Friday, July 21, 2017

Photo Friday: Alcatraz

The Ninja Librarian is on vacation, visiting family and hiking. So instead of a story, we've put together a few photos for today's treat, from a visit to Alcatraz Island in June.

Everyone knows about Alcatraz, the infamous prison on a hunk of rock in the San Francisco Bay. Having lived in the area for upwards of 30 years, we decided it was time to visit (thanks to out-of-town visitors. Would we ever see the sights in our own backyards if it weren't for guests?).

We took BART, the local subway system, to the waterfront (only to find that we could have parked there much more cheaply than the 6 BART tickets. Oh well!). That left us with a pleasant walk along the Embarcadero to the Alcatraz Ferry.
An SF landmark.
Once embarked, everyone is a tourist. Looking back at the city from the water is part of the tour.
The Coit Tower tops the hill in the background.
It's a short crossing, so the attention soon turns to the island. The top of the hill, much like those in San Francisco itself, is all that rises above the waters of the Bay. It's mostly rock, and being directly in line with the mouth of the Golden Gate, currents around the island are tricky. (I know this, because in a moment of insanity, a friend and I decided to kayak around the island, from SF. We did live to tell the tale, but it wasn't one of our brighter moves).
From a Civil War-era garrison, the Island belonged to the miliary through WWI. In 1934 it opened as a prison, possibly the most secured prison in the country. Today, it belongs equally to the National Park Service and the birds.
We were lucky enough to not only spot some adorable seagull chicks, but to find them at feeding time. If you take a close look, you can see that the mama bird is regurgitating a fine meal for the chicks.
The windward side is home to a substantial rookerie, including for egrets. Wind and the excitements of mating together made for a bad hair day for this guy.
All that was lost on the prison inmates, who endured life in the chilly and damp cell blocks.
Three tiers of cells.
A pretty bleak place to call home.
Each prisoner got a cell like this. They took up arts and crafts to stave off the boredom of long sentences. Even crocheting! (I suspect knitting wasn't an option).

While the Park Service has restored and maintained many of the buildings, others, like the Warden's house, have gone the way of most structures left alone in this climate for 50+ years.

When you get tired of history, the views from the island are worth a good look all on their own. The City to the south, and the Golden Gate Bridge to the west. We took time to enjoy the view before sailing for the mainland again.
Bay cruises and the Angel Island ferry all pass close by The Rock.
Golden Gate Bridge
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Audiobook Review: Murder in an Irish Village, by Carlene O'Connor


Title: Murder in an Irish Village (Irish Village Mysteries #1)
Author: Carlene O'Connor, read by Caroline Lennon
Publisher: Dreamscape Media 2016; original hardback by Kensington, 2016. 304 pages.
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher's Summary:
In the small village of Kilbane, County Cork, Ireland, Natalie's Bistro has always been warm and welcoming. Nowadays twenty-two-year-old Siobhan O'Sullivan runs the family bistro named for her mother, along with her five siblings, after the death of their parents in a car crash almost a year ago. It's been a rough year for the O'Sullivans, but it's about to get rougher. One morning, as they're opening the bistro, they discover a man seated at a table with a pair of hot pink barber scissors protruding from his chest. With the local garda suspecting the O'Sullivans, and their business in danger of being shunned. It's up to feisty redheaded Siobhán to solve the crime and save her beloved brood. 

My Review: 

An altogether satisfying mystery! Maybe it just hit the right tone at the right time, but I thought the story and characters were interesting, the mystery was intriguing and not so easy to see through, and there were just the right amounts of excitement and romance (which is to say, a final scene that raised the heart rate a bit, and romance kept to the very mild and second or probably third tier of importance to the story).

Probably the only complaint I could make would be the usual one of motivation and justification for the amateur sleuth, and in all honesty, this was much less of an issue than with most cozies. Every time I began to think Siobhán should just go to the police and let it go, the author ramped up her personal investment, and gave Siobhán reasons why she couldn't wait for the slower-moving wheels of justice to grind.

The interactions of the people of the village are a large part of what makes this sort of book interesting, and I thought O'Connor did a great job of making the people interesting, quirky, and a human mix of good and bad. There were no stereotypes, except maybe the evil landlady.

Caroline Lennon does a great job with the reading, and has a delightful voice and accent to listen to.

My Recommendation:
This is definitely a series and an author to watch, and to read more of.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Murder in an Irish Village out of my on-line library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Middle Grade Monday: Greenglass House


Title: Greenglass House
Author: Kate Milford
Publisher: Clarion Books, 2014. 375 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer series.

It's wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler's inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers' adopted son, plans to spend his holidays relaxing. But on the first icy night of vacation, out of nowhere, the guest bell rings. Then rings again. And again. Soon Milo's home is bursting with odd, secretive guests, each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and Meddy, the cook's daughter, must decipher clues and untangle the web of deepening mysteries to discover the truth about Greenglass House-and themselves.

My Review: 
This definitely wasn't what I expected. I'm not sure just what I did expect, but this wasn't it. It was even less what I thought it was in the middle of the book. Probably the most telling thing I can say about it is that I was about 2/3 of the way through at bedtime, and ended up staying up rather late to finish it, because I just couldn't stop! It wasn't just that things got exciting, though they did. I also felt a strong need to find out just what was going on.

In addition to a story about family and friendship, and a mystery, this is a book that plays with the boundaries of reality. The time period is left deliberately vague; it is modern, but no one seems to have a cell phone. The location is likewise unknown, but we are on a river that harbors smugglers, but the smuggling seems to be in order to get around the greed of the sole purveyor of supplies in the region (this might be a nice way to make the smuggling less morally dubious for the sake of younger readers). The effect of all this vagueness is that the reader is perfectly positioned to believe whatever unfolds.

I did.

My Recommendation:
A good fun read, with a little bit of a serious side about family--what it is, and who is part of it. Milo's adoption has come to the forefront of his thinking, and that allows the reader to think about what it means to be adopted, and to have two families, even if you only know one of them. So I'll give this credit for being well-written, thought-provoking AND a lot of fun.

I am intrigued enough to want to read the sequel, though the blurb sounds kind of like a re-hash of the same story. I'm going to give Milford credit for being better than that, given the quality of this one.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Greenglass House out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."