The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

The Tao of Pooh

Tao (pronounced Dow) of Pooh,  is an ABSOLUTE MUST READ. I have read it at least five times since discovering it last year. It overviews the principles of China’s Taoism through A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. An absolute necessity for anyone stressed out, overworked, or just plain lost in the mindless activity of day-to-day life. One of my favorite quotes from the book: “the surest way to become Tense, Awkward, and Confused is to develop a mind that tries too hard– one that thinks too much.”

Peace, Love & Pooh.

A review of Te (pronounced Day) of Piglet will be posted later this week.

Availability: USMAI, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jeanette Warren
Rating: Must Read

How to Read a Dress by Lydia Edwards

How to Read a Dress

Lydia Edwards’ delightful new book, How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century is part fashion plate, part art book, and part historical text. Comprised of photos of about 100 surviving dresses – mostly from Europe, North America, and Australia – Edwards chronicles changes to hemlines, fabrics, sleeves, and undergarments between 1550 and 1970. In addition to describing each garment, Edwards also shows how home seamstresses were able to modify existing dresses to conform to changing styles. Edwards also discusses how women in rural Australia and North America adapted urban European silhouettes to fit local climates and conditions.

How to Read a Dress is the perfect guide for your next period piece movie marathon.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2017

Prize Update

With a month and a half to go, there is still time to join Library Summer Reading. We have some new prizes for you from the LAMC collection.

Reviewers who earn at least 5 points will be entered in the SMCM LAMC hoodie raffle.

Green: The Beginning and the End by Ted Dekker


I was I interested in reading Ted Dekker’s Circle series after learning that it can be read with Green as either the first or last book of the series. I started with Green because it was listed as “book 0” (and more importantly it was immediately available at the library). It is a fantasy that pits good against evil and takes place in both present time and the future (possibly after 4036 based on the prologue).

I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the book more with a different starting book or if I just didn’t like the book. I had trouble relating to the characters and their actions, this may be due to the ambitious premise of the book/series and relating actions in the other books. I’m not saying that the book wasn’t enjoyable at all; I enjoyed the connection between the timelines, the symbolism (I’m not literary enough to identify/understand it all, but it can be fun to think about), and some of the action. I will give the next book in the series (or maybe I should say the first book in the series) a chance because I still find the idea fascinating


Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended with reservations
Challenge: Book with a color in the title

Threads from the Refugee Crisis by Kate Evans

Threads from the Refugee Crisis

Threads is the firsthand report of Kate Evans, a cartoonist who volunteered in 2015 and 2016 in “The Jungle” of Callais– a refugee community that the author describes as the “Disunited Nations” because it houses refugees fleeing conflicts in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Cartoonist Alison Bechdel (Dykes to Watch out For & Fun Home) describes the form of Evans’ book as “comics journalism at its finest.” While most of the frames follow Evans’ as she meets people in the camp, other pages and chapters offer creative zoom-outs or zoom-ins on different aspects of crises hitting refugees hardest. She writes:

“To protect some of the people described in this book[,] their identities have been altered and some characters have been conflated. But everything you are about to read really happened.”

The effect of this formal choice is to create a multi-voiced and multi-perspective work that shows the humanity existing in the maddeningly destitute camps situated amidst one of the richest areas of the world. This in turn helps show how different “threads” of the refugee crisis make gordian knots or rapidly unravel (it’s a bit of a mixed metaphor) in ways that further oppress and traumatize people fleeing horrible violence. I especially appreciated the amount of this work that focuses on what people would see on the screen of a smart phone. Phones are interspersed across the pages showing twitter feeds of callous, cowardly internet trolls in the UK and across the world who are afraid of young orphans and those most traumatized by the 21st century’s worst conflicts, and whose fear is expressed through sickening rage (the conflicts, Evans reminds her readers, have been either instigated or exacerbated by American, British, and European colonialism, militarism, and economic woes. She notes that while we seem to have unending money to fuel the crisis, we can’t find any will to spend money to allay it).

Reading this beautiful book impacted me viscerally– at times it feels like you’re being gut punched by the stories and images– and other times furious at the cowardly tweets, the needlessly violent riot police, or the opportunistic politicians damaging the less fortunate to further their careers. Evans is hardly a neutral bystander. She screams at border police officers pinning a small child to the ground who tried to get to the UK: “You have an obligation to do your job in the most humane way possible!” Yet my fear in writing this review is that I’m making Evans’ book seem a mawkish, simplistic morality play where refugees=good and xenophobic Europeans and Americans=bad. It’s not that at all, though that’s not all that far off how this book ultimately made me feel. For one, it doesn’t portray the European volunteers as saints– they are at times incompetent and are uncomfortable walking the line between volunteering and embarking on “misery tourism.” The refugees themselves are not saints either, though Evans fiercely defends the refugees from all the racist, xenophobic slurs and logics that are so common in today’s political discourse.

Everyone should read this book.

Review Submitted by:  Shane D. Hall
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Book from a small press published in 2017

Golden Prey by John Sandford

Golden Prey

If you are a fan of John Sanford’s first couple of Prey books, you will love Golden Prey. Lucas Davenport is back, now a US Marshall and on the hunt to find some men who robbed a drug cartel lord killing several people, including a 6-year-old girl. The cartel boss has sent hired assassins to find the killers and they will stop at nothing to find them. As the assassins torture and kill their way thru Florida and Texas, Lucas is hot on the trail. Throw in the element of modern technology and you have a classic Prey novel. It’s the best Sanford I’ve read in a while. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

Availability: COSMOS
Reviewed by: Lynette Starke
Rating: Highly Recommend
Challenge: Book with a color in the title

The Cage by Megan Shepard

The Cage

The Cage is a science fiction book where teenagers are kidnapped by aliens and put in an enclosure and their attempts to escape. I liked the idea of this book and the author does give some interesting ideas about what aliens might be like and how different people would react to this situation. The alien technology was also interesting. I personally am a huge sucker for world building so I enjoy books that engage in this.

However, the book is hampered by the fact that the characters, and the main character especially, are incredibly stupid. They start out okay but soon devolve into people whose logic doesn’t make any sense. The main character is desperate to get back home, which is understandable, however she never thinks about what they are going to do when they get out of the cage (because of the tiny problem that they are several thousand miles away from Earth). A prime (non plot related) example of this, is when an alien is trying to get her to not escape, he shows her a girl who has tried to escape three times and has been drugged and sold into a fate worse than death. Her only thought is “she escaped so I can too.” Also, the book has this weird backstory for the main character which tries to make her seem tougher, caring and “not a victim” when it just makes her seem stupid, callous and self-righteous. Also coming along with this there seems to be an implication that the penalties for drunk driving are too harsh, even when a person dies because of it. Also, there is a love triangle and it is just as annoying as always.

I recommend with reservations. This book will probably only work for someone who is willing to put up with the stupidity of the characters to enjoy the world building.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Madeline Rivard
Rating:  Recommended with reservations