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It Came from the Interwebz: Books that Started Out as Online Phenomena

10 May

Since we are a blog about books, and I love all things meta, I thought it would be fun for this blog post to look at print books that started their life on the internet that I’m going to suggest online that you go read in print (though you can enjoy some of them in digital format too if you don’t want to leave your computer).

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente

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In Valente’s novel, Palimpsest, she had a character discuss a book they read as a child, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (at the time the book did not exist). Valente then began what would become Fairyland as a crowd-funded project and published the story online about a lonely young girl, whose father is off fighting and mother is busy working at a factory to help the war efforts, while she is lured to fairyland.  Although appropriate for middle graders, the story equally charms teens and adults with its wildly imaginative description of a fairy land which feels both fresh and modern and yet hearkens back to earlier fairy tales.  It reminded me of the magic and wit of the Oz books.  You will also want to check out others in the series including: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, and The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home.  You can borrow several of the books as digital audiobooks from Hoopla.  I had previously blogged about Valente’s fantastic adult novel Radiance in a previous post and dubbed it one of my favorite books of that year.

Welcome to Night Vale, by Fink Joseph

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If you are fans of podcasts you have probably at least heard of Night Vale which reached the top of the iTunes chart and well deserves its popularity.  In the small desert town of Night Vale odd things like floating cats and mysterious disappearances are recounted as ordinary daily events by the host of a local radio broadcast.  I love that podcasts like this one bring back the storytelling of radio dramas for a new age.  Just be forewarned the librarians in Night Vale aren’t the helpful, friendly staff you will find at HPL, but creatures to be feared.  Welcome to Night Vale expands on the events of the podcast.  You can also borrow Mostly Void, Partially Stars : Welcome to Night Vale episodes, Volume 1 and The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2 which include material from the podcast as well as art, commentary, and a peek behind the scenes.  You can borrow eBook and digital audiobook copies from eLibraryNJ.

Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, by Jen Yates

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The award winning blog Cake Wrecks started out when Jen Yates saw an unintentionally funny cake reading “Best Wishes Suzanne Under Neat that We Will Miss You.” She found other cakes that were misspelled (like my son’s fourth “birthay” cake), poorly (and therefore hilariously) iced, and just plain silly. Although the cakes are funny in and of themselves, it is Yates witty writings that brings back readers for more delicious helpings. Like the blog, the book includes pictures of cakes with her commentary (75% of which is not also featured on the blog). If you need to take a quick laugh break from holiday stress, checkout the sequel Wreck the Halls: Cake Wrecks Gets “Festive.”   You can borrow Wreck the Halls as an eBook on eLibraryNJ.

Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them, by Jillian Venters

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Jillian Venters took her popular Gothic Charm School site and transformed it into a Miss Manners guide for those who want to be both darkly spooky and polite.  It includes such practical information as what to wear on a job interview and how to handle disapproving family members.  My husband and I attended the book launch potluck tea party in Green-Wood Cemetery when it came out back in 2009.  Although obviously the years have passed and some reference may not be as au courant, there is still some solid timeless advice in the book for the alternative set.

John Dies at the End, by David Wong

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A recommendation from my husband, David Wong’s comic horror novel, John Dies at the End, began life as a free web serial by Cracked writer/editor David Wong (aka Jason Pargin). My husband was a fan of the humor site Cracked (which arose from the ashes of its print counterpart) and introduced me to it around the time of my son’s birth, a period where being up for what seemed at times like 24 hours made a good laugh a necessity.  Think of the novel as what would happen if the raunchy, clueless characters of Clerks or Harold and Kumar were living in HP Lovecraft’s Innsmouth. A sequel This Book Is Full of Spiders, was published in 2012. John Dies at the End was adapted into a 2013 movie which you can borrow from Hoopla. Scheduled to be released in October will be What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror.

Want more?  You can also read several previous posts were I discussed books that were birthed from blogs including:
Voracious
based on Cara Nicoletti’s blog Yummy Books
Molly on the Range for fans of Molly Yeh’s blog My Name is Yeh
Adulting How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps based on Kelly Williams Brown’s blog, Adulting
Bon Appétempt based on Amelia Morris’s blog Bon Appétempt
Eating Wildly arose from Ava Chin’s Urban Forager blog for the New York Times
My Berlin Kitchen comes from Luisa Weiss’s blog, The Wednesday Chef
Plus you can read about fanfiction inspired books and DVDs to checkout in a previous post. 

Have other picks for books that made the transition from the internet to print?  Share them in the comments!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Breakout the Seedcakes and Blackberry Tarts: Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Tolkien’s Birth!

6 Jan

January 3 is the 125th birth anniversary of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien who was born in 1892 in what is now South Africa in Bloemfontein.  Tolkien’s hobbits celebrated their byrding days (birthdays) by giving gifts to others rather than simply receiving gifts themselves.  Tolkien has clearly gifted the world with his writing; his work has been translated into over 60 languages as well as having been adapted as movies and even video games.  This is the perfect time to come in and check some out some of his writing and works he inspired today.

The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again

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The first and perhaps the most accessible of Tolkien’s novels set in middle earth, The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit whose life is changed when Gandalf the Wizard transforms his safe ordinary life into one of adventure.  My first encounter with it was the cartoon from the late 1970’s, which is available at some BCCLS libraries.  Also available to check out is Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings published as three volumes (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) which continue to be influential on many contemporary writers and is the archetype of High Fantasy.  If you would like to start listening to them right now visit Hoopla for digital audiobook copies.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Films Directed by Peter Jackson

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You can borrow several of the ambitious films that Peter Jackson directed including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey from HPL.  I saw The Lord of the Rings trilogy with my father who was overjoyed with the special effects laden and visually stunning adaptations of books he had loved as a teenager.  The Hobbit movies were a bit controversial with some fans due to the addition of new characters and plot lines to allow for three films; check them out and see what you think.

Video Games Set in Middle Earth

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Not satisfied with merely reading or watching about Middle Earth, immerse yourself in the epic battles with Lego The Lord of the Rings for the Xbox 360 or PS3.  The game allows you to unlock over 80 playable Lego versions of Middle Earth characters.   This game is rated E 10+.  For those looking for a more adult game check out Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor for the PS3, PS4, Xbox One, or Xbox 360 rated M; you play as Talion, a Ranger of the Black Gate and is set prior to the events in Lord of the Rings.  Also available is the rated M game The Lord of the Rings. War in the North for Xbox 360.

The Story of Kullervo

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If you are already a fan of Tolkien and looking for something new then you might be intrigued by The Story of Kullervo.  Although only recently published, The Story of Kullervo is an early short story from circa 1915, which is based on part of the Finnish epic Kalevala.   Also included are transcripts of Tolkien’s talks on Kalevala.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski

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Tolkien was part of a literary club in 1932 called the Inklings, who first met at Oxford University. The Inklings critiqued each other’s works and debated the hot topics of the time.  The Fellowship focuses on four of the groups most famous members and it is an interesting look at some of the forces that shaped Tolkien and his work.  Looking for more in-depth insight into Tolkien’s work?  You can also borrow from HPL The Tolkien Companion by J. E. A. Tyler and Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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