Monday, March 28, 2016

The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: The Winning of Barbara Worth is a bestselling novel from 1911. Author Harold Bell Wright was living in the Imperial Valley when he researched and wrote the novel.  Its subject is the “taming of the West,” and its setting and plot were based on actual contemporary events surrounding the reclamation of the Imperial Valley desert via the damming of the Colorado River.  (Rubio City of Wright’s novel is based on Yuma, Arizona.)  The novel contains a love story in which Barbara Worth will be “won” by either Abe Lee, an uneducated but hard-working Western surveyor, or by Willard Holmes, an educated but soft Eastern engineer.  It also contains a showdown between Jefferson Worth, an honorable Western banker, and James Greenfield, an amoral Eastern speculator.

What I Thought: Wright’s novels were not critically acclaimed when they were released, and they have been largely forgotten today.  They have often been dismissed as being didactic and sentimental.  By containing characters meant to “represent” good and bad aspects of human nature, Wright’s writing is particularly open to complaints about wooden and unrealistic characters.  Wright was a former Disciples of Christ pastor whose vocation shifted from the pulpit to what he called “the ministry of print.”  He unapologetically aimed to provide his readers with moral lessons that upheld traditional (and rural) values in the face of an increasingly urban, modern society.  As America’s most popular writer in the decade between 1910 and 1920, Wright tapped into a widespread longing for the values and ideals espoused in his books.  I enjoyed reading this old fashioned, dated novel, not only because of the Yuma connection, but because the events of the novel unfold in an entertaining, dramatic fashion.  The Winning of Barbara Worth is not a literary classic, but primarily for historical interest, it is well worth reading.

The Winning of Barbara Worth was one of the Yuma Carnegie Library’s most popular titles when the library first opened 95 years ago.  For this reason, the Heritage Library will host a discussion program about the novel and its author on March 31 at 10:30 a.m. Please join us!

Readalikes: The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright; Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Book 1 of the Iron Druid Chronicles)

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Atticus O'Sullivan, the last of the Druids, finds his peaceful life in Arizona shattered by the arrival of an angry Celtic god. He will stop at nothing to take an ancient magical sword from Atticus's possession.  A looming battle forces Atticus to call upon some unlikely allies for help. The battle pulls Atticus back into the spotlight of others' forces he was avoiding or running from for hundreds of years.

What I Thought: I didn’t know what to expect with this series.  Two of my friends had read it a while back so I thought I would give it a try.  If you’re a fan of urban contemporary fantasy fiction like I am, then this book is for you. The writing is similar to Jim Butcher with a little more emphasis on the history and mythological aspects of our world.  Everything involving the character or provided for the reader in the story is done in a way that is easy to understand.  This is done through concepts that explain how he interacts with others, fights, and uses his own talents.

You can tell by reading the books there is real effort by the author to pull both fact and fiction to make the story realistic and alive.  Hounded and all of the proceeding books in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles are packed with wit and action.  Every action taken by Atticus entwines him further and further with his enemies and a past he was trying to avoid. Atticus’s actions and the consequences of his efforts add complexity to the story and his later interactions.

My favorite character in the series so far in Atticus’s dog and trusty sidekick, Oberon. He gives a new meaning to the word man’s best friend.

Readalikes: Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Music of the Stanley Brothers by Gary B. Reid

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Jim Patrick

What I Read: The Music of the Stanley Brothers by Gary B. Reid

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: As the title indicates, this book is about the music of the legendary bluegrass artists Carter and Ralph Stanley.  The fascinating lives of the Stanleys are illuminated throughout the book, but mostly as background information to the detailed descriptions of the group’s numerous recording sessions held between 1946 and 1966.  Carter Stanley’s alcohol-related death at the age of 41 in 1966 forced “little brother” Ralph to embark on a solo career that spanned nearly 50 additional years!

Gary Reid’s book does not cover Ralph Stanley’s solo recordings, but he exhaustively documents the various eras of the brothers’ recorded output—eras that can be neatly broken down by the music companies that recorded the Stanley Brothers through the years.  The earliest recordings on Rich-R-Tone and Columbia found the brothers singing and playing in an “old-time” country music style reminiscent of the Monroe Brothers.  The Mercury Records years (1953-1958) are generally considered the artistic peak of the Stanley Brothers’ career for a number of reasons:  the high volume of classic original compositions by Carter, the emergence of Ralph’s hard-driving banjo style, and the talented musical support of fiddler Art Stamper and bassist/vocalist George Shuffler.

The last phase of the Stanley Brothers' career was 1958-1966 when they recorded for Starday and King Records.  This period is sometimes discounted by fans and critics due to King’s reputation as a second-rate company and due to the excessive number of non-original and novelty songs that the brothers were forced to record at King.  While it is true that Carter Stanley’s songwriting did decline during this period, as did the richness of his legendary singing voice, many great Stanley Brothers recordings were produced during the King years—particularly in the bluegrass gospel genre.  While not an original composition, the Stanley Brothers’ 1960 version of Albert Brumley’s “Rank Stranger” has been acclaimed as one of the finest recordings in bluegrass history.

What I Thought: In February 2016 Gary Reid presented his one man show, “A Life of Sorrow: The Life and Times of Carter Stanley” at the Yuma Library.  I enjoyed meeting Gary, and I found his performance moving and informative.  Mr. Reid is acknowledged as the leading authority on the music of the Stanley Brothers.  That expertise is plainly evident in this academic study of their recording career.  The many pages of recording session notes and discographies may be intimidating (or boring) to readers who are not familiar (or obsessed) with bluegrass music.  However, the book is well-written in an accessible style, and by skimming through the recording session charts and focusing on the narrative sections of the book, bluegrass fans and anyone who attended Mr. Reid’s library program will rewarded with many interesting stories behind the songs of this great musical group.

Readalikes: Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe by Richard D. Smith

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Friday, March 11, 2016

All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Laurie Boone

What I Read: All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Kache used to be a musician with big dreams, but upon the death of his parents and brother, his grief drove him to give up everything and move to Texas. At the urging of his aunt Snag, Kache returns to Alaska after ten years away. His life takes a fateful turn when he goes out to check on his family’s old homestead and finds that a strange Russian woman has been living there, totally isolated, for ten years. Her name is Nadia, and she has her own painful realities to deal with.

What I Thought: This was a relaxing, diverting story of redemptive love between two quirky, solitary people. Right away I fell into easy step with the interesting supporting cast, and the Alaskan landscape was a character in itself, too.

Readalikes: John Straley’s books, like Cold Storage for quirky people in Alaska, and Annie Proulx’s book The Shipping News for the leisurely pace and the remote Newfoundland fishing village, its antics and atmosphere.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: José Beltrán

What I Read: Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Long-Lived Peoples by John Robbins

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Old age should be the crown of a successful life. Yet people are getting sicker sooner and are remaining chronically sick. We prolong our dying and struggle with pain, loneliness, disability and depression? How can we promote our own healthy aging? What choices can we make to avoid bitterness and increase our health span? This book says yes we can live to a ripe old age without losing our physical, mental health, and vigor. From Abkhazia in the Caucasus south of Russia, where age is beauty, and Vilcabamba in the Andes of South America, where laughter is the greatest medicine, the Hunza in Central Asia, where dance is ageless, and finally the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa, the Japanese Hawaii.

What I Thought: This book is about finding the Fountain of Youth. The recommended practices in this book help us regenerate and rejuvenate instead of degenerate. In this book, Robbins (son of owner of Baskin-Robbins) shows us how our diet and exercise are critical to health and healing. Robbins explains how body and mind can interact to help us. Socializing is key to our purpose and joie de vivre! Our spirit finds the fountain of youth in the quality of love, wisdom, and courage we have lived. Robbins writes that the two most important dates in our lives are the day we are born and the day we know why we were born. Youth is a state of mind not a time of life!

Readalikes: The Hundred-Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald; Counterclockwise by Lauren Kessler

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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