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40 Years of Favorite Part Two: My Favorites From My Twenties

9 Feb

You may remember I started a list of my favorite books or series of books through the years in honor of my milestone 40th birthday with books I loved as child and teen.  I thought I’d finish out my 40th year with part two and three of that post and look at favorite books from my twenties (and in the next post my thirties).

21. The Works of Tanith Lee

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I went through a period as a teen into my early twenties of being a huge fan of the dark fantasy of Tanith Lee and it would be impossible for me to pick only one of her works as a favorite from that time period; unfortunately not all of her prolific work is currently in print.  For vampire fans check out Personal Darkness available from BCCLS libraries.  For those who enjoy retellings of Fairytales, like I do, check out a very adult retelling of Snow White, White as Snow.  You can borrow her Lionwolf Trilogy as eBooks from Hoopla.

22. Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned

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Ray Bradbury’s prose always hooks me into his stories. From the Dust Returned is composed primarily of a series of short stories Bradbury wrote decades earlier, centering on a family of monsters, vampires, and ghosts named the Elliotts. When I was in college I remember being on a Goth Music Discussion email list (these were the days before Facebook and even Myspace) where one of the participants was in love with one of the stories in From Dust Returned and encouraged everyone to check it out; I did and it remains a favorite. The cover art for the novel was provided by Charles Addams, who created his own macabre family, The Addams Family.

23. Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls and 24. Drawing Blood

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Poppy Z. Brite, pen name of transgendered author Billy Martin, was known in the early 90’s for his horror stories.  My two favorites from that time are the haunted house tale Drawing Blood and the vampire novel Lost Souls.  Brite then went on to write several dark comedies in the late 90’s/early 2000’s set in the culinary world of New Orleans in the Liquor series.  Hopefully Martin will chose to come out of authorly retirement and start writing again sometime soon since I’d be curious to see what he has for his next chapter.

25. Spider Robinson’s Callahan Series, 26. John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous Series, and 27. Alan Dean Fosters’s Spellsinger series

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Following my dark fantasy period, there was a time in the 90’s where I couldn’t get enough of funny fantasy and science fiction.  Spider Robinson’s Callahan series is set in a bar where the regulars include a talking dog, a time traveler, and alien life forms; many puns and shenanigans ensue.  Several of Robinson’s books are available from BCCLS Libraries.  John DeChancie’s Castle Perilous series features a castle with thousands of doors, each of which opens onto another dimension; those who enter often receive surprising magical abilities.  Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series features a student who is pulled into a world where animals talk and behave like humans, and the protagonist gains the power of using music to cast spells.  Books in these series are all available from Hoopla as eBooks or digital audiobooks.

28. Connie Willis’s Bellwether

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You may remember my post about Connie Willis’s terrific books about time travel; our book discussion group even read Doomsday Book one month. The book of hers I first picked up my freshman year of college when it came out was Bellwether which looks at a group of scientist who are attempting to study what causes and how to create a fads. Looking back on it now Bellwether seems predictive of the current fad of viral marketing and social media influencers, though at the time I just fell in love with the funny, quirky book.

29. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic

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I have written previously about my love of my Alice Hoffman’s magical fantasies which feature bold female heroines either in historical or contemporary settings. My first and still one of my favorites is her novel Practical Magic. It is definitely worth rereading since she just published in 2017 a prequel The Rules of Magic, where she writes about an earlier generation of the Owens family: Franny, Jet, and Vincent, set in the 1960’s.

30. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

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Speaking of Dystopian works, The Handmaid’s Tale was shocking and thought provoking to me when I read it as a college freshman. The story has gotten a renewed buzz with its adaptation as a streaming series. I also enjoyed Atwood’s other fiction and poetry.  I got to see her at a reading/Q&A when I was in graduate school at a Non-for-Profit Theater in Brookline, MA, which for a book nerd was practically a holy experience at the time.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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

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