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Category Archives: Books

Summer reading is here, and the librarians are filled with dread.

Well, not really. Some of the library staff really enjoy it. It’s exhausting, but it’s fun. Now I’m not able to participate in the reading program (since our summer one is for the children and the teens), but that doesn’t stop me from trying to read as many books as I can in a short period of time.

Current books on deck/in progress:

The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
Time Lord Fairy Tales by Justin Richards
Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
Kid Eternity by Grant Morrison
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (an as-yet-unread Christmas gift)
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab (advance copy acquired at PLA)
Staked by Kevin Hearne (purchased at the signing in Denver, but also as-yet-unread)

Potential re-reads coming up:

Harry Potter 1-7 by J.K. Rowling
The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Dune by Frank Herbert

I just looked back through my book reviews on here and realized that three of them are of Stephen King works (and a fourth, my most recent, is for a book by his son).

I know that I read way more than that. My reading list encompasses a much larger set of interests than my posted reviews would reflect. I’m trying to correct that.

That much being said, does anyone have suggestions for books for me to read/review? I’m always on the lookout for new books, and I’d be happy to have new recommendations.

The world is burning, one person at a time. A new sort of plague, a spore known colloquially as Dragonscale, is infecting hundreds of thousands around the globe. It begins with something small. It gets into your head. It grows. You feel fine until you see it on your skin-a small stripe, like a gold-flecked stain. You might even mistake it for a bruise at first. But then you know you have it. You know that you’re going to burn, and it’s only a question of when. No one knows exactly how it spreads, and there’s no sign of a cure short of being killed before you ignite. You’ll smoke a bit first, and then you’ll combust, unless someone decides to end your life before then.

In the midst of the chaos is Harper Willowes, a Portsmouth nurse who sincerely wishes for nothing more than to be able to help others through the crisis. She volunteers her services caring for the infected while her husband Jakob works for the Public Works Department, helping to clean up the devastation left behind by the burning infected. It’s at work that Harper first meets the Fireman. He brings a child in for treatment, not for the Dragonscale covering him, but for a ruptured appendix. After the boy, Nick, is taken in for surgery, the Fireman vanishes. A few days later, Nick is gone as well, leaving only questions in his wake. Then, disaster strikes and the Portsmouth Hospital burns to the ground. Harper escapes, but soon makes two discoveries. She’s pregnant and she has the ‘scale. Believing himself to be infected as well, Jakob snaps and Harper is forced to flee for her life and that of her unborn child.

When all seems lost, the Fireman intervenes. He rescues Harper from Jakob’s pursuit and secrets her away to a small camp where over a hundred and fifty infected are living in hiding, including Nick. Living and thriving, to Harper’s great surprise. While there’s no cure for the spore, the people of the camp have found a way to live in harmony with the Dragonscale, under the leadership of Nick’s grandfather. Harper’s medical skills quickly make her indispensable. The camp, however, is no paradise. As panic grips the nation, marauders seek to eliminate any infected. Harper only wants to survive long enough to deliver her baby, but internal power struggles in the camp threaten to expose them all to the roving Cremation Crews. The Fireman may be the only one who can save them all, but he hides a dark secret of his own.

Joe Hill takes on an apocalypse of his own, one that rivals The Stand in scope and violence (not to mention pop culture references). As the world around them burns, his characters must face the fact that other humans may be a greater threat to them than the Dragonscale ever was. The Fireman is a hell of a ride from beginning to end, and is every bit as intense as the flames it evokes.

The Fireman, hits store shelves on 5/17. Go check it out.

[My most sincere thanks to William Morrow for the Advance Reader Copy of The Fireman, acquired at PLA 2016]

It’s National Library Week! In fact, today is National Library Workers Day.

That’s right, folks. It’s that time of year again. In celebration, I’m working 40 hours!

Well, I’m doing a few other things, too. It’s not just about being here for the community. As part of that, last week I attended my first ever library conference, PLA 2016. It was an absolutely incredible experience. PLA is held every other year, and by sheer luck, I was given permission to attend for the opening of the exhibits last Wednesday.

It’s a short drive to Denver. I got to the conference about an hour ahead of the exhibit hall opening, and wandered the convention center, marvelling at how weird it was to see the place devoid of cosplayers (since the last time I’d been there was Denver Comic Con in 2013). I watched the bustle of downtown Denver from a balcony, read some Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and waited as patiently as possible for the doors to open.

When 3:30 finally arrived, I entered the exhibit hall and was blown away by the sheer number of vendors on site. Book distributors Baker & Taylor and Ingram; publishers Hachette, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Dorling Kindersley; library service providers Overdrive and Mango… I spent three hours wandering the rows, chatting with representatives of companies like Lulzbot. I got to meet people from libraries around the country. I snagged some ARCs from publishers (stay tuned for some reviews!), got a free mango smoothie from the folks at Mango Languages, and chatted with some library school representatives about my desire to pursue my masters degree. I got to demo some software, play a game of Super Mario Bros. using a system of fruits and circuits as a controller, and drive a BB-8 Sphero toy around. I saw floor models of furniture designed for library use and new construction toys for kids. But the best thing that I saw at the entire conference? People like me. Young people who are just as enthusiastic about libraries as any generation before. People who want to challenge the stereotypes of libraries and librarians alike. People who are eager to spread their knowledge of and passion for libraries around the country and the world.

The future of libraries is bright and varied, folks. Please continue to support yours.

“It’s still National Library Week. You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.”
Neil Gaiman

I can’t begin to describe the importance of Star Wars in my life. One of my earliest memories is of watching The Empire Strikes Back on VHS at my grandparents’ house, surrounded by my sisters and cousins. The Battle of Hoth, Luke’s encounter with Yoda, Lando’s betrayal… These are powerful moments in one of the most masterful science fiction films ever made. I would jump at any chance to watch the trilogy, since when I was very young, we didn’t own a VCR (we would rent one from the local Radio Shack or Video Den every few weeks, as a special treat).

I don’t remember how old I was when I picked up my first Star Wars book. It was the novelization of Return of the Jedi, and I loved it. I still own it, in fact. Just came across it earlier this week.

It's beautiful.

It’s beautiful.

If memory serves, I found it by chance at a book sale at my hometown library. It may even have been the first novelization I ever read, I couldn’t say for certain anymore, but it was the starting point. I quickly tracked down the remaining novelizations and read them, eventually buying copies for my collection (one of my elementary school teachers had copies in her classroom, and I loved her for it).

It wasn’t long after that that I discovered Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s Young Jedi Knights series, focusing on Jacen and Jaina, Leia and Han Solo’s children. This was my first foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and I couldn’t get enough. By jumping in to a story that was set over fifteen years into the future (post-ROTJ), I was introduced to characters and concepts that I’d never seen in Star Wars before. I had to find out more, and I set out to find copies of books like The Truce at Bakura, Heir to the Empire, and X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the others were all still around, having all kinds of new adventures, and it was a chance for the minor characters like Boba Fett and Wedge Antilles (and newcomers like Winter and Mara Jade) to shine. Decades pass, and new enemies rise and fall. Heroes are born and live bright lives before they die. It isn’t all perfect, but it’s amazing to see the sheer amount of content produced within the years since the Expanded Universe began.

Some time ago, it was announced that the Expanded Universe would no longer be a part of the official Star Wars canon, being shunted into a parallel universe of sorts. The EU (no, not that one) will continue to exist as Star Wars Legends, but no new material will be created within it. All new Star Wars material will be written to align with the film canon. I’m torn on my feelings about this. I hate to see the work of so many talented writers be seemingly thrown out (except as possible inspiration for characters and events), but I’m thrilled that there are so many new opportunities for writers like Kevin Hearne and Chuck Wendig to get to write official Star Wars novels. I read Hearne’s book, Heir to the Jedi, a few months ago. I was intrigued by a chance to get a first-person perspective from Luke after the events of A New Hope, and I was not disappointed.

Last week was Force Friday, the officially launch date of the merchandise for The Force Awakens. It also marked the release of Chuck Wendig’s first Star Wars novel, Aftermath. Reviews on amazon have been overwhelmingly positive for the first new-canon post-ROTJ book (with the exception of reviews posted by bigoted/homophobic trolls who can’t believe that diversity can exist within a sci-fi universe). I can’t wait to read it and write a review for you. For now, you can track down your own copy of Aftermath, or read any of Chuck’s delightful fiction or blog posts. Check him out here.

The new canon of Star Wars is moving in very positive directions, toward a more diverse and inclusive galaxy far far away. While I am going to miss the Legends characters, I know that they’ll still be where they’ve always been, waiting for me to pick up their books. The Star Wars universe you love is not going away. It’s just giving new people their well-deserved time in the suns.

 

A while back, I wrote a post about some of the best books that I’d had to read over the course of my academic career. These were books that I might not have read had they not been on the syllabus for a class. I’m pleased to say that my own horizons were greatly expanded by this. Here’s a few more of the titles that were part of my college life.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Like Beowulf from the first iteration of this post, I was familiar with the core story, but I’d never read the full text before. In my first literature class as an English major, we focused on British literature from the 19th century (this might explain my fascination with the Victorian era…). This was one of the first times I’d intensely studied the life of a writer and their times while simultaneously reading their work. The story of the creation of Frankenstein caught me almost as thoroughly as the narrative. I loved the idea of Mary Shelley taking part in a competition with her husband and friends to write the scariest story. Not just taking part, but completely rocking it, to the point where her single novel is more well-known than Percy Shelley’s collected works. Frankenstein is brooding, Gothic genius.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. While Johnny Depp did a fine job of portraying Raoul Duke in Terry Gilliam’s perfectly trippy adaptation, there’s nothing like reading the novel itself. Part of that may just be the result of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations  throughout the book. Thompson’s narrative weaves autobiographical elements and biting social commentary with detailed depictions of copious drug use. It’s stream-of-consciousness at its finest, and difficult to define in any other way. This one was assigned by the same American Literature professor who introduced me to the work of Alison Bechdel, and certainly caught the attention of the students in a manner unlike any other piece we read that semester.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. In my Modern British Literature class, we were given a book of short stories based on famous fairy tales. Let me start with this: these are NOT for kids. These are as dark (if not more so) than the Grimm Brothers’ versions, and are unflinching in their handling of the subject matter. They’re full of bold, strong women who handle traditional roles in non-traditional fashion. According to Carter, “My intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories.” These renditions of Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, and others will leave you questioning what you might have missed in some of your other childhood favorites.

Reading is good for you, especially when you read outside of your usual range of authors or subjects. Branch out. Try something new. I hope that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The literary world is rejoicing today at the announcement that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, will be releasing a sequel this year. The new novel, Go Set a Watchman, was actually the first novel written by Lee, but was not initially published. Her editor advised her against the publication of the book, which focused on To Kill a Mockingbird‘s heroine, Scout Finch, as an adult. Instead, flashback scenes of Scout’s childhood were reworked into the classic novel we know. According to initial press, the sequel will follow a now-grown Scout returning home to visit her father, Atticus. July 14th is the current planned release date for Go Set a Watchman, and frankly, I can’t wait to see it.

I haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird since I was in junior high, in Mrs. Crocker’s English class. It’s been far too long since I watched Gregory Peck star in the film adaptation as Atticus. I need to make another trip to Maycomb, Alabama, because it’s tragically clear that the prejudices Lee wrote about in 1960 are just as present today.

In keeping with some of the themes from last week, I decided to share this with you. This infographic comes from the amazing people over at goodreads. Here’s there “What’s Your Love Story?” flowchart. Find the original here.

Pretty damn thorough...

Pretty damn thorough…

Just thought I’d share this little beauty from Daily Infographic. The original can be found here.

2014 is going to be the best year yet. I said that last year, and it’s just as true today. It’s going to be a big year, with lots of upcoming books, movies, and more. Here’s a little preview of what I’m looking forward to in 2014.

Books: Mr. MercedesA new novel from Stephen King hits shelves this June. King is always worth a read, and I can’t wait to hear what his latest tale has to offer.

Karen Traviss is releasing a new Halo book this year, with Mortal Dictata. She’ll be concluding the story she started with Glasslands and The Thursday War. I’ve really enjoyed Traviss’ take on the Halo universe, especially her depictions of the Sangheili (Elites) and their culture.

Conferences: I’m adding a category this year, because I’m planning (and hoping) to attend the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference for the first time this year. Guests of honor include Gail Carriger, Jim C. Hines, and Chuck Wendig. It’s going to be an incredible weekend, and I’m hoping that some of my local writing friends, including V are able to join me.

Movies: Marvel’s Cinematic Universe continues to march into Phase 2. Following last year’s Iron Man 3 and Thor 2: The Dark World will be Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the relatively risky Guardians of the Galaxy. Winter Soldier should be a solid follow-up to The Avengers, with Cap having his WWII past catch up to him. Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be interesting, since the comic isn’t exactly the home of Marvel’s A-list characters. Still should be a hell of a movie to catch in the theatre.

Also this year, Wes Anderson’s new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel opens. I love Anderson’s style, and this looks to be a grand collaboration with all of his usual cohorts. Look for Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and more great stars in the tale of a legendary concierge, Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes).

Television: Sherlock. It’s back, after far too long. British audiences got to see “The Empty Hearse” premiere already. American audiences should be getting in on the action by mid-January thanks to PBS (or sooner, if they’re clever).

Doctor Who celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. Now that Matt Smith has handed the sonic screwdriver and TARDIS key over to Peter Capaldi, it’ll be heading in a new direction. Having not yet seen the most recent Christmas special, I can’t speak to Capaldi’s role just yet, but any time the Doctor regenerates is exciting.

So here we go, 2014. I’m counting on you to be the best year you can be. I’ll do everything I can on my end.

Happy New Year, everyone.