Book Review | Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

leopard at the door.jpgTaking place in 1950’s Kenya, Leopard at the Door focuses on a young lady’s return to the farm where she grew up. After the death of her mother, Rachel was sent to boarding school in England, far away from her father and home. In the six years she has been away, there have been some changes in Kenya. In addition to having to deal with her father’s new live-in paramour, the formation and actions of a political activist group, Mau Mau, threaten the family’s safety. Rachel finds herself in difficult situations as she attempts to rebuild her Kenyan life.

Excellent for fans of historical African fiction or women’s fiction, this novel moves at a relaxed pace, while still keeping the reader’s attention. Characters are developed enough for the reader to have strong feelings about them. The writing is clear and easy to follow, with chapters of varying lengths. McVeigh’s solidly researched text provides insight into Kenya as a British Colony at the time. Check it out from a library near you!

I received this uncorrected proof as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Leopard at the Door, you may be interested in October by Zoë Wicomb (2014).

Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).

Film Review | The Daughter starring Sam Neill & Geoffrey Rush

Daughter_poster

After many years away from his birth town and father, middle-aged Christian returns home to attend his father’s second wedding. The relationship between father and son is tense, owing to something other than the fact that the upcoming wedding involves the 31 year old housekeeper his father had previously employed. As Christian reunites with his old friend Oliver, he pieces a few old secrets together that threaten to break apart Oliver’s family.

This Australian drama based on Henrik Ibsen’s play provided much more than I’d bargained for. The story line was intriguing and the characters were easy to relate to. The acting was very realistic without anything being overdone. Music set to the film worked quite well and served to enhance the movie overall. While the budget for this film couldn’t have been too much with it’s rural setting, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t drummed up more attention in the film world. Though it may bring on a few tears, The Daughter is certainly worth checking out from your local library!

Book Review | Brussels Noir edited by Michel Dufranne

What a fun, quick read this book turned out to be!

Brussels Noir is comprised of 13 short stories divided into three categories. Stories range in length from about 15-30 pages each with varying themes and styles. While reading them, I found myself laughing and crying as the authors really have done a great job here.

As for the noir title, I’d say it’s best not to go in with too many expectations. More than typically noir, I found the stories to simply focus on some of the darker aspects of life. The surreal section of stories was especially impressive and would certainly appeal to fans of magical realism.

I’d definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy short stories with a slightly macabre leaning, fans of Haruki Murakami and readers looking for a travel-themed read. Check it out from your local library.

I received an advance reading copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the authors/editor/publisher for participating.

Mosi-oa-Tunya, Thunder Smoke, Victoria Falls, Zambia

FALLS FRONT.JPG

Explorer David Livingstone is said to have first seen the splendor of Victoria Falls, a massive waterfall at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa from a tree. This tree has since been outfitted with steps and a platform where visitors can climb up for their own view of the falls. Different seasons yield different views, often only the “smoke” (mist) of the falls can be seen.

LIVINGSTONE TREE.JPG

RAINBOW OVER FALLS.JPG

The local name for the falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya literally translates to Thunder Smoke. The roar of the falls sounds as loud as thunder and the Zambezi River water that ricochets back looks like a giant smoke cloud. Crossing the Knife Edge bridge at the falls, it can be hard to see from one end to the other with all of the water raining and re-raining back down when water is in high season, February-June.

FALLS TOP.JPG

The drive from Zambia’s capital Lusaka to Livingstone is about 6-7 hours. This takes you nearly 500km along the T1 two lane highway, which is paved. Speed bumps and potholes are the biggest dangers as you pass through multiple small roadside towns and villages. There are also a few larger cities on the way, Kafue, Mazabuka, Choma, and several random police checkpoints with radar to make sure drivers aren’t flying at twice the posted limit.

RAINBOW INTERSECT.JPG

Whether you’re hunting for rainbows or monkeys, you’re likely to find them at Mosi-oa-Tunya. A short hike down to the boiling pot yields a picturesque view of the bridge to Zimbabwe, wildlife and jungle-like green plants thriving in from the mist of the falls. If you forget to bring your raincoat, you can rent a poncho or crocs before exploring because with high waters, you’re sure to get wet.

Exhibition Review | A Land Beyond the Stars – Museo Galileo

Previously authored for and published by Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Multimedia and Technology Reviews in February 2017.

Waldseemüller’s 1507 world map compiled geographical knowledge from Spanish and Portuguese ocean voyages. This map forms the basis for the virtual exhibition A Land Beyond the Stars, hosted by Museo Galileo of Florence, Italy in collaboration with the Library of Congress, with support from Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze.

landbeyondthestars 2Even the comprehensive site map does not fully prepare the visitor for everything that is presented within this resource. Digitized maps, nautical charts, illuminated texts, and videos are all utilized to convey information in this digital exhibition. Each of the exhibit’s twelve sections could be an individual room within a museum, but the method and reach would be entirely different than its virtuality allows for, especially since the only known surviving copy of Waldseemüller’s map is currently on display at the Library of Congress. Designed for a wide audience, this website ultimately succeeds at making content accessible to any interested party, and would be of benefit to school aged students as well as scholarly researchers.

landbeyondthestars 5Digital reproductions are of impressive quality. Videos clips are all of short, reasonable lengths and can be digested with ease. Should the viewer prefer, a “Read text” option provides a full text transcript of each video. Within the “Interactive Exploration” section, translations of all text appearing on Waldseemüller’s map are given in full and divided by content type. Further, the content of the map has been broken down categorically, allowing for users wishing to engage with a particular type of geographical feature to do so.

A Land Beyond the Stars is well-produced and functions effectively. Though viewable on a mobile device, some navigation is more challenging as the viewing screen size is decreased. Developers have added full screen options, but a larger monitor will allow for the best interaction with this resource. Navigation is intuitive, using a left hand link menu, and the site map mentioned above allows for more direct access points. However, with information disseminated through various media within the site, it is at times unclear what the viewer may expect with each click, be it a video, data superimposed on the map, or another medium.

landbeyondthestars 1The stated aim of the project is “to serve as an experimental model for a new digital library concept.” While the utilized approach may serve as the basis for creating a digital library with specialized content, this particular platform was reminiscent of a HyperCard presentation from the 1990’s, albeit more technologically advanced. The ways in which the user can interact with the content are limited, making the presentation of a vast amount of well-curated historical information seem slightly flat. The exhibit is self-contained without offering links to external content, except within the “Digital Library” (bibliography) section. Unfortunately, as there is no search function, the exhibit must be accessed using the navigation menu and sitemap. Tagging or a search function would be useful to some users. However, because so much information is included, the current delivery method serves as a moderate guide for users who may not have the best idea where to find what they are seeking.

Using established technology, this exhibition is enhanced with multimedia and clearly its public visibility is greatly increased. The exhibit is certainly victorious in its efforts “to allow wider public to appreciate content contained in the map and to decipher structure and graphic symbols,” and has managed to curate content in a manner appropriate for all ages.

Book Review | As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

As Red As Blood, the first book in Simukka’s ‘Snow White’ trilogy, is described as a Nordic noir thriller and has sold over a million copies internationally. In the vein of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the book features a young female protagonist who finds herself sleuthing in the Finnish world of organized crime. This undercover operation takes place after a few school mates of hers stumble on a bloody bag of money and plan to keep it, leading to her attempted kidnapping.

While this is a young adult book, it could certainly be enjoyed by adults. That said, expect it to be written for slightly younger readers in the sense that a few things seem overly explained or redundant. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the translation or how the original text reads. The story is interesting enough, though it does seem unrealistic at times and certain coincidences are a bit much. The flow of the writing and active plot keep the book flowing, though the protagonist is the only developed character. It’s a quick read with entertainment value and would work well for teens who appreciate edgy but aren’t really excited about reading, reluctant readers. There are already plans in place for the film series. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.