Tag Archives: fiction

Take a Book on a Blind Date

We’re librarians. We like nothing more than introducing you to your next crush. Book crush that is. This Valentine’s Day we on the First Floor at the Main Library are poised to introduce you to your next blind date.

blinddate2blinddate1

Each book is putting its best face forward with attractive decorations and an enticing description. The barcode that is needed to check the book out is on the outside of the covering, so you can wait until you get your date to the privacy of your own home to unwrap it.

Maybe it’ll be true love and maybe the book will be over before it even begins. But you’ll never know until you try. C’mon, be adventurous. Let us pick out your perfect match. You can trust us!

-Melissa M.

P.S. See something you like?  Visit the Main Library to check it out. If you do take out one of our books, please tell us how the date went in the comments below!

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Night Gardener

Working in a library can sometimes be a little bit like going into a bakery while you are on a diet. There are so many cool titles that come across my desk every day and not nearly enough time to read everything I see. One of my (many) 2015 new year’s resolutions is to try and catch up on reading all of the cool books I saw on the shelves and put on my “must read” list in 2014.

One of those titles was a children’s book that came out back in March. Every time I saw it, it was either being checked out or put on hold. Last week it finally came back and I was able to grab it… boy am I glad I did.

bookcoverThe Night Gardener is a little bit dark, pretty scary and asks the question, ‘what is the difference between a lie and a story?’. How great is that? Molly and Kip are a brother and sister who have seemingly been orphaned. Down on their luck and hoping to find a new home Molly finds work in a place called the Sour Woods but as they approach their destinations birds stop singing and no one wants to help them find their way. What mysteries await them at Windsor estates? Is it their refuge or their undoing?

Pittsburgh’s very own Jonathan Auxier has written a wonderful little book that gives the reader the chance to consider the difference between our wants and our needs. The thing that we hope and long for, the answer to all of our problems… what if it isn’t really the answer after all? What if it is part of the problem to begin with.

When Kip and Molly first arrive, they are immediately turned away. Molly is told by the lady of the house that she doesn’t want any servants. Auxier has immediately set us up: we know that there is something wrong at Windsor, something evil even, but we also know that casting these two children out into the world alone and uncared for will put them in danger’s way. Cheering for Molly when she convinces Constance Windsor to take them in means that we have saved them from their fate as orphans only to throw them into the lion’s den. A great deal of the book does this, causing you to double back and realize that the thing you wanted for the characters has caused them even more trouble. When Molly gets her wishes fulfilled you are grateful until you realize that she has been immobilized and is too afraid to act. It is Kip, her younger brother, who realizes that getting the thing you want handed to you might be dangerous.

While it is a children’s book, this was a great creepy little read that kept me up late as I tried to finish it. Thought provoking in its use of villains and heroes The Night Gardener is a great book for kids and adults who need to learn a lesson about wants and needs.

–Natalie

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Every year I take a little time off around the new year; not quite as long as a full vacation, but a mini-staycation to recharge for the new year ahead. I’m used to working in a building with books and music and movies at my disposal, so before I spend a few days away I go into panic-mode and start trying to think of everything I might possibly need to read while I’m away. Here are a few things that I was into this vacation:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy: I’ve been on a big YA literature kick lately. Between the fast-paced plots, elements of fantasy and magic, and strong female characters, lots of young adult novels just do it for me. This trilogy, in particular, is one worth reading. I’ve been recommending it to friends by saying that although it’s nothing like The Hunger Games, if they liked that series they will like this one. In this series, the princess Elisa has a heavy birthright to live up to, despite the fact that she feels anything but special. Her growth throughout the trilogy and the richly drawn world in which she lives, combined with excellent writing, really won me over.

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual: I’m having a real love affair with our sewing book collection these days. Did you know we have a whole collection of books that have sewing patterns and instructions? I like checking out a pattern book, visiting the Center for Creative Reuse, and seeing what types of clothing I can come up with. This is a fun vintage-inspired book with easy to follow instructions, but I also really like the Japanese pattern books we have in our collection for more modern/bohemian clothing (such as Simple Modern Sewing or I Am Cute Dresses).

Frozen (movie and soundtrack!): I’m not sure why so many kids in the preschool set are so in love with Elsa (I’m an Anna fan myself!), but this movie and soundtrack are just magical for children of that age. They get to sing Let It Go; I get to sew…it’s a win-win situation.

Comfort Knitting and Crochet Afghans: Just before the holidays I came into a huge supply of lovely, soft yarn- enough for an afghan! Because it was all the same color I was on the lookout for a pattern with some texture. I really fell in love with some of the afghans and throws in this book; you get a nice mix of knit and crochet and colorwork, texture, or lace patterns.

The Art of Hungarian Cooking: New Year’s day always makes me think of my (Hungarian, by way of Slovenia) grandmother, who was insistent that you always had to eat pork and cabbage (preferably sauerkraut) on New Year’s Day. She also had this crazy tradition of going outside and finding a green stick and hitting (gently) anyone who came into her house. (I’ve never been able to find out anything about that superstition, nor have I ever met anyone else who’s heard of it!) This year I hosted a New Year’s dinner, and in homage I made sure to cook up some pork and cabbage. I brought this book home for some inspiration.

-Irene

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

On Reading 100 Books (Actually, more like 50)

On January 21, 2014, I shared this picture on social media with the accompanying caption positing that I would attempt to read one hundred books during the year.

mw&c

I’m so artsty it makes me sick.

Almost as soon as my fingers pounded out the goal, I realized that reading one hundred books was out of the question; it was already practically February.  So instead I said that reading fifty would be more likely.  I don’t have a calculator in front of me, but that’s like one every week or something.

As of writing this, I’ve read fifty-one books and am on my way toward finishing number fifty-two.

Now, I realize that this isn’t a great accomplishment by any means.  Still, I was impressed with myself for setting a goal and achieving it.  While I’ve always enjoyed reading–I do work at a public library after all–there was something almost stifling about knowing that I had to finish this goal.  In fact, almost as soon as I posted the picture, one of my friends commented that it’s better to keep the goals that you set to yourself because announcing the goals tricks your mind into thinking they have already been completed.

There were many times when I started reading a book and just couldn’t get into it, and wanted to stop.  For instance, I started reading The King in Yellow after watching True Detective over the summer, but I didn’t finish it until early December.  That’s outrageous! The book is only 256 pages.  I should have been able to knock that out in a weekend.  So I set it aside and read other books.  All the while I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that the time I put into reading those hundred or so pages would be worthless unless I finished the book in its entirety.

So I pressed on toward my goal’s end.  I knew I had to, but it wasn’t just because I’d already put it out there on the Internet. I had to do it because if I don’t finish a book, I feel like I’m disrespecting the author.

When I first take a book in my hands, open the cover and feel the paper, crisp and dry between my fingers, I’m entering into an agreement with that author and into a relationship with that book.  For however many pages, I belong to that book and it belongs to me. When I put it down, even for a few days, I feel like we’ve abandoned each other. By not being interesting or not grabbing my attention, the book has recanted its agreement with me.

A recent study showed that putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, such as when you read fiction, improves your ability to show compassion.  Maybe that’s why I have trouble abandoning those books—because I know inside those pages, I’m someone else, maybe even someone better, if only for 300 or so pages.

Please save your psychoanalyses until the end, thankyouverymuch.

I’ve listed the fifty-one books on the next three pages, broken into three categories:  Good, Godawful and Great (because I like alliteration. If I liked assonance, I’d call them All Right, Awful and Amazing).  I briefly thought about ranking them, but then I realized that my rankings would do nothing to sway you if you’d already read a particular book and loved it and vice versa.  All I can say is that I highly recommend all the ones that I’ve put in the Great category.

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

By George: Georgian Era Historical Romance

As a student of the works and life of Jane Austen and devotee of historical romance, my favorite time period is the Regency era, which roughly falls between 1811 and 1820, when King George III’s son, the Prince of Wales, took over the throne for a time due to his father’s madness. Dubbed the Prince Regent, he was a flamboyant and gaudy personality, and thus the Regency era was born.

But to be honest, I’ll read almost any historical romance if it’s a good story, is well written, and set in England. Except medieval. I do like the etiquette, civilities, and genteel manners of a polite society.

Read on for some recommended Georgian era romances (1714-1830) that I’ve greatly enjoyed.

Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt

Set in the London neighborhood of St. Giles in the 1730s, this is a gritty, dark, and dangerous series. It’s also breathtakingly romantic. Throughout the series, there is a running thread about the Ghost of St. Giles, a sort of Batman figure who saves the good people of St. Giles from peril. Passionate, raw, and real.

Wylder Sisters series by Isabella Bradford

This is the nice and elegant side of Georgian society. Three aristocratic and very wealthy but very sheltered sisters must marry for duty but are hoping to marry for love instead. This was a period in history when romantic love was just beginning to influence the choice of a marriage partner rather than as a mere business alliance between two families. Isabella Bradford is a pseudonym for historical fiction writer Susan Holloway Scott.

A Gentleman ‘Til Midnight, A Promise by Daylight, A Wedding by Dawn by Alison DeLaine

Though these books do not have an official series name, they are all connected by recurring characters. The series features strong and independent women including a female pirate, a medic, and the female equivalent of a lady’s man; I guess that would be a gentleman’s lady?

Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James

This sparkling and witty series by Shakespearean professor Eloisa James–and also the daughter of poet Robert Bly–is more about social manners and mores in Georgian England rather than true historical romance. The descriptions of the intricacies of ton society, the elaborate headgear and fashions, and the daily life of privilege and wealth in the very upper class is vividly brought to life in a very snappy and snarky way.

-Maria A.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Celebrating Black Women’s Writing

One great part of being a grown-up is that you can, if you want, educate yourself on everything you didn’t learn in school. This year I’ve been reading my way through the For Harriet blog’s list of the 100 books by Black women they believe everyone should read. After spending so much time with powerful fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, I have to say, it’s the perfect syllabus for the best class I never had.

There’s a point of entry in the list for every reading type and temperament, and many of the works are thematically linked, so you can pretty much jump in anywhere and learn a lot no matter where you start. Here are a few suggestions to inspire you.

photo courtesy of Getty Images.

photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Daughter: A Novel, asha bandele. Aya, a college student, is shot by a white police officer bandelewhile out jogging,  in a hideous case of mistaken identity. Miriam, Aya’s mother, is left to cope not only with the current tragedy of losing her child, but the unhealed trauma of her past relationship with Aya’s father. As the story moves between present and past, we learn how carefree young women become cautious and hard, at the expense of their own ability to cherish the men they love and the children they bear. A timely, sobering pick that’s sure to spark spirited book club discussions. Available in print only.

3carter2 Candles, Ernessa T. Carter. Davie’s favorite teen movie was Sixteen Candles, but unfortunately, she couldn’t get her own high school crush to give her the time of day. Years later, she runs into him again by chance, and sparks fly. Too bad she sort of forgets to tell him who she is, and that they already know each other, a decision that comes back to haunt her just when happiness is in her grasp. Solid chick lit about childhood dreams, adult deceptions, and — romance fans take note — hard-won happy endings. Available in print and as a digital audio book.

Brown Girl in the Ring, Nalo Hopkinson. Ti-Jeanne lives with her grandmother, and has hopkinsonlearned a wealth of healing lore from her. However, she’s going to have to learn some things she hadn’t counted on in order to face down the evil spirit that stalks Toronto. Heavy on Caribbean legend and lore, Hopkinson’s first novel is a gripping foray into dystopian speculative fiction (long before we started calling those things by those names) partially influenced by Derek Walcott’s play, Ti-Jean and his Brothers (which has been anthologized in various collections). A good beginning for teens and adults looking for heroines of color in their SF/F.* Available in print, digital audio, and — for you intrepid late adopters — book on cassette.

sistercitizenSister Citizen, Melissa Harris-Perry. Of all the great non-fiction on this list, Harris-Perry’s stands out for its clear explanations of concepts that might be unfamiliar to you, as well of a history of images and events of which you might not be aware. Harris-Perry explains what obstacles have prevented Black women from fully participating in democracy, using statistics, stereotype analysis, political theory, anecdotes of women’s lived experience, and other tools to make her case. She also references some of the other non-fiction works mentioned in the For Harriet list, which may help you to decide where to go next in your learning journey. Available in print and as a digital audio book.

homegirls & handgrenades, Sonia Sanchez. You get the sense, reading this collection of sanchezpoems, that what Sanchez really wants to do is take you by the hand and lead you through her universe, saying, “Look. Listen.” Her speakers often function as observer-outsiders in many of these poems, implying that the teacher often functions as the student, even when the teacher knows her subject very well. Poems like “Bubba” and “Traveling on an Amtrak Train Could Humanize You” are fine examples of this: Sanchez telling stories that have broadened her speakers’ minds, and, hopefully, our own. Poetry for people who think they aren’t ready for poetry, but are willing to give it a shot. Available in print only.

The list of 100 also contains the authors you’d expect to be there (Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, etc.), but I deliberately chose less familiar selections to demonstrate just how much depth and breadth we’re dealing with here. If you’re intrigued, I hope you’ll try one of these selections, or others from the list; maybe this is an area you’re familiar with already. If so, I hope you’ll suggest additional titles, and share your own reading experiences in the comments.

Leigh Anne

* This is a particular reading interest of mine so if you’re ever in the library, come find me and let’s talk about it. A great place to start your research is Bitch magazine’s series of blog posts on girls of color in dystopia, written by Victoria Law.

 

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

My Favorite Romances of 2014

I’ve read so many good romance novels this year. And this time last year, I spotlighted the books I most enjoyed, so I thought I’d make it an annual post.

Read on for my favorite romance reads (and my shortest post) of 2014.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

-Maria A.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized