Book Review | Sourdough by Robin Sloan

sourdough coverLois Clary relocated from the midwest to San Francisco for a job at a tech company. For long hours, she writes code that will tell robotic arms how to work. Her lonely existence becomes more exciting after regular neighborhood food delivery brothers move away, leaving her with their precious sourdough starter. Lois builds a backyard oven and attempts mastery of the sourdough, getting herself involved in an underground farmer’s market along the way.

Though not as adventurous as Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour BookstoreSourdough is a quick and fun read. Sloan’s third tale is entertaining from the start and moves along at a decent pace. Protagonist Lois develops throughout the book as she interacts with a host of eccentric characters. Looking back, the plot seems slightly convoluted, but it works as you are reading. This novel is recommended for fans of the slightly surreal, those looking to kill time on a long plane trip, or fans of Sloan’s previous works. Beware of holds on this new release and check it out from a library near you.

*Fans of Sourdough, may be interested in Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun (2017).


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 | The Mountains of Parnassus by Czeslaw Milosz

mountains of parnassus.jpegPublished in Polish in 2012, The Mountains of Parnassus was completed by Nobel Prize winner Milosz in the early 1970’s. Though the novel is classified as science fiction, it is dystopian fiction and currently quite applicable. The book is broken into seven sections and introduces the reader to four distinct characters: an astronaut, a cardinal, an exiled man and a struggling man. Each character has a very different story, which allows for wider reader appeal.

The quality of the writing in this book is excellent. Milosz has set some feelings in words in a very touching way. Some of the characters were easier to relate to than others, and their stories combined well to form the novel. It is a quick read, more of a novella that can be read in a few hours. The text is thought provoking and considering when it was originally written, brings to mind the foresight seen in the writing of Ira Levin. This English translation is expected to be published on January 10, 2017.

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

Book Review | Paradime by Alan Glynn

Paradime was an enjoyable read for me. This book tells the story of Danny Lynch upon his return back to New York from a contract in a mess hall in Afghanistan. Things are a bit out of sorts between him and his girlfriend Kate and as he tries to readjust to civilian life working a kitchen line job, he happens upon a man who seems to be his identical twin. Doppelgänger Teddy Trager is a tech start-up sensation who seems to have it all: money, fancy car, and a sexy, successful girlfriend. Danny stalks Teddy until lines blur and it’s no longer clear which man is which.

Glynn, author of Limitless, has penned a successful psychological thriller in Paradime. The novel is interesting from the start, easy to follow and well written. Though none of the characters are particularly likable, they are all tolerable and the flow of the story carries the narrative. 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.

Officially Unfixable: FedEx Delivery Manager claims my house (residence) is a business (commercial)

img_5681After multiple phone calls and several hours of wasted time, and a large handful of unhelpful FedEx representatives, I have been told that there really is no solution to my problem. This was months after the first time I had contacted them to try and resolve my problem.

Sarah, a supervisor in the Tech Support department was able to calmly explain to me that many FedEx services are outsourced, sometimes to entities like the United States Postal Service. This is where my problem lays.

PROBLEM: When I try to update my delivery address in my FedEx Delivery Manager to my current home address, the system claims that my address is a business or commercial address and will not let me update it. 

As many of the reps told me, their system simply pulls information from the United States Postal Service, and it was the Post Office who was telling them that my home (built in 1918 and always a residence, never a business) was in fact, a business. They sent me to the Post Office saying there was nothing FedEx could do. Even after I told them I had been to the Post Office, that a USPS supervisor had looked into it and assured me that my address in their system was and had always been listed as a residence, FedEx continued to tell me to talk to the Post Office.

When I persisted, they tried to get rid of me. Several of the reps I spoke with said that they were escalating my case. Each time they gave me a new case number and the possible hope of a solution. They claimed I would hear back, but when the allotted 14 days had passed, I had heard nothing and still had the exact same problem in the Delivery Manager system. Each time this resulted in me following up and again having my case escalated, apparently to nowhere, with no resolution.

The Exact Error Message: The address you provided is a commercial or business address. These services are for residential addresses only. Please provide a residential address and try again.

After talking with FedEx employees Valerie, Emma, Hannah, Sarah and others, it is very clear that there is no solution. Sarah’s last ditch advice was to go back to USPS and ask them to make my residence commercial in their system and then change it back again to residential. She thought maybe this flipping the switch so to speak might be the only possible solution. Just in case you are having this problem, you know now to stop wasting your time trying to fix something that just cannot be done. If you’ve experienced this, or other similar issues with FedEx, you’ll likely realize that the only real fix is just to stop using FedEx…

Book Review | A Hologram for the King : a novel by Dave Eggers

book cover A Hologram for the King : a novel by Dave EggersRecently, when searching for films by director Tom Tykwer, I found out that the book A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers is being turned into a film staring Tom Hanks, with a release scheduled for late 2015. Since I enjoyed Eggers’ book The Circle so much, I figured it was a good time to try another.

Middle-aged, divorced and broke, Alan has been sent to Saudi Arabia to broker a deal with King Abdullah for his IT firm. Details Alan receives as he and his team prepare for the royal meeting are fuzzy and it’s a mystery if or when the King may actually arrive. The story focuses on Alan’s relationships with his driver, his doctor, his daughter, a diplomat and the unexpected adventures that ensue with each of them.

The book is entertaining from the beginning and easy to read and follow. The story is mostly told chronologically with connections made along the way. Though Alan himself is not a very interesting character, the people he becomes involved with allow him to experience events beyond the daily scope of average. For a quick trip to Saudi Arabia, check it out at a library near you.

Book Review | Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone

book cover Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne GladstoneAfter reading the synopsis, I was pretty anxious for this book to come out. The premise is great, but the execution is lacking. Notes from the Internet Apocalypse chronicles the “adventures” of a late 30’s Jameson drinking single male in New York City when the internet goes down, indefinitely. First his cyber blogger friend arrives at his doorstep from the West Coast. As they hunt for the internet (as if it will be hidden in a closet somewhere) they make friends with a 24 year old Australian punk chic in Central Park. The mismatched threesome’s bonds are tested as they combat the terrors of the new age – a psychic librarian, a totalitarian police regime, and Christians against the proclaimed Internet Messiah.

This book is pretty easy to get into and the story flows fairly well, but it’s overly coincidental and focuses on the wrong plot points. For example, a major storyline is pornography and how people go about getting their fix since the disappearance of the net. (I did not want to read about this). I thought something was going to happen eventually, but nothing really did. More than a start to end story, it was a rambling journal from the main character about what he encountered daily. The biggest cop-out was the ending. I’m sure other readers may have differing opinions, but I’d say this one’s not really worth your time. I picked this book because I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and Ready Player One, but it’s not in the same league. Maybe Gladstone should stick with magazine pieces – no offense.