Surprise! This Book Just Transformed Into My Worst Fear

I love Halloween because it’s the one time of year wearing a costume is socially acceptable. It’s the time you can be someone or something you’re not. You can taste what it’s like to be a monster, or your favorite fictional character, or a concept.

zombinatorLots of people in Pittsburgh, pretty much everyone apparently, wants to “taste” what it’s like to be a zombie—there are zombie walks, massive humans vs. zombies games on college campuses, zombie literature, a zombie store, and new zombie movies all the time.

Before I go any further, let me say this: I don’t scare easily.

Spiders? I put them outside so they can eat annoying bugs. Snakes? I had a pet snake when I was a kid, and the only reason I don’t have one now is because my dogs would probably try to eat it. Bats? I squeal with delight when I see one because I think they are super adorable (and they eat half their body weight in insects per night!). Insects? As long as they aren’t trying to bite me, dive bomb me, or fly into my mouth or ear, I don’t bother with them. And I love the ones that help my garden, like bees and lady bugs.

I do have one mortal fear, though: Zombies.

That’s right. I think bats are the cutest things ever, snakes make great pets, and spiders are my friendly household helpers, and yet I’m Terrified—with a capital T—of zombies.

It’s the idea that a monster could scratch you ever-so-slightly and yet still infect you with a disease that turns you into a mindless husk of a body with cannibalistic leanings. It’s the slow and relentless onslaught. The overwhelming numbers. That once they start coming, you can fight, but humanity’s demise is inevitable.

Walking Dead Book OneOnce, I tried reading The Walking Dead, and got ten pages in before I slammed the book shut. “Nope. No way. Not going to happen,” I told the book.

Miniature WifeLately, I’ve been stumbling onto zombie stories everywhere. This past weekend, I was reading The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales, and BAM, surprise zombie story! I had to read it, because I have this compulsion about finishing books, and aside from the surprise zombies, I really enjoyed the delightful weirdness of the collection.

That night, I made my husband hold my hand after we turned out the lights, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the zombies and their gray teeth and slurping sounds.

bprdhellonearthoneLast month, I was reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, and BAM, zombies! I’ve encountered the traditional slow-moving raised-from-the-dead zombies in Hellboy before (and those don’t really scare me), but these were mindless mutated half-animal creatures that got turned into zombies from breathing a gas released from a gigantic monster. UBER CREEPY.

weliveinwaterEven Jess Walter’s seemingly normal collection about class and race issues, We Live in Water, contains a surprise zombie story. It’s not a typical zombie story—people are turned by taking a recreational drug that changes their brain chemistry—but it’s still a zombie story.

stitchedIf you look at the cover of Stitched by Garth Ennis, a writer I greatly enjoy, it looks like a war comic with some scary reaper dudes. NOPE. It’s about voodoo zombies who can’t be killed. I read this one anyway, but man did it freak me out.

All these zombie stories act kind of like zombies themselves. You think you’re safe and comfortable and then all of a sudden your best friend has become a flesh-eating monster, and you have to fight for your life. I think I’m safe and comfortable reading fun quirky short stories about miniaturized wives or class issues in a decaying city, and then all of a sudden I’m reading a story about zombies and I’m terrified.

I guess this is one of the risks of being a science fiction and fantasy reader in the zombie-obsessed 21st century. It makes a kind of sense—lots of people believe we’re all turning into zombies because of too much work, because we listen to the same talking heads and don’t think for ourselves, because there is always a new virus that does scary, scary things to the human body.

So I’m not going to stop reading these types of stories, even though they make me want to hide under the covers like a five-year-old afraid of the monster in the closet.

How about you? Do you love zombies? Hate them? What’s your favorite zombie story?

-Kelly

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That Dreaded Time of Year…

When someone tells me “you’re from Pittsburgh, you should be used to the winter by now” I cringe.  I hate cold weather.  I hate snow.  I hate short days, little sunshine, trees with no leaves, tough morning commutes, long sleeves, coats, and being cooped up.  I always have.  I always will, there’s no getting used to it.  I’ve never been a fan of fall either, it just means things are dying and the winter is coming.  Although self-diagnosed, I’d venture to say that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This year I’m going to try to embrace the season, or at least the season’s cooking, indoor activities, and maybe even some outdoor activities too.

Not that it’s all I like about summer, but summer food certainly has helped sway my preference towards that season.  Fresh tomatoes, bbq, watermelon, salads, plums, peaches, apricots, basil, cilantro, and ice cream all have very special places in my heart.  Fall and winter flavors, although I certainly enjoy them, to me, don’t equal summer. I’m not one of those people who can’t wait for pumpkin spice to come back.  This year, though, I’m going to give it a go and embrace the fall and winters, and the flavors they bring.  I’ve already made pumpkin pancakes, although this hardly counts as using seasonal ingredients because the pumpkin I used came from a can.  This is just the beginning though.

My garden does have fall veggies that I planted in August (many of the seeds I got from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Main’s First Floor seed bank).  I didn’t plant pumpkin or squash, but I have beans, leeks, green onions, lettuce, celery, and several herbs.  I also have a rosemary plant that I brought inside for the winter, as rosemary has the same climate preferences as me.  I’ll also need to buy many of the fall flavors and ingredients from the grocery store (or farm, as we’ll be visiting local farms this fall, more on that later).   But where do I start with putting fall and winter ingredients together in a fall and winter kind of way?  Where do I start with anything I want to do, with books from the library of course!

My selections to start with:

Autumn nights, winter mornings : a collection of cold weather comfort foods - Barbara Scott-Goodman

Winter food : seasonal recipes for the colder months   Jill Norman

The Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane Morgan

Of course part of embracing the fall and winter will be enjoying the traditional celebration foods of those months, and the celebrations themselves.  Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, cookies, and all of the casseroles that various family members prepare this time of year are excellent, not to mention the celebrations that they’re served at.  That’s another element of embracing the season, to focus on all of the festivities and traditions that happen this time of year.  I love any excuse to spend time with my family, which luckily for me live nearby.  Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, and New Years are all holidays that we celebrate together.  My oldest daughter’s birthday is in November too.  There are plenty of reasons to be around friends and family.  But what about going to the dreaded outdoors in the cold, the rain, the snow, the wind?

Again, I’m going to try to be at one with even that aspect of these seasons.  Luckily, here in Pittsburgh there are lots of great farms with fall festivals.  There are 2 that are within a 15 minute drive of our house.  We’ll be doing the pumpkin patch, hayrides, and buying apples and apple cider (fresh apples are an excellent part of the fall). Here is a list of local fall festivals to enjoy!

Now, being outdoors in the fall is one thing, but in the winter is quite another.  But, then again, I do have 2 daughters who will be happy to get out and play in the snow.  My goal is to take them out to play in the snow a bit more this year than last year.  I’m going to be realistic, it will be cold and uncomfortable, but seeing their faces as they make snowmen or throw snowballs should make up for the temperature.  Plus we’ll get to enjoy hot soup, tea, chocolate, and coffee when we come inside.  Well, okay, the coffee is for me, not the kids, but you get the idea.  We’ll be building some fun family traditions and memories.

While I read all year round, winter is a great time to settle in with your preferred warm beverage and enjoy a good book.  I already have one holiday favorite, I’d love to learn about some new ones,seeing that I’m trying to change my attitude about this time of year.  Please share some of your favorite seasonal or holiday books, and I’ll be sure to check them out!

I’m also choosing seasonal and holiday books for my children, in an effort to help them better enjoy the festive season.  Making seasonal and holiday reading a part of their holiday tradition will certainly make this time of year more special for them!  Please visit your local Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh location where the children’s staff will be more than happy to recommend some great seasonal, age appropriate books for your kids!

You know what, with all this stuff, the fall and winter actually seem like something to look forward to.  Spending time with loved ones, different flavors and ingredients, and some great activities and traditions!  I don’t know, it might actually be downright tolerable.  Cheers!

-Scott M.

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Feeling a Bit Baltimore

I love finding books by accident. I’ve actually written about it on here before.

The particular book that I stumbled onto this time, however, I found in a great little “take-a-book-leave-a-book-mail-it-back” library. All the books have return address stickers on the back! Finding stuff like that brings me great joy.

I kind of absentmindedly picked up a mystery novel, and much to my surprise, I plowed through it quite quickly (I’ve mentioned before, I am a shockingly slow reader). That mystery novel was the excellent Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman. I am a strong believer that finding books, movies, and music that are “better than they have to be” is one of the great joys in life. I struck pay dirt with this book.

556396-Baltimore_Blues_Baltimore

It’s a mystery, and part of a series (And no, before you ask, it’s NOT a cozy this time. I love the cozy mystery – no shame! – but this is much more gritty). The thing about Lippman’s writing is that she knows how to not only tell a good story and move the plot along with good pacing, but she includes literary allusion in the right proportion, and her turns of phrase are interesting and eye-catching.

Tess Monaghan is a human character with shortcomings and flaws, but she’s also interesting and relatable. She has some real moments of self-discovery in this novel that one might not expect. Again, she’s “being better than she has to be.”

I think my favorite part of this book, however, has to be Lippman’s treatment of Baltimore. She writes like someone who truly loves a place, warts and all. She is wonderfully descriptive and engaging without glossing over the really seedy, rough bits. Lippman was born in Georgia, but was raised in Baltimore, and moved back to that city after attending University. She worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun for 12 years and looks at the city through a lens that only that kind of history with a place can allow. And, as a fantastic aside, Lippman and her husband (the amazing writer David Simon) were married on the roof of their building in a ceremony by John Waters. Yes, THE John Waters. I mean, how much more Bawlmer can ya get, hon?

A friend of mine once said that the old TV show The Streets of San Francisco was great because “the city was a character.” I think Lippman does the same with Baltimore in the Tess Monaghan books. Having read the first one, I’m eager to get into others. After all, besides keeping up with her budding career as a private investigator, I want to know how her relationship with Crow develops!

Eric (who is currently trying to balance hockey season with the rest of life, including playing dek hockey, and reading as much Tess Monaghan as he can find)

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Angels and Angel Food Cake

Today is National Angel Food Cake day. It’s true. In honor of this day, I decided to dedicate my post to books that have angel food cake in them…or are about them…or are about angels because there are actually not A LOT of books about angel food cake.Nancy Willard Cover

The first book is The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake by Nancy Willard, because it has angels AND angel food cake. All her mom wants is a cake that her grandmother made for her birthday. The little girl thinks that would be easy enough, but soon discovers that the recipe is more difficult to find and the cake is more complicated to make than she originally thought. Throughout the work, she meets three angels who help her giver her mother exactly what she wants.

hidden

Hidden, by Marianne Curley, is a book about a hidden angel. Ebony knows she has been sheltered for most of her life. She is also aware that she is beginning to change. She is actually beginning to glow. Ebony is about to find out about her past, and why she has been sheltered for so long, because heaven wants its angel back and will fight anyone to get her.

Cooking Light

What kind of post would this be if I didn’t put a cookbook in it? Cooking Light is my secret (well not anymore) favorite cookbook. Mainly because it provides really good recipes that are healthier. I think they have some non-Angelic cakes in the book that are extremely delicious. So pick it up if you like the opportunity to have delicious food with less calories.

I hope you enjoy a piece of cake along with a good book!

-Abbey

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Arrow Season Two Hits Another Bullseye

arrowblu2-cover A while back I gushed about Arrow season one. Now I am back to deliver more of the same plaudits for season two!

It’s often easier to create a sensational first season of a television show than it is to build on that success with a solid second one. Just ask the creators of the late lamented Heroes. Great first season. All downhill from there. Arrow producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg faced just such a challenge going into season two of the CW’s surprising hit superhero show. To recap, lead character and bon vivant Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) spends five years on a deserted island, only to return a changed man. Haunted, toughened, and bearing enough secrets to choke the NSA, Oliver begins a war on Starling City’s corrupt power elite.

That war changes him. He gains allies and enemies. Clever flashback sequences to his life on the island slowly reveal how he survived and changed into the expert fighter and archer he is now. Oliver wears a hood to hide his identity and uses brutal methods to accomplish his goals. He kills for the cause of justice, but ultimately fails to prevent a calamity that costs his city dearly. The end of season one left him mourning the loss of one of his dearest friends and questioning his methods and his mission.

Staunch Arrow allies John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) open season two by traveling back to the mysterious island where it all started. Oliver has exiled himself there to lick his wounds and heal his soul. Convincing him he is still needed in Starling City, the trio returns home to face a raft of new threats, and a deadly menace from the Arrow’s past. Season two explores the identity of Oliver’s alter-ego and his progression from “the Vigilante,” to the “the Hood,” to “the Arrow” by the first few episodes. We see this progression most starkly through the eyes of tough cop Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne). Season one is all about him hating the Vigilante or the Hood. Just as the island changed Oliver, the disastrous events in Starling City change Lance. The Arrow’s many shifting relationships create lots of dramatic tension.

Season two features even more of the DC Universe characters fans will recognize and love. At the risk of revealing too much, we get to see a lot more of Deadshot and a certain “Dirty-Dozen” style task force. Some other familiar faces return, and plenty of new ones emerge. It delivers on the promise shown in season one, and ratchets the action and drama up yet another notch on the salmon ladder. Of course now season three will have even more to live up to, and I will return next year to blog about it!

–Scott P.

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Enter the Secret World of Cirque

Readers tend to have good imaginations.

For example, you may have imagined that there is more to the life of the Library than meets the daylight eye. You have, quite possibly, entertained fantasies of secret rituals and mysterious adventures taking place after the closing chimes have rung and the doors are bolted fast. Perhaps you have daydreamed about the inner worlds of books leaping free of their pages, magicians and their companions (both sweet and sinister) roaming through the stacks, wild and playful, making merry mischief underneath the stars while the city’s mundane citizens sleep.

For one night, and one night only, all of those possibilities will come true. And you can be a part of it! But only if you have a ticket.

Click through to purchase your tickets!

Click through to purchase your tickets!

Experience Cirque

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland) 

Friday, October 17 From 7 to 10 pm

This dreamy iteration of our popular after-hours event series ushers you into a world where the lines between reality and fiction blur. Enjoy enchanting performances by Belles Lignes Contortion, The Wreckids, Guy and Zoob, and Mr. A.H. Hastings. Refresh yourself throughout the journey with creative cocktails and sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, or fortify yourself with beer and wine as you face dazzling challenges which include:

  • Glimpses into the future with tarot readings and spirit drawings.
  • Winding your way through a shadowy maze in the Library stacks.
  • Mask making, airbrush tattoos and elegant face art.

Early Bird Ticket Special: $45 per person until October 13
$55 from October 14 until we sell out!
Hors d’oeuvres and three (3) drink tickets included in the ticket price.

Want to bring some of the magic home with you? Our silent auction is your chance to acquire classic card catalogs and other refurbished library furniture, lovingly restored by Team Laminates and Workshop Pgh. Raffle tickets will also be available for other mystical treasures and cunning prizes–visit the auction page for full details.

Great treasure and magical adventures await in the shadowy world of the after-dark Library. Will we see you there?

cirque

–Leigh Anne

Note: After Hours @ the Library supports the day-to-day operations of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. For tax purposes, the fair market value of the refreshments and entertainment for the event is $25. The tax-deductible portion of each ticket is the cost of the ticket, less $25.

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A Teen Space of Their Own

CLP - East Liberty

Pictured in late-September 2014, the new Teen space at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – East Liberty is seen undergoing the final construction and installation phases. Made possible through the generosity of the Cindy and Murry Gerber Foundation and the input of teens, the new space will give teens a space of their own to hang out, be creative, explore The Labs equipment, read and relax with friends while visiting Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – East Liberty.

Next week, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will join many other libraries around the country in celebrating Teen Read Week, a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually during the third week of October. Its purpose is to encourage teens to be regular readers and library users.

The 2014 theme, Turn Dreams into Reality @ Your Library, is especially appropriate for the teens and staff at CLP-East Liberty because on Saturday, October 18, a much-awaited dream of a new Teen space will become a reality. The new Teen space is a place to hang out, be creative, explore The Labs equipment, read and relax.

If you’re local and you’ve visited CLP-East Liberty, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the construction. Perhaps you’ve wondered what’s going on. Now’s your chance to get a first look.

On Saturday, October 18, 2014, from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, all are invited to join community leaders and CLP staff, teens and volunteers for a Grand Opening of the Teen Space at CLP-East Liberty (130 S. Whitfield Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15206).  We’ll showcase the new space, provide an overview of all the Teen programs the Library has to offer, and give attendees an opportunity to name the new space. Food will be provided and – speaking of newly-monikered things, Eleventh Stack has heard rumors that, depending on his reading schedule, Andrew Card-negie himself may make an appearance at the party.
We hope to see you there!
Andrew Card-negie

Andrew Card-negie, Official Mascot of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Event Details at a Glance:
Teen Space Grand Opening
Saturday, October 18, 2014
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Join us for this event showcasing the brand new space and all the programs the library has to offer! Food will be provided.
Location:
East Liberty
130 S. Whitfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15206Contact:
East Liberty
412.363.8232
eastliberty@carnegielibrary.org

~ Melissa F.

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