Category Archives: Book Reviews – The Stranger the Better

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire

happy hands and heart

Valentine’s Day has passed, but many of us are still contending with piles of ribbons, tissue paper, envelopes and confetti in various hues of rose, crimson and scarlet.  We equate these shades with Valentine’s Day, but the symbolism and analogies associated with these colors go beyond that single holiday.  Red epitomizes passion, desire, romance, danger and energy.  Frequently adjectives such as “blood”, “ruby” or “wine” further enhance the description of this color.  We probably don’t give it a second thought, but there was a time when the elusive, brilliant red was worth a king’s fortune.

Amy Butler Greenfield relates the history of the dyer’s quest for this color in A Perfect Red.  The majority of the book recounts Spain’s attempt to monopolize the production of the this vibrant red from the time Cortes invaded Mexico and his men discovered the source – the tiny cochineal insect living on the prickly pear cactus. The female insect produced an acid which not only irritated predators but was also a brilliant dye.  Soon Spain dominated the production of the red dye and guarded the secret of the cochineal. As other countries began to covet the hue, a complex web of espionage developed, including both colonial exploration and exploitation.

Greenfield intersperses her narrative with fascinating anecdotes and facts related to the color red. For example, there were rules regarding wearing the color red.  In some cultures, only royalty had the right (and could afford) to wear red.  Montezuma not only seized this right, but also demanded that his subjects pay a tax in pounds of cochineal.  Mary, Queen of Scots, was clothed in black on the day of her execution. Yet, she used the color to make her statement, removing her dress to reveal a red petticoat.  This was the symbol of Catholic martyrdom!

Eventually, synthetic dyes were perfected and the labor-intensive cultivation of plant and animal dyes subsided.  Historians and chemists may be the target audience for this volume, but this fascinating account has something to interest everyone.

~Susan Catterall~

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Depositions Book Giveaway









Are you into depositions

Do you like to litigate?

Does your examination for discovery excite you?


If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be interested obtaining a free copy of, attorneys Phillip Miller & Paul Scoptur’s book, Advanced Depositions: Strategy and Practice. Miller & Scoptur are both experienced personal injury lawyers who wanted to write a book that would give other attorneys and law school students cutting-edge tactics for conducting depositions, ultimately leading to a successful outcome for clients.

As long as you are currently enrolled in an accredited law school in the United States, there are several ways you can enter to win a free copy of this book through Phillip Miller & Associates:

  1. Like Phillip Miller & Associates on Facebook
  2. Share the giveaway URL on Facebook: #millergiveaway
  3. Google+ about the book giveaway URL out: #millergiveaway
  4. Tweet about the book giveaway URL out: #millergiveaway

 It’s also worth noting that the more social media support you give, the more entries you receive.



~Brian Trippodo~

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Praise for Procrastination


If you’re the type who stalls, delays, drags your feet or becomes paralyzed at the thought of turning in sub-standard work and, consequently, has been shamed into being called a procrastinator, take heart. You’ve been redeemed.  John Perry, in his book, The Art of Procrastination, A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing has cast a positive light on the subject. Perry promotes the theory that procrastinators actually accomplish many tasks and has subtitled the book: Or, Getting Things Done by Putting Them Off.

This is a book which should appeal to all of us within the legal profession.  Our calling is comprised of proficient procrastinators.  This isn’t to say that we’re lazy; rather we’re perfectionists and strategists who are adept at juggling shifting priorities. Litigators are the prime example. A litigator will diligently prepare a case for trial, yet simultaneously plan a thoughtful settlement agreement. Sometimes this works and at other times it leads to late hours, additional staff and much coffee consumption. In an environment where litigators find themselves facing each on a regular basis, preparation becomes a well-calculated game of chicken.

Trial preparation aside, our profession is also comprised of individuals who are such perfectionists that they are reluctant to start any project, especially a project with a “fuzzy” deadline because they don’t want to start anything that doesn’t represent their best efforts. As we fret, worry and deny “that” project, we set about accomplishing many other projects, most which have firm deadlines, are routine but necessary, or which don’t so intimidate us that we become incapacitated.  Perry explains how avoiding the big “to do” task encourages us, through avoidance, to accomplish countless other tasks.  In fact, procrastination is both an art and a science.

I first heard about The Art of Procrastination when I attended a library conference in early 2012.  I was captivated as the speaker discussed Perry’s book. As he ticked off a litany of topics (i.e., making lists, structured procrastination, perfectionism, etc.), I felt as if he was reading my mind.  I could barely wait to order Perry’s book and had it rushed to me.  I dove right into it and managed to work into many conversations that I was reading this book and that I would recommend it to anyone.  I went to the CSL librarian who coordinates this blog and told her that I wanted to write about this book and how so many could identify with the subject.

As I said, that was over two years ago and I am still on page 32 of a 92 page book.  My librarian colleague has stopped asking me when I will have the procrastination article finished and has, instead, praised me for the other blog articles I’ve written, the research guides I’ve created and the other collaborations we have completed.  Never-the-less, I can only dodge my commitments for so long.  Besides, I want others who may share the shame of procrastination to understand that it is no longer something of which to be embarrassed.

I encourage you to read the book.  But don’t expect me to ask if you have read it.  Sorry.  I’ve already heard it: ”I meant to, but I haven’t gotten around to it.”

~Susan Catterall~

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Summer Reading – Library Staff Picks

There are still a few weeks of summer left and we wanted to share some our suggestions for good reads you might want to take in before returning to school . . .



Last month my book club read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It’s a really good book to read at the beach as it is 560 pages and keeps your attention. Rarely, is there a book that I would like to read again to pick up on the pieces I missed the first time through, but this is one.

In an interview, Kate Atkinson talked about wanting to write about the London Blitz but also wanting to experiment with a character who constantly dies and is reborn. That character, Ursula lives a a different path each time she dies and is born again.  The historical fiction account of World War II in combination with an interesting structure makes this a good read.

~ Betty Thomas ~


I recently read and loved The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899.  Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free.

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

~ Jamie Sunnycalb ~


Tom Robbins’ warm, wise, and wonderfully weird novels—including Still Life With Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates—provide an entryway into the frontier of his singular imagination. Madcap but sincere, pulsating with strong social and philosophical undercurrents, his irreverent classics have introduced countless readers to natural born hitchhiking cowgirls, born-again monkeys, a philosophizing can of beans, exiled royalty, and problematic redheads.  In Tibetan Peach Pie, Robbins turns that unparalleled literary sensibility inward, stitching together stories of his unconventional life, from his Appalachian childhood to his globetrotting adventures —told in his unique voice that combines the sweet and sly, the spiritual and earthy. (Amazon)

~ Julie Morris ~


The Time Travelers’ Wife  – Audrey Niffenegger

Don’t let yourself be swayed by the soft focus movie trailer and think this is some sappy chick flick novel – this story, in book form, is literally one of the edgiest and rawest love stories I’ve ever picked up, featuring a punk rocker time traveling librarian.  It ended up on my lap as a screenplay many years ago when it was first being shopped around and I was so touched by the screenplay I immediately went on a hunt for the book, starved for more words, for the original story.  And the book itself was such a magnificent, moving piece that after I finished, I put it down and said something I’ve never said before ‘I can’t even read it again.  It’s too good.’  And it was a year before I cracked and opened the cover again.  I still haven’t gone back for my third helping…

~ Ashley Moye ~


~Katie Brown~


The Paris Wife by Paula McClain

The Paris Wife is a fictionalized, but well-researched account of Hemingway’s first marriage to Hadley Richardson, told from Richardson’s perspective. It captures the warmth between the two individuals and provides a peek into the artsy, ex-patriot society which included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. I had seen this book in various book stores over the last two years, but had always walked right by it.  I’d never been a fan of Ernest Hemingway. I just didn’t “get” him.  The only works of his I had read were some of the short “Nick Adams” stories and his memoir, A Moveable Feast.  I enjoyed the latter.

I had learned that a newly restored A Moveable Feast had been published and so, along with this title, I picked up The Paris Wife.  The novel permitted me to see Hemingway in a new and more vulnerable way and has the potential of motivating me to read The Sun Also Rises.

~ Susan Catterall ~

And if none of these suit your fancy, check out these recommended reading lists:



~Julie Morris~

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A Study in Environmental Activism

Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness along the Appalachian Trail  by Jay Erskine Leutze.

Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness along the Appalachian Trail by Jay Erskine Leutze.

For anyone who loves the North Carolina mountains, the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Mountains… this is an all too familiar story. Jay Erskine Leutze’s first book is his account of the battle against a large gravel mine set to take down Belview Mountain in Avery County, North Carolina. Not only was the largest surface mine in the South to be located adjacent to homes in the small community of Dog Patch but also within close view of the Appalachian Trail, a federally protected park.

Jay Erskine Leutze is a non-practicing lawyer who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After law school, Leutze retreated to an “intentional” quiet life in Avery County intending to write, fish and hike. His quiet life ended in 1999 with a test blast that shook his home and a call from fourteen-year-old Ashley Cox that got him involved in a legal battle against Paul Brown and the Clark Stone Company. The case became known at the Putnam Mine case.

This book is the story of Leutze’s four year campaign that started with pulling together a legal defense team to a landmark decision upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Along the way, his legal team partnered with advocacy groups such as the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Appalachian Trail Conference, and the National Parks Conservation Association to oppose the mine. In an ironic twist, they were also drawn into supporting the State of North Carolina as the state Division of Land Resources revoked Brown’s ninety-nine year mining permit, an unprecedented decision. The story clearly shows the twists and turns of multiple court battles as the case goes through the legal process.

Just as the case meanders through the court system, Leutze’s story fleshes out the importance of the area, describing in detail the scenic aspects of the mountains and the history of various parts and people like Sugar Top, a condominium complex built on the top of Sugar Mountain that resulted in North Carolina’s landmark Mountain Ridge Protection Act. Leutze’s humble tone and passion for the cause makes this an unusually attractive story. Here is a true guide to environmental advocacy.



~Betty Thomas~

Note:  Stand Up That Mountain has been added the Charlotte Law Library’s collection and is available for check out.

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