October 2012 Archives

Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck by Eric G Wilson

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Halloween is a time to indulge in some of our darker, more sinister tastes - horror movies, scary costumes, ghost stories, and the like. (Also, candy.) But our fascination with the dark side is not limited to October. In his new book Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can't Look Away, Eric G. Wilson digs into our collective psyche to try to figure out why we are drawn to stories about serial killers and horrific crimes. Though his investigation is partly scholarly, he also shares some of his own morbid predilections, adding resonance to his findings. Reading more like a personal journal than an academic treatise, Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck is a brisk and captivating little book that just might help you understand why you love Freddy Krueger so much. (And you know you do.)

Brett @ Central

This is an informative and entertaining read for anyone with a taste for the macabre. Written in short chapters on subjects as varied a public beheadings, serial killers and real life fight clubs, this exploration of our fascination with things grotesque both indulges our morbid curiosity while trying to explain it. Though thought provoking and written with humor, the disturbing material may be off-putting to some.

Mary @ Forest Home


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wandergenecover.jpgWheelwright delves into the mystery of why a young Hispanic woman and other members of her extended family are struck down by an aggressive form of cancer known to predominantly afflict women of Jewish descent. Wheelwright gathers the genetic scientists and genealogists at the forefront of the race to save these women's lives, finding answers about how race, religion, and DNA impact our lives. Check catalog for availability.

Jane @ East


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Terrifying Tomes: Halloween Reads

With Halloween around the corner, it's time to crack open a book filled with ghosts, ghouls, and other ghastly gruesome things. Here's a list of thirteen choices to chill the bones and send shivers down your spine, with titles for every sort of taste in terrifying tomes.

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Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is a classic of literature in general, but especially of the horror genre. The story of a monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies who develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator. A wonderfully psychological exploration of morality and other issues.


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HP Lovecraft Goes to the Movies is a great collection of works by the American master of cosmic horror. Included in this compilation are all the stories that have been adapted into films, a great companion to any Lovecraft-themed movie marathon.



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Night Shift by Stephen King is a collection of some of the most famous short stories by the architect of modern American literary horror. The Mangler, Sometimes They Come Back, Children of the Corn, and more await any reader with the fortitude and bravery to read.




heartshapedbox.jpg Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a great recent horror book, and winner of the Horror Writers Association's 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. A collector of obscure and macabre artifacts, unscrupulous metal band musician Judas Coyne is unable to resist purchasing a ghost over the Internet, which turns out to be the vengeful spirit of his late girlfriend's stepfather. A macabre masterpiece that proves the apple doesn't fall far from the tree; author Hill has been revealed to be the son of Stephen King.



creepers.jpg On a cold October night, five people gather in a rundown motel on the Jersey shore to make preparations to break into a nearby abandoned hotel built by a reclusive millionaire during Asbury Park's golden days. However the group of urban explorers, joined for the evening by a reporter, is unprepared for the danger, terror, and death awaiting inside the old hotel. David Morrell's Creepers is just the thing for a good scare, it even won the Bram Stoker Award for best novel in 2005.



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BPRD: 1946 by Mike Mignola and Joshua Dysart is a great horror read for the more graphically inclined. In post-World War II Berlin, Trevor Bruttenholm and the fledgling Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense unravel the mystery behind one of the Nazi Occult Bureau's darkest initiatives: Project Vampir Sturm. Accompanied by stark and beautiful art by Paul Azaceta, this one will give you frights and delights.


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Police officer Rick Grimes is shot on the job and wakes up a month later to find that the world that he knows is gone. Zombies have taken over and are killing and eating those who are still alive. He sets out toward Atlanta in the hope that his family is still alive and endures many horrors along the way. The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman is the first volume of the comic that inspired the hit TV show. Check it out today.



darkendeavor.jpg When his twin brother falls ill in the family's chateau in the independent republic of Geneva in the eighteenth century, sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein embarks on a dangerous and uncertain quest to create the forbidden Elixir of Life described in an ancient text in the family's secret Biblioteka Obscura. This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel is the first in a series of gothic novels for young adults, a rich exploration of the younger days of Doctor Victor Frankenstein from Shelley's work.


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For three years, seventeen-year-old Cas Lowood has carried on his father's work of dispatching the murderous dead, traveling with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat, but everything changes when he meets Anna, a girl unlike any ghost he has faced before. Another great work of modern horror four young adults, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake is sure to please those looking for haunting tales.


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A tale of vampires on the loose as aspiring young writer Tommy Flood meets beautiful Jody on her nocturnal visit to the supermarket and unwittingly begins an eternal relationship. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore is the book about vampire romance for readers absolutely sick of vampire romance, or any reader wanting a good and hearty laugh. Moore follows up the book with two sequels: You Suck and Bite Me.



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Arthur Kipps, a young solicitor, travels to the north of England to settle the estate of Alice Drablow, but unexpectedly encounters a series of sinster events. So goes The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, a ghost story written in 1983 but recently adapted into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe.




zombiesurvival.jpg For those looking for "Nonfiction", look no further than Max Brooks' The Zombie Survival Guide. The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.


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An enormously entertaining account of the gifted and eccentric directors who gave us the golden age of modern horror in the 1970s, bringing a new brand of politics and gritty realism to the genre.
Shock Value by Jason Zinoman is a great read for those who love the intellectual and meaningful side of horror films.


Some of the annotations above were partially taken from the library catalog and entries on NoveList.

Tim @ Central



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Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones

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Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones's debut novel, is a story about three young, African American children coming of age during a terrifying time. Its 1979, and the city of Atlanta is panicked by the repeated abduction and murder of almost two dozen black children. The story is told from the perspective of Tasha, a socially conscious, middle-class girl, Rodney, the quiet, "weird" boy in class, and Octavia, the confident, poor, social outcast. Using first, second, and third person narratives, the children describe growing up a world of fear, mystery, and confusion as they try to grapple with the disappearances of their classmates along with typical growing pains. Each of the narratives is distinct, vivid, and evocative. The innocence of these children and what they experience will break your heart.

Maria @ Central


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wholefoodguideforcover.jpgFor the one in seven women who suffers from breast cancer, nutrition is power--- a robust, cancer-fighting diet is essential for the prevention of recurrence. This easy-to-follow guide for whole-body healing details the effect of nutritional deficiencies and environmental factors on the body. The authors present an organic, plant-based, antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory, whole-food approach which naturally strengthens well- being and longevity. Check catalog for availability.

Jane @ East


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Cowboy Wild by David Campion

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Cowboy Wild is a book that commemorates the hundred year anniversary of the Calgary Stampede. A casual history of the Stampede written by Sandra Shields accompanies the black and white photographs taken by David Campion. The photographs and the text examine the myth of the West - the central icon of the cowboy as expressed by this event - as it survives in these times. Horses and teepees; folks in cowboy and Indian garb are juxtaposed with spiked hair punk rockers, people in shorts and sunglasses, midway fair rides, big screen TVs, and Coca Cola stands in the haunting, sometimes funny tableau's that Campion captured on camera.

Deb @ Bay View


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Butterfly in the Typewriter by Cory MacLauchlin

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Butterfly in the Typewriter by Cory MacLauchlin is a thoroughly researched and well-written biography of John Kennedy Toole, who gave up on his manuscript for "A Confederacy of Dunces" stored it in a box at his home and, in 1969, committed suicide. After discovering the manuscript, his mother worked tirelessly to have it published and in 1981 the novel earned a Pulitzer Prize.

Kim @ East


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Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me by Harvey Pekar

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Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me, the final work by the late Harvey Pekar (American Splendor) is on the thorny subject of Israel. Pekar's ardent Zionist parents raised him to believe in the great promise of Israel as a refuge for the Jewish people. But as he grew older and learned more about the country, he became harshly critical of its policies and held its leaders responsible for much of the turmoil in the Middle East.

The narrative unfolds through a dialogue with the comic's illustrator, J T Waldman, as they drive around Pekar's hometown of Cleveland, a city practically synonymous with him. Anyone interested in world politics will find much to chew on in this graphic novel, and fans will enjoy this one last conversation with Harvey.

Brett @ Central


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The Long-Lost Friend is a complete and annotated edition of a famous early American book of magical folk-cures and charms, intended to treat a variety of ailments in a time of isolated homesteads and a scarcity of modern medicine. The book includes incantations against common illnesses, potions to ward off mosquitos, spells to make your horse more obedient, and remedies for baldness.

Margaret @ East



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mondoluchacover.jpgDan Madigan's book Mondo Lucha a Go-Go: the Bizarre and Honorable World of Wild Mexican Wrestling is a colorful whirlwind romp through the mythos and phenomenon of lucha libre (though sadly the book is not related to Milwaukee's own Mondo Lucha shows). Those of us who grew up in the eighties and nineties remember the American pro-wrestling boom period, when Hulkamania ran wild, the Macho Man was dropping elbows and shilling for Slim Jim, and we could all smell what The Rock was cooking. Yet as big as wrestling got in the States, in terms of being a cultural touchstone it was nothing compared to lucha libre and Mexican culture. Madigan's book clearly comes from a place of genuine adoration and respect. He loves lucha, and this helps the book immensely; the tone is enthusiastic, like a friend eager to tell you all about this amazing thing you just have to see for yourself. He fills the book with both his own anecdotes and a decent history of not only lucha as a whole, but many of its iconic stars as well.

No book on lucha would be complete without those stories, though Madigan's effort to include the stories of so many of lucha's stars sadly leaves a few of their entries seeming too brief. The coverage of the other true phenomena of lucha - the lucha film (wherein masked wrestlers battle aliens and mummies and all sorts of threats to the world while still making it to their scheduled matches in the ring) is also all too brief, barely scratching the surface on a rich and interesting tradition. That said, what Madigan has assembled is one of the best American-written books on lucha. The book is full of fun facts and colorful pictures (including some fabulous images of lucha film posters in all their glory). For those who want to learn more about lucha libre and its place in Mexican culture, this is definitely a good book to read.

Tim @ Central


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makeitcountcover.jpgHigh school can be a very challenging time for many teenagers. It's often filled with endless activities, friendships, a little stress and lots of laughter. Make it Count gives teens daily devotions that will allow them to treasure each moment, good and bad. It reminds them of the importance of living life to the fullest and making the most of each and every day. "Remember, someone will always have more than you and someone will always have less. Enjoy what you have and don't waste time or energy chasing the wind of desire."

Sha'Nese @ East


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And the Booker Prize Goes to...Hilary Mantel

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The Man Booker Prize promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world's most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and even publishers.

Hilary Mantel is the first woman and the first British writer to win the £50,000 (US$80,502) Man Booker Prize twice for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, the second installment of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Mantel also won in 2009 for Wolf Hall. Australian Peter Carey and South African J.M. Coetzee are the other double Booker winners.

"Well, I don't know. You wait 20 years for a Booker Prize... two come along at once," said Mantel in her acceptance speech. She is currently working on a third volume, The Mirror and the Light, and called the award "an act of faith and a vote of confidence."

Bring Up the Bodies delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell as Anne and her powerful family fight back while she is on trial for adultery and treason.

Jacki @ Central


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Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn

tinyhomes.jpegYou might be old enough to recall 76-year old skateboarder and publisher Lloyd Kahn's association with the Whole Earth Catalog. This is a gorgeous celebration of builders and dreamers constructing wildly imaginative and ecologically sensitive handmade houses. The builders' reuse of salvaged materials (washing machine doors, glass pie plates, and old van parts to name a few) mesmerizes and astounds. Check catalog for availability.

Jane @ East

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Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter: Scaling back in the 21st Century is about alternative living spaces, architecture, charming habitats - off the beaten track- such as tree houses, vintage gypsy caravans, and long boats. If one considers taking to a house on wheels or sprucing up a cabin cruiser, this softbound coffee table book is packed with ideas. Loaded with photos, sketches and bits of information about a variety of really tiny shelter - this is not a scholarly work. Nor is it a detailed "how to," but it is a pleasure to vicariously enjoy the folk artistry, and whimsy of the featured homes.

Deb H @ Bay View (from September 15, 2012)


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Breed by Chase Novak

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A charmed Manhattan couple, Alex and Leslie, have everything. Living in a gorgeous mansion filled with priceless antiques passed down from generations in Alex's family, they are surrounded in the finest luxuries money can afford. They start taking their happy marriage, accomplished careers and wealth for granted once Leslie cannot become pregnant. After many years and so many efforts, a wildly risky option is offered to them with dangerous consequences. Alex and Leslie discover she is pregnant but pay a hefty price they had not predicted or been warned of.

The bulk of Breed follows the offspring of this coupling, twins Adam and Alice. Ten years after their parents went to extremes to have them, a horrible sense of foreboding and anticipation swallow the household up. The once beautiful house is in shambles, stripped of most of the priceless art and antiques. Adam and Alice fear they only get a glimpse into the animalistic nature of their wild parents.

At turns creepy and suspenseful, Breed propels the reader forward into this horror story. The twins must decide to either escape their strange, erratic parents or live in fearful apprehension. Readers also get a glimpse into the possible future of Adam and Alice when they cross paths with a group of children whose parents had the same fertility treatment, children who roam Central Park together in a pack. A special teacher reaches out to help the twins with disastrous results. If you are looking for a wonderfully dark novel to further chill your bones this fall, check out Breed by Chase Novak.

Kellie @ Forest Home


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Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot

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In this fourth installment of the Heather Wells Mystery Series, Heather is busier than ever. The students in Fischer Hall, where Heather works, are home on summer break, but now the residence hall is full of thirteen and fourteen year old girls filming pop singing sensation Tania Trace's Rock Camp. Tania's producer winds up dead and it becomes clear that Tania was the intended victim. When Heather's fiancé Cooper gets hired to be Tania's bodyguard, how can Heather not get involved?

Kim @ East



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The Milwaukee Public Library's Wisconsin Writers Wall of Fame pays tribute to a spectrum of literary talents--novelists, poets, journalists, playwrights, historians--whose work has been influenced by their life and experiences in Wisconsin.

Join us Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 at 2 p.m.
for the induction of two new authors
to the Wall of Fame at Central Library:

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Kevin Henkes

Born in Racine, Henkes often visited the local art museum - The Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts. He was greatly inspired by these visits and by reading his favorite books. Henkes is best known for the books featuring an adorable assortment of marvelous mice - Chester, Chrysanthemum, Lilly, Owen, Penny, Wendell and Wemberly - to name a few. But he has written more than 40 books including novels, picture books, and his popular "mouse books." Kitten's First Full Moon was the winner of the Caldecott Medal and Henke's novel Olive's Ocean won a Newbery Honor. The Association of Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, selected him to deliver the prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture in 2007.

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Richard Schickel

Born in Milwaukee, film historian, filmmaker, and film critic, Schickel is the author of more than 30 books and the director-writer-producer of dozens of film and television documentaries. Among his best-known books are Elia Kazan: A Biography; D.W. Griffith: An American Life; Clint Eastwood: A Biography; The Disney Version; Brando: A Life in Our Times; and his memoir, Good Morning, Mr. Zip Zip Zip. His most recent titles are Clint: A Retrospective and Conversations with Scorsese. A film critic for Life magazine and Time magazine for 43 years, Schickel reviews at Truthdig.com. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and was awarded an honorary degree by the American Film Institute.

Jacki @ Central


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Conning Harvard by Julie Zauzmer

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Conning Harvard: Adam Wheeler, the Con Artist Who Faked His Way Into the Ivy League is a fascinating book that chronicles Adam Wheeler's many scams and contains interviews from witnesses and people who knew him.

Wheeler submitted false letters of recommendation and fake SAT scores in order to gain entrance to Harvard. After getting into one of the most prominent universities in the United Sates Wheeler continued his lies and cheated to win funds in order to continue his "education." After too many cons people started to become suspicious, leading Wheeler to flee from Harvard. Eventually, he was caught and brought to court. Prepare to be amazed when reading about all of the things Wheeler was able accomplish with his devious ways.

Valerie @ MPL Central


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Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola

joegolemcover.jpgA steampunk vision of New York City decimated by plague and half-sunk beneath the sea. Young heroine Molly must rescue her caretaker, an elderly magician, from mysterious dark forces. She is aided by a gruff man of clay and his employer, a detective out of the past who is part mechanical and part magic. The text is accompanied by numerous small illustrations by the creator of Hellboy comics. Check catalog for availability.

Margaret @ East


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The Reverend's Wife by Kimberla Lawson Roby

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How do you hold things together when your world is falling apart? From the start (Casting the First Stone), the Reverend Curtis Black has turned heads and broken hearts, and this latest tale is no different. This ninth installment of the award-winning Reverend Curtis Black series brings readers even closer to the characters we have come to know and love over the past ten years. Check the catalog for availability; the book also includes a reading group guide.

Sha'Nese @ East



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Langella holds forth about famous men and women he has loved off screen---and a few he hasn't. Readers meet a very boozy Laurence Olivier and Anne Bancroft throwing a tantrum. We discover a startled Jackie Onassis and what the Queen Mum said when exiting the loo. A chapter about Roger Vadim directing Langella in a very intimate scene with Rebecca De Mornay is not for the faint of heart. Check catalog for availability.

Jane @ East


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The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

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The Cutting Season is set in contemporary Louisiana on the grounds of Belle Vie, a lush antebellum plantation owned by the Clancy family. Locke's tale explores the lives of two families that have occupied it for more than a century. Caren Gray and her family have worked for the Clancy's for generations; today she manages the entire staff, catering weddings and staging shows about plantation life in the old days. When a migrant worker's body is discovered on the property the investigation that ensues reveals just how entwined the two families' histories are.

Jacki @ Central


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Revolutionary Voices edited by Amy Sonnie

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Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association

This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.

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Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie, labels itself a 'multicultural queer youth anthology', containing the art and writings of young people ages 14 to 26 of all racial, sexual, and gender identities. The work contained within is powerful, coming for places of pain, love, joy, and anguish. The poems, pictures, and stories evoke strong emotions, a full range of experiences that would be impossible to catalog. These are the voices and expressions of people who are all too often told to be silent, to not speak, to not accept what they have to say because of who they are and the labels others would place upon them.

Indeed, even the book itself has been the target of silencing efforts, placing as the ninth most challenged book on the ALA's list of most challenged and banned books of 2010. This book is a collection of voices who wish to be heard, to tell their story and their own experiences. The introduction to the book says it best: "We dedicate this book to us, to all of us, wherever we are; so we may continue to speak our minds and hearts, to struggle to save ourselves, and in doing so to save each other."

Tim @ Central


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Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association

This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.

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Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier has not appeared on ALA's most frequently banned or challenged lists, but it did create a stir in 2009 when library staff members in Kentucky were fired for tampering with a patron's records in order to 'protect' them from being able to check out the book. You can read more about that over at The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund website.

Alan Moore's graphic novels have always been some of the most philosophical, experimental and intelligent comics out there, and Black Dossier is no exception. The third volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series (once loosely adapted into a major motion picture that led to Moore washing his hands of Hollywood all together), it continues the style established in his previous efforts: a distinctly multimedia story told in an unconventional manner, treating classics of literature and other media with a critical and grim manner as he crafts a story that encompasses multiple points of fiction that we are already familiar with into something altogether new. While previous volumes were set in the Victorian era, this volume is set in the late 1950s, allowing Moore to insert his own takes on such figures as James Bond, Emma Peel (though under her maiden name of Emma Night), Bulldog Drummond and more.

The narrative is rather straightforward; Mina Murray and Allan Quatermain from the first two volumes (now both immortal through various means) have stolen the titular Black Dossier from the government, as it contains material on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in its various incarnations, including material on our heroes themselves. They are pursued by agents from the government, the aforementioned Bond, Drummond, and Emma Night. On occasions where Mina and Allan take the time to read the dossier, the book actually turns into the excerpts themselves, in the form of stories and articles, lost Shakespeare folios, and more. Even the paper may change in the book; the dossier's sequel to infamous John Cleland novel Fanny Hill is on a heavier, texture stock, which definitely makes for a new and interesting reading experience.

In terms of a stand-alone reading experience, Black Dossier does not hold up well, though this is by design. Black Dossier was intended as a sourcebook, a fleshing out of the world that Moore has cobbled together from every bit of fiction and fact he thought worth including. It is also important to note that this work is for mature audiences. Moore has never shied away from matters of the human body, sex, and violence in his work, and Black Dossier is no different. If the concept still intrigues you, it is recommended you start at the beginning of the series. The series is entertaining and meaningful, and Kevin O'Neill's art is masterful and a perfect complement to Moore's writing.

Tim @ Central


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Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association

This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.

angusthongscover.jpgAngus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging has been called the 'Bridget Jones' of the teen girl set, which is a pretty apt description. The book is told through the main character's own journal, a fourteen year old whose life is a series of seeming misadventures. From disastrously wearing a stuffed olive costume to a fancy dress party, to accidentally shaving off an eyebrow, to her increasingly desperate attempts to catch the attention of the local heartthrob boy, Georgia Nicolson is every part the flummoxed and humorous protagonist. While occasionally bratty and self-centered (like most teenagers of any gender), Georgia is also an amiable underdog, endearing her to the reader even when she's at her worst (and as it is the privacy of her own journal, she is often at her worst).

The book itself is irreverent in tone, with its escapades mainly light and ridiculous. As you might have gathered from the title, the book touches upon the hormones of teenagers, with Georgia's obsession with 'sex god' Robbie and her spectacularly awkward attempts to take kissing lessons, but these passages maintain a nice balance of seriousness and humor. This content has, however, prompted several challenges to the book, landing it at number 35 on ALA's Top 100 Most Challenged Books of 2000-2009. While exceedingly British, the first book does come with a handy lexicon in the back to understand all the British-isms for those unfamiliar. The book has also spawned a slew of sequels, all detailing Georgia's further hilarious misadventures.

Tim @ Central



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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association

This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.

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It is often a daunting task to read a 'literary classic'. It can bring up memories of dry and stifling texts forced upon us in school, books that we dredged through while being flogged and flagellated with the idea that we should not only be enjoying the experience but feel enlightened as well. So when confronted with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, one cannot help but feel a little trepidation. The book is a juggernaut of science fiction, a dark dystopian tale of society gone horribly, awfully wrong. A vision of the future where everyone has been made "happy" through subliminal indoctrination, genetic conditioning, and government issued sedatives.

Brave New World is thankfully not one of those sorts of literary classics that we all grew to loathe. While a challenging book thanks to its disturbing image of the future, it is also a highly rewarding reading experience as well. While the story has some odd quirks (the seeming true protagonist of the book isn't introduced until halfway through, for instance) and the plot is rather simple overall, the powerful commentary and satire are what make the book thought provoking and interesting. The book compels you to keep reading as the characters begin to chafe against this awful future society, leaving you hoping for upheaval and change at every turn. Yet Huxley's vision is grimmer than that hope, the end passages of the book chilling in their finality.

It is unsurprising that Brave New World continues to place on ALA's Most Challenged Books list in recent years. The society of the book relishes in base sensation, casual sex, drug use, and has long since abandoned all religions in favor of revering Henry Ford and the industrial revolution. Yet a reader who thinks these concepts revered by the author would be wrong (even if Huxley was an atheist). We are constantly ill at ease with this frightening world, filled with antiseptic and sanitized horrors. Huxley strongly presents the idea that sex without emotion is infantile, that drugging away the little sadnesses of life is not truly happiness, and that the concept of God is ever present, even in his seeming absence.

The more merited criticism of the book in recent years focuses on the racism present in the book. An extended middle passage of Brave New World takes place in a 'Savage Reservation', a place where the world government has left people to remain 'uncivilized' due to the land not being worth development. Huxley's intent is clear, insomuch as any author's intent can be, trying to show the reservations as the last place where humanity and reason dwell, in the land of those considered uncivil. Yet Huxley's passage also paints the reservation as dank and disgusting, and the narrative focuses on the color of the natives' skin in ways that manage to other them. While there may be an argument that this would be the viewpoint of our 'civilized' visitors to the reservation, it is very telling that the 'savage' that is our compassionate and reasoned protagonist that enters the story from the reservation is a white man who simply happened to be born there.

Ultimately, Huxley's work is powerful, full of issues and ideas and worries for a future that the author thought all too possible. He presents a world where the past was banned in fear that the past might possibly make someone unhappy. It is this point that makes it all the more ironic that now some would seek to ban Brave New World itself. The work is simultaneously visionary and dated at once, worth reading for its forethought, though readers should be well aware of the challenging content of the book before embarking.

Tim @ Central



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Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block

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Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association


babybebop.jpegBaby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block isn't a very large book. But if Young Adult books were divided into weight classes, Baby Be-Bop would be a lean, swift, hard hitting welterweight, packing a hearty punch into so few pages. It is the story of Dirk McDonald, a young man who just happens to be gay. The first half of the book is Dirk's growing up under the care of his sweet grandma Fifi, his parents having died in a car crash. The latter half of the book is a wonderful imaginative dream sequence, a journey through Dirk's mind and emotional landscape that is compellingly written, and concludes with a heartfelt ending that suits the tone of the book perfectly. The story is told through lush, beautiful imagery, the prose and character names evoking the feel of a modern fairy tale. Dirk's life is not a fairy tale, however, as he struggles to deal with his own feelings and his fears of the world's reaction to his identity.

Block's book, a prequel of sorts to Weetzie Bat (as Dirk appears as a supporting character there), is powerful even in its brevity. It captures well the feelings of uncertainty in a young person questioning their identity, and even in its fairy tale tone evokes the true grim and ugly nature of those who hurt people out of hatred and bigotry. It is almost a shame that a book that is about acceptance and love would evoke reactions of anger and calls for banning and burning, yet such events have occurred even in the state of Wisconsin. For more of Block's work, check our catalog for availability.

Tim @ Central

This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.


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Reprinted by permission of the American Library Association

This review is presented in honor of Banned Book Week.

absolutelytruecover.jpgThere is a quote on the back cover of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian from Neil Gaiman which states "I have no doubt that in a year or so [the book will] both be winning award and being banned." The statement was true on both accounts, as Alexie's stellar coming of age tale has won a multitude of accolades and continues to place in the top ten of the ALA's Most Challenged Books list. An Oscar Wilde quote is very applicable to this book: "The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame."

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is Alexie's semi-autobiographical story of Arnold Spirit Junior, a Native American teen from the Spokane Indian Reservation who enrolls in the all-white high school in Reardan, Washington. Junior's experiences are brutal and joyous, tragic in their reality and beautiful in their honesty. Junior is every part a teenage boy, with a teenager's urges, mood swings, and all that comes with it. He is poor, his family is not perfect, and his best friend is crude and even mean. Indeed, it is the honesty that Alexie gives to Junior and how Junior expresses himself that causes much of the controversy over the book. Junior is a teenager as teenagers are, not the cherubic and innocent ideal that many have of the young.

Then there's the matter of race, as one could gather from the title's mention of 'Part-Time Indian'. Alexie does not shy away from matters of racism; indeed through Junior's voice he charges at it full steam ahead. Junior's experiences of being 'less' than the white kids because of his skin while simultaneously being treated as a traitor to the reservation for going to school with the white kids are just some of many illustrations of the messy nature that comes with matters of race in the book. The author touches upon the issue with insight, honesty, and experience, and the story is all the more enlightening for it.

Alexie has crafted a modern classic in the realm of teen coming-of-age tales. It reads smoothly, with character and life present in every passage. The illustrations (presented as cartoons drawn by Junior, art actually by the extremely talented Ellen Forney) add more vitality and humor while also revealing a great deal about Junior's thoughts and feelings. The book was filled with meaning and emotion, and one of the most rewarding reads I've had in a long time, I even read over half the book in one sitting, unable to put it down. While intended for a young adult audience, the book is more than suitable for older readers as well.

Tim @ Central


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