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Three Great Book Choices You Can Check Out from Home: Blue Plate Special, Space Opera, and Mittens

19 Sep

Yesterday I posted about Read an eBook Day.  Today I thought I recommend two books I’ve enjoyed and one recommendation from my son who is also an ebook fan.  A great feature of eBooks is that they are perfect to borrow on rainy days or when you are feeling under the weather and don’t want to or can’t leave the house to stop in at the library in person.  Share with us in the comments if you checked out an ebook or digital audiobook recently and want to recommend it to our readers!

Blue Plate Special: An Autobiography of My Appetites

by Kate Christensen
BluePlateSpecial
I decided to read Blue Plate Special when I was craving something to read late at night before bed and did a quick search on eBCCLS; this seemed like a great choice since I had enjoyed Christensen’s novel, The Last Cruise, and am a fan of Foodie Memoirs. I enjoyed Christensen’s writing, but her life had a lot of trauma, complications, and was dominated by bad relationships – including an abusive father that made this a bit of dark read. I can see how the complexity of her own life has led her to be able to create such rich and nuanced characters in her fiction. Recipes are included in each section of her autobiography which was broken into the different places she has lived which include everywhere from California, New York, Iowa, and Paris. She mentions several times about journaling and I felt that she had kept logs of her life because of how detailed reflected events were recounted.  Christensen is one of three sisters and I felt her sibling’s lives sounded as interesting as her own with one, an aspiring ballerina and the youngest one, who winds up temporarily becoming part of a religious cult on the other side of the world.  Blue Plate Special ends with Christensen’s move to New England something she chronicles in How to Cook a Moose that I will pick up when the memoir mood strikes me again.

If you want even more foodie memoirs/fiction check out some of our previous posts. Three of the authors I wrote about previously you may recognize now from Food Network shows including Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Baked in Vermont, Molly Yeh’s Girl Meets Farm, and Jessica Tom as a contestant on the Next Food Network Star. You can borrow Jessica’s Tom’s novel Food Whore from eBCCLS and Gesine Bullock-Prado’s memoir My Life from Scratch from eLibraryNJ.

Space Opera
by Catherynne M. Valente
read by Heath Miller
Space Opera
If you are thinking you don’t have time to read an ebook, consider listening to one instead.  They are a relaxing way to commute to work (you might even wish that there was more traffic so you could get through one more chapter) or pass the time while doing some of your daily chores (I love listening to them while I’m folding laundry).  You can listen to Catherynne M. Valente’s latest novel Space Opera as a digital audiobook read by Heath Miller from Hoopla. I have written several times previously about Catherynne M. Valente, including her works Radiance and her Fairyland series, which I am fans of.  Valente’s worlds and characters are always highly original and quirky and those of Space Opera are no exception. Space Opera is set after a brutal intergalactic war tore civilizations apart; now in order to keep order, species must prove their worth not with military might but by competing in a singing competition like one you’ve never imagined.  This year humanity’s only hope is two thirds of a washed up glam rock band.  If you love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than you will enjoy Space Opera!

Mittens
by Lola M. Schaefer
Pictures by Susan Kathleen Hartung
Mittens
This pick comes from my son, Tommy, who just started first grade this month.  One of the great things you can borrow for kids from Hoopla is Read-Along ebooks. Think of them as an ebook/audiobook hybrid for emergent readers. It lets children hear books read and allows them to read along.  You can either have the pages automatically turn or turn them yourself. You can even pick how fast the pages are read. Over the summer we tried to read at least one book a day together and we’ve been transitioning from me reading to him to him often reading to me, with me giving assistance when he gets stuck on a word. The Read-Along ebooks provide a fun way for beginning readers to feel more confident about learning to read themselves.  First my son has them read the book and then he tries to read the books himself.  He loves cats and recently got a new kitten of his own so was enamored with the story of Mittens who must adjust to moving into a new home.  Since he was starting a new school this year it provided a good opportunity to discuss concerns about being in a new space himself; books can be a great way to get kids to open up about things. Besides the Mittens series, you can also borrow books in the Tommy approved Biscuit series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli if you have puppy dog fans in your house.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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

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