October 26, 2016 Geekery, Library Life, Meta 0

I’ve been kinda MIA due to a conference that my library has been hosting this week. It’s been a really interesting, fun, nerve-wracking, AND rewarding experience… but I’m also pretty dang exhausted right now.

But I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline and some big plans bubbling on the back burners right now, so stay tuned!

Beautiful final evening at #SCCMLA16 #Galveston

A photo posted by Louise (@bibliothekla) on

Backlist Love | Beauty School Dropout

October 15, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.


The Classic Ten: The True Story of the Little Black Dress and Nine Other Fashion Favorites by Nancy MacDonell Smith (Penguin, 2003)

Color Stories: Behind the Scenes of America’s Billion-Dollar Beauty Industry by Mary Lisa Gavenas (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

The Classic Ten

Explore the origins, meaning, and remarkable staying power of the ten staples of feminine fashion, including the little black dress, blue jeans, high heels, and more. Tracing the evolution of each item from inception to icon status, she reveals the history and social significance of each, from the black dress’s associations with danger and death to the status implications of the classic white shirt. Incorporating sources from history, literature, magazines, and cinema, as well as her own witty anecdotes, Smith has created an engaging, informative guide to modern style.

Color Stories

For everyone who’s ever slicked on lipstick, flirted with eye shadow, or browsed the bewildering array in any store’s beauty de-partment, “Color Stories” offers an insider’s view of all the brainstorming, bickering, and bitchery that go into those little sticks of color and pans of powder. Former beauty editor Mary Lisa Gavenas takes us behind the scenes during the nine months that culminate in the launch of a season’s all-important “color stories.” We discover how one shade becomes the “must have,” why makeup artists never use the same products as the rest of us, and exactly how easy — and impossible — it is to start a million-dollar makeup line.

Why I liked them

I realize that a lot of folks think of beauty and fashion as “vapid” interests, but these industries combined account for over 407 billion dollars of business done in the U.S. alone. I also think that some people dismiss these things because they’re seen as traditionally feminine, and that ain’t OK. So I’m really glad for books like these that discuss seriously some of the history/culture behind the beauty and fashion industries! Plus, this “behind-the-scenes” stuff is just downright fascinating.

Who I’d recommend them to

I’d say that if you’re interested in cute clothes or fun makeup at all, these books are for you. You don’t have to be an Instagram “model” or subscribe to Vogue as a prerequisite or anything — if you just swipe on a little lipstick now and then or appreciate a good comfy cashmere sweater, you can learn something super interesting from either of these books.


The Classic Ten

Color Stories


Backlist Love | Princess Charming

October 14, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 0

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.


Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (Dutton, 2014)

Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm by Helen Valentine and Alice Thompson (Chronicle, 1938)


Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at “pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?

Better than Beauty

Better than Beauty resuscitates the long-lost art of charm with hints, tips, and tricks guaranteed to boost our charm quotient. First published in 1938, this classic compendium is overflowing with timeless advice to help guide you through a maze of social interactions with wit and finesse. Much more than an etiquette or personal grooming book, Better than Beauty tackles complicated social situations with delicacy.

Why I liked them

I picked up Better Than Beauty on a whim ages ago because I honestly thought it was a kitschy joke book just based on the cover (like those Anne Taintor magnets and things). Joke was on me, though, because it was actually a reprint of a pre-WWII guide to “charm” for women. And you know what? … it was actually exactly what I needed at that point in my life. It was one of those awkward time periods — both socially and physically — and having Betty Cornell’s vintage advice was actually one of the things that helped me figure out how to grow out of that. Along those same lines, I kind of wish I’d had Maya’s book at that age, too — but knowing teenaged me, I probably would have refused to read such an obvious “guidance counselor bait” book.

Who I’d recommend them to

Well, teen girls trying to drag themselves out of one of those awkward stages, of course. Or just anyone who’s interested in fashion and etiquette and that sort of thing — especially if you (like me) sometimes need a reminder that whatever trends you see in the fashion magazines aren’t the end-all-be-all of beauty/charm/social success.



Voyage of the Beagle
by Charles Darwin

October 9, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 6


★ ★ ★ ★

Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin | Originally published 1839 | Penguin Classics | Paperback $16

When HMS Beagle sailed out of Devonport on 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin was twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime. His journal, here reprinted in a shortened form, shows a naturalist making patient observations concerning geology, natural history, people, places and events. Volcanoes in the Galapagos, the Gossamer spider of Patagonia and the Australasian coral reefs – all are to be found in these extraordinary writings. The insights made here were to set in motion the intellectual currents that led to the theory of evolution, and the most controversial book of the Victorian age: The Origin of Species.


I’m so, so glad that I put this title on my Classics Club list — and I’m so, so glad that I just happened to find a dusty copy languishing at a local used bookshop for only $3!

A couple of minor but relevant pieces of information: I have a BS in Biology and am the child of a scientist and am employed at a science-focused academic library. I also do not usually get on well with Victorian literature.

In this case, my enthusiasm for the subject matter (and the youthful author’s own clear enthusiasm) won out over my difficulties with the Victorian-ness of the writing.

Darwin suffered from terrible seasickness for much of the voyage, so he spent as much time travelling by land as he could possibly justify. I feel bad for the guy, but his extended explorations through various countries is what allowed him to produce this book and its controversial heir.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with this book, of course. Young Charlie subscribed to some of the rather paternalistic/racist views of typical imperialist Englishmen of the time, and his opinions on the foreign cultures he encounters do awkwardly (for the modern reader) reflect that. Besides that, he does tend to get a little too excited about some topics that no one else besides a fellow topic-specific geek would care about. Even I couldn’t be bothered with pages of descriptions of flatworms or geological strata. You have to be OK with skimming past this kind of stuff if you want to make it through the whole book.

That said, there are some real jewels to be found. For instance, there was the time when good ol’ Charlie managed to lasso himself while some gauchos tried to teach him how to fend for himself. And how about his attempts to ride the Galápagos tortoises like an an overgrown, overenthusiastic boy?

I like to imagine that if blogs had existed in the early 1800’s, Darwin would have been typing IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THIS IS SO COOL, YOU GUYS and taking selfies with any animal/person who’d stand still long enough.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in the history of biological/ecological sciences or 19th century English history. And hey — definitely check out the links below. A lot of Darwin’s journals, letters, etc. are freely available online and, again, there are some real gems floating around out there.

Have you read this book, or other books by/about Darwin? Did you find any particular part of his journey especially fascinating?


Publication information: Darwin, Charles. Voyage of the Beagle. New York: Penguin, 1989. Print.
Source: Used bookshop.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Blood Red Snow White
by Marcus Sedgwick

October 8, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 0


★ ★ ★ ★

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick | October 2016 | Roaring Book Press | Hardcover $17.99

Russia wakes from a long sleep and marches to St Petersburg to claim her birthright. Her awakening will mark the end for the Romanovs, and the dawn of a new era that changed the world. Arthur Ransome, a journalist and writer, was part of it all. He left his family in England and fell in love with Russia and a Russian woman. This is his story.

First, let’s make something super clear: this is NOT any kind of fairy tale retelling, nor is it another popular YA fantasy/paranormal adventure/romance à la Cinder or Shadow and Bone. It’s actually a reprinting of a slightly fairy tale-themed historical fiction from nearly a decade ago. The redesigned cover is a little misleading, right? Well, never mind about that.

Now, let’s talk content: even though the marketing might be a little bit misleading, the actual story is totally worth reading. It’s based on the life of a real children’s book author, Arthur Ransome, with a focus on his fascination with Russian culture and his somewhat unwitting involvement in the Russian revolutions of the early 20th century. I’m in no way a Russian history “enthusiast” or whatever, but I did find this story incredibly fascinating after having learned a bit more about the country’s past in The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which I had the pleasure of reading earlier this year.

I actually jumped at the chance to read an ARC of the reprint because I read Midwinterblood by Sedgwick a year or two ago and ABSOLUTELY LOVED it. (But I didn’t review it here for some reason though?) Blood Red Snow White isn’t quite at the level of Midwinterblood, but it’s still pretty good and definitely worth reading if you’re into Russian culture/history, WWI-era Europe, or the classic children’s stories of Arthur Ransome.

Note: This book was provided at no cost to the reviewer by the publisher via Edelweiss.


Publication information: Sedgwick, Marcus. Blood Red Snow White. New York: Roaring Book Press, 2016. EPUB file.
Source: ARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Backlist Love | Slightly Less Depressing SFF

October 2, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 6

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.


The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, 2001)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (Pan, 1979)

The Eyre Affair

Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers….

Why I liked them

OK, I suppose the title ought to have been ‘Somewhat Cheery SFF’ or ‘More Likely To Make You Laugh Than Cry SFF’ but since I posted about ‘Slightly Depressing SFF’ yesterday I thought it might be best to continue the theme….

I enjoy somewhat silly books that make healthy use of puns, literary/film references, and, well, general silliness. Neither of these books are particularly heavy on character development or world-building or even particularly serious philosophy — they’re just good fun romps through quirky imaginary settings.

Also, both of these books are the first of series, so if you do enjoy them the fun doesn’t have to end when you turn the last page.

Who I’d recommend them to

TBQH, these books are not for everyone. They both involve heaping helpings of British humor, geeky humor, and just plain absurd humor — on top of liberal, deliberate use of just about every trope you can think of. If you need your spec fic to involve dragons or rebel princesses or epic space battles, these books are not for you. But if you’re intrigued by depressed androids or Shakespeare authorship gang wars or interstellar bulldozers or hardboiled book detectives… definitely give these titles a try.


The Eyre Affair

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy


Backlist Love | Slightly Depressing SFF

October 1, 2016 Backlist Love, Books 4

Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Anchor Books, 1998)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Delacorte, 1969)

The Handmaid’s Tale

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….


Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Why I liked them

Don’t let the title of this post fool you — even though these books aren’t exactly uplifting, they do give me ALL THE FEELS. They’re both very political, tackling super tough topics like war and misogyny, but through the lens of somewhat absurd (initially, anyway) sci-fi circumstances.

Who I’d recommend them to

Um… everyone? OK, I guess folks who aren’t really into spec fic in the first place will probably not appreciate these books as much as they ought to be appreciated. I’d especially recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to folks who got really into the recent YA dystopian craze — especially to young women who are exploring their political opinions/options for the first time. Slaughterhouse-Five is a must-read for fans of Star Trek and other classic, thought-provoking science fiction stuff.


The Handmaid’s Tale



Wine Reviews for September ’16

September 30, 2016 Home Sweet Home, In the Kitchen, Just for Fun, Wine 0

La Posta “Pizzella” Malbec

Mendoza, Argentina, n.d.

A photo posted by Louise (@bibliothekla) on

– – –
This is a deep, near-opaque purplish red wine that smells of rich, dark berries with a hint of some kind of spice — maybe cinnamon. It tastes of overripe cherries and plums with an almost cheese-like umami flavor followed by a faint cinnamon or peppery aftertaste. Overall, I’d classify it as sweet but earthy. I drank it with pizza, artichoke hearts, and salad w/ apple vinaigrette. The wine tasted fruitier with the pizza and more savory with the veggies. It was also VERY yummy with the dark chocolate + raspberries I had for dessert.

Cupcake Moscato d’Asti

DOCG Italy, 2015

A photo posted by Louise (@bibliothekla) on

– – –
This wine is a favorite of mine because it’s light + sweet enough to go with just about anything, plus it is just about as low alcohol as you can get with wine (5.5 %). It’s a sparkling wine with large, slow bubbles that lend a little tickle to the taste — but they don’t last long, compared to most “party” sparkling wines. It smells and tastes like green apple, pear, and green grapes with a subtle floral note that makes me think of honeysuckle. I drank this with some good stuff that my husband cooked on the grill one hot summer evening: zucchini + mushrooms, corn on the cob, and hatch chile sausage.

Jam Cellars “Butter” Chardonnay

Acampo, California, 2015

A photo posted by Louise (@bibliothekla) on

– – –
This stuff is a slightly green-tinted gold color with an aroma of apple pie or poached pear. I drank it chilled first, and found it initially tart-sweet with a strong apple/pear flavor with an oaky-bold taste upon swallowing. It tasted quite a bit more buttery after it had warmed up a bit. I quite enjoyed with with some pasta + veg in a mild white cheese sauce and some garlic-stuffed olives, then later with some goat cheese and tomatoes with more olives.

The Martian Chronicles
by Ray Bradbury

September 24, 2016 Book Reviews, Books 2


★ ★ ★

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury | May 1950, this ed. 2012 | Simon & Schuster | Paperback $7.99

In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury, America’s preeminent storyteller, imagines a place of hope, dreams, and metaphor; of crystal pillars and fossil seas, where a fine dust settles on the great empty cities of a vanished, devastated civilization. Earthmen conquer Mars and then are conquered by it, lulled by dangerous lies of comfort and familiarity, and enchanted by the lingering glamour of an ancient, mysterious native race. In this classic work of fiction, Bradbury exposes our ambitions, weaknesses, and ignorance in a strange and breathtaking world where man does not belong.

When I compiled my Classics Club list, I purposely sought out classic books in the realms of Sci-Fi and Fantasy. To be honest, I rather prefer the stuff closer to the Fantasy side of that spectrum, and — again with the honesty — I don’t think I would have picked up this particular book if it hadn’t been for the Classics Club challenge.

The Martian Chronicles is really a collection of related short stories rather than a “real” novel. The stories begin at a time when Earthlings first begin to land on Mars and meet the native inhabitants, and proceed along to the point where a little group of humans become the Martians.

Of course, this book was written nearly two decades before we landed on the moon — several years even before the Space Race began. So, a lot of what a modern reader might consider “expected” in the way of terminology and technology and culture is completely reimagined. For example, space ships are generally called “rockets”… and mid-20th-century gender roles/expectations are quite firmly enforced, even for the original alien Martians themselves. It’s a little jarring, not gonna lie, but that’s the sort of thing you learn to expect with these old books, y’know? Not worth burning the book over, but I definitely rolled my eyes a few times….

I found this book kinda hard to rate because I wasn’t really grabbed by it (if it had been something I’d started on a whim, I might not have bothered to finish) but I can also see why it is so widely considered a classic. Bradbury’s writing is generally clean but beautiful in its own way, and the characters — while not 100% 3-dimensional — are interesting and realistic.

Further complicating matters, this particular edition does not include 2 stories that have been included in some other editions — “The Fire Balloons” and “The Wilderness” — while it does include a story sometimes cut from other editions, “Way in the Middle of the Air”. I suppose I can see why overly-cautious editors would cut the latter, as it includes quite a few utterances of the n-word. However, the story is quite clearly inspired by the budding Civil Rights Movement of the ’50’s-’60’s.

In the end, I’m glad I read The Martian Chronicles but it isn’t something I’d unreservedly recommend to other readers. But it’s a fine choice if you’re looking to expand your experience of early speculative fiction!

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


Publication information: Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.
Source: Thrift shop.
Disclaimer: I am not compensated, monetarily or otherwise, for reviews of books or other products.

Welcome Home

September 23, 2016 Home Sweet Home 2

We had 2 new kiddos join our family this week.


(If you follow me on Instagram you already know this… sorry for the repost I guess, but CATS so whatever.)

The slinky gray one on the left is Bentley. He’s a little shy, hates closed doors, and is very good at pouncing and going for the kill.

The fluffy orange one on the right is Oliver. He’s a big cuddlebug, likes watching TV, and he hasn’t quite figured out how the litterbox works yet.

These two are a bonded pair — probably siblings, but we don’t know for sure. They were at the shelter for a while because their previous human passed away, but they couldn’t be adopted out separately because they’re so attached to each other. I found out that the shelter was having a 50% off sale on cats AND they have a BOGO deal for bonded littermates, so… here we are!