Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top 10 Books on my Winter To-Be-Read List

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today's topic is books on our winter to be read list.

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Winter is a wonderful time for cuddling up in your favorite seat, looking out the window, and thinking ‘Thank God I have this awesome book and don’t have to go outside!’. 

So here are the awesome books I will be reading this winter:

The Martian by Andy Weir. This is kind of cheating because I’m currently reading this book, but it is so excellent so far! Mark gets left behind on Mars after a sand storm. His crew mates and the rest of the world believe he is dead, so Mark has to figure out how to survive and make it until the next NASA mission to Mars. The main character, although in a dire situation, still keeps his sense of humor and there are a lot of places I’ve laughed out loud. If you liked “Castaway” and “Apollo 13," or if you’re a human who enjoys books, please read this!

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. This is a nonfiction piece about Afghan girls/women who are presented as men and raised as men temporarily. Since Afghani culture does not look highly upon women, these daughters are raised male and then expected to eventually return to their female roots, but while male, they have more opportunities. The book sounds fascinating and the writer meets and follows the lives of women who have been raised this way or are currently living as men. 

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. I do love English classics and Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a favorite of mine. So because winter makes me brooding, I figured I’d give Ms. Bronte’s other work a read. This is the story of Lucy who becomes a teacher at a French boarding school, and then (shocking) must decide if her freedom is more important than the love of a man. A very modern woman in a time when women were married or were considered pathetic, lamentable creatures. 

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron. Christmas reading and Jane Austen! What a happy combination. Oh except for that part where this book is a murder mystery. Not so happy for the dead guy. 

The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell. The first book in this series was Shadow on the Crown. It is historical fiction about Emma of Normandy, the bride of Athelred of England. It takes place in 1000 A.D. and I enjoyed hearing about this century, the lives of the people, and especially the choices and cunning of young Emma. I cannot wait to see what happens to Emma as Viking hordes descend on England!

Museum of Mistakes by Julia Wertz. Wertz is hysterical. Julia Wertz is a great graphic novelist whose sardonic stylings make for good fun. Whether she is talking about her time as a waitress, or relaying conversations had with friends and family, her life experiences make an easy and entertaining read.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I recently read Outlander (yes I gave into the hype) and loved it. But since these books are tomes, I decided I needed to give myself several months in between each book in the series. I am very much looking forward to throwing myself back into 18th century Scotland though! More kilted men? Yes please!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose your own autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris. Things that are brilliant: this autobiography. Thank you Mr. Harris for using a well-loved version of writing to write your autobiography! I cannot wait to lay my greedy little hands on this and cheat until I get the ending I want. Very clever.

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins. This is a collection of short stories by Young Adult authors. They are all holiday themed and are fun little romps. Rainbow Rowell wrote the first story, so I’m excited. Holly Black and David Levithan are also contributors, so if you’re a YA lover, give this book a look!

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith. There is a project right now to have contemporary authors reimagine Ms. Austen’s masterpieces, and the delightfully pushy Emma is being rewritten by the king of current cozies, Mr. Alexander McCall Smith. I’m excited to see what a modern day Emma looks like to him and how she fares in our society. (This is a cheat as well since it technically isn't out until spring, but I'm so excited!)

~Kristin M.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Musings from the Teen Book Club

I have had the immense pleasure of leading MPL’s Teen Book Club since its inception in September. What follows are some musings on the books we have read and discussed thus far.

For some reason, I had minimal interest in reading this book before choosing it for the inaugural TBC meeting. When something gets insanely popular, I tend to shy away from it until the hype dies down. That being said, I am so glad I read this book sooner than later AND had people ready to gab with me about it. When I asked the club members if John Green (a 30-something year old man) wrote a convincing teen girl protagonist, one stated that she thinks “everyone has a bit of teenage girl inside of them.” Hilarity ensued.

Yes, of course I had to make my club read some Pratchett! Nation is unlike the rest of Pratchett’s work, being a partly fantasy and partly alternate history novel for young adults that deals heavily with the theme of good vs. evil. It’s not my favorite Pratchett book, but most of the members (read: those that finished the book *cough*cough*) enjoyed it. I definitely sleep more easily knowing that I introduced Pratchett to another generation of readers.

I had read this title prior to discussing it with my teens, and I had mixed feelings about it. My opinion did not change much from my second read-through. I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that the protagonist’s romantic interest is… well, let’s just say it’s an unconventional romance story. The club members liked it the book as a whole, and I suppose that’s all that matters in the end!

This is a book that I would never have read if it had not been for the Teen Book Club. It’s so far out of my comfort zone, so completely opposite of what I usually look for in a book. It’s dark, suspenseful, and a bit gruesome. That being said, I was amazed to find that I could not put this book down. And with that being said, I probably will not be continuing the series—I am too much of a wimp for that! In the end, I’m glad that I gave something new a try. I just hope I haven’t scarred any of my teens for life…


Mentor Public Library’s Teen Book Club is open to teens in grades 9 to 12. The club meets on the first Saturday of every month, from 2:00 to 3:30 PM at our Mentor-on-the-Lake Branch. Copies of selected books are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is requested. Questions can be directed to the Lake Branch at 440-257-2512.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Reading

Today we aren't doing the Top Ten Tuesday theme as set by The Broke and The Bookish, but I have my own top ten list.

So I was inspired to do this list when I saw a graphic on Facebook the other day. Little did I know it was going to be soooooo hard to come up with just ten items! Who knew I had so many reasons to love reading?

One. Reading takes me to new places. Literally and figuratively speaking. When I went to Paris, I zoomed through the few books I brought with me (pre-kindle times), so I sought out an English-speaking bookstore to keep up my reading. This brought me to a new part of town, as well as helped me dive into a new book. Plus, I have been given the chance to explore Hogwart's, Panem, and many other worlds and places, just through reading. 

Two. Reading makes you part of a community. Twi-hards, Potter-heads, etc. If you have ever been a fan of a super-popular book, you know that this community is extensive. Even if you aren't into the fandom, book clubs join people together, or even seeing someone reading the same book you just read joins you.

Three. References in media. Book references are made all over the place, but I’ve been watching Family Guy (of all things), and there are book references in there all the time. I feel a bit superior every time I catch one of these references. (Also, look back at old Looney Toons cartoons-lots of classic book references there!)

Four. So many feels! This is my favorite graphic. Books can make you stay up way past your bedtime to find out what is happening. They can break your heart, make you laugh, make you cry… so many feels, guys!

Five.  A sense of history and places. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction in the last few years, and it really takes you places. I’ve been to 1840s New York, 1920s Paris, and 1940s San Francisco. It is truly amazing to have these places described in such detail that you really feel connected to a time you could never experience yourself.

Six. It’s educational even when it isn’t supposed to be. See above. Also, I feel I have a pretty extensive vocabulary, but I’m always learning new words by reading. I also learn about new subjects, places, people, and much more.

Seven. The best books become movies (which I then judge harshly because I love me some books!). Despite being hard on the movies myself, I am always happy to see people reading, even if they are only reading it because the upcoming movie has so much buzz around it. Reading is reading.

Eight. Whether you’re digital or old school, books can go everywhere. I’m a combination of the two. I usually load up my kindle when going on trips, but I also still pack books because (8.5) books don’t require batteries.

Nine. Conversation topics! “What are you reading now?” I literally cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked this question and/or been asked it. (And yes, I work in a library, so my pool is a touch biased.) I’ve had long conversations with people just about book plots, and which characters make us angry, and how we would have ended the book.

Ten. You never run out. Those authors keep writing, and I keep finding more books I’ve missed and need to read. 

Bonus Eleven: Of course, it’s all free at the library.

~Cailey W.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author Spotlight: Adam Rubin

One of the things I love most about setting up a storytime is finding new books. Last year, while searching for books, I came across Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin. It had me laughing like a goof. I immediately scooped up all of his other books and read through them, and they were wonderful. Rubin has a quirky sense of humor that can appeal to both children and adults. Whether it’s a story about a grumpy old man or a pizza-loving raccoon, his books always leave me with a case of the giggles. And I would be doing these books a great disservice if I did not mention Daniel Salmeri’s work as illustrator. His art truly brings Rubin’s stories to life and enhances the hilarious text. The two make an amazing team.

Here are a few of Rubin’s books that I recommend you take a look at:

Did you know that Dragons Love Tacos? They love all kinds of tacos! But they hate spicy salsa. So if you plan on throwing a Taco Party for your local dragons, leave the spicy salsa at home. Otherwise you may become the recipient of an unexpected housewarming gift.

In case you were wondering what happens to a bubble after it’s been popped, don’t worry, Rubin has the answer. Popped bubbles reappear in La La Land, home of the monsters. And it turns out, thanks to the melodramatic Mogo, monsters are terrified of bubbles. But fear not, with your encouragement the monsters can stand up to the big bad bubble.

The staff at the Children’s Department started passing this book around as soon as we got it. Poor Raccoon just wants to eat some pizza. Unfortunately no one is willing to let him have any. So he devises a plan to hold a secret pizza party. But don’t tell anybody. Actually, forget I just told you. What pizza party?

Old Man Rookwire just wants to paint pictures of the birds that visit his backyard. He builds bird feeders to keep them around through the winter. But the squirrels want in on the all-you-can-eat bird food buffet. Their crafty thievery ends up driving the birds away. Rookwire begins building traps for those darn squirrels. But he didn’t count on their impressive mathematical skills and fierce determination.

Grab one of these awesome picture books today! (They're not just for kids, you know.)

~Marilyn W.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Librarian Lit: Cat in the Stacks

Miranda James, Murder Past Due (Berkley Prime Crime: New York, 2010)

A couple of months ago, I had the brilliant idea that everyone in the Reference Department should read some sort of cozy mystery and report on it. It should come as no surprise that your friendly neighborhood librarians are a pack of avid readers, but we each tend to have areas of interest to which we are particularly devoted, and the genre of cozy mysteries tend not to be among them. I thought it might be a good way to get us a little way out of our collective comfort zone and help us relate to a variety of literature that is very popular with our patrons.
It sounded like a good idea at the time and I will say that there are others among my colleagues who viewed it as such when we first discussed it. Yet now I find myself abandoned and alone in this endeavor. Not that I wish to cast aspersions on my fellow librarians. We all have very long reading lists, comprising much that is obligatory in addition to what we read for strictly for pleasure. (The cozy mystery idea morphed into a broad "Librarian Lit" endeavor instead.) But having taken this decision I was determined to pursue it to the end, and so I present to you my views on Murder Past Due, the first in Miranda James’s series of Cat in the Stacks mysteries.

Set in the fictional town of Athena, Mississippi, these mysteries center of the exploits of Charlie Harris, a mild-mannered part-time archivist and owner of a Maine Coon cat, and other denizens of the town. In Murder Past Due, our hero is confronted with the return (and then suspicious death) of an old nemesis from his high school days, with which he must cope while navigating the vicissitudes of small time university library politics, a grumpy teenager, and a cat the size of a small dog.
This mystery (and one assumes those that follow in the series) are very much along the lines of the Andy Griffith Show: Small town people are not perfect, but they tend not to swear and they are basically good folk, unlike city slickers, who are prone to all the stereotypical ills of their kind. There is, it must be said, something distinctly comforting about all of this. As a person who grew up in a small college town (Walla Walla, Washington), there is much in James’s setting and storytelling that reminds me of the idyllic days of my youth (minus the gigantic cat anyway). The author deftly mixes in background details, and even the very distinctive personality of her hero’s feline companion to tell a story in a way that interests without horrifying.

There is a sense in which reading books like this is like eating a Nilla wafer: it’s pleasant without being challenging or overwhelming. But sometimes that is exactly what you want. Not all art has to be high art, and not all mysteries have to be grim to be interesting or entertaining. James understands her readers well, and packs her writing with the kind of scenery and detail calculated to be comforting.
Ultimately, the resolution of the case is, at the same time, a reaffirmation of the values that were disturbed by the crime in the first place. James’s story brings a sense of certainty and closure that most readers will find comforting. It is neither high art, nor has it a pretension to be. Instead it is meant to be a pleasant read which most mystery lovers will find satisfying and in this it succeeds admirably.

~John F.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Themed Edition

Happy Halloween Themed Top Ten Tuesday! We couldn't decide on which one of the two proposed topics we liked best, so you get a little of both!

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

Books and movies to get in the Halloween spirit:
Granted, there are tons of great Halloween-themed, and just plain scary books and movies out there, but here are my favorites!

Growing up in the '90s meant watching Nickelodeon cartoons and Disney Channel Original Movies. Halloweentown is one of those movies that has stuck with me through the years and watching it has become a seasonal tradition with my mom. 
I am not a big fan of horror movies, but I can handle the classics like the original “Halloween” with Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s just scary enough, and it only takes that famous theme song to get me into the Halloween spirit.

In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz
This children’s book was one of my favorites as a kid. Reading the “scary” stories now, they are definitely a bit silly, but they are fun and kid appropriate.
Horns by Joe Hill
Joe Hill is one of my favorite writers and his book, Horns, is a great book to get into the Halloween spirit, with the perfect blend of fantasy and horror. The main character, Ig, wakes up to discover that he has grown horns that no one else seems to see, but they are influencing people to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets. The book has been adapted into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe, which will hit theaters on Halloween this year.

AMC’s The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead, based on a series of graphic novels written by Robert Kirkman, premiered on October 31st, 2010. My husband and I have been watching it every year since, and it doesn’t feel like autumn until the show has started. However, it is definitely not a show for children or anyone with a weak stomach; it is very violent and gory.

~Ragan S.

Characters I would like to dress up as for Halloween:
It’s that time of year again, Halloween. And one of my favorite parts of Halloween is coming up with ideas for costumes. Here are a couple of characters I would like to dress up as for Halloween.

Ms. Frizzle is best third grade teacher anyone could ever ask for. She takes her students on wild and amazing field trips using her magical school bus, and her outfits always coordinate with the theme of their adventure. With so many outstanding outfits it would be hard to choose just one, but I would have to do with her outer space ensemble, solar system headset included.

After surviving the blood fever, Adelina lost her left eye but gained amazing powers. Her costume would be pretty fun to make. Just get myself a Renaissance dress and eye patch and create a convincing scar using makeup.

Holes was one of my favorite books growing up, and I’m happy to see that many children today enjoy reading it too. Stanley is the hero of this tale, who has been sent to Camp Green Lake for a crime he didn’t commit. This costume would be easy enough. All I would need is an orange jumpsuit, a red hat, and a “Yelnats” nametag.

Toph is a young, blind earthbender from the Avatar series. And while the TV series may have ended, her story continues in the graphic novels written by Gene Luen Yang. Toph is tough as nails and is easily my favorite character from the series. Her costume would be a little more complicated, but well worth the effort.

Admittedly, this one is kind of a gimme because I will be dressing as Batgirl for Halloween. Who wouldn’t want to dress as their favorite superhero for Halloween? Especially a superhero librarian!

Stop by on Halloween to see who our staff has dressed up as. Kids who come in costume can get a special treat!

~Marilyn W.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Librarian Lit: Sci-Fi

A couple of the librarians at MPL challenged the rest of us to read “Librarian Fiction”… (books that take place in a library or have a librarian in them.) So, since I read mostly sci-fi and fantasy, I went looking for something that fit the bill… and I ended up with Libriomancer by Jim Hines.

Plot Summary: Books are powerful. People believe in them and that belief allows the objects in books to become real… if there is a libriomancer like Isaac Vainio around. Libriomancers are magicians who can reach into books and pull out the objects found within. But, Isaac got too involved with his magic and has been “retired” for his own good. Then, vampires start hunting libriomancers and other magical creatures and the library Isaac works in is set on fire. Isaac has to come out of retirement to figure out what is going on - starting with who kidnapped Johannes Gutenberg, the most powerful libriomancer around.
Libriomancer is a witty, humorous take on the importance of tales, stories, and books, with a couple of librarian moments thrown in for fun. My favorite scene (the one that still makes me giggle a month later) is when Isaac threatens to take away the library card of a patron.

"Are you aware that section 6.2 of the Copper River Library user agreement gives me the authority to revoke your library card, including Internet Privileges?" 
She lowered her cane. “You wouldn’t dare.”
I leaned closer and whispered, “A librarian’s gotta do what a librarian’s gotta do.”
As a rabid Sci-Fi/Fantasy reader, I also enjoyed the nods to books and authors that the writer slipped in. As Isaac was pulling items out of books, you would get hints as to which books they were coming from. Am I smart enough to figure out the healing potion came from the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Could there possibly have been a book about Martian wood nymph nymphomaniacs? (Yep-the '70s had some really interesting pulp fiction.)

I will mention that my mother read Libriomancer and said, “That book was dumb.” But, I enjoyed it. I thought it was funny and entertaining. To each their own. And, the scene about taking away someone’s library card still makes me giggle.

~Mary P.