My 2017 Review in Books: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Reading with Nieces Wrap-Up

5 Jan

It is now 2018, and I wanted to use my first post of the year to wrap up some of my 2017 reading.

I followed the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge last year (more about that here), and completed 13 out of the 24 tasks–a lot further than I’ve gotten in past challenges! It motivates me for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge, for which I have already read one book. I will discuss that in another blog post.

Two completed Read Harder Challenge tasks that I didn’t get around to writing up were:

  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
  • Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme of other than love

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

behold-dreamers

Behold the Dreamers, Mbue’s debut novel and the pick of the Mile Square City Readers Book Club that I co-lead in September, is about Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga and his family living in New York City before the Great Recession of 2008. It was well received and generated an excellent discussion among the group, in particular about Jende’s wife Neni who was a pivotal character. This book will pull you in with the characters’ secrets and some surprises.

Pearl translated by Simon Armitage

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Pearl is an allegorical poem about a man grieving the loss of his daughter that dates back to the fourteenth century. The original Middle English text is printed on one side of the page, and the modern English translation is printed on the facing page. I admit to reading the translated side as Middle English was too daunting. The poem was a beautiful depiction of loss and mourning. Click here for examples of Old English, Middle English, and Modern English to see the differences.

Another reading challenge I assigned to myself was to read books with my nieces. My two older nieces had formal summer reading assignments, which I wrote about here and here, that I followed. My youngest niece Samantha, now in fourth grade, at first pushed back when I asked her to pick a book to read together. Then one evening she called and told me she wanted to read The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.

Poppy Pendle was born on the floor of a bakery, which instilled in her a passion for baking. She is also a witch–her parents want to focus on developing her powers but she would much rather bake. This leads to a clash between Poppy and her parents, which causes her powers to go out of control.

The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe

power-poppy-pendle

Truth time: I didn’t get around to reading this book in the summer. After finishing the book in the fall I called Sam to get her thoughts. Turns out she didn’t finish the book! She told me that she “barely has time to do anything.” Oh, kids.

Even though Sam didn’t read much of the book, I see why she picked this title: recipes are included at the end! Sam loves baking. When we are together we bake. She is not as interested in cleaning up after baking, leaving the messes for me, but she is getting better in that area.

Maybe next summer Sam will have more time and we can read a book together. 🙂

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By the way, this is Sam

I read lots of other things in 2017, but wanted to keep this post brief. I am active on Goodreads. Join me at either the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books on January 17 and the Mile Square City Readers Book Club on January 23.

Happy Reading in 2018!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Year End Wrap Up for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club: The Stepford Wives, Interview with a Vampire, Once and Future King, and The Time Machine

27 Dec

We had some great discussion this year as part of the Hoboken Public Library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club.  If you would like you can also check out my two earlier posts about our recommended reads.  Join us at our next meeting on January 22 to discuss The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (you can read about my enjoyment of this book in a previous blog post).  In February we will be reading The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (you can read about another of the author’s collaboration in a previous blog post).  In March we will be reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman.  You can help us plan what books we will read and movies we will watch in 2018.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

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For our September discussion, one of the group recommended The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin.  Although The Stepford Wives itself is a fairly quick read, at under 150 pages, it produced a lot of thought-provoking discussion amongst the group about topics such as our changing views of gender and the future of robotics/technology and its effects on humanity.  The group had also read another of Levin’s work Rosemary’s Baby previously and it was interesting to see how the fear and paranoia about the people one is supposed to be able to trust the most were found in both works.  The group on the whole was less positive toward the 2004 movie adaptation starring Nicole Kidman which we viewed, finding it more campy and funny than the original suspenseful work.  Instead some of the members recommend the earlier 1975 adaptation which adheres closer to the plot of the novel and keeps more of its tone.

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

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I had written several months ago about being a fan of Rice’s work in my teens and early twenties so I suggested to the group we read Interview with a Vampire for our annual spooky Halloween pick for October.  In addition to the novel we also watched the movie adaptation starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Antonio Banderas which I remember getting for my birthday back when it was originally released on VHS.  The group enjoyed the adaptation and felt the casting for the movie was excellent.  We had an interesting discussion about immortality and the enduring popularity of vampire fiction.  If you haven’t read this classic, I recommend checking it out.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

once-future-king
The Once and Future King
is White’s classic adaptation of the stories of King Arthur and his knights.  I was intrigued to read this since as a child I was a fan of the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone which is based on the first part of the book, which was at one time a standalone novel.  The length of the book made it hard to get through for all of the group, but they appreciated the style of White’s retelling.  Much like the Harry Potter series, the book gets darker and more adult as Arthur ages.  Kids and teens had fun decorating paper crowns in the Makerspace as part of our celebration of King Arthur.  We had many people pop in for our double feature of the animated The Sword in the Stone and the live action Excalibur.  Several of the group members mentioned the beauty of the setting of Excalibur which was filmed in Ireland and also the sparkly unique interpretation of the historic costuming as filtered through the lens of late 70’s/early 80’s fashion.  I enjoyed The Sword in the Stone even more having read the source material, my favorite part is the Wizard Duel between Mim and Merlin.

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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In December, with the busyness of the holidays we chose a shorter, though still classic, work The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.  Despite its length we still had an interesting discussion about the book’s view of the future and how it reflects the author and his time periods concern about class divisions.  The group also watched the 2002 movie adaptation that was directed by Wells’s great grandson, Simon Wells.  On the whole the group preferred the book, but thought the special effects held up well.  There was some discussion about how the movie predicted some things 15 years later that have become prominent parts of our lives such as virtual assistants and bicycling vending like we have here in Hoboken as an environmental alternative to cars.  One of the things I enjoy about the group is the opportunity to read books from different periods such as the past four months with books from 1972, 1979, 1958 and 1895.  Next month we will be reading a novel from this decade, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente from 2011.

Hope you can join us on January 22 at 6 PM for our next discussion; stop by at 4 PM for a classic fantasy film! The Library also has two other groups worth checking out: a Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books (100 Bloomfield Street) which will discuss Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes on Wednesday January 17 at 7 PM and the Mile Square City Readers Book Club, which this month will have author Amy Stewart discuss (via Skype) her book, Girl Waits with Gun, on Tuesday January 23 at 6:30 PM.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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