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I am a light reading fan of Kelley Armstrong's werewolf books, which started with Bitten (which spawned a tv series) (which I have not watched). In all honestly, I didn't love Bitten--the world building was pretty cool but there was some killing that seemed to be gratuitous and all the dramarama was a tad bit soap opera-ish at points to me. But I did read it and I didn't hate it and it certainly was not anything like Laurell K. Hamilton's succubus insanity so I've been open to reading Armstrong's other books in the series, especially the novellas released by Subterranean Press.

Forsaken is due out in late January but open for preorder now and one of the better books in the series I've read. It manages to combine a lot of tension with a look at the politics of a woman in power. Armstrong has been out in front of the woman-as-leader issue from the beginning--werewolf Elena's position in the werewolf pack has always been a big deal--but now that she is the Alpha of the North American pack and involved in some situations away from her territory, things take an international turn and that brings Forsaken into remarkably timely territory.

Elena's story has always been about a woman having to make big choices which I think is one of the strengths of the series. Who to be, where to live, who to love--all of these are things that readers can identify with even without the paranormal bits. But Armstrong took the books in a surprising direction when she her two main characters not just marry but have children. In Forsaken, it is the assertion that as a mother Elena can not be strong leader which takes center stage. (Can anyone hear echoes of this in the campaign of every single female political leader ever?)

So, our heroine is juggling a big scary issue with her kids in Forsaken and trying to negotiate with the British werewolf pack who is led by a serious sexist jerk and then bad guys try to kill her and her family and it all goes to hell in a hand basket. That final part is pretty standard stuff for the series but it actually takes backseat to the rest and female readers in particular will likely identify a lot with how Elena tries to balance her demands as mother and leader while still considering her very significant relationship with big sexy husband Clay.

Yeah, you knew that was going to be part of it too, right?

Armstrong is still not a 100% guarantee for me, but Forsaken is a fun read that hit all the bells and whistles. I blew through it overnight and enjoyed the ride a lot. I recommend it and suggest you keep an eye out for her other titles that appear at Sub Press.


One of the best books I read this year and a truly important reading experience is The Public Library, a photographic essay by Robert Dawson. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, this is a gorgeously designed book of photos and essays on American public libraries, which I could not stop paging through.

Right now, you are probably thinking you know what the book is and agree with me that it's important and yet you likely have no interest in paging through it. A book like this is a good thing, but you already value libraries, right? You think you don't need this one.

Allow me to convince you otherwise.

I know public libraries matter on many levels. My hometown library had a huge influence on my life and I know that sentiment is the same for a lot of other people. So I approached The Public Library expecting an appreciation and I certainly was not disappointed on that score. But there is a lot more going on in this book, in the essays (by Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver and more) and the photos.

Dawson shows libraries in a variety of situations: urban and rural, small communities and large, in remote locations and city centers. The design differences are amazing and the closed facilities are heartbreaking but what really got to me was seeing how really useful the libraries are in unexpected ways. Also, the issue of homeless patrons came up several times and the essayists were pretty blunt on that subject.

While I was reading The Public Library and pouring over the photos, what struck me time and again was that open, free libraries are not a gift for a community, but a necessity. They are an equalizing force between the rich and poor and as significant as schools and the right to vote. They can make the difference for so much that might be missing in your life and be a game-changer in so many ways.

The best case scenario would find all of our elected officials sitting down and reading this book. It's the type of title that makes you think and inspires action. (I feel like I'm getting almost silly about libraries right now but I can't help it; just looking at these pictures touched my heart.)

The Public Library--obvious choice for book lovers but an even more important one for folks who just don't get it yet and need to be persuaded.

Listen to an interview with Robert Dawson at NPR.

[Post pics from the book.]


We are often asked why we have chosen to stay with Ballou Senior High School for our annual book fair. Prior to Ballou, Guys Lit Wire worked with a group serving juvenile offenders in Los Angeles and two schools on reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. While we certainly were happy to help those folks and felt that our book fairs did a lot of good and were appreciated, when we first teamed up with Ballou we quickly realized we had found a special situation.

Melissa Jackson, the Library Media Specialist, loves her job and her enthusiasm is quite infectious. A look at the library's facebook page shows the many events she plans there from poetry slams to club meetings to author readings and tons of visiting speakers. Melissa works tirelessly to get students excited about reading and has been key to the past success of the book fairs. She cares so much about the kids at Ballou and has shown us just how much one dedicated librarian can accomplish for a whole school. Melissa is a powerhouse whose dedication can not be denied. We are thus delighted to work with her, and help her, through the current book fair.

If you want to know how the world can be changed, then Melissa is a shining example of what a force for good looks like. Guys Lit Wire organizes these book fairs each year through her direct coordination and support; Melissa is the one who gets all these books you purchase off the list into the hands of teenagers eager to read them. Please know how much you making her job easier with every title you send to Washington DC and every effort you make to spread the word.

The Book Fair for Ballou Sr High School continues. Please check out the details and shop the Powells wish list.

[Post pic of Melissa Jackson with the Ballou mascot, the "Golden Knight".]

Cross posted from Guys Lit Wire.

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