Posts Tagged ‘Books About Books’

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Keith H’s Picks

December 31, 2014

They say too many books will spoil the broth, but they fill my life with so much, so much love.  I read primarily science fiction and fantasy, with a dose of comics and science fiction/fantasy for kids and teens.  I’m pretty well rounded.  These are my favorite science fiction and fantasy books that were new to me this year.

MMistbornistborn: the Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Vin is a street urchin who gets wrapped up with a gang attempting to overthrow the imperial Lord Ruler. She lives in a world  divided into  commoners and  allomancers, who are sorcerers able to ingest certain metals to give them a specific power.” Coinshots” can use steel to propel metal through space. “Tineyes” use tin to enhance their senses. “Thugs” use pewter to enhance their strength. Most allomancers can only use a single metal but the most feared are Mistborn, who can use the powers of all metals. Sanderson’s writing became increasingly well-known after he was selected to finish Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series. I prefer Sanderson’s own works, which are still epic fantasy with thorough world-building, but considerably less sprawling. (Trilogies instead of 10+ book epics)  Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first book of the Mistborn trilogy.

The Hundred Thousand KingdomsThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
After Yeine Darr’s mother dies, she is called to the imperial city by her grandfather, the emperor. Her upbringing as a barbarian leaves her outcast in imperial society. She soon finds that she has been chosen to compete for the throne against two cousins who are immeasurably more well-versed in magic and backstabbing than her. To top it off, gods made incarnate are also meddling with the competition. I read this initially because it was compared to Octavia Butler, but Jemison creates her own unique universe in this innovative work. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book in “The Inheritance” trilogy.

The Knife of Never Letting GoKnife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Todd lives on a planet recently settled by humans. Unfortunately, a native virus has killed all of the women and given men the curse of “Noise”, constantly hearing each other’s thoughts. Todd learns a secret which causes him to flee their settlement with his dog, Manchee. Todd can also hear his dog’s thoughts. Manchee’s dog voice has replaced the voice of Dug, the dog from “Up”, in my imagination of what dogs sound like while speaking English . This story is told in a dialect that takes some initial getting used to, but becomes second nature quickly. This brutal, face paced story was published as a teen book but due to some disturbing themes, I wouldn’t give it to anyone under 15.

The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
A historical fiction, immigration story with a fantastic twist: the immigrants are magical beings. Chava is a Golem, a lifelike woman made of clay by an outcast rabbi who practices Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a Jinni, a fire spirit born in the deserts of Syria, recently released from being trapped inside a copper flask. They meet while trying to find their places in the chaos of late 1800s New York City. The details of Jewish and Arab mythology and culture are well-researched and intriguing. Watching Chava and Ahamad become friends and soul mates was a pleasure straight to the end.

Among OthersAmong Others by Jo Walton
A seemingly unreliable narrator describes her life as the daughter of an evil fairy. After fleeing to her father’s home, Morwenna is promptly sent away to a boarding school in the English countryside. As an avid reader, she finds solace by joining a science fiction book club at the local library. Any speculative fiction fan will enjoy the club’s discussions of the great authors of SF:  LeGuin, Delaney, Heinlein, Asimov, et al. This book is like a love letter to SF combined with an awesome to-read bibliography.  Among Others was the winner of the 2012 Nebula and Hugo awards for Best Novel.  Read another review.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

October 1, 2014

The Storied Life of AJ FikryAJ Fikry owns the only bookstore on Alice Island, off the coast of Maine. He knows what he likes to read, and he knows what everyone else should like too. No genre fiction, no vampire novels, and definitely no children’s books. AJ is all too happy to let everyone he meets know his views in no uncertain terms. When Amelia, a rep for Knightley books, comes to the island to show him Knightley’s latest books, AJ shares all of this with her in his typical fashion. Understandably, she ends up leaving the island in tears.

AJ’s personal life is a mess. He drinks too much, he is depressed about the loss of his wife, and he is in danger of losing his bookstore. Then one evening someone leaves something behind in the store that will change his life and attitude forever. As AJ changes, so does his bookstore. The bookstore becomes successful again and a center of the community. Eventually, children’s books become some of his best- selling items. And the next time Amelia comes to show AJ some books, his feelings for her are completely different.

This book is a charming tale about how people are affected by the things they read, and how reading can change people’s relationships. Book lovers everywhere will fall in love with AJ and will want to hang out at his store on Alice Island.

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Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

April 10, 2014

Libriomancer by Jim C. HinesWhat’s not to love in a book about magic wielding librarians versus evil vampires?! I’m a sucker for a good Urban Fantasy novel with plenty of action, and this one delivers. I also enjoy books about books and books that make me laugh out loud. It’s rare that I find a book that hits all three of these, but that’s what Jim C. Hines has done with the first book in his Magic Ex Libris series.

Isaac Vainio works as a librarian and cataloguer at the Copper River Library in Michigan. He catalogs books for the local library, but also for a magical group of libriomancers, known as the Porters. Libriomancers are people who have the magical ability to draw forth objects from inside books. This branch of magic was founded by none other than Johannes Gutenberg, the man who invented the printing press. But what happens when Gutenberg goes missing and vampires start attacking the Porters, leading to an all-out war which could expose all magic to the rest of the world?

Oh, and did I mention that there are as many different types of vampires as there are authors who have written about them? Yup, because in addition to the real vampires that the folklore was based on, there are breeds with different characteristics and abilities who have come from the fictional words of authors from Bram Stoker to Stephenie Meyer. Other magical creatures from books also exist in our world, such as Lena Greenwood, a motorcycle riding dryad, who helps Isaac in his adventures battling vampires and trying to figure out what’s really going on to cause this war. Fans of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series will certainly appreciate Isaac’s witty banter and one-liners, as well as the much larger story of book based magic.

I had heard of Jim Hines from reading about his blog posts addressing the misogynistic depiction of women on Sci-Fi & Fantasy book covers. Jim brought attention to this issue in a rather ingenious and funny manner – he posed in the same outfits and positions that the women on the book covers did. He’s even followed it up with several other “cover poses” including some with other authors and has raised money for charity. I’m so glad I finally picked up one of Jim Hines’ novels and will definitely be reading the sequel, Codex Born.

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Among Others by Jo Walton

August 1, 2013

Like many men, I usually need a fair amount of action in a story to get me hooked and to really enjoy it. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate character development and ideas, I do. But, that’s why I’ve had a hard time trying to describe this Hugo & Nebula Award winning novel and explain what I really liked about it. The story is that of Morwenna (Mori) Phelps, a 15-year-old girl who ran away from her more-than-half-mad mother in Wales and is now attending boarding school in England thanks to her estranged father’s family. There’s also magic, faeries, libraries, and books – oh so many wonderful science fiction & fantasy books!

The novel unfolds in diary form from Mori’s perspective and is compellingly readable as we slowly learn more about Mori’s past, what happened to her mother and sister, and why she’s now on her own at a boarding school in a foreign country. Jo Walton puts a unique spin on the idea of a magical boarding school in that the school Mori attends is very ordinary, but Mori herself knows just a bit of magic. She is able to dabble enough to bring herself to the attention of the faeries from her dark and mysterious past. Meanwhile, she also slowly gets to know her father, discovers a shared love of reading sci-fi & fantasy, and even joins an SF book club at the local public library in town. In telling this wonderful story, Walton has also managed to convey her love for golden age 20th century speculative fiction and the authors of the genre.

If you liked other books that are essentially love letters to books and geek culture (see Ready Player One, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and Redshirts), you’ll want to add Among Others to your “”to read”” list. And if you enjoy reading sci-fi and fantasy books, then you’ll want to be sure to have pen & paper handy to jot down the dozens of titles and authors that Mori, her father, and her Sci-Fi book club share with each other – and with us, the lucky readers.

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Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

July 18, 2013

bookcover.phpThis is not a review, it’s a love letter.

I adore this book. Why? It has a likeable narrator in Clay Jannon, a mysterious bookshop, romance, puzzles, secret societies, a San Francisco locale (with a side trip to New York), and a sly sense of humor. The theme of Old Knowledge (books) vs. Internet knowledge gives the author the chance to slip in scenes at Google, a museum dedicated to knitting overrun by first graders, information about fonts, a character who made his fortune creating realistic 3-D versions of breasts, and a warehouse of artifacts that seems a cross between what I imagine Amazon’s warehouses to be and the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The theme also allowed for scenes that reminded me of other books and movies, from Lord of the Rings, Canticle for Leibowitz, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Shadow of the Wind, and, strangely enough, O Brother Where Art Thou.

There are many good quotes for book lovers in this story. My favorite:

“Some of them are working very hard indeed. ‘What are they doing?’ ‘My boy!’ he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious. ‘They are reading!”

This title was one of the winners of the 2013 Alex Award, given every year by the American Library Association to “ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”

This book is fun. (Did I mention the cover of the hardback edition glows in the dark?). It’s the kind of book that made a reader of me, the kind of book that keeps me reading, the kind of book I write blog posts about because I want to share the joy.

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My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

May 3, 2013

My Reading Life is Pat Conroy’s love song to the books that made him the writer he is today.  It is also a love song to the people who introduced him to these books—his mother, his high school English teacher, the irascible owner of his favorite book shop, along with countless friends with whom he has shared books and talked about books.

The vignettes are sometimes poignant, sometimes funny.  One of my favorites is the story of how he was ousted from an Adrienne Rich poetry reading at his first ever writers’ conference.  He had gone to get coffee for his group of friends, and when he returned, carefully balancing the coffee cups, he didn’t notice he was the only male in the audience until they started hissing at him.

He tells other stories about the experiences that made him a writer—for example, he feels a desperate need to portray the family abuse he was forced to hush up as a child—alternating with chapters on the books that formed him and are still among his favorites today, such as War and Peace, Gone with the Wind, and Look Homeward, Angel.

Never having read Conroy before, I was amazed at his passionate prose.  He has an endearing way of launching into a high-flown sentence, then adding a self-deprecating little shrug at the end.  For example, he writes poignantly about his lonely boyhood as the child of a military family and how books provided his only solace:  “Before I’d ever asked a girl out, I had fallen in love with Anna Karenina, taken Isabel Archer to high tea at the Grand Hotel in Rome, delivered passionate speeches to Juliet beneath her balcony, abandoned Dido in Carthage, made love to Lara in Zhivago’s Russia, walked beside Lady Brett Ashley in Paris, danced with Madame Bovary—I could form a sweet-smelling corps de ballet composed of the women I have loved in books.”  I must say he made me want to read the books he praised.  Several of his favorites are favorites of mine as well, and I found myself saying, “Yes, yes!” as he praised so eloquently books that have been formative in my own life, such as James Dickey’s Deliverance, which Conroy called “a palace of light for a white-water river of words.”

To anyone who loves books, I say, “Read this one.”  Even if his tastes are different from yours, Conroy’s passion for the written word will take you by storm and leave you remembering why you love to read.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2012: Dan B.’s Picks

December 13, 2012

Now that we’ve shared some of our favorite new books from 2012, we’ll also tell you about some of our favorite “New to Us” (older) books that we each discovered this year. Again, different library staff will take turns blogging about 5 of our favorite “New to Us” books from this year. Here are mine:

Somewhere in Heaven by Christopher Andersen
This is the fascinating story of Christopher and Dana Reeve’s lives in front of, and away from, the cameras. Chris, a graduate of Julliard and a huge star after Superman, returned to Williamstown, MA  each summer for their theater festival, and it was there that he met Dana, a singer and actress, who became the love of his life. The story continues with their touching courtship, eventual marriage, blending families, and Chris’ horrible paralyzing accident. Through it all, Dana’s devotion to Chris never wavered for an instant, and she helped him with his physical therapy, their profuse charity work, and raising their son. Read my full review.

Dauntless by Jack Campbell
John Geary was a soldier in the first battle of a war that has been raging for the last century. He’s also the sole survivor who held off the Syndicate forces and escaped into a hibernation pod that was just now rescued from oblivion by the flagship of the Alliance fleet. Now “Black Jack” Geary, a man returned from the dead who became a legendary hero, must find a way to lead the Alliance after they lost the latest battle very badly. He must also deal with the culture shock of being thrown a century into the future. Read my full review.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Eighteen year old Wade Watts escapes his life in this dystopian future by plugging into the OASIS, a virtual world where anyone can be anything – given enough credits. The reclusive inventor of OASIS, James Halliday, has died and left a video will in which he states that whoever can solve his 1980’s themed riddles to find three keys and unlock three hidden gates to find his “easter egg” will gain his fortune and control of OASIS. Wade is one of millions of hunters looking for the egg, including several friends, but so is the evil mega-corporation IOI – and they’re using every cheat code they can. Read my full review.

Among Others by Jo Walton
I usually need a lot of action in a story to get me hooked and to really enjoy it. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate character development and ideas. But, that’s why I’ve had a hard time trying to describe this Hugo & Nebula Award winning novel and explain why I really liked it. It’s about Mori Phelps, a 15-year-old girl who ran away from her insane mother in Wales and is now in boarding school in England thanks to her estranged father’s family. There’s also magic, faeries, libraries, and books – oh so many wonderful science fiction & fantasy books!

Blackout & All Clear by Connie Willis
These two novels form one award winning story from Willis. Time traveling historians from Oxford suddenly have their schedules altered and trips to the past cancelled for no known reason. Three such travelers, Michael, Polly and Merope, mysteriously become trapped in the past while observing the events of World War II. Willis does a fabulous job of putting the reader in the midst of history and letting us know what daily life was really like for Londoners during the Blitz, or the Dover area fishermen during the Battle of Dunkirk. A wonderful mix of time travel and history with plenty of suspense.

Best New Books of 2012: Janet L.’s Picks

December 10, 2012

What do a clerk in a 24-hour bookstore, a snake-handling faith healer, a man walking 500 miles to visit a sick friend, a hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail and Richard Burton have in common? (And it doesn’t involve marrying Elizabeth Taylor.) Rather, they all figure somehow in my five favorite books of 2012. My reading tastes are eclectic, but I read more literary fiction and mysteries than anything else. Language, atmosphere, setting, and believable characters are all important to me.  — Janet L.

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Marshall, North Carolina, has a new church, the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following. It’s led by a charismatic preacher, Carson Chambliss, a man with a talent for snake handling. Stump Hall, a young autistic boy, witnesses something at the church that leads to tragedy. Sheriff Clem Barefield is determined to find out what happened, no matter what the consequences. This is Cash’s debut novel and it’s a beauty; gorgeous writing, believable characters and gothic overtones. Recommended for readers of Ron Rash, John Hart and Tom Franklin.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry is surprised to receive a letter from Queenie Hennessey, who is seriously ill and has written to say goodbye. They were friends once, but parted in strained circumstances. Mild mannered Harold is so shocked by this news he behaves spontaneously and begins a 500 mile journey by foot to say goodbye to Queenie, convinced she will not die as long as he is walking. Recommended for readers of Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg and Anna Quindlen.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I adored this book. It has a likeable narrator, Clay Jannon, who clerks in a mysterious bookshop run by the fascinating Mr. Penumbra. The theme of Old Knowledge (books) vs. Internet knowledge allows the author to slip in scenes at Google, a museum dedicated to knitting overrun by children, arcane information about fonts, and a computer whiz who made a fortune creating realistic 3-D versions of breasts. This book is fun. It’s the kind of book that made a reader of me, the kind of book that keeps me reading, the kind of book I can’t wait to tell people about. Recommended for readers of Jasper Fforde and Terry Pratchett.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Hunched under a too heavy backpack quickly nicknamed Monster, Cheryl Strayed begins a real life journey along the Pacific Crest Trail that is spiritual as well as physical. Her plans for her hike are soon revealed as inadequate (who knew water weighed so much?) and she must improvise as she goes along—much as we all have to adjust in life when our best laid plans go awry. I found Strayed’s account of her hike riveting, profound, hilarious and suspenseful. Recommended for readers of Jeannette Walls, Jon Krakauer and Dave Eggers.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
It’s 1962 and Pasquale Tursi, owner of the Hotel Adequate View in Porto Vergogna, Italy, is immediately smitten by Dee Moray, an American starlet who arrives at his hotel fresh from the set of the movie Cleopatra. Their story (with a supporting appearance from Richard Burton) connects to present day Hollywood and the career of Claire, assistant to legendary producer Michael Deane. Walter creates a truly romantic story that underscores his theme of how life and art intersect.

The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde

November 28, 2012

I don’t usually write about sequels in a series, but the new Thursday Next novel is the best in the series since The Eyre Affair, so I just had to write to let you know how great this book is. Jasper Fforde‘s writing style is such that he fills in enough for a new reader to be able to enjoy the story and get some of Thursday’s background. Of course, you’ll likely get more out it if you’ve read the others, but I think readers could jump in and start with this newest one, and then go back and read the others.

Thursday Next lives in an alternate universe that resembles ours, but with a few significant differences. Time travel is routine, cheese is an illegal substance, and books & literature are taken very, very seriously. Thursday is a literary detective who was semi-retired when the government disbanded SpecOps, a group of highly specialized police forces. But now they are reversing their decision and reinstating the various SpecOps agencies. Thursday is invited to meet with her old boss and thinks she’s about to be offered the job of head of Literary Detection, but instead she’s offered the cushy job of Chief Librarian for the town.

The new job may sound cushy indeed, especially when one considers that libraries in this world have budgets large enough for an employee spa, an executive chef, and armed security to hunt down overdue books, but Thursday’s life is anything but. Aside from having to learn the ins and outs of librarianship, she also has to deal with the evil mega-corporation Goliath trying to replace her with automatons, her son’s discovery that he will murder someone this week in his letter of destiny, and that same day Swindon is scheduled for a smiting by the Almighty. The book covers Thursday’s life over the course of one incredibly busy week, and we get to know her family better than we have before. Will Thursday be able to defeat Goliath’s attempts to replace her with a creation of their own? Can she help Swindon avoid being smited?

Bibliophiles and library lovers will enjoy this book with Fforde’s British wit and obvious love of books. A couple of quotes from this book really made me smile, including this one from Thursday’s first day on her new job, “Do I have to talk to insane people?” “You’re a librarian now. I’m afraid it’s mandatory.” One that is less humorous, but more touching, is the author’s dedication: “To all the librarians who have ever been, ever will be, are now, this book is respectfully dedicated.”

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The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs

May 2, 2012

When I was bored as a kid my parents would give me a letter from the World Book to read. I was fascinated by the amount of stuff that you could find out, especially really weird stuff, and could waste several hours looking through the books. So when this book arrived, I knew I would have to read it.

A. J. Jacobs decides that the best way to make him feel smarter around his family would be to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from start to finish. Part of his motivation is to outdo his father who started to read it but never made it past the A’s. Of course, most of his friends and family don’t believe he will finish it, but this only adds to his determination. As he reads, he finds out many things both trivial and important. Part of the fun in the book is the sheer randomness of the topics he is reading about, and how he can relate it to what is happening in his life. Much of what he reads is unrelated to anything at all, though. And the stranger, more obscure, or more morbid the fact is, the more Jacobs is interested in it.

The author also becomes interested in how knowledge, facts, and learning relate to intelligence. He meets with professors to discuss methods and theories of education. He also becomes engrossed in the cross word puzzle world, joins Mensa, and competes on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. One of the most important things Jacobs learns as he progresses is how annoying inserting unwanted facts can be. Friends and family start to avoid him at parties, and the author starts to notice their eyes glazing over as he wanders off topic. Finally, his wife begins to fine him a dollar for each time his trivia is unrelated to the topic they are discussing. Jacobs organizes his book from A to Z (Aa – Zywiec) so you can follow him through the set as well as the year. Readers of all ages will enjoy this book and may even learn a thing or two. It’s kind of sad to know that the habit of picking up the encyclopedia and browsing is going away, though. This year the Encyclopedia Britannica announced they would no longer be putting out their printed volumes. They will only be available online in the future. Luckily, you can access this resource through the library’s Research page, by clicking on OneSearch.

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.

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