Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All hail Emperor Franzen

1. James Franco has invested heavily into the Jason Lea Bank of Goodwill. He has ties to Freaks and Geeks and the Spider-Man trilogy, both of which count for something ‘round here. But that doesn’t make him a good author.

I had concerns after reading Franco’s short story in Esquire. Palo Alto, a series of short stories based in a fictional facsimile of Franco’s hometown, is similarly unremarkable, according to PW.

The reviewer said it “reads like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho fell into a Catcher in the Rye remix.”

I’m not sure what that line is supposed to mean, but it elicits an “oh, snap!”

Let me be clear. I haven’t read Palo Alto. But bad review paired with the underwhelming first impression of “Just Before the Black” have quelled any anticipation I might have had for Franco’s fiction.

2. Online Masters compiled the top 40 comic stories to integrate into college curriculums. I love that Ohio natives Brian K. Vaughan (who is misspelled as “Vaughn”), Jeff Smith and Harvey Pekar wrote six of the 40 suggestions.

All the usual suspects — Watchmen, Maus, Sandman — show up, but it’s a pretty good primer for those who don’t care about superheroes but are intrigued by the potential of the medium. Not that the list completely ignores capes, All-Star Superman makes a deserved appearance.

3. Some clever soul has started an @emperorfranzen Twitter feed in the wake of Jonathan Franzen’s Times cover.

Samples: “I see too many self-pub novelists “pushing” their books too hard. Me? I never do publicity. It does me.”

“I love me some marshmallow Peeps. I imagine each one is a chick lit author as I devour them.”

“Writing Tips From the Franz: “Write what you know. You know nothing. So write nothing, and read my books instead.”

4. Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng update us on their school in Sudan.

Speaking of Sudan...

Still speaking of Sudan...

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (Aug. 30-Sept. 5)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to Community@News-Herald.com or submit it at www.News-Herald.com/Calendar, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

Paws to Read will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Children’s Theater at Mentor Public Library, Main Library on Mentor Avenue. Kids who are able to read independently are invited to sign-up for a 30-minute session. The child will be paired with a gentle dog that is licensed and trained to be a good listener. Registration begins Sept. 1 and this event is expected to fill quickly.
Call the library at 440-255-8811, ext. 220, to register.

State Rep. Mark A. Schneider, D-Mentor, will hold a “Community Conversation” town hall meeting from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Morley Library, 184 Phelps St. in Painesville. The meeting will allow Schneider to speak with members of the community and listen to the questions and concerns of his constituents. Schneider will also update members of the community on his recent legislative actions in Columbus. The “Community Conversation” is free and open to all members of the community.

The Friends of the Geauga Mobile Libraries will be hosting the annual five-day used book sale at the Great Geauga County Fair, Sept. 2-6. The book sale building is located just inside the north gate (free parking area). There will be thousands of books available. Shoppers using hand-held scanners will be charged a $20 fee before they are able to shop. No hoarding will be permitted. "The Book Stop" is open Thursday through Monday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday will be bag day, fill a plastic bag for $3 and a paper bag for $5.

--Cheryl Sadler

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Mightier Than the Sword

Although you might not be able to tell from my last few posts, I do read books that aren't recommended by my grandmother or feature the Wakefield twins of Sweet Valley.

The other night I finished "Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History," by Rodger Streitmatter. From the American Revolution to the present day, the author discusses times when print and broadcast sources have had an influence on the history and course of the country. He mentions examples of the media both hurting and hindering the progress of the country -- when the media have encouraged politicians to effect change and when the institutions have done little more than regurgitate what government or businesses have said.

I found the book got more interesting with the introduction of radio, television and the Internet. The different situations in which new forms of media were involved proved that one could no longer hide behind text that was not transmitted instantaneously.
By covering the (Civil Rights) Movement's various events, TV news awakened people throughout the country to the realities of black oppression in the South. By pushing those realities into the face of the American people everywhere, television news propelled the Civil Rights Movement into the American consciousness and onto the national agenda ...
As the TV cameras showed blacks being cursed, spit upon, attacked by police dogs and blasted with firehoses merely for trying to exercise the rights that were guaranteed to them by the Constitution, those images became imbedded into the nation's consciousness. (p. 174-175)

Some might say the book has a liberal bias; but some also say the media have a liberal bias. But the book mostly reminded me of why I went into journalism in the first place. The ability to correctly portray a series of events, expose wrongs and analyze actions can change the course of the country.

-- Cheryl Sadler


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Associate

My grandmother and I have passed along several book recommendations to each other, sometimes lending the other books we've just finished reading. Here, I'll review a book she recently recommended to me.

"The Associate" by John Grisham is the story of Kyle McAvoy, who, against his will takes a job as an associate at a Wall Street law firm after being threatened by mysterious men who have an incriminating video of him.

I really didn't care about this book for the first 250 pages. McAvoy is accused of allowing a girl to be raped, which are really serious allegations that I don't think he should be blackmailed into avoiding. I was angry at the main character and didn't care about what trouble he might be running into -- until the mysterious men take the threat a step to far and bad things really start happening. The last 200 pages got me actually invested in McAvoy and his attempt to catch the bad guys who were trying to get him to violate his personal and professional ethics by stealing from his firm. Another major complaint I had about the book was that it took about 100 pages for McAvoy to decide he was going to do what the bad guys wanted him to -- even though that is the point of the book. Seriously, nearly 25 percent of the way through the book for the main character to decide that he is going to do what you already know he is going to do? I can't believe I kept reading after that.

Overall, Grandma, the second half was better than the first. I would have liked to hear more about McAvoy's actions to try to keep the bad guys at bay, but then again, watching the plot unfold without knowing what was going to happen was all right, too.

-- Cheryl Sadler

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James Patterson Rules the Universe

1. According to Forbes, one in every 17 novels purchased in the United States lists James Patterson as its author.

(Note, I did not say he wrote them.)

That’s an incredible statistic. I won’t bother saying if I think Patterson saturation is a good or a bad thing. However, I do want to know if this is unprecedented.

When Michael Crichton, Nora Roberts or Stephen King were at the zenith of their popularity, did they ever dominate the market as Patterson has?

J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown may write more popular books, but I don’t think they are prolific enough to keep up with Patterson’s numbers. Rowling wrote seven books. Patterson (with his posse) writes about eight a year. One can only buy so many copies of The Deathly Hallows. Patterson has grabbed an astonishing market share by constantly feeding his fans new fodder.

There aren’t many surprises in Forbeshighest-paid authors’ list. All the expected faces appear. Stephenie Meyer, King, Danielle Steel and Ken Follett finish the top five.

2. One of Langston Hughes’s Cleveland homes has been condemned, but that does not mean it will be demolished.

Hughes stayed in five different homes while he lived in Cleveland. Three have been destroyed. Two have been condemned.

3. “It is overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian. To the public, it will be revolting. It will not sell, and will do immeasurable harm to a growing reputation ... I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

The Library of America looks back on the history or Lolita. Vladimir Nabokov’s best known work has a success story fit for this century. It didn’t become popular until critics complained it was smut.

4. @GrammarHulk and @EditorHulk have clarified. They are different Hulks. As are @FeministHulk, @LonelyHulk, @DrunkHulk and the legion of other gamma-powered superheroes who invaded Twitter.

5. Jimmy Carter is scheduled to appear at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Legacy Village on Sept. 28 to sign his new book, White House Diary. Line tickets are required, limited and available by purchasing a copy of White House Diary at Joseph-Beth.
Carter, in addition to being a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president, is a prolific author. He has written more than 20 books.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

P.S. Tricia, if you're looking for a detective story, I'd recommend The Man Who Was Thursday. I think that would qualify. The main character is a detective who's pursuing what he thinks is a dangerous anarchist. Yes, the novel has fantastic and metaphysical trappings, but it still counts, right?

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to the future

I recently caught up with a character from my past.

Rusty Sabich.

He's the attorney at the heart of Scott Turow's "Presumed Innocent" and now "Innocent."

PI was the book to read the summer it came out. I lived in Chicago then and still dreamed of writing my own novel someday when Turow's work was published. Much was made of the fact that he wrote parts of the book while commuting to work on the train. Like lots of other would-be novelists, I thought, I could do that.

Fast-forward twenty-some years and I still haven't done that. But Turow has continued, and I was excited to catch up with his cast of characters again.

One of the things that set PI and Innocent apart for me is that I don't like the lead character.

I am not rooting for Sabich to come out on top. I am pulled through the plot by supporting characters and their actions.

Once again Turow has drawn me into the story. His work is fast-paced without making me feel like I'm reading a movie script outline (the way I sometimes feel reading John Grisham.)

This sequel didn't seem forced. I believed that this is where these characters would be and I was surprised at how much of the original novel I remembered decades later.

So if you were a fan of PI, and even if you never read it, this is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

It has sparked a renewed interest in checking out some mystery/detective novels ... any suggestions?

- Tricia Ambrose

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (Aug. 23-29)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to Community@News-Herald.com or submit it at www.News-Herald.com/Calendar, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

“Books with Breakfast” will take place Aug. 24 at Mentor Public Library's Lake Branch. Join Adult Information Services Librarian and Profiler Sarah O. for a half hour packed with poetry, drama, narrative and breakfast. No registration required, just stop in. Sarah will be at the Lake branch at 9:45 am. Details: www.mentorpl.org.

Digital Photography 101 will be at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at Madison Public Library, 6111 Middle Ridge Road. Photographer Ron Surmick will present the class covering basic photographic techniques, the magic of light, benefits of digital photography, basic camera operation, and image processing.
Then go out and take some great photos and to enter in the 10th annual Madison Public Library Photography Contest. This year’s theme is “My Favorite Place.” Patrons will vote on the Best Outdoor Place, Best Indoor Place, Most Fun Place, Most Relaxing Place and That’s My Favorite Place, too! Pick up an entry form and details at the library or online at www.madison-library.info.

The Geauga County National Alliance on Mental Illness Family Support Group will meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 24 at Middlefield Public Library, 16167 East High St., Middlefield Village. The group is for individuals who have a family member, loved one or child diagnosed with a mental illnesss or for those who have a mental illness. The program is freee and registration is not necessary. For details, call the Geauga MHA at 440-285-3945.

The Mentor Public Library is hosting a Starry Night Book Party from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 27 under the big tent on the Read House next to the main branch of the Mentor Public Library. Adults are invited to come celebrate the end of summer reading by talking about books they have read over the summer. Attendees also have the option of bringing a book to swap. Refreshments and music, courtesy of the Friends of the Mentor Public Library, will be provided. Admission is free. Register online at www.mentorpl.org or stop by the reference desk for assistance. For more information, contact Barb Hauer at barbara.hauer@mentorpl.org or 440-255-8811, ext. 210.

Madison Public Library, 6111 Middle Ridge Road, Madison, will host “Fall Lawn Care for a Beautiful Lawn Next Spring” Aug. 28 at the library. Details: 440-428-2189.

The Borders Creekside Commons has launched a book drive as part of a chain wide effort to increase literacy among kids. Until Aug. 30, store associates will encourage customers to donate enriching books including titles from the Junie B/ Jones, Magic Tree House and Ramona and Beezus series, as well as picture books for very young readers. The store has partnered with The Salvation Army, which will receive and distribute the donated books to needy kids within the community.
During the book drive it had in March, the store collected about 600 books and plush toys and provided them to Forbes House. The company as a whole delivered more than 600,000 titles and 85,000 stuffed toys to kids in need nationwide.

--Cheryl Sadler

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Jonathan Franzen -- 'Great American Novelist'

Yes, let’s start with this.

1. I rolled my eyes when I saw Jonathan Franzen’s Time cover — not because his fame founded from a minor tiff with Oprah; not because his reputation is predominantly based upon a single novel that I think is overrated. (No, I didn’t like The Corrections, but I understand why other people do.) It’s not even that there are other authors who I feel deserve the honor more. Everyone has their favorites, and Franzen has both commercial and critical cache.

No, I rolled my eyes because Time felt the need to pair Franzen with the words “great American novelist.” I don’t question that Franzen is a novelist and American, and there are many people who are smarter than me that think he’s great. But the words have a ring of exclusivity.

The title seems, at least, premature. Steinbeck, Melville and Hawthorne are great American novelists. Mailer and Updike are great American novelists. So are Toni Morrison and Philip Roth.

I just don’t feel like Franzen has earned what these names have earned. (Let me be clear. I’m not accusing Franzen of hubris. I have no reason to think he suggested the cover head.) Maybe Freedom will blow me away, and I’ll have to retract my statement. Maybe I will be embarrassed for ever doubting him. But, right now, he is a man with some momentum. Let’s see if he can sustain it before we coronate him.

Franzen’s cover shot is also a big deal because Time has not put a writer on its front since Stephen King 10 years ago. (That fact is a bit misleading. Harry Potter appeared on the cover more recently for a story that was mostly about J.K. Rowling.)

The Millions has written a detailed history of the many writers who have appeared on the cover of Times.

2. Norman Mailer once claimed that God told him to walk out on an all-night diner’s check in 2007.

“It was God’s amusement to say, ‘You little prig. Just walk out of there. Don’t pay for the coffee. They’ll survive, and this’ll be good for you,’” he said.

This and some of the other worst divine-advice excuses are compiled in this Salon slide show.

3. What is most disappointing? That they are making a movie of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?

That they are filming this crucially American story in Montreal? (I mean stateside America. Obviously, Montreal is in America.)

Or that the cast includes Kristen Stewart?

4. Alice Walker on the segregation of African-American authors:

In my passion to locate more books by writers from other cultures I took a turn around the Kindle and Amazon sites, to discover something that seems truly amazing: books by black authors are segregated by race! This would be hilarious if it were not so troubling. If, after all of our struggle to integrate into this questionable system we may enter a bookstore and stand anywhere, but our books must reside in a corner, the world has not changed nearly as much as I, for one, assumed it had.

There are writers from Iran, Japan, Ireland, England, India, China, Israel, Korea, Tibet etc., all listed and shown to be writers of Literature. But when looking for my own novel (which world wide has sold perhaps fifteen million copies) I found it tucked away with twelve or so books by other African Americans under African American Literature. To make matters worse, no one had bothered to read the book to verify the narrative. A synopsis has the main character raped by her father rather than by her stepfather (her father was lynched when she was an infant) a point that is crucial to comprehending the dynamics of the heroine’s rise from disaster.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bad Poetry & Betty White

My grandmother’s recommendations — call more often; don’t swear so much; ditch the redhead and marry a nice, Italian girl.

Yes, it’s the return of the Linklord, The Duke of Diversion, The Tangentmaster.

Apparently, the blog transformed into a Sweet Valley High fan site when I disappeared. Permit me to reintroduce a sense of equity by writing about everything but Sweet Valley High.

1. Yesterday was Bad Poetry Day. Celebrate belatedly with the Frisky’s worst adolescent poetry.

On example from a poem entitled “Boy in a Band:”

Never thought a guitar
Could make you look cuter than you are
Guess this proves how wrong I can be
When it comes to you
Falling for you
All that you do
Boy in a Band.

This might be bad poetry, but at least it’s honest.

2. Novelist Rick Moody says the recession has impacted how writers are writing.

I think the economy is changing the way people are writing and that writers are more desperate then at any time since I’ve been watching what’s been happening closely. And I worked in publishing in the last big recession in the early 90’s, so I saw some of it at that time. I think people are just really scared that they’re not going to get published at all, and as a result, they’re trying to shoehorn themselves into pretty rigidly formatted kinds of things ...

My former students who are out there now trying to get published are having trouble on those lines. It’s the crazy great ones, the kind of mad ones who are really struggling to find people to publish them. And not because the projects don’t have merit, but just because everybody’s looking at Bookscan and they want certain numbers of units to ship and so on. That is going to affect people going forward, not only because we miss out but because when we miss out we then forget that the opportunity exists for that kind of experimental work.

Moody’s a good writer. I like him. But this is all seems pretty obvious.

Writers changing their style so they can get published? Gasp.

Art being impacted by a recession? Alack.

Here’s a list of other fields impacted by hard times: all of them.

3. Barnes & Noble is for sale. The Wall Street Journal details how it fell so far so fast.

The simple explanation for Barnes & Noble’s decline is the Internet, which spawned Amazon.com, e-readers and digital books. But that didn’t have to be the end for B&N, which had a dominant market position and should have out-Amazoned Amazon, leveraging its brand and innovating when it began marketing and selling books online.

4. Betty White has signed a two-book deal with Putnam. You know you care.

5. Frank Kermode, a critic so influential he was knighted, has died at the age of 90.

6. Want to know what tyromancy is? Take the Guardian’s weird-word quiz.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All That Remains

My grandmother and I have passed along several book recommendations to each other, sometimes lending the other books we've just finished reading. Here, I'll review a book she recently recommended to me.

"All That Remains: a Scarpetta Novel" by Patricia Daniels Cornwell follows Dr. Kay Scarpetta as she tries to track down the person who has murdered the daughter of an up-and-coming Washingtonian and her boyfriend. Their deaths mirror those of several other couples, and Scarpetta works to link them together and figure out who is responsible for the crimes.

The action and suspense in the book kept me reading. I often made my way through 100 pages without realizing that I had been sitting still for that long. But I also found that the book occasionally seemed to drag. I take issue with romantic subplots in action stories that are seemingly put in there to entertain the women but to me are just distractions and wasted space that could be used to further the plot.

The end of the book had a plot twist ... sort of. I think it was supposed to, but it seemed to me like the idea was just thrown in without enough pages to explain why. I couldn't figure out the point of inserting the twist that late in the story, and it made me leave the book on a sort of bad note.

Overall, Grandma, this book was fine for its suspense, but I don't know if I would recommend it, nor read it again.

--Cheryl Sadler

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Danielle finally updates!

I am fortunate that my partner in crime, Cheryl, has been updating you all more regularly on our Countdown to Sweet Valley Confidential. Sadly, I have fallen a bit behind and have only today finished the second book in the series, "Secrets." So far I am almost embarrassed to admit how much I am enjoying the books. I wish I could chalk it all up to the nostalgia of revisiting places and characters I so adored as an adolescent, but I fear I am actually amused by the petty high school drama found on each page.

As I'm sure you can imagine, "petty high school drama" is pretty much the name of the game in Sweet Valley, California. So far I've seen Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield fight over a boy, Jessica chase the Homecoming crown, Jessica gossip about Elizabeth's best friend... and Elizabeth stick around to clean up after Jessica's messes, and exact some form of fitting but harmless revenge. And while all this is expected, I am actually surprised at some of the intense subplots and the shockingly casual way they are all handled.

For example, in the first book, "Double Love," not only do Jess and Liz (and big brother Steven) almost accuse their father of having an affair, Liz is also involved in a scary situation involving underage drunken driving. She also accuses Todd Wilkins, the object of the twins' affections and Liz's eventual boyfriend, of attempted rape. In "Secrets," one of the twins' classmates goes so far as to plaster posters throughout the school alleging an affair between a student and teacher, and Liz's best friend Enid Rollins admits her past problems with drugs that led to her involvement in an accident in which a young boy was left paralyzed.

While I definitely remember the crazy scenarios from my first read of the series, I am sure I missed the possible gravity of each of these situations the first time around. For Enid to admit freely that she once mixed alcohol, marijuana and ecstasy with a boyfriend before hopping behind the wheel... it's absolutely horrifying! What's worse is that she seemed much more concerned about becoming fodder for the rumor mill when she confessed her secret to Liz than she seemed remorseful for the lives she altered.

Of course, my mild dismay at the nonchalant approach to such heavy subjects as accused rape, student-teacher affairs, drunken driving and drug use only draws me further into the books (not sure what, exactly, that says about me--but I feel it totally necessary to out myself as a former high school goody-two-shoes who spent all her time practicing her saxophone and reading about high school scandals instead of actually participating in such activities). Maybe the reason it's so easy to ignore the terrible things because it's blatantly obvious how fakely perfect everybody and everything in the books turn out. In a perfect place like Sweet Valley, nothing can bring you down.

Except maybe forced references to cell phones, "24" and "Heroes". But that's a topic for another time, I suppose.

--Danielle Capriato


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Books 2 and 3 are in the books

Since Wednesday I have finished two more books in my Countdown to Sweet Valley Confidential. "Secrets" focuses on Jessica's quest to become homecoming queen, while "Playing With Fire" chases Jessica's wild love affair with The. Bruce. Patman. And in both books, as is usually the case, level-headed Elizabeth tries to right Jessica's wrongs and gets some revenge that leads to a happy ending in time for the next book in the series.

This surely will be a pattern for the next 178 books.

I commented after I read the first in the series that the book seemed kind of shallow, like there wasn't much development. But now that I'm three books in, I can better see why there's not much to the books. Each one is like an episode of a sitcom, during which you learn a little bit more about the character. You don't get the full understanding until you've watched several, and at that point you are able to predict the next moves. And it's going through this getting-to-know-you phase that you start to like the characters.

At this point, I can't see how anyone would like Jessica over Elizabeth. Jessica is a mean girl, and I don't even quite understand why Elizabeth is still interested in being her BFF, forgiving her each time she stabs someone in the back to get her way. But then again, Jessica has some sort of charming way about her that makes you take her side when someone like Bruce Patman treats her like dirt.

I hate to admit how much I am interested in reading the rest of the series. It's dramatic teen lit that I almost would call trashy. Case in point:
Together they swam to a shallower area, where they could stand with just their heads and shoulders above water. As Bruce looked her over appraisingly, Jessica was happy she'd remembered to wear waterproof makeup tonight. She had a feeling that Bruce wouldn't have that sexy, salivating gleam in his eye if she had black mascara running down her face. Jessica's heart pounded wildly at his obvious attraction.
"What do you say we pick up where we left off on the dance floor?" he asked, reaching through the water for her. He pulled her to him and his strong arms encircled her bare back under the water.
"Water dancing, huh?" Jessica said with a smile. "If you wanted a hug, Bruce, you could have just asked."
Bruce smiled down at her and held her even more closely. Under the water their knees touched, their thighs grazed, their flat stomachs pressed together. Jessica wanted to so badly to kiss Bruce she could hardly breathe. Part of her still couldn't believe this was happening. After all those years of daydreaming about him and wishing he would ask her out, here she was, in the middle of the lake, shivering as he held her.

That might be the worst passage from "Playing With Fire," and that kind of stuff is, to me, the worst part about these books. It's lame, but I suppose that's how those crazy teenagers feel.

-- Cheryl Sadler


Odds and Book Ends (Aug. 16-22)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to Community@News-Herald.com or submit it at www.News-Herald.com/Calendar, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

Entries in the fifth annual juried art show sponsored by the Geauga Council for Arts and Culture are on display during regular library hours through Aug. 20 at Geauga West Public Library, 13455 Chillicothe Road.

“Ten Steps to Living with Lupus” meets at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 16 the Willoughby Library, 30 Public Square. Reservations are required for each step. For details call 440-717-0183.

The Friends of Madison Public Library will sponsor “A Night at the Winery” with music, food and beverages 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 16 at Grand River Cellars Winery, 5750 S. Madison Road, Madison. A $25 ticket can be purchased at the library, and includes appetizer buffet, wine, beer, lemonade and iced tea. This event is open to anyone who would like to show their support for Madison Public Library. For details call 440-428-2189.

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine will sign copies of his book “Mustaine” A Heavy Metal Memoir” at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Legacy Village in Lyndhurst. In the book, Mustaine “describes his early, crazy days as a founding member of Metallica,” according to a news release from the store. Line tickets are required for the event; the tickets are given out with a purchase of “Mustaine” at Joseph-Beth. The store is located at 24519 Cedar Road. For information, call 216-691-7000 or visit josephbeth.com.

"Twilight" Trivia Night for ages 12 through 18 will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at Mentor Public Library. Test your "Twilight" knowledge against other fans. Sign up as a team or play on your own. Winners will receive "Twilight" prizes. Refreshments will be served. Registration is required. For details, call 440-255-8811, ext. 220, or visit www.mentorpl.org.

Burton Public Library will celebrate its 100th birthday at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 at the library in Burton Village. Music will be provided by the Hiram Rapids Stumblers. Home-made ice cream and cake will be provided. Bring a lawn chair. In case of rain, the party will be inside the library.

All Geauga County Public Libraries will be closed Aug. 20 for a staff in-service day.
The libraries will reopen at 10 a.m. and the stations at noon Aug. 21.
Geauga County Public Libraries are Bainbridge, Chardon, Geauga West, Middlefield, the Bookmobile, and the Newbury and Thompson library stations.

The Borders Creekside Commons has launched a book drive as part of a chain wide effort to increase literacy among kids. Until Aug. 30, store associates will encourage customers to donate enriching books including titles from the Junie B/ Jones, Magic Tree House and Ramona and Beezus series, as well as picture books for very young readers. The store has partnered with The Salvation Army, which will receive and distribute the donated books to needy kids within the community.
During the book drive it had in March, the store collected about 600 books and plush toys and provided them to Forbes House. The company as a whole delivered more than 600,000 titles and 85,000 stuffed toys to kids in need nationwide.

-- Cheryl Sadler

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One down, 180 to go!

Late Tuesday night I finished the first book in the Sweet Valley High series, "Double Love." I was about as satisfied with it as I should have expected to be. I didn't realize before that the plots were so shallow -- or I just didn't care. I also always knew I preferred Elizabeth over Jessica, but I never noticed that Jessica was such a jerk.

In "Double Love," Jessica does everything she can to try to get Todd to fall in love with her instead of her sister. Elizabeth, meanwhile, sits back and hopes that her luck will change. Both twins make references to how they don't care if the other is her sister because she wants Todd all to herself. I'm not a twin, but I was a high school girl, and I can't remember ever thinking that it would be a good idea to fight over a guy with my BFF. Then again, I was always more Elizabeth than Jessica, and, like Elizabeth, I would have passive aggressively hoped my luck would change through inaction.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that things ended happily in Sweet Valley (the place is called Sweet Valley, after all). After 223 pages, the twins have righted their wrongs, Elizabeth has snagged Todd and Jessica is ready to seek out her next conquest. The subplots of brother Steven's mysterious girlfriend and Mr. Wakefield's alleged affair both have a lot of build-up (relatively speaking) and quick, undramatic resolution. But then again, the book didn't have much depth in the first place.

Reviews aggregated on the WorldCat listing of the 2008 edition (which I read) complain about differences from the 1983 original. Readers are disappointed about the lack of the Dairi Burger (replaced by Casa del Sol) and Bruce Patman's license plate 1BRUCE1. But I didn't know the original books well enough to care about the changes that make the girls more appealing to today's tweens.

And because I brought up tweens, I'll also mention that it was slightly embarrassing to walk around the young adult series section of the library -- and to check out six Sweet Valley High books at once. Maybe not as embarrassing as the fact that for the rest of the series, I will be putting books on hold to be delivered to my library's circulation desk. I'm going to be totally disappointed if I come to a book that is not in Cleveland Public Library and have to buy it or skip it altogether. My anal-retentive side does not want to read the stories out of order! But, I do have 229 days to track down the rest of the books.

-- Cheryl Sadler


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dying words and pickup lines

Lots of lists today, a list of lists:

1. Flavorwire lists 25 pickup lines that someone can use on Alikewise, the dating service that matches people based upon their reading tastes.

(Yes, that’s right, Tricia. They have a dating site where they base compatibility on literary preferences.)

My favorite line — I finished Infinite Jest. Wanna bone?

Others might prefer the more subtle — I would endure a Dan Brown novel, if that’s what it took, to win your heart.

2. Kevin Kelly solicited recommendations for the best magazine stories ever. None of the stories I recognized were surprises, a lot of Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace and Jon Krakauer.

“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay Talese received the most nominations. (Once again, no shock. I’m actually a magazine journalist major masquerading as a newspaper man. I was assigned to read “Frank Sinatra” at least four times during my undergrad.)

Talese’s story is as good as the hype would lead you to believe. It deserves a post of its own, but I’ll just give you two thoughts.

-I didn’t remember (if I ever knew) that the young hipster Sinatra upbraids is Cleveland-born, former Painesville resident Harlan Jay Ellison. With Pekar dead, one could make a strong case for Ellison as the best living writer from Cleveland.

-The bravery and honesty with which Talese tackles Sinatra makes me wish his treatise on the mafia, Honor Thy Father, had been better.

The coolest thing about Kelly’s list is that he took the time to link to each of the individual stories. Don’t visit his site unless you have an hour or two to fill.

3. The Guardian has accumulated some writers’ famous last words.

Anton Chekhov has the best line.

“It’s a long time since I drank champagne.”

4. Slate recommends books for incoming college freshman. (Mencken on Mencken, hell yeah!)

5. Not a list. Not even book related. But it involves Ron Artest and that’s all the excuse I need.

Artest interviews himself for ESPN magazine. Say Queensbridge!

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Odd Couples: Marmaduke & Kafka, Jane Austen & the monster mash

Just bullet points today:

1. Marmaduke and Franz Kafka?

Why not? It’s the Internet, after all — the wonderland where Kanye West’s tweets and cartoons from The New Yorker can be juxtaposed.

The best thing about Keith Wilson’s Kafka and canine combination is that he has carefully matched the quote with the image. I’m amused by The Nietzsche Family Circus, also, but it only smashes together random Nietzsche quotes and Family Circus drawings. Yes, it’s good for a chuckle; but it is a coincidence if the final product reveals something new about Nietzsche or the Keane family.

2. Speaking of Kafka, lawyers have just opened four safety deposit boxes that are thought to be filled with unread Kafka manuscripts.

You may recall that Kafka instructed his friend, Max Brod, to burn all of his unfinished work when he died. If Brod had listened, nobody would have read The Trial, The Castle or Amerika.

This Guardian article details all the recent legal wrangling regarding Kafka’s still unread writings.

3. Jimmy Chen of HTMLGiant is so tired of birds on book covers.

4. Editor Janice Harayda tweeted the five most overused insults in book reviews.

They are “cardboard characters,” “thin plot,” “cookie-cutter characters,” “the book falls apart at the end,” and “I just didn’t care about the characters.”

Harayda’s not wrong, but she’d be better off just posting a link to Michelle Kerns’s monthly Reviewerspeak Awards.

5. Finally, Susan Miller of Salon asks why there can’t be more to these Jane Austen mash-ups than dropping some stock horror element in Hertfordshire.

“We couldn’t help noticing that the vast majority of the Austen mash-ups involve injecting some action element from contemporary pop culture into Austen’s stories in order to make the novels more interesting. This seems to work for quite a few readers, but those of us who find Austen’s books sufficiently interesting on their own are left to wonder when the favor will be returned. We’ve been shown what zombies and monsters and bare-knuckle brawlers can do for Jane — when do we get to see what Jane can do for them?” Miller asks.

Miller is asking, more eloquently, the same question I did when I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Why not use the zombies for something more than comedy? Why not make them a metaphor for socially solvent but intellectually bankrupt socialites?

However, I suspect it’s too late for this craze to beget anything more useful than a laugh. If nothing else, it probably coaxed some people into reading Jane Austen who might not have.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (Aug. 9-15)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to Community@News-Herald.com or submit it at www.News-Herald.com/Calendar, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

Reel Talk-Book and movie discussion group meets at 2:45 p.m. the second Monday of every month in Morley Library meeting Room B, 184 Phelps St., Painesville. Books and DVDs are available at the check-out desk on the main floor. Details: www.morleylibrary.org

Mentor Public Library will have an end-of-summer party at the Read House next to the Main Library, 8215 Mentor Ave., Mentor at 6 p.m. Aug. 10. Bring the family and celebrate the end of summer. There will be games and three inflatables to explore. For details call 440-255-8811.

The Art of Poem-Making will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11 at The Gathering Place East, 23300 Commerce Park, Beachwood. Poet John Fox will conduct a poetic medicine workshop that teaches participants to use poetry as a tool for expression. Advance registration is required. The event is free. For details, call The Gathering Place at 216-595-9546 or visit www.touchedbycancer.org.

Friends of the Wickliffe Public Library will host the annual book sale Aug. 12-14 in the meeting room of the library, 1713 Lincoln Road, Wickliffe. The sale hours are 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday for members only, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Saturday will be the day for the bag sale. Good bargains will be offered in books, videos, CDs, children’s books, paperbacks and more. Donations of any of the above materials that are in good condition will be accepted for the sale. For details call 440-944-6010.

Chef Sherry K. Letzelter, a popular local expert chef, is returning to the Beachwood Library to help children create several delicious treats following the theme of Melina Long’s book, “How I Became a Pirate.” Children entering second through fifth grades are invited to this progra,m which will begin at 4 p.m. Aug. 14. Registration is required, and parents must sign the release for their children to participate. Register by phone at 216-831-6868 or online at cuyahogalibrary.org.

The Burton Public Library will host a book sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 in the library basement. Enter the sale through the white door located at the back of the building. Burton Public Library is located opposite the Burton Park.

Join Steve Haas on Aug. 30 at Panera Bread, 9587 Mentor Ave., Mentor, at 6:30 p.m. for the “Twenty Something Readers.” This month’s selection will be "Manhunt: the twelve-day chase for Lincoln's killer" by James L. Swanson. Light refreshments will be provided. Stop by the library to get your copy of the book. For more information, call Haas at 440-255-8811. Details: www.mentorpl.org.

--Cheryl Sadler

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

A non-update and a shameless plug

I know everyone is on the edge of their seats, anxious to hear the update on the Countdown to Sweet Valley Confidential. But the update is a non-update because Danielle was on vacation in Florida (where it has been even hotter than Northeast Ohio) and I have been busy trying to finish my master's degree.

< shameless plug alert >

What's been keeping me busy for the past few weeks is finishing up a project as part of my practicum in the Cleveland Public Library Special Collections department -- the final requirement before earning my master's of library and information science from Kent State University. You can learn about what I've been doing this summer on CPL's blog.

Check back next week for what I hope will be a non-non-update.

--Cheryl Sadler

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Best of Twitter

om•pha•lo•skep•sis (äm´fә lō skep´sis) n. [omphalo- + Gr. Skepsis, a viewing: for base see SKEPTIC] 1. the act of contemplating one’s navel, as an exercise for mystics 2. Tweeting

Twitter has several uses, despite tweeters’ inclination toward navel-gazing.

For example, what’s better than Kanye West’s banal tweets? Kanye’s banal tweets paired with New Yorker cartoons.

Yes, these are authentic Kanye tweets paired with real New Yorker cartoons. Here’s a convenient Flickr gallery with them all.

Paul Sabourin, the mastermind behind #kanyenewyorkertweets, offered two explanations why the juxtaposition works during an interview with Urlesque.

“The pretentious explanation: Kanye's tweets are more or less raw id (unfiltered, portraying base emotions and simple thoughts) and New Yorker cartoons are almost entirely superego (carefully considered, 'quiet' presentation).

"The simple explanation: it just struck me as funny at 3 a.m. Luckily, unlike most 3 a.m. inspirations, this one actually seems to hold up.”

Some of my favorite Sabourin compositions play on slang, like this:

Or this:

Another Twitter use: Susan Orlean was tired of reading Magic Treehouse to her 5-and-a-half-year-old son, so she turned to her Twitter page for suggestions.

Orlean is one of the more successful authors on Twitter (in terms of both follower numbers and quality of Tweets.) She’s in that Colson-Whitehead, Neil-Gaiman, Stephen-Fry range.

She has more than 67,000 followers on Twitter and asked them what books they would recommend for her son, using the hashtag #booksthatchangekidsworlds. Her followers offered more than 250 suggestions, including my favorite book as a child, The Phantom Tollbooth.

Orlean later said on her blog, “What I have loved about reading through them is not just the great suggestions for my son but the shiver of pleasure I get each time I see a title that meant everything to me when I was a kid but that I haven’t thought about in years. I actually gasped when someone recommended Hailstones and Halibut Bones, by Mary O’Neil, a book I wore out twice when I was little but haven’t thought about in decades; I can’t wait to read it to my son, to see if it will change his world the way it changed mine.”

Carolyn Kellogg commented on the LA Times Book Blog, “Having someone like Susan Orlean on the Internet, blogging and tweeting about everything from her chickens (an unlaid egg led to lamaze-style ablutions) to books is a treat. It's like getting seated next to her on a plane on a day when she happens to be feeling chatty, or finding that she's in the office right next to you and wants to know what you think about donkeys.”

People post a lot of helpful links for writers on Twitter, but they also post a lot of other crap, too. I mean A LOT of worthless stuff you will never use.

Fortunately, Jane Friedman of The Writer’s Digest sifts through the stupid and provides the best tweets for writers each week.

Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Opening Lines & Words that Aren't Verbs

It dawns on me that yesterday’s headline was poorly phrased. Permit me to clarify.

Anne Rice did not quit Dr. Seuss sneakers, just Christianity.

Another full trough today, let’s begin:
1. Entertainment Weekly lists 20 classic literary opening lines.

Most of the books indisputably deserve their spot on the list. You already know the opening to Moby-Dick and A Tale of Two Cities, even if you never cracked their cover. Other worthwhile entries include Fahrenheit 451, The Bell Jar and my personal favorite opener, Anna Karenina. Even most of the newer selections like The Color Purple and A River Runs Through It are well chosen.

I only question one inclusion: Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book.

Great openers should be iconic or, in lieu of that, immediately memorable.

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife” is evocative. It’s interesting, but it’s not classic.

That’s not even Gaiman’s best opener. I prefer Stardust’s “There was a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire” to “There was a hand in the darkness.”

“Shadow had done three years in prison” from American Gods might trump them both. At least it doesn’t begin with “there was a,” which are three of the worst words with which to begin a story.

2. The Word offers its take on nouns that are commandeered as verbs.

While it may be a pet peeve for the grammatically conservative, writer Erin McKean argues for the malleability of language.

“The history of English, however, suggests that the language is remarkably flexible in terms of what can be verbed ... Objections to verbification in English tend to be motivated by personal taste, not clarity. Verbed words are usually easily understood. When a word like friend is declared not a verb, the problem isn’t that it’s confusing; it’s that the protester finds it deeply annoying.”

That last sentence cut me to the quick because I do find the verb “friend” deeply annoying.

McKean’s column was, in part, a response to the site notaverb.com.

Notaverb aims its vitriol at compound words like backup, cutoff, login, shutdown and startup.

Frankly, both McKean and Notaverb are right. Language is always changing, but “login” isn’t a verb. Neither are “shutdown” and “startup.” They are phrases, smashing a verb and preposition together. However, any outfielder would argue that “backup” is a verb, especially when a coach says it.

3. Remember Dave Holmes?

He was that guy who wanted to be an MTV VJ but lost to Jesse Camp. Then, he had a longer and more memorable MTV career than Camp.

He’s going to spend a year reading nothing but stunt books about how people did something for a year. Then, he’s going to write a book about it. In the meantime, he’s blogging about it.

I think this means that stunt books have gone metatextual.

4. This is a zedonk. It is what happens when a donkey and zebra procreate.

I can’t tell if it’s adorable or an affront to God.

Yeah, that last thing had nothing to do with books, but it makes you think.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

P.S. Let's see which tag I reuse first, "zedonk" or "jesse camp."

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Anne Rice Quits Christianity & Dr. Seuss Sneakers

Tricia’s on vacation in Europe, so it’s my responsibility to feed the blog this week.
Fortunately, the Internet has provided more than enough silage. (However, if you only read this blog for Tricia’s reviews, consider this your week off.)

1. MobyLives updates us on the Amazon/Random House/Wylie Agency triple-threat match. Andrew Wylie — who MobyLives refers to by his old sobriquet, The Jackal — has threatened that his operation will grow exponentially if major publishing houses do not offer better percentages for the e-book rights for backlisted books.

Wylie said, “If we do not reach an accord, Odyssey (Wylies’s publishing company, which distributes exclusively through Amazon) will grow. It will not publish 20 books, it will publish 2,000 and have outside investors and make itself available to other agents.”

According to MobyLives, none of the publishers seem intimidated; and Random House persists in its embargo of Wylie authors.

“Our position is unchanged. Random House will not do new business deals with a literary agency which sets themselves up as a direct competitor of ours with our titles,” said company spokesman Stuart Applebaum.

2. HTMLGiant lists some literary doppelgangers — famous authors and their look-a-likes. (My favorite: Raymond Carver & John Candy. It makes me wish that Candy would have lived long enough to star in the biopic.)

Everything Simultaneously chipped in with a bonus doppelganger — Jean Genet & Flea.

3. Anne Rice has posted that she has quit Christianity on her Facebook page.

“In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen,” she wrote.

It seems like Rice has confused Christianity with Catholicism.

4. Michelle Kerns describes the seven stages of grieving one suffers after paying full price for the hardcover edition of an awful book. (To which, I reply, who still pays full price for books?)

5. Dr. Seuss-inspired Converse are the coolest kicks since the Redman-designed shelltoes. Sadly, the best designs are only in children’s sizes.

6. Old Spice dude weighs in on libraries.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Odds and Book Ends (Aug. 2-8)

Odds and Book Ends features activities and events in the area related to libraries, books and authors. Send your events to Community@News-Herald.com or submit it at www.News-Herald.com/Calendar, and check back to The Book Club every week for upcoming events and activities at your local library.

Twilight Trivia Night for ages 12 through 18 will take place at 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at Mentor Public Library. Test your "Twilight" knowledge against other fans. Sign up as a team or play on your own. Winners will receive "Twilight" prizes. Refreshments will be served. Registration begins Aug. 2. For details, call 440-255-8811, ext. 220, or visit www.mentorpl.org.

Children and their families are invited to attend an exciting, high-energy musical performance by Chip Richter at the Beachwood Public Library, 25501 Shaker Blvd., Beachwood at 3 p.m. Aug. 6. Register by phone at 216-831-6868 or online at cuyahogalibrary.org.

The Chardon Public Library is accepting gently used books, CDs, videos, DVDs and puzzles for the Friends of the Library book sale taking place Aug. 7 and 8. A members-only preview will be from 10 to 11 a.m. and individuals may join the Friends or renew memberships at the door. General book sale hours will be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 7 and 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 8. Cost of most hardbacks is 50 cents each; paperbacks, 25 cents. For more information, call the library at 440-285-7601.

The Friends of Perry Library will be holding the annual Book and Bake Sale from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Perry Library. Many baked goods and quality used items for all ages will be available to purchase. All proceeds benefit Perry Library.
The Friends are also looking for new members. Annual membership fees are $2 per individual, $3 per couple, $5 per family and $10 per organization. Lifetime membership is $50. Friends receive admittance to book sale pre-sales and new Friendly Cash. Residency in Perry is not required to become a Friend. For more information about the sale, Friends or to learn how to apply please call 259-3300 or visit the library.

The Friends of the Kirtland Public Library is sponsoring a Community Yard and Bake Sale. The Yard Sale will be Aug. 7 on the front lawn of the Kirtland Public Library.
A 12-by-12-foot space is available for $20, and a corner space is $25. The sale runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with set-up at 7 a.m. Provide your own table and chairs. Reserve your space by calling the Kirtland Public Library at 440-256-READ (7323) or by signing up at the library, at 9267 Chillicothe Road (state Route 306), Kirtland.

The Mayfield Drive-In Theater and the Geauga County Public Library will host their annual "Library Night at the Drive-In” on Aug. 8. The featured movies will be "Cats and Dogs 2: Revenge of Kitty Galore," rated PG, beginning at 9 p.m. and "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse," rated PG, beginning at 10:30 p.m.
Cost is $10 per carload plus an additional fee of $5 for those who choose to bring their own food and beverage.
Located at 12091 Mayfield Road (Route 322) in Munson Township, the theater will open the box office at 7 p.m.
The Library’s Bookmobile will be on site and available for check-outs. The Geauga County Sheriff’s K-9 unit will visit along with the Munson Fire Department and University Hospital’s MedEvac Helicopter.
Sound will be transmitted on a 101.5 FM signal and attendees need to have an FM radio in their vehicle or bring a portable radio. The theater has a full concession stand for refreshments.
For more information, call one of the following Geauga County libraries: Bainbridge Library, 440-543-5611; Chardon Library, 440-285-7601, Geauga West Library, 440-729-4250; Middlefield Library and the Bookmobile, 440-632-1961, Newbury Station, 440-564-7552; or Thompson Station, 440-298-3831.

Artists in the Northeast Ohio are invited to submit entries to the fifth annual juried art show sponsored by the Geauga Council for Arts and Culture. Entry forms are available at libraries in Geauga County. They can also be downloaded from the Council’s website at www.geaugaartscouncil.org. Submissions in oil and acrylic, watercolor, photography and other media will be considered. Cash awards will be given for first and second place in each class as well as a Best of Show. Entries should be brought to the Geauga West Public Library, 13455 Chillicothe Road, between noon and 4 p.m. Aug. 9. Each artist may submit up to three items.
The exhibit will run Aug. 11 through 20 and will be open during regular library hours. A reception will take place for the public to meet the artists from 5 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 11 when the awards will be presented. Also on view will be the winning entries from the Virtual Geauga video contest and those winners will be introduced. Each year the Council purchases one item from the show to donate to an area organization. This year the recipient will be the DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children.

The Friends of Morley Library is in need of books for upcoming sales. VHS tapes, DVDs, music cassettes, CDs, and framed and unframed prints also are welcome. Donations may be dropped off at Morley Library, 184 Phelps St., in Painesville, during library hours.

The Book Club for Men will meet at the Mentor Public Library at 7 p.m. Aug. 16 to discuss "The Bureau: The secret history of the FBI" by Ronald Kessler. Stop by the library to get a copy of the book, or call Steve Haas at 440-255-8811. Details: www.mentorpl.org.

--Cheryl Sadler

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