Blog Posts by Ultra Violet

blogger photoUltra Violet is an artist, but not the one who hung out with Warhol at the Factory. She is also the only library staff member who was a Shakespearean research scholar and a member of the Meat Cutters' Union in the same year.





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A Fair Maiden
by Joyce Carol Oates

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04/15/10
Sixteen year-old, Katya Spivak, is thrilled to escape her low-class, Jersey life for a summer as a live-in nanny for a nouveau-riche family in a wealthy sea-side town. Naif Katya is approached by an elegant elderly gentleman named Marcus Kidder. She feels drawn to him, and finds him to have a magical quality; like a character in an old movie. He invites her and the two children to tea. Katya sees nothing wrong with going since she will be taking the children with her, and she is very excited about the prospect of being inside one of the grand old mansions so envied by even her employers. The story grabs you from the start with it's eerie unease. Katya is slowly pulled into something bizarre and inescapable. A Fair Maiden is a page-turning, crazy, modern fairy tale that will keep you guessing right until the end.
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This Book Is Overdue!
by Marilyn Johnson

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03/11/10
This Book is Overdue is a witty, fast-paced sneak peek into the thrill-a-minute whirlwind that is the public library...seriously. Marilyn Johnson makes librarians seem like a bunch of smart, sexy mavericks who are willing to do whatever it takes to get information to the public.
 
Johnson's anecdotes are interspersed with fun historical tidbits and ideas about where libraries are headed in the future. Anyone who works in a library will find something to relate to in this book, but any reader can enjoy Marilyn Johnson's writing.
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The Point In the Market
by Michael Pearce

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02/08/10
I'm glad I finally came across a mystery series that satisfies my tastes. Set in Cairo during WWI, A Point in the Market is as much about the political climate of the time as it is about the murder around which the plot revolves. The author grew up in the region and it shows in his complex descriptions of the sensory environment. You are right there with the sights and smells Egypt. Something that particularly impressed me was Pearce's female characters. They are very strong, intelligent and individualistic. The women have very different goals and personalities, given as much care in development as the male characters. The story is well told and has many twists I didn't see coming, but it is not a fast-paced book. This is a fantastic mystery for a reader who enjoys a who-dunnit without excess violence and quite a bit of exotic intrigue.
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Neverland
by Piers Dudgeon

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01/07/10
You will never look at Peter Pan the same way again after reading this book. Neverland describes in chilling detail the twisted relationships between Peter Pan's author, J.M. Barrie, Daphne Du Maurier (author of Rebecca) and her grandfather, George Du Maurier, who was the creator of "Svengali". Their lives were filled with madness, suicide attempts and disturbing emotional abuse. According to the evidence in this book, Barrie essentially stole the "lost boys" from their real family by forging a will. He may have even had a hand in the death of his own brother. Neverland is great reading for anyone interested in these authors or anyone looking for a good, early-twentieth century, soap-opera.
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The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery

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12/13/09
 A brilliant little girl has decided that life is just too much to bear for those who truly understand how empty it is, so she is going to commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. Until that day, she is making note of "profound thoughts" and trying to find something so inspiring that it justifies staying alive. Alternating with her story is the story of Rene, the middle aged concierge of the girls building. Rene goes to great lengths to epitomize the "French concierge". She scuffs around in dirty old slippers and leaves her TV blaring in the living room with vapid day-time shows, while she sneaks into the back room to listen to opera or read Kant.
 
The Elegance of the Hedgehog has a literary voice that is singular indeed. It is a joy to read writing of this caliber. At the risk of sounding trite, this book is poignant, clever and witty. It is quirky, but in a natural way that seems fresh and inspired.
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The Men Who Stare At Goats
by Jon Ronson

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11/30/09
If you have seen the trailers for the film version of Men Who Stare At Goats, you may assume the book is full of absurdity, one-liners and pratfalls. And even though there is plenty of humor throughout, Ronson is exposing a very disturbing part of our military tactics that have had a real impact on the way we fight our wars and torture our prisoners. Top military officials developed "new age" techniques of training which incorporated psychic training. The program was actually called "Project Jedi". As indicated by the title of the book, the psychic battalion spent a substantial amount of time in a secret location trying to stop a goat's heart by staring at it. Men Who Stare At Goats is a fast, fascinating read. It does contain some rather disturbing descriptions of torture, but that is balanced well by the humorous tone of the writing. Overall, an enjoyable and eye-opening read.
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Homer and Langley
by E. L. Doctorow

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11/02/09
In 1947 Homer and Langley Collyer were found dead and decaying in their 5th Avenue mansion that was packed with newspapers, trash, pianos and booby-traps. From this bizarre true story, E. L. Doctorow crafted a mesmerizing novel of two boys from a very privileged but neglectful childhood who formed a profound and enviable bond of friendship, loyalty and dedication to each other. Homer is a promising pianist who starts to gradually go blind as a teen and as a consequence, his other senses become more acute. His brother, Langley, goes off to fight in WWI and is badly damaged (physically and emotionally) in a mustard gas attack. Their parents both fall to Spanish Flu and Homer is left for a while with just the servants. Langley returns from Europe with a nasty cough and penchant for hoarding which soon takes over their lives.
 
Homer and Langley is so much more than a story of recluses and compulsive hoarding. The meat of the novel comes from the exquisitely human interactions between the brothers, their servants, and the other people who pass briefly through their lives. E. L. Doctorow's words are so carefully chosen that the reader feels what these men feel, from the loneliness, isolation and paranoia to the intense joy they experience from their music and their closeness with each other.
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Cranioklepty
by Colin Dickey

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10/09/09
In the twenty-first century the very idea of digging up the freshly dead corpse of someone you cared about and admired, to cut off the head and steal the skull seems a tad morbid. But apparently, during the height of the phrenology craze, it was a perfectly acceptable hobby of middle-class men of Europe. Cranioklepty traces the post-mortem adventures of the skulls of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven as well as a few other "great men". This book is quite entertaining, providing a well researched history of phrenology and craniometry and their influence on society's view of skulls and brains.    Cranioklepty is at times an exciting detective story, a fascinating history of cultural change and a poetically written dissection of the human fascination with self, soul, mortality and the symbolism of the skull.
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The Magicians
by Lev Grossman

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09/26/09
The Magicians is Harry Potter mixed with The Chronicles of Narnia and rated "M" for Mature.  A surly teenager, Quentin Coldwater is invited to a school of magic.  With a fair amount of sex, drug use, and violence, this is no Hogwarts.  The Magicians is more mature in other ways, as well.  The characters question the relationship of man, magic, and God.  And Quentin has a complex relationship with his girlfriend.  Additionally, it has one of the most interesting and sinister villians I've read in quite some time.  The Magicians is a page-turner that will appeal to fantasy readers as well as readers of realistic fiction.
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What Happened to Anna K.
by Irina Reyn

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08/10/09
Anna Roitman had always been an outsider. Her family came to Queens from Russia when she was a little girl and Anna spent her life straddling the two cultures but never firmly grounded in either one. As a teen and young woman, she used her considerable sultry, exotic appeal to attract artistic, bohemian men. Much to her parents' dismay, Anna's love affairs were intense, but brief. But when she was still unmarried at 35, even Anna was finally won over by the idea of a stable marriage to a good Russian-Jewish man. Alex K. was wealthy and stylish, even if he wasn't into literature and foreign films. Anna soon came to love her lavish lifestyle, but after having a son, things started to change. Anna felt trapped and bored. She finds Alex increasingly repugnant. Then she meets the man of her dreams. If the story sounds familiar, it's because this book is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Reyn does a excellent job of maintaining the pathos of the original work while creating a tactile atmosphere of the Manhattan and Queens lifestyles of Russian-Jewish immigrants. It is a relevant story of an individual's feelings of displacement, and how that relates to the immigrant experience.
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