Author Archives: dtpublicservice

When You’re Looking For a Different Time

There are many who long for the peace of times gone by… but the picks in this week’s Reader Round-up highlight the turmoil, toil, and triumph in different periods of history. If you crave detail-rich historical fiction than check out some of our staff’s recent picks.

I really enjoyed and would recommend  John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk. It’s set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, and satisfied my love of British history and food, as well as offered just a taste of magic. (Recommendation)

From the English Civil War to just before our own… Jean L. from Williamston recently suggested Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig which offers a glimpse into what shaped the handsome scoundrel of Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone with the Wind. (Recommendation).

To follow the literary theme Joe M. from our Haslett branch suggests The Passages of H. M. by Jay Parini noting that anyone who “read and loved Moby Dick, Typee, or Billy Budd … should read this tale of the adventurous and unconventional and bipolar life of Herman Melville.” (Recommendation).

Another recent pick from Paul C., Head Librarian at Stockbridge. Is Denis Johnson’s poem-like novella Train Dreams. Paul describes it as “a dreamy farewell to a way of life now long gone from the great Northwest.” (Recommendation)

Do you have any historical picks you’d like to suggest?

-Jessica T., Public Services Head, CADL Downtown Lansing
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Novels for Women’s History Month

The Chaperone by Laura MoriartyFor Women’s History Month, I of course encourage you to learn all you can about the history and struggles of women in the US and internationally. But fiction is my bread and butter, so I’d also like to take the opportunity (as if I need one, really) to shine a spotlight on a few of CADL’s favorite historical novels about women’s lives.

Kate Walbert’s A Short History of Women (my review) is as appropriate a book for Women’s History Month as it sounds. Walbert explores the changing expectations and freedoms of the women in a single family, traveling through the lives of five generations in the 20th century, brilliantly illuminating how far we’ve come and how far yet we have to go.

Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone is a fictional depiction of a real historical figure, the revolutionary silent film star Louise Brooks. Sheryl says that this novel about the irreverent Louise and her more conventional chaperone Cora “explores gender issues and the changing social and sexual mores of the [1920s].”

Illuminations: a novel of Hildegard von Bingen is exactly what it sounds like. Novelist Mary Sharratt explores the 12th-century nun’s religious visions and confinement, and her struggle to find respect as a composer in a time that was deeply hostile to women’s ambitions. Sarah says that Illuminations “brings this remarkable nun and the few choices open for medieval women to vivid life.”

I can’t in good conscience make a list of recommendations of historical fiction about women without including one of my all-time-favorite-seriously-you-have-to-read-her authors, Sarah Waters. The Night Watch (my review) is her most daring novel, I think, told in reverse chronology after and during the Second World War in London, tracing the tangled histories of a group of women whose lives were changed by their experiences during the Blitz. It’s an affecting and brilliant depiction of women aching for new freedoms at a turning point in history.

-Sara D., Public Services Librarian, CADL Downtown Lansing

Ever heard of the Kitschies?

reader-roundup-squareThe 2012 Kitschies were announced last week awarding “year’s most progressive, intelligent, and entertaining works of genre literature published in the UK.” The awards were founded in 2009 by the website Pornokitsch a site devoted to treating “genre fiction seriously and examine it thoroughly, for better or for worse.”

This year’s winners included:

  • Red Tentacle (Novel): Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (Thais R.’s  recommendation)
  • Golden Tentacle (Debut): Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
  • The Black Tentacle (the discretionary prize for an outstanding contribution to the conversation surrounding genre literature): The World SF Blog

Thais R. described Angelmaker as “part spy novel, part steampunk, a little romance, and a lot of by-the-seat-of-your-pants action and apocalyptic fear” in her recommendation.

Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo has been on my list of titles to read since it debuted but I’m currently fascinated by her new novel The Best of All Possible Worlds.

Other recent nominees include a number of great titles, including those by perennial staff favorite China Miéville whose list of nominated titles include Embassytown (my recommendation), Kraken (my recommendation), and The City and the City (Sara D.’s recommendation) which won the inaugural Red Tentacle on 2009.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs was a 2011 nominee that made Our Favorite Teen Reads of 2012 and will be read as a discussion title by the CADL’s SF Book Discussion this spring.

The 2011 Red Tentacle winner, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, was a patron-favorite with a phenomenal audiobook read by Jason Isaacs (known for Case Histories and his recurring role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies).

And the 2009 Red Tentacle nominee The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (recommendation) was a pick by our Selection Specialist Sarah R.—especially for anyone who enjoyed The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

Whatever the outcomes, the shortlists for the Kitschies make for fascinating reading and are all books worth talking about.

- Jessica T., Public Services Head at CADL Downtown Lansing

We’d like to thank the Academy…

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Jacket.aspxSeveral of this year’s Oscar-nominated films were based on novels:

  • Les Miserables is of course based on the stage musical, which was itself an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel (CADL staff member John T. recommends the Julie Rose translation in particular).
  • Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi is based on Yann Martel’s Booker Prize-winning novel, and The Silver Linings Playbook is based on Matthew Quick’s novel by the same name.

Several of the other Best Picture nominees are based more loosely on books. Argo was not actually based on Antonio Mendez’s book Argo, but on his earlier-written article which was then expanded into the book. Lincoln was loosely based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s historical portrait of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and the tremendous screenplay was written by Tony Kushner, whose play Angels in America won a Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a terrific HBO miniseries.

The remaining nominees aren’t based on books, but I’ve come up with some reading recommendations for them nevertheless. Amour’s portrait of aging and death in a marriage is echoed in Rafael Yglesias’ A Happy Marriage, which tells the story of a 30-year marriage in its bittersweet years of decline.

Beasts of the Southern Wild reminded many fans of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s novel Once Upon a River. The latter is set on the Kalamazoo River, rather than the Louisiana bayou, but both are about a feral and isolated girl’s battle against the twinned forces of nature and the law, and both are highly recommended.

It’s no surprise to Quentin Tarantino fans that there isn’t an obvious read-alike for Django Unchained. Tarantino’s films, for the most part, are steeped in the language and heritage of cinema, not literature. But for an appropriately cinematic, madcap, gruesome Western, you’d be well advised to pick up The Sisters Brothers, about a pair of assassins, one psychotic and one warily reforming, on their way to a mining prospect in 1850s California.

-Sara D., Public Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

A Milestone for Horror Readers

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The Call of Cthulhu and Other Dark Tales by H. P. LovecraftThis month marks the 85th anniversary of the first appearance of H. P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cthulhu” in the pages of Weird Tales. This first tale of the Cthulhu Mythos Cycle—featuring tentacles, madness and the macabre—has inspired generations of writers as well as a sub-genre bearing Lovecraft’s name.  Lovecraftian, or cosmic horror, tends to pit man against incomprehensible, and often unbeatable, ancient and malevolent beings—often leaving the protagonists psychologically damaged.

A number of my favorite authors have played in the Cthulhu mythos or with strong psychological horror that remind me of these classic stories. Here are a few great picks…

The God Engines by John ScalziJohn Scalzi is probably best known for his SF series beginning with The Old Man’s War and his novella The God Engines (review) is still set in space, but this disturbing story is a fabulous example of cosmic horror.

Shadows Over Baker Street edited by Michael Reeves and John Pelan (review) mashes the Cthulhu mythos and the Sherlock Holmes cannon with stories by Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Bear, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Tim Shadows Over Baker Street edited by Michael Reeves and John PelanLebbon, just to name a few.

I know I mentioned this one around Halloween but, as an example of a recent debut featuring Lovecraftian style horror, try Southern Gods by John Horner Jacobs (review).

Check out The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer (review). The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeerSteampunk ingenuity, Lovecraftian inspired horrors, strange side notes, and hidden histories fill this collection of oft humorous, occasionally heart-breaking, and altogether strange stories and essays.

And don’t miss Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s comic series Locke and Key. Volume 1’s title sets the tone… Welcome to Lovecraft.

Locke and Key . Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel RodriguezOr go back to the source and check out The Call of Cthulhu and Other Dark Tales which includes among others, the title story, “The case of Charles Dexter Ward,” and “The Dunwich Horror,” along with a list of suggested reading.

Are there more tales of Lovecraftian horror that you would suggest? Let us know!

- Jessica T., Public Services Head at CADL Downtown Lansing

Fiction for Downton Fans

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History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

Last year I wrote a list of book recommendations for Downton Abbey fans, but now that we’re in the middle of Series 3, everyone’s asking for more. Fortunately, CADL staff have found a few more historical treats that will remind you of the characters and setting you love.

Sterne, the 1912 English manor house in Sadie Jones’s The Uninvited Guests is hardly as stately as Downton: it’s fading fast and Charlotte Swift is doing her best to keep up appearances. Just as guests begin to arrive for a birthday party for Charlotte’s stepdaughter, a train derails nearby, and survivors of the disaster make their way to Sterne for help. What follows from there is a delightful gothic tale that staff member Wendy calls “a fun and quirky book.”

Another title set in 1912 that will delight Downton fans is Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame. The book concerns upper class teen Maggie Darlington’s return to Wentworth Hall after her year in Paris, and the upstairs-downstairs scheming and plotting that will scandalize her vulnerable family. Staff reviewer Melissa calls it “a well-written and exciting look into the intertwining lives of servants and masters.”

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason (Susan’s review; my review) isn’t set in an English manor, but its protagonist was so familiar to me that I had to include it here. For anyone who has wished Thomas, Downton’s manipulative, ambitious valet (then footman, then underbutler) would finally get the rich storyline he deserves, History of a Pleasure Seeker may be just what you’re looking for. Think of it as Thomas’ origin story, only set in early 20th century Amsterdam. Piet Barol is a bright, charming young man from an impoverished background who connives his way into a tutoring position in the household of one of the wealthiest families in the city, which he sees as just another rung in the ladder to his glorious destiny. I loved reading about Piet’s scandalous escapades; other Downton fans are going to enjoy it just as much.

- Sara D., Public Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

Looking for a little Romance?

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I’ve got a wide variety of picks to suit your mood.

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora GossThe Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss is a magical love story with all its ups and downs told from each of their perspectives in an accordion-style book. If you read from one direction you get Brendan’s story and if you start from the other you’ll get Evelyn’s point of view.

The Lady Risks All  by Stephanie LaurensThe Lady Risks All, by veteran storyteller Stephanie Laurens, offers a rich historical romance set during the Regency with a few familiar faces from her Cynster series. A woman raised in strict society finds herself fascinated by the king of London’s underground gaming society.

What Chris Wants by Lori FosterLori Foster created a strong group of men in her “Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor” series including the heart of their clandestine operations, Chris—researcher, coordinator, technical support, and clean up. But while Foster’s hooked up all her agents, Chris has never felt comfortable revealing their secrets to the man he’s most interested in. Check out Chris’ story in this eBook release only novella, What Chris Wants.

Dark Lover by J. R. WardIn the realm of paranormal romance, J. R. Ward’s “Black Dagger Brotherhood” (starting with Dark Lover) has gotten rave reviews. This has sarcastic, funny, and honorable warriors as well as action, suspense and an overarching plot that made me grab up the rest of the series.

The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose ClarkeIn her debut, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, Cassandra Rose Clarke offers a subtle story about the changing relationship between the daughter of a roboticist and his android research assistant…from tutor to trusted friend and beyond.

The Thory of AttractionAnd for fans of erotic romance try The Theory of Attraction, a trio of novellas led by the steamy title story and Romantic Times 2012 Book of the Year nominee by Delphine Dryden. Lessons in social skills for her rocket scientist neighbor take a decidedly steamy turn when Camilla realizes Ivan can teach her a number of interesting things as well.

Do you have favorites you’d suggest? Let us know!

- Jessica T., Public Services Head at CADL Downtown Lansing

Timely books for Groundhog Day

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Groundhog Day

I admit that I can never remember what it means when Punxsutawney Phil sees or doesn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day. When February 2nd approaches each year, my first thoughts are not of rodents and seasonal forecasts, but of Groundhog Day, the classic Bill Murray movie. The conceit of the film — in which a weatherman is trapped in a time loop on February 2nd, unable to advance into the future until he gets the day right — is used in any number of novels as well: not just the classic science fiction time loop, but the endless repetition of events. Here are a few books our staff have loved that feature characters locked in a repetitive loop:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (Liz’s review) bears the most obvious resemblance to Groundhog Day. Samantha Kingston, the teenage protagonist, is forced to relive the day of her death seven times in an attempt to change her fate.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (my review) isn’t a proper time loop, but it bears a close resemblance to one. In it, a writer and his muse compose dueling stories that, over and over, rewrite the Bluebeard folktale and explore the uncomfortable relationship between love and violence. It’s metafictional, a story about stories, and about how our mistakes repeat themselves even as we try to rectify them.

This next one is cheating: Every Day by David Levithan (Cassie’s review) isn’t a time loop at all. But the plight of A will be familiar to Groundhog Day fans. Every day, A wakes up in a new place, in a new 16-year-old body. A has come to accept the rules, until they fall in love, and everything changes.

In Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (Jessica’s review), the novel is itself a time loop (not a spoiler!), chronicling the adventures of a time machine repairman who “assists stranded travelers as both counselor and technician.”

- Sara D., Public Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing

200 Years of Pride & Prejudice

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Jane Austen’s beloved novel of manners was published 200 years ago on Jan. 28, 1813 featuring Miss Elizabeth Bennet as she and her four sisters navigate 19th century British society. This beloved satire and psychological study of the characters and their community is one of my favorite classics and has inspired countless movies, sequels, retellings and more. In fact there is so much out there just produced within the last ten years that a few of your friendly neighborhood librarians are a little on Austen overload. However, here are a range of great titles either inspired by or reminiscent of Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice.

janeaustencoverFor something new and different check out Lansing author Scott Southard’s latest, A Jane Austen Daydream (review). It’s a re-imagining of Jane Austen’s life told very much in the style of Miss Austen and informed by the breadth of her works.

The mystery genre has had a field day playing with Austen’s characters but one of our staff picks is the 2011 bestseller Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (Joe M.’s review). Fans of Pride and James’ Dalgliesh will both find something to like here.

Soulless by Gail Carriger offers a wonderful blend of the witty comedy of manners, paranormal romance—with werewolves and vampires to spare—and a Steampunk alternate Britain. (two staff reviews)

Even high fantasy has titles that evoke the feel of Pride, without any of the visual trappings. Thais R. suggested Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw—“a story of inheritance, privilege love, and oh yes dragons… whether you love Pride and Prejudice or Dragonlance.” (full review)

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler set her modern day book of manners in California examining the lives and relationships of a group who come together in a monthly book discussion of the six novels of Jane Austen.

And on the topic of book discussions, in All Roads Lead to Austen author Amy Elizabeth Smith travels South America with a suitcase full of Jane Austen novels in Spanish and gathers new friends to discuss them in six separate countries—accidently living the lessons of Austen’s novels along the way. Fans of Austen, chick lit and travelogues should all give this a try.

Do you have favorites you’d suggest? Let us know!

- Jessica T., Public Services Head at CADL Downtown Lansing

Cookbooks We Love

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Tender by Nigel SlaterWhether you’ve resolved to eat healthier in 2013 or you want some comfort food to get you through the winter, CADL has all kinds of cookbooks to satisfy your cravings. CADL staff are always on the lookout for great new cookbooks; check out some of our favorites from the past year:

Nigel Slater’s Tender (my review) is a vegetable cookbook at heart, but it’s unexpectedly decadent. Between the excellent writing, the incredible photography and the hearty, soul-satisfying recipes themselves, you’ll want to spend all day reading this book from cover to cover. If you like it, you may also want to check out Ripe, Slater’s companion volume of fruit recipes.

If you’re trying to improve your diet for health or medical reasons, you’ll be thrilled by Sam Talbot’s The Sweet Life: Diabetes without Boundaries. It’s filled with beautiful photographs and delicious recipes created specifically for people eating on a restricted diet because of diabetes. In her staff review, Jolee calls it “lush,” and says “diabetes, shmiabetes. Like to cook, maybe even a little on the healthy side? You’ll like this book.”

Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen (my review) isn’t actually an oxymoron; it’s a vibrant, fresh take on delicious comfort food. Terry’s healthy cooking doesn’t skimp on flavor, relying on fresh produce and abundant spices. Terry’s writing in the introduction to each recipe is as playful as his cooking style.

If you’re more interested in decadent treats, Catherine Atkinson’s 300 Chocolate & Coffee Recipes has gotten rave reviews from CADL staff (read reviews by Susan and Regina). It’s exactly what the title claims, and for those who like to drool over their cookbooks, it’s photo-heavy as well.

For more sweet treats, Susan also recommends America’s Best Pies by the American Pie Council and Linda Hoskins. It features recipes from winners of the National Pie Championship, including Linda Hundt, owner of DeWitt’s Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe.

-Sara D., Public Services Librarian at CADL Downtown Lansing