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What we’re reading in March.. March 13, 2018

Posted by SaraC in Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Genre Book Discussion, Thoughtful Ramblings.
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Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time by Gary Saul Morson

INarrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time…‘ve been reading two books by a literary critic that I like a lot named Gary Saul Morson.  He wrote a great book about Anna Karenina called Anna Karenina in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely, so I was curious to learn about his other work.  One book, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, is about how certain novelists, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, create stories that convey a sense of time as open, even if the novelist knows what is going to happen.  It also talks about how novelists represent free will in their characters, and fight against an interpretation of the world as deterministic.  The second book, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics, co-authored with Caryl Emerson, is about the work of a Russian literary critic and philosopher named Mikhail Bakhtin, who came up with some very innovative and exciting ways of thinking about the novel as a genre.  Morson is a wonderful, lucid, and deep thinker, and I’m enjoying these books very much.   Andrew

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchison

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun…Sixteen-year-old Elena is the product of a virgin birth (it’s a real thing with a scientific explanation).  She also hears voices and can perform miracles (there is no scientific explanation for this).  Elena is just trying to navigate normal high school crushes and family drama, and she really doesn’t have time to save the world.  Also, she’s not really sure she should be saving it. This is a truly bizarre and thought-provoking novel for fans of A.S. Kind and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Megan

The Feminist’s Guide to Raising a Little Princess: How to Raise a Girl Who’s Authentic, Joyful, and Fearless – Even If She Refuses to Wear Anything But a Pink Tutu  by Devorah Blachor

The Feminist's Guide to Raising a…This book is really all about the importance of being a good role model as a parent and letting your child be who she wants to be.   The book dives into the history of the Disney princess culture and how it has evolved over the years and has affected our culture, specifically our young daughters. I found the book to be somewhat lacking in concrete insight for navigating the logistics of fostering my child’s authentic self while she is very drawn to the imagery and excitement of princess culture.  Beth

I Hate Fairyland by  Scottie Young

I Hate Fairyland Volume 1: Madly Ever After…Do you love/hate fairy tales? Hero journeys? Landscapes made of candy? Have you ever wondered what would happen if Dorothy hadn’t found her way back to Kansas? Then you will enjoy this graphic novel. I hate Fairyland (Volume 1) follows the story of Gert, a green haired, ax wielding, foul mouthed, middle aged 6 year old (In Fairyland, time goes by but you don’t age). Gert hasn’t really taken the conventional path to finding her way back home and after a few decades of failed riddles and violent vendettas she may have worn out her welcome. A hilarious, graphic-graphic novel.  Greg

 

March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

March: Book One by John LewisThis autobiographical graphic novel relates the early life of Senator John Lewis from his rural upbringing on an Alabama farm through his early involvement in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement.  March does a very nice job of providing the larger context of the movement and what is happening outside of Nashville and Lewis’s immediate world.  However, the authors manage to keep the story from losing focus of Lewis personal experience and the impact that creates.  This is done in part by having the story told from Senator Lewis’ own voice as he provides an impromptu tour of his office on Inauguration Day, just before President Obama is about to be sworn into office for the first time.  A fascinating and powerful read. Trent

 The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen When Johanna Langley’s father Sir Hugo suddenly dies, Johanna wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. A treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American…This book has been on my radar for several years, and being the chosen book  for One Community Reads, I  finally dove into it, and I am so very happy I did.  This is a grim read but a necessary read.  Author, Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of engaging the reader in a piece of non fiction.  He introduces the reader to eight families in Milwaukee living in poverty and struggling with eviction.  Readers learn about the business and culture of evictions, while getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee.  Many residents are spending more than half of their meager income on housing.  For most, what money is left after paying rent simply isn’t enough to get by, hence, starts a downward spiral leading to evictions.  The fates of the eight families in this book are in the hands of two landlords.  I couldn’t help but feel that there is blood on the hands of everyone.  Desmond spent years living in these neighborhoods, painstakingly taking notes and recording events.  I highly recommend this book to everyone. Mary

Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith

Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel…Having several friends and family members who suffer from anxiety, I wanted to read a book to help me understand and empathize with them. Monkey Mind, so far, has done the trick. It is an extremely eye-opening memoir about the onset and treatment of Daniel Smith’s anxiety disorder. He intersperses stories about his own life with research and writings about anxiety from scientists and philosophers like Kirkegaard and Freud. When the audiobook starts to feel overwhelming (because Daniel Smith’s rehearsals of his absurd, painful, and self-destructive thought patterns can be just that), I remind myself that this is how it is to live with anxiety, and that I am one of the lucky ones who can turn off the audiobook and walk away. The book is not 100% heavy and dramatic, though — Daniel Smith’s dry humor about the situations he finds himself in is one of the strengths of the book. Trigger warning: the author does not shy away from sharing a story about how he was raped at 16, and while he documents what happened (in my opinion) tactfully, it is still distressing. Lindsey

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her by T. GreenwoodEight years after many failed fertility treatments and a tragic adoption, Tess is still grieving and bitter as she visits her childhood friend in her hometown in rural Vermont. Torn between her great love for her best friend’s two daughters and her jealousy of the life they lead, as well as the growing rift in her marriage, Tess’ visit is fraught with emotion.  While driving home from a late night liquor store run, Tess sees a small, wounded half-naked little girl in her headlights on the dark country road.  When she stops to help, the girls disappears into the woods.  As Tess calls together the community to search for her, she finally finds a sense of purpose until those around her begin to suspect she was drunk,  broken-hearted and imagined the whole thing.  This book is a great look into grief, relationships, healing and what matters in life.  Sara

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Spoonbenders: A novel by Daryl GregoryIn the 1970s, the Amazing Telemachus family toured the U.S. as psychic performers, led by patriarch/con-man Teddy and the genuinely talented Maureen. Debunked on national television, they lost their notoriety. Twenty years later, they’re all struggling with real world problems, albeit with a psychic dimension. Irene, a human lie detector test, can’t maintain a relationship and has brought her son Matty home to live with her father. Raconteur Frankie, who practices telekinesis, can’t get his business off the ground and is in hock to a local mobster. Buddy, the youngest, sees the future, and is steadily working to prevent it, even if it means building holes in the backyard. Told in alternating chapters from each character’s point of view, this quirky tale of family, mobsters, the CIA and first love, is a hoot – funny, crazy and tender. I listened to it on audiobook and it was a treat! Dori

 

 

 

 

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Greg’s Top 10 for 2017 December 14, 2017

Posted by gregoryhatch in Book Awards, Book Discussion, Book List, Book Review, Graphic Novel, Horror, New Books, Non-Fiction, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2017, Uncategorized.
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First off is a book I previously reviewed, Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. As the title describes this is a three books of short stories in one not so compact volume. This had to make my list for the sheer variety it offered fans of horror. Much like Barker’s films there is a balance of psychological and visceral horror. Recommended for the horror fan who needs an introduction to Barker’s writing.
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I know I am cheating a bit with these picks but these two volumes are distinct enough in their tone and their personal achievement to deserve their own spot on this list. A retelling/reworking of the Hercules myth, David Rubin’s graphic novel The Hero breaks new ground in the telling of this millennial old story. An odd combination of ancient and contemporary motifs (there are ancient Greek news casts) Hero keeps the reader on their toes. Book One focuses on the labors and the development of Hercules as hero. Book Two takes a darker tone and starts asking what happens when the campaign is won and yet life, and its tragedies, continue on. A humanizing take on a hero who’s story is told again and again.
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Possibly a very bold claim, but for me, this collection was the work that got me interested in poetry again. I am a working visual artist who has had a desire to investigate poetry but just didn’t seem to be my medium or speak my own creative language. Smith’s work shares many of the research veins that I am interested in and gave me a gateway to the work and the art form of poetry. A Finalist for the National Book Award, these poems are both challenging and enjoyable.
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What can I say, I am sucker for short story collections that explore magical realism. Russell gives us everything from lemon sucking vampires to a silk factory who raw material comes from silkworm/human hybrids. More so than any of the other short story collections on this list Vampires offers the readers stories are truly a mixed bag of setting and tone. I haven’t had a chance to read Russell’s novel Swamplandia! but from how much I enjoyed this work its on my reading list.
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If you are familiar with Sedaris’ work you know that you are in for more of the same awkward, funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable stories. Told in his signature style, Sedaris focuses on the minor (and so minor) faux pas, social foibles, and daily disasters that everyone else will forget about but will mar you for life. Like all his work, I recommend reading before large family gatherings, for perspective.
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If I had to give Gaiman’s work a subtitle it would have to be “Translated for Clarity and Entertainment.” Master storyteller, Gaiman makes traditional Norse and Northern European mythology digestible for a wider audience. If you ever attempted to read traditional translations of Norse sagas you know that they can be a bit dense and at times confusing. This is a great introduction to the Norse religion and for fans of Neil Gaiman’s wider body of work.
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Cover image for The drunken botanist
Maybe too dry (pun intended) for some, I found The Drunken Botanist an informative and intriguing romp into the history of alcohol and the cultures that made them. I enjoyed this book as an audio book while on a long drive to a conference and think it may be its best in that scenario. Filled with moments of “huh didn’t know that” and the science to back it up, Stewart’s work is great material for parties or possible future games of trivia.
Cover image for Wuvable oaf
A subversive and unconventional take on the idea of a romantic comedy. We follow Oaf Jadwiga (former professional wrestler, owner of a cat sanctuary and maker of stuffed animals) as he tried to catch the eye of black metal front-man Eiffel. Now what would be romantic comedy without a few mishaps? Oaf has to deal rival bands, exes (his and Eiffel’s), and cats with emotional problems. With moments of tenderness, gross out humor, and an in your face attitude this book was always surprising.
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If you enjoyed the Alan Moore’s Watchmen’s take on the world of cape crusaders there is a good chance you will enjoy Black Hammer : Secret Origins. Lemire’s take on a super hero team takes a decidedly dark psychological tone. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien are the a superhero team who have been trapped in a reality that they cannot escape. Rather than Superman’s Phantom Zone, their prison takes the form of a small rural town. This first volume gives us a look into the hero’s previous lives, the baggage they hold, and how they cope in a world where they have little to do but reflect.

Megan’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2016 December 12, 2016

Posted by Megan in Graphic Novel, Uncategorized.
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  1. Lady Killer by Joelle Jones. By day she’s the perfect housewife and mother, but at night Josie is a ruthless killer for hire.

lady-killer

     2. Giant Days by John Allison.  On their own at university for the first time, Esther, Susan and Daisy become fast friends.

 

   3. Rat Queens vol. 3: Demons by Curtis J. Wiebe. The Rat Queens are a gang of hard-drinking, death-dealing, killers for hire.

rat-queens

 

4. Lumberjanes vol. 3: A Terrible Plan and Lumberjanes vol. 4 : Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson. The gang of campers have more adventures at Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types!

 

lumberjanes lumberjanes4

5. Descender, vol. 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire. In a universe where androids have been outlawed, a young robot and his companion struggle to survive.

descender

6. Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt. As awesomely weird as My Dirty Dumb Eyes.

hot-dog

7. Saga, volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan. The story of star-crossed lovers and their daughter continues in this bizarre sci-fi/fantasy blended saga.

saga

8. Heart and Brain: Gut Instincts by The Awkward Yeti. These comic, starring analytical Brain and optimistic Heart perfectly illustrate the constant battle between heart and head.

heart-and-brain

9. Prez, vol.1: Corndog-in-Chief by Mark Russell. This a frighteningly timely political satire.

prez

10. Mooncop by Tom Gauld. A simple, lovely, and melancholy story about human colonization of the moon.

mooncop

 

Happy Reading!

~Megan

 

Megan’s More than 10 Top Picks of 2015 December 16, 2015

Posted by Megan in Book List, Top Ten, Top Ten of 2015.
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Normally I love making lists of books, but I agonize over these end of the year favorites lists. After reviewing all the books that I read this year I discovered that this is the first time in many years that I read more adult (non-YA) books that YA books. Does this mean I am a real grown-up now? I hope not! I also noted that this was a year dominated by science fiction, fantasy, and amazing graphic novels.  Ok, let’s get started!

  1. The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.

string diaries

2. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

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3. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

mistborn

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

uprooted

5. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. (This is a bit of a tease as it isn’t due out until March 2016)

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6. Bingo’s Run by James Levine.

bingos run

7. Lock In by John Scalzi.

lock in

8. The Martian by Andy Weir.

martian

9. Descender, vol.1: Tin Stars by Jeff Trillium.

tin stars

10. Rat Queens, vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery and vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygot by Kurtis Wiebe.

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Of course, I can’t finish this list without mentioning some of my favorite YA books.

laborden salt to the sea walktheearth wrath Everything everything fixer Wicked will rise Under a painted sky all the rage all the bright places

Happy Reading!

~Megan

Pretty as a -Graphic Novel- Picture May 4, 2015

Posted by stacey in Book Discussion, Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel.
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Graphic novels are one of the best categories ever -especially if you’re limited on the amount of time you have to read!! There was plenty of variety in topics and plenty of variety in the amount of words people chose to read, from almost none (me!) to lots and lots (???), but the overall degree of satisfaction with individual choices was pretty darn high. So if you want a suggestion of a story told primarily through pictures, this list is for you!

Chris: Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir by Roz Chast takes us on a journey some of us know all too well—being there for our aging parents in the final years of their lives. I laughed and cried reading it and realizing how similar the human experience is whether one’s parents live in the Bronx or Garfield Heights. Who knew their maddening idiosyncrasies would be so similar in nature and so cherished after their passing? A winner of many awards including 2014 National Book Award Finalist, it’s a great read.

Carol: Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer is an adaptation of a 1999 work by Marc Mauer. This nonfiction graphic novel looks at how the United States came to have the highest incarceration rate in the world with a population of over 2 million prisoners. With various stories of incarcerated individuals serving as examples, this statistic-filled book shows the failure of our prison system. Mauer suggests that by investing in education, drug treatment, job creation, and a fairer system of sentencing, the need for prisons would lessen.

Lauren: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud is a lengthy graphic novel (nearly 500 pages) but it gives its author plenty of time to draw out (ha! pun intended?) the story of a struggling artist, David Smith, taunted by the absence of what, he believes, should by now be a wildly successful career in sculpture. The story takes a fantastic turn when David makes a deal with Death: he will receive the power to sculpt anything around him into a masterwork just using his hands. The trade-off?—he has just 200 days more to live. Initially the agreement seems acceptable to David, but everything changes when he falls in love.

Lauren (again! -She loved them both!): Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson is a delightful graphic novel geared towards young adults. The story takes us into the underworld and is populated by monsters and ghouls of every sort. Poor Princess Decomposia is left to handle all the official palace duties while he hypochondriac father, the King, remains in bed with a new ache, pain, or general complaint daily. Things start to look up for Princess Decomposia when newly hired palace cook, Count Spatula, enters her life. Count Spatula opens Decomposia up to new ideas about food, friendship, and true love. A charming read!

Beth: How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis is a beautifully crafted graphic novel representing the extremes that humans take in desperate attempts to find happiness. The cover images and many of the included graphics are so beautiful that I feel they deserve to be framed the my wall, rather than shoved between other books on the shelf. The stories seemed to be deep if you gave them some thought, though none of them really grabbed me. It’s worth a look just for the art.

Julie: I “read” Love: The Tiger by Frederic Brremaud, illustrated by Federico Bertolucci, and I’m air quoting because the book’s only words are brief writing at the beginning and end of the story. It shows us a day in the life of a tiger searching for food and the illustrations are, for the most part, incredibly beautiful and as lush as the jungle they depict. It’s a world in which, according to the book, is experienced “an elemental love. A love that mankind can never experience.” I know I didn’t experience it, but it’s worth checking out simply for the illustrations.

Emma: March: Book One is the first in a projected graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. He is the sole surviving member of the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights movement and was one of the original Freedom Riders. The graphic novel has Congressmen Lewis sharing Civil Rights history with a couple of young visitors to his office on the day of President Obama’s first inauguration. He begins with his early years in segregated rural Alabama through the birth of the Nashville Student Movement in the early 60’s. An important period of history told in a unique format.

Steve: White Death, by Robbie Morrison and Charlie Adlard, focuses on Italian WWI soldier Pietro Aquasanta and his time in the war. The story is bleakly told and drawn, and centers around the use of “White Death,” which was the purposeful setting off of avalanches using gun and cannon fire to destroy the enemy. Unfortunately the story itself is hard to follow, in part because the characters seem to look all the same, and partly because it is just plain disjointed.

Dori : In Persepolis by MarJane Satrapi, Satrapi illustrates the story of her childhood in Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979. Her family, hailing from the educated elite, had been protesting the Shah and his violent and undemocratic methods of dealing with adversaries. After the country is turned into an Islamic state, her family is hopeful, but soon the Iraq War begins and it becomes clear that the new regime is deeply dangerous . Satrapi, 10 at the time, can no longer listen to Western music, dress how she likes or go to school with boys, and her extended family faces peril, including her beloved Uncle Anoosh. No wallflower, she often gets in trouble for speaking her mind and her parents, concerned for her safety, find a way to send her to Vienna to boarding school, telling her that they will soon follow. Beautifully illustrated in simple planes of black and white, Satrapi is able to capture individuals and their feelings with simplicity. Her text, too, is sparse, but captures the complexities of life in Iran under the Islamic regime.

Megan: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson introduces a new superhero for the modern age. Kamala Khan is just an average teen from New Jersey when she suddenly finds herself possessing the superpowers that allow her to morph into her hero, Carol Danvers. Now she finds herself stuck between her two conflicting worlds. On the one hand, she longs for freedom from her strict, traditional Muslim parents on the other, she discovers she is not quite comfortable being Carol Danvers. As she explores the extent of her powers she learns how to be comfortable in her own skin. This new addition to the Marvel family is getting plenty of buzz due to the fact that Kamala is their first Muslim hero to headline her own comic, but Kamala is so much more than her religion and her skin tone. She is a charming and normal teenager just trying to figure things out. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the new Ms. Marvel!

Stacey: I am Pusheen the Cat, by Claire Belton relies heavily on super cute images to reveal the charm of large fluffy cats -surprise! Pusheen and her little sister Stormy have plenty of adventures, apart and together. If you’re looking for something not too taxing on the brain but plenty of aww! -this one’s for you!

Now we’re back to lots of words on the page with Women’s Fiction! If you want to read along with us, please find a book that focuses on a female protagonist and her relationships with those around her. The main theme of the story should be of a woman overcoming a crisis and emerging triumphant. You go girl! (I know, I know but -I had to!)

Enjoy!
Stacey

Graphically Speaking February 26, 2014

Posted by Megan in Book List, Graphic Novel.
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If you are a reader of graphic novels you don’t need me to tell you how wonderful they can be. There is something refreshing (and maybe just a bit nostalgic?) about reading a story told in both words and pictures. But don’t dismiss graphic novels as fluff or kids stuff just because they are illustrated. I have found many graphic novels that are entertaining, powerful, and moving. I personally love a series, but I have also found a number of enjoyable standalones. My introduction to graphic novels was Bill Willingham’s Fables series, and it not only remains a favorite, but it is also a series I love to recommend. Here are some more of my favorites:

Memoir/Biography/Historical

1. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a charming memoir that is sure to delight all you foodies out there.

relish

2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is a hilarious and heartbreaking glimpse into the world of depression. The book is a compilation of new material as well as material previously published on the author’s blog.

hyperbole

3. Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer is a coming of age story about a girl moving away from her small town and finding herself in a big city. This is the perfect gift for the high school graduate in your life.

little fish

4. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming is a biography of her great-grandfather, China’s greatest magician. This is a fascinating look at Chinese culture and the early world of vaudeville. Definitely worth picking up.

long tack sam

5. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston is a novel told in pictures and tells the story of a young girl coming of age in the 1920s. Her dream is to be a writer, but life seems to have other plans for her, until she is swept off her feet by a handsome young man. Loaded with vintage postcards, magazine ads, letters, and fashion spread, this book pairs perfectly with The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

frankie pratt

Humor

6. 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You, My Dog: The Paradox, and Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants by Michael Inman are all ridiculous, irreverent, and absolutely hilarious. Inman is the creator of The Oatmeal.com, the internet home of his comics. His humor isn’t for everyone, but if it IS your style, these books will leave you in tears!

dolphins cat plotting my dog grizzly bears

7. Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami will make a cat lover out of even the staunchest nay-sayer (I should know, I was one of them!). These tiny, darling books chronicle the author’s adventures in adopting a street kitten.

chi

Sci-Fi/Horror

8. Locke & Key by Joe Hill follows the Locke family as they move into their family’s ancestral home, a Victorian mansion called Lovecraft. Bad things happen. The story is dark, disturbing and utterly addictive. Joe is certainly giving his father, Stephen King, a run for the title of King of the Macabre!

locke & key

9. Y: the Last Man and Saga by Brian Vaughan are two offerings from a Cleveland native. Y: the Last Man follows Yorick, the lone survivor of a plague that kills all the men. Saga is his newest offering and it is just plain bizarre, in an awesome way! Interplanetary wars and star-crossed lovers!

y last man saga

10. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman…do I really need to explain this one? Actually, I gave up in the show after the first season, but the books are fantastic. They are so much more horrifying than the tv series and after the first book, they books and television show are two entirely different things. I think it’s safe to read and watch simultaneously.

walking dead 1

And just so that I am not ending on that horrific zombie note, here’s a nice bonus:

Eric Shanower’s Oz series is a must-read! This graphic adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz series is one of my favorite discoveries. The story is fresh and illustrations are amazing. Every time I look at them I want to take them apart and frame the pages. I encourage you to venture to the Children’s Department and rediscover Dorothy and her band of misfits as they have adventures in the land of Oz.

oz 1oz 2oz 3oz 4oz 5

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

Lucky 13: Top Ten (plus three) Reads of 2013 December 19, 2013

Posted by Megan in Top Ten.
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This year I made an effort to expand my reading horizons and in the process I discovered some amazing books! I read or listened to 200 books in 2013 and picking 13 favorites was nearly impossible, but after much fretting, I am finally satisfied with my 2013 “Best Of” list.

1. Favorite Nonfiction:

power of habit

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I found this book fascinating. The case studies and anecdotes are compelling (and in some cases a little creepy). I found the suggestions and techniques for changing habits to be useful in my own ongoing quest to make healthier choices.

2. Favorite Picture Book:

crayons

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. My nephews, ages 7, 8, and 9, think that they are getting too old for picture books, but I say you’re never too old for a charming and hilarious story! The letters from Yellow and Orange are my favorite!

3. Favorite Audio:

husband's secret

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Don’t let the gorgeous cover fool you, this is not fluff. This story has it all: family drama, hidden secrets, suspense, and even a touch of romance and humor. It was this book, more than anything else, that motivated me to walk the dogs in the recent blizzard-y weather.

4. Favorite YA:

reality boy

Reality Boy by A.S. King. Considering that the majority of my reading is YA, picking just one book for this list was a little painful. I must admit that I have become slightly obsessed with A.S. King’s books. Her books are full of heart-breakingly dysfunctional characters and the their struggles to have better lives. Her stories are powerful and empowering, and not just for teens.

5. Favorite Middle Grade:

hero's guide

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. This is the hilarious sequel to The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The League of Princes is off on another (mis)adventure and once again their leading ladies are there to save the day. Fans of fairy tales, fractured or otherwise, won’t want to miss this series.

6. Favorite Debut:

shadow

In the Shadow of the Blackbird by Cat Winters. I had to sneak another YA book on the list, but I think it will appeal to a wide range of readers. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the old photographs and vivid descriptions of life during the great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Readers looking for fright will find a devilishly delightful ghost story!

7. Favorite Historical Fiction:

secret

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. This book covers the life of one woman, Dorothy, from her youth in pre-WWII England, through the war and into the present day. As she lay dying her daughter makes a startling discovery about her mother’s past. Full of twists and turns, I was guessing right up until the surprising end!

8. Favorite Graphic Novel:

relish

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Not sure about the whole graphic novel thing? Ease into them with the delicious memoir! Give this to your favorite foodie (but be sure to read it before you wrap it)!

9. Favorite Science Fiction:

ready player one

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 80’s pop culture collides with future dystopian America. Virtual reality is the new reality and gamers are battling out for chance to win billions. This book was so much fun and the audio was narrated by Wil Weaton!

10. Favorite Book Recommended by Fellow Librarians at RRPL:

when she woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. This is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter with a futuristic science fiction twist. Fascinating!

11. Favorite Mystery:

broken harbor

Broken Harbor by Tana French. This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I love everything about French’s police procedural novels. The setting is vivid, the characters are well-developed and perfectly flawed, and the mysteries are suspenseful without being gruesome.

12. Favorite Funny Book:

last word

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz. This is the last book in the Spellman Files series and I suggest you start at the beginning. The series stars a highly dysfunctional family of private investigators. Hilarity ensues.

13. Favorite Fiction:

fangirl

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is my current favorite book. It is a charming coming-of-age story with lots of family drama, humor, and a sweet romance. This book is like a cozy blanket on a chilly day: you want to dive in and not come out. I realize that sounds cheesy, but I found this book to be so comforting. I have lots of love for Rainbow Rowell.

….and a last minute addition for luck! I promise, no more.

steelheart

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. This is superhero science fiction. With a twist. Imagine living in a world with only super villains. In Steelheart, ordinary humans develop superhuman talents and use them to enslave and terrorize ordinary people. All but a small handful of people submit. The resistors call themselves The Reckoners and their only goal is to rid the world of Epics. This series opener is amazing!

Happy Reading!

˜Megan

Picture These Stories! in our Graphic Novels Discussion October 10, 2012

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The pictures in these books told us lots of stories -without using many words at all! So doesn’t it seem obvious that I wouldn’t use many words to introduce this discussion?

Maureen: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: a graphic novel by Nunzio DeFilippis is an adaptation of the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1922. Benjamin Button is born in 1860 to Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button in Baltimore, a well-to-do couple with many societal connections. When first-time father Roger Button goes to visit his newborn son in the hospital nursery ward, he is shocked to discover the entire staff in quite an uproar as his son actually looks like an old man complete with long white hair, beard and mustache. The story follows Benjamin as he leaves the hospital and he and his father develop their unique relationship through the years as Benjamin miraculously ages backward, from old man to infant. A very curious story, indeed!

Megan: Locke & Key is the latest project by bestselling author Joe Hill and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez. The series follows the Locke children, teens Tyler and Kinsey and their younger brother Bode, as they return to the childhood home of their father, a mansion called Lovecraft House. They quickly discover that their new home is more than just a dusty old house. They uncover hidden keys that open doors that have the power to transform anyone who dares to pass through. As they explore the magic and mystery of Lovecraft House they are unaware that there is a demon in their midst. This demon will stop at nothing to gain control of the most powerful key in the house. Hill, son of Stephen King, has made a name for himself among horror fans and his latest project, is a welcome addition to his bibliography. The story is fascinating, sinister, and at times frightening. The gorgeous color illustrations perfectly capture the tone and serve as more than just a background. The artwork enhances and complements the story and is full of delightful surprises.

Carol: Matthea Harvey’s Of Lamb is a graphic novel/book of free verse poems, filled with lovely paintings by Amy Jean Porter. This retelling of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is gorgeous to look at and magical to read and becomes even more extraordinary when you read about its evolution in the author’s notes at the end of the book. Begun as an experiment in erasure poetry, poems created by omitting words or phrases from an established piece of text, Harvey’s inspiration was a randomly selected biography of 18th century British essayist Charles Lamb. In Harvey’s adult version of this oh-so-familiar nursery rhyme, Mary and Lamb are in love–but can these two kids figure out a way to make it work? Read this delightful book to find out.

Emma: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam written by great-granddaughter Ann Marie Fleming is the life story of Long Tack Sam, a popular Chinese vaudeville performer. Sam was an amazing man who worked with Jack Benny, George Burns, Laurel & Hardy, and many others. He was an acrobat, magician, comic, producer, restaurant owner, theater owner, and world traveler. Unfortunately when vaudeville ended, the interest in Sam ended. He was forgotten. Long Tack Sam refused to participate in or allow his daughters to participate in movies that belittled Chinese. I look forward to watching the documentary on Sam’s successful but somewhat sad life also produced by his great-granddaughter.

Ann: Cat vs. Human by Yasmine Surovec is a charming collection of comics about being owned by a feline. “If Humans acted like cats” and “Hungry kitten” are especially amusing. Ms. Surovec started the comics as doodles she posted on Facebook. When they became extremely popular, the author started her own blog, which then resulted in this book. Witty and funny, you’ll laugh out loud at these vignettes about our furry friends.

Rosemary: Pedro and Me by Judd Winick was written to honor Pedro Zamora, the author’s dear friend, who died of AIDS in 1994. Winick and Zamora probably would have never met, except that they were chosen to be on MTV’s The Real World 3, San Francisco. The author wasn’t sure how to react when he was told that his roommate on the show had AIDS. Once Winick got to know Zamora and understand the facts about AIDS, he became one of Zamora’s greatest supporters. Zamora gave informative lectures about AIDS whenever he had the opportunity. After his death, Winick carried on with the lectures for a year and a half, until he realized he hadn’t properly mourned his friend’s death. He then used his artistic talents to create this graphic novel about their friendship and Zamora’s courage.

Steve: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Black Dossier, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, is about Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain and their adventures in 1958 Europe while recovering the Black Dossier, which holds the history of the defunct League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The problem with this graphic novel is that most of it is not in the graphic or pictorial format. The dossier is included in the volume as a story with-in the story, and is pages of reading. The end is quite bizarre, and the included 3-D glasses add to the strangeness. I have enjoyed Alan Moore’s other works, but this one falls into the too gimmicky category. (And be warned, there are some adult scenes throughout.)

Julie: Jeremy Love’s graphic novel, Bayou, is set in a town populated by monstrous creatures, both human and otherworldly. It’s 1933 in Charon, Mississippi and sharecroppers Lee and her father are struggling to get by and build a better life. When Lee’s father is arrested for the disappearance of a white girl, she sets out to track the girl down and save her father. As the reviewer from Wired said, “As hypnotic as it is unsettling.”

Dori: Alison Bechdel made a splash with her first graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic about her childhood, her father’s death and the impact of his closeted sexuality on herself and her family. Now she opens up about her other parent in Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. In this volume, Bechdel reexamines her relationship with her mother, an artistic woman who was emotionally distant. Delving into her own relationships, dreams and therapy sessions, the author references Virginia Wolf and uses psychologist Donald Winnicott’s theories of mothering as a structure for the book. As much a trip through Bechdel’s psyche as a family memoir, Are You My Mother? is a fascinating journey.

Stacey: He Done Her Wrong: the Great American Novel (with no words) by Milt Gross is truly a wordless novel. In the 300 pages of this book, Mr. Gross never uses one word to directly tell the story. Compared to silent movies of the same era, such as The Perils of Pauline, readers will follow the adventures of Hero, Heroine and Villain to a satisfying conclusion. A little bit of a history lesson, great visual humor, and the inspiring true life story of the author, make this book worth a closer look.

Next time? We’re going off-world! We’ll be headed into the future and/or into space to explore Science Fiction stories! If you want to read-along, you can start searching for a book that utilizes some element of our current understanding of science and world around us but in new, exciting ways. From stories that that focus on technology to books that investigate the inner worlds of the mind or society, you’ll always find a wide variety of settings, characters, and topics. Well, I guess we’ll see you -in the future!

— Stacey

Picture Me This (with a Graphic Novel or two?) March 22, 2012

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel.
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Have you been wondering if it’s possible to discuss a story told mostly through images, with an occasional assistance from text? Well wonder no more… You can! And we did! How do I know this for a fact? Graphic novels, stories told primarily through artwork, were the latest and greatest genre under our department’s microscope –and this is what we found:

Megan: Fables, by Bill Willingham is an exciting mash-up of beloved fairy tales characters living in a modern setting. Driven from their homelands by an enemy known only as The Adversary, the survivors established a safe haven in a heavily glamoured luxury hotel in modern-day New York City. After centuries of peace, Fabletown has found itself in the midst of political upheaval and dramatic change. Gorgeous color illustrations, clever reimaginings of familiar characters, and a suspenseful storyline will have readers eager for more.

Dori: Berlin, City of Stones: Book One by Jason Lutes is the first of a trilogy about the Weimer Republic, the period in Germany between the two World Wars when there was political democracy and a flourishing artistic culture but a looming shadow ahead. This book takes place over eight months from 1928 to 1928 and the unfolding events are told through the lives of a large cast of characters. There’s the romantic entanglements of Kurt Severing, a journalist and Marthe Muller, an art student. There’s another story line featuring a working-class family who find themselves at odds over their political allegiances. Another follows a young Jewish newsboy who is the target of anti-Semitism. Lutes is able to capture a sense of the ominous future, from the begging war veterans, to the rising Nazi party, to the Communist rallies. His stark black and white drawings and distinct panels capture the events and the reactions of his characters, some with no text at all. I’m looking forward to Berlin, City of Ashes: Book Two.

Emma: Drawing from Memory by Allen Say is part memoir, part graphic novel, and part history. The reader follows the young life of writer/illustrator Allen Say. It’s his story of life in Yokohama, Japan, as a small boy to his middle school years in Tokyo apprenticed to cartoonist Noro Shinpei, his “sensei” (teacher) and “spiritual father”. At 15, Allen is given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States with his father and his father’s new family, and this is where the novel abruptly stops. The graphic novel is a beautiful mixture of watercolor paintings, original cartoons, photographs, and maps.

Carol: Two Generals by Scott Chantler is a graphic novel based on real life WWII experiences of the author’s grandfather Lew Chantler and his best friend Jack, two recruits of the Canadian Highland Light Infantry who cross the Atlantic in 1943. Readers get to know Chant and Jack as their regiment is trained in England. Their downtime is spent enjoying the pleasures that overseas life offers, but little do they know, they will end up taking part of the famous attack on the beaches of Normandy. In the book’s second half, the men head to France, where many will face death as they play a pivotal role in the war. In words and pictures, we see the horrors of war and the bravery and honor of the men who fought and those who died for their country. The artwork is fantastic as the colors of the scenes change from khakis, to reds, indicating dark moods or scenes of battle. The author wrote this moving story using his grandfather’s journal and letters.

Julie: Don’t be scared that Vera Brosgol’s first book is in the teen section and a graphic novel – oh, and the title is Anja’s Ghost. It’s a well-written, well-illustrated twist on the coming of age novel, still with the angst any teenager feels about fitting in, especially as a Russian immigrant in a suburban high school. But it’s Anya’s encounter with a ghost that changes her path, for the good and the bad.

Janet: Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes tackles the issue of later-in-life dating. The story line features Marshall and Natalie who have both been in long term relationships. Their blind date was arranged by mutual friends. Their first date is fraught with ups and downs that seem to spell disaster. Will there be a second date? You’ll have to read this lackluster book to find out.

Ann: Doggone Town by Stefan Petrucha & Sarah Kinney scripting and Sho Murase providing artwork is #13 in the series, Nancy Drew, Girl Detective. The series brings the world’s most famous girl detective, Nancy Drew, into the graphic novel format. In this story a lost dog leads Nancy and her boyfriend Ned to the small town of Nevershare, but why are all its citizens gone except for Ms. Byra Tussle, the dog Togo’s owner? If she is his owner, why does she get his name wrong? Then again, why does Togo seem afraid of Byra? With Nancy Drew on the case you can bet the mysteries get solved!

Rosemary: Underwire by Jennifer Hayden is a collection of 22 illustrated stories. They explore subjects near and dear to Hayden’s heart. She is in her late 40s and expresses what many women go through during those years. There are personal health issues right alongside the wish that her children didn’t have to grow up so quickly. She hopes she is still attractive to her husband, and the sequence where they go out for an anniversary dinner is touching. A few words of caution: Hayden’s drawings and language are of the in-your-face style.

Chris: Lost & Found by Shaun Tan tells three tales–all dealing with loss. The first, The Red Tree, tells the story of an unhappy girl whose life is filled with gloom until she happens upon a bright spot, symbolized by a red tree. The Lost Thing, tells of a man who finds a lost object/human that speaks to him and compels him to find a special place for it. And the third, The Rabbits, tells a tale of people experiencing change; they ultimately lose their old ways and find new ones. Afterwards, author/illustrator Tan talks about the symbolism in his tales in a unique and captivating way.

Steve: American Vampire, Vol. 1 , by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, illustrated by Rafael Albuquereque, tells two intertwined stories. It is ultimately a tale of vampires, but it pits the traditional European vampires, think pale, afraid of the sun, with a new breed, the American vampire, who are actually stronger in daylight. Skinner Sweet is a bank robber in the American West in the 1880’s who is involved in a shoot-out, and blood from a European vampire drips into his blood before he dies, creating this new breed. Shoot ahead to 1920’s Los Angeles and he is tracking down aspiring actress Pearl, who is also a newly infected American vampire. Blood, guts and gore ensue in this fabulously written and drawn story.

Stacey: Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Volume One by Tove Jansson is a collection of her daily comics published by the Associated Press beginning in 1953. Her daily comics were meant for adult readers, not the children reading the Moomin books, and so were allowed to have a darker, bleaker feel in general. Ms. Jansson’s comics are full of whimsical characters showing a wide range of emotion, a feat only such a talented artist could have achieved.

The next time we meet up for thoughtful discussion, we’ll be delving into the world of Gentle Reads! A book that fits this category will have a pretty mellow feeling; there are no extreme feelings or bold action. A gentle read will focus on a small community of people, with an emphasis on the everyday ups and downs of lives quietly led. I can’t wait to see what books we’ll all wind-up choosing! (I wonder what *I’ll* be choosing?)

— Stacey

Once Upon a Time: Grown-up Fairy Tales on TV and in Graphic Novels October 21, 2011

Posted by Megan in Fantasy, Graphic Novel.
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They say everything old is new again, eventually. That is certainly the case for the nearly 200-year-old tales penned by the Brothers Grimm (did you know they were librarians?) in 1812. This fall these ageless tales are going to be updated for a modern TV audience.

First up is ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

Once Upon a Time, starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison (you will recognize her from House and How I Met Your Mother) premiers Sunday, October 23 at 8pm. The show is about Emma Swan (Morrison), a young woman who is drawn to Storybrooke, a tiny town in Maine, by the son she gave up as a baby. Ten-year-old Henry believes that Emma is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and that Storybrooke is under a spell cast by the Evil Queen. He claims that the curse has trapped fairy tale characters in the modern world with no recollection of their true identities. Despite her skepticism, Emma is about to witness the beginning of an epic battle between good and evil.

Sounds good to me! The  DVR is all set for this one.

And if that wasn’t enough, the following week you can catch NBC’s Grimm.

Grimm, starring David Guintoli and Russell Hornsby, premiers Friday, October 28 at 9pm. Grimm is about Nick Burkhardt, a homicide detective in Portland, Oregon, who learns that he is a descendent of an elite group of hunters known as “Grimms.” As the last of his kind, it is his destiny and duty to protect humankind from the sinister characters of fairy tales who infiltrate the real world.

I think I may have to give this one a try too.

I find the timing of these two shows to be perfect, as I have recently discovered the Fable series by Bill Willingham. This series originated as a comic book in 2002 and was complied into book form beginning in 2003. The author has reinvented characters from fairy tales and folklore and brought them together in modern-day New York City. They call themselves Fables and have made their home in a luxury hotel, known as Fabletown. Those fables who can not pass for human live on The Farm in upstate New York. Fabletown began centuries ago, when an enemy known only as The Adversary began conquering their homelands. After centuries of peace Fabletown has found itself in the midst of political upheaval and dramatic change. There are currently 16 volumes in the Fables series and a number of spin-offs, including series starring Jack Horner, Cinderella, and Peter Piper, his wife Bo Peep and his brother Max. Willingham recently announced plans to start a new series, Fairest, which will follow the lives of many female fables. So many fun fables, so little time…

If you are looking for a quick, clever read I highly recommend checking out Fables by Bill Willingham.

˜Megan