Monday, September 29, 2014

Staff Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. The story line is one of a young princess, Kelsea, who comes of age and then has to begin to rule her kingdom. The difficulty is that she has been in hiding since her infancy, and her dead mother left their kingdom weak and at the mercy of an evil “Red Queen.”

Kelsea must figure out how to gain the respect and loyalty of the people she rules over and face the Red Queen's anger when she decides to not honor the agreement made years earlier by her mother.

Besides the political challenges that Kelsea faces, there is also the challenge of realizing that she has some magic present in her life. She must figure out how to use this magic in positive ways without destroying herself or those around her.

Some of the story was a little awkward to follow, for example, the unexplained catastrophe that caused the previous world to end (comparable to present day Earth) leading the world in the book to be at a level similar to the Middle Ages and yet there are discussion of organ transplants and the development of drugs, such as heroin. Questions of what exactly happened are not answered and I just decided to “go with it.”

The characters are well developed and I was able to envision them all in my mind quite well. It was definitely a book that I rushed home to read each day!

~Jackie, Circulation

Monday, September 22, 2014

Staff Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore was recommended to me and I'm so glad it was! I REALLY, REALLY loved this book! The main character is a young woman named Katsa who KICKS BUTT!

The story revolves around Katsa and her ability or “grace” of fighting. The world is in a Middle Ages setting with kings and kingdoms. Katsa's uncle is one of the Kings and she is used by him to punish those who he feels deserves it. She struggles with this role and behind her uncle's back, begins to perform heroic acts all around the seven kingdoms with the help of her close friends and allies.

As the story progresses she comes across others who also have “graces” and begins to understand that she is not alone in the world. After years of being sheltered and feared by those around her, the reader sees her develop into someone who is less closed off and begins to trust herself and others.

I loved the action in this book as well as the romance. In my opinion, it's well rounded and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy!

~Jackie, Circulation

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Staff Review: Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole's first novel, Letters from Skye, is a charming, character-driven story of love and loss in war time. Like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyLetters from Skye, is an epistolary novel (told in the form of letters between characters). It's easy to compare these two novels, both have interesting characters, are packed with literary references, and feature small island communities. In fact, it's safe to say that if you enjoyed the one, you'll like the other, though Letters from Skye is a bit more scandalous.

The story's action alternates between the First and Second World Wars, which adds to the tension as you are given clues about the characters' past. Margaret has lived with her mother, Elspeth, in Edinburgh for as long as she can remember. Elspeth never speaks of Margaret's father or her youth on the remote island of Skye. Margaret doesn't question her mother, until the day a German bomb reveals a collection of hidden letters from a mysterious American named Davey, and Elspeth disappears.

I downloaded the audiobook version from our OverDrive collection because I'm a sucker for narrators with accents, especially Scottish accents. The audiobook features a full cast, which means that each of the main characters' letters is read in their own voice. Elle Newlands (Elspeth), Katy Townsend (Margaret), and Lincoln Hoppe (David) carry most of the story, and all are very skilled at conveying the emotions of the story.

You can listen to a sample of the audiobook in our catalog.
~Sarah, Adult Services

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Magazines of the Month: Wired and Yoga Journal

The start of the school year is a perfect opportunity to explore new things, whether learning the wonders of multiplication or researching the history of scientific investigation. Carnegie-Stout Public Library is, of course, a great starting point for learning something new. Our September Magazines of the Month display the breadth of our collection, with something to appeal to every interest!

Yoga Journal began publication in 1975, and today has expanded beyond the pages of a magazine to DVDs, books, and conferences across the country. Despite their long history, they devote space each month to provide information to people new to the world of yoga, making this a great resource for beginners and experts alike. You can check out a print copy, download an issue from our Zinio downloadable magazine collection, or check out their website to learn more:

Wired magazine is a published by Condé Nast, and focuses on technology and its effects on the world. Offering insight and coverage of the cutting edge, Wired has something for readers interested in culture, economics, science, and more (the term "crowdsourcing" originated in a Wired article). Check out a copy from the library, or check out their website to learn more:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

If You Liked Rocket Raccoon, Try Airplane Monkey!

Sarah and I were both huge fans of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (you can read Sarah’s review here). We’ve spent the last several months watching the literary awards roll in for Leckie’s singular and inventive story of a former spaceship out for revenge. When the British Science Fiction Association announced the choice for Best Novel of 2013, Ancillary Justice had tied with Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell, a book whose synopsis made “former spaceship out for revenge” sound positively pedestrian. From the back cover:

In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque.’ The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence.

To be honest, that’s the sort of pitch that usually elicits a chuckle but then disappoints me. With so many self-consciously far-fetched ideas in play, it’s no mean feat to keep a book from spinning wildly out of control. But if the British Science Fiction Association said Powell’s Nazi-fighting monkey pilot book was actually one of the two best sci-fi novels of the year, then I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

Once I got into the book, things became even more complicated with the addition of a modern day plot built around alternate history, domineering corporations, transhumanists, and nuclear zeppelins. With all these elements crammed together, I’d have been impressed if Powell simply pulled off a crash he could walk away from. Instead, he soared effortlessly. The characters are fun and believable. The plot is engrossing and cohesive (though really hard to convey to a third party -- just ask my wife). There were moments where it's exactly as silly as a warrior monkey book should be alongside moments of genuine suspense and emotional weight.

My title for this review suggests Ack-Ack Macaque as a good follow-up for Guardians of the Galaxy. Despite the shared theme of cybernetically-enhanced mammals with big guns and aircraft, I don’t know that I’d say one is a good match to the other. Ack-Ack Macaque is fairly dark and spends a lot of time considering questions of humanity in a world of cybernetic implants. Guardians of the Galaxy certainly has some heart and sci-fi chops, but keeps things loose and funny. All that said, both works share an important feature of successful high concept media: despite the superficial absurdity of their premise, they play things straight. They don’t wink to the reader or viewer, trying to make sure we know that they know that a talking monkey is silly. Nor do they veer toward grim and gritty excess in order to grind out any trace of silliness. To some degree, both works succeed because their creators believe they can -- no extra support or justification required.

If, after Ack Ack Macaque, you’ve still not had your fill of uplifted animals, try one of these:
  • Hive Monkey by Gareth Powell -- The sequel to Ack-Ack Macaque. I haven’t read it yet, but it seems an obvious place to turn.
  • We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly -- If you want to read a thrilling and gory action comic that will have you weeping bitterly at the end, I’ve got the book for you!
  • Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines -- For those who like their talking animal comics with a more philosophical bent.
  • Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O’Brien -- A classic and personal favorite, this children’s novel is quieter and lighter on the sci-fi, but no less engrossing.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Staff Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The only reason why I did not read Big Little Lies in one day is because I had to leave for work. Otherwise, I would have finished this 400 page plus book in a single sitting, minus the few times I had to leave the couch for food.

This book that is based upon three women is so fast-paced that it doesn't seem like it should be that long. These women have such diverse backgrounds and are facing different struggles among their families, and when you go back and forth between characters, it feels like you are standing right there with them. The problems faced in the story may seem very familiar to all of us: a spouse that travels for work or may work long hours, a single parent trying to balance work and family, finding friends to be there for you for the day-to-day events. Plus, all of these women have children starting Kindergarten! That’s a major change for everyone.

Another issue that comes up among all of the characters is the topic of bullying. Yes, these children are only five years old, but it does happen and it causes major problems between the adults. Also, don’t forget about the murder that happened at the school fundraiser - that’s another issue all on its own. This is a book that will make you laugh, and also make you cry with characters that you love and hate, but you want the best for everyone involved.

This is the second book by Liane Moriarty that I've read. I’m highly anticipating reading The Husband’s Secret, but if you are looking for one now, pick up What Alice Forgot at the Checkout Desk. It’s the current read for library’s book club and they will be meeting on September 9th. Perhaps you are unsure about the book club, but all of her books have those great Australian words that you can’t help but read out loud to yourself. At least my dogs liked hearing them.

~Andrea, Circulation