Tag Archives: science fiction

Stay Out of Trouble? Never!

When someone tells me to stay out of trouble, I invariably respond with, “Never.”

Well-behaved women seldom make history, after all.

getintroubleAnd that is one of the many reasons why I love Kelly Link’s newest short story collection, Get in Trouble.

These nine stories are fantastically dark and brooding, but not so dark as to leave you utterly depressed at their end. They touch on death, suicide, betrayal, secrets kept and secrets revealed, creepy trends, the afterlife, and more.

My favorite story from the collections is the first one, “The Summer People” (which you can read online at The Wallstreet Journal for free!). It begins as one thing and transforms into another, and I love the way Link leads the reader from grounded reality to an otherworldly fantastical place.

Some short story collections feel scattered or uneven, but this one never misses a step. Once you’re thrown off balance by the unreality and harshness of that first story, Link keeps you unsettled through the rest of the collection, hardly giving you room to breathe. Her prose is fantastical but solid–you know there’s more bubbling under the surface, even if you can only glimpse it.

The characters are all complex, flawed, and relatable. They don’t always behave well (you can guess that from the title), but you can’t help but relate to them anyway (And who behaves well all the time, anyway?).

One of the subtler themes in this book is that of longing and belonging. Many of the characters want something that they cannot have, or can only have at someone else’s expense. Some of them appear to belong to a group, but feel isolated and alone. Watching them all work through their problems, sometimes to a tragic conclusion, is riveting and heartbreaking.

For the audiobook, each story has a different narrator; a common practice for audiobooks of short story collections. Generally, there’s at least one narrator I can’t stand (it was hard for me to get through Haruki Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes because one of the narrators irritated me so much, and of course that one read multiple stories), but there wasn’t a bad one in this bunch.

Like the stories, the narrators feel as if they go together. There’s no discord or disharmony in their reading–each one fits the story he or she reads, and they sound good next to each other.

If you like authors like Karen Russell, Haruki Murakami, Jorge Luis Borges, and/or Aimee Bender, give Kelly Link a try.

Request Get in Trouble in print, as an eBook, as an audiobook, or as an eAudiobook.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

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!

~Kayla

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

We Don’t Need Roads

The future is today.

Or, at least it was in a fictional 1985, when Marty McFly traveled forward in time to October 21, 2015.

It also happens to be the real-world 30th anniversary of the original Back to the Future film.

Grab your hover board, light-up auto-lacing Nikes, Pepsi Perfect and—of course—your flux capacitors, and help us celebrate this momentous occasion by sharing your favorite BTTF memories, moments and ephemera!



I recently exposed myself to the hilarious madness that is Rick and Morty and noticed that the title characters bare more than a passing resemblance to Doc Brown and Marty McFly.

doc-and-marty

© Universal Studios

Rick&Morty

© Time Warner

My suspicions were confirmed after I found an extremely not safe for work Back to the Future parody from Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty. It even featured samples of Alan Silvestri‘s iconic score. Hearing that triumphant theme (that’s been comfortably stuck in my head for weeks now) was enough to make me want to rewatch the entire trilogy, which I consider to be one ginormous near-six hour movie. Obviously, they’re still great, but there were a lot of questions I had now that the wide-eyed younger version of me didn’t/couldn’t even think about before. For instance, if I were George McFly, there’s no way I’d employ the high school bully to wash and wax my vehicles. Especially when that bully was moments away from sexually assaulting my future wife in the high school parking lot the night of the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. Space-time continuum be damned, that’s just messed up.

biff

The classic “I-used-to-be-a-high-school-bully-but-now-I-act-like-neutered-ne’er-do-well” pose. Also, tracksuit.
© Universal Studios

-Ross



The Back to the Future movies hinge on the idea that what you change in the past can have big, sometimes unexpected, consequences in your own present and future. So when I started thinking about what I would do if I could travel back in time, I quickly decided I wouldn’t do anything. As we also see in Ray Bradbury’s famous story, “A Sound of Thunder,” the tiniest change can have far-reaching effects. I don’t want to knock over a lamp in 1899 and come back to find out Andrew Carnegie never established any public libraries. There’s a scary thought.

I wouldn’t change anything in my own past either. Sure, I wish I hadn’t been caught skipping gym that time in high school, but our pasts makes us who we are.

Maybe I would travel to the future, though. It would be pretty cool if my Honda could fly. Of course, according to Back to the Future II, that technology should be available now. I like the idea that in some alternate version of 2015, people are powering their (flying) cars with mini fusion reactors using only household trash. That other 2015 has a lot more Jaws sequels than we do, too, but I don’t feel like I missed out on that one. Still, it’s cool to imagine that in that alternate timeline, right now, Marty is out there experiencing a future we only dreamed of.

-Megan



If Marty goes back in time and changes the future, shouldn’t he by the nature of time travel change his own memories? Why does he retain the memory of what happened, but for everyone else, the new reality is the only reality they’ve ever been aware of?

If I think about this too long, my head spins. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter, because Back to the Future is so much fun. Doc is lovable because he’s the archetypal mad scientist. Marty is lovable because he’s the semi-clueless teenager we can all relate to (unless you haven’t hit the magical year of 13 yet, in which case, get ready for some crazy stuff). Together, they are an adorable, delightful—and most importantly—flawed team.

Even though Marty sort of bumbles his way through the trilogy, engaging in plenty of whacky antics and skateboard/hover board stunts, these are movies about second chances. About new beginnings and better futures.

And no matter how much time travel can make my head spin, I will always love Back to the Future for reminding me about the power of the choices we make and the second chances life gives us.

-Kelly


In case this post didn’t have enough BTTF goodness for you, check out the marathons happening at the Rowhouse Cinema in Lawrenceville, or snap up this box set that contains remastered music from all three movies on vinyl.

And, of course, you can always check out these BTTF-related goodies from your favorite library:

If you could travel to the future or the past, where would you go, and what would you change (if anything)?

-Team Eleventh Stack

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Moonstruck

bookcover

I’m in my spot, riveted to the book I am reading: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. I know it’s late, so I check the time: 4 AM?! Ugh. I wake up mid-morning (at least it’s a Sunday), do a brunch-thing with the kids, then sit down to “just read a few chapters.” I look up; it’s 3 PM already? I go grocery shopping, make dinner, then squeeze in a quick read before getting the kids ready for bed. Finally, I’m back to my spot for some more chapters…2 AM already?!

That’s how much I have been enjoying this book. Set at first in the near future, the Moon is blown apart by an unknown agent, and the humans on Earth have just two years to launch life boats into space before the surface of the planet becomes uninhabitable. 5,000 years later, it’s time to return. This book is richly detailed and beautifully written. Stephenson is not afraid to include advanced scientific concepts in psychology, physics and biology. He uses real-life modern technology as a starting point in many of the plot details. I enjoy a science fiction book that has a basis in real scientific facts.

I have a love/hate relationship with Neal Stephenson. I was blown away when I read the cyberpunk thriller Snow Crash, so much so that I purchased my own copy. The Diamond Age did not disappoint, with a thoroughly engaging young female protagonist. I didn’t like Cryptonomicon as much as I thought I would, a speculative fiction book about WWII, secret codes, conspiracy, sunken treasure and high-tech business. It became bogged down in the mathematics of cryptography, which I didn’t mind, but I stopped caring about the plot before the book came to an end. I got fed-up with Anathem about halfway through the book. The setting was a future world where monks held all of the scientific knowledge safe from the aggressively ignorant masses. The hyper-focus on the esoteric and convoluted narrative was a little much for me to keep in mind from reading to reading. I gave Quicksilver, the start of a massive trilogy called The Baroque Cycle, a 50 page tryout, but put it down. I was not prepared for such a huge undertaking (yet).

Stephenson’s plot visions are multi-layered. He focuses on the minutiae but keeps his eye on the whole world. His brilliance is evident in everything he writes. I feel that the books I did not like might be a failing of intellect on my part. Perhaps I am enjoying Seveneves so much because he is writing about something that I myself think a lot about.

What time is it? I think I have a few minutes to sneak in another chapter.

-Joelle

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

There and Back Again: A Mentor’s Holiday, or The Labs @ CLP in Spain (Part II)

Part 2: Travelogue

(This is part 2 of a two part blog post, so check out Friday’s post to catch up!)

I don’t speak Spanish. Like many Americans, I took two years in high school and we focused on conjugation more than conversation. And though I spent the last three weeks before departing crushing it on Duolingo, I wasn’t going to get by with that level of Spanish.

Photo taken by the author.

Photo taken by the author.

So, I was happy to find that at all of my speaking engagements I either had a translator (through a headset — as did the audience) or people spoke pretty good English. Still, the week long struggle to communicate gave me a sliver of insight into what that experience must be like for immigrants to the U.S. I thought of the largely Kenyan population who attend programming at CLP – Allegheny and the Spanish speaking population in Beechview, and I thought of our Let’s Speak English programs across the system helping new immigrants get comfortable with the language as well as the other language conversation programs that empower our users to learn new languages (and natives to converse in their mother tongue).

All of this got me in the right head space to talk about the role the library and library staff play in encouraging learning and community development.

My first stop was Barcelona, where I spoke at the 6th Seminar on Public Libraries and Social Cohesion organized by the Consortium of Public Libraries of Barcelona, The Goethe Institute, the regional government of Catalonia, and the French Institute.

Corey Wittig: LABS ambassador

Corey Wittig: LABS ambassador

The event was wonderful and I immediately connected with the theme of volunteerism, which is a hot topic in Catalonia. There is a traditional belief that it is (in the words of one of the speakers) “perverse” to give volunteers any kind of incentive. This was challenged by Lluc Marti Pe of the Foundation for Catalonian Volunteers who believes that volunteerism needs to be more like the American model in order to encourage greater social engagement. I talked about CLP volunteers and all of the amazing projects they help us complete. Peer to peer mentorship through teen volunteers has always been a goal of The Labs and this perspective was welcomed by the audience.

My presentation was well received and I immediately noticed that The Labs program model (access to a low pressure informal learning space with technology and mentors to encourage learning) was foreign to Spanish library workers. But they loved it. I let them know that this was still pretty new to us in the U.S. too, and, while we’re still working out the kinks of our programming, we feel confident about the benefits and steadfast about our goals.

The presentation came to life every time I was able to work with youth in Spain. Below is a video compilation of stop-motion animation videos created by teens at a Spanish FabLab (a makerspace based on a design out of MIT where the focus is on fabricating physical artifacts). I got to work with these amazing teenagers on my second day in Spain and it gave me all the energy I needed to make it through the rest of the trip with confidence that what we teach teens in Pittsburgh is relevant and of interest to teens in other places, too.

The goal of all of my workshops was to teach basic stop-motion animation and to ask teens to create a film inspired by what it’s like to be a teen in Spain (Here’s my presentation on stop-motion, if you’re interested).

The events I spoke at in Madrid and Valencia and the workshops I provided for youth in those cities stood to further convince me of the importance of this work. Mentors make magic happen. Librarians are powerful, life-changing community members. We are all life-long learners and learning doesn’t happen in schools alone. It’s important that libraries, museums, and other community sites of informal learning also embrace what it means to be a learning space. That’s our responsibility.

People are always talking about the necessity of libraries in the 21st century. What happens when books are all digital? Well, if we aren’t about books alone, but free and open access to information and learning then we have so much we can sink our teeth into.

Sometimes we have to go away from home in order to find a connection to the place we left. I was feeling that during my trip to Spain. Talking about The Labs and CLP’s great programs and services allowed me to contextualize our mission and our values. It showed me that these lessons are universal, even if I already felt that was true.

A librarian in Madrid told me that The Labs sounded like science fiction. she said that the American model of libraries as community spaces for learning was even better than what she imagined. How great is that?

If you read this blog, you’ve probably felt that feeling.

Promotional flyer for Corey's talk.

Promotional flyer for Corey’s talk.

–Corey

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Four Times OverDrive Saved the Day

One

Star Wars Heir to the JediI was waiting in line to see Carrie Fisher’s panel at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim 2015 (remember how I’m a big Star Wars geek?). I did not have a book with me, because I didn’t want the extra weight in my backpack, which I knew I would slowly fill with merchandise over the course of the day. Longingly I thought of the book sitting in my hotel room.

Then I remembered I had also put an eBook copy of that book–Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi–on hold through OverDrive. And it had come in, and been automatically checked out.

I whipped out my phone, opened the OverDrive app, and downloaded the book. In about ten seconds, it loaded, and all I had to do was find my place and start reading.

(Unfortunately, Heir to the Jedi was a disappointment. It’s written in first person from Luke Skywalker’s perspective, and mostly he runs from planet to planet and almost gets eaten by monsters. It was also horribly predictable. I don’t mind a bit of predictability in books like this, but I’d like to at least pretend I don’t know what’s going to happen. With Heir to the Jedi, that was impossible.)

Two

Fifty Shades of GreyDuring the height of the Fifty Shades of Grey mania, my husband and I were eating breakfast for dinner at a diner. He told me about his coworker’s obsession with the book, and how she said it had changed her life and opened her eyes.

Giggling, I pulled out my phone and found an eBook copy on OverDrive. When it finished downloading (again, in about ten seconds), I read out loud in my best fake serious narrator voice.

For the next few days we read segments out loud to each other, making toilet sounds every time the main character “flushes” (which is about every other sentence).

All right, all right, that last example wasn’t exactly a “pinch.” But thanks for the fun, OverDrive!

(It’s not the kink that I find funny, but the repetitive writing style. I recommend Leigh Anne’s post “Fifty Shades Better” for well-written kinky romance recommendations.)

Three

The Non NonprofitAn actual pinch came after the time I found this awesome book in the Nonprofit Resource Center called The Non Nonprofit. It is full of fantastically challenging exercises that get you to think about your nonprofit’s mission, goals, and strategies. I was working through them when the book’s due date reared up, and of course someone had a hold on it.

But not to worry! The ebook copy was available, and before I even returned the print book I had the ebook on my tablet, ready to guide me through the world of effective nonprofit leadership.

Four

On Becoming an ArtistThat same thing happened to me with On Becoming an Artist, which I didn’t start reading until it was overdue, because I forgot to return it and wasn’t about to make an extra trip to the Library just to avoid a thirty-cent fine.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view it), I fell in love with the book and the author before I had finished the first chapter. Once again, OverDrive came to the rescue–there was a long line of holds on the print copy, but the ebook copy was there, waiting for me to download it.

I’m not a die-hard ebook fan, but I do love having another option for finding a book, especially when it means I don’t have to wait. The next time the book you want RIGHT NOW isn’t available, check OverDrive (and/or our eBook collection through Ebsco), because it just might be sitting there, waiting for you to love it.

–Kelly

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Action, Adventure, Monsters! or Some Comics I Want to Read

Since mid-December, I’ve been neck-deep in the process of buying a house and then renovating it. This has severely cut into my comic book reading time.

To keep me from going insane with all the (hopefully) good books I’m missing, I’ve compiled a want-to-read list.

Fables Volume 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham and various wonderful artists
fablesFables starts out with showing how fairy tale characters have adapted to life in present-day New York City, but has morphed into something much deeper and more epic over the ten-plus years of its run. The past few volumes have been beautifully devastating, so I’m both excited and scared to find out what happens next.

Fatale Volume 5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
fatale5I’ll read anything by Ed Brubaker. He does crime noir so well, it’s like he invented it. This particular series mixes the femme fatale and horror genres to create a dark, twisted mystery.

 
 
 

Ms. Marvel Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson

msmarvel1When Marvel announced the new Ms. Marvel would be a shape-shifting Iranian immigrant Muslim lady, and that it would be written by a real live Muslim woman, I was psyched. Sales for this have been going steady, so I’m thinking it’s going to be even more awesome than the concept alone implies. I suggest following author G. Willow Wilson on Twitter–she posts interesting tweets about religion, social justice, and of course, comics.

Rat Queens Volume 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and various artists
ratqueensLike a Dungeons and Dragons quest, only with ladies kicking butt. Need I say more?

 
 
 

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

-Kelly

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized