Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol

The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol

Short stories are a fascinating aspect of literature. The author has such a short time to introduce and develop characters and their world. A good short is well crafted and honed and can be incredibly poignant. Collected shorts add another layer of difficulty if the author or editor is trying to have an overarching theme. Come collections are easily done by picking a common subject, but a well done collection will have variety in the individual stories, but have a solid, continuous topic throughout the stories that is just as moving as the individual stories. Molly Anotopol’s UnAmericans is a solid collection that does this very thing.

Antopol’s stories are set in a variety of locations around the world, including America. The linking elements are the characters and how they address their own sense of alienation and discord. The majority of the characters have Eastern European heritage and/or are Jewish. They all experience estrangement from their faith, their ideologies, their friends, their family, their homes. Each of the characters is flawed in their alienation, but Antopol crafts each of characters with a persuasive level of detail and complexity that makes them seem real and lends credence to the stories.


While not every story will ring with every reader, everyone is bound to find something compelling in this collection. I would definitely recommend this for any fans of short stories and of flawed characters. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Best Comedic Novels

It's the time of year when kids are going back to school. Parents are either rejoicing or feeling sad so I thought it might be nice to give everyone some fantastic (and occasionally award winning) humor filled novels! I firmly believe laughter is the best way to cure empty nests, homesickness, or a hospital visit. Although now that I think about it laughing after surgery has proven to be rather painful.  Hmm so if you've had surgery you might either want to wait a little while to read these books or hold onto your stomach as you read (or listen to) these hilarious novels! 


Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Ansari combines his irreverent humor with cutting-edge social science to give us an unforgettable tour of modern day romance. 

Sick in the Head by Judge Apatow
A Collection of intimate conversations with some of the biggest names in comedy for the past thirty years. A truly hilarious and informative book. 

Tim And Eric's Zone Theory by Tim Heidecker
Once you read this book you'll understand how Zone Theory helped me become a happier, healthier, more confident person. It's a seven step self-help parody.

Still Foolin' Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going and Where the Hell Are My Keys? By Billy Crystal
This is the 2014 Audiobook of the Year winner. This book can be read, but it is absolutely phenomenal as an audiobook. The book begins with a comedic set before a live audience as Billy discusses growing older and continues with his personal revelations and then goes back to his one man show. It's truly a wonderful book to listen to or read if you prefer.

Bossy Pants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey charts the course of her remarkable life and details her many misadventure in this hilarious audio edition of her best-selling memoir. 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kahling
Kahling's fresh humor and one liners about her life will make you fall in love with this book. If you want a funny book that is a quick read, you've got to try this book.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
This is a  book I highly recommend you listen to. Its star studded cast includes Seth Myers, Carol Burnett, Patrick Stewart and many more. You'll laugh, you'll cry and fall in love with this book.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Udderly Good Reads!

The cow is of the bovine ilk; one end is moo, the other milk.
--Ogden Nash


July 15th was Cow Appreciation Day!  No, really it was.  So, to help celebrate and honor our bovine friends (or just read cool cow books), try one of the following moo-tivating titles:

Going Bovine by Libba Bray--All 16-year-old Cam wants is to get through high school. It’s not a lot to ask. But that’s before he’s given some bad news: a terminal diagnosis of "mad cow" disease. Which totally sucks. Hope arrives in the winged form of Dulcie, a loopy punk angel/possible hallucination. She tells Cam there is a cure—if he’s willing to go in search of it. With the help of a death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf and a yard gnome, Cam sets off on the mother of all road trips.

Till the Cows Come Home by Judy Clemens--Stella Crown works hard and loves her life. She runs her own dairy farm, rides her Harley on the weekends, and has enough friends to suit her just fine.  But on her 29th birthday, things start to change. A neighborhood child dies and a string of mysterious disasters place Stella and her farm in peril.  Stella must find her enemy before anyone else, including herself, ends up dead.

Holy Cow by David Duchovny--David Duchovny's witty fable about a cow, a pig and a turkey's hilarious and moving farm-break to save themselves from the cruelty of human consumption.

The Cow's Tale by Dorothy J. Franke--the true story of the author's life on a dairy farm, as a city girl married to a he-wants-to-be-a-farmer. Unfortunately for her, she had no background in farming so she had to learn everything the hard way.


Cows of Our Planet by Gary Larson--a Far Side Collection.

Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan--If you think you've seen it all -- WORLD WAR Z, THE WALKING DEAD-- you haven't seen anything like this. From the twisted brain of Michael Logan comes Apocalypse Cow, a story about three unlikely heroes who must save Britain . . . from a rampaging horde of ZOMBIE COWS! Followed by World War Moo.

The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry--Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. 

The Complete Cow by Sara Rath--This is a lighthearted yet serious look at dairy and beef cows of the world.  From ancient myths to a breed encyclopedia to a whimsical look at the fun pop culture surrounding famous cows, this books has it all.   

Cow: a Bovine Bio by Florian Werner--She is everywhere: as a vehicle for both farmers and advertisers, a subject for research scientists and poets, and ever-present in the form of lucky charms, children's toys, or simply as a tasty sandwich-filler. The female of the bovine species is revered as sacred or reviled as stupid, but one thing she never inspires is indifference. Combining a myriad of richly entertaining anecdotes and an abundance of illuminating discoveries, Werner presents the curious cultural history of that most intriguing of animals: the cow.






Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Invasion of the Tearling

If you have followed this blog then you know I have eagerly awaited the release of Erika Johansen's latest novel, Invasion of the Tearling.  This is the sequel to the blockbuster debut novel, Queen of the Tearling. If you have not read Queen of the Tearling, stop what you are doing and go read it! This is a spoiler alert, if you continue reading it is not my fault. You should have quit reading and gotten the first book in this amazing series. 

When we first met Kelsea Glynn she was a young princess who was in hiding until she was old enough to take her place as the rightful ruler of the Tearling. Her path to the throne was not easy and her choices were and still are difficult ones. In this riveting sequel Kelsea deals with the consequences of the choices she made when she became Queen.  She freed her people from slavery and fought to remove the Mortmesne Army from her Kingdom. Now the Red Queen, the ruler of the Mortmesne people, is angry that the Queen of the Tearling would dare defy her. She vows revenge on the Tearling, especially Kelsea.

Kelsea must balance politics, prepare for war and learn how to use her magic if she is to become a successful ruler.  As if that is not enough of a balancing act she must also learn to control her visions. 

Her visions are of a time that existed before the crossing, when the Tear Empire was only a dream: a dream where all people are created equal and treated fairly. As Kelsea's power grows her motives and appearance change; will she remain true to herself or will she allow the jewels she wears to change not just her appearance but who she is? 

This is a riveting epic novel you won't want to put down. Johansen weaves this story brilliantly connecting the past and present. She adds depth to the characters, the culture and gives understanding to why the Kingdom of the Tearling exists with her glimpses of the past and creates a believable story of love, loss, betrayal and ultimately hope.  Masterfully written and suspenseful this story has it all magic, an evil villain, a beautiful Queen and a multitude of heroes.  I cannot wait for the conclusion to this wonderful saga. 



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

June Was LGBTQ Pride Month--Celebrate with Some Award-Winning Books!

Every year the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table creates an Over the Rainbow Project book list for adults.  The mission of the GLBTRT is to create a bibliography of books that exhibit commendable literary quality and significant authentic GLBT content.

The following are some fiction and biography/memoir selections for 2015. 
To see the full list go here.  

Fiction:

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue--A long-forgotten, never-solved crime and a lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among scoundrels, captures the pulse of 19th century San Francisco.

All I Love and Know by Judith Frank--An intense drama of an American family on the edge of termination, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found.

For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu--Peter Huang is the exalted only son in a sea of daughters. At the first opportunity, each of the girls leaves. But for Peter, escape is not as simple. Peter is supposed to fulfill his immigrant father’s dreams.  But Peter knows he is really a girl. 

Hild: a Novel by Nicola Griffith--A lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages, Hild of seventh-century Britain.

The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt--It is 1940 Lisbon and two couples who are awaiting safe passage to New York, meet.  As Portugal's neutrality, and the world's future, hangs in the balance, the hidden threads in the lives of these four individuals begins to come loose. 

The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin--The latest novel in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series follows one of modern literature's most beloved and indelible characters--Anna Madrigal, the transgender landlady of 28 Barbary Lane.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose--A richly imagined novel of art, betrayal, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself in Paris of the 1920s.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith--Daniel believed that his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement in Sweden. But with a single phone call, everything changes. Caught between his parents, and unsure of whom to believe or trust, Daniel hears an urgent tale of a crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters--In 1922 South London, impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter are obliged to take in lodgers. But, little do they know just how profoundly their tenants will alter the course of their lives.

Biography/Memoir:

Fire Shut Up In My Bones by Charles Blow--A gorgeous, moving memoir of how one of America's most innovative and respected journalists found his voice by coming to terms with a painful past.

In My Skin: My Life On and Off the Basketball Court by Brittney Griner--Hailed as the world's most famous female basketball player, Brittney Griner has been shattering stereotypes and breaking boundaries ever since she burst onto the national scene. Now, she shares her coming-of-age story, revealing how she found the strength to overcome bullies and to embrace her authentic self.



Teaching the Cat to Sit by Michelle Theall--A universal story about our quest for unconditional love, Teaching the Cat to Sit makes us each reflect on our sense of humanity, our connection to religion, and our struggles to accept ourselves-and each other-as we are.








Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bob's Picks

Hold onto your hat people! It truly is time for Bob's Staff Picks!  If you have ever been to the Centerville Library you surely have met or seen Bob. He is our resident guru extraordinaire with our Multi Media materials.  If it's music, Bob knows who sang it, played it and when they recorded it.  Since I am not a music afficiando (I love to listen to music but often cannot recall the artist who created the music) I find his talent truly amazing!

The following is a short list of items Bob likes to read or listen too. For a complete listing go to our pinterest page and select Bob's Staff Picks or even Bob's Movie picks.
 
Books
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Far Side by Gary Larson
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Teach Me to Pray by Andrew Murray
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Curious George by Margaret Rey
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Music
Hopes and Fears by keane
With a Twist by Straight No chaser
Broadcast by Cutting Crew
Strange Desire by Bleachers

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Somewhat recently, I was asked to consider what some of my all-time top novels would be. This is always a difficult proposal as are you looking for entertaining, for thoughtful, for a specific genre? After some deliberation, I went with one of my all-time favorite science fiction novels, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.

It is the story of a human emissary on a lone mission to include the world of Gethen, a frozen, winter world into the growing galactic civilization. The Envoy, Genry Ai, must contend with distrust, fractious politics, and entrenched religions. But the denizens of Gethen are also incredibly odd in their familiarity. They are asexual, and can and do choose their gender. It is conceivable that one Gethenians could have both sired and given birth to children. Genry must separate his gender identity assumptions from his dealings with the Gethenians.

The story also follows Estraven, a Gethenian and prime minister to the Kingdom of Karhide. Estraven gives us the best look into the culture of Gethen through a slowly, but wonderfully revealed backstory. Also, he provides a fascinating look into Le Guin’s conception of a society where gender identity is equal parts fluid and non-existent


On the surface, the book appears to be a thought experiment regarding gender assumptions. In fact, many reviews and analysis of the work focus on this. Yet, as with any good novel, there is so much more to the tale. Le Guin puts forth some fascinating and thought provoking ideas about philosophy, religion, relationships, and much more. The many, compelling layers of this book make it an excellent read and are one for the reasons I occasionally go back to Left Hand of Darkness and reread chapters. In all, I highly recommend giving this book a read.