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Our Best of 2018: Book and Video Game Recommendations from the Past Year!

2 Jan

In celebration of the New Year we decided to look back at a few of the library staff’s favorites you can check out from Hoboken and other BCCLS libraries!  I’ve linked to the print editions, but Hoboken Library Patrons can check out many of the books as ebooks and digital audiobooks from eLibraryNJ, Hoopla, or eBCCLS.

Favorite Fiction: Lost Empress by Sergio de la Pava and
Social Creature
by Tara Isabella Burton
social creature
I read a lot of good books in 2018. My favorite was Lost Empress by Sergio de la Pava. I wrote about it for the blog earlier this year. I loved this book for the intricate plot, the stunning prose and dialog, and the way it made me laugh out loud.

Another book I greatly enjoyed was Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature, about a toxic friendship between Lavinia, a well-off New York party girl,  and Louise, who dreams of living Lavinia’s lifestyle, but barely manages to live hand to mouth as she pursues her dream of becoming a writer in New York. I loved the decadence, the homage to social media, the upscale product placement (Cristal! Agata and Valentina!), not to mention the sex and the drugs. Some of the craziness stretched credibility, but Social Creature is definitely not easily put down.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

Favorite Nonfiction: American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
by Shane Bauer
American Prison
In 2014, Shane Bauer spent four months working undercover as a $9-an-hour prison guard at Louisiana’s notorious Winn Correctional Center, a private prison run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Bauer’s experiences at Winn will horrify most readers as he documents his experiences working in a severely understaffed private prison where guards are poorly trained and inmates live in appalling conditions. American Prison is not only an incredible piece of first-person journalism; Bauer also provides a history of private prisons, interspersing his narrative with an expose on the era of “convict leasing” in which prison labor replaced slave labor on plantations and free labor in many industries. Bauer’s history has made me reevaluate my understanding of America’s justice system more than any other book I have read.

Written By:
Karl Schwartz
Young Adult Librarian

Favorite Mystery: An Act of Villainy
by Ashley Weaver

My favorite mystery this year was An Act of Villainy by Ashley Weaver.  The book is part of Weaver’s Amory Ames series which I had written about in a blog about her previous novel The Essence of Malice.  I think this is my favorite in the series I’ve read so far.  The book is set in the backstage theatrical world of London in the 1930’s; Amory is asked to investigate when a leading lady (and mistress of a friend) begins receiving menacing letters.  In addition to an intriguing mystery, I thought it was interesting to see Amory react to the relationship troubles of another couple in light of some of her own marital complications.  Honorable mystery mentions go to Diane Andrew’s Toucan Keep a Secret and Rhys Bowen’s Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding.

Other books I have loved this year and previously blogged about include for science fiction: Catherynne M. Valente’s funny fanciful Space Opera which takes Eurovision Song Competition to a galactic level; best fiction would be The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen, with it slow building suspense and well written characters; and for fantasy Kill The Farm Boy by Kevin Hearne & Delilah S. Dawson which gives a refreshing new spin on the classic hero’s quest.

Written By:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

Favorite Video Game: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I’m an avid gamer and have been since childhood, so I was really looking forward to the newest installation of Super Smash Bros., especially since I’m old enough to have been around and playing since the first Smash Bros. game was released in the 1990s. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which was just released on December 7, absolutely lives up to the hype of its predecessors, and since acquiring it I haven’t been able to put it down and trying to unlock a roster of 74 video game characters so I can play as whoever I want. Smash Ultimate, the fifth installment of the series, is highly recommended.

Written By:
Steph Diorio
Local History Librarian

Curious what other library patrons have been enjoying this past year? Here are the ten most frequently circulated fiction and nonfiction works of 2018 compiled by Head of Circulation Rosary Van Ingen:

Top Circulating Fiction 2018

  1. Little Fires Everywhere
  2. An American Marriage
  3. The Woman in the Window
  4. The Immortalists
  5. The Great Alone
  6. Manhattan Beach
  7. Still Me
  8. The Lying Game
  9. All We Ever Wanted
  10. The Woman in Cabin 10

Top Circulating Nonfiction 2018

1. Fear: Trump in the White House
2. The Last Black Unicorn
3. Educated: A Memoir
4. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
5. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
6. Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
7. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
8. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership
9. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
10. Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn and TensorFlow: Concepts, Tools, and Techniques to Build Intelligent Systems

What were some of your favorite items this year? Let us know in the comment section!

Great Stories/Horrible Characters: The Sky is Yours and Yesterday

26 Dec

Two of my recent speculative fiction reads both focused on people I found myself disliking despite enjoying the books.  Check them out and see what you think!

The Sky is Yours
by Chandler Klang Smith
Fans of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian post-apocalyptic works such as Oryx and Crake and The Heart Goes Last should enjoy The Sky is Yours.  The Sky is Yours is a very creative and beautiful written story with characters that I found myself disliking intensely.  Interestingly the author seems to have written them purposefully that way, comparing them in an interview to the characters in The Magicians series, which we had noted in the book discussion group here at the library are quite a contemptible bunch.  The Sky is Yours focuses on a former reality star, Duncan Humphrey Ripple V and his new wife Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg and Abby, a wild girl who Duncan met after he crashed in a garbage dump.  Duncan and Swan are wealthy and spoiled, but the city they live in is crumbling around them burned by the twin flames of dragons that ceaselessly circle the sky.  I thought it was interesting that Smith chose to focus on the characters she did.  Sometimes I found myself wishing I was following the exploits of more likeable individuals, but I thought it was an interesting change not to be focusing on people who are innately good and deserving as so often happens in speculative fiction especially those that feature the fairy tale like quality that The Sky is Yours sometimes has.  It made me wonder how I would feel about a story like say Harry Potter if it had focused on the Slytherins instead of Harry and his friends.

by Felicia Yap
In the alternate universe of Yesterday people are divided by how much they remember: monos remember one day and duos remember two.  The main characters of the novel are a mixed marriage of mono and duo couple, the husband’s mistress, and a detective attempting to solve the mistress’s murder.  Only the detective truly came across as sympathetic to me; he is a mono pretending to be a duo so that he can keep his job.  The vindictive mistress especially was unlikable, but she was one of those villains you love to hate.  I enjoyed the twists the mystery took and I thought the fact that the detective was trying to solve the case in one day so he would remember all the details he learned vividly added an interesting dimension.  I also always think it is interesting to see how society can be divided in ways that we currently do not such as with memory since it provides another lens to look at the divisions we have in our own society; another example of this would be Jasper’s FForde’s Shades of Grey series which divides people by the colors they see, which I had written about in a previous post.  When I was discussing the novel with one of the library’s staff, she recommended the movie Memento for those who are fascinated by the concept of memory.

What are some fictional characters you love to hate?  Recommend their books in the comments.

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