Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Staff Review: My Brilliant Friend and The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

The publication of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels (a quartet) has been one of the biggest literary events of the century (granted, we're only sixteen years in, but still). To say Ferrante has gathered brilliant accolades, that she's garnered the wildest acclaim, would be an understatement. The publishing industry and the media have already inducted her into the literary pantheon. For this reason, and because the slim Europa paperbacks that embody her U.S. translations are so attractive, I finally took the plunge. At this point I'm two books in.

Ferrante herself is a mystery woman. No one knows who she is, what she looks like, or where she lives. This in itself, in an age of massive media attention to every big new thing, is remarkable and might reasonably be perceived as a sort of media blitz of its own (search "Elena Ferrante's identity" and you get over 100,000 results). Everyone is speculating, guessing, even claiming to have found her. If she remains elusive, it will be a marvel.

So, what do I think of the quartet halfway in? I'd have to say I like them, I dislike them, and I can't seem to put them down. Ferrante creates an exquisitely detailed world that spans decades and brings Naples to life politically and culturally. The story line follows the friendship of two Neapolitan girls born just after World War II. They're five or six as My Brilliant Friend begins and about twenty as the second novel, The Story of a New Name, concludes (they'll be going on seventy by the end of the series).

Elena and Lila were born in the same poor, violent neighborhood in Naples, where husbands beat wives, brothers beat sisters, parents beat kids, and the typical hissed threat is "Do that again and so help me God I will kill you." At that time in Italy, feminism wasn't a concept nor was divorce legal; the lives of many Italian women were bleak. Many men's lives weren't so great either.

Elena, the studious good girl, and Lila, the rebel, are both unusually bright but only Elena completes high school and even goes on to college. Over the years the girls' friendship waxes and wanes, sometimes breaking off tumultuously. Events play out within a large cast of neighborhood characters: family members, schoolmates, boyfriends, teachers, parents, shopkeepers, and the notorious Solara family, linked to the Camorra (Neapolitan organized crime), whose members control the neighborhood through loansharking, extortion, threats, beatings, and even murder.

It's not the novels' gritty setting with its violence and corruption that, at times, turns me off. It's the wildly unpredictable nature of Elena and Lila's friendship. At times Lila's a true-blue friend and at other times she behaves in unpredictable, despicable, and cruel ways. She hurts Elena again and again. Of course, it can certainly be said that she hurts herself more. Elena gets in a few licks too, at one point dumping a box of Lila's journals, painstakingly written over the years and entrusted to Elena's care, into the Arno River. Their breaches can make for tough reading. 

Reviewing this series in the Financial Times, the novelist Claire Messud wrote, "I end up thinking that the people who don't see Ferrante's genius are those who can't face her uncomfortable truths: that women's friendships are as much about hatred as love . . . ." I guess I can't -- or don't -- accept that particular "truth," but I also can't stop reading the novels; I'm just about to start book three, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. Ferrante has created a series that's powerfully compelling. And, in the end, maybe my love/hate relationship with it is fitting. After all, Lila and Elena love and hate each other for over sixty years. Maybe I'm just not Neapolitan enough to get it.

~Ann, Adult Services

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nine Unexpected Craft Books

Crafts can be an amazing way to relieve stress. The creativity, the focus, the repetitive actions -- the entire process can create a calming atmosphere that makes your daily cares seem miles away. Although, these are exactly the same reasons that you might find your typical craft projects unbearably boring. Never to fear! We've gathered a few of our newest (and quirkiest!) craft books together to help you find your crafting inspiration.

DIY, Dammit!: a practical guide to curse-free crafting by Joselyn Hughes
(745.5 HUG) A comedian-turned-crafter, and creator of the popular web series DIY, Dammit!, shares what she's learned the hard way, in a full-color illustrated guide to DIY crafting that includes 35 projects -- including a dog bed, "Cutie Pie" pillows, and a beer poncho -- as well as a helpful list of resources.

The Organic Artist: make your own paint, paper, pigments, prints, and more from nature by Nick Neddo
(702.84 NED) It's time to go back to basics! If you're interested in art, but find that it's becoming an increasingly expensive hobby, The Organic Artist is just the book for you! It encourages us all to return to those days when art was made with all-natural materials, such as charcoal and birch bark. Immersing you in the natural world, The Organic Artist seeks to inspire creativity by connecting you to your organic roots.

Little Felted Dogs: easy projects for making adorable pups by Saori Yamazaki
(745.5924 YAM) Whether they adore their pugs, or wish they had a Pomeranian, dog lovers of all stripes will fall in love with these miniature versions of two dozen beloved breeds. Simple needle-felting instructions require only a small amount of wool and are easy enough for crafters to customize an homage to their own adorable mutts.

Handmade Lampshades: beautiful designs to illuminate your home by Natalia Price-Cabrera
(745.5932 PRI) This book is bursting with inspirational images, tips and ideas. Sixteen contemporary projects are covered in useful step-by-step tutorials.

Animal Heads: trophy heads to crochet by Vanessa Mooncie
(746.434 MOO) A collection of trophy animal head patterns to crochet to add whimsy to any room in your home. Featured are 10 faux taxidermy projects and detailed hand-drawn charts for each, along with a comprehensive techniques section to help you learn all the skills necessary.

Ancient Worlds, Modern Beads: 30 stunning beadwork designs inspired by treasures from ancient civilizations by Mortira vanPelt
(745.5942 VAN) In Ancient Worlds, Modern Beads, ancient inspirations meld with contemporary styles to create stunning jewelry projects for today's beading enthusiast. Author vanPelt offers readers 30 craft projects that are just perfect for both novice and experienced beaders.

The Art of Paper Weaving: 46 Colorful, Dimensional Projects by Anna Schepper
(745.54 SCH) Originating in Germany and refined in nineteenth-century Denmark and Norway, the charming, time-honored craft of paper weaving has been transformed by virtuoso paper crafters Anna and Lene Schepper into a modern art form with an amazing array of creative possibilities.

Subversive Cross Stitch: 50 F*cking Clever Designs for Your Sassy Side by Julie Jackson
(746.443 JAC) Tired of cheerful little bears and angels on frilly bookmarks and samplers that just don't do your sense of self-expression justice? Jackson has just the solution with her in-your-face cross stitch designs.

Knit Your Own Dinosaur by Sally Muir
(746.432 MUI) Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne are back with a new title in the Best in Show series. This time they have turned back time and delved into the fascinating prehistoric world with a collection of new patterns for dinosaurs and other creatures.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Staff Review: UnREAL

Let's face it folks, America is obsessed with reality television, especially dating shows. How else would The Bachelor last 20 seasons and The Bachelorette 12?   Have you ever been glued to your television thinking "these people are crazy, why would they go on a show like this"? I've probably seen a handful of Bachelor and Bachelorette episodes, dating shows are not my cup of tea, but I find UnREAL fascinating.  This show is a a train-wreck, and I just can't look away. 

UnREAL is in its second season on Lifetime.  When I think of Lifetime, I think of feel good programming featuring female leads. There is some angst, some sort of tragedy the main character needs to overcome and it ends with a happily ever after.  The only thing UnREAL has that fits my perception of Lifetime is female lead characters.  

UnREAL is a show about the making of a reality dating show called "Everlasting". Marti Noxon, one of the creators of UnREAL, has said in interviews that this series is based on what really happens behind the scenes of a reality dating show.  Given how dark and twisty UnREAL is, I truly hope that the majority of the show is a gross exageration. On Everlasting, producers are assigned girls (called wifeys) and there are bonuses based on how long the girls last on the show.  What does it mean to produce a girl?  It means manipulation pure and simple.  Create drama, film drama, air drama for all the world to see.  That is what Everlasting is all about. 

The main female characters are Quinn and Rachel.  Quinn is the Executive Producer of Everlasting, this show is her life and she will do anything to make it a success.  Rachel is one of the show producers.  In the first season she returns to Everlasting after having a monumental breakdown on camera during Everlasting's finale.   Rachel is damaged, actually everyone making and starring in Everlasting seems to be damaged. 

A few more notable characters are Chet and Jeremy.  Chet is the creator of Everlasting (or so he would have you believe), he has a substance abuse problem, a wife, and has been having a long-term affair with Quinn.  Jeremy is one of the cameramen and Rachel's ex-boyfriend.  Jeremy starts out as a sympathetic character, but apparently Everlasting sucks the soul right out of you and everyone associated with the show becomes horrible.

To give you an idea about how successful UnREAL has been, after season 1, Lifetime renewed the show for a second and third season.  It is possible the show won't last more than 3 seasons, but I will tune in for as long as it lasts.  Each season is 10 episodes so it has excellent binge-watching potential.

Disclaimer: This show is rated Mature for some serious adult content, including sex and language. It may be on Lifetime, but it is something you would expect to see on HBO or Showtime.

~Amy, Adult Services  

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Staff Review: "The Last One" by Alexandra Oliva

We've all been there. You're making small talk at a social gathering, and a seemingly innocuous question turns into a conversational landmine.

"How's your cat doing? Still tearing up the couch?" you ask.

"No," your acquaintance responds, "she died last week."

Awkward silence descends.

It's common knowledge that you avoid the obviously controversial topics of politics and religion, but it's much easier to slip and ask a personally treacherous question about careers or relationships. Who wants to discuss the complications of their romantic life with near strangers and distant relatives? Add in all the varied social pressure around reproductive choices for women (the clock is ticking!), and you have a real recipe for disaster.

Zoo* is twenty-nine, happily married with an enjoyable career, and she decides to avoid the question of children for just a little bit longer by signing up for a reality TV competition focused on wilderness survival. Think, Survivor, but set in a wilderness area in Pennsylvania instead of somewhere more distant. Zoo's choice to pick adventure (and avoidance) over convention made perfect sense to me as a reader and a woman who's faced similar social pressures in her life.

I did not expect to find such a depth or resonance of character when I checked out The Last One by Alexandra Oliva. I wasn't looking for a reflection on the potential loss of self (or at least freedom) that can come from motherhood. Nope, I wanted to read Oliva's debut novel because I enjoy the escapism of a good survival tale, especially a survival tale in the face of The End of the World As We Know It.

The chapters alternate between a behind the scenes view of the reality competition and Zoo's continued struggle to survive alone in the wilderness. In the first chapter readers learn that a mysterious infection with a very high mortality rate will rapidly spread across the eastern United States (and entire world), leaving Zoo stranded and unaware.

The Last One will be near the top of my Best of list for 2016 for the way that Oliva mixes literary introspection, sharp human observation, and a suspenseful action plot. This is a fully absorbing weekend read that stuck with me even after I finished the last page, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a gripping tale of survival.

~Sarah, Adult Services

*Not her real name. Zoo is the nickname given to her by the TV show's production team, and as a reader you don't learn her real name until much later in the book.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Great Reading Challenge Big Summer Giveaway!!

If you love to read, you may have noticed that the best books take us to places beyond imagination - whether it is a space station in some distant galaxy, a wizard’s lair, a World War II battlefield, or a villa on the coast of Italy – chances are, you have felt transported through space and time to become a seasoned armchair traveler.

For me, this week has been a trip to Hogwarts and beyond in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I am also visiting the fantastical and dangerous world called Erilea in the Sarah J. Maas Throne of Glass series. 

For this giveaway, comment below and tell us where you have armchair “traveled” while reading this summer.

To be eligible to win: You must be 18+ and be registered for the Great Reading Challenge.
Register Here or at the Recommendations Desk at Carnegie-Stout Public Library. Entries for this giveaway will also be accepted at the C-SPL Facebook page, C-SPL Twitter (@Carnegie_Stout  use #24reads2016) and at the Recommendations Desk. One entry per person total. You must be able to pick up your prize in person at the library. Giveaway begins Thursday, August 4th at 12 noon CT and ends Sunday, August 14th at 11:59 PM CT. Winners will be drawn and notified on Monday, August 15th.

There will be 3 winners!


Each winner will receive:

1 East Mill Bakery Gift Certificate for $5
1 Copper Kettle Gift Certificate for $5
1 Dubuque Food Co-Op Gift Card for $5
1 Candle Ready Cakes Coupon for a Buy-One-Get-One Free cupcake