Friday, October 9, 2015

Seven Reasons to Meet Mary Robinette Kowal at Carnegie-Stout Public Library

What are you doing on Saturday, October 17 at 2 p.m.?

We think you should be at Carnegie-Stout Public Library to meet award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, and we've got seven reasons to help convince you.

ONE: Jane Austen
Mary Robinette Kowal's first novel, Shades of Milk and Honey, draws on Jane Austen for inspiration, while still creating a unique fantasy setting. Have you always thought that Elizabeth Bennett would do well to learn a few magic spells? This is the book for you. Seriously, she created her own spellcheck from a list she compiled of every word Jane Austen used to ensure that the language she uses in her own books is period appropriate.

Plus, it's entirely possible that Mary Robinette Kowal is time travelling Jane Austen (time lady?)
Left: Mary Robinette Kowal. Right: Jane Austen, photo by TV West Country/Katie Rowlett from

TWO: Patrick Rothfuss
Jane Austen isn't the only author whose style Mary Robinette Kowal can channel, she also once out-Rothfussed Patrick Rothfuss. In a 2013 contest to raise money for charity, readers were asked to pick out Patrick Rothfuss's real Twitter account from a half-dozen fakes, and Kowal won handily with 41% of the votes (Rothfuss got 15%). You can read the behind-the-scenes story of her win on her blog.
Patrick Rothfuss & Mary Robinette Kowal. Photo by Wesley Chu

THREE: Regency Fashion
Mary Robinette Kowal doesn't limit herself to period accuracy in her vocabulary, she does research to make sure that her characters' fashion choices are accurate too. Not only that, she makes her own Regency dresses, including the dress on the cover of her most recent novel Of Noble Family
Her dresses have even been worn by other award-winning speculative fiction authors, like John Scalzi.
Photo and caption by John Scalzi.

FOUR: Writing Excuses
At this point, you might be asking yourself, how can I learn to write like Mary Robinette Kowal? Well, first, you should come to Carnegie-Stout Public Library on Saturday, October 17th to hear her advice in person. But, obviously, she can't fit all of her advice into one afternoon, which is why you should check out Writing Excuses, the writing advice podcast she hosts along with Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. Their podcast won a Hugo Award.

Mary Robinette Kowal isn't just a published author, she's a published author who wrote her first novel during NaNoWriMo. If you're thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year, there is your chance to get advice from someone who's been there. Not sure what I'm talking about? National Novel Writing Month is an annual event where people around the world attempt to write an entire 50,000 word novel in just one month: November.

SIX: Puppets
In addition to writing amazing books, creating beautiful dresses, and sharing her writing wisdom, Mary Robinette Kowal is an accomplished puppeteer. Just check out her audition video for the Sesame Street Puppetry Workshop

SEVEN: Audiobooks
With the voice actings skills required by puppeteering, it's no surprise that Mary Robinette Kowal is also an audiobook narrator. She's narrated books by authors like Sherryl Woods, Seanan McGuire, and Susan Wittig Albert. Check out this behind the scenes video of Mary Robinette Kowal recording audio for Of Noble Family.

Now that we've given you seven reasons to be there, you'll have to try hard to come up with a reason to miss out on meeting Mary Robinette Kowal on Saturday, October 17th at 2 p.m. at Carnegie-Stout Public Library!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Books and Movies: The Martian by Andy Weir

Think of some synonyms for "intense" and any one of them will perfectly describe The Martian by Andy Weir. Agonizing. Fierce. Excruciating. Harrowing. (I could go on, but I won't.)

Astronaut Mark Watney is stuck on Mars. (What?) He was with his crew when a dust storm hit, separating them, and the rest of the crew evacuated and headed back to Earth, believing he's dead. (No!) But he's not. He's alive. On Mars. By himself. Watney wakes up, realizes he's all alone, and instead of bursting into tears like I would, he gets to work, attempting to contact NASA and grow food (on Mars!), all while keeping a video log. His crew finds out that he's alive and are torn as to whether or not to go back for him because while they feel guilty about leaving him, going back for him could mean their deaths if they run out of supplies. (Because there are no grocery stores on Mars.)

The Martian has been made into a movie starring Matt Damon as Watney. It also stars Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor (starring in his second book-to-film of the year, the first being Z is for Zachariah) and Kristen Wiig. Check out the trailer and read the book if you haven't already. The movie comes out on October 2.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Read Banned Books: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

This year for Banned Books Week I read Fun Home: a family tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, a graphic novel which has lingered on my TBR (to be read) list for almost a decade. A combination of recent controversy, an award winning Broadway adaptation, and some friendly encouragement finally tipped the scales.

Fun Home was first published in 2006, and was almost immediately challenged in a Missouri public library. Due to the images depicting sexual acts, specifically sexual acts featuring LGTBQ participants, there have been several other challenges over the years. You can read more about its controversial history in this article from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Fun Home is a memoir about Bechdel's relationship with her father, his death, and her journey to understanding her own sexuality. It is not an easy read. This book is dense with complicated emotions, not uncommon when considering how our relationships with family change as we grow older. However the added tragedy of her father's sudden death (or possible suicide) hard on the heels of Bechdel coming out as a lesbian and the revelation that her father had spent his life in the closet, creates a sort of drama that colors every other aspect of their relationship. She examines her memories for hints and signs overlooked, unable to continue their conversation directly.

In the most recent controversy, students at Duke University objected to Fun Home's selection as a title all incoming first-year students were encouraged to read. As far as I know, no one has called for Fun Home's removal from the library shelves or syllabi at Duke. However, it's interesting how several of the students who refused to read this book said that they would've read it in print, but the graphic novel format made the content too objectionable. It's not uncommon for a challenge to a graphic novel to be based in part on the fact that the objectionable material has been illustrated, rather than simply described in words.

There are three graphic novels on the American Library Association's list of Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books for 2014:
Like those Duke students, I avoided reading Fun Home -- not for some moral reasons, but simply because I knew this wasn't a fun book and I prefer happy endings in my books. However, it is important to push myself outside of my comfort zone sometimes because each time I have, I've discovered something wonderful. That said, I'm glad I waited until I was ready to read this book, and I'd reached a point in my life where I had the perspective to really appreciate Bechdel's memoir. Nine years ago I might have fixated on the tragedy and missed the quieter advice that it is damaging to force yourself to live within the confines of expectations, even your own.

~Sarah, Adult Services

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Should the Characters of "Scandal" Be Reading?

Season five of Scandal starts tonight!

Sure, it can be a completely unbelievable show at times and I'm usually saying, "That did not just happen!" when I watch it.

But, come on, it's also the most awesome completely unbelievable show and it's filled with epic monologues, forbidden love, and pretty people. Feel free to have a dance party!

To celebrate the return of its awesomeness and the awesomeness of books, here are some book recommendations to help Olivia, Mellie, and Fitz deal with what happened in season 4.

Season 4 spoilers ahead!

At the end of season 4, Fitz kicked Mellie out of the White House so he could be with Olivia. Fitz and Mellie have two children. Given the way Olivia decorates her apartment and dresses, it seems like she doesn't spend any time with children at all. Learning how to get stains out of a mostly white wardrobe might be a good skill to pick up.


Green-up Your Cleanup by Jill Potvin Schoff

And she also might want to drink a little less.

Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior by Richard O'Conner

Mellie is not the type of woman to give up. I doubt she'll roll over and quietly take Fitz's banishment, but she's been through some hard times before.

Just in case she needs a reminder...

You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

I'm not really worried about Mellie. She's tough and knows how to deal with disappointment.

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Oh, Fitz. I don't envy his position. (Not the Presidency. Being President of the United States seems far easier than his Olivia-Mellie predicament.)

Yep. Nothing but trouble ahead for the President. Figuring out why he's repeatedly in a bad place might be a good idea, yes?

Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions by Zachary Shore

While Fitz does many things that are annoying, kicking Mellie out of the White House for doing something very similar to something he did (killing lots of people mostly by accident) was extremely aggravating. He may want to remember that a person who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature by John Bartlett and Geoffrey O'Brien

Yeah, you do, Fitz. Repeatedly.

The gladiators are back and I couldn't be happier.