Monday, October 5, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

      Go Set a Watchman is the recently published novel by Harper Lee that follows her classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In this novel, the reader sees a grown-up Jean Louise (Scout) Finch visiting her hometown and discovering that her father, whom she idolised in the previous novel, is not as heroic as she grew up believing.
      There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the publication of this book--namely the time elapsed between Mockingbird and Watchman and the probability that it was not Lee's desire to publish this book, (Joe Nocera writes a good article for the New York Times about this controversy)--however, setting that controversy aside for a moment, let's focus on the literary merit of the story itself. What follows is purely the opinion of the librarian writing this post.
      Was it a good book?
      It was a well written book. It brought up controversial issues, it revisited ideas Scout held in childhood that fail to stand-up to the rigors of adult-hood, it highlighted racial tensions in a pre-Civil Rights Movement America. However, there is also a fair amount of problems that come out while reading this book. The biggest problem probably being that Go Set a Watchman is completely backwards from and completely negates most of the progressive and forward thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird. My biggest issue was with the ending when[SPOILER ALERT] after Jean Louise spends the entire book trying to bring progressive thinking to her home town, she is slapped in the face by her uncle so violently that her mouth bleeds. After this, she suddenly and unhesitatingly decides that she should never again disagree with white men in positions of power. [END SPOILER ALERT] It was, in my opinion, a highly disappointing ending to a book that failed to live up to its hype. Couple this with the controversy surrounding the nature of its publication, namely the idea that it was published against the will of Lee herself, and I was ultimately disappointed by this book.
      However! This is just my opinion, and you might have a different one about this book. To find out, you'll have to read it. Go Set a Watchman is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library, and you can put yourself on hold for it here. We want to hear what you think!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

      The Girl in the Spider's Web is the fourth book in the Millennium series originally created and written by Stieg Larsson. As Larsson himself passed away in 2004, the popular trilogy, chronicling the adventures of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, was originally published posthumously. However, there is still a large time gap between the publication of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in 2007, and the decision to continue the series under a different author. The announcement that there would be a fourth (and eventual fifth and sixth) book was not even announced until early 2015.
      This time delay is only logical, as the process of continuing a series of this caliber is a daunting one. Getting the consent and permission from the Larsson's estate alone would have taken much legal negotiating. Even tougher still would be finding an author who could capture and recreate the images and voices of Larsson's characters. An author's writing style is like a painter's brushstrokes--it is possible to recreate something similar to the original work, but the result will always be different from the original. 
      I think that David Lagercrantz did an admirable job continuing the story of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider's Web. He brings the characters to life and brings his own writing style into the narration, while keeping the reader aware of Larsson's style throughout the story. I am very eager to see if the following novels Lagercrantz adds to the Millennium series will hold as true to Larsson's vision as The Girl in the Spider's Web does.
      Each book in the Millennium series is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

National Hispanic Heritage Month

      National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15th to October 15th. It is a month dedicated to celebrating the diverse culture, the many contributions and accomplishments from Americans whose ancestors are Hispanics/Latinos. From the vast history of Spain to all the stories and histories from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America, it is a month to celebrate all the people who are part of such diversified background and contribute to the ever growing and changing story of America. 

     It first began as a week long observance in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, it was eventually expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. 

     "The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period." (Library of Congress 2015

     We laughed as Desi Arnaz first graced our televisions to laughing along with George Lopez and Gabriel Iglesias on the big screen. Enjoyed the various styles of music of Carlos Santana, Celia Cruz, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony, and Jennifer Lopez on mainstream radio, as rich as Latino America. To witness the courageous efforts of Cesar Chavez uniting workers to form the National Farm Workers Association for the betterment of all farm workers and witness Sonia Sotomayor becoming the first Hispanic-American women elected as Supreme Court Justice. This is just a glimpse of the larger story that is the American story.  

Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month:

Also check out some of these books about Hispanics/Latinos in America we have here at the library:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Carved in Bone" by Jefferson Bass

      This one isn't new. In fact, next year it will be ten years old. However, it is new to me. One of my favourite types of mystery/thriller books to read is forensic medical thrillers penned by people who have previous or current careers in the field about which they base their books. Kathy Reichs Bones series and Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles series (both of which now have successful television series based upon them) are in this sub-genre of books. Another series in this sub-genre that I have recently discovered is the Body Farm series.
      Dr. William M. Bass is the forensic anthropologist who founded the now well known "Body Farm" aka the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, part of the University of Tennessee Medical Center. Founded in 1981, the facility is a place for the study of decomposition of human remains. Cadavers donated to the research facility are placed in different settings throughout the 2.5-acre wooded plot in order to study they effect of decomposition under various conditions. Until the early 2000s, Tennessee was home to the only "Body Farm" in the country. Now there are five such research facilities in the United States, and other countries are beginning to take steps to open similar sites in Europe, Asia, and Australia.
      The University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility first gained notice in popular culture with Patricia Cornwell's 1994 novel The Body Farm which had a central protagonist based upon Dr. William M. Bass. In 2006, Dr. Bass collaborated with author Jon Jefferson to begin publishing a series of murder mystery novels influenced by real cases studied at the facility in Tennessee. The books are published under the pseudonym Jefferson Bass, an amalgamation of both authors' names.
      The "Body Farm" as it is colloquially know, is a subject that has always been of great interest to me, and I'm not quite sure how I've gone nearly 10 years not knowing that its founder has a mystery/thriller series spanning nine books regarding goings-on at said facility. I have a lot of catching up to do.
      Carved in Bone, the first novel in the Body Farm series is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Friday, June 19, 2015

"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

      I've heard many different descriptions of Paula Hawkins's The Girl on the Train while debating whether to put myself on hold for it. "Kind of Like Gone Girl, only British" was the most prevalent one that came up. However, after reading it for myself, I would liken it more along the lines of Rear Window meets Gaslight.
      A large portion of this book is spent questioning the motives of the initial character, Rachel, i.e. "the girl on the train." While she is presented as the central protagonist, she definitely does not (initially) come across as a necessarily a good person. I found myself less drawn to the actual mystery story happening, and more to the intricate writing style and the in depth addressing of the prevalence of gaslighting used by domestic abusers to gain dominance in their relationships. The way Rachel slowly and painfully unlearns all of her coping mechanisms is heartbreaking. Paula Hawkins' very Faulkner-esque writing style was what ultimately held my attention through the novel. The multiple first person narrators and spur of the moment change of narrator was extremely reminiscent of The Sound and the Fury and is what keeps the story from going stale. 
      The Girl on the Train is at the Ocean City Free Public Library in multiple formats, and you can add yourself to the waiting list for it here.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

"Paddle Your Own Canoe" by Nick Offerman

      Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman is the autobiography of, well, Nick Offerman. Most recently known for his portrayal of Ron Swanson on the TV sitcom Parks and Recreation. Lately I have been on a biography kick, and this seemed like the next logical one to read.
      In this memoir, Offerman offers the reader a close-up look at his personal history and life leading up to his decision to transition between the theatre and the screen, and his choices that led him to make the move from Chicago to Hollywood, break into television, and pursue a relationship with the woman who would later agree to be his wife. It is by no means a memoir for the faint of heart: containing lewd humor, course language, and blunt honesty. But in addition to this, Offerman doles out life advice, romantic tips, and hysterical poetry that remind the reader that the stoic and straight-faced Ron Swanson character that catapulted Offerman into the public eye was the result of a brilliant and versatile actor, capable of captivating an audience on screen, and now on paper.
      This has been on my list to read for a while now, especially after having read Amy Poehler's memoir, Yes, Please. I finally pulled it off my shelf after burning my way through the giant stack of YouTuber memoirs that have been occupying all of my time. Offerman definitely is a multi-talented individual, capturing audience's attention through a variety of mediums and I can't wait to read his next book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers.
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living, is available to borrow from the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"Hollow City" by Ransom Riggs

      It is only recently that I began reading the Ransom Riggs Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series, but once I started I easily knocked out the first two books in one day. The second novel in the series, Hollow City continues immediately where the first novel ends--with the peculiar children of the Cairnholm time loop fleeing from the hollowgasts, while searching for a way to restore their guardian, Miss Peregrine, back to her human form.
      While the use of time travel was introduced in the first novel, it is a much more reinforced idea Hollow City. In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the protagonist Jacob is taught how to travel effortlessly between his own timeline and a day during the second World War that continuously loops back each night--thus the people within the loop relive the same day repeatedly. However, in Hollow City, this time loop is nonexistent, and Jacob decides to remain in the past in order to help the peculiar children evade the monsters perusing them. Now the element of time travel is reinforced as an inescapable reality as Jacob (who is from the future) and the peculiar children (who have been reliving the same day for decades) find themselves navigating a time with which they are all unfamiliar; all the while evading, not only the monsters bent on their destruction, but also the perils of WWII unfolding around them.
      What I liked about this novel, moreso than the first novel, was the sense of urgency that infused the storyline. While Miss Peregrine's Home... sets up for an adventuresome story, Hollow City takes that setup and runs wild with it. With the continuing inclusion of actual B&W photographs of unexplained subjects, and a "supernatural but still in a recognizable time" theme, this is definitely a series I want to continue to read when the third installment is published in September.

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Trigger Warning" by Neil Gaiman

      Trigger Warning is Neil Gaiman's newest collection of short stories addressing topics that question the boundaries of human capacity of disturbance and horror. True to Gaiman's usual style of writing, the stories contained in this collection are macabre in nature, at times bordering on terrifying, but never breaching the barrier into outright gory. They focus more on the building of suspense rather than the jumpscare value, in a truly H.P. Lovecraft style of story building.
      What made this book stand out from Gaiman's other writings, and what made it interesting to me, was his explanation of his choice of title. In the introduction, Gaiman sets out to give a brief explanation of what the phrase "trigger warning" implies, how the landscape of storycrafting is evolving alongside social media, and how the personalisation of social media through user-tagging is changing the landscape of blogging and entertainment.
      A "trigger warning," as it has come to exist on blogging platforms like tumblr, is a warning either at the beginning of a post or in the user tags of a post that give the viewer advanced warning that the content of what they are about to read or view contains material that could be upsetting in nature--that the content has the potential to "trigger" the person viewing it. This system of trigger warnings is helpful in preventing bloggers who might be triggered into experiencing flashbacks, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, etc. It's a system that allows the viewer to choose whether they will continue on to view the material, with the foreknowledge that what they are about to view is potentially upsetting.
     This is not a new system, by any means. Most entertainment issued comes with a warning label: movie ratings, video-game ratings, subject tagging in library catalogs.However, the ability to now apply a similar warning system in social media application is a somewhat newer trend. And Gaiman addresses this in his introduction:
      "I wondered, reading about the college discussions, whether one day people would put a trigger warning on my fiction. I wondered whether or not they would be justified in doing it. And then I decided I would do it first. There are things in this book, as in life, that might upset you. there is death and pain in here, tears and discomfort, violence of all kinds, cruelty, even abuse. There is kindness too, I hope sometimes. Even a handful of happy endings...And there's more than that. I know a lady called Rocky who is triggered by tentacles, and who genuinely needs warnings for things that have tentacles, especially tentacles with suckers, and who, confronted with an unexpected slice of squid or octopus, will dive, shaking behind the nearest sofa. There is an enormous tentacle somewhere in these pages. Many of these stories end badly for at least one of the people in them. Consider yourself warned."(Trigger Warning introduction, xiii).
      I absolutely loved this collection of Neil Gaiman stories. I definitely look forward to reading it again.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day & Women's History Month

      The beginning of March marks the beginning of Women's History Month, and specifically March 8th as International Women's Day. According to the official International Women's Day website, March 8th is "a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future."
      This day is set to remember the suffragettes worldwide who protested, campaigned, and made their voices heard in order that women everywhere in the world would gain the equality and rights they deserved in order to make their voices heard. In some countries, such as China, Vietnam, Russia, and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is an official national holiday.
      It's not just a day to remember the past, though. It is also a time to call attention to the fact that despite the efforts and many accomplishments of our suffragette ancestors, that there are still issues that need addressing--wage gaps, legislation regarding women's health, gender equality, the disturbing trend of cyberthreats and violence shown towards feminism, transgender women's rights, etc. As many accomplishments that have been made with regard to women's rights, there's still room for more.
      For more information regarding Women's History Month, or International Women's Day, check out some of these resources:


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Black History Month - Ida B. Wells

"I felt that one had better die fighting against injustice than to die like a dog or a rat in a trap" 
Ida B. Wells

      In honor of it being February, and therefore Black History Month, I wanted to do a special entry highlighting a major historical figure of note, both in the struggle for civil rights and the struggle for women's rights: Ida B. Wells.
      Ida B. Wells was born in July of 1862, in Holly Springs, MO to James and Lizzie Wells. Ida and her parents, as well as the rest of the people still held as slaves in the Confederate states, were declared free by the Union six months after Ida's birth with the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation. Ida's parents were active in the Republican party during the Reconstruction, and her father helped to found  Shaw University (now Rust College) and served on the first board of trustees for this school dedicated to educating the newly freed former slaves. Ida recieved her early schooling at Shaw, but was forced to drop out when her parents and one of her siblings died during an outbreak of yellow fever--leaving Ida as the head of her family to care for her other siblings. Though tragedy ended her education at Shaw, she was a resourceful and very intelligent person, and Ida convinced a nearby school administrator that she was 18 in order to gain employment as a teacher in order to provide for her siblings. Later, she moved with her siblings to Memphis to live with an aunt. Here, she continued her education at Fisk University.
      In 1884, Ida encountered a turning point in her life on the road to becoming a journalist and an activist. Having purchased a first-class train ticket to Nashville, she was confronted by the train crew and ordered to move to the car for African Americans. Outraged, Ida refused on the principle that she had legally purchased a ticket for the car in which she was riding. When the train conductors forcibly removed her from the train, she bit one of them. She sued the railroad, and initially won the settlement--but the Tennessee Supreme Court later overturned the decision.This experience inspired Ida to begin writing and publishing about the issues of race and politics, especially race and politics in the South. Under a pseudonym, her articles were published in black newspapers and periodicals, and she eventually became the owner and editor of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and of the Free Speech.
      While working as journalist and a publisher, was an avid and extremely vocal presence in the campaign for equal rights. Drawing from personal experiences and observations of things happening t her friends and family, she wrote powerful articles condemning the inaction of the justice system with respect to the wrongful deaths of black community members, such as the lynchings of Tom Moss, Calvin McDowell, and Will Stewart. Her writings were powerful enough to cause enough anger in the white community of Memphis that a mob stormed her news office and destroyed all her equipment while she was traveling gathering information on other lynching incidents in the country. Threatened with death should she return to Memphis, Wells relocated to the North where she wrote an extremely in-depth report on lynching in America for the New York Age. She began a lecture series in Europe, in an attempt to gather support among reform-minded white supporters, and continued to write powerful expositions on inequality, life, and misrepresentation in America, with support and funding from her associates Fredrick Douglass and Ferdinand Barnett. She brought her anti-lynching campaign all the way to the White House in 1898, leading a protest in Washington, D.C.
      Ida B. Wells established several civil rights organizations in her lifetime, including the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. She is also considered one of the founding members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), however she later cut her ties with the organization, stating that she felt the organization had lacked sufficient action-based initiatives. She created the first African-American kindergarten in her community, and was an active member in the fight for women's suffrage. In 1930, she attempted to run for the state senate, however poor health caused this endeavor to be unsuccessful. She died of kidney disease in March of 1931 at the age of 69, in Chicago, leaving behind a legacy of social and political heroism--fighting injustice and prejudice, no matter the cost to her personal safety.
     Kate Beaton, author of the webcomic Hark! A Vagrant penned a collection of comics summarizing Ida B. Wells' life.
      For more information on Ida B. Wells, as well as some concise and informative videos, check out her entry on
     For more information on Black History Month in general, check out the Ocean City Free Public Library's subject guide on Black History Month.

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Landline" by Rainbow Rowell

      Landline is the latest novel by Rainbow Rowell, and author who has written both adult and YA romance novels. Landline follows the story of TV writer Georgie McCool as she struggles to balance her work life and her home life, while the state of her marriage declines. When she attempts to postpone a family holiday vacation as the result of an emergency at work, her husband, Neal, insists on taking their children home for Christmas anyway without Georgie. During the holiday week, Georgie tries to call Neal at his mother's house--however Neal's habit of never charging his cell phone leads to Georgie resorting to her parent's old rotary land-line phone to call Neal's mother's land-line. What Georgie soon realises is that this land-line connection allows her to call Neal in the past before they were ever married. Georgie now has an opportunity to either fix her marriage before it begins or to end it and see if they would have been better off never being married in the first place.
      I first discovered Rainbow Rowell's novels when her YA novel Fangirl hit the library shelves and I found myself faced with another author who's novels I wanted to binge read. Unfortunately until July of 2014, there were only 3 novels to binge read--and it's very difficult to binge read slowly when you're a speed reader. So when Landline was published in July, I jumped on it. Immediately I realised that this wasn't going to be like her other books. This one seemed to be darker, and less idealistic that Attachments, Fangirl, or Eleanor & Park had been. Not to say that it crosses the border into Gone Girl territory--not at all. Rather, it paints a picture of the "what happens after the happily-ever-after" that all her other novels end at. While all of her novels have an element of realism and identifiable situations andcharacters (that's what hooked me in with Fangirl, after all), this one takes it a step further and describes a romantic relationship that has already reached the happily ever after stage and now has to deal with the reality of...reality. It made the story of Georgie and Neal much more emotional. 
      Landline by Rainbow Rowell, as well as her three other novels, are available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"The Cure for Dreaming" by Cat Winters

      The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters presents the story of Olivia Mead--a young suffragist in 1900 Portland, Oregon whose headstrong and determined ideas regarding women's rights cause her father to hire a performing hypnotist to hypnotize Olivia into being a more docile and submissive woman. Unbeknownst to her father, the hypnotist instead unlocks Olivia's mind to the ability to see people beyond their physical appearance and into their souls to see their true nature and intentions, while continuing her fight for women's rights.
      I was drawn into this story right away with the presentation of Olivia Mead. She is the daughter of a dentist who is a prominent man in the city of Portland, and has to live up to her father's expectation that she be the perfectly well behaved and content with her place in society of being subservient to all the men in her life. Unfortunately for her father and his expectations, Olivia is also incredibly smart, well read, a progressive thinker, and determined to achieve more in her life than marrying high in society. She has dreams of going to college, having her own career, and standing with the suffragists on the courthouse steps, demanding the right to vote.
      While the story focuses on the story of one girl during this time in women's history, it is without a doubt a fantastic metaphor for the experience of women as a whole. Olivia's father hiring a hypnotist to alter his daughter's mind in order to silence her free will and her expression speaks to the suffrage movement and how people opposed to the movement and opposed to women being granted the same rights as men were striving to oppress and stifle the voices of an entire segment of the population.
      The very essence of this story is that it is a fictional story illustrating a very real period in time when women were fighting for their right to vote, their right to be heard, and their right to be equals. Cat Winters has drawn in elements of the supernatural in order to highlight an important historical moment.
      The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters is available as an audiobook at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Friday, January 16, 2015

"As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust" by Alan Bradley

      As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust is the latest installment in the Flavia de Luce mystery series by Alan Bradley. And is the first book in the series that takes place in a location other than the large English estate of the de Luce family. Set in a girls boarding school in Canada, 12 year old Flavia de Luce once again finds herself in the middle of a mystery after discovering human skeletal remains in one of the chimneys of her new home. The story follows her attempts to once again solve a murder, while also unraveling more of the mystery that surrounds her deceased mother's enigmatic past, and the secret government agency of which she was a part.
      I was turned on to the Flavia de Luce series by a friend who knows that I enjoy all things science, as well as strong well written female characters. It has quickly become one of my favourite mystery series. This newest one is almost a complete reinventing of the series, come at just the perfect time when I was beginning to wonder if the entire rest of the series would always be set up in the same way. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust introduces the reader not just to a new location for our intrepid heroine, but also to an entirely new cast of characters to interact with her. In fact, the only familiar character is Flavia herself, while everyone else is a stranger. 
      The Flavia de Luce series is wonderful because it takes the notion that all mysteries written for adults must have adult protagonists, and breaks it apart. You see a girl who seems to be equal parts Harriet-the-Spy and Violet Baudelaire dealing with issues and situations in an adult world while maintaining her fiercely independent and fiery personality. The series is captivating, and wonderfully written, and it is quite easy to find yourself three books into the series without realising it. I definitely read this new one too quickly and now have to go back and reread the series from the very beginning (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) until he publishes the next one.
      As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, the latest adventure of Flavia de Luce, is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Monday, January 12, 2015

"The Voices" by F.R. Tallis

      The Voices by F.R. Tallis is a horror story set in England in the 1970s. It tells the story of a young married couple expecting their first child, and the old Victorian house into which they have just moved. Chistopher, the husband, is a movie score composer and plans to use the spacious rooms of the house to set up his recording studio, while Laura is a former model who wants to step back from the fast paced world of fame in order to raise their daughter, Faye. Christopher soon discovers that when he plays back the recordings he makes in the house, he can hearvoices on the tape reels. Further investigation into the history of the house leads Christopher to believe that one of the voices on the tape belong to the former owner of the house, an illusionist who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Rather than be overly concerned with the fact that recording in the house seems to be picking up the voices of the dead, Christopher decides to use the ghostly recordings as part of a new composition. Laura, meanwhile, becomes concerned when one of the voices begins to take an interest in their infant daughter.
      To anyone who might be an avid fan of horror movies, this plot may seem familiar. I definitely have seen similar plots before, on the screen. However, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I did not become bored with the plot at all. In fact, it was somewhat reminiscent of the first season of American Horror Story, in which anyone who died in particular house was then stuck in that house as a ghost. In the case of The Voices, it seemed to be a similar case, except the ghosts could not be seen, only heard through an recording or other electric medium (there are times when the voices can be heard through the baby monitor static). But as stated previously, the concept of the haunted house occupied by a new family is a plotline that is very well used, so much so that it could be hard to muster up a proper scared reaction to it. So where then, does this feeling of horror come from?
      For me, it came from the feeling of helplessness exhibited by Laura. Throughout the book she is aware that something is wrong with the house, that something has targeted her baby, and that something is physiologically affecting Faye to the point where Laura begins to seek medical attention for her child. And at each point, when Laura exhibits her concerns or her fears, she is brushed off by all of the men around her. Christopher thinks she's overreacting and trying to stifle his artistic expression, the doctor refuses to give any credence to her concerns and is condescending and dismissive, and even their friends don't believe her fears to be anything more than over protectiveness. This sense of helplessness and frustration at being marginalised when the lives of your loved ones are at stake elicits a different kind of horror than a normal jump-scare would. The book focuses less on the history and nature of why the house is the way it is, and focuses more on the devolving relationship and mental states of Christopher and Laura and what can happen to a person when everything and everyone around them is determined to work against them. 
      While it may not necessarily be the outright scariest horror story I've ever experienced, it has a definite sense of apprehension and dread that kept me determined to see how the story played out. See if you feel the same: The Voices by F.R. Tallis is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Paper Towns" by John Green

      Paper Towns by John Green was first published in October of 2008, and was his third novel. With the announcement that Paper Towns was going to be adapted for the screen, following the success of the film adaptation of Green's latest novel, The Fault in Our Stars, I decided it was a perfect time to reread the book.
      Paper Towns follows the story of a highschooler named Quentin "Q" Jacobson and his friendship with an eccentric girl named Margo Roth Spiegelman. The bulk of the novel is Q following clues left behind by Margo after she runs away from home several weeks before they were to graduate. Along the way Q finds himself forced to reevaluate his perspective about his town, his friends, his classmates, and his idealised image of Margo.
      Rereading this YA novel, I immediately remembered what it was about Paper Towns that set it apart from other YA novels. There are a lot of stories in the YA literature designation that involve the idea of a quiet, nerdy boy finding the eccentric, wild, and damaged girl and "fixing" her with the power of his love; thus perpetuation the notion of female characters being present solely for the purpose of furthering the development of the male characters, without having a background or purpose to the story otherwise. This manic pixie dream girl trope is essentially the opposite of the Bechdel Test, the test determining if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.
     John Green takes the idea of Margo existing as a "broken" girl for Q to improve his life by "fixing" and pretty much smashes it into the ground. While Q is the protagonist of the story, and we are seeing everything from his point of view while Margo is physically present only at the beginning and end of the story, it becomes obvious that there isn't going to be the tearful dramatic love story ending that one might be expecting. Or that Q is expecting, since he spends a majority of the story picturing this kind of reunion with Margo. 
      But when [SPOILER WARNING] he does find Margo at the conclusion of the book, he is given a giant reality check. Margo makes it very clear the "clues" Q was following were not intentionally left by her to be used to find her, that she in fact did not want to be found at all. When Q realises that his idealised image of Margo is not the reality of Margo, he at first reacts angrily and blames her for causing him to waste so much of his time worrying about her. It's only after Margo accuses him both of holding other people accountable for how he thinks of them and of idealising her depression into something that he could "fix" by "saving" her, that he realises how damaging (to both of them) his idolising of Margo was and that he needs to value her friendship more than the image of her he has spent so long building. 
      John Green [END SPOILER WARNING] uses the set up of the manic pixie dream girl story to essentially and ultimately destroy the romanticised image of a troubled girl needing to be saved or fixed by a boy. And that is why I love Paper Towns.
      The Paper Towns movie comes out in June of this year. You can get ready by reading the book first! Available, as always, at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"The Map of Time" by Félix J. Palma

     What would you do if you could travel through time? Would you change the past or take a daring trip into the future?  

      The first book of the Trilogía Victoriana (Victorian Trilogy), The Map of Time is a time twisting, fantastic journey of the life of the famous author H.G. Wells and how his novel the “Time Machine” influenced not only just the people of London but the world. The narrator, a time traveler perhaps or an all knowing being, guides the reader into three different stories that are all interwoven with each other. The snippets of Well’s life gives the reader a different dimension of the writer and the why he wrote the Time Machine. Also, it shows how Wells has gotten himself to be involved in all these lives, even if it was against his will for some of those moments.

     This book has a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy including an alternate universe, a large dose of steam punk, some historical elements, and much more. Going between major events from Jack the Ripper, to helping to heal a suffering individual, bringing couples together, this book has some very complex but intriguing story lines. Félix Palma’s way of interweaving many elements and stories made this book not only an interesting find but a very enjoyable read. The twist at the end of the story was quite unexpected. This was truly a book that grabbed my attention from beginning to end. I cannot wait to read what the other two books may bring.

The Map of Time by Félix J. Palma is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Monday, January 5, 2015

"Yes Please" by Amy Poehler

      Yes Please is a memoir self-authored by SNL actress, writer, and comedian Amy Poehler. 
      Sort of.
      When I say it's sort of a memoir, I mean that it is autobiographical in nature and there are mentions of Poehler's personal life--however, she does not dive deep into detail about her life. The parts of her life that she talks about, she does so matter-of-factly and briefly before moving onto the next topic. In addition to this, there are sections that she hands over to other people in her life in order that they might weigh in on her ideas...or maybe just because she was tired one night and needed additional chapters, she she handed the reins over to Seth Meyers and Mike Schur who give some outside perspective about what working with Poehler and being her friend is like. 
      But the autobiographical bits are not the focus of the book. I put myself on hold for this book before it was even published, because I am a fan of Amy Poehler in general--her acting, her writing, her general niceness, etc. I was expecting a straight forward autobiography. What I got was so much better than that. The focus on the book is really more life advice, tips on succeeding in the world as a decent human being, and how to be really really good at what you do. With chapter titles like "Talk to Yourself Like You're Ninety," "Gimme That Pudding," "Don't Forget to Tip Your Waitresses," "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," and "The Robots Will Kill Us All: a Conclusion" Poehler lays down some straight forward advice about living your life the way you want to, making the best decisions about what is best for yourself, and getting away with stating the truth with minimal repercussions. Even the title of the book is advice on how to not be a terrible person, and still have a powerful presence:
      "It is called Yes Please because it is a constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes Please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please. I love saying "yes" and I love saying "please." Saying "yes" doesn't mean I don't know how to say no, and saying "please" doesn't mean I am waiting for permission. "Yes please" sounds powerful and concise. It's a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman. It's also a title I can tell my kids. I like when they say "yes please" because most people are rude and nice manners are the secret key to the universe." 
      And lest you think that this book lacks the comedic wit and lightheartedness of other comedic biographical works--if you listen to the audiobook, Poehler turns the narration briefly over to Sir Patrick Stewart in a section containing haiku about plastic surgery. The whole book is layered with Poehler's wit and comedic timing, even though it is more of a life-advice book than a memoir. It's what makes it stand out from other comedic memoirs. Basically, I read this book as a how-to manual on how to become Amy Poehler. And I can think of way worse things to be.
      Yes Please by Amy Poehler is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

"Not My Father's Son" by Alan Cumming

     Not My Father’s Son is a memoir written by Alan Cumming, a well-known Scottish actor who has graced various forms of entertainment from film and television, to plays and Broadway.  When approached by the producers of the Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC), of course he fully threw himself into the show in hopes it would solve the family’s mystery that revolved around his maternal grandfather’s death. What was unforeseen was that a very similar path of finding out the man who was his grandfather, he was also figuring out the puzzling nature of his father. In a series of events that happened during the filming for the show, Alan had to confront his father and the painful memories of his past, in particular remembering the abuse he had suffered much of his life from his father. Being a successful person, it is hard to imagine the sort of pain that Alan has gone through in his younger years. In his book, the memories of his childhood and younger years are paired with moments in the present time.  Showing how each memory and emotion he was feeling during this time were truly reflections of each other.

     Not My Father’s Son is quite an emotional roller-coaster. From laughing to feeling utterly heartbroken, it is a memoir that not only focuses on the pain  he suffered in life but how he embraced those moments and the ridiculous and heartwarming moments in life to become who he is today. As he mention many times in the book, his childhood became the foundation to his acting career. 

     I truly enjoyed reading this book. It brought tears, shock and much laughter while reading this book. It is witty and the style of the book is a good reflection on Alan Cumming acting style. It has given me a new perspective on the actor and a new deeper appreciation for him as well. It is surprising to see how someone was able to grow with many emotional setbacks in life, to become not only successful but happy in their life with a past that is haunting and heartbreaking.  

Not My Father’s Son is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Doctor Who/Star Trek: the Next Generation: Assimilation², Volume 1" by Scott Tipton (illustrated by J.K. Woodward)

        Assimilation², Volume 1 is the first of a two volume crossover story between the universes of Doctor Who and Star Trek: the Next Generation. It presents what happens when the Cybermen of Doctor Who join forces with the Borg Collective of Star Trek: the Next Generation.
      The graphic novel begins with the bow-tie wearing, time-traveling alien, (the Doctor) and his human companions (Amy and Rory) as they find themselves landing the TARDIS in what they think is California in the 1940s but turns out to in fact be a holodeck simulation aboard the Starship Enterprise. The reader then follows the adventure as members of both ships realise that the reason the TARDIS was able to slip into this universe was on the heels of Cyberman army (notorious for dimension/universe jumping at this point), which has now joined alliances with the Borg Collective for the mission of converting the universe. 
      This is the crossover that seems as though it should have been done years ago. And while it may have happened many times in the writings of dedicated fanfiction authors, it only  happened in the official canon storylines of both franchises(2012) very recently. Not only does it involve the crew of Next Generation and the 11th Doctor & companions, but it flashes back to the original Star Trek series characters and the 4th Doctor for extended sections of the story.
      Assimilation², Volume 1 definitely captures the attention of the reader and provides an engaging and captivating story. It definitely intrigued me enough to continue on to Assimilation², Volume 2 to see the story through to its conclusion. I mean, it has Star Trek, and it has Doctor Who, it has Data the android piloting the TARDIS with his mind--what more could a sci-fi media fan ask for?
Doctor Who/Star Trek: the Next Generation: Assimilation², Volume 1 is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.


Monday, December 22, 2014

"The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again" by J.R.R. Tolkien

      The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien is by no means a new book, however with the release of the latest installment of the Hobbit movie trilogy, I find myself growing nostalgic for the original text. For many people, this book tends to hold a special place in their heart as it has become one of the classic introductions to the fantasy literature genre--a story to keep returning to when other sources of fantasy literature have become exhausted.
      Tolkien originally wrote the story for his children, however after it was published in 1937 it attracted a large and enthusiastic following of adult readers. And it is absolutely clear why this is the case, as the story of magic, danger, adventure, and battle has the addition of a main character who so often seems so out of place in this world of magic, danger, adventure, and (eventual) war. As a principle character, Bilbo Baggins is small, unassuming, and ordinary; possessing no fantastic magical talents, no supernatural strength or speed, no real superpowers of any kind (beyond that of being rather clever). He is average: a metaphor for the every day person who may not see themselves as extraordinary. 
      But Bilbo is extraordinary. Indeed in the course of the story, the reader sees Bilbo pushed into situations of extreme danger and fantastical adventure and using his cleverness and wits he manages to talk his way out of the danger. Rather than constantly relying on being a 100% morally upright person, Bilbo quickly realises that he is going to need to adapt his cleverness to be somewhat morally ambiguous in order to achieve victory. Bilbo becomes a metaphor for ordinary people, who are capable of extraordinary things and who are pushed into situations that require the use of alternative thinking in order to circumvent bad situations and gain results that are beneficial for the greater good. And indeed Bilbo is identifiable with such ordinary people wishing to engage in an epic adventure. He becomes a source of catharsis, allowing people to live this desire for adventure vicariously through an unlikely literary hero.
      The Hobbit is a story that focuses on the dual nature of situations: loyalty and betrayal, appearance and deception, peace and war, truth and lies, etc. It is often relegated to the backseat, labeled frequently as "just a prequel" to The Lord of the Rings, however it is the story that doesn't just lay the groundwork for the story line in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but has practically become the definition of the fantasy genre itself. Tolkien's writing has influenced authors such as Neil Gaiman, Terry Brooks, and Stephen R. Donaldson and musicians such as Led Zepplin, Rush, and Mostly Autumn. Tolkien's writing generated and ensured an audience that would latch onto later fantasy works by such authors as J.K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, and Phillip Pullman. The fantasy genre has become a massive subculture of fantastical worlds set in the past, present, and future, and magical culture--and it all points back to one author's imagination, wit, and research into ancient literature. J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit started it all.
The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien is available at the Ocean City Free Public Library.