Archives for posts with tag: Fiction

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!

Advertisements

AsYouWishPrincessBrideDeluxeEdToday’s featured titles come courtesy of the library’s High School Book Club.  At their last meeting, these awesome folks opted to read books which had been made into movies.  Their inspiration led me to a book which spawned a modern classic film then right to a book about the making of the film itself.

Chances are extremely high that you’ve seen Rob Reiner’s movie, The Princess Bride or, if you have not, that you have heard (or have quoted) a line from it.  (You haven’t?  Inconceivable!  Find a DVD and watch it now.  Enjoy amazing storytelling.  Borrow a copy from the library, a friend, a neighbor.  No excuses.)

But, have you read the book?  Yes, it’s a real book—not merely a narrative frame featuring Peter Falk.  Penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman, the book version of The Princess Bride presumes its source material from the “great Florinese writer”, S. Morgenstern, teller of captivating tales.  “What’s it about?” you ask.  What’s in it?  “Fencing.  Fighting.  Torture.  Poison.  True Love.  Hate.  Revenge.  Giants.  Hunters.  Bad men. Good men.  Beautifulest Ladies.  Snakes.  Spiders.  Beasts of all natures and descriptions.  Pain.  Death.  Brave men.  Coward men.  Strongest men.  Chases.  Escapes.  Lies.  Truths.  Passion.  Miracles.”  Swashbuckling romance at its finest!

This is both a love letter to and a charming poke at classic tales of lands far away where true love blossoms amid the fight between Good and Evil.  Let’s not take valuable time with additional plot details.  Instead, think on this.  Whatever charm, wit, adventure, delight, satire, romance, truths, and great lines you may have found in the movie, you will find multiplied beyond compare in the book.  Goldman is a master storyteller on screen and in print.

In short, read it for goodness’ sake!  Or listen to it.  Lots of editions to choose from—for extra fun, try one with the introductions to the 25th anniversary and the 30th anniversary editions.  The library has a lovely illustrated version with all manner of maps and drawings.  The audiobook narrated by Rob Reiner is entertaining, rather like being read a bedtime story by your New York-accented dad.

Reiner and William Goldman created magic both on the page and on the movie set according to actor Cary Elwes in his book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride.  Elwes, who played Westley in the film, offers an entertaining, behind-the-scenes glimpse of movie making from audition to premiere.  In some ways a typical Hollywood memoir, he moves beyond potential pitfalls and captures with delight the camaraderie that brought Goldman’s script to life.

Elwes’ self-effacing charm permeates the book.  His witty, respectful storytelling is generous and interesting.  Throughout As You Wish, he has sprinkled sidebars from other big names with the film—memories, stories, impressions from their points of view which round out the tale.  Give the book a try.  Better yet, listen to the audiobook.  Cary Elwes reads it, and his smooth, conversational delivery sounds like a friendly chat.  He is also an accomplished mimic, reading quotes from Reiner and the late Andre the Giant in voices you would swear were theirs.  Fans of The Princess Bride and movie buffs alike will enjoy either format.

The library’s Teen Department sponsors two book clubs which meet most months of the year.  Both groups are teen-driven; participants decide on a theme for the month then choose their own title that fits the theme.  Everyone may read a different book, but that’s what makes it fun!  At book club, we rant and rave and chat about our selections in addition to enjoying a dessert.  Both groups are free; neither require registration.

Middle School Book Club is open to grades 6-8.  Its next installment will be held from 6:00-7:00 pm, Monday, April 2, in Community Room East at the library.  Percy Jackson fans get ready because we’re reading books by Rick Riordan!

High School Book Club is open to grades 9-12 and will be held from 6:00-7:00 pm on Thursday, April 5, in Conference Room 1.  This month’s theme is comedy, so come prepared for laughs.

Interested in learning more about these or other Joplin Public Library services for teens?  Contact me at the Teen Department, 417-623-7953, ext. 1027.  Happy reading and have fun storming the castle!

piecing me together

Writing about social justice issues can be difficult when the audience is composed of middle school students because of the complexity inherent in such discussions. RENEE WATSON’s “PIECING ME TOGETHER” addresses issues of race and social justice deftly and accurately while maintaining authenticity of character.

The main character, Jade, is a poor, black teenager who attends a predominately white private school. She is smart and driven, so she is given many opportunities. But she begins to realize that most of these opportunities are given out of pity rather than as rewards for her real scholastic successes. She knows she is supposed to feel grateful, and she does. However, she also feels frustrated that her teachers and mentors view her neighborhood, family, friends and status as hurdles to overcome rather than as integral to her being.

Jade initially transferred to the school because she was excited by the possibility of visiting a Spanish-speaking country on the study abroad trip her school sponsors every year. She’s certain she will be chosen to go; she is a star Spanish student who assists classmates with their assignments, and she has a nearly perfect GPA.

Instead, her counselors select her for Woman to Woman, a mentor program that pairs underprivileged students with successful women of color to attend culturally enriching workshops and events. The program sounds great, and it culminates in a college scholarship, but Jade wants to be chosen for programs because of who she is and not in spite of it. At the same time, she must navigate new and old friendships and family relationships as well as her passions. In addition to being an excellent student, Jade is a talented and passionate collage artist who is inspired by the recent officer-involved shooting of a black teenager in neighboring Vancouver, as well as by York, the slave who traveled with Lewis and Clark.

“Piecing Me Together” offers a nuanced discussion of the way black kids can be treated, both in school and society, even when intentions are good. Jade’s relationships with her friends, her family and her mentor provide excellent opportunities for discussions of race and social justice issues. For example, when Jade confronts her Spanish teacher regarding his decision not to select her for the study abroad program and he explains that it is because she is already given so many opportunities, readers can better appreciate what true support of underprivileged and minority youth can look like. When Jade’s new friend Sam argues that her experience with a racist store clerk was not, in fact, racist, readers learn what being an ally should look like. When Jade comes to Maxine with her concerns about the mentor program, readers can better appreciate the importance and value of speaking up. The novel, while targeted toward middle school readers, is an excellent choice for any reader interested in realistic fiction and/or social justice fiction.

indexGenerally speaking, I don’t read books that have to do with nature. I’m not a person who’s interested in mountain climbing or caving. So why I picked up THE WHITE ROAD by Sarah Lotz is still a bit of a mystery to me. Maybe something in the description made me think of one of my favorite horror movies, THE DESCENT. Maybe I just wanted to try something different. No matter what the reason, I’m glad I gave this one a chance.

Simon Newman and his friend Thierry run a struggling website. On the hunt for content that will bring in new readers, Thierry discovers the story of Cwm Pot. While exploring a system of caves in Cwm Pot, three men died. Their bodies were unable to be recovered due to the difficulty of the cave. Thierry and Simon decide that Simon will explore the cave to get footage of the dead men.

Simon finds a guide to lead him through the caves, he assumes everything will go well. But Simon and his guide Ed wind up trapped during a flash flood. The guide attacks Simon and dies in the resulting struggle. On his own in unfamiliar territory, Simon must decide whether he will wait for potential rescue or try to find his way out. Unable to stand the thought of being trapped with four dead men, Simon stumbles his way to rescue.

Of course, Simon’s footage goes viral. He and Thierry are on the verge of being rich, which means they need more content for their site. Thierry comes up with the idea of sending Simon to Mt. Everest to capture footage of the dead climbers at the summit. Eager for money, Simon agrees to go.

This half of the book is told from the viewpoints of Simon and a climber named Juliet. Juliet was a climber who was attempting to climb Mt. Everest with her partner Walter. Walter dies during the climb, leaving Juliet alone. She begins to see something along the way. A phantom climber that haunts her day and night. What – or who – is this entity?

Simon climbs ever closer to the summit, befriending his fellow climbers. As they get closer to the summit, he discovers that one of the other climbers, Mark, is actually the son of the lost Juliet. Mark wants to climb only to find his mother’s body. Simon is conflicted. Does he want footage for the site or to respect the journey of his new friend?

At the summit, Simon loses his grasp on reality and removes his glove. Because of the extreme environment, his hand is frozen. The guide who was leading him to the summit rescues Simon, but Mark is lost. Simon loses part of his hand to frostbite. But the footage of the climb skyrockets the website’s popularity. Despite this, Simon sinks into a deep depression and is haunted by the ghost of Ed. Discussing too much more of the plot would spoil the ending, but I will say that Simon goes on a quest to both rid himself of Ed and discover what haunted Juliet on Everest.

 More than anything, Lotz’s writing captures the extremes of the environments she writes about. The crushing depths of the cave and numbing cold of Everest are described so well that reading them was uncomfortable. The description of going through the tight spaces of Cwm Pot made me pretty sure I don’t ever want to go caving. This wasn’t quite the horror story I thought it would be, but if you’re looking for a different take on both scary situations and nature writing, THE WHITE ROAD is worth your while.

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.

girlMelanie is a very special little girl. She’s at the top of her class. She loves her teacher, Miss Justineau. But she can’t understand why Sergeant Parks and his soldiers insist on strapping her to a wheelchair just to take her to class. Why she can’t go outside and play. Why she and her classmates are locked in cells every night.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a spin on the zombie apocalypse story. Told through several viewpoints, the most compelling is that of Melanie. She’s 10 years old and goes to class with other children around her age. But sometimes, those children leave to visit Dr. Caldwell and never return. Melanie’s also not sure why she and her classmates are strapped down, why her teachers and the soldiers keep their distance from the children.

One day, when Melanie is called to Dr. Caldwell’s laboratory, the base is attacked by outsiders known as Junkers. They’re a loosely organized group of uninfected humans who live outside the protection of the military base. The Junkers have rounded up a group of Hungries, zombies who only want to eat. When Miss Justineau is under threat during the attack, Melanie realizes what she truly is: a Hungry. She saves Justineau’s life by killing others, Junkers and Hungries alike.

The group that escapes is made up of Miss Justineau, Dr. Caldwell, Sergeant Parks, Private Gallagher, and Melanie. They decide to make their way to a nearby settlement called Beacon, figuring this is their best chance for survival. Sergeant Parks doesn’t trust Melanie, but she’s a smart girl who doesn’t trust herself either. She doesn’t want to hurt Miss Justineau, so she agrees to wear a muzzle.

As the survivors navigate toward Beacon, they discover the fungus that created the zombie plague has begun taking over the world. The Hungries that roam are in various states of decay. Some still hold on to habits from their old lives, pushing baby carriages or singing songs. But others have fallen victim to the fungus. Giant fungoid trees sprout from Hungries that have been overtaken. But other Hungries survive.

The group discovers a mobile laboratory that Dr. Caldwell recognizes. Her colleagues had used the laboratory to work toward a cure for the fungus that threatens mankind. They begin using the laboratory as a base, hoping to restore the vehicle and use it to reach Beacon safely. But the group is not alone. And now that they’ve run out of e-blocker, Melanie is getting very hungry.

It’s difficult to discuss much more of the plot without giving too much away. I found myself caught up in the urgency of the story. Many times, I had to remind myself to slow down because I was skimming in order to find out what happened next. There are a few leaps of faith you have to take in order for the world to make sense. If Melanie weren’t a genius 10 year-old, the story would fall apart pretty quickly. But isn’t that the case with lots of books?

Made into a movie starring Glenn Close, Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, and Sennia Nanua (not yet available on DVD), this is a an interesting take on zombies. There are few changes between the book and movie, from what I can tell from clips and trailers. I’m definitely putting this on my to-watch list once it’s available on DVD.

I’ve been reading through the series “Home Repair is Homicide” by Sarah Graves. The series is about a former money manager, Jacobia Tiptree, who moves to Eastport Maine to rehabilitate an old house. If you like murder mysteries with good characters I recommend it.

The series has been around awhile which is good in that I can read it at my pace but bad for a review of new library material. So I headed to the library’s new book shelf. As I scanned for an interesting title Louisiana Saves the Library by Emily Beck Cogburn caught my eye.

LouisianaI picked it up because it sounds like it belongs in the children’s department plus it has library in the title. After reading the cover I decided it wasn’t in the wrong place and might be a fun read.

Louisiana Richardson is a divorced mother of preschoolers Max and Zoe. Before the divorce she was a stay at home mom with a PhD who wrote articles on the history of public libraries. With an ex-husband who pays child support on his schedule writing articles wouldn’t pay the rent.

Her job search resulted in an offer from Louisiana A&M to be a professor in their library science department. Finding a friend in fellow professor Sylvia has helped, but a year later the culture and climate shock of the move from Iowa has not completely worn off. And now her job is in jeopardy. The state has cut funding for the university by 20% and the library science program is one that may be eliminated.

When the program is cut Louisiana, who is using the nickname Louise after one too many incredulous reactions to her full name, is in a panic. Sylvia however has come up with a solution to their joblessness. The Alligator Bayou Parish Library is in desperate need of two librarians.

Even though it will be less pay it seems like a godsend but Louise is less than thrilled. She visited this library while doing research for a book on the history of Louisiana public libraries. The collection was old and ugly and the library almost empty at a time when it should have been busy with moms and kids.

She can’t imagine working daily in such a depressing place. But with no unemployment benefits for public employees, the ex-husband who still can’t send child support in a timely manner and academic jobs unavailable for at least 6 months, Alligator Bayou is it.

It doesn’t take long for Louise and Sylvia to settle in and begin making changes. Despite the reluctance of the library director hours are extended into the evening.  Programs for teens are added as well as a book club and cooking classes for adults.  The weekly Zumba class is a big hit and new materials are getting on the shelf faster and checking out.

But not everyone is happy with the changes. Library Director Foley wants his old library back and the most powerful member of the police jury, Mrs. Gunderson, thinks libraries are obsolete. She sees no need to waste funds on a library when everyone has the internet.

The police jury, similar to our county commissioners, approves funds for the library. They also must approve placing a levy increase for the library on the ballot. When Mrs. Gunderson’s influence puts both things in jeopardy the future of the library, along with Louise and Sylvia’s jobs, is on the line.

When the situation goes from bad to worse Louise and Sylvia need help. It will take all of Alligator Bayou if the library is to be saved.

This is a light entertaining read with a little humor, family drama, and a hunky strawberry farmer thrown in the mix. If you are looking for a great piece of literature that will pass the test of time, I’d skip this title. However if you love libraries and stories with good characters I recommend you give it a try.