Tag Archives: catherynne m. valente

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

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

girl-circumnavigated-ship
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

welcome-night-vale
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

cake-wrecks
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

gothic-charm-school
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

john-dies-end.jpg
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

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