of Directors determined to commence the founding of a library connected with the Association, Young men and boys are asking
for books they cannot afford to buy and few of them have access
to good private libraries. We hope to secure by donations from
citizens from 500 to 1000 Volumes.
— American Citizen: November 7, 1865

Jackson citizens did answer the call with 239 donated books. Books continued to be added to the collection. The library, which officially opened in 1865, was not a true public library because only YMA members had access to the books. Members were expected to read and distribute knowledge to the “young men and boys” in the community. And while women were urged to collect books for the library, they could not join the YMA.


 

Local Authors’ Book Recommendation: We Brothers Immortal by K & D Bear

Jacksonians, here are local authors K & D Bear! If you liked The Clan of the Cave Bear, I bet you will like We Brothers Immortal. If you are a fan of Tolkien, you will recognize certain elements in this book. Anyone who likes science fiction or fantasy at all will enjoy the adventure contained in the pages of We Brothers Immortal. This story is filled with lots of action as well as some provocative concepts you will want to discuss with other book lovers. Be warned that the books are unedited and self-published. If you haven’t read anything self-published, this is a pretty painless introduction, with fewer glaring grammatical issues than most. It has a slow start, but that changes fairly quickly.

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The Bear brothers do a good job of introducing the main characters and their lives with fun dialogue and some great descriptions. Several times I was surprised by directions the plot took, and the twin brothers often do things which are unexpected and occasionally illogical (kind of like teenagers everywhere). Each twin finds a mate and takes steps toward maturity until their lives look pretty settled. Then they make choices that throw everything, even whole communities, into upheaval and uncertainty. Just when I would think I had the plot figured out, it would take a twist into new territory, even new genres, and throw me off.

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This first book in the series ends on a cliffhanger, and the authors refuse to give any hints. (No matter how much I begged!) JDL owns all of their books, and the second book is called Immortal Gates (currently checked out to me). I recommend all of their books based on this first one. ~ Tessa April 2015 3.5 out of 5 stars

Juvenile Book Review: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Recently there have been quite a few books on topics of terminal disease and disability, including The Fault in our Stars, Wonder, and My Sister’s Keeper. Somehow I missed this one: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. I had read other books by her and knew she was a good writer. So I finally started reading this on my lunch hour. Pretty soon I was hooked, laughing and reading parts out loud to anyone who would listen.

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Melody, a fifth-grader with cerebral palsy, tells us about her (fictional) daily life as she goes to the special class at school, where she has a personal aide to feed her and take her to the bathroom and move her wheelchair from room to room. She shares her excitement as new technology provides her with a powered chair she can control herself. Next, she sees a girl with a laptop and asks her family if she could have one. The day her special device arrives, she and her afternoon caregiver program it so that, when her parents arrive, she is able to tell them for the first time, through the voice of the device, that she loves them. Major emotional moment.

No more spoilers—this story has a twist I never saw coming: it really jolted me. Highly recommended.~ Tessa April 2015 4.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review: Cat out of Hell by Lynne Truss

CatoutofHellprintI spent the entire time I read the book Cat Out of Hell asking myself, “Is it humor? Or is it horror?” I would alternately laugh out loud or expect creepy music. This strange English tale begins at the seaside, where we find retired Cambridge periodicals’ librarian Alec Charlesworth. Recently widowed, Alec has rented a tiny cottage to get away from all the memories of his beloved wife, Mary.

Cat out of Hell eAudio book

A colleague asks him to read over a file he was working on with Mary. Alec begins to read, and then he begins to wonder, as I did, whether the file is a spoof or a work of fiction. For the file reports interviews between a man and, wait for it, an elegant, refined, and well-educated cat. Yes, a tomcat named Roger. Who sounds like Vincent Price (before you get huffy, the dog sounds like Daniel Craig).

Then there are deaths. More deaths, in the cellar, at the library, up north—people who have been involved in some way with Roger and his life story. Alec is suspicious someone is trying to put one over on him until he visits his old workplace (which was Mary’s workplace, too) and sees what a cat has done to Mary’s rented carrel. Appalled by the size of the claw marks and by the horrendous smell, Alec is suddenly uneasy. But the story is only beginning!

When I finished the book, I asked myself, “Is it humor? Or is it horror?” And I answered, “Yes,exceedingly!” A short little book, it’s sort of fun. (By the author of Eats, shoots and leaves.) ~ Tessa March 2015 3.5 out of 5 stars

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Once again a bestseller much touted by everyone has failed to live up to the praise. There is a trend here that the public should take note of—if a book falls into a genre category, check with those who love the category before buying the book. In this case, The Martian could be called MacGyver Goes to Mars. If you like such things, read it. If, however, you have been reading science fiction for a while, realize that this might not be the best book for you.

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First, the money! This has always been one of NASA’s major hurdles, the huge amounts of money involved in space exploration and discovery. The astronomical amounts involved in this book kind of make me want to hurl. How many Star Trek episodes argued about the value of the many vs. the one? This book turns all of that on its head. And then all the blood rushes there and makes the reader pass out. Seriously, the scenario is believable, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The marketing angle in this alone is crazy-making.
Second, if you love technical manuals, this is a book for you. Apparently, all the science is accurate. So, yes, it’s all possible. However, that doesn’t mean I’m thrilled to read about it. I don’t read sci-fi for accurate technical details, surprise, sorry! If I wanted that, I would subscribe to Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. (Actually, I like the occasional dip into these, but not many engineering or chemistry books make it to my reading lists.) Science fiction has been aptly called speculative fiction because people speculate what could be someday, not give the steps for what could happen tomorrow.

This will make a great movie—better than Gravity, but only somewhat. The same conundrum exists: it just isn’t believable nor probable that so many things could go right. We get our happily-ever-after, but at what cost? It is a fairy tale! This technical dissertation disguised as science fiction is actually filled with Pollyanna’s special magic for a lovely happily ever after. Just skip it. ~ Tessa March 2015

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