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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to visit

Top Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want to visit: Ariel and Kristin pair up to take on this topic!

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
Combined:
We would both LOVE to go to Hogwarts with the caveat that we were students and could actually attend school, ride the Hogwarts Express, and be chosen to be in a House. How awesome would it be to actually see Hagrid’s cabin, go to a Quidditch game, and explore the secret passages!? Pretty freakin’ awesome is the answer.

Kristin:
They are playing with a blown-up pig's
belly! Ahh, to be that resourceful.
The Ingalls' cabin in Little House in the Big Woods. Laura Ingalls Wilder was my favorite when I was a kid. I’d run outside and down to the creek, make a fishing pole out of a stick and twine, and pretend like it was pioneer times. I would love to spend a day with Laura and her family in the backwoods of Wisconsin. To hear one of Pa’s stories and his fiddle playing after a long day of smoking meat and playing with a blown up pig’s stomach, would make my life.

Ernest Hemingway’s Paris from A Moveable Feast. Post-WWI, 1920s Paris with the "Lost Generation" and before it became uber expensive. I want to go to Shakespeare and Company, the little cafes, and potentially run into the Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein. Think "Midnight in Paris" and you know exactly what I'm talking about!

Fairyland or Fairyland Below from the Fairyland series by Catherynne Valente. I fell in love with this children’s series, that is currently moving into its fourth novel, a few years ago. Fairyland is eccentric, a little dark, but still completely fun! Imagine, if you will, a cross between Wonderland and Oz and you’re on the right track.

Prince Edward Island from Anne of Green Gables. Oh to see the Lake of Shining Waters and the orchards would be so fun. The Anne of Green Gables series is so delightful and she makes Prince Edward Island, an actual island up in Canada, sound so idyllic that I’ve often wished myself into the meadows. Some day maybe…

Ariel:
London Below from Neverwhere. London Below is a vaguely creepy, parallel-dimensional version of London in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. If you’re an anglophile like me, you’ll enjoy experiencing the city’s landmarks in a whole new way. (A trip to London Above would be just as incredible, and a bit more—you know—possible.)

Willy Wonka’s factory from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

The Shire from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I always thought Bilbo Baggins' hobbit hole (a.k.a. “Bag End” to nerds like me) had a nice bed-and-breakfasty feel to it. If you tire of the countryside vibes of The Shire, you know that Rivendell is just a short trip away! Hopefully no wars break out during your stay…

New York City. Okay, this one might not seem to fit with the theme. (And, honestly, I’m cheating a bit by including it in the list, because I actually have visited NYC before.) But there’s a twist! My tour guide would be Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye. You can follow his adventures using a map provided by the New York Times, found here.

The Emerald City from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. My favorite color is green. That’s pretty much the only reason why I’d go there.

And you, dear reader? Where have books made you want to go?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

SPX 2014

Courtesy of spxpo.com
Recently, I had the privilege of attending SPX, the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. Don't let the name fool you, SPX (celebrating its 20th anniversary this year!) is one of the largest gatherings of independent creators and publishers of comics. Profits from SPX go to support the SPX Graphic Novel Gift Program, which funds graphic novel purchases for public and academic libraries, as well as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). CBLDF helps protects the First Amendment rights of comics creators, publishers, and retailers in addition to working with libraries to help keep graphic novels on shelves as, "comics and graphic novels often attract attention from would-be censors...despite the fact that similar items in a traditional format might escape negative attention."[1] Some of the special guests this year included Emily Carroll, Charles Burns, Mimi Pond, and Eleanor Davis. I had a great time at the convention, talking to artists about their work and seeing some really incredible comics, so I'd like to highlight just a few (there were over 500 creators showing their art!) books I picked up.
 
Museum of Mistakes by Julia Wertz
Wertz's newest book made its debut at SPX this year and it was one of the main reasons I wanted to attend. Her earlier graphic memoir, The Infinite Wait and Other Stories (a book I've talked about here before) is one of my favorites, so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of Museum of Mistakes. Wertz took a break from cartooning in 2012 after the publication of The Infinite Wait and hasn’t created any new content since. While a lot of Museum of Mistakes has either been previously posted online or published in different forms, it’s still definitely worth checking out.  The book is a nicely bound omnibus of her online comics (many of them unpublished until this point) as well as collecting some of her earliest work, sketches, work in progress pages, interviews, and short stories.

The loose structure makes it easy to flip through. Most pages show a quick snapshot of Wertz’s life – the hopeless shenanigans she gets herself into, working life in the food industry or just random conversations with friends. The comics are roughly in chronological order as she typically creates them as they happen in her life, but there isn’t really a narrative focus like you would see in The Infinite Wait or Drinking at the Movies. However, Museum of Mistakes makes for a great noncommittal way of checking out her work and getting a sense of her style. If you’re already familiar with Wertz’s work, you’ll definitely want to pick this book up.
Tomboy by Liz Prince

Tomboy follows author Liz Prince through her childhood and early adolescence into her teen years as she attempts to define what exactly makes her a girl. As a child, Prince always seemed to reject anything typically “girly” finding herself more comfortable in jeans and t-shirts and playing baseball than wearing dresses and dancing ballet.
 
Prince struggles over the years with societal expectations of femininity. She faced bullying at school for refusing to adhere to strict gender conformity. In fact, she swung so far away – she started to despise girls who embraced stereotypically female pursuits. But once given the chance to really be herself, Prince is able to discover is that your identity is what you make it. Tomboy is a really great book for anyone who has ever felt they didn’t fit in. Prince makes some surprisingly astute observations regarding gender inequality in a context that is accessible for any reader. 
I had the sincere pleasure of seeing artist Jillian Tamaki speak on panel about sharing stories of girlhood through graphic novels. She was joined with Aisha Franz (Earthling), Melissa Mendes (Freddy Stories, Lou), and panel moderator Ellen Lindner (The Black Feather Falls). I really enjoyed listening to all of the artists talk about why they chose to tell the stories they do, and how much their own lives influence their work. Afterwards, I got to speak briefly with Ellen Lindner who was just as star-struck being near Tamaki as those of us attending the panel, as it quickly became clear Tamaki is operating on a whole different artistic level. To put it simply – This One Summer is absolutely beautiful.
 
It focuses on Rose and Windy, two girls who spend their summer with their families at a lakeside cottage resort. They are getting older; Rose is beginning to find herself fascinated with the local group of teens while windy (a bit younger) is still content to spend her time swimming in the lake, eating candy, and watching horror movies. While marketed as a young adult novel, This One Summer actually tells three parallel stories (written by Tamaki’s cousin, Mariko) – that of Rose and Windy, the group of teens dealing with a possible pregnancy, and the adults (especially Rose’s parents, whose relationship is becoming more and more fraught). It’s surprisingly nuanced and may actually not appeal to younger readers. Regardless, the artwork is so remarkable; anyone would enjoy at least flipping through the pages and pouring over each detailed panel.  
 
So those are my picks!  It’s worth noting these are just a few books that actually have publishers (and that you’d be able to check out from the library!), but many of the artists I saw take a more DIY approach, hand assembling mini comics to sell or sharing their work on tumblr.  And speaking of tumblr – you should check out our page to see library photos and other literary posts. 

~Meredith T.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Were Difficult for Me to Read

This Top Ten Tuesday, we are discussing difficult books. Whether they be bad books or just so sad you didn't want to continue, we all have books that were difficult. Today, Marilyn shares hers.

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

I started reading The Scarlet Letter when I was a freshman in high school. The language and subject matter proved to be a bit of a challenge for me. By the end I was mad at all the characters and had to sit down and count to ten.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Battle Royale is about a class of Japanese high schoolers who are put into an arena and forced to fight to the death. I’m not sure why, but I have attempted to read this book in two separate formats; first in graphic novel and then in novel form. Both times the story’s violent subject matter proved to be a bit too much for me.

It is very difficult to finish a book when you hate the main character. Fangirl tells the story of Cather, a college freshman who is much more interested in writing fan fiction then she is in anything found in the real world.

I want to be clear, dear readers, you should absolutely read Maus. This graphic novel tells the story of author Art Speigelman’s father, and his experiences as a Jewish man during the Holocaust. This book was very difficult to read and I had to set it down several times to collect myself, but it was well worth it.
I like playing card games and I do know a couple, but I’ve never had the time or patience to learn how to play bridge. I picked up Cardturner expecting a fun story about a young boy trying to connect with his elderly uncle, but I was treated to how-to instructions on how to play bridge. The explanations really broke up the story and made it an incredibly difficult read.

Mo Willems lulled me into a false sense of security with his friendly and inviting books that are filled with smart humor. City Dog, Country Frog starts out as a heartwarming tale about a dog who, when visiting from the city, meets up with and becomes friends with a wise old frog from the country. When fall arrives, it becomes clear that the frog will not make it to spring. I didn’t want to finish the story and confirm my worst fears.

So, admission time, I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy. And Tolkien is one of the big names in fantasy. Every once in a while I try to go back and read The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Ring but I just can’t bring myself the finish them. Tolkien’s incredibly expansive lore and detailed writing style do me in every time.

This title was on my summer reading list. And let me just say, this didn’t strike me as something that would be a challenging read. But let me put it this way, have you ever tried to read the comments section on an online posting?

This book tells the story of Daniel, a man who can remember his past lives and has spent most of those lives searching for the girl he loves. She can’t remember Daniel, which makes his constant pursuit of her all the creepier. And to make it worse, the chase spans centuries, making this book a difficult read.

What books have been difficult for you?

~Marilyn W.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Please sir, don’t ban my books!

So this week that we call “Banned Books Week” happens once a year in September. During this time we celebrate our right to read. And since I have the stage for a wee bit, I’m going to talk about banned books and why we, as a library, as individuals, as a collective refuse to ban books, even if their content is grisly and hard to stomach.

 
Why do people ban books? Great question! I cannot assume to know everyone’s motivation, but there are some overarching themes.
 
-People don’t want a book with “questionable” material to end up in the wrong hands (unsuited to the age group).
-They are morally offended by the content.
-They do not see the value.
-Swearing, violence, sexual content; often referred to as “adult content”.
-Anti-religious
 
There’s this great quotation from Oscar Wilde that says, “The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.” What a brilliant quote. We cannot fear our own shadow. We live in a crazy crazy crazy world and barring ourselves off from the injustice in society does not help us. By taking away material from children, like The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, because the content is hard to handle and it is felt that children should not be exposed to it is not a good excuse. As much as we’d love to tell our children that there aren’t really monsters, there are. Wouldn’t we rather have them experience monsters in books first? Books that we can read with them, talk about with them, explain content to…with them? This is the way we prepare our children and ourselves for what may be encountered, to the frights that could happen, that have happened in the world we inhabit.

Now of course there are exceptions to banning material. Of course we don’t want bodice-buster romances in an elementary school library! There are materials that may be too mature for some age groups, and we recognize that, but just because one parent objects to a book, does not mean that parent should dictate what other people’s children are allowed to read.

“But Kristin,” you say, “just because a book isn’t in a school/public library doesn’t mean it can’t be accessed elsewhere.”

There is truth to that, unknown person that I just made up to ask questions and make statements as though you were an outside objector. Here in Ohio, we are lucky to have a stupendous library system where libraries throughout the state share materials through inter library loan systems like SearchOhio and OhioLink, but this does not take place in other states as readily as it does here. Perhaps the only library a child or adult has access to is the one in their hometown or at school. Sure there are Amazon and book stores as well, but some people don’t have the luxury to purchase books.

The library is, in my humble opinion, one of the last truly democratic institutions we have. Everyone is welcome into a library no matter their age, sex, racial background, or beliefs. Anyone can peruse the multitude of materials available at their fingertips in order to better themselves, further their interests, or for their entertainment. Just because one voice is louder than the others does not mean that should be the only voice heard. For one person who objects to a material, there are several other people who will not be heard: people who may have strong connections with the material being banned, who find a voice louder than their own in the book, who discover a little piece of themselves, who find someone to connect with. This is why we believe in people’s right to read, in their right to make choices for themselves. This is why we don’t ban books. Some may object, but our libraries will own material that offends, that is difficult to read, that has questionable content. Because at the end of the day, we feel everyone has the right to choose what book brings them solace, understanding, a cause, confidence, or just plain old entertainment.

~Kristin M.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I've only read one book from but NEED to read more

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! This week's topic is all about our to-reads. If I like an author, I do typically seek out their other works, but here are a few that have eluded me.

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

Barbara Pym. I got a couple of Pym’s books for Christmas one year, but I’ve only managed to finish Excellent Women so far. So, unfortunately Jane and Prudence and Quartet in Autumn sit on my shelf unread.

Kirby Larson. Larson’s Hattie Big Sky won a Newbery Honor in 2007 and I really enjoyed her story of a girl making a go of a Montana homestead claim, but I’ve always been meaning to read the sequel, Hattie Ever After.

Kazuo Ishiguro. Never Let Me Go is one of my favorite books, so you’d think I’d have read his most famous work, The Remains of the Day. Yet, it remains one of those many books I’ve started and never finished.

Isabel Allende. When I was in college, Allende came to speak at the National Cathedral. Many of my friends were really excited, but somehow I had no idea who that was. I quickly remedied that by reading Daughter of Fortune, but I never got around to reading any others, including my roommate at the time’s favorite, Stories of Eva Luna.

Toni Morrison. Morrison was covered in a couple of literature classes I took in college, but both times the professor assigned us Jazz. I’ve heard excellent things about her other books, but I’ve never read them.

William Faulkner. I felt so accomplished after finishing The Sound and the Fury and even more accomplished when I felt like I understood it, so I’m a little ashamed to say that in an attempt to chase that feeling again I started but failed to read As I Lay Dying or Absalom, Absalom.

Laurie Halse Anderson. While looking through my Goodreads page, I was surprised to realize that I’ve only read Speak. I thought I had also read Fever, 1793, but I guess I just checked it out and returned it without actually reading it.

Haruki Murakami.  This is a little bit of a cheat because I never finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. So I need to finish that first and then I need to read his other books.

Diane Setterfield. I thought The Thirteenth Tale was incredible and it was seven years before Setterfield wrote another book.  However, I heard Bellman & Black was mediocre at best.  So she needs to write another, better book and then I’ll read that.

Karen Thompson Walker. This last one is a total cheat, Walker has only written one book, The Age of Miracles (which I loved!) so this is really more of a hope that she eventually writes more.

Which authors have you only read one book from?

~Meredith T. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Listening to books

So far this year, I have read 75 books. Those are of all different types. (Take a look at my Goodreads page to find out what books specifically). Of those books, 19 were audiobooks. I am an audiobook convert, having begun listening to them a few years ago and now, I'm hooked. I listen to them in my car, which is especially nice because I have a six-disc cd player. Convenient, I tell you.

At first, it was difficult to get used to someone telling me the story, versus me interpreting the narrative voice of the book. However, I grew to enjoy this way of reading. You never get tired of being told a story it seems, and I found that it was nice to hear the accent in someone's voice instead of trying to manufacture it myself. Anywho, this year I've been plugging right along in my audiobook habits, jumping from one book directly into the next. Especially when I'm super busy at home, it's nice to sneak in my reading in my daily commute.

Below are the top audiobooks I've read this year (so far).

Paper Towns by John Green
I wanted to read another John Green book, and this one was recommended to me. The story is about a teenage boy searching for the girl of his dreams, Margo Roth-Spiegleman, who left behind clues to her whereabouts for him. It was a fun read, and quite the journey itself.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
This is a memoir of Jenny Lawson's life. She is a former HR employee, daughter of a taxedermist, and known for her blogging skills. Parts of this book were a bit drab, but other parts had me crying laughing. In fact, I even made a friend listen to my favorite part when we were driving together. (She was crying laughing too).

Harry Potter, books 1-3 by J.K. Rowling
You may recall that this series is my "books we've missed" subject. I had heard that the audioboks for this series were very well-done, so that was my preferred reading method for these. They were indeed done extremely well. The narrator does an excellent job doing different voices for the characters, and it really helped bring the story to life.

Room by Emma Donoghue
The book is told from a little boy's point of view, and the audio narrator is a little boy. It was a bit jarring at first, but it added to the haunted quality of the story. The book definitely stuck with me.

Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres
This audiobook reminded me how much I really do love Ellen. Her witty observational comedy had me laughing so hard I thought I may have to pull over. It's really the simple things with her, and my favorite parts were when she was discussing everyday life.

The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn
See my review of this book here. The narrator just did an amazing job expressing the emotions of John Lago in his voice, and it made the book super memorable for me.

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
Now, this is a book I have read multiple times before. I think I may have even listened to it once before. I love this story of a cranky southern cook trying to put on a wedding. This book has humor, the mob, romance, and yes, a hitman. Funny, sweet, and surprisingly fast-paced. The narrator of the book does a great job with Agnes's crankiness, but I wasn't a fan of the echo-y voice to represent her internal thoughts.

What's your take on audiobooks? Are you an audiobook "reader?" If so, what are you favorites?

~Cailey W.