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Great Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads: The First Half of 2018 with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group

11 Jul

The first half of 2018 has been filled with a lot of enjoyable books for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Group. We hope you can join us for future discussions.  On Monday, July 23 we will be discussing Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster in honor of the summer reading theme of “Reading Rocks.”  We always welcome input into what books the group reads, so we would love to hear your suggestions!  Email hplwriters @ gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.  If you are a Hoboken Resident be sure to sign up for our summer reading program.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
Girlwhocircumnavigatedfairyland
You may remember I wrote about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making in a previous post about books that were originally published online.  I had loved the novel, so I was excited when one of the group members had suggested it.  There was some discussion of it in comparison to other children’s books we had read – such as the first three Oz books.  The story has a very retro fairytale feel to it which some of the group enjoyed.  Before the book discussion we watched Labyrinth which Valente has said was very influential to her in the author interview that was included at the end of the book.  You can read more about Labyrinth in a previous post I had written in honor of its 30th anniversary.

Mote in God’s Eye
by Larry Niven‎ & ‎Jerry Pournelle
Mote in God's Eye
image from Amazon.com
We had previously read two of Niven’s books as well as the Niven/Pournelle collaboration Inferno.  While the group thought that Pournelle’s influence was felt more heavily in Inferno, overall Mote In God’s Eye seemed more reminiscent of the Ringworld books by Niven we had read previously.  I found the book a little slow moving at first, but found it picked up and had me enthralled by the end with its story of first contact between humans and an alien race.  We paired the book with a screening of the Start Trek movie, Wrath of Khan which the group enjoyed.

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman
magicians
My first experience with The Magicians was its adaptation on the SyFy channel so I was curious to compare it to the book series.  Both feel like a modern and more adult take on Children’s Classics, most notably Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Once and Future King all of which we had read in previous book discussions so we had a lot of talk about them in comparison.  The group felt that although this was an interesting setup with all the borrowing from other works it felt more referential than innovative.  We also watched the first three episodes of the TV show.  I enjoyed both and this may be a rare exception where I did not necessarily like the book more than its adaptation.

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
ReadyPlayerOne
The group was curious to read and discuss Ready Player One since its movie adaptation was making its big screen debut.  I think this is another example of where the movie and book are very different in some ways, but both enjoyable and the changes for the movie felt on the whole necessary due to the more visual medium.  I’d definitely recommend the book, if you only saw the film. Ready Player One relies heavily on 80’s nostalgia, but we found interestingly the references did not resonate for some of the older members of the group who experienced the 80’s as adults rather than children, since many of the references are about video games, toys, and cartoons.  I had been curious to see if it was necessary to get all the references to still enjoy the book and film, but the group members who weren’t as knowledgeable still seemed to like the work.  We also watched Existenz beforehand, which the group felt had some interesting concepts about reality, but did not enjoy some of the intense visuals that are a hallmark of many Cronenberg films.

Scythe
by Neal Shusterman
scythe
One of the group members mentioned that she had been hearing a lot of buzz about the award winning Young Adult novel Scythe by Neal Shusterman so I was curious to check it out. The novel is interesting since in some ways it depicts a world which many people would see as a Utopia where disease and injury can almost always be cured and nanites in people’s blood prevent pain and depression.  Yet there is something that seems dulled in the society where death only comes by the hands of designated Scythes who “glean” in order to keep the population numbers down.  I found the book a bit slow in the early chapters where it focused on world building and typical teen concerns, but found it picked up with action and intrigue in the second half.  Beforehand we watched Ghost Rider which on the whole the group found over the top but enjoyable.

Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
fahrenheit 451
HBO recently debuted an adaptation of the Science Fiction classic, Fahrenheit 451, which had been on our “to be read” list for a while.  We viewed the 1966 movie adaptation before the discussion.  It was interesting to see how relevant the book was to our current world situation where censorship and mass media are both hot topics.  The group had a great discussion about how Bradbury’s four walls of viewing screens seemed very relevant with VR, Augmented Reality, and people constantly being glued to their cell phones.  We had a large turnout for the 1966 movie adaptation which had an interesting stylized look that to me kept it from feeling dated.  I especially liked that in the movie the protagonist’s wife and a young woman he meets, who seem to be positioned as mirror opposites of one another, was played by the same actress.  The novel is definitely a work you should check out!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Six Books I’ve Read So Far for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

30 Mar

Dear reader, I am now halfway through the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, with 12 of the 24 tasks completed! I am proud to be halfway through the challenge so early in the year. 

Without further ado, here are the books I read to complete 6 more tasks.

The Task: A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

The only book I could think of to fulfill this task was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, which I read last year with the Mile Square City Readers Book Club. (A moving book, by the way.) I already had The Woman Next Door checked out, and when I realized the two protagonists were female octogenarians I was excited that this book would complete this task. Hortensia and Marion are neighbors in post-apartheid South Africa whose relationship is contentious, but evolves into friendship and mutual understanding. I read this book in one day.

The Task: A book with a cover you hate

raspberry-danish-murder

Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke

Raspberry Danish Murder is the latest entry of Joanne Fluke’s Murder She Baked series, which follows bakery owner and part-time sleuth Hannah Swenson in a small Minnesota town with an alarmingly high murder rate. The writing has become almost painful and I read this since I’ve read the other books in the series. I have a sweet tooth, which is what initially drew me to Fluke’s books but the raspberry danish on the cover looks so unappetizing. For that reason, plus the overall decline of this series’ quality, is why I used Raspberry Danish Murder to complete this task.

The Task: A comic written and drawn by the same person

complete-persepolis

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I first read The Complete Persepolis in graduate school, and it blew me away. Marjane Satrapi tells her extraordinary story of growing up in Iran before, during, and after the Revolution. My favorite parts were about the lengths Marjane and her friends and family went through to live their daily lives with celebrations, parties, and romance, all while evading government authorities prepared to arrest them for crimes such as women not being properly veiled and drinking at home. The Lady Memoir Book Club I lead at Little City Books discussed this book at our last meeting.

The Task: A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author

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The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

In The Widows of Malabar Hillwe meet Perveen Mistry, the first female lawyer in 1920s Bombay. A routine estate settlement case becomes complicated for Perveen when the deceased’s three wives who live in purdah (a practice of Muslim women choosing to live in seclusion) sign away their inheritances to charity,  and then a murder occurs in the home. It is up to Perveen to solve the mystery and protect the women’s interests. This book is the first in a series called A Mystery of 1920s Bombay, and I definitely want to read more from Sujata Massey.

The Task: An Oprah Book Club selection

american-marriage

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I finished An American Marriagelast week, and I am still thinking about it. Celestial and Roy are newlyweds when Roy is wrongly imprisoned for rape. This book, told in part by the letters Roy and Celestial write to each other, generated an excellent discussion at a recent Mile Square City Readers Book Club meeting. It raises a lot of questions, too. What is an American marriage? What would you do if your spouse was sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit? Oprah made an excellent choice with this book, in my opinion. I plan to read Tayari Jones’ other books.

The Task: A comic written or drawn by a person of color

black-panther-world-wakanda

Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay and Ta’Nehisi Coates

I saw the film Black Panther, and absolutely loved it. Black Panther: World of Wakanda features writing by literary heavyweights Roxane Gay and Ta’Nehisi Coates, plus other authors. The story begins with the Dora Milaje (the female protectors of the Wakandan royal family), where Captain Aneka and Initiate Ayo fall in love during training, and where Initiate Folami goes rogue. I enjoyed reading about the fierce, strong women of the Dora Milaje, who believe in protecting all Wakandans in addition to the Royal Family.

This will be the last post I write for the Staff Picks blog, as I am moving on from the Hoboken Public Library. It has been wonderful sharing my reading journeys with you in this space. Thank you to those who have read and commented on my work. Feel free to find me on Goodreads. Happy Reading!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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