Tuesday, October 21, 2014

They're Coming For You.

There is no shortage of books that you could read around this time of year that would scare you and jangle your nerves and give you a good adrenaline rush. This is the scare that's familiar and welcome, like a cup of flavored coffee on a Fall morning. These are the books we read like we read Poe - almost a tradition and still scary, but bordering on comfort, campfire tales for curling up with On a crisp eve near All Hallows'.

I'm not talking about those books.

These books are the books about the human race confronting hostile, existential threats and being irrevocably changed in the process; books that will, if you let them, take you on page-turning journeys into terrifying fates and leave you with a sinking feeling of delectable dread because they tread new ground in terms of being so completely frightening.

The Girl with All the Gifts is not an experience that is improved by a lot of advance detail; I was a double-digit number of pages into this book before I realized what kind of book it even was. Anyone who says to you that it is a "zombie book" is a lazy person and likely not your friend. I'm your friend, and you can trust me when I tell you to read this, not simply because it bucks easy genre classification and deserves the additional attention of anything which defies category, but because it is outstanding. In the genre-within-a-genre that is monster / horror stories, and with pop culture having made the walking dead such a buzzphrase that you thought of the TV show when I used it, it should be impossible to revitalize and make once again chilling, the zombie.

It should be impossible. It isn't, because Carey has done it. Familiarity dulls the knifepoint of terror, so Carey alienates you from what is expected. From the sterile and regimented beginnings of this tale - which begins before we arrive - to the inescapable and inexorable series of unfolding conclusions which follow, every character is fleshed out and feels like a person you might have run into, every locale is described in mundane detail that never seems mundane, and the reader gets sucked into the book while the book leaves a thumbprint on the reader's brain. As it should be, I think.

Listening to this book on audio is also a good option, read as it is by Finty Williams, an actress of all screen sizes who is also the daughter of Dame Judi Dench. The reading is excellent, and I recommend one or both.

If technological terror is more your game, then I would also recommend Daniel H. Wilson's Robogenesis, the follow-up to his 2011 book, Robopocalypse. While it would be easy to think of the latter as World War Z with robots, that would not give the book enough credit; while there were similarities in format and presentation, Wilson's story was simply a first act, and the narrative made that amply clear. His second act, Robogenesis, takes the story of the global robot uprising into its second stage, and in so doing, mixes technology with humanity in three completely disturbing and horrifying ways, taking us into the minds of humans and AI as they progress in their journeys and adjust to the new reality of what life is in the wake of the events of the first book. While it is possible to jump in without having read the first part of the story, I don't recommend it and I imagine the effect would be confusing and a little jarring. The rhythm of Wilson's narrative jumps effortlessly from the first book to the second one, and even after three years, I found myself clicking with the characters while my skin crawled to imagine what was happening to them.

Robopocalypse and Robogenesis are also both available as audiobooks from the library - I have not personally sampled either one, but listening to the first one would be a quick way to get caught up if you're unfamiliar. Additionally (and also recommended), there is a collection of short stories from the library edited by Daniel H. Wilson, appropriately titled Robot Uprisings, which is generally less on the scary side of things, leaning more toward the speculative and philosophical.

So, go and read - the fate of humanity may depend upon it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Genre Spotlight: Graphic Memoir

I love reading memoirs. Whether it’s a celebrity or a regular person you’ve never heard of, there’s something unique in the reading experience when someone shares their life story with you. When a memoir is really well-written, you come away not only entertained, but having gained a deeper understanding of the complexity of human experience. Memoirs aren’t just good reading; they also build empathy.

Graphic memoirs hold an extra special place in the bookshelf in my heart. They have all the things I love about memoirs in general, with the added bonus of gorgeous or funny art that helps convey the story. Interested in trying out this genre for the first time? Check out one of these hand-picked suggestions.

Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi
This two-volume memoir recounts the author’s experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It’s a powerful book that depicts the mingling of the political and the personal during a turbulent time and flawlessly recreates the confusion of a child’s perception of war and politics. The clean lines of the stark, black-and-white artwork make for perfect accompaniment to Satrapi’s experiences.

Blankets by Craig Thompson
Blankets is a story of sharp contrasts: the experience of childhood abuse and stifling religious orthodoxy, and the experience of falling in love for the first time. Thompson grew up in rural Wisconsin, sharing a bed with his younger brother, attending church with his family, and drawing. When he falls in love with a girl at church camp, the experience profoundly challenges and alters his worldview. Thompson’s storytelling and his artwork are equally matched in elegance and in their ability to break your heart. If you’re a coming-of-age aficionado, do not miss this one. It’s a huge tome, but you’ll fly through the pages.

You might have seen Brosch’s hilarious comics online, where they originally appeared and enjoy a wide readership. This volume collects Brosch’s misadventures, with episodes detailing adopting a problematic dog, struggling when the world does not conform to one’s arbitrary rules of how things should be, being literally lost in the woods, coping with depression, and more. The artwork isn’t beautiful; in fact, it’s as crabbed and awkward as Brosch’s experiences. Which, I think, is all part of the charm.

If you’ve heard of the Bechdel Test (a method of determining the quality of depictions of women in film), but haven’t read anything by the woman who invented it, try Fun Home. This memoir focuses on Bechdel’s experiences with her father, a closeted gay man. This book is both sad and funny, which is, I guess, what you can expect from an author who grew up in the family funeral home. (Get the title now?) If you like Fun Home, you'll also want to check out Are You My Mother?, which turns the lens on Bechdel's mother. Still not sold? Bechdel just won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. Yeah, she's good.

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges
Georges grew up believing that her father was dead. (After all, that’s what her mother told her.) When she’s in her twenties, she receives a prediction from a psychic that challenges this knowledge. Although it comes from an unlikely source, this revelation prompts Georges to discover the truth about her past. This memoir also deals with Georges’s emerging awareness of her sexual identity, and with her relationship with dogs. (As a dog lover and a fan of LGBTQ narratives, I adored this book!)The artwork alternates between a simpler style for childhood scenes and a more complex style for adult scenes. Sometimes our early memories are fallible and seem almost unreal and cartoonish, so I thought this contrast was really appropriate and clever.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Genre Spotlight: New Adult

What in the world is New Adult? This might be a question you've asked yourself lately while reading book blogs, scanning new releases, or perusing bookstore shelves. Like Young Adult, New Adult is more of a demographic than a genre, focusing on readers between the ages of around 18 and 25. However, books categorized as New Adult typically have several features in common. They follow characters in their late teens or early twenties. Romantic relationships are usually front-and-center. You can expect intensity, transformation, and lots and lots of drama. You can also expect some heat; New Adult is almost notorious (among both fans and detractors) for its steamy scenes. Usually when someone calls a book New Adult, they mean that it has these features. So, a book might have characters in the right age range, but is not really a New Adult book. (Just as there are many books about teenagers that are not Young Adult novels, and books about children that are not juvenile literature.)

Like its little sibling Young Adult, New Adult enjoys a diverse readership. It really doesn't matter if you don't fit into the 18-25 age group. Fans of contemporary romance, in particular, will find much to love in New Adult. So if you're feeling curious, go for it! Here are some author suggestions to get you started.

Jay Crownover
Jay Crownover's Marked Men series follows a group of friends in Denver, Colorado. Among them are a tattoo artist, a metal singer, a soldier, and plenty of other bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold types.  The series starts with Rule and continues with Jet and Rome. Crownover's new series is called Welcome to the Point and begins with Better When He's Bad. It follows ex-con Shane Baxter as he leaves prison, looks for answers, and falls for a much-too-innocent girl named Dovie. If you're into star-crossed, mismatched lovers battling personal demons and hashing out their differences--or if you like guys with tattoos and piercings--then these are the books for you.
Cora Carmack
Carmack's Goodreads biography describes her as "a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters"--in other words, quintessential New Adult. Her series starts with Losing It. The protagonist, Bliss, is tired of being the only virgin in her group of friends, and decides to take care of the situation with a no-strings-attached one-night-stand. But Bliss freaks out and leaves the stranger lying there in her own bed--only to discover, about 8 hours later, that he's her new theater professor. If you like watching characters get into and out of cringe-inducingly awkward situations, this is the book for you! The series continues with  Faking It and Finding It. (There are also related novellas, so if you really get into this series, there's plenty to explore.)

Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is one of the most popular New Adult authors, so if you're wanting to explore what it's all about, she's a logical choice. In Hopeless Sky begins her senior year at a public high school after being home-schooled for her entire life. If that's not enough change already, her world gets far more complicated when she meets Dean Holder, who instantly mesmerizes her and brings back buried memories from her past. This one is full of twists and secrets, so if you like high drama, check it out. Fans can continue the reading experience with Losing Hope, which is told from Dean's perspective. Hoover's other books include Slammed, set in the slam poetry scene, and Maybe Someday, in which an aspiring musician must deal with betrayal at the hands of her boyfriend and her best friend.

Abbi Glines
If you want a big series to get involved in, Abbi Glines might be your author. Her Rosemary Beach series actually combines three miniseries, so if you start and like it, you're guaranteed to have plenty more reading material lined up for you. The whole thing starts with Fallen Too Far, in which nineteen-year-old Blair trades in Alabama farm life for the Florida coast, where she will be living with her father, his new wife, and her sexy new stepbrother. (And if you need a handy list of all the books in order, Fantastic Fiction is your friend.)

S. C. Stephens
Kiera and Denny have been a happy couple for two years, with no intention of changing that. After high school they move to the city together; Kiera will be in college, and Denny will be starting at his dream job. But when an unexpected circumstance drives them apart, Kiera's loneliness drives her to seek friendship with Kellan, a local musician. Can you say love triangle? Find out what happens in Thoughtless. The series continues with Effortless and Reckless

K. A. Tucker
In Ten Tiny Breaths, orphan Kacey flees a dysfunctional home with her younger sister Livie, determined to bury the past and to protect Livie whatever the cost. Their journey takes them from Grand Rapids to Miami, where a distressingly attractive neighbor catches Kacey's attention and complicates her already less-than-perfect life. The series continues in One Tiny Lie, Four Seconds to Lose, and Five Ways to Fall.

Tammara Webber

Tammara's first novel in the Contours of the Heart series is Easy, and it  presents a situation that is anything but. The couple at the center of the story meet when Lucas saves Jacqueline from being assaulted, which is hardly a light-hearted "meet cute." When Jacqueline's attacker refuses to leave her alone, Lucas continues to protect her. But of course, this is a New Adult novel, so there are plenty of complications and secrets to keep things interesting. Who can Jacqueline trust? Find out in Easy. The story continues in Breakable.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mysteries for Nature Lovers - If you like Nevada Bar & C.J. Box

Nevada Barr and C.J. Box have long been favorite authors of both LPLS staff and patrons alike.  While they both write very distinct series, their books share many similarities.  Both authors draw on their professional backgrounds, which adds a great deal of realism to their writing.  Their protagonists read like real people who have flaws and make mistakes.  And, along with relentless pacing and plotting, both series feature the beauty and savagery of nature.

While Box and Barr are the most well known writers of nature-focused mystery, there are other very good ones out there that shouldn't be missed.

If you enjoy the Wyoming setting and environmental issues that Box tackles in his Joe Pickett series, David Bertsch might be a good one to try.  Both Bertsch and his protagonist Jake Trent are former lawers-turned-fishing guides, and that knowledge adds an extra dimension to the plot.  This first in his series is Death Canyon.

Scott Graham adds an archaeological element to the wilderness mystery in his National Parks series.  Both Barr fans and Reichs/Griffiths readers will find much to like here!  His debut is called Canyon Sacrifice.

Patricia Skalka's debut, Death Stalks Door County, introduces park ranger Dave Cubiak.  Set in
Wisconsin, the setting has a different feel from the others that take place in the West or Southwest.  Skalka's prose is reminiscent of the great Robert B. Parker's, so fans of the Jesse Stone series should try this one out.

Paul Doiron's game warden, Mike Bowditch, works in Maine.  Doiron shares the twisty plotting and top-notch characterization that Barr and Box are known for, but he does it from a first-person perspective.  This gives the prose an immediacy and an intimacy that sets it apart from the rest.  Consistently well-reviewed, he should be on every mystery lover's must read list.  The first in the series is The Poacher's Son.

William Kent Krueger's Cork O'Connor is a half-Irish, half-Native American P.I.  The rural Minnesotan setting and O'Connor's Ojibwe point of view makes this series fine company for Box and Barr.  Western readers and Tony Hillerman fans will also enjoy the series.  The first in the series is Iron Lake.

Set in the Rockies, Beth Groundwater's RM Outdoor Adventures series is perfect for white water rafters.  Or those of us who prefer to raft vicariously through fictional characters.  The rivers of Colorado are as important a character as river ranger and guide Mandy Tanner.  Start with Deadly Currents.

Dana Stabenow brings the rugged and brutal beauty of Alaska to life through P.I. Kate Shugak.  Kate and Barr's Anna Pigeon are kindred spirits as they are both tough, smart, and willing to do the right thing no matter the personal cost.  The first in the series is A Cold Day for Murder.

While Stabenow's a master of the genre, M.J. McGrath is brand-new.  White Heat starts in the Arctic as guide Edie Kiglatuk is hired to find the remains of a lost Victorian explorer.  Its haunting tone will appeal to fans of Scandinavian mysteries.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coming Soon! Late summer 2014 releases

The end of the summer season promises to be an exciting one for readers!  Curious about what will be on the best seller list in a few weeks?  We've compiled a list of sure-fire hits and long-awaited series releases that we've recently ordered.

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee by Marja Mills is every librarian's dream literary memoir.  Mills had the opportunity to live next door to the Lee sisters, getting to know Harper and her sister Alice as only a neighbor and friend could.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon is, perhaps, the most anticipated fiction release of the season.  Even though we've had the Father Tim prequels to hold us over, it has been nine years since the last Mitford book came out.  Need to refresh your memory?  Start with At Home in Mitford.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness closes out the All Souls trilogy, which started with A Discovery of Witches.  Harkness expertly blends genre elements, making this series a good pick for historical, fantasy, urban fantasy, and romance fans.

Son of  No One by Sherrilyn Kenyon is the latest in the highly addictive Dark Hunter series.  Strong characterization and a richly built world sets Kenyon apart from other paranormal romance authors.  While each novel can stand alone, there are plot threads that weave through the whole series.  If you want to start at the beginning, look for Fantasy Lover.

Shots Fired by C.J. Box supplements the Joe Picket series with four short stories featuring the popular Wyoming game warden.  This series is recommended for both mystery and western readers as well as Nevada Barr fans.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New Releases by Debut Authors - Spring 2014

If you're a mystery reader, this Spring's releases are for you!  There's something new in every subgenre from cozy to hardboiled police procedurals.  But don't despair, speculative fiction readers!  We've got two new authors this time around that are must reads.  Enjoy!


The Forever Watch by David Ramirez is a good choice for mystery readers who want to delve into SF.  Ramirez blends elements from both genres to create a novel that is difficult to put down.  If you like Kristine Kathryn Rusch or serial killer fiction, this is a great one!

Malice by John Gwynne is a traditional epic fantasy by a brand-new talent.  Lauded for its detailed worldbuilding, fans of Tolkien, Jordan, and Martin should add this to the to-read list.

Random House describes Run to Me by Diane Hester as Jodi Picoult meets Harlan Coben, but Mary Higgins Clark fans will find much to like here, as well.  Its tone is emotionally-charged and suspenseful, its protagonist slightly unreliable.  If you're looking for a stay-up-all-night read, this might be for

Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes is a series debut starring DCI Louisa Smith.  This British police procedural will appeal to Tana French and Mo Hayder fans.

Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper launches a new cozy mystery series set in a tea shop in upstate New York.  This is a great one for readers of the subgenre and a no-brainer for  Laura Childs fans!

Foal Play by Kathryn O'Sullivan is a perfect summertime read.  Set in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina, this series starter should appeal to Joan Hess fans with its stubborn fire chief
heroine, tricky plot, and quirky small-town secondary characters.

Eileen Brady brings real-life veterinary experience to her series debut, Muzzled.  It's part of the burgeoning "pet noir" subgenre, which mixes some of the pet cozy elements with darker content.  This is perfect for someone looking for a cozy with more bite.

Julia Dahl launches the Rebekah Roberts series with Invisible City.  Rebekah is a budding journalist, so fans of Mary Jane Clark, Lis Wiehl, and Jan Burke should try this out.  Faye Kellerman readers might also enjoy the Judaism-centered plot.

The Water Rat of Wanchai by Ian Hamilton is another series debut featuring forensic accountant Ava Lee.  Readers looking for a new strong, smart, independent heroine will definitely want pick this one up!

Night Heron by Adam Brookes is a suspenseful spy thriller that will enthrall genre fans.  This debut highly
regarded by critics from Booklist to NPR.  Brookes draws his own experiences as a new correspondent in China to add a great deal of realism to his prose.

Never Alone by C.J. Carpenter is a suspenseful police procedural that will appeal to J.A. Konrath and Chelsea Cain fans.

Canyon Sacrifice by Scott Graham blends national parks and archaeology for a fascinating read that will appeal to readers of Nevada Barr, C.J. Box, Kathy Reichs, and Elly Griffiths.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Books for Fans of Orange is the New Black

The second season of Netflix prison drama Orange is the New Black debuted on June 6. If you're like some of us on staff, you've already binge-watched the whole thing and are eaten up with unanswered questions. While you're settling in for months of agonized waiting for season 3, why not ease your pain with some OitNB readalikes? My coworker Liz (thanks, Liz!) and I have compiled this list of books featuring female felons from all walks of life and other characters who remind us of the Litchfield ladies.

Orange is the New BlackMy Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman If you haven't read the book upon which the show is based, you might want to make this your first stop. Reactions vary, especially among fans of the show who enjoy the in-depth (albeit fictional) back story and characterization. But if you're curious about what really happened, you'll want to give it a go.

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, and other Female Villains by Jane Yolen
This collection of biographical sketches examines the lives and bad reptation of twenty-six of history's most vilified women. Each chapter is followed by a graphic novel-style debate about whether these bad girls deserve their tarnished reputation, or if the context justifies their actions.

Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox
Knox was accused of murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Italy, resulting in a controversial arrest, conviction, and eventual overturning of her charges. This memoir recounts Knox's experiences.

Runaway Devil: How Forbidden Love Drove a 12-Year-Old to Murder Her Family by Robert Remington and Sherri Zickefoose
When a family was discovered murdered in their home, authorities feared for the safety of the lone survivor, a twelve-year-old daughter, JR. But as the investigation continued, they were shocked to discover evidence that implicated JR as the murderer.

Couldn't Keep it To Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters edited by Wally Lamb
This book collects first-person accounts from real female prisoners. Unfortunately, all LPLS copies have been lost, but I couldn't help sharing it.  If you're interested in what real women have to say about incarceration and want a variety of perspectives, ask a staff person at your local LPLS branch about interlibrary loan. We'll try to find a copy for you from another library!

A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
First in a series, this novel introduces Stella Hardesty. Stella runs a sewing shop but spends her off hours meting out vigilante justice to abusive husbands and boyfriends. I think she'd have a lot in common with Claudette--remember what she did to the client abusing one of her cleaning service girls?

Let That Be the Reason by Vickie Stringer
Abandoned by her boyfriend and desperate for a way to support her child, Pamela assumes the alter-ego Carmen and rises from being a call girl to leading a major drug cartel. This novel is based on the author's real-life experiences, which included spending time in prison before achieving success in publishing.

Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
Sixteen-year-old Ree must find her father, who has skipped bail after being busted for running a meth lab, and bring him back for his next court date. I can imagine Pennsatucky being in similar situations.

You might also want to read along with Piper, Alex, Taystee, and the rest. Books of Orange is the New Black tracks and lists the books that appear in the Litchfield library, on bunk shelves, and in the inmates' hands. It's a great resource for tracking down that interesting-looking book that you saw for just a minute on-screen but couldn't make out the title.