A word on endings…

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Back when I was twelve, I read A Particular Book by A Particular Author (we don’t actually have it in our system, so we shall let this particular tome reside in infamy).  I loved this book, adored the characters, and couldn’t wait to find out how they would conquer all the enemies ranged against them and survive.  There was also a love triangle in this book, as well, and I knew, down in my bones, with every fiber of my being which of the two suitors this heroine should marry.  In the end, the protagonists triumphed, as they should, and all seemed well.  And then…

The heroine picked the wrong guy.

This was pretty much my reaction.
This was pretty much my reaction.

I mean, nothing against him.  As an adult, I can see that choosing this particular hero was the heroine’s way of accepting the changes in herself, and her willingness to begin a new life.  But to my twelve-year-old heart, he was just wrong.  Not to mention that the hero on whom I had pinned all my hopes and dreams was left crushed and lonely, sitting on a train bound for New York.

So, being the mature reader I was (and still am), I threw the book against a wall and refused to speak to anyone for two days.

Since then, I have managed to accept that all books will not end the way I want them to end.  I still don’t like it, but I try to bear in mind the words of Frank Herbert, author of the Dune sagas: “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

Those words have saved many books from being hurled against walls, and also saved many relationships, as the excuse “I just read a book that ended badly!” only works so many times when one is trying to explain why one can’t stop crying/can’t stop yelling/can’t get out of bed today.  As we discussed a few weeks ago in regards to the release of Go Set A Watchman, the characters we love, and the worlds they inhabit don’t always exist solely in an author’s imagination.  They become part of us, and we become part of them.

This gives us, as readers, a certain amount of agency over the things we read.  For me, books that I love are a lot like home movies.  They start, and they stop, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the characters cease to exist when the action stops (unless they die, and their world is obliterated by aliens, or something like that).  They are still alive in some kind of Land of Unwritten Books, where readers, like you and I, can imagine their further adventures.

In the Land of Unwritten Books, which I have just named, and to which I will now continually refer, lovers can be reunited, despite any distance that may separate them, the detective always gets his crook…or the crook finds a clever way to escape…the magician’s wife finds a final spell…the hero comes home in time…the missing letter gets delivered at last, and everyone is home in time for tea.

For me, that poor hero, alone in his train car, returns to New York, and meets another woman who challenges him, who makes him laugh, and helps him recover from the rejection he received at the end of That Particular Book.  Perhaps he thinks back on those times with a bittersweet fondness, but in the Land of Unwritten Books, he isn’t sad or lonely for very long.  No one needs to be, if that is how we, as readers wish it–at least in our own minds.  That may not change the outcome on the final page, but it may make your heart a little lighter when you get there.

 

 

Summer Concert Series: Semi-Aquatic Rodent

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Get ready for the upcoming performances in the library’s Summer Concert Series! Concerts are at 7 p.m. every Thursday night in July and August at East End Veterans Memorial Park. Every Monday, Free for All will offer an article about, or interview with, the band of the week. The following is an interview with Jake and Ronan of Semi-Aquatic Rodent.

What made you decide to become a musician?

Jake: My parents tell me that when I was two, my mom was searching the radio for a station that would put me to sleep. Flipping past a classical station, I interrupted her tuning, saying “Violins, mama! Violins!” and from then on set my mind on someday learning the violin (which was my first instrument). There’s also a part two, though, from my perspective. In terms of singing and guitar-y music, my inspiration was actually Ronan. We were hanging out in my then-girlfriend’s basement one Friday night and he was playing something on guitar. I thought it was a really cool instrument, and felt a little inadequate watching him play, so I spent the rest of the weekend doing nothing but teach myself guitar. And I’ve just sort of gone from there.
Ronan: My grandmother’s piano sat alone in a chamber that no one really went into. Playing around with notes and making melodies was more interesting than any board game I could play or matchbox track I could cycle a car around again and again. And so it seemed: we were meant for each other. That piano now sits in my living room, and I try to play it as often as I can. It’s still a magical experience, even if I only play a single note.

How would you describe your sound?

Mostly acoustic. We both play a variety of instruments, so from song to song, the “sound” is pretty unpredictable. In general, when we’re working on a song, whether one of us wrote it or not, we don’t really know what it’s going to sound like until we give it a few tries. We each have a pretty good sense of what the otter—yes, the otter—is thinking, so most of the time whatever happens on the first try is roughly what the final product ends up being.

What is your songwriting process like?

We laugh a lot. And noodle around on our instruments. A lot of the time, one of us will have the other person play or sing what we ultimately plan to end up singing/playing, just to hear it and be able to play along and make more things up. Basically, we are each other’s loop pedals.

Which artists have been your biggest musical influences, and what is it that draws you to their music?

So many artists. Alexi Murdoch’s aesthetic and ambient honesty. Ben Folds’ intensity and wit. Iron and Wine wrote the first song anybody ever heard Ronan sing, so we have a special place for him/them/Sam in our hearts. Simon & Garfunkel’s harmonies and balance. Elliott Smythe—yes, Smythe—contributed an air of melancholy which we embrace fully into our music. Punch Brothers: we saw a video of them covering “Just What I Needed” by The Cars a few years ago, and the obsession began. And he’s sort of a different category, but Robert Pinsky’s timing and intonation influence our phrasing—or so we would like to think.

Please tell us about any albums you have available or in production.

So far, we’ve been pretty non-prolific. We’ve made some private recordings, but nothing worth anybody else listening to. We’re spending a few days on the Cape later this summer, before we go off to collage—yes, to collage—so maybe we’ll find some time then. I guess we’ll see. We want to get something down before we part ways for college.

What should people expect when they come to your concert on Thursday night?

A mix of things. We have a couple of gnu songs—yes, gnu songs—that we’ve only just learned, and some things that each of us have written. There are also a few songs we’ve been doing for years, because they really exemplify our “sound” as a pear—yes, a pear.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

A shrimp cocktail, but that’s probably infeasible.

More about the Summer Concert Series:
Concerts will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings in July and August at East End Veterans’ Memorial Park. Bring a blanket or folding chair, and maybe even a picnic dinner, and enjoy live acoustic music from a new performer each week. East End Veterans’ Memorial Park is located at 45 Walnut Street. The concert schedule is as follows:

July 9th: Damn Tall Buildings
July 16th: Hoot and Holler
July 23rd: Colleen White and Sean Smith
July 30th: Semi-Aquatic Rodent
August 6th: Molly Pinto Madigan
August 13th: Eva Walsh
August 20th: Ian Fitzgerald
August 27th: The Whiskey Boys

Please note: In the event of rain, Summer Concerts will be held in the Sutton Room at the Peabody Institute Library and food will not be allowed.

For more information, please call 978-531-0100 ext. 10, or visit the library’s website at www.peabodylibrary.org.

 

Saturdays @ the South: An Ode to Audiobooks

AUDIOBOOK_DOWNLOADS_RAINBOW_BOOKS_WITH_HEADPHONESMuch like the books discussed in last week’s post, audiobooks are sometimes maligned. Many think that audiobooks are only for the elderly, infirm or visually impaired because: why else would someone listen to a book when you can read the paper (or electronic) version? As adults, haven’t we moved beyond storytimes and someone reading to you?

Regular readers of this blog are already familiar with my positive opinion on adults reading children’s books, so I strongly believe that we never get too old to have a story of any type read to us. However, audiobooks are more than just listening to a story. They are an alternate way to engage with a book. Whenever someone reads a book (in any format) they impose something of themselves onto the story. Essentially, different people get different things out of the same book. When you listen to an audiobook, you are listening to the interpretation of an actor, reader or sometimes the author him/herself. This interaction with someone else’s ideas of what the book represents (passive though it may be) automatically introduces the listener to a different viewpoint, teasing things out that you may or may not have noticed reading the book without a narration.

Audiobooks are also a great way to multi-task. For anyone who has ever said, “I would love to read more but don’t have the time,” then it might be time to consider audiobooks. For the longest time, I got frustrated during my commute to work thinking it was 20 minutes each way that could be better spent. Namely, I wished I was reading. And then it dawned on me that there was a way I *could* read while I was driving and have been hooked on audiobooks ever since. I still read paper books and e-books, but listening to books has offered me an additional way to read. And they’re not just for commuters. We have several patrons here at the South Branch who enjoy listening to audiobooks while they’re doing housework or gardening.

There is another great feature to audiobooks that you simply cannot experience in print form. Some authors and publishers take the audiobook as a form of art and creative expression in and therefore throw in some “treats” for the listener. In some cases, it will be a performance reading with a full cast covering each different character. Sometimes the listener gets to see different sides of the author as he/she reads the work in different voices to tease out different characters and dialog. In other cases, it’s the opportunity for the insertion of an audio track that enhances the book and makes it a one-of-a-kind reading/listening experience.

As you can probably tell by now, I love audiobooks and all of the different dimensions they bring to my reading and I know plenty of others who do as well. But like everything else in the world of reading, audiobooks are a matter of taste and experimentation. I have a friend who listens to audiobooks of all types, but finds she prefers to listen to dialog-heavy books and loses patience with audiobooks that have extended monologues or descriptions because, if she was reading it in print, she would probably skim those parts. My mom enjoys some audiobooks, but found that she couldn’t listen to mystery or suspense books in the car because she would get too engrossed in the story! (You know it’s a great book when you miss your exit or stop on the train, but safety does come first.) I have another friend who enjoys audiobooks, but likes books that are well-read or have a format that lends itself particularly well to reading aloud. Everyone has their own personal preference and it’s all about finding what you enjoy the most.

If you’re new to audiobooks, or you’re just looking for your next great listening-read, here are some of my personal favorites that I think are a great introduction:

2614782Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Full disclosure: I will recommend Neil Gaiman books, in any format to just about anyone who will listen to me. However, Gaiman’s works lend themselves particularly well to audiobooks as they are fluid and engrossing. Neverwhere is a particular treat because it’s read by the author and he is almost unfairly brilliant at reading aloud. Gaiman’s readings are well-paced; his voice is like smooth, velvety British toffee and he unabashedly does different characters’ voices (and accents!) without being over-the-top or melodramatic. He doesn’t read all of his audiobooks (I’ve found that if the book involves American accents, it’s usually read by another well-qualified person), but all of his audiobooks are worth listening to. This is just a good place to start.

3007527Bossypants by Tina Fey

This is another read-by-the-author gem, but Bossypants has some great nuggets in it that you would miss entirely reading the hard-copy. For example, when Fey describes her run as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live, the readers get to listen to the audio track of famous skit that she did with Amy Pohler, instead of having Fey describe it or reading a transcript of the skit. In reading her own audiobook, I think because of her improv background, she is particularly skilled at telling her story with wit, inflection and excellent timing. Fey also recognizes that the images she included in her book add to the story and hers is one of the few audiobooks that includes a pdf of the images, which she references when she’s reading. The book is brilliant, but I think listening to Fey tell her own story makes it that much more interesting.

 

3585924Yes, Please by Amy Pohler

This book is similar in concept to Fey’s Bossypants, but this audiobook is a great example of how a good reading can elevate a book that might not be a shining example of it’s genre into something special. Pohler’s book is a bit disjointed and not as insightful as I was hoping it would be, but listening to this audiobook was great fun. She has “guest stars” she interacts with, including her parents and Seth Meyers, who reads the chapter he wrote for her book. There is also a terrific surprise in which she reads the last chapter to a live audience, so it feels more like stand-up comedy than an audiobook. Some of these qualities may have seemed gimmicky on other audiobooks, but they work very well in this instance.

3202394Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

If you’ve never read anything by “The Bloggess” you are in for an irreverent, riotously funny (though not safe for work) treat. I listened to this audiobook in the car and got many, many strange looks from other drivers because I was laughing so hard. To me, this is the sign of a great audiobook and Lawson’s most certainly was. It’s read by the author and her charming, mild Texas accent only enhances the experience. While hers doesn’t include a pdf, Lawson takes a moment to describe the pictures she includes in her book so that her listeners don’t feel left out. Oh, and make sure you listen all the way to the end of the audiobook. After her final chapter and acknowledgments, there is a gag reel and it is priceless!

2383088The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This is a well-told modern take on a Gothic novel that is greatly enhanced by the melodic narrator. It’s moody and atmospheric and while you’re listening to the book, you can almost feel the fogs of northern England rolling in. One narrator covers all of the different characters, but she does so deftly. Without deepening her voice in the cartoonish way some women narrators use to represent male voices, the narrator easily defines the different characters in the story so the reader can simply become absorbed in the story without wondering who is speaking or thinking what at any given time.

I hope this post has opened your eyes to some possibilities of alternative-format reading. The library is a great place for experimentation with reading types and formats because there’s no cost if you don’t like something. Just bring it back and try something else! Plus, the library is staffed with all types of readers who can help match you to what you feel like reading (or listening to) at that time. Till next week, remember that even if you’re listening to a book you’re still a reader.

 

 

Five Book Friday!

Happy Friday!  It’s been quite a week a the library, as new books coming rolling onto our shelves, and you, our beloved patrons, have come in looking for books to take to the beach, to the lake, to the mountains, and to the air conditioned living room.  However you chose to get through the heat is fine by us.  Here, for your weekend reading pleasure, are a selection of five books that are ready and waiting to join you on your adventures!

3641799The Flicker Men: Ted Kosmatka’s sci-fi thriller has been getting some rave reviews, like Publisher’s Weekly, who said “Kosmatka effectively harnesses his impressive imagination in the service of a mind-blowing plot in this outstanding SF thriller”.  My favorite review has come from author Hugh Howey, who said, “If Stephen Hawking and Stephen King wrote a novel together, you’d get The Flicker Men. Brilliant, disturbing, and beautifully told.”  When washed-out quantum physicist Eric Argus discovers a fundamental secret about the nature of humanity, he stirs up a controversy that engulfs the whole world–and exposes him to dangers he never could have imagined.

3634718The World On A Plate: A delicious blend of travel and food, Mina Holland’s book takes readers on a trip through forty different cultures and the food the eat, offering historic anecdotes, culinary advice, and her own personal revelations about why we eat the things we do. Do you know what separates North African spices from Indian?  Or why kimchi is so popular in Korea?  You will after reading this book that the Daily Mail calls a “heady mix of history, anecdotes and recipes for beginners to confident cooks alike.”

3634138Love in the Time of Scandal: Caroline Linden is a sensational storyteller, offering fans of historic romances a pitch-perfect blend of humor, sizzle, and original plots that will keep the pages flying.  In this third book in her Scandalous series, she introduces readers to Penelope Weston, who is forced to marry her former friend, Benedict Lennox, after a scandal threatens both their reputations.  Penelope can’t forget that Benedict once tried to court her sister, and Benedict is convinced that Penelope will never be the quiet, demure wife he thought he wanted…so how will they cope when the one person they never wanted turns into the only person truly need?

3630873No One Like You: Kate Angell’s newest release combines a stunning beachside setting and a charming romance that makes for the perfect beach read.  Pro-baseball player Rylan Cates needs all the help he can get as he prepares for spring training, especially in caring for his four rambunctious dogs.  Beth Avery is still looking for a place to belong, and even if she isn’t sure of Rylan, his dogs take a shine to her, ensuring that they will be spending a good deal of time in very close quarters….RT Book Reviews declares that “best feature here is the hero’s enormous Great Dane, whose huge personality and matchmaking antics make this romance a fun, lighthearted romp.”

3630379Home: Recipes to Cook With Family and Friends: I have to admit, as someone whose culinary talent doesn’t extend too far beyond critiquing the Food Network loudly, I judge cookbooks by their pictures, and by the friendliness of the author’s voice.  This book scores high in both categories; the images of the food are stunning (waffles…I need those waffles….), and Bryan Voltaggio’s love of food and feeding others shines through in his introductions and in these fairly simple recipes.  Enjoy, and feel free to share any tasty results from these recipes!

In Which We Talk About Romances…

Believe it or not, the staff here at the Library have secret identities in the wider world.  Speaking for myself, I teach the history of gender and sexuality.  And while I adore both my identities, there are times when they clash…because there are a lot of people who think that feminists, especially feminists who talk about gender a lot, can’t like romance novels.  Since this week has been about celebrating what we love to read without shame, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the romance genre.

What is at the heart of romance that makes it such a difficult genre? I mean, the covers, for one, can be a little…much.  That I will admit.  But above and beyond the Men Who Own No Shirts and the Women Who Cannot Stand Up Straight, why do romances get a bad rap?  Obviously, romances deal with issues of physical desire, but so do plenty of other genres.  Thrillers, spy novels, mysteries, adventure tales–all of these books deal with sex and love to varying extents (see: James Bond, for a prime example). But these books don’t get stigmatized because of it.  But when we are dealing with a heroine who falls in love, suddenly these books become “Those Books”.   The ones that we hide on the floor of the car, or in the bottom of a bag, or in the files on the e-readers.

Speaking academically (just for a second, I promise), the primary message of feminism is that women should be respected as individuals–that their individual goals, values, and dreams deserve the same respect and attention as men–whether that was the right to vote, the right to own property, or the right to work inside or outside the home.  In fiction, romances offer the clearest validation of the individual–especially women.  At the heart of all the best romances is validation; that what the heroine (and the hero) want in life, and in a relationship, is valid; that their goals and hopes and fears and dreams are legitimate, and that they have a right to become the very best version of themselves, because who they are is perfect. 

And that is a message that is not easy to accept.  We live in a world that tells us that we are not good enough, and, speaking as a woman, I can tell you that those messages are really, really loud.  Lose weight you’ll be more attractive.  Open up and live a little, and other people will like you.  Don’t be so open and lively, or you’ll drive them away.  Wear this mascara and you will look just like that person you always wanted people to think that you are.  Romance novels, in the end, subvert every one of those messages, and reminds us that the only way to get a happy ending is to be true to yourself and true to your own desires–and to find someone who loves you precisely as you are.  And that is pretty revolutionary, when you come to think about it.

So, rather than hiding your love for romance, let’s read them–and whatever else we want to read, as well–and let’s change the world.

For this week’s If/Thenhere are a few of my favorite romance novels, in case you are looking for a place to get started:

3092802Follow My Lead: Regardless of the fact that the heroine of this historic romance is an historian, this is one of my favorite books of all time.  Winifred is on a trans-European expedition to prove herself the author of several historic articles along with her erstwhile companion, the terribly well-meaning, but not very savvy, Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne.  Their road trip from hell is full of ridiculous scenarios and plenty of humor, but in the end, both Win and Jason realize that they have spent their whole lives chasing other people’s ideals of what they should be, and have to find the courage to define their futures for themselves.  There aren’t too many romances where the hero and heroine get to laugh with–and at–each other, but this book gives them both the freedom to have fun.

3456931Rule: Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series is a manifesto for respecting and loving yourself for precisely who you are, and this book is a perfect example.  Rule is a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks who couldn’t care less about what people think about him–except for Shaw Landon, who was once his dead brother’s girlfriend.  But Shaw’s life is based around what other people expect of her…and it’s killing her by inches.  Both Rule and Shaw spend this book dealing with their own self-image, both physical and mental, but offer each other the tough love and unwavering support that they need to find a way to each other.

3244939One Good Earl Deserves A Lover:  I have a soft-spot in my heart for Sarah MacLean’s work for many reasons, but this book, especially, has a special place.  Lady Philippa Marbury is a scholar and an intellectual, but her duty is to marry.  So, terrified that she will never get to experience life, she seeks out Cross, the co-owner of London’s most famous gaming hell, to teach her about the darker side of life.  This book is gut-wrenchingly emotional and whimsical by turn, but there is never a moment when Philippa’s learning and social awkwardness is played for comedy, or when her intellect and individuality isn’t respected.  Indeed, it’s her brains that save the day for her and for Cross, who loves her precisely as she is–spectacles, books, and all.

3577495The Wedding Vow: Cara Connelly’s Save the Date series are all fun, but the characters in this book grabbed my attention from the very first page.  Prosecutor Maddie St. Clair knows that billionaire Adam Le Croix is an art thief, but, to her fury, she has never been able to prove it in court.  When Adam needs legal help, he turns to Maddie, knowing that she is the only person smart enough to help him.  But what starts as a familiar enemies-to-lovers, billionaire-gets-the-girl story quickly turns into something utterly unique; neither Maddie nor Adam are the people we expect them to be, and as they keep peeling away layers of themselves, and exposing their deepest secrets and worst fears, they become that much more real, and that much more deserving of their happy ending together.

Wednesdays at the West: Not Just for Teens

Before starting my tenure as a branch librarian, I spent twelve years as a teen librarian.  During that time, I always had an excuse to read books written for and marketed to teens– it was a professional obligation.  As the years went on, I noticed an increasing number of other adults were catching on to what had previously been a teen librarian secret: books marked teen or young adult are often some of the most engaging, enjoyable literature being published.  After a few high profile titles that had clear generational cross-over appeal (Harry PotterTwilightThe Hunger Games), more and more adventurous “grown-ups” started seeing the teen section as a place they too could discover books worth of their time and devotion.

One of the (many) great things about teen books is that there is truly something for every reader.  Historical fiction, realistic, thriller, fantasy, whatever your favorite genre is, you can find some wonderful teen literature to expand your “to read” list.

northernlightHistorical fiction fans won’t want to miss A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly.  Based on a true story, Donnelley’s fictional heroine is struggling with the expectations of her family and the man who wants to marry her.  Their demands clash with her own desires to attend college and become a writer.  When Mattie takes a summer job at a hotel, she becomes embroiled in a mystery when a guest, who after entrusting Mattie with a secret, drowns.  Donnelly is the author of a popular trilogy for adults, starting with Tea Rose.  Another of her young adult titles, Revolution, is another sure-fire hit with fans of historical fiction.

madwickedAfter you’ve made your way through Donnelly’s teen fiction, you may want to check out A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.  Another tale of a young woman chaffing against society’s expectations, Victoria is more interested in becoming an artist than in attending debutante balls, as her parents expect.  Both of these competing pulls, however, seem to be at odds with Victoria’s increasing involvement in the British women’s suffrage movement.

wildthornFor a darker, more gothic historical story, with a sweet love angle, we have Wildthorn by Jane Eagland.  After Louisa is told she is being sent to stay with cousins, she find herself imprisoned in an insane asylum.   Here Eagland borrows from the all too common real life practice of locking up young women who showed too much interest in academic pursuits or a attraction to same-sex love.  Louisa is “guilty” of both.  Amid cruel treatment and great frustrations in the asylum, Louisa finds affection and a blossoming relationship with a young asylum worker, Eliza.  With Eliza’s help, Louisa plots an escape from her imprisonment, seeking both freedom and explanation of why she was locked up in the first place.  Dark and gripping, yet still hopeful.

parttimeindian

I have been on a mission for several years now to get everyone I know to read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  A rare story that will have you laughing and crying within pages of each other.  Alexie’s main character, Arnold Spirit, is one of those classic literary underdogs, who readers will root for from start to finish.  Arnold lives on a Native American reservation, but fed up with the poor schools, he decides to become the first kid to leave the reservation school for the more affluent and primarily white school in the surrounding town.  Arnold’s path is certainly not smooth, either on or off the reservation, but he relates his story with humor and optimism and it is one that will stay with you for a long time.

queenofwaterbamboopeoplePersonally, one of my favorite things about teen literature is that so much of it has a real social justice bent to it.  It can be seen in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but also in two of my other recommendations:  The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Bamboo 
People by Mitali Perkins.  Teens often get the reputation for being self-centered and oblivious to the world and injustices around them.  The literature that has been written and enjoyed by them, however, often tells a different story.  In The Queen of Water, Resau tells the story of a Quechua Indian girl in Ecuador who is indentured by her desperately poor family to work as a servant for an upper class family where she suffers abuse as a young child at the hands of the mother and finds herself facing worse at the hands of the father as she reaches adolescence.  In Bamboo People, Mitali Perkins’ character, Chiko may live on the other side of the world, but his life as an forced child soldier in the Burmese army is yet another tale of   exploitation and survival.

terrier

trciksterschoiceIf you’d like to explore the world of teen fantasy fiction (and I do highly suggest it), you really must make room on your reading list for Tamora Pierce.  The prolific Pierce has so many wonderful series to her credit that it can difficult to pick a starting point.  My personal favorites are Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen, which take place in her fabulously detailed, magic world of Tortall.  Other Tortall series include her first series about Alanna the Lionness, Keladry in the Protector of the Small series and Beka Cooper, a Provost guard in the series that begins with Terrier.   Pierce has created other beloved magical worlds that are featured in her Circle of Magic and Circle Opens series, featuring mages who can control the elements of the earth.  If you’re having trouble picking one Pierce novel to read, just give it up and commit to reading them all!

lifeasweknewitIf you like your science fiction with more than a touch of the apocalyptic, you won’t want to pass up Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  Miranda’s account of life after a meteor hits the moon and causes an unprecedented wave of natural disasters on Earth  has been a favorite among teen readers since even before The Hunger Games launched the current wave of dystopian novels.

dangerousangels

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block is a compilation of five, genre defying novels.  The closest category I think they could fit in would be magical realism.  Block’s five, very short novels revolve around the lives of Weetzie Bat and the family she creates for herself in an intriguingly magical, but still gritty Los Angeles.  Lyrical and beautiful, the Dangerous Angels novels are truly hard to compare to any other writing for teens or adults I’ve come across.

beautifulmusicWhile I am certainly no expert on the issue, I will say that I find the portrayal of LGBT characters in literature to be more diverse, likable and enjoyable to read about in literature aimed at teens over much of what is written for adults.  Examples include Louisa in Wildthorn and also in the love story of Dirk and Duck in Dangerous Angels.   Kirstin Cronn-Mills creates another wonderful LGBT character in Beautiful Music for Ugly Children.  Gabe is a female-to-male transgender teen, who still lives as Liz at school and home, but is able to be himself when he is on air as a disc jockey on a local radio station.  When Gabe’s radio show gains popularity, his secret is threatened.  The cast of characters in this novel is simply beautiful, Gabe’s love of music is palpable and the whole story is a satisfying read.

doublehelixWhile those who know me can tell you I’m not a big thriller reader, I am glad I made an exception for Double Helix by Nancy Werlin.  Werlin, who has her roots in Peabody, has written some intriguing teen thrillers, as well as branching out more recently into some interesting fantasy fiction.  Double Helix brings her trademark ability to create suspense together with a controversy concerning genetic engineering.  After graduating from high school, Eli decides to postpone college in favor of a job in a lab with a renowned geneticist.  Eli’s father is unexpectedly outraged by this move, which puzzles his son, until he starts to unravel the story of how he and his family are deeply connected to these same genetic experiments.

So the next time you’re in the library, stop by the teen area and browse for some engaging reads.  We officially give you our permission to read as much teen literature as you want!

 

Staff Favorites!

As was noted in our Saturday post, the library is a place where you can come and select whatever you’d like, without judgement or critique–and we love hearing about books or films or music that you utterly adored.  But today, we thought we’d offer a few suggestions from the Library staff about books that they have loved from our shelves (because we are library patrons, too!).  So here is the first part of our ongoing series of staff selections for your reading pleasure.  We hope you find something to savor!

From the Reference Desk…..

2239162I first read Shadow of the Wind in high school and fell in love, but I didn’t even realize until years later that there were two companion books, too! They all correlate and share characters, but can be read in any order. Initially drawn to Shadow because of my love for the country of Spain and Zafon’s intriguing descriptions of Barcelona, the characters and the mysterious plot kept me reading. Any book lover who reads the Shadow of the Wind books will want to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and take from something special.

Note: The other two books in this series are The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven.

From the Children’s Department….

2275990The Seas by Samantha Hunt: Described as “weird, creepy, and beautiful”, this is a modern retelling of the Germany fairy tale Undine, about a sea creature who falls in love with a human knight; except this version is set is a cruel, unhappy fishing village where a nameless 19-year-old girl, who believes herself to be a mermaid, falls for a Jude, a fisherman who is unable to speak about his service in Iraq.  This is definitely one of those books that toys with reality, with the best of results…

2407571Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: On their own, both of these authors are simply irresistible, but when they combine their considerable powers, the results are hysterical, and surprisingly insightful.  You see, according to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.  But someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist…..

From the South Branch….

1959597Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire: Maguire is great at giving well-known characters an intriguing background and this take on Cinderella is no exception. Wonderfully written with a look at historical Amsterdam during the tulip boom, his story gives great depth to the tale we think we know.

 

b7b2e2533fd5dcb2f68632b31d41395bAll in the timing : fourteen plays by David Ives. A collection of funny, irreverent, one-act plays. Want to know what *really* happens when chimps are locked in a room with typewriters or when people invent their own language? Yeah, he’s got that.  There are also some hauntingly sad, and creepily odd moments in these plays that makes the humor even funnier by contrast.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass