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GC Lib Disp Sept 2017 Banned BooksHello, my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers!  Adjunct Evening Librarian Whit Preston here, and I know that it has been a few months since I last posted anything.  I am not going to write a book review this time, but I do want to highlight the current display of books.  The focus of this display is Banned Books Week, and consists of classic and recent works that have been challenged or banned for a variety of reasons.  Some of the stories have been challenged for their depictions of violence and some have been banned for their portrayal of human maladies such as drug addiction, and of course, there are other reasons for the books being scrutinized.

However, beneath all of the controversy caused by these works, there exist stories that can kindle the imagination and challenge the conventional knowledge of our perceptions and existence.

As always, these books are available for checkout for anyone who has a library card.  Until next time, please continue to visit the library as well as the library website and databases.

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Hello, my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers!  Adjunct Evening Librarian Whit Preston here with a book review of a story by an author whom many consider to be one of the greatest American authors.  The fact that he was born in the southeastern United States is also commendable, considering that many of you are living in North Carolina, if not the southeastern United States.

The book I am about to review does also have an Oscar-winning film of the same name, whose release date was 1983.  And although I could not complete this novel, I did read enough to know its worth and noteworthy contribution to literature.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe is essentially news-like non-fiction with the ability to also portray the necessary elements of a great story.  Essentially, Wolfe has been able to document the earliest form of United States Navy jet fighters and then progressively moves toward a minute demographic of qualified men within an already distinguished select group.  These very few select men became the first American astronauts.

No details are left unmentioned, and for anyone who might be squeamish with regard to smells, death, and explosions, this novel will not be right for you.  Such physical things as body organs are not quite at the forefront of the story.  However, the risk of fighter pilots being seriously injured during the emergency ejection process is described in detail.  The book does do an excellent job of giving an overall sense of experiential being to the characters themselves.  At the story’s essence is such rare experiences as the astronauts describing what it felt like to travel to Earth’s moon.

For this particular book reviewer, the story did not grab my attention like other stories similar to it.  However, everyone reading this should realize that I do not always focus well when it comes to reading some material.  This just happened to be one such book.

Until next time, please continue to stop by the Gaston College Libraries to see what new books and library materials are available.

Please also be sure to take a bit of time out of your day on Monday, August 21 to experience the partial solar eclipse that everyone in the general Charlotte area will be able to see.  And above all else, please be sure to use protective solar glasses if you do end up watching the eclipse.

Hello, my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers.  Evening Librarian Whit Preston here with a book review that is meant to include one of the Lease Books within the collection at the Morris Library of Gaston College.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with the concept of lease books, the essential idea is that the library is able to “rent” a set of books.  Any of the items that the library would like to purchase can be done as so, and any of the unwanted items can then be returned to the book seller.

The book that I want to review today was written by an author that is near and dear to me.  When I was in seventh grade, I remember seeing the movie version of Jurassic Park. Due to a reading assignment and the encouragement of my sister, who had read the original novel, I decided to give it a shot, too.  Needless to say, my mind was blown away by the subtle differences between the movie and the novel, and I experienced a life-changing moment of sorts.  I knew that reading for pleasure was as much an escape from the real world as any other hobby possible.

DragonTeeth by Michael Crichton Book CoverIn many ways, Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton is a “germ” that could be said to have inspired Crichton to write Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park.  A 1974 correspondence letter between Crichton and the curator of vertebrate paleontology of the American Museum of Natural History is a key reason for the creation of Dragon Teeth, whose main focus is the earliest times of paleontology in the United States.

The novel’s setting is the United States of America in 1876, and the main character is William Johnson, a well-to-do Yale student whose future is uncertain.  Yet like all humans, his ego gets the best of him when he wagers a $1,000 bet with a fellow student.  The conditions of the bet: Johnson must travel to the Badlands of the Montana Territory with a professor of paleontology by the name of Dr. Othniel Charles Marsh and successfully return from the expedition.

What follows is a tale that cannot be exclusive to any particular genre of fiction.  The story is based on the real-life rivalry between Dr. Marsh and Dr. Edward Drinker Cope, whose expedition Johnson later joins due to some startling revelations about the true nature of Dr. Marsh.  Because there are real-life characters that are part of the novel and the fact that the majority of the story takes place in the Northwestern United States, the specific genre must be historical Western fiction.  The arduous task of getting to the Montana Badlands combined with the working conditions inherent with that region make for an interesting environment in which Dr. Cope, Johnson and his fellow classmates must endure.  The Montana Badlands are known for being dry and consisting of a geologic strata similar to what may be found within a coal mine.

The story is further enriched by the inclusion of other people, places and events of the United States in the 1870’s, but this is secondary to the storytelling.  Like most Westerns, the characters must travel by horse, wagon, or train and expect the possibility of encountering warring Indian tribes.

At the end of the novel are a few nice additions, such as a bibliography of newspaper articles and relevant books that assisted Crichton in writing his novel.

Please be sure to stop by the library, especially if you are interested in reading Dragon Teeth or any of the other Lease Books.

It by Stephen King Book CoverHello, my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers!  Well, aren’t you going to say hello? For those of you who have read the book I am about to review or seen the TV mini-series from the early 1990’s, you will likely understand the previous reference.

I never thought in a million years that this novel would receive nothing more than a casual glance by me.  As I have probably mentioned in past posts, the horror genre of literature is one of the least visited ones for me other than Westerns.  Part of the reason stems from the fact that I do not typically like to be scared. However, considering that the book I am about to review is being remade into a theatrical feature, my curiosity peaked.  From time to time, I enjoy reading a novelization of some books that have a film counterpart, typically before the film itself is released.

The book I am reviewing today is a doozie, not only for its scope, but also for its length. Depending on which format you read, the number of pages can range anywhere from 1098 pages to 1500 pages.  Be forewarned:  while I will attempt to not reveal any spoilers, there is no guarantee that this review will omit key plot points.  Realize also that this is not a book for anyone who gets easily offended.  For anyone who has doubts about the content of It by Stephen King, I highly encourage you to read the “Tags” section of this review.  This is definitely NOT a novel that anyone younger than 15 should be reading, and that may even be a stretch.

The story of It is mainly a coming-of-age story about the Losers Club, a group of kids living in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. One summer, amidst not only the awkwardness of puberty but also the onslaught of a group of boy teen misfits led by Henry Bowers, the Losers’ Club encounters It, also known as Pennywise the Clown, a shape-shifting malevolent entity. Each main character comes into contact with It at various times throughout the novel, and the climax ends with the Losers’ Club confronting It as adults in the 1980’s.

The only negative aspect of this novel that deserves mention is that the story alternates back and forth from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, but this could also be dependent upon each reader’s personal preferences.

For fans of horror, this is without a doubt required reading, and it would seem strange if you are a horror genre fan and you have NOT read this novel yet.

And yet underneath all of the gross-out gore, profanity, racism, and the darker side of the human psyche lies the essence of all great stories:  believable yet flawed characters, excellent antagonists that which the reader may still sympathize, and a nasty shape-shifting villain whose demise is yet unknown to this particular reader.  I have about 200 or so pages left until my journey through this novel is complete.

What is quite possibly the best part of this novel is that there is a certain poignancy to the main characters.  Ben Hanscom, who as a child is heavyset and a hopeless romantic, is able to surprise anyone who tries to hurt any of the Losers Club members.

I would dare go far enough to say that this is one of the best novels I have ever read, easily making my Top 20 all-time favorite reads list.  Did this story scare me?  Yes.  Were there times when I read it but probably should not have and thus had nightmares?  You bet! Was I entertained while reminded of the awkward yet innocent times of childhood and yesteryear?  That deserves a resounding YES!

It by Stephen King is available for checkout at the Morris Library and is part of the Summer Reading display.  Please stop by during the library’s hours of operation to see what is available.

 

GC Lib Disp May-July 2017 Website BannerHello, once again my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers! Evening Librarian Whit Preston here once again to bring you an announcement regarding the current library display.  With the general population of the United States experiencing warmer temperatures, there of course comes many time-honored traditions.  Not only is baseball in full swing but individuals and families are traveling to a variety of places.  And naturally, the time to read books, especially for leisure, is evidently here.

With that being said, I would like to include my rationale for choosing the specific selection of books, which can be found at the following web address:  http://www.gaston.edu/library/2017-summer-reading/.  The simple keyword search “Best Summer Reading Books” returned a great many results from which to choose.  One of the initial common threads I utilized was finding duplicity across the results.  For example, if both National Public Radio’s Best Summer Reads of All Time and the New York Public Library’s Staff Picks included Dune by Frank Herbert, I strongly considered choosing that particular title.  Additionally, I tried to include literature that covered a variety of audiences, whether it be material for adults or works of nonfiction.  One that immediately comes to mind is Bugs, Bogs, Bats, and Books: Sharing Nature with Children Through Reading by Kathleen T. Isaacs.  My great hope for everyone is that I did a stellar job providing an inclusive selection of the Gaston College Libraries’ print books, audiobooks, and eBooks.

I would like to end my post by encouraging everyone to stop by the libraries to see what is available within the current Summer Reading selection.  There might be some which many have already read, but several of the novels have been published within the last 5-10 years.  That’s all for now! The next post that I will write will be about It, a novel from a genre into which I rarely venture:  horror.

Image result for the son philipp meyerHello, fellow Gaston College Book Club followers.  Whit Preston here with a review for a book that is currently being made into a television series on the channel known as AMC.  Everyone should understand that I have only ventured into the Western genre on a few rare occasions, this novel being the second attempt.  To be perfectly honest, I could only read about 100-150 pages of this book before I started to tire of the story.  However, that is not to say that this is a horrible story.  It simply was a story that was not meant for me, for whatever reason.

For the sake of being informed, I have included a few tags that will hopefully act as guidance but will also be warnings for anyone not wanting to read about certain subject matter.

The Son by Philipp Meyer is part family saga and part Western.  Like most Westerns, there is a fair amount of violence, a few incidents of rape, and at least one incident of the savage killing and eating of an animal.  The story is told in chapter form in different time periods ranging from the 1840’s to the present and with various characters.  So that the reader is able to keep track, the beginning of each chapter has a heading that tells which character and time period is of pertinence.  The novel tells the story of the McCullough family, whose main character Eli is considered the “first son of Texas”, with him and his descendants being successful cattle ranchers and oil tycoons.  A great amount of research and detail  was likely to have been conducted by Meyer.  Flora and fauna of all sorts are mentioned and, given the fact that Eli is kidnapped by a group of Comanche Native Americans, the language of this particular tribe is included.

This is a great novel for anyone interested in escaping to a different time and place that is quite, if not completely, believable.  Be forewarned though.  The details included are quite gritty at times but in some cases, a bit mundane.  The story of Eli is undoubtedly one that will remain with most readers, considering that he was thrown from one dire life situation to another, hardening him into a man as tough as the Wild West itself.

The Son is available for checkout at the Gaston College Libraries to anyone who has a library card.  Until next time, keep reading, and please be sure to stop by the Gaston College Libraries to see what new books are available.

Hello, fellow Gaston College Book Club followers.  Whit Preston here with a review for a novel that many might see as the end of a terrible trilogy of tomes, better known as the Star Wars: Aftermath series.  Star Wars: Aftermath Empire’s EndImage result for aftermath empire's end by Chuck Wendig feels weighted down for the first 250 or so pages.  However, the action and plot get extremely interesting, especially if prior knowledge of events that happen during Star Wars: The Force AwakensReturn of the Jedi and other stories are known to the reader already.  The last 100-150 pages can evoke the same sensation that a participant or spectator of a great sporting event feels: the action truly accelerates at a breakneck pace, creating an exciting end to a series.

Within this story there are hints at how the First Order, the military force that replaces the Galactic Empire, was formulated. This is only given a scant amount of exposure.  However, the details that are given will be enough for die-hard fans of the Star Wars saga plenty on which to speculate.

Star Wars: Aftermath Empire’s End is not available at any of the Gaston College Libraries.  However, there is a possibility that it could be included with the upcoming lease books.  Additionally, it can be requested via Interlibrary Loan (ILL).