Book Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

by Britney

I didn’t grow up a “Harry Potter kid.” In fact, I was already in college when the Harry Potter books came out. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t fall completely and utterly in love with J.K. Rowling’s fantastic wizarding world. Even now, having read the series multiple times, they still hold a sort of intangible magic for me.

That’s a lot to live up to.

So when I heard that J.K. Rowling was penning a new series – one for (gasp!) adults – I was skeptical. And also intrigued. What would she write about? Would it have any of the elements of Potter? Of magic? I waited in anticipation. I certainly did not expect the hero to be a surly, ex-military amputee detective with an addiction to cigarettes and beer. But man, oh, man, am I glad he is. Because I ❤ Cormoran Strike. He’s the kind of hero I can relate to – flawed, hates mornings, and is suspicious of everyone. My kind of guy. And his sidekick, Robin, is #girlgoals.

I devoured the first three books in the series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil. I loved them. And when British TV produced a 3-miniseries production for each of the existing books, I spent three sleepless nights watching them. (They are wonderful, by the way, and the cast is brilliant.) So when Lethal White was released, I breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, finally, I’d have some answers about things left up in the air at the end of Career of Evil. So, I read all 650 pages as fast as I possibly could. And this is what I discovered:

I am normally not a crime fiction reader. It’s not my go-to, as I don’t have the stomach AT ALL for blood and gore, or for children in peril. That said, if this series ran to 37 entries, I’d read every single one, and that’s a testament to Rowling’s skill as a writer. Her ability to meticulously plan a super complex plot without dropping a single thread is nothing short of amazing. Not only that, but her characters are unique and developed, not just caricatures, and I genuinely care about them and what happens to them. She makes me feel every raw rub of Strike’s prosthesis, so that I flinch when he takes a step; she makes me feel Robin’s bone-deep trauma when she has a panic attack; she makes me want to throttle Matthew for being such a selfish wanker. I become invested in these books, immersed in Strike and Robin’s adventures, in their danger, in their success, in their very survival.

I’m not going to lie – this book was a beast. And I may even go so far as to say that parts of it were a *bit* repetitive. But not to the point where I was annoyed, or ever lost interest. In fact, I think the repetition may have been done purposefully, to really drive home some of the themes.

I liked the further character development that took place in this book. Strike is in a semi-normal relationship, but he refuses to commit to any more than “casual.” He is focused on his business, and experiences something that makes him want to become closer with his family. He borderline acknowledges his feelings for Robin, and summarily refuses to act on them (even though I keep screaming inside for him to just kiss her, already). He makes some almost hilarious – but also heartbreaking – mistakes about Robin that show what a blind spot he has where she is concerned. And he is also a brilliant, brilliant investigator, as always. Robin is one of my favorite fictional characters. I love her grit and her bravery in the face of danger, and I also empathize with her in her impossible situation at home. I am constantly frustrated with her because she capitulates to Matthew and lets him treat her like she’s inadequate, yet simultaneously understand that she suffers from PTSD, and that Matthew is, in a way, her constant. It’s maddening. There are times in this book where she’s so far out of her element she has every right to mess up or refuse, but she doesn’t. And, in fact, she succeeds admirably. And when she *finally* has her say, it’s a beautiful thing.

The mystery in this book is very complex with a lot of moving parts that don’t seem to make any sense at all. But once those pieces start falling into place, and the threads start getting pulled tighter, the revelations are astounding. I must say I did guess the culprit, but not because it was obvious, or predictable; rather I just didn’t like the character, because I don’t like that type of person, and was predisposed against them and wanted them to be guilty. 🙂

Overall, a wonderful addition to the Strike saga. If you like mysteries with a low level of yuck but a high level of intrigue, give this series a try.

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Books to Movie…When Worlds Collide

by Kelly

One of my earliest jobs as a youth was at the local cinema. On my days off, when I wasn’t busy dishing out popcorn and candy for the customers, I would cash in on my perk of being a theater employee and watch movies. I watched nearly everything the theater brought in without prejudice; love stories, thrillers, documentaries, comedies, and children’s films were all fair game.

A few years later, as I immersed myself in the role of being a librarian, I discovered that many of the movies I had seen in my younger years actually began as books. What a novel idea! I took home a copy of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park to see if the book was as good as my then-favorite movie, directed by film legend Stephen Spielberg. Crichton’s fast-paced novel of enormous adventure did not disappoint, and I was immediately hooked on the book-to-movie experience.

Over the eyars, I have had the thrill and disappointment of seeing some of my favorite titles transformed from page to silver screen. Jumanji and Zathura, both children’s books written by Michigan-native Chris Van Allsburg, were cinematic hits I still enjoy in both book and movie form. Young adult titles The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli are great stories on and off camera that depict life and tug at the heart strings. And, while neither Odd Thomas, written by Dean Koontz, nor Horns, written by Joe Hill (son of the legendary Stephen King), made it to the big screen, small screen adaptations of both these novels were produced with excellent visual effects and story lines that ran true to the authors’ words.

Which brings up an interesting question: if a movie adaptation does not run true to the story line of the book, does that make it a bad film? This year alone brought two of my favorite recent novels to the box office- science-fiction thriller Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer, and Ready Player One, a futuristic virtual reality treasure hunt, penned by Ernest Cline. Director Alex Garland’s on-screen version of VanderMeer’s eerie novel stays true to the setting and tone of the novel while taking a not-so-exact route with the story line. At first I found this disappointing, but the movie, much like the book, still resulted in an experience that left me feeling haunted. And then there’s Stephen Spielberg. He took Cline’s 1980s-referenced, action-packed adventure and switched it up. Though Spielberg completely changed many of the book’s significant events, he did it in a way that was equally as entertaining and effective to the overall feel of the story, much like the masterpiece he created with Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

Modern tales are not the only books being made into movies. Shakespeare’s stories were created long before the invention of the motion picture, but that hasn’t stopped filmmakers from trying their hand at interpreting the Bard’s works. Obvious translations can be seen in various versions of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, while screen adaptations of his plays can also be found in the films 10 Things I Hate About You, and Disney’s The Lion King, which tell the stories of The Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet in not-so-obvious ways. Other classics such as Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes continue to be periodically reinvented in fantastic ways.

As long as books and movies continue to thrive in our culture, it’s a good chance that their worlds will continue to collide. Sometimes the result is epic; sometimes the result is better left unseen; but either way, books and movies provide us with unstoppable entertainment.

Check out our shelves to find versions of these books, movies, and more!

Library note: Currently in production/now showing are film/TV versions of…

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Fantastic Beasts by J.K. Rowling

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

…and many others. Grab a copy of the book and read it before you see the movie!

 

Here a Book, There a Book

by Britney

As the director of the Belding Library, one of my responsibilities is curating the library’s materials collection. That’s a fancy way of saying…

I get to pick the books.

So, that stack of books you just walked out of the library with? The best seller, the quirky YA, the picture book for your kiddo, the manual to help you build your new bird feeder? Those were selections that I made, with the hopes that people would check them out and enjoy them, and justify the dollars I spent on them from an extremely limited budget.

No pressure or anything, right? If no one wants to check out the books I buy for the library, not only am I fully responsible for wasting the library’s resources, but I’ve let my patrons down by not providing them with materials they deem valuable. Therefore, I take my collection development job very seriously.

But I’m also a Book Lover, with a capital B.L. And as such, I want to buy all the books.  All of them, I say! But, as painful as it is for me to admit it, that’s simply not financially feasible. Sadly, heartbreakingly, the library does not have unlimited funding. In fact, because of some other financial obligations the library has, our materials budget is one of the smallest allotments we have. So every single dollar counts.

Recently, I had a friend ask me how I decide which books to purchase for the library. And the answer to this question is: very carefully.

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One of the biggest factors in building a collection that circulates well is knowing my population, and which types of books they like. I spend a lot of time looking at the books our patrons check out, and becoming familiar with what their interests are – at all ages and reading levels. I mean, there’s no point in me buying a book no one is going to read.

After that, I choose books that are entertaining, are good for creating discussion, are thought-provoking, and are bona fide must-reads. And every now and then, I get specific purchase requests from patrons for books, and try very hard to accommodate these requests.

One thing that makes my book-choosing job easier is talking to my patrons. The more I talk to people about books, the better idea I get about what they like to read, and what they want to see in the library. And on top of that, I just plain like to talk about books! So if you’re in the library and see me, chat me up about what you’re reading – I’d love to hear what you have to say, and I’d love to hear your recommendations!

At the library, we’re in the business of patrons and books – and if the two can compliment one another, all the better.

Happy reading!

 

 

The Right Book

by Stefanie

When I was growing up, it was just a given that my brother and I would be readers. My mom took us to the library once a week and set us loose in the stacks. I can’t think of a time when I ever questioned how much fun it is to read, or ever felt like reading was something I had to be coerced into doing.

Okay, maybe that’s not true. I was reading for fun at home. The books we were assigned to read in class – those were a different story. Particularly in high school and college, while I might have enjoyed some of the assigned novels to a certain extent, there just isn’t as much joy in reading The Great Gatsby or War & Peace for a grade. And I was an English major. I CHOSE to have reading assigned to me.

There’s just something extra special about getting to choose the books yourself, about coming to reading on your own terms.

 

One of the difficult and controversial aspects of working with children as a librarian is helping them locate books that are both appropriate and interesting for them. The controversy lies in those situations when the books a child is interested in might be considered by a parent of teacher to be inappropriate for them.

There are multiple reasons this could happen. One reason is based on reading levels. As kids are learning how to read and are growing as readers, their reading “level” grows with them. This level helps guide the child and their parents to books that will challenge them without pushing them too hard. This is certainly valuable from an educational standpoint. But as a librarian, I’m a little biased against reading levels. They are definitely a valuable resource, but they can also be relied on too heavily. If a kid wants to try to read a book that’s past their current skill level, what’s the worst thing that will happen? If it’s for a school assignment, it might not fit with the expectation for their class, and if it isn’t, they might attempt it and realize they’re not ready for it. But what’s the harm in trying? So many of the best experiences in life come from thinking outside the box everyone once in a while.

Another reason is the possible inappropriateness of the book’s content. This is slightly more complicated. As a parent myself, I fully understand and appreciate why a parent might choose to keep their child from reading books that contain certain themes or content that’s a little too “adult.” It’s up to every parent to make this decision for their families.

 

 

But as a librarian who was once a kid, I remember how magical it felt to be able to select my own books from the shelves and check them out without my mom second-guessing them. I’m sure if I had grabbed anything truly well beyond what I should be reading, she would have stepped in. And I’m also sure I was just wary enough of her reaction that I wouldn’t have pushed my luck too far. But this way, the library books I checked out got to be MY thing. I got to control it, and having a sense of agency is so important and so valuable for a child.

 

Many parents come to the library trying to figure out the conundrum of their child’s reading preferences, feeling totally overwhelmed. I would never suggest there’s an easy solution to this challenge, because there are as many reading challenges as there are children. However, as we try to get kids reading by rewarding them for doing it, I suggest taking a slightly different view of things. Instead of rewarding them for reading, make reading the reward. Let them pick out books of their own choice no matter how ridiculous or far-fetched them seem. Let them push boundaries a little bit. Maybe even let them think they’re getting away with reading by flashlight under the covers after bedtime. Give them a chance to make reading their extra special thing. And demonstrate how special it is by rewarding yourself with reading, as well. Show them how much you relish your time to just sit down and relax with a book, and maybe they’ll learn to do the same.

 

Scallywags, Scoundrels, and… Librarians?

by Britney

I think in another life, I must have been a pirate.  It’s the only (acceptable) explanation I can think of for my love of books about scallywags and scoundrels.  Give me a morally ambiguous character with a dark agenda and a shady crew, and you’ve got my attention.

Methinks it has to do with the fact that those types of characters are so much more interesting than other, more honorable and straight-laced lads (and ladies).  There are always motives other than are initially apparent, hidden perils, and higher stakes.  And muskets, and knives, and all manners of explosives!

I’ve read a couple of books lately that absolutely sing to my black heart, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about one, just in case there are readers out there who share my love of questionable characters and their equally dodgy exploits.  It’s a proper pirate-y book, caravel and all.

416OtR9YEzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Girl From Anywhere by Heidi Heilig

“It is not difficult to tell the future of a woman who only has a past.”

This book is extremely unique in that it’s a time travel book, but not really.  I mean, yes, it has time travel, but it’s not wholly about time travel.

The plot is very intricate and complicated (but not overly hard to follow), but here’s the gist of it: there’s a crew of time-traveling pirates who navigate from place to place and time to time using maps of all sorts as a means of transportation.  Maps can only be used once (a navigation is a one-way trip), and any map can be sailed into – even ones of mythical places (hello – Atlantis, anyone?).  Here’s what you really need to know: it’s (mostly) set in 19th century Hawaii, there’s a lost love, a heist, oodles at stake, and a pocket-sized dragon.

One of the things that immediately drew me to this book was its use of maps.  I am obsessed with maps.  One of the first things my dad taught me as a kid was how to read maps.  He believed that as long as I knew how to read a map, I could never get lost.  (I can’t tell you how many times this skill has been useful.  GPS? Who needs it? Not this girl.) When my grandmother died, one of the things I kept of hers was her collection of National Geographic maps, saved from the magazines she had collected since the 50s.  Anyway, I super duper smooch maps of all kinds.  And this book played right into that love.  Cartography, authenticity, accuracy, dates, places – these are all elements which advance the plot of this book.  And the introduction of maps from all different places/times lend a broad scope to the narrative, and makes history, mythology, and the future all immediately relevant.  (So, just, cool and clever, and #writergoals.)

This book also has a fantastic cast of characters.  The diversity  in the crew of the Temptation is authentic to the situation and the setting.  It’s nonsensical to think that a pirate crew would be composed all of one shade of the rainbow.  (Insert eye-roll emoji here.)  Nix, the main character, is of caucasian/Chinese descent; Kashmir (<3) is Persian; Bee is African and a lesbian; and Slate, the captain of the ship, wrestles with drug addiction.  I felt like the characters ring as authentic without being overtly token, and without their status being pushy.  Nothing feels forced; nothing feels patronizing.  There is no political aim here; it’s just a very real example of an author being brave enough to write reality.

It’s books like this one that make me appreciate YA literature.  It represents all the best things fiction has to offer: action, adventure, a moral conundrum, strong female characters, strong male characters, diversity, education… I could go on for a while.  I’d recommend it as an excellent read to anyone interested in time travel, pirates, pre-Union Hawaii, maps, ships, or pocket-dragons.  I’d give it a PG rating (it’s clean, with very few mild expletives), and would have no problem handing it to any of my tween/teen patrons.  Additionally, it’s part of a duology (yay!), so there’s more Nix, Kash, and Slate after you’ve finished this one!  (The sequel is called The Ship Beyond Time.)

And if you like books like this, here are a couple good choices for read-alikes.  (And strangely, all three of these books are parts of duologies):

20983362Passenger by Alexandra Bracken                                                    This book features Etta, a new time traveler who must search through time and space (oh, be still my Doctor Who-loving heart) for answers to her past, and for an object of treasure to help unravel secrets of her family and their strange gifts.  Though I didn’t enjoy this title quite as much, it’s still a really fun read, based on an interesting take on time-navigation.  This book is followed by Wayfarer.

 

blackhearts-9781481432696_hrBlackhearts by Nicole Castroman                                                Ahoy, fans of Blackbeard!  Though there be no time travel in this book, there are pirates aplenty!  As well as scoundrels and scalawags, and all manner of roguish rakes.  Here be the story of Blackbeard in his early years, and of the girl who loves him, then breaks his heart, setting him on a path of plunder and destruction.  And oh, what a story it is.  This book is followed by Blacksouls.

 

 

One of my very favorite parts of my job as a librarian is getting to recommend great books like these to people who come into my library.  And though I love to read, and would do it anyway, I am grateful that I get to work in a place that allows me to combine many of my loves (reading, writing, programming, people) in such exciting ways.

Until next time!

Cheers!

 

Enabling My Obsession

by Melody

Have you ever wandered into a bookstore or library and sniffed the books? It’s weird, but… I love the smell of books. I realize this is a bit odd…what can I say? Books are in my blood. They are the comfort when someone wants to escape reality. They are the story that wants to break free from their own pages and burst into the mind of the reader. What kind of fantasy world or dramatic story is hiding behind that interesting front cover? I’d like to think I feel this kind of excitement after I check out a new book. (Note: I’m a fiction girl.)

I was one of those kids that didn’t play school, or teacher, or house. I played LIBRARY. As a child, I would gather all of my books, get lined paper and a pencil, and tape or glue in pockets for library due date cards. Not actual due date cards but pieces of paper that would say the date and time of when the book was “checked out”. I loved playing library and I loved my books even more.

My obsession with written words only grew after that. Once I turned eighteen and started working at our wonderful Belding Library, I knew books were in my blood. I started collecting, buying, reading, and checking out more and more books. I’m one of those people that takes a book everywhere for almost every occasion (just in case I don’t want to talk to people. Ha!). Even while shopping, it is very strange for me to not come home with a purchased book.

I’ve worked at the Belding Library for around fourteen years, and my favorite room is the fiction room. My obsession with books has never stopped and I doubt it ever will. I’m extremely thankful for my Belding Library which enables me to be obsessed and check out as many books as I can. (Okay, really the limit is like a hundred, but I don’t need to check out THAT many…)

So, take a break from your busy schedule, and stop by the Library to check out a book. It’ll be worth it. You never know what kind of world you might find yourself in.

The Case for YA Literature

by Britney

This blog post was originally posted on my personal blog, Inkblot Ideas.  You can see the original post here. (And follow, if you love books, reading, writing, and all manner of fun quirkiness!)

 

I have a confession to make: I read a lot of YA (young adult, for those of you who are wondering) literature.  Ok, ok, maybe it’s not a confession, since if you all are paying attention, you know that already.  But it’s true, and I’m not ashamed of it.

I actually have an extremely eclectic reading taste – I’m game for almost anything, save terrifying, bloody horror books, and Amish fiction.  This is because I ❤ books, I appreciate authors and want to support their heroic work, and I like to learn things about all the things (except stabby, murdery psychopaths and sweet, sweet Amish love).

I have always been a #reader, but over the years have read for different purposes.  As a child, I read because I enjoyed it; as a student, I read because I had to; as an adult I still read because I have to, but not because it’s required – rather, it’s a compulsion.  It’s not for a grade, but for the soul.  Because I’m old now, and can do what I want (*insert sarcastic laughter here), I read what I want.  My time is limited, and I don’t see the point in torturing myself by wasting precious hours reading something I don’t enjoy.  I enjoy YA literature.

“But, why?” you ask.  “YA lit is for, you know, teenagers.”  I respectfully disagree.  Saying that is like saying teenagers shouldn’t read contemporary fiction, or nonfiction because those genres aren’t written to target a teen audience.  YA literature is a unique creature unto itself, in that it can be about anything.  YA literature is not tied to genre limitations; is is not stifled by literary conventions.  YA authors aren’t afraid to put it all out there and write about cyborg Cinderellas or about children hunting other children to amuse evil adults; they aren’t afraid to take risks.  They aren’t afraid of what their audience may think – they know kids are up for anything.

So why is YA literature thought of as being less than

Currently, YA literature is experiencing an explosion in popularity.  YA books are ending up on best seller lists; they are taking up huge amounts of space in bookstores; they are being turned into blockbuster films.  Are there really that many teens reading books?  NO.  While there are a lot of teens who read, the explanation for what can only be called the YA Phenomenon is this: adults are reading YA books.  Why?  BECAUSE YA BOOKS TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS that adult books don’t.  Here’s an example: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, published by HarperCollins this past February, is about an inner-city girl who witnesses her childhood best friend shot and killed by a police officer while unarmed, and the implications and fallout of that situation.  It places the reader squarely within the story, and provides a perspective most readers may never get.  No AF (adult fiction) books are talking about this topic – something that is very timely and relevant.  Yet Thomas is brave enough to do so, and to an audience that is open-minded enough to consider that other perspective.  Another example is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  This book follows Junior as he moves from the reservation to the suburbs where he navigates the minefield that is trying to make friends while battling social stereotypes.  This book highlights specific identity issues facing indigenous peoples, and resonates with many who feel marginalized.  *Looks around – AF?  Anything on this?  No?

The examples I used here are two contemporary novels, set in reality.  Many YA authors choose to tackle these issues, as well, only in a fantasy context.  Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is a good bellwether for this: she highlights society and class, as well as identity, but sets the story in a post-apocolyptic world.  YA books deal with questions of drug culture, suicide, death, violence, identity, sex, acceptance, family, relationships, mental health, etc., ad infinitum.  You name it, there’s a YA book that talks about it.  YA is valuable because people can relate to the books, no matter how old the reader is.

YA books also provide:

Escapism – Most people don’t want to sit down, crack open a book, and read about depressing things.  They want to, at least for a little while, bail on their real life.  Settings in YA books are often fantastical and foreign, and allow readers to step away from their lives and experience something that speaks to their imagination, rather than their reason.

Excitement – Let’s get real here for a minute.  There are some AF books that are boring AF.  YA books, no matter the genre, are always moving.  Because teens are always moving.  There is drama; there is action – and most of the time, the two are happening at the same time.

Strong Characters – In case you haven’t met one for a while, and need to be reminded, let me point out: teens are opinionated.  They are learning, they are developing their own thoughts and world views, and they want to see the same thing in their book hero(ine)s.  Many YA books are written in 1st person point of view, so the reader hears the character’s voice specifically.  The voices are strong and sure, and inspire that same confidence.  Additionally, there are many, many strong female characters in YA lit, who represent some of the most individual voices in literature of any genre.

Hope – For all the “issues” found in YA literature, rarely do things end on a negative note.  This is because the authors realize they are writing for the next generation, who have a lot to look forward to.  Soul-crushing situations are resolved, hurts are mended, and the bad guy is rightfully punished.  Teens are creative and they’re smart, and they have a habit of looking forward, rather than backward; YA authors do a wonderful job of giving them something bright to move toward.

It crushes my soul when I hear critics (and by critics, I mean other readers) bash YA literature as “shallow” or “dumbed down” derivatives of AF.  Because this is not the case.  YA literature is just as sophisticated and important as every other genre of book out there, because it does its job: it speaks to its audience.  And its audience listens, and loves it.

Just one last thought: if it wasn’t for YA authors, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter; we wouldn’t have Katniss Everdeen; we wouldn’t have Anne Shirley; we wouldn’t have Bilbo Baggins.  Some of the most iconic and beloved literary characters ever created are products of YA literature.

So next time someone scoffs at you because you choose to spend your time reading a YA book now and again (or always), don’t be ashamed to stand up for those authors who choose to create iconic characters and memorable settings, and who choose to face the hard issues head-on and try to make sense of them.

(All those gorgeous covers, though…)