MAD Librarian by Michael Guillebeau

OK, full disclosure: I am a retired librarian, and the first 8 or 9 years of my life were spent in public libraries in Northern California. And, frankly, one of the big factors that made me leave to work in the private sector (aka “the dark side”) was having to go to the funding gods (Board of Supervisors, City Council) and GROVEL for money every freaking year. We would trot out the cute kids who talked about the Summer Reading Program, the studies showing…what everyone knows: libraries are ESSENTIAL. I just couldn’t face another budget cycle (and also being told to wear pink the Board of Supes meeting just about turned me into a lunatic). So, the opportunity to read MAD Librarian by Michael Guillebeau (thanks to Madison Press/IBPA and NetGalley) in exchange for my honest review was one I just couldn’t pass up!

The protagonist (heroine?), Serenity Hammer, is a mad librarian in the Southern town of Maddington – mad because the city council thinks libraries aren’t really needed, so they won’t give her adequate funding for the library. It’s so bad she can’t pay the library’s bills – until she is online and comes across a fund and transfers it to the library account. Voila! She can pay the bills! The child of hippies who is now married to a cop, Serenity has some pangs of guilt but since money keeps flowing into the account, she (along with some interesting staff members) perseveres. Revenge Fantasy!!!!

This book has apparently pissed off some readers—which literature SHOULD do, IMHO. But not everyone is mad for the same reasons you might think. Rather than be mad at the lack of support for libraries or the corrupt politics or the sexism Serenity (and seemingly all library staff) deals with, in some strange way I don’t quite follow they are mad at – the author? Not sure, but I just know this book was a lot of fun to read. As someone who found a small $$$ way to help a public library (not to the extent of adding a 7-story addition, but enough to improve things), I appreciated it – anything that makes me laugh AND think is always good!

Michael Guillebeau is generously donating $$ to benefit libraries, but that’s not the only reason this gets FIVE stars – it’s just great fun to read while making a valuable point about the need for libraries today more than ever (and if I hear one more person say we don’t need the new library being built in the town where I live because “everything is online” and “you can do research on Google,” I will scream). Thankfully, our mayor and a City Council member are both very active in our Friends group and huge supporters of the library!

 

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

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Because for me McKenzie is a local author, there was considerable publicity about this title earlier in 2016, and the cover caught my eye (Brilliant, BTW)! So  I was eager to dive in to it, because it sounded like it had it all: quirky female protagonist, commentary on the whole Palo Alto-Silicon Valley-nouveau-riche scene, dysfunctional families on both sides (hers AND his), commentary on war, and humor.

I confess it took me a while to get into it…I started it and kept putting it down to go off and read something else (book club deadlines, etc., kept calling). And now, looking back, I realize that I was subconsciously saving it for a time when I needed a lift. Because I LOVE quirky female protagonists, and I love commentary on the social mores of the folks who have essentially taken over the South Bay and now are oozing into the Santa Cruz scene…and it makes my day when someone puts the fun in dysfunctional families! This book was just hugely entertaining, different, and just a fun read.

The heroine, Veblen, is a joy in so many ways. A friend disagreed, saying she found her to be a bit of a pain in the ass, but there was so much about her that resonated with me, maybe particularly as she works to try to make the disparate characters in different families and circumstances mesh. Aarrgghh!

Don’t want to ruin the fun, but I highly recommend this one. I am glad I kept it for a time when I needed something to drag me away from what felt like a looming slide into the black hole of depression…for that alone, I would give it four stars, and when you add in the outstanding writing and humor and amazing character development, FIVE stars! Thanks to NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.