Friday, November 27, 2015

Star Wars!

Suzanne, Michael, and I are back in a new episode of the Diffle Presents podcast, this time all about Star Wars! In anticipation of Episode VII: The Force Awakens coming out December 18, we chat all about our experiences with Star Wars growing up, and what we think about the new movie coming out on December 18. Listen to the episode on the Diffle Presents website here.

If you too are excited about the new movie coming out, be sure to join us for the original trilogy marathon event we're holding at Duxbury Free Library on Friday, December 11. Come watch all Episodes IV-VI on our big projection screen, bring your own snacks, and enjoy the movies with other Star Wars fans - the way they were meant to be enjoyed! The marathon will run from 3:00-9:00 pm in the Merry Room. No registration required; come anytime.

And while you're waiting for the new movie to come out, check out all the DVDs and books we have in every department at Duxbury Free Library, including books in our Adult Fiction collection set in the Star Wars universe:

Lords of the Sith by Paul Kemp
Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christie Golden
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

And the trilogy by Timothy Zahn (which is on NPR's list of 100 best SF/Fantasy books)
1. Heir to the Empire
2. Dark Force Rising
3. The Last Command

Keep reading, and May the Force be with you! Beth

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Letters to Zell: Fairytales Modernized

Letters to Zell (2015) by Camille Griep was an interesting adaptation of classic fairy tale characters, with a modern-day twist. Told in the form of letters from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White to their friend Rapunzel (the Zell in the title), who has recently moved to a different part of the fairy tale kingdom, this was definitely a fairy tale for an adult audience.

I really like stories that go beyond the ‘happily ever afters’ and this one certainly did that, at the same time taking characters that we all know mostly as an idea and fleshing them out with quirks and flaws of their own. These versions of the fairy tale characters seemed especially flawed as a matter of fact, which made the book more interesting. Also interesting was the way in which the characters moved between the fairy tale world and our 'real' world, and how they navigated the extremely foreign territory of present-day Los Angeles, CA.

The format was very welcome; each letter was only a couple pages, so the book was easy to dip in and out of when I could. This made it very simple to fit reading into whatever little chunks of time I had.

The ending of the book had a rather a tense buildup, and maybe not quite as much pay-off as I would have liked; in fact, I couldn’t tell if it was possibly setting up for a sequel, which could make sense. Luckily, it didn't end on what I would consider any kind of cliff-hanger (hate those), just a sense that lacked finality. Overall, a great new twist to some old characters and ideas.

Keep reading! Beth
"At the end of our lives we're made up of those bits and pieces of the people who came into our lives." (page 293)

Monday, November 16, 2015

John Green, Pt. 1: The early works

In addition to Neil Gaiman, the other author of whom I have long been a fan without having read much (or any) of his books is John Green. I am a devoted fan of the many educational YouTube channels John and his brother Hank produce, including VlogBrothers, Crash Course, SciShow, and Mental Floss, and the podcast they do together, Dear Hank and John (all are wonderful and interesting). Both Green brothers are intelligent, funny, and kind, and I admire them both. About time, then, that I explored the many books that brought John Green to attention in the first place, starting with some of his earlier works.

Looking for Alaska (2005)

Unfortunately I do have to start by saying that at first I was not especially taken with this book, filled as it was with either awkward, whiny teenagers or rebellious, irresponsible teenagers. I just didn’t connect with the characters at first, which I think is more of a function of the genre than the author. Contemporary Young Adult novels are not normally my genre of choice; what YA books I read are all fantasy-based. So I wonder how much of my initial reluctance was simply the lack of magic and mythology I'm used to in YA books.

Regardless, once I got to know the characters more, and especially their back stories, I liked them much more. The way the story dealt with death in the later part was very moving and – I think – pretty accurate. Of course everyone deals with death differently, so I’m not sure it would have been possible to have been inaccurate per se, but regardless it felt very real and personal to me and helped me connect with the way the characters were feeling. And there were some very nice life lessons in the end.
"We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken... We cannot be born, and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations... [T]hat part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail." (page 220-1)

An Abundance of Katherines (2006)

I did enjoy this book more than Alaska from the start. Though there was still a bit more teen angst than I’m accustomed to in the stories I choose to read, I liked all the main characters in this story much more quickly. Though I’m not sure what it says about my deeper foray into YA literature that maybe the character I liked the best was the adult (maybe that’s a sign that I’m getting to old to read YA – to which I say, no such thing! I still read children’s books too).

One major plot thread – taking down oral histories of members in a specific community – was something I found very intriguing, and I really appreciated that the characters were working toward something interesting and concrete. This connection with the community, especially with outsiders (as the two main characters were), I thought elevated the book beyond just 'YA' to a story that is relatable to all ages (though I don't really think most YA books should be read just by teenagers; I know many adults who read them).
"I don't think you can ever fill the empty space with the thing you lost... I don't think your missing pieces ever fit inside you again once they go missing." (page 201)

I like that John Green doesn’t speak down to his readers, that he assumes a certain amount of intelligence on our part (not an unreasonable amount; he is neither snobby nor preachy in his writing, which is also certainly appreciated). Overall, I'm glad I read both these books and look forward to reading some of his later works sometime soon.

Keep reading! Beth

Friday, November 13, 2015

Neil Gaiman Quotes

Neil Gaiman turned 55 this week, and in honor of his birthday, BBC America compiled a list of 15 of his best quotes (I'm sure it was hard to narrow it down to only 15!).

My favorite is of course #9:

On his appreciation for libraries.“A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it.”

Check them out on the BBC America website.

And check out my review of some of his shorter stories on this previous post of the blog.

Keep reading! Beth

Monday, November 9, 2015

Magician's Trilogy

Often referred to as Harry Potter - the college years, Lev Grossman's Magician's trilogy combines the wonder and drama of suddenly discovering that magic is real and possible, with some high-stakes situations (not that Harry Potter itself didn't also involve quite a few life-or-death situations). It was a great series, and I really enjoyed the ride!

The series started off close to what I expected, with the main character's discovery of a magical destiny, an introduction to the world of magic in an academic setting, and an interesting cast of misfits trying to find their place in this strange new world filled with possibilities. Lately I've been very much into stories that take place in our world but with a hidden magical undercurrent, rather than in a totally made-up fantasy universe unconnected with our world. I think this style grounds the idea of fantasy and makes it easier to relate to the characters.

Grossman's writing style was more casual than many classic fantasy novels, and at times even gritty, which really fit well with the atmosphere of the story. I loved the rules he established for this magical world, and the characters were very interesting. Some were more flawed than others, but all were understandable. Their adventures were exciting and definitely utilized the magical foundations upon which the story was built.

Things got really interesting when the story moved on from the school. I won't give too much away, including when in the trilogy that happens, but I liked that I really had no idea where the rest of the story was going after graduation. It certainly went many places, both on Earth and not.

The books are definitely meant to be read as a series, and really don't stand alone (especially the middle one), but luckily they proceed at a pretty rapid pace. The series as a whole had a great ending; The Magician's Land tied up some loose ends I had almost forgotten about from the previous two books. It brought the story to a close in a satisfyingly final way that still left a door wide open for future possibilities should Grossman decide to return to the world of The Magicians, which I for one would welcome.

Check them out below:

#1: The Magicians (2009)

#2: The Magician King (2011)

#3: The Magician’s Land (20014)

Keep reading! Beth

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bonus Post: Hoopla Podcast

I recently recorded a podcast episode with fellow staff members Michael and Suzanne to discuss the items available through Hoopla that we're excited about. We talk audiobooks, eBooks, graphic novels, music, movies, and tv shows that are available to borrow from Hoopla, and (hopefully) brought attention to some hidden gems that you may be interested in. 

Click here to listen to this episode of Diffle Presents

(And if you're interested, there are many more interesting episodes of the Diffle Presents podcast to listen to as well!)

Enjoy, and keep reading! Beth

Monday, November 2, 2015

J.K. Rowling's Cormoran Strike series 2 & 3: The Silkworm and Career of Evil

Published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, the talented J.K. Rowling has so far written three books in the Cormoran Strike series. For my review of book #1 - which I loved - see this post

This was a great follow-up to Cuckoo's Calling that continued to flesh out the main characters really well behind the scenes of a very interesting mystery.

In this second book of the series, the stakes have risen somewhat, from an "accidental" crime of passion in the first book to a premeditated ritualistic murder complete with bizarre imagery and dozens of suspects in this one (perhaps too many suspects; it was just a tiny bit hard to keep track of who was who). I loved the way that secondary characters were brought in and interacted with Detective Strike, and his assistant / 'partner' Robin's increasing role in investigations. I loved that she brings different skills and benefits to the firm, and really compliments Strike's investigative style. 

I love the (platonic - I hope that never changes) relationship between Strike and Robin, though their lack of communication in this book did annoy me, but in a very relatable way (I think we can all admit to not being as direct as we sometimes should). 

This book was VERY tense all the way through in a way the previous two were not. Strike and Robin (especially Robin) were placed in imminent danger right from the beginning, so the whole book was - I would go so far as to say - stressful. I couldn't put it down because I just had to know what happened next, especially with the threats hanging over the character's heads.

Though the 'twist' at the end wasn't as surprising as in the first two books, there was still an element of unexpected revelation, which I appreciated. The story ended on a much more abrupt note than the previous books in the series - a real cliffhanger - so I really hope she writes at least one more book in the series, and soon!

Overall, I thought the entire Cormoran Strike series was really great. When the 4th one comes out (hopefully not too long from now!), I may go back and re-read 1-3. I like doing that with series anyway, but with these, I look forward to reading them knowing the endings, and looking out for the hints and clues that I didn't pick up on the first time I read them. Knowing Rowling's style, I'm sure there were many that I probably missed! This is especially true for Career of Evil, which I went through so fast just to see what happened that I really didn't experience the book as fully as I might have wanted. 

Keep reading! Beth