Archives for posts with tag: fantasy

Maybe it’s the boost of energy that comes along with Spring, but I’ve really been on a reading kick lately. That probably sounds silly coming from a librarian, but most of us wax and wane in our hobbies. I’ve also found myself reading a few things I wouldn’t normally pick up. And since all of these books have been so entertaining, I decided to share several short reviews covering a range of recent additions to the Library’s collection.

futureFuture Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich — Set in the not too distant future, or maybe just an alternative present, Erdich explores what might happen in a world where humans seem to be devolving. Cedar Hawk Songmaker is a Native American who has been adopted by a white family. And she has a secret: she’s pregnant. In an increasingly dystopian world, can she ensure the safety of herself, her child, and her families? I spent a lot of time frightened for Cedar and she journeys between worlds, both literal and spiritual. Erdich’s story is firmly within the realm of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

The One by John Marrs — What if, with a simple DNA sample, you could find your genetic soulmate? The one for whom you are literally perfect? In THE ONE, Marrs explores what might happen if this were possible. Six stories unfold as people learn the identities of their perfect genetic matches. Ranging from your everyday businessman to a serial killer, these characters discover that love is complex and can lead to results no one could expect. Though, I did find a couple of the plot points predictable, it was certainly a fun read. Fans of “Black Mirror” will likely enjoy this sordid set of tales.

fridgeThe Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne Valente — In the world of comic books, there is a term for a select group of characters: Women in Refrigerators. This refers to the disproportionate amount of female characters that are killed in the name of furthering storylines. Valente tells the stories of a series of women characters — no one directly from comics, but recognizable if you’re familiar with many of the big name series — who have been written out of the comics world and spend their time in the afterworld. The characters cover the gamut of emotions associated with such deaths, but also speak to the strength of female friendships. A quick read for anyone who wants a different perspective on the world of comics.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas — In Zumas’ story, only married, heterosexual couples can adopt children. Abortion is flat out illegal. And in this world, women are dealing with what these regulations mean for their everyday lives. Each woman copes in her own way, with longing, fear, or even rebellion. These characters are very real, and likely will remind you of someone you know. And some women, like a fictional explorer named Eivør Minervudottir, are out of place in their own time. This is another work that is spiritually and topically akin to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

mojo.jpgTotal Cat Mojo by Jackson Galaxy — Let’s be honest: I’m a crazy cat lady. I grew up a dog person, but years ago, my husband introduced me to cats and it’s been all downhill from there. Like any responsible pet owner, I want to make sure my cats are living their best lives. And that means Jackson Galaxy. He’s pretty much the go-to guy for cat people. And TOTAL CAT MOJO is a wonderful resource for all stages of a cat’s life. Plus, he gives great advice for troubleshooting common cat problems like litter box struggles, dealing with stressed kitties, and introducing new family members – from feline to human.

Though there are some common themes in these books, I think they’ll speak to a variety of readers. We add hundreds of items every month; be sure to explore the new books and to find something that appeals to you!

SWFCPV If you’re a nerd, there are pretty much two factions: Star Trek and Star Wars. I grew up on Star Trek. Sure, I watched Star Wars, but I was way more into Picard than Luke. However, I married into a Star Wars family. To keep up with family debates, I’ve had to do a little research into the Star Wars universe. When STAR WARS : FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW came across my desk, I knew I’d have to give it a look.

“Star Wars : From a Certain Point of View” is a collection of short stories from a variety of big name authors like Meg Cabot, Christie Golden, and Paul S. Kemp, along with a story from W

il Wheaton (who I know as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek). Each story is based on the Star Wars universe. In particular, this collection bridges the gap between the events of “Rogue One” and “A New Hope.” However, none of the stories focuses on the traditional heroes of the saga. Instead, we get the viewpoints of characters like a stormtrooper, Grand Moff Tarkin, and even the monster from the Death Star trash compactor.

Each story offers a unique perspective on the behind-the-scenes events of the original trilogy. These aren’t just filler stories, either. The authors involved have taken care to delve deeply into the characters and show the emotional background to some of the events from the series. Since it would take a few more words than I have here to review all 35 stories, I’ll share my thoughts on a few from the collection.

“The Bucket” by Christie Golden — TK-4601 is a young Stormtrooper who has been given an amazing opportunity: capture the rebel Princess Leia Organa. He is full of excitement at the prospect of helping crush the Rebellion. But when he does encounter her, it will change him forever. As a huge Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia fan, I loved this story for the way Golden describes Leia through the eyes of an enemy. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Those who underestimate Leia soon regret it, a fact not lost on TK-4601.

“Stories in the

 Sand” by Griffin McElroy — The Jawa are a species that lives their lives scouring the des

erts of Tatooine for anything they can sell. Jot is a Jawa who doesn’t quite fit in. Smaller but smarter than his peers, he discovers a secret compartment that lets him scavenge videos from the droids he scraps. But one day, he discovers a video stored in a blue and white droid. A video of a young woman in white asking for help. Will Jot erase the video and sell the droid? Or will he help set into motion the entire plot of the movies we love so much? McElroy does a great job of exploring a species that initially seems to have very little depth. He also reminds us that even the smallest of us can make a big difference.

“Laina” by Wil Wheaton — Ryland, a member of the Rebel Alliance, must say goodbye to his infant daughter. He’s about to go on a dangerous mission and needs to know Laina will be safe. She will go to live with her aunts. Fair warning, this is a heart-wrenching story. Wheaton examines why a single father would risk everything and join what might seem like a lost cause. What could bring him to risk his life? A fair amount of revenge and a dash of hope.

I should end this by noting that I’m a fan of the new Star Wars movies. I find they fill me with a sense of hope. And that’s a word I associate this collection. These are stories of the everyday person (or Jawa or droid). I think I “get” my in-laws love of Star Wars. Much like my love of Star Trek, it’s about heroes and hope. And these stories remind us that it’s not just the Skywalker family who can make a difference: it’s all of us.

I can’t lie, friends, I’ve been in a reading slump. Yes, that’s right, it even happens to librarians. Sometimes there’s just a lot of pressure to pick the “right” book for a review. Sometimes life just gets in the way. Sometimes there’s a lot of knitting to be done and shows in the Netflix queue. So, to make up for my recent lack of reading, I decided to bring you some of my favorite reads from 2016 that didn’t get a review here for whatever reason.

hikeThe Hike by Drew Magary — In the words of a literature professor I know, this book is “weird, wacky stuff.” To make it very simple, a man takes a hike, gets lost, and ends up taking a journey full of mythological references, puzzles, and talking crabs. Well, just one talking crab. The Hike is definitely a weird book, but I also found it laugh-out-loud funny and incredibly compelling. Magary explores not just the wacky, but what it means for a person to choose their destiny.

Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan — A graphic novel series that is (supposedly) going to make a debut as a TV series on FX sometime in the future. Vaughan deals with an interesting scenario: what if every man on Earth died suddenly and all at once? Why did it happen? What will happen to the planet now? And how will the last surviving man, Yorick, manage to survive? Lots of different issues are covered in this series and I would definitely say it’s best suited for adult readers with open minds.

todaysempleToday Will Be Different by Maria Semple — I admit, this wasn’t one of my favorite reads of the year. But as I think back on it, I find I’m more fond of the plot. Eleanor Flood is a woman who is going to change her life. She decides to make everything different, to be the woman she really wants to be. A better mother, a better wife. But then, things start to fall apart. She winds up following her husband in an attempt to discover a secret he’s been keeping from her. But I promise it’s not the secret you think it is.

Lady Killer by Joëlle Jones — A new graphic novel series that I look forward to following. Set in the 1960s, Lady Killer follows the story of Josie Schuller, perfect housewife and deadly assassin. Can she escape her past and have the ideal life? Well, no. This is definitely a graphic novel; the illustrations and plot leave little to the imagination when it comes to violence. But, it’s a different take on the whole assassin character, which makes it a fun read for me.

bestfriendhendrixMy Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix — My very first book review was of Hendrix’s book Horrorstör. If you’re a fan of comedy and horror, I have to recommend his latest endeavor. Teenage girls, cliques, the 80s, and demonic possession all come together to tell a story of the healing power of friendship. The characters are funny and real while dealing with both the everyday concerns of teenagers and the possibility that their best friend may well be possessed by a demon.

So, there we have it. Five reads from 2016 that I think are worth your while. I can assure you that, even though I’ve had a tough start with reading this year, my to-read list has continued to grow. There are definitely other great reads out there; we add them to our shelves every week at the library.

icebreakerFor children in grades 4 through 8

On the Oyster, an ancient and giant icebreaker ship, everyone belongs to one of three groups—there is Grease Alley for the engineers; Braid for the officers; and Dufftown for the cooks. There is little intermixing between the groups, except to trade goods and services and to make sure the ship is safe.

As an orphan whose parents were thrown overboard when she was a baby, twelve-year-old Petrel belongs to neither group. She spends most of her time hiding from bullies and trying to scavenge enough food to survive. To most of the ship’s inhabitants she is invisible, and to those who notice her, she is simply known as the Nothing Girl. Her only companions are two talking rats, Mister Smoke and Missus Slink.

The ship’s tribes occasionally fight, but they are united in keeping the ship moving along the same course it has been following for 300 years and in protecting it against the Anti-Machinists—a powerful group who believes anything mechanical is evil and should be destroyed. And while all the documentation of the ship’s original purpose has long since vanished, many of the Oyster’s residents believe a “sleeping captain” will return to lead once the reign of the Anti-Machinists ends.

One to avoid trouble and stay hidden, Petrel suddenly finds herself thrust into the limelight after her actions cause an unconscious boy to be rescued from an iceberg and brought aboard the ship. Untrusting and fearful of strangers, the ship’s crew have little patience for the mysterious boy who claims to know neither his name, nor how he came to be alone on the ice.

Fearful that they will soon return him to the ice, Petrel rescues the boy and hides him. Little does she know the boy has his own secret agenda and he may end up destroying her and all she holds dear.

Book one is a powerful start to Tanner’s latest trilogy. Petrel and the supporting cast are well drawn and readers are sure to be hooked from the beginning thanks to the author thoughtfully parceling out the clues. Placing the Icebreaker and her tenants in a world where the powerful subscribe to anti-technological way of thinking is an intriguing scenario and makes for a dramatic build up and a satisfying conclusion. Readers are sure to anticipate the next episode in this enthralling adventure series.

The Lost Sun by Tessa GrattonIn “The Lost Sun,” the first book of “The United States of Asgard” by Tessa Gratton, Soren Bearskin is a berserker. He has an innate internal fire, a battle rage that he constantly tries to squelch with self-discipline, exercise, and meditation.

He is so afraid of this fire and his family’s past that he has made himself an outcast with almost all his classmates at Sanctus Sigurd’s Academy.

Then one day, the famous Astrid Glyn comes to school. Astrid is a beautiful and mysterious seethkona — a prophetess — who dreams of Soren. Much to his dismay, Soren and Astrid are drawn together by these dreams and by forces beyond their control.

When Baldur the Beautiful, god of the sun, goes missing, the connection between Soren and Astrid becomes all the more apparent.

Soren and Astrid begin a journey to save their god, confront their pasts and face their future.

The Strange Maid by Tessa GrattonIn book two, “The Strange Maid,” Signy Valborn, like Soren, has an internal fire born out of her family’s past.

Unlike Soren, Signy embraces her inner chaos and for doing so, is chosen by Odin Alfather to become his next Valkyrie.

Before she can be accepted in this role, however, she must solve a riddle written on the New World Tree. Signy doesn’t feel that she can solve the riddle within the confines of her Valkyrie training, so she leaves to search for answers on her own.

After years of living on the streets and not solving her riddle, Ned Unferth, a mysterious poet who only speaks the truth, appears and offers a glimmer of hope: trolls.

 

Together, Signy and Ned travel North to Canadia to study, track and kill a greater mountain troll as the solution to Signy’s riddle and her ticket into the Valkyrie sisterhood.

If only things were so simple.

Taking place before, during and after the events of “The Lost Sun,” “The Strange Maid” is both a companion and a sequel to “The Lost Sun.” Both books are narrated in first person (by Soren and Signy, respectively) and offer rich and compelling stories. Gratton has seamlessly woven traditional Norse gods and legends with modern life and technology, making her world simultaneously familiar and mysteriously “other.”

My love for this series and the world Gratton creates became easier to quantify when I realized Gratton has firmly positioned herself as an excellent transition from Rick Riordan to Neil Gaiman.

“The United States of Asgard” series has all the action and intrigue (not to mention godly influences) of a Percy Jackson novel but with intricacy and literary quality closer to Gaiman’s works — of course, “American Gods” comes to mind.

With older teen characters doing older teen things, these are books for high-school students and adults.

 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae CarsonTeen Fiction

Once per century, the Godstone–a living jewel nestled in the navel—is bestowed upon an unsuspecting infant. This bearer is destined for greatness. Destined to perform an act of service that will better mankind, but he/she has no idea what the act will be. Many bearers don’t live long enough to find out.

Elisa is an overweight and overly-sheltered young princess who is also this century’s bearer. She has spent her first sixteen years eschewing courtly duties in order to study and read. She has never been overly concerned with the art of ruling or the engaging in any sort of politics.

Elisa begins to regret this on her sixteenth birthday when she finds herself secretly married to King Alejandro and on her way to his unstable country. Here Elisa must figure out how to navigate Alejandro’s court and how to be a queen even if it is in secret. When Elisa is kidnapped by a group of desert people (one of whom happens to be kind as well as handsome) who believe she and the Godstone are the key to winning the impending war, Elisa must also decide where her loyalties lie.

It has been a very long time since I felt this way about a book and about a character. There are plenty of admirable and strong female protagonists out there but very few start as vulnerable as Elisa. Even though Celaena from “Throne of Glass” is emaciated and weak from the death camp at the beginning of her book, she can still kill someone seven times before they hit the floor. Elisa starts her journey knowing almost nothing about herself and about her destiny.

The honesty with which Elisa narrates is achingly relatable. She readily sees the negatives about herself and only reluctantly acknowledges her strengths. She worries about what others think of her, she doubts her intelligence, and she assumes that she doesn’t have what it takes to be a good queen. Elisa is an Everywoman.

Beyond creating an incredibly identifiable protagonist and fully realized secondary characters (oh, Humberto, how I love you!), Carson weaves one heck of a story here. The culture is rich, the places are beautifully described, and the food sounds delicious.

If you’re traveling over the holidays, I highly recommend “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” on audio. The narrator Jennifer Ikeda’s performance is part of what made me fall in love with the book. She is everything an audiobook narrator should be.

I heartily recommend both “Throne of Glass” and “The Girl of Fire and Thorns” to all fantasy readers–especially readers who liked “Hunger Games,” “Graceling,” and other books with strong, capable (and sometimes deadly) protagonists.

Throne of Glass by Sarah MaasTeen Fiction

Celaena Sardothien is an assassin. She has been convicted as such and sentenced to a work camp that should mean her death. Instead, she finds a way to live for over a year (a feat previously unheard of in the camp) until one day when she is collected by the Crown Prince Dorian. Dorian gives Celaena an opportunity too enticing to refuse even though might prove just as deadly (though not as miserable) as the work camp.

Celaena has been chosen to compete against thieves, soldiers, criminals, and other assassins to be the King’s Champion. Completing her term as the King’s Champion will eventually secure Celaena’s freedom and clear her name, but first she has to survive the competition.

With the help of Dorian, Choal the Captain of the Guard, and her unexpected friend Princess Nehemia, Celaena is sure to win the competition, but her friends’ help may not be enough to ensure Celaena’s survival against the mysterious evil that is hunting down the competitors one by one.

Maas has written a great book and a great protagonist. Celaena is an assassin, yes, but she’s also super smart and courageous and moral and funny and flawed. I loved the way she toyed with Choal and Dorian (apparently all Teen fantasies have to have a love triangle now), the way she committed to her friendship with Nehemia, and the way she manipulated palace politics when it suited her. Plus, Celaena is a reader. What’s not to love about a fearsome hero who also reads?