Sarah B.'s blog

Civil War Fiction

Killer AngelsThis summer will be the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the deadliest periods of the Civil War.  The three days saw record causalities and is also considered one of the turning points of the war.  Instead of breaking out a dusty nonfiction tome, consider The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. This fiction book does a good job at adequately describing the events that did occur, but shines at getting into the heads of the major players. We meet Lee, Longstreet and Chamberlain and start to understand their thoughts, positions, opinions and fears as they prepare and head into battle.  This is well researched, and really readable.  The maps give you a good visual perspective as well.

One of the things I love most about history is not only learning the outcomes and the details of the events that took place, but investigating the other possibilities, thinking about the what-ifs, and figuring out the decisions that went into what really happened. Read more »

April's Books Plus

National Poetry MonthIn April, as poets have for centuries, we'll celebrate poetry. For our next Books Plus discussion program, we'll be highlighting sonnets - one of the shortest and most versatile of poetric forms. Did you know what King James I, Prime Minister William Gladstone, American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, President John Quincy Adams, and Edith Wharton all had in common? They loved to write sonnets!

Now you don't need to compose any of your own, but if you have a favorite that you'd love to read aloud, please come and share. Or sit back and let language flow around you.  We'll explore this little song's history, discuss its variations, how contemporary poets have made it their own, and why a sonnet is still a sonnet even if it doesn't rhyme.

We hope you can join us this coming Sunday, April 7 at 2:00 p.m. in discovering anew one of our best creations--the sonnet.  All are welcome and refreshments are provided. More information about this and upcoming Books Plus discussions below.

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Classics as Graphic Novels

Interested inHound of the Baskervilles revisiting an old favorite classic in a new way?  Consider the graphic novel version of your old familiar favorite novel.  I recently read The Hound of the Baskervilles reimagined as a graphic novel by Ian Edginton and was pleasantly surprised.  This is the famous story of Sir Charles Baskerville who has suddenly died and Henry Baskerville, his nephew and the heir to his estate.  Henry is being warned of danger that might befall him as he takes ownership of the manor on the moor.  Sherlock Holmes and Watson travel with Henry to the moor to investigate the threat, made complicated by an escaped murderer, jealousy, mysterious family dynamics, and a possible hell hound. The characters were visually well represented including Watson, Dr. Mortimer and Mrs. Stapleton.  They mystery, though well known, has enough twists and turns to keep any reader going. The visual look and use of color does well to represent the haunting and atmospheric feeling of the moor and the danger lurking everywhere. For fans of dense novels, there is still quite a bit of dialogue which is slowed down further (for a modern reader!) by the original style.  I really loved the look of this graphic novel edition which often reminded me of an animated movie. Read more »

Beasts of Burden

Beasts of BurdenMaking yourself read outside your comfort zone can end up with some total misses and some excellent surprises. In all likelihood I would have missed Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, a graphic novel about a talking pack of animals that solve supernatural mysteries in their seemingly sweet suburban neighborhood of Burden Hill. That description wouldn't peak my interest, but also doesn't do the graphic novel justice either.
The storytelling is episodic, in that there are chapters that are a complete story into itself which makes for a fast read. There is a pack of animal friends, all dogs and one orphan cat who start uncovering supernatural cases in their neighborhood. They eventually become apprentices in the Wise Dog Society to further their training in fighting these evil forces. The supernatural stories cover a wide range from an evil coven of cats, a rain of mutant frogs, werewolves, magical earthen golems, ghosts, and more. Read more »

The Count 2012

Book ReviewsEvery year VIDA Women in Literary Arts conducts a survey to count female author representation in major literary periodicals.  This survey isn't about quality or good reviews, but just about the representation, number of reviews or general press coverage that women authors are getting.  The results can be viewed through a wide variety of lenses, but the graphs are admittedly a little shocking.

It would be interesting to know how the publishing numbers break down, but a quick peek at the New York Times Best Sellers hardcover list of the top 16 titles shows an exact 50/50 female to male representation.  Which to me (unsing completely unscientific methods) shows that books written by women are just as popular or being read in the same numbers as books written by men.  Read more »

New to Me Only 3(+) Years Later!

Visit From the Goon SquadI try to stay familiar with new books coming out, but also keep a list (on goodreads.com) so I don't miss anything great either.  I recently read two great books that either were published in 2010 or enjoyed a resurgence in 2010.  These two books don't have too much in common, but I missed them then, maybe you did too!

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is a complicated contemporary novel that follows many different characters, but centers around Bennie and Sasha, who work in the music industry. We meet both of them at different points in their lives, from teenagers to older parents and the novel stretches from the Bay Area, to NYC, to Africa and Naples. Each chapter focuses on a particular character at a specific time and place with no real instruction to the reader on the how and why. Through the strength of Egan, this doesn't break down the narrative. I really enjoyed all of the voices, varied narrative structures, and cried during a chapter told as a powerpoint told by a 14 year old character previously un-introduced. This book is risky, edgy, intellectual, unafraid of emotion, and requires a lot from the reader.  With all that said, it was also highly enjoyable! Read more »

March Books Plus

ImageOur March Books Plus will be special because Wendy Rubin will be leading a discussion on the book so many Bloomingtonians are reading, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Not only is it our 2013 One Book One Bloomington selection but it's a dystopian novel that focuses on the treatment of women.

This novel offers so many interesting questions to discuss, what makes a theocratic society, can women really be revered when they are policed by men, and how does dividing women into hierarchies based on their domestic tasks affect society. It's basically a book about good and evil. In one passage, Margaret Atwood said, "The moment of betrayal is the worst, the moment when you know beyond any doubt that you've been betrayed: that some other human being has wished you that much evil." Read more »

Your Voice in My Head

Your Voice in My Head"Can I tell you what it's like to live inside Millais' painting of Ophelia"? asks Emma Forrest in her memoir, Your Voice in My Head.  Forrest is already a published author and journalist when in her early 20s moves from London to New York.  Her professional rise as a writer coincides with her extreme struggles with self-cutting, an eating disorder, mania, a suicide attempt, and depression. 

Forrest credits a lot of her survival to psychiatrist, Dr. R.  So when Dr. R dies suddenly, and then a famous Hollywood actor dumps her via text message shortly after, Forrest is left alone to pick up the pieces of her heartbreak and loss. 

This isn't the type of memoir I usually read, but I'm glad I did.  Forrest walks well the line of artistic genius and insanity.  You care for her, even when the choices she makes are hard to understand.  Rounding out the sympathetic characters are Dr. R, and Forrest's own parents who deal the best they can from London.  Read more »

Local Reviews

Do you have a favorite book you'd like to share with other Monroe County Public Library patrons?  Impressed by the idea of a review that you wrote showing up in the library's catalog for other patrons to find and read? If you are the kind of person who doesn't just want to read good books, but also write about good books then we've got something new for you.

It is now possible for patrons who want to write reviews of library materials to do so.  Visit the Create Local Review page and let us know what you think of your recently read book or ebook. Maybe you listened to an audiobook, a music cd or even watched a movie you'd like other patrons to know about.  Write as much or as little as you'd like, and give a rating of 1-5 stars.  Once the reviews are published, they will show up in the catalog under the record for the selected title.  The complete list of local reviews can be found together on our website as well. 

Library staff will continue to write reviews here on this blog, but now you can share your voice too.  Happy reviewing!

February Books Plus

Silver Sparrow"My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist" is the shocking opening line of Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. This memorable novel is set in Atlanta in the mid-80s and unwraps the themes of family, love and loyalty often with some painful results.  Two half-sisters are caught in the middle of the two families, one secret and one public. 

Books Plus has been on a mini-break over the holidays, but the first book discussion of the year will take place next Sunday. Please join us on February 3rd to discuss this raw and memorable novel.

 

Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.

No registration necessary. Drop in.

2 p.m., First Sundays Read more »

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