Archive | August, 2015

Top 5 Books! Because It’s….August!

26 Aug

What to call this entry? Well, it’s still summer, but the phrase “Summer Reading” calls up doleful memories of schoolwork intruding into free time. “Beach Reading” sounds great in theory, but the actual beach experience–heat, glare, sand, seawater–is not ideal for either e-books or books on paper (especially library books!).

I ruin my own reading experience quite fine by myself–getting up every few minutes from a book to Google an unfamiliar concept or bit of history I come across. That works fine for Trivia Night, but would leave any self-respecting storyteller grinding their teeth. So when The World’s Worst Reader™ actually finishes a book, it’s cause for celebration, no matter what you call it. So here are five books that TWWR™ has found truly worthwhile and would happily push upon any innocent bystander. (All items mentioned are available in the BCCLS system.)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


A thoughtful apocalyptic dystopia with an emotional tug. It opens on stage, with an actor collapsing while playing King Lear. Soon the Georgia Flu has wiped out virtually all humanity. Some time later we catch up with a small band of players roaming a deserted America, entertaining pockets of survivors for shelter and food. There’s an intriguing use of an airport–that symbol of transit and ephemerality–re-purposed as a poignant museum of permanence, featuring a precious few things saved from the wreck of mankind. This early sentence, describing an impromptu tribute to the dead actor, hooked me and many other readers: “Of all of them there at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest. He died three weeks later on the road out of the city.”

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes


This is a first novel, but Hayes, a veteran screenwriter, clearly has nothing to learn about craft, plotting, pace, or characterization. A diabolical and terrifyingly plausible scheme to destroy the United States, carried out by a radical Islamic mastermind who nonetheless stands as a fully-formed character. And the only person who can stop it is Pilgrim, a single flawed but brave government agent pulled out of retirement for one last case. Yes, we’ve been here before, but never so inventively and with such care at building both character and suspense.

Hayes seems to consider it a sin to release narrative tension for a second, and the string remains taut as we venture from a tenement hotel in the East Village, to a beheading in Saudi Arabia, to a suspicious shooting in a lavish mansion in Turkey on the shore of the Aegean Sea. We follow in rapt fascination as the cat-and-mouse game draws the two men together, the terror scheme followed through with deadly patience, skill, and single-minded ruthlessness, with Pilgrim equally creative and inspired in pursuit. Each seemingly random occurrence is part of a complex, many-sided puzzle box, every piece sliding into place with a satisfying click by the end. A bravura performance, with not an inch of fat in its 600-plus pages.

The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn


For want of a nail….We’re on board The River of Stars, a once majestic, now-obsolete space vessel, on its last sail when a catastrophic engine failure puts the trip in jeopardy. But no reason to fret: There is expertise and material aplenty on board, and time enough to solve the problem…if not for all the attendant perils flesh is heir to and which no technological advancement has eclipsed: Pride, stubbornness, lust for glory. The space-faring odyssey unfolds with Shakespearean inevitability–the end is right there in the title. But though the actual misfortune is telegraphed, the two-column roster of the survivors and the doomed is sorted with the scary randomness of real life. No heroes or villains are on board, just a human-sized story against a vast backdrop of space. Naysayers found it a trifle slow going and overly crammed with technological detail, but I found it powerful in its purposeful, doomed majesty.

John Dies at the End by David Wong


Speaking of giving away the ending. In this oft-hilarious monster rally of a horror novel, John and Dave are a Clerks-style buddy act getting by in a Midwest town whose name remains undisclosed for the readers’ protection–a town under the sway of Soy Sauce, a street drug that opens up doors of perception leading into a nightmarish alternate dimension oozing with hideous creatures and sickening gore. It’s pitch-black macabre comedy with a truly sincere feeling of doom. If you found clowns creepy before….

Y: The Last Man by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra


In this dystopian action saga, a comic series published 2002-2008, Vaughan imaginatively thinks out the ramifications–political, societal, and sexual–of a world where every single male mammal has mysteriously perished save one, underachieving escape artist Yorick Brown, now a wanted man in every sense.

The “Y” in the title is a nod both to the Y chromosome that makes Yorick a He, and to the story’s core question–why did all the others males die, and why did this one survive? Even more impressive than the world-spanning plot is Vaughan’s world-building, how deeply he’s thought about how different a world composed solely of women would be. Just one detail: Female Democratic members of Congress are confronted with an armed band of widows of former male Republican congressmen, demanding the seats of their deceased spouses in a battle to balance the institution left leaning to the left by the disappearance of men. (Editor’s note: This series was recommended last year by another staff member!)

Shameless Plug:


Death in the Eye, my self-published murder mystery in the cozy Agatha Christie tradition, is available as a Kindle book and a paperback, and through the Hoboken Public Library’s Technology Lending program.

-Written by Clay Waters, Library Assistant

Light Up Your Summer Nights With Some Great Gaslight Fantasies: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec and The Eterna Files

22 Aug

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec is a French film based on the graphic novels of the same name by Jacques Tardi.  Adèle Blanc-Sec is an adventurous Victorian-era Parisian reporter who seems a fusion of Nellie Bly and Indiana Jones.  She is played by Louise Bourgoin who manages to seem proper and intelligent even in the film’s more comedic moments.  Adèle goes to Egypt hoping to find Ramses II’s physician who she believes when revived will be able to heal her sister who is currently in a comatose state due to a tragic hatpin related accident.  But upon returning home she finds that the professor she had counted on to bring back the mummy is on death row since he was practicing his telepathic technique by hatching a pterodactyl egg; the pterodactyl is now soaring around Paris causing mayhem.  There is also a romantic subplot and lots of humor in this fun French Action Adventure from Luc Besson, the man behind The Fifth Element.  If you are a steampunk fan you should love this film as much as I did.  You can borrow the DVD of the film and the first volume of the graphic novels it is based on from BCCLS Libraries.

The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber

The Eterna Files is the first novel I had read by Hieber, but I had enjoyed her story, Charged, in the short collection Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: A Collection of Gaslamp Fantasy I wrote about in a previous post.  I had the opportunity to see Hieber read at the Steampunk’s World’s Fair and with her background as a trained actress, she truly brought the characters to life.  You can see her reading samples of her work on her YouTube channel and for those in the area come see her do a special presentation about the Ghosts of New York right in time for Halloween on October 29.  The Eterna Files focuses on two teams of scientists and mystics, one in the United States attempting to create immortality and the other in England investigating supernatural events and attempting to stop the Americans from creating an eternal leader.  The Eterna Files is set during the Victorian period and the clothes and locations are vividly described.  There are a lot of characters to keep of track of but I enjoyed the interweaving of the two teams’ narratives.  A few characters are also featured in her other works and I’m interested to check them out as well, but did not feel that I was at a disadvantage having not read them before The Eterna Files.  The Eterna Files and several of Hieber’s other novels are available from BCCLS libraries.

Bonus Book:
Insider’s Guide to Steampunk Fashion by Hannah Rothstein

For those inspired by these titles and wanting to get in to some Neovictorian fun, check out Hanna Rothstein’s Insider’s Guide to Steampunk Fashion available to Hoboken and other BCCLS card holders through Hoopla.  This short nonfiction work will give you a brief overview of steampunk’s inspiration and the different types of outfits that Steampunk cosplayers (fans that dress up in costume) wear to conventions and meetups.  Included are full color photographs and hyperlinks to resources for further information.  Some of her prose is a bit on the florid side with concoctions of mixed metaphors, but due to the nature of the topic that seems apt.  The publisher Hyperink specializes in creating ebooks based on popular online blogs.  Rothstein has a background in fashion studies and art and has written copy for popular hipster retro fashion site Modcloth.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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