Thursday, June 30, 2016

Series Review: The 5th Wave

Now that Rick Yancey has completed his trilogy The 5th Wave, and so have I, I wanted to do a quick review of the series as a whole, while also trying not to spoil it for any of you who have not read this series at all yet. (What are you waiting for?)

The 5th Wave
I have booktalked this book to death with the teens (and some adults) at my library. It was gripping, scary, and yet in some way relateable. Cassie Sullivan is a teenage girl struggling to stay alive and save her baby brother in the midst of an alien war. What I loved about this concept was that the aliens were not tentacled green monsters (or anything similar). In fact, they were mostly not present in the book; those that were present looked like regular people, but were emotionless and much more sinister than your average human. I also liked the jumps between character perspectives, which gave me a fuller picture of what was happening in different parts of the world created in this book. We jump between Cassie and some other teen and child characters, learning about their experiences as the "war" progresses.

The Infinite Sea
Continuing our tale where the last book left off (and without giving much away), this book followed much of the same pattern as the previous book, but mixed up who the narrators were. We were able to see into the heads of some of the more secondary characters from the previous story, learning their pre-alien infest backstories and how they got to where they are, as well as catching up with Cassie and the other characters we got to know in the first novel. After the characters have escaped certain death in the first book, they have largely been separated and are trying to survive the harsh conditions on Earth. This second book was very good, but it felt like the "middle," meaning that it was pretty clear we were in some ways just biding time until the last story. Some of this book also took me out of the realm of realism (as much as there can be in an alien infestation story) and into the realm of fantasy, which wasn't super ideal to me. I'm picky like that.

The Last Star
This last book in the series was action-packed. There were so many different fight scenes and near-death experiences over the course of this story. Continuing where we left off in The Infinite Sea, the characters are on the clock before something big and bad happens. (No, I'm not spoiling it!) The fact that there's a clock ticking makes this whole story very intense, keeping you on the edge of your seat and very aware of how much time is left. I wanted the ending to be a little different, but it worked.

Put all together, I really have to commend Rick Yancey for the amazing world-building he created. The books left me constantly questioning what I knew, tricking me along with the characters. There were a lot of ups and downs and quite a bit of blood and death. In that way, the books would make good readalikes for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent. I also really appreciated the fact that Yancey never let us forget that these were children (characters aged 5-19ish) and how that would impact kids on their own in a treacherous world. The concept reminded me a lot of the zombie stories that have been oh so popular in the last five years or so, especially considering the kids are constantly on the move in abandoned places, foraging for survival. But with more guns.

I very much recommend this series, even if you aren't a fan of alien books. When I grabbed the first book, I didn't realize the premise was alien-based. Honestly, had I known that I probably would not have read the series, and that would have been quite a shame, since I really enjoyed these books. They kept me on the edge of my seat, made me laugh, made me cry, made me have existential crises, etc. So, give it a shot. Also, if you are an audiobook listener, these were excellent on audio. Some of the best I've ever listened to.


PS-I did see the movie out earlier this year and yes, the book was better. The movie was not terrible though.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Life as a Book: The Hits that Hurt the Most

It’s a drizzly Saturday in Portland, Oregon. I’m standing on a muddy field, rugby ball in hand, wearing the red and black hooped number 10 jersey of the fly half of the Reed College Rugby Club. And even at the distance of years, I can still tell you exactly what I am thinking: “Is this the day that I get killed doing this?” This is not an idle concern. In the preceding seasons I’ve dislocated fingers and broken ribs. I’ve had cuts, bruises, black eyes, and stitches. I’ve been kicked, cleated, clothes-lined, and driven head first into the ground. I’ve separated both shoulders and been knocked unconscious. I’ve been on the bottom of a pile so heavy that it nearly pulled my arm out of joint. But I do know one thing. I’ve got 14 teammates out there who have my back, no questions asked. And so, in a weird way, I feel safe too.

Reading Andrew Smith’s Winger brought back some really intense feelings for me. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction. It’s not that I don’t like it as a genre, but my plate is kind of full and I have a stack of things weighing down my desk and laying claim to the very minimal free time that I have these days. That said, I had some good reasons to make time to read Winger. In the first place, it was recommended to me by one of my colleagues with whom I share a lot of common interests. In the second, rugby plays a central role in the book, and as former player, I still have a degree of fascination with the game that is not quite healthy (although maybe not quite as unhealthy as actually playing).

The central character is Ryan Dean West, a fifteen year old junior at Pine Crest Academy. He plays left wing on the rugby, thus the name of the book and our hero’s nickname. When the story opens we find him newly ensconced in Opportunity Hall, the school’s punishment dorm, sharing a room with his teammate XXX, one of the team’s locks whose temperament is (typically for people who play in the second row) aggressive to the point of psychosis.

Rugby is only one of a number of important themes in Winger. Another is the powerful longing for girls that for adolescent boys (or at least for this one) is generally coupled with an almost complete failure to understand them. Ryan Dean is no more susceptible to this, but certainly no less, and he has the temerity (or this misfortune you might say) to have fallen for a girl who is, by all rights, simply out of his league.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Father's Day Picture Books

To all of you fathers (or fathers-to-be) out there, I wish you the happiest of Father’s Days! There’s nothing quite like the bond between parent and child. So I’m going to take a moment to stress the importance of reading to your young children. Reading aloud to your child not only helps improve their language skills, but it also provides your child with one-on-one attention from their parents. I know that some of my favorite childhood memories are of my twin brother and I, lying on either side of my dad while he read us Harry Potter. So with that in mind, let’s celebrate the special bond between fathers and their children with some father themed picture books.

Little Jumbo’s dad is having a rough day, and he just can’t seem to figure out why. He decides take matters into his own hands to cheer his dad up with some of his favorite things. Turns out Little Jumbo’s favorite things just might be his father’s favorite things as well.

This delightful picture book features classic movie monsters and their young sons as they go about their days and get ready for bed. Turns out that monster dads and human dads have one thing in common; they both love their children.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good dad joke? Well this book is full of them! I would recommend all new dads check it out, if only to brush up on their material.

All week long a young boy looks forward to Friday, because Friday is the day he and his dad go on their special trip. This book goes to show that whether it’s a walk through town or breakfast at the diner, any time with dad is special.

There’s not much better than a walk in the park with dad. In this story a young girl and her father spend the day in the park, and as they walk he asks her all sorts of questions. It may have made me a little misty.

Thunder Boy Jr. doesn’t like that he and his father share a name. He loves his father dearly, but wants to be known for who he is, not who his father is. 


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reading Outside of My Comfort Zone…Kind Of

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I am very new to the graphic novel/comic book game. My husband is a comic reader and many of my co-workers are as well, but I just hadn’t given them a shot until recently. Being so new to this format, I thought I should start with something I know. Joe Hill is one of my favorite authors and I have loved all of his novels. Lucky for me, he also writes comic books.

Hill’s first comic series was Locke and Key and the first issue was released in 2008. After a horrible tragedy, the Locke family moves to Lovecraft, Massachusetts to the Keyhouse mansion that has been in their family for centuries. The Locke children quickly learn that there are some evil forces at work within the house. Bode, the youngest, starts encountering keys with special powers, most of which are terrifying (like a key that literally unlocks your head and gives others access to your thoughts and memories). With these keys, the Locke children begin to unfold a story from their father's past that will have very real consequences in the present day. They are forced to fight the evil that they unintentionally released.

These stories are not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of violence and a lot of gore. But there is also a lot of heart to the story. You quickly become very attached to the Locke kids, especially Bode, and you root for their victory over the terrible evil that resides in Keyhouse. It has been rumored that there is a TV series based on Locke and Key in the works, and I for one think that is a great idea. I thoroughly enjoyed this series and it has convinced me to continue reading stories in this format. From what I hear, there are a lot of amazing ones out there. 

Have you read anything outside of your comfort zone lately?

~Ragan S.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Top Ten Books You Might Find Me Reading on a Beach this Summer

Ready or not, now that Memorial Day has passed, summer is officially upon us. For the purposes of Mentor's Reader and Mentor Public Library, that means it’s summer reading time. What follows is a list of books that you might find me (Adult Information Services Librarian Travis Fortney) reading on a beach this summer. Some of these are by authors who are old favorites (Diana Wagman, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Larry Watson) and many are by authors who I’ll be trying for the first time.

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

Life #6, by Diana Wagman
In this novel that’s based on Wagman’s own experiences at sea, a woman is “caught up in a wave of memories as she faces her own mortality.” Facing a cancer diagnosis, Fiona recalls the previous times in her life when she nearly died, including a fateful boat trip with her former boyfriend, Luc. This one’s on my to-read list because Wagman’s previous novel The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pet-- a fast-paced absurdist novel about a game show host’s ex-wife who gets kidnapped by a disturbed ex-carnival worker--was one of my favorite books of 2013. Because I’ve read Care and Feeding, I know that Life #6 is bound to be well-plotted, character driven fiction with a healthy dose of humor.

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett
Haslett’s second novel, after 2010’s much-acclaimed Union Atlantic, contains a combination of theme, concept, and plot that’s right up my alley as a reader: Depression, unhappy marriage, and a child prodigy facing a perilous path toward adulthood. It’s the story of a woman named Margaret who goes through with her marriage to John, despite his being hospitalized for depression, and what unfolds from that leap of faith.

My Struggle Book 5, by Karl Ove Knausgaard 
Although Book 5 comes out this summer, one volume per year of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle has been released every year since 2012. I read books one and two last, but then stalled. The books are essentially an epic autobiographical bildungsroman that unfolds over a series of six books and thousands of pages: a modern day Proust, or an update of say, Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories or Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The books are the ultimate experiment in literary naval gazing. I know that sounds painful, but at their best the books provide the reader with a kind of double life to escape into, and Knausgaard’s prose is often funny and emotionally resonant.

The Girls, by Emma Cline
This is probably one of the more highly anticipated literary/mainstream novels coming out this summer, with blurbs from Jennifer Egan, Richard Ford, and none other than Lena Dunham on the cover. The plot features a character named Evie who finds herself pulled into the orbit of a group of girls she sees in a park. The girls, it turns out, are members of Manson-like cult, and this fact sends the plot hurtling toward a violent resolution.

Zero K, by Don DeLillo
The plot of this novel deals with cryogenics. At the outset, Jeffrey Lockheart is summoned by his father Ross to Convergence, a compound in the desert near the capital of Kyrgyzstan, where his sickly stepmother is undergoing a procedure in which her body will be frozen to zero degrees Kelvin (the “Zero K” of the title, about 460 degrees below zero Fahrenheit), in the hopes of being resurrected at some later time when the limitations of modern medicine no longer exist. What appeals to me about this novel is DeLillo’s acrobatic sentences, his ruminations on death, and his dark sense of humor. This is supposed to be the author’s best work since 2001’s Underworld, which is something they’ve been saying about this author’s work for a long time, but even a minor DeLillo book is enough to get me excited.

As Good as Gone, by Larry Watson
Watson is one of the more reliable authors of “Montana Fiction” a subgenre that I like to read as often as possible and includes work by favorites of mine like Kevin Canty, James Harrison, and Jim Crumley. This novel by Watson is about an old cowboy name Calvin who long ago abandoned his wife and children for a life of independence on the prairie. Calvin’s status quo is challenged when his estranged son asks him to return and care for his grandchildren for a week. Calvin acquiesces, but soon he is solving seventeen-year-old Ann and eleven-year-old Will’s problem’s “the Old West Way.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Adulthood is a Myth

As several of us in the department were big fans of Hyperbole and a Half (see here, here, and here), I am always on the lookout for something of a similar nature. (At least while I very impatiently wait for Allie Brosh to finally put out her impending second book!)

That is kind of how I came across this delightful collection of comics. Sarah Andersen wrote Adulthood is a Myth, which kind of identifies with the current generation of twentysomethings who really don't want to grow up. (See Adulting by Kelly Williams for detailed instructions on how to be a better adult.) If you are an internet comic reader, you may know Sarah from "Sarah's Scribbles" where most of these comics came from, and where she posts new comics regularly.

Back to the collection at hand though. This book features comics dealing with friendship, relationships, work, writing, going out in public, etc. Basically, she depicts a character trying to "adult" properly. And it is really quite entertaining. It's a very quick read, and most of the comics are just the one page long, so it's simple to jump in and out of the book.

The drawings are very basic in nature, but they get the point across nicely, without having to go too much into detail. (That also reminds me of Brosh.) She also talks about things we all (no matter your age) sometimes dread doing: for instance, waking up and having to leave your bed. That's the worst. And, of course, she has several comics in there about the struggles of being a book-lover. The struggle is real.

So if you're looking for a quick book to flip through that's sure to make you laugh, check this one out.

Oh, and the cover is fuzzy too!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Top Ten Book Themed DIYs I want To Try

Ever want to show how much you love books through your crafts, decorations, clothes, etc? Check out these awesome do-it-yourself bookish projects that I'm dying to try!

1) Bookshelf Skirt via Living with Punks
I have successfully made 2 skirts and a dress, and I think a great new project would be this bookshelf skirt. I’d need to adjust this so it’s my size, but then I would happily wear it to story time. Who needs to take a shelfie when I’ve got all of my favorite books on my skirt?

2) Book Christmas Bulb via Refunk my Junk
To be fair, I’ve already made something similar to this for my sister using our favorite childhood book, Holes by Louis Sachar. But I would like to make some more of these for my other friends as well.

3) Punched Book Art via
I need a little more book themed art to hang around my house. This one would take a lot of searching for words that I liked from the book, but I think I would be pleased with the end result. All I need is a book, a frame and a heart punch.

4) Homemade Book Clutch via The Surznick Common Room
I’ve made a book safe before, and this seems like a much more complicated version of that, but also much more useful.

5) Card Book via Dreamy Elk
So I don’t  have wedding cards, but I do have plenty of other cards that I keep in my boring old card box. And I would love to turn them into something more interesting like this to keep on my desk.