The Lunar Chronicles: A YA Fantasy Series Worth Reading

bookcoverI had first heard about Marissa Meyer’s series through a former colleague. My colleague said to me (and this is actually true) that Meyer got her start through a writing contest. I think that it’s great that Meyer went from winning a writing contest to being a best-selling author.

This series is what I’d call fairy tales with a science fiction twist. The first book, Cinder, is about a girl named Cinder who is what I’d technically call a mechanic even though she doesn’t fix cars—she’s a cyborg. She ends up doing work for Kai, the prince of New Beijing. She tries to warn him about the evil plan from the series’ main villain Lunar Queen Levana’s to start a war with Earth. Cinder, whether she wants to admit it or not, ends up developing feelings for Prince Kai in the process, despite her not telling Kai that she’s a cyborg.

bookcover (1)In the second book, Scarlet, the title character is on a journey to find her grandmother when she crosses paths with Cinder, who’s trying to escape from prison.

bookcover (2)In the third novel, Cress, Cinder and her crew need help from Cress, an expert hacker working for the bad guys against her own will. Cinder wants Cress to help her try to stop something catastrophic from occurring. I won’t give you any spoilers—just know that it’s not good.

What I like about this series is that even though each book centers around a different character, they’re all connected. The next book in the series, Winter, comes out on bookcover (3)November 10th. In the meantime all of the previous novels are available in our catalog as well as Fairest, which is Meyer’s prequel novel about Queen Levana.

Happy reading!



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Watching In The Wake Of Spectre

Better than my birthday! More exciting than Christmas! Spectre hits U.S. theaters today! This latest installment in the James Bond 007 series could very well mark Daniel Craig’s last turn in the lead role, and by all accounts, it’s an explosive swan song. I’ll be seeing the movie today, and I am thinking multiple viewings will be in order for this one.

I thought it might be fun to list a number of thematically related movies to watch either before, or after, you catch Spectre. Of course, re-watching Mr. Craig’s first three Bond epics should be a must to get yourself tuned up for this one. The slick scripts, gritty energy and amazing action in Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall make Mr. Craig my favorite Bond of all time. Beyond Bond, what else might we watch to scratch that kick-butt action itch?

The Long Kiss Goodnight — This 1997 action romp features Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson. Ms. Davis leads as an amnesiac assassin who suddenly remembers she’s a stone-cold killer. Starting the film as a small town schoolteacher, she undergoes a startling transformation when she realizes a lot of dangerous men are trying to kill her. This one holds up well.

The Bourne Identity — Matt Damon and Franka Potente star in this super-slick adaptation of the Robert Ludlum novel of the same name. Amnesia again figures into the plot, as Mr. Damon plays a U.S. government black ops agent gone rogue. The more he learns about himself, the less he likes! This film also sports a brilliant soundtrack by Moby.

Shoot ‘Em Up — This clever deconstruction of the action film genre features Clive Owen and the luminous Monica Belluci (also one of the Bond girls in Spectre). Mr. Owen plays a gun-toting killer with a heart of gold in this underrated flick that features dizzying action sequences. It’s a ballet of violence no self-respecting fan of the genre should miss.

The Equalizer — Denzel Washington plays McCall, a shadowy ex-government type who now lives a quiet life. When the people he cares about become victims, McCall balances the scales with extreme prejudice. Mr. Washington brilliantly captures the mood and movements of this tragically haunted and fundamentally badass character.

This little list offers just a sample of the awesome action fare you can find in our extensive online catalog. Enjoy!

–Scott P.



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I find it absolutely hilarious that the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh shares its birthday with V for Vendetta day (a/k/a Guy Fawkes day for those of you who don’t speak geek). For starters, V. and Carnegie would not have liked each other at all. Also, V. was concerned about helping the common man by blowing up powerful institutions; Carnegie, for his part, was often unkind to ordinary folks, but was still interested in building institutions for them. The irony is more than a little palpable.

So, in addition to everything else you need to remember today, take note that Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh turns 120 years old this November 5th. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed; much has changed, but many things have remained the same. Governor Daniel Hartman Hastings, one of the speakers at the Library’s 1895 dedication ceremony, had this to say of the enterprise:

The public library is equally a public necessity and a public blessing. Its unfolding and spreading influence for good is beyond calculation. This community already thrills in anticipation of the blossoming and the ripening fruit to come from the tree this day planted.

Here is a temple of enduring stone which will stand through the ages, whose grand and graceful proportions will be a constant source of pleasure to the beholder. Here, Music will charm the ear and gladden the soul. Here, Art will welcome and inspire her devotees. Here, Literature will sit upon her throne and the children of men will gather wisdom at her feet. Here are assembled the representatives of the greatest industrial community in the land to receive the trust committed to their keeping by a benefactor and a philanthropist.

Today the temple of stone is still, indeed, standing*. She’s had a bit of work done, but is all the better for it. Music is still here, and still charming. Art remains welcoming. Literature has expanded her kingdom by leaps and bounds, in ways Carnegie himself couldn’t have predicted. And the Library has consistently—most recently through its current strategic plan—proved itself both a blessing and a necessity to the Pittsburgh region. One of the city’s biggest, best fruit baskets, so to speak.

Nothing there anyone could complain about. Not even V.

Super Science @ CLP - Squirrel Hill, circa 2012 - photographer unknown. Click through to learn more about STEM programming at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Super Science @ CLP – Squirrel Hill, circa 2012 – photographer unknown. Click through to learn more about STEM programming at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Will the Library still be here 120 years from now, when we all have internet chips in our brains and we finally get those hoverboards we were promised? I think so. It might look different, but the mission will still be the same: to engage our community in literacy and learning. Complex characters both fictional and historical will still be here, whispering reason—or revolution—as you walk by. And of course, through our programs, services and community engagements, the Library will still be planting, and harvesting, all sorts of fruit for you to enjoy.

The grandeur of the past, the excitement of the present and the hope of the future. Who could ask for a better gift? If you feel the same, please share your Library story and tell us how CLP has affected your life. To learn about other ways you can remember the Library on this momentous occasion, click here.

–Leigh Anne

*Does this make library workers Stone Temple Pilots?  Hm.


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Fun-Sized Morsels on Foodie Books

In the spirit of just-finished Halloween, I thought I would offer you a post of fun-sized reviews of some food-related books that I’ve recently finished (and which are inspiring me to eat a little healthier):

Salt Sugar FatSalt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss
Random House, 446 pages, 2013

It’s fitting that the cover of Salt, Sugar, Fat looks like a ransom note because in a sense, the food giants that Michael Moss calls out by name in his Pulitzer Prize winning look at the industry are holding the health of millions of Americans hostage with obesity, high blood pressure, skyrocketing cholesterol counts, diabetes and much more.

What makes Salt, Sugar, Fat especially eye-opening is how deliberate and strategic these efforts have been on the part of nearly everyone involved in getting food on our plate. This is a very well-researched book, with countless examples of how the food manufacturers, chemists, and marketers have exchanged one crappy ingredient for another (reducing fat but increasing the sugar, for example) and how government incentives (who remembers free government cheese?) exacerbate what is an epidemic and major health concern.

Pandoras LunchboxPandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
by Melanie Warner
Scribner, 267 pages, 2013 

Pandora’s Lunchbox is similar to Salt, Sugar, Fat, but with a little more of a “just-a-regular-mom-like-you” kind of tone. It is inspired by Ms. Warner’s quest to discover how long a slice of processed cheese really does last and other similar experiments. Like Michael Moss’ book, Pandora’s Lunchbox also is incredibly well-written and well-researched (Ms. Warner has a background as a reporter writing about the food industry) while shedding a light on the marketing of processed food and the chemicals in some of the most common things we (and our kids) are eating.

Animal Vegetable MiracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Perennial, 2008 (audio)

My first reaction was that this didn’t seem any different from other books and blogs promoting eating locally-grown, in-season food  — until I remembered that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was published in 2008, before concepts like farm-to-table and eating what’s currently available were household words. Seven years later, it’s still relevant and worth reading, because there are still people who don’t understand this — although, chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably do.

The Kingsolver family decided to eat locally for a year, either by growing their own food or purchasing very locally, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles their efforts by the seasons. While this tends to get a little preachy and repetitive at times (you kind of feel bad if establishing a vegetable garden that’s the equivalent of a small farm operation isn’t for you) but it’s well-written and includes brief sections by Ms. Kingsolver’s husband and daughter.

Bon appetit!

~ Melissa F.


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Ready, Set, Write!

Ah, November. The time for shorter days, hot beverages, curling up on the couch with a good book, spending time with loved ones and finally writing that novel you’ve got banging around in your head.

In case you are not one of the hundreds of thousands of writers who gather (digitally and in person) each November for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, let me explain. From November 1 to 30, the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel (that’s 1,667 words per day).

Sound hard?

Well, that’s probably because it is. I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since 2007 and have only met the word count goal three times—but even the “failures” aren’t really failures. I always end the month with more written than I had at the beginning, and even if my novel fizzles out, I can use what I learned for my next draft.

Also, it’s fun.

Think you can’t start because it’s already November 3? Think again! As of this writing, I haven’t written a single word toward my NaNo novel. That’s okay, though, because I still have 27 entire days to pound out those 50,000 words. I’ve written as many as 10,000 words in a single day, and there are people who do the whole 50,000 in a single day or weekend.

Even if you’re only a hobbyist, or want to write a fanfic novel for fellow diehards and don’t care about traditional publishing, the Library can help you train with one of our handy books on writing.

No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty
noplotBaty is NaNoWriMo’s founder and ultimate guru. The original No Plot? No Problem came out in 2004 when NaNo was just starting to take off. An updated version came out in 2014 (the Library has the print as well as the eBook version). This guide psyches you up for your Herculean writing effort, and it provides tips and tricks for such dangerous acts as writing at work. It takes you through the stages you’ll go through with your novel (sort of like grief), and acts as a general novel-writing cheerleader. A must-read for NaNo newbies.

Book in a Month by Victoria Schmidt
bookinamonthI haven’t read this personally, but it has good reviews on Goodreads. Unlike Baty’s book, this one breaks down the novel-writing process into a structured timeline with specific milestones meant to be reached on certain days. And, since you aren’t limited to November with this system, you can pick any month that works for you.

Is Life Like This? by John Dufresne
lifelikethisIf writing 50,000 words in 30 days seems like something a crazy person would do, how about writing a novel in six months? Like Book in a Month, this title gives you a goal to work toward and milestones to hit along the way. Great for those who prefer distance running to sprints. Or for those who don’t want to cut themselves off from all social activity for thirty days.

Kicking in the Wall by Barbara Abercrombie
kickinginthewallAbercrombie’s book gives you prompts and exercises to practice your writing craft throughout the whole year, not just during November. Or cherry-pick for ideas that speak to you and your current project. The book also includes inspirational and encouraging quotes to keep you motivated.

The Daily Writer by Fred D. White
dailywriterThis book is essentially a writer’s devotional. Instead of providing religious texts or messages, though, the author provides meditations meant to deepen and enrich your creative side and grow your writing practice over the course of a full year (with an extra day for leap year).

Happy novel writing!

-Kelly, who is seriously behind on her word count

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October Recap: Banned Books, Witches and Time Travel, Oh My!

Out goes the spiced apple cider, Halloween movies and carved pumpkins; in comes the eggnog, It’s A Wonderful Life on repeat, holiday decorations and wishlists. As we move into November and start the inevitable march towards the holiday season, let’s take a look back at the waning days (and blog posts) of Fall.

Tis’ the Season


This month saw quite a few seasonally themed posts. Scott introduced us to some non-traditional vampire reads, and Natalie waxed nostalgic over the Goosebumps series and the upcoming film adaptation. Tara shared her 12 horror movie picks for October, while Jess examined the campy and sweet 1986 TV movie The Worst Witch. Joelle recommended some spooky music to get us into the holiday spirit, and both Abbey and Natalie shared chilling and supernatural reads  for the haunting season.

Banned Books

image courtesy of the PA ACLU - click through for event page.

This year we celebrated banned books week (Sept. 27- Oct. 3) with a handful of posts. Isabelle challenged readers to a banned books quiz, while Jess presented readers with the top-ten most challenged titles of 2014 and Carl closed out the week with some final thoughts on the importance of libraries and intellectual freedom.

Reading Recommendations

A Manual for Cleaning Women     Sisters of the Revolution. Click on image to reserve a library copy.   womeninclothes   Wonderful Town   Loosed Upon the World

Melissa F. shared some recent short story collections — perfect for reading right before bedtime, while Leigh Anne recommended some recent favorites in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Irene looked past Halloween to the upcoming holiday season, and all of the books she hopes to find under the tree this year. And Jess took a moment out her busy week to contemplate the benefits of living life at a slower pace.

Other Recommendations

Melissa M. related her love of not only cookbooks, but also foodie fiction reads, while Kayla was excited for the new fall television season as well as the show Jane the Virgin. Ross got hyped for the upcoming Steven Spielberg adaptation of Ready Player One, and Melissa F. invited readers on a library trip to Neverland. Meanwhile, Scott got his bleak on with the new film Sicario, and recommended some thematically similar films.

doc-and-martyAnd finally, the Eleventh Stack crew celebrated the 30th anniversary of the original Back to the Future film in style, by sharing our memories and trivia of this seminal 1980s flick.

Thanks as always for reading and following along!

-The Eleventh Stack Team

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Pumpkin Lattes and More Banned Books

Image courtesy ALA.

Image courtesy ALA.

Did you forget Banned Books Week? Or did you celebrate fully with one copy of Lolita in your right hand and the Bible in your left? Whatever the case, we have a quiz for you.

At the ACLU and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Banned Book event fREADom on September 30, librarians from CLP delivered a Banned Books quiz to an audience that included such famous Pittsburghers as Etta Cox, Lynn Cullen, Terrance Hayes, Rick Sebak and members of LUPEC. It was delightful, dirty and an all-around a good time.

But if you missed it (or if you’re suffering Banned Books Week withdrawal), have no fear, we’ve got the questions right here. This year’s BBW celebrated young adult literature, and (hint) we did too. We’ve even linked you to other BBW lists and quizzes in some of the answers so you can keep the party going year-round, because a week isn’t enough to celebrate banned books. Enjoy! (But don’t scroll down too far! Answers are below.)


  1. This book was banned for “bringing children’s minds to a cowardly level” and undermining gender roles. It stars a girl from Kansas, her dog, a not-so-brave lion, a scarecrow and a man made of tin who all take a trek down a yellow brick road to find someone to grant their wishes.
  2. Called “trash and only suitable for the slums,” this famous American author’s book had a teenager floating down the Mississippi River with his friend, a metaphor for growing up.
  3. This book appeared on the American Library Association’s list of the most frequently challenged books, and sparked controversy when it was banned by two school districts back in 2004, five years after it was first published. In this latest instance in Wallingford, Connecticut, a parent complained because of a two-page section of the book in which the protagonist witnesses date rape—the section most often contested. In 2013, author Judy Blume came to the rescue of this book after a Chicago school district banned the book in its junior high school. Blume’s intervention sparked a nearly unanimous vote on the school board to reinstate the book later that year in a Banned Books Miracle. Hint: It’s set in Pittsburgh.
  4. Banned for alleged misogyny, author Roald Dahl humorously defended his book with this statement: “I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women. There is no such thing as a male witch. On the other hand, a ghoul is always a male… both are dangerous.  But neither of them is half as dangerous as a REAL WITCH.” Hint: Made into a movie starring Anjelica Huston.
  5. On the same theme, name the popular series that had many religious groups concerned about the books’ focus on witchcraft — and even went so far as to burn them (the books, not the witches) — while other groups merely think that they’re too scary and set a bad example for children.
  6. What 1982 book about a relationship between two high school girls, Annie and Liza, was burned outside of Kansas City, Kansas, school district offices because it described a blooming romantic and sexual relationship between the girls?
  7. This title is still sometimes taken off shelves or reading lists. Not because students might get nightmares reading about a family hiding in an attic until they were dragged into Nazi death camps, but because at one, brief point the 14-year-old protagonist describes her maturing anatomy.
  8. Not strictly a teen read but something that is found in every middle and high school, which fundamental book was banned in the Menifree school district in California for an entry on oral sex? Hint: It’s not a thesaurus.
  9. Can you “catch” on to this banned title? He’s a typical, if moody, teenager. He mourns the loss of his younger brother, hangs out with his younger sister and eventually gets thrown into a psychiatric treatment center. He probably thinks you are phony.
  10. Where the Sidewalk Ends author Shel Silverstein’s other book was banned for “glorifying Satan,” “suicide and cannibalism” and “encouraging children to be disobedient,” as well as the unforgivable offense of “breaking dishes so they wouldn’t have to dry them.” What is the title of this banned collection of poems?
  11. Competition arises among talking farm animals when two pigs fight for control. What is the name of this book?
  12. Banned from many school libraries, protests were lodged against this alliterative title. An interactive, illustrated book, readers looked for the character in many scenes, but detractors who got the book banned saw and objected to topless sun bathers, gay lovers and characters holding up the hail Satan sign.  Hint: The titular character is most identifiable by his red and white striped shirt and red cap.
  13. Name the title or author! This autobiographical novel, with illustrations, tells the story of a young cartoonist who leaves his Native American reservation school in order to pursue his life and studies in the all-white world of the neighboring school.  This young adult favorite has been banned for “pornographic language” and depicting scenes of sex and violence.  It won the National Book Award in 2007.
  14. Students try to get A’s in school, but that wouldn’t be good in this book. The book still places on the Banned Book list because it is considered sinful and obscene by objectors. Which Nathaniel Hawthorne book is this?
Now, think long and hard ...

“Is the answer Where’s Ralph Waldo Emerson?”
Click through for source.

Answer Key:

  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  4. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  5. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  6. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
  7. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  8. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  9. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  10. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  11. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  12. Where’s Waldo by Martin Handford
  13. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 So how did you do? Post your score in the comments below.



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