Thursday, December 11, 2014

Houston, We Have a Problem

This gal (pointing her thumbs at herself) is not a “sci-fi” reader. Then she ventured off to Northeast Ohio Regional Library System's ‘Back to the Book’ workshop with her pal Cailey. This workshop’s theme was sci-fi, and I listened to John Scalzi, a prolific sci-fi author and entertaining speaker, talk about the science fiction genre and all the awesome books and people who follow it. One of the books he mentioned as a great one from this year was The Martian by Andy Weir, a new author. 

Mark Watney is an astronaut. Through a series of unfortunate events, he gets left on Mars. His NASA team thinks he is dead, and because of a giant storm on Mars, the team must leave or risk their lives. So there Mark is, helpless and completely alone on the red planet. Luckily, Mark is a very smart, innovative man (as one would hope a NASA astronaut would be) and with the supplies and shelter left from the mission he’s able to figure out how to survive, until the next mission to Mars… in four years. Luckily for Mark, someone from NASA notices he’s still alive and that’s when the fox chase begins.

The book starts as a series of logs from Mark. He outlines what he’s doing daily, problems that occur, and the crappy ‘70s disco music and tv shows he watches because that’s just about all he has for entertainment. There are a lot of technical details in this novel, but even I, a math/engineer layperson, could get through it (or skip over it). Mark’s narration feels realistic. Even though he’s in dire straits, he still maintains his sense of humor. I found myself laughing out loud when reading his sections. Weir did an amazing job of forming characters who feel like they could walk off the page and have a conversation with you. I loved Mark and wanted to buy him a beer and talk about engi-nerd things with him.

Once NASA figures out they left a man behind, sections of the novel begin looking at the happenings at NASA, along with Mark’s team who are on their way back to Earth. I enjoyed getting a little bit of everyone’s perspective and knowing what was going on behind the scenes while Mark was stuck on Mars. The rescue becomes a worldwide issue, even getting a show called “The Mark Witney Watch” once a week on CNN. I really enjoyed that Weir went so far as to put the social spin on Mark’s rescue. NASA not only had to worry about the rescue, but also about how the public was viewing their attempts. It added more depth to a novel that is layered in and of itself.

This was one of the best books I have read in a while. It was fun, technical, humorous, detailed, and at the end, thrilling. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys science, space, survival stories….or fiction in general! It just won the "Best Science Fiction Book" Goodreads Choice Award too! 

Oh also, this is slated to become a major motion picture, so read it before it gets ruined by Hollywood.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New To Me Authors I Read in 2014

Nearing the end of the year, it's time for us to talk about this year's reads. Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about what new (to me) authors I've read this year. Enjoy!

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

Many of you may be familiar with Novak from his role on The Office, but this year he wrote a children’s book called The Book With No Pictures. It is incredibly funny and will have anyone who reads it laughing out loud.

Scott was my guilty pleasure read for this year. I was interested in Fire & Flood when I heard it described as a cross between Pokemon and The Hunger Games (two things I had never imagined together) which immediately grabbed my attention. After reading it, I can assure you that description was right on target. The sequel, Salt & Stone, will be out February 2015.

Not too many authors can have me laughing like a fool in the break room, but O’Brien managed to do it. His book How to Fight Presidents is now one of my favorite books of all time, and I recommend that anyone who is interested in learning about how to beat one of our presidents in a fist fight. Check it out.

To date, Daywalt has a single title under his belt, The Day the Crayons Quit--and I love it. The book is a compilation of letters to a young man from his loyal box of crayons, and it’s just as adorable as it sounds.

This cool guy just happens to be the illustrator of The Day the Crayons Quit. But he also writes and illustrates his own books. The Heart and the Bottle is my personal favorite.

A scavenger hunt in the library for wonderful prizes, yes please! Grabenstein’s Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was an absolute delight.

I read Carroll’s Through the Woods, in late September and my only regret is that I didn’t read it closer to Halloween. Her chilling stories and creepy drawings made my skin crawl.

Anderson’s book Sidekicked was a lot of fun. It followed Drew Bean, a seemingly normal middle-schooler who moonlights as the Sensationalist, sidekick extraordinaire!

Somehow I had managed to get this far in life without reading Persepolis. Fortunately, I picked up a copy of it earlier this year. It’s an amazing graphic novel, which lead me to read more of her work.

I’d call this more of a rediscovery then a new to me because I read Vaughan’s Runaways while I was in high school, but I hadn’t read anything else of his since. This year someone (cough, cough, Meredith) encouraged me to start reading his series Saga and man, am I glad she did! I couldn’t put it down and it has been one of my favorite reads this year.

What new-to-you authors have you read this year?


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Librarians' Line-Up: Books I Recommend to Everyone

Working in a library, we are always recommending books to people. There are some books though, that we recommend over and over again. So why not collect them here and put them out in the internet for all to see (and then hopefully read these books that we recommend)? 

My go to book for recommendations is Jhumpa Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize winning collection, The Interpreter of Maladies. Lahiri has really cornered the market on moody, melancholic stories of those who straddle two cultures - immigrants forced to navigate the traditions they've inherited, and the new world in which they currently live. Really, I'm pushing the first story, "A Temporary Matter," which might be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful things I've ever read.

Used as one of the source texts for HBO’s The Pacific miniseries, this is arguably the best memoir of the Second World War. Sledge was a civilized guy and he managed to stay that way through some of the heaviest fighting in the Eastern Theater. A story of real heroism told by a real American hero.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
I know we've talked about it before, but the book I recommend to everyone is Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. The book really has something for everybody in it, and is just so funny. I've read it through completely twice, and had to buy it for myself to flip through whenever I need it. The (intentionally) bad art is amazing, and the stories she tells are relatable and hilarious. Trust me on this, you want to read it. (By the way, how have you not read it yet?)

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
Feminism is a buzz word these days. I see it all over the internet, in articles, and on the lips of celebrities. If you are a feminist or are interested in the matter, please, please, please read Woolf's series of essays, which are much more readable than her novels. It is strewn with wisdom about being an individual, writing, history, feminism, and (my favorite) food. "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." She speaks to my soul.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone! This book is about a book store owner so if you love reading books about books this is for you. A.J. Fikry starts out as an unlikable character but his dry humor and witty voice grow on you and you soon love him and all of the other rich characters in the story. I hate to describe a book as heartwarming but… it was heartwarming. Give it a shot!

Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Everyone needs to read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Teen Sophie is resigned to live an unextraordinary life at the family’s hat shop, until the evil Witch of the Waste casts a spell on her, turning her into a little old lady. Her life gets even more exciting when she meets the mysterious wizard, Howl, who roams across the country in a (wait for it…) moving castle. Uncomplicated and incredibly charming, this story has long been near and dear to my heart. If you have seen Hayao Miyazaki’s animated adaptation, I highly encourage you pick up the book—the plot is very different—and in my opinion much more interesting.

Earlier this year I was incredibly excited to hear that Kamala Khan, a 16 year-old Muslim girl from New Jersey, would be taking over the title of Ms. Marvel in Marvel comics. I eagerly scooped up the first issue and have been telling everyone I know to read it ever since. No Normal is the collection of the first 5 issues which cover Kamala’s origin story and follow her as she struggles with her identity as a Muslim teenager living in America as well as her newfound superpowers. And for those of you who may not be too familiar with comics, it’s a great first title for non-comic readers because there isn’t too much Marvel lore weighing the story down.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
I recommend I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga to pretty much everyone I see. It is a teen book, but is very engaging, has great characters, and will hold an adult’s interest. As an action-adventure mystery, it has universal appeal. The storyline continues on with two additional books which are just as good as the first. The I Hunt Killers/Jasper Dent trilogy is one of my favorite series and I would recommend it to anyone.
~Mary P.

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins is a great coming of age story, and a quick read, as it is technically a children’s book, but that’s never stopped you before (Harry Potter). Set in the 1960s, it’s got great setting, fun characters, and come on, who doesn’t like a good coming of age story?

And you, dear reader? What book are you constantly recommending to others? 

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.