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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

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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

Frozen Literary Treats to Check Out from the Hoboken Public Library: The Ice-Cream Makers, Sweet Spot, and The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook

20 Sep

I’ve always been a huge fan of ice cream; I’ve taught two ice cream making classes at the Library and even recently had a poem published in a collection of ice cream poetry. If like me you are mourning the end of the warm weather, you can keep the summer months going a bit longer by checking out some of these cool literary treats.

The Ice-Cream Makers by Ernest van der Kwast/ translated by Laura Vroomen

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The Ice-Cream Makers is the second novel and international best seller by Indian born, Dutch author Ernest van der Kwast.  It tells the story of a family of Italian ice cream makers who for several generations has been creating frozen treats in the Netherlands during the summer months.  The extensive research done by the author comes through in the details of their lives and will make you think twice about wanting to open up your own shop due to all the hard work it requires.  The tension and drama in The Ice-Cream Makers comes from the relationship of the two brothers who both are in love with the same girl as well as the one brother, Giovanni’s eschewing of the family business to instead become immersed in the world of poetry while his dutiful brother instead stays and creates ever more elaborate flavors such as fig and blue cheese.  I found the portions of The Ice-Cream Makers dealing with Giovanni and the poetry festivals he was involved with to be some of my favorites.  I am curious to check out his similarly delicious sounding debut novel from 2010 Mama Tandoori, inspired by his Indian mother.

The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook by Susan Whetzel

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After reading van der Kwast novel, you might be craving some actual ice cream so go to eLibraryNJ and check out The Everything Ice Cream, Gelato, and Frozen Desserts Cookbook as an eBook.  Food Blogger Whetzel’s entry into the Everything series of books will provide you with what you need to know to make ice cream and more including tips on storage and a brief history of ice cream.  She includes basic ice cream recipes for flavors like vanilla and several for chocolate, as well as more fanciful flavors like Sage Blackberry Swirl Gelato, Orange Infused Olive Oil Gelato, and Cucumber Mint Frozen Yogurt for those with an adventurous palate.  Besides granitas and sorbets, which are always dairy free, there is a whole section on vegan ice cream including scrumptious flavors that will tempt those beyond vegans and the lactose intolerant such as Cinnamon Swirl Cheesecake and Pineapple White Chocolate Macadamia.  For diabetics and others watching their sugar intake there are tasty recipes including Peanut Butter and Jelly, Decadent Dark Chocolate Raspberry, and Coffee Chip.  Plus you can learn to make ice cream accouterments like your own homemade magic shell, waffle cones, flavored whip creams, and sugar cookie cups to make your desserts even more special.  For those looking to make a celebratory treat there is a section on ice cream pies and cakes perfect for your loved one’s next birthday.  Recipes for milkshakes and their slightly healthier siblings smoothies are also featured in this work that truly does seem to live up to its “everything” claim.

Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America by Amy Ettiger

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For those looking for a fun nonfiction account about ice cream, you will enjoy Amy Ettiger’s Sweet Spot which takes a look at the history of ice cream and its creation and enjoyment across the USA.  She speaks to everyone from Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s fame to Andrew Zlot, a water buffalo farmer, making made-from-scratch gelato.  Ettiger goes beyond interviews and research; she learns to make ice cream at a famous Penn State ice cream making boot camp and even rides along with an ice cream truck in Brooklyn, where she learns about the ice cream truck turf wars in the process.  A few quirky recipes, including Salty Butterscotch Ice Cream, and photographs are sprinkled throughout the book.  An index for those looking for specific topics and a list of consulted works are included, however, her account though informative, takes a very personal conversational tone which is makes it good for casual non-fictions readers.  Those who enjoy foodie memoirs should find this work a sweet treat.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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