Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Book for Every Crafter

Your local library is more than a place to put the latest bestsellers on hold or check your email. Thanks to our collection of craft books, it's also a place for creative folks to get inspiration for their next projects and to learn new techniques. Whether you're a seasoned crafter, a beginner, or someone looking for a boredom-busting hobby, we have resources to help you get going and get making.

Here are some of my favorite craft and DIY books available through LPLS, covering topics from paper crafts to crochet to musical instrument building and more.

Paper Blooms: 25 Extraordinary Flowers to Make for Weddings, Celebrations, and More by Jeffery
This book teaches you how to transform paper, wire, and a little bit of glue into beautiful roses, daisies, lilies, poppies, and other flowers. Think of the potential for decorating and gift-wrapping!

Handmade Music Factory: The Ultimate Guide to Making Foot-Stompin' Good Instruments by Mike Orr
Ever wanted to make your own ukulele or guitar? This book teaches you how (plus how to make a bunch of other instruments), using cigar boxes, old cans, hubcaps, license plates, and all manner of other folksy detritus. It includes a primer on instrument anatomy, and even shows you how to  add pickups and make your creations electric.
Bewitching Bead and Wire Jewelry: Easy Techniques for 40 Irresistible Projects by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott
Even if you don't know a crimp bead from a head pin, this book will give you the know-how to make earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings. It features plenty of quick, beginner-friendly projects, so you can go from making to wearing your handmade jewelry fast!

Crochet: The Complete Step-by-Step Guide by DK Publishing
If you've ever wanted to learn to crochet but didn't know where to start, try this book. It teaches you the stitches and techniques you need to know, then gives you fun patterns to try out your new skills. It also answers your questions about all the different types of yarn, so when you go to the craft store, you'll know exactly what you need!

Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by Raleigh Briggs
This adorable hand-written and -illustrated book teaches you how to make safe, eco-friendly D.I.Y. projects for health, body, garden, and home. It's a great resource for consuming less and living more cheaply, and getting your hands a little dirty in the process!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Del Toro's The Strain

As I await the return of  FX's second season of  The Strain (DVD), I have been rereading the trilogy in preparation. In case you aren't familiar with the story, here is what you've missed:

The story begins at JFK airport in New York City. A Boeing 777 is headed towards the tarmac when it suddenly stops. The lights are out, shades closed, and communication has been cut off. Crews begin investigating the status of the passengers on board, until an alert goes out to the CDC. What is believed to be biological warfare turns into something far more dangerous and sinister. Can the virus be stopped before infecting the entire city?

 The trilogy and show are full of equal amounts action, horror, and biological disaster.  After seeing Del Toro's movies (Pan's Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and Devil's Backbone) it's no wonder why this trilogy is fun to read and translates well to the screen. I call books/series like this a "Popcorn Movie Book". It's fast paced and engrossing like most adventurous action films. The trilogy is a great read for the lovers of sci-fi mixed with horror. Del Toro takes the traditional vampire and spins it as a viral outbreak terrorizing America. It was a welcome break away from the love triangle, romanticized version of the vampire. Don't get me wrong; I love the Bram Stoker and Anne Rice vampire. But I have a lot of respect for writers when they take a traditional plot and make it their own original concept.

Side note: I prefer the audiobook over the physical copy. Ron Perlman narrates the first book (you may know him as Clay Morrow from Sons of Anarchy). The second and third installment to the trilogy are narrated by actor Daniel Oreskes, who is known for his roles in The Devil's Advocate and The Thomas Crown Affair. The story comes to life accompanied by some great voice acting. It made the reading more entertaining and my car rides more enjoyable. You can check it out for yourself here: The Strain (audio recording).

When you finish The Strain, make sure to check out The Fall and Night Eternal.
The fight for the human race continues!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What We're Reading - Summer 2015

Here at the library, summer is our busiest time of the year. Whether we're in Youth Services stealing the show at storytime or working behind the scenes at the desk, we're all in high gear making the Summer Reading Program happen. But that doesn't mean we don't make time to read when we're off the clock. After all... we're librarians!

Curious about which titles fill out our rather eclectic Summer Reading logs? Read on for our recommendations. (Spoiler alert: Apparently Horrorstör is really, really good. It warranted two mentions!)

Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin... Every Inch of It by Brittany Gibbons
Gibbons is a well-known blogger and body positivity activist, but I was completely unfamiliar with her before I heard about her memoir. Between my love of all female-powered memoirs and that eye-catching title, I knew I had to read it. Although Gibbons covers heavy topics (body image, growing up poor, mental illness), she does so with an irresistible, conversational style that keeps you reading and laughing. This is a book that leaves you feeling awesome about yourself and wishing you could hang out with the author. I highly recommend you take Brittany Gibbons with you in your beach tote (or whatever your vacation or staycation equivalent might be) this summer.

The Wicked + The Divine graphic novel series by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
Question: What happens when gods and goddesses from diverse pantheons take on the form of attractive young adults? Answer: Pop stardom and chaos. I really enjoyed the first volume (The Faust Act), which follows a young woman obsessed with the pantheon. Not content with fandom, she wants to be near them, befriend them, be one of them... And her desire leads her straight into the path of murder. The lush, decadent artwork alone would recommend this series, but when you combine it with compelling storytelling, you've really got a compulsive read. I've requested Volume 2 and I hope that we order it soon!

Nimona graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson
If you don't want to get involved in a series and would prefer a standalone graphic novel, try Nimona. Originally a webcomic, this tongue-in-cheek series combines supervillains, science fictional science, and a fantasy medeival/modern setting for a unique reading experience. Nimona is a young shapeshifter who teams up with villain Lord Ballister Blackheart to take down the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, who are up to some nefarious deeds, themselves. Although there's plenty of humor in Stevenson's writing, it comes with an emotional core that grounds it and makes the improbable characters seem more human. Which is a smart way of saying that this one punched me right in the feels at the end. Right. In. The. FEELS.

Lessons in Taxidermy by Bee Lavender
This is another memoir that I've really enjoyed recently. Serendipity brought it to me: I saw it in passing on the shelf, and I was so intrigued by the bizarre cover that I had to check it out. This one isn't a light read--it details Lavender's harrowing experiences with illness, starting with her cancer diagnosis at age twelve--but it's a fast one. I couldn't stop reading once I started, and devoured this in just a little over a day. What I really loved is that this easily could have been a Nicholas Sparks-esque tearjerker, but Lavender completely eschews emotional manipulation to pen a stark and poetic book about illness and vulnerability.

To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene is the perfect summer book for the literary-minded adult beverage enthusiast because it gives you not only a drinking tour of Hemingway’s life and what he favored for various occasions of imbibery but also includes handy recipes at the beginning of each chapter. I drank my first Gimlet whilst standing in my kitchen, this book open on the counter top amongst the bottles of gin and Rose’s Lime. Since Hemingway’s life (or at least the parts of it most people care about) are centered around the wine bars of France and the tropical booze ports of the Keys and Cuba, most of the drinks are well suited for the summertime, and the book is filled with refreshing rum drinks, zesty gin and vodka cocktails, and variations on sangria. 

Starlight: The Return of Duke McQueen
by Mark Millar 
Like a Summer blockbuster caught up in the pages of one of the graphic novels that spawn so much of our screen fodder these days, Starlight is filled to the brim with art that evokes Kubert & Vallejo & Tim Sale, and a story from Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick-Ass) that teases and tosses the reader but ultimately delivers in satisfying glory a story that veers close to cheese without contacting the wedge. Needs to be read and passed along to a younger person.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (Available for download from READS.)
For some reason, I find horror more palatable in the summertime. My boss suggests that this may be because of the additional daylight, and she may be right. Regardless, this book is great, creepy fun. The best horror stories always have elements of the banal in them, so that when the everyday gets turned on its ear, the reader's sense of alienation and disorientation is intensified. Why not then place your haunted house story in a big box furniture store which is definitely NOT Ikea? Banality is what they strive for, sameness, easy expectation, the lulling/buy. Horrorstör is set in an Örsk store (If you need help, just Örsk!) and while it leans heavily on tropes to get moving, one suspects that this is on purpose, since so much of this is a send-up of not only horror tales but also corporate culture, and both of these have conspired to craft our ideas of what horror stories really are. Finally, the design of the book (like looking through a furniture catalog) is completely awesome. From cover to cover, the big-box Ikea idea is skewered, roasted, reinterpreted and perverted until it fits what Hendrix needed it to be. Lots and lots of fun to read. 

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
NOT your typical horror novel.  I received an ARC of this from a friend, but have since purchased a copy--the layout and graphics add a lot to the tale.  A creepy parody of a ghost/paranormal story that takes place in an IKEA-wannabe store called ORSK.  

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I don't read much historic fiction, but had this recommended by several patrons & friends.  Excellent story lines, engaging character-building - orphans, books and the stereotypical corrupt, greedy Nazi bad guy (he really is necessary for the story though, so not obligatory).  Here's a vid of the author telling how he came up with his story: Anthony Doerr. Oh, did I mention it won the Pulitzer Prize?  

Chew graphic novel series by John Layman
Alt universe storyline, where all bird meat is outlawed due to a huge outbreak of bird flu that killed millions of people in America. Our hero, John Chu, is a cibopath--can take a bite from anything and get a psychic sense of what has happened in the object's past--and he works for the FDA.  There are plenty of directions to go
with such a start to your story, never dull.

Phryne Fisher Mystery Series by Kerry Greenwood
I have fallen in love with this Australian series based in the late 1920's--they've made a TV show that's really fun too--and have read the whole series in the past year or so. My favorite is Unnatural Habits, but I recommend starting at the beginning (Cocaine Blues). Don't take it seriously, enjoy the era and the world that Miss Fisher has built around herself.

A new President has been elected. He stops by the Oval Office before his inauguration and finds a letter from his predecessor. The pointless wars he started? We needed experienced soldiers. Why? Because something has been detected in the asteroid belt and we need to be ready in case it's hostile. A ship of
volunteers has been sent on a one-way mission to investigate, but the crew doesn't seem to know they won't be coming back.

Astro City: Shining Stars by Kurt Busiek
4 stories about 4 of Astro City's heroes.  Samaritan has dinner with the Infidel.  They have an uneasy truce and both are looking for signs of weakness in the other.  Beautie, the living doll superhero, is having difficulty interacting with people outside of battle.  Her creator might be able to help, if only Beautie knew who that was.  Astra is superhero royalty and the paparazzi won't leave her alone.  She's just graduated from college and hasn't decided what to do yet.  Maybe talking things over with her boyfriend will help.  And finally, the Silver Agent has been an inspiration throughout the ages.  Now we find out how one man was able to be in so many different time periods.

I have been rereading the Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan in preparation for season 2 hit show. But this time around I am listening to them. Ron Perlman is the narrator and is doing a fantastic job. (The first book in the series is The Strain, available in print and audio.)

My favorite book this summer, so far, is The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. It is full of suspense and action. It provides an interesting perspective on a theme that has become a cult classic in horror fiction.

Liz:I'm looking forward to reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. With the release of Jurassic World, I have caught dinosaur fever! All I can think about are Velociraptors!

I've been all about historical everything this summer!  I'm working through the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd, which starts with A Duty to the Dead.  Bess is a British army nurse in WWI and you get to see how the war affected daily life both at home and at the front in France.

I've also been continuing on with the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, which takes place a few years later.  The plots are often influenced by the aftermath of the War and makes for a richer understanding of the time period.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

From Screen to Panel: If You Love These Shows, Read These Comics!

It's always disappointing to see a favorite series end, even if it is just a break between seasons. But with more and more shows and being adapted from comic books, the transition from the screen to the page is a natural one. Of course, fans of shows like Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, or The Walking Dead have a built in canon to return to once each season ends. For those of us who aren't so lucky, or would like to avoid spoiling future seasons, try the following comics to satisfy your pop culture void. Whether you're a fan of fantasy, science fiction, or just like a good read, you are sure to find something you will enjoy!

MythbustersWhat If? by Randall Munroe 
What If? is the most recent book by Randall Munroe, the creator of the online comic XKCD. This isn't a traditional comic, but more of a pictorial account of extreme hypothetical situations. Illustrated in stick figures, the visuals may not be as satisfying as the fiery demonstrations commonly put on by the Mythbuster team, but Munroe is just as skilled in pushing the boundaries of feasibility. In this book, Munroe provides “serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions” posed by his readers. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if the world suddenly stopped turning, or if your own morbid curiosity has led to you cause damage to yourself or your property, you will definitely enjoy this book.

Once Upon a TimeFables by Bill Willingham 
This series of graphic novels from Vertigo is a great fit for any fan of reimagined fairy tales. After being exiled from their homeland, the inhabitants of folklore and fairytale migrate to New York City, where they create their own community called Fabletown. But this magical haven is not immune to the crime of the big city, and has its own unique struggles as well. Murder, corruption, and a mysterious conspiracy plague the fable community, and it is up to sheriff Bigby Wolf to sort it all out. Legends in Exile is the first volume of Willingham's ongoing epic, and collects the first 5 issues of Fables.

Gravity Falls Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson 
Lumberjanes is perfect for those kids at heart who love a good ghost story. Co-written by newcomer Grace Ellis and the acclaimed creator of Nimona Noelle Stevenson, this all-ages comic follows five friends through their adventures at camp Lumberjane. Together Jo, Ripley, April, May, and Molly will earn camp badges by solving mysteries, fighting monsters, and being all-around awesome. This fun and empowering graphic novel is perfect for adults and kids alike. Volume one collects issues #1-#4 of this ongoing comic from Boom! Studios.


Deadwood/CarnivalePretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick 
If you enjoy Westerns but think they could use more supernatural flair, then Pretty Deadly is the book for you. Set in the Old West, this comic begins with a story about Death, his lover, and his daughter. This tale is told by Sissy and Fox, a pair of traveling storytellers. But they are not alone, as Ginny, the lover of Death himself, is trailing them. Over the course of the series, Fox must atone for the sins of his past, and Sissy must discover her future. Full of superstition and folklore, Pretty Deadly is a masterpiece of the supernatural western genre. The first volume, The Shrike, collects the first five issues of this ongoing comic.

Game of Thrones/GalavantRat Queens by Kurtis J Wiebe 
Wiebe created his fantastical comedy Rat Queens with fans of high fantasy and traditional tabletop games in mind. This comic both mocks and celebrates these genres in an epic that combines the humor of Galavant with the intrigue of Game of Thrones. The Rat Queens are a rowdy gang of adventurers comprised of a human cleric, an elven mage, a halfling thief, and a dwarven warrior. In Sass and Sorcery, the first arc of this ongoing comic, this unlikely troupe of friends must defend themselves and other adventuring parties from a league of assassins set on exterminating them all. This collection contains issues one through five, and volume two is set to be released this month.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: Out of Orange by Cleary Wolters

If you're a fan of Orange is the New Black, you already know that Season 3 debuted June 12.
(And maybe you've already watched it.)

Whether you're desperately avoiding spoilers until you finish, or you're already longing for Season 4, I have something you'll be interested in: Out of Orange by Cleary Wolters, a.k.a. the real Alex Vause.

Out of Orange tells the story of how Wolters became involved in smuggling heroin, how she met Piper Kerman, and what went down when the smuggling ring was busted. It follows her through daring escapades bringing drugs into the United States, flying to exotic countries in the process... And it follows her to the far less glamorous places she went elsewhere, while waiting for sentencing and, later, serving her time.

Thanks to HarperCollins, I was able to read an advance copy of the memoir before it was published. As a fan of the show, I was excited to get the scoop on what really happened. In some cases, my curiosity was satisfied. In others, I felt frustrated by Wolters's occasional vagueness. I'm not proud of it, but I couldn't help but crave more juicy details!

Putting voyeurism aside, Out of Orange is a surprisingly humble and candid memoir. I was impressed by the lack of bitterness in Wolters's narrative voice. She describes her relationship with Piper with respect and discretion, and overall, I got the picture of a woman who has spent a lot of time reflecting on her experiences and who readily accepts responsibility for the decisions she has made, and for the resulting outcomes.

Out of Orange has a built-in readership in Orange is the New Black fans who have spent two seasons intrigued by Alex Vause and who want to know more about everyone's favorite bespectacled felon. But will these fans enjoy the book? Yes, I think, if they go into it with the knowledge that although Cleary Wolters and her experiences were the inspiration for Alex Vause, she and the character are two very different people. And as such, her story is very different from Alex's.

Perhaps these differences are part of what makes Out of Orange a worthwhile read. They let us see the real human beings behind the fiction.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Books to Celebrate GLBT Book Month

This year, the American Library Association named June GLBT Book Month, "a nationwide
celebration of the authors and writings that reflect the lives and experiences of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community." What better way to celebrate than by checking out a great book at your local LPLS branch?

Need some suggestions? Here are some of my favorite books featuring LGBT characters, themes, and/or authors.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Does it get better than the story of indomitable soul mates Idgie and Ruth? The story of their enduring friendship and love makes me cry every time. Am I tearing up just writing this? You'll never know, now will you? (Yeah, I totally am.)

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie rises from abuse and degradation to define herself and achieve autonomy. You'll wring your hands over her struggle to reunite with her estranged sister, long for Shug Avery to return her affections, and pump your fist as her independence blossoms.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Mock tells the story of her life so far and details the path she took to womanhood on her own terms. Enlightening and inspiring regardless of your place(s) on the gender spectrum.

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
I didn't realize that Poppy Z. Brite was trans until I started writing this post and started looking over lists of LGBT authors I might have missed! He now uses the name Billy Martin, and wrote as Brite when he penned one of my favorite vampire novels of all time.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Whitman's poetry makes me want to take my shoes off, go for long road trips, get in trouble, meet people, and scream off the sides of mountains. Primal, energizing, wonderful, and perfect for summer.

If the world of LGBT books were, say, a delicious cheesecake, this list wouldn't even be the barest slice. It wouldn't even be all of a single cherry sitting on top. It's just a few books that I've known and enjoyed, that I know we have in the library, and that wanted to share with you. If you want to explore more--and you should--try a list of LGBT authors. Find something you're longing to read, but we don't have it in the library? Suggest a purchase (you can do it online if you don't want to do it in person) or ask about interlibrary loan!

And, above all, read proudly. It's our library, too.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Support Mental Health Month

Each year millions of Americans are diagnosed with a mental health condition that them and their family must learn how to cope and live with. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental illness and those living with it. The alliance fights stigma, provides support, educates the public and are advocates for equal care. The movement continues to grow stronger each year. During the month of May take time to come together and learn about mental illness: what it is, who is affected, and how you can help become a voice for those in need of help.

In honor of the NAMI's efforts and message, here are some books that deal with mental health. We selected a wide variety of books to include various genres to appeal to your liking. Take a look around and enjoy.   
 (All synopsis are from worldcat.org)

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Calahan
Her medical record, from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory, showed psychosis,
violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four-old. Susannah's astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life.

Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Full of promise is how anyone would have described Elizabeth Wurtzel at age ten, a bright-eyed little girl who painted, wrote stories, and excelled in every way. By twelve she was cutting her legs in the girls' bathroom and listening to scratchy recordings of the Velvet Underground.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Esther Greenwood, a talented college student, finds herself estranged from her family and resigned to a conventional lifestyle and descends into depression and mental illness.

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
"The true story of a woman possessed by 16 separate personalities"--Jacket subtitle. 
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
The struggle for power between a head nurse and a male patient in a mental institution leads to a climax of hate, violence and death.

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
The author describes his experiences with depression and his resulting suicidal tendencies beginning in 1985.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele--Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles--as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recover.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Forced by a storm to spend the night at the home of the somber Heathcliff, Mr. Lockwood uncovers a tale of terror and hatred on the Yorkshire moors.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
 Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease.

January First by Michael Schofield
This work is an account of a father's fight to save his child from an extremely severe case of mental illness in the face of overwhelming adversity. The creator of the janisjourney.org blog traces the story of his fight to save his daughter from her severe schizophrenia and what he has learned about mental illness and its impact on family life. - Publishers description.