May 2013 Archives

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

Recently the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America presented their annual Nebula Awards, honoring the best of 2012's efforts in genre fiction across a variety of categories. Here are a few highlighted winners that you can check out from your local library branch!

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2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson is this year's winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel. In a future where humanity has spread out across the entire solar system, artist Swan Er Hong struggles to cope with the death of her grandmother when her world is thrown further into chaos as she gets caught up in a conspiracy that spreads across multiple planets. Epic in scale and length, this is an intricately detailed and well realized space opera.

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After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress is the winner of this year's Nebula Award for Best Novella. A post-apocalyptic tale embroiled with a criss-crossing time travel narrative involving kidnappings and aliens, Kress manages to elegantly make a complicated tale easy to read.



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Finally there is Fair Coin by E. C. Myers , winner of this year's Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Sixteen year old Ephraim gets hold of a strange coin, supposedly taken from a dead body that looks just like him. Soon he finds out that the coin can grant wishes, but not without a cost and those costs quickly begin to mount up.


For a full list of nominees and award winners, click here!

Tim @ Central

Center Street Reads

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Benediction by Kent Haruf captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way.

Mary and Dad Lewis have spent their entire lives in Holt, Colorado. When Dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer, their daughter Lorraine comes home from Denver to help take care of him. Their estranged son Frank is absent, and while Lorraine's complete devotion to making things as comfortable as possible softens things, he remains in their thoughts.

A young girl named Alice moves in next door with her grandmother. Dad's condition brings painful memories of her own mother's death to the surface that she has to deal with. At the same time a new preacher comes to town and is trying hard to hold true to his beliefs and mend a strained relationship with his wife and teenaged son.

Throughout all this, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors. As Dad faces his final days, we get a glimpse at the community that binds Holt together.

Mary S @ Zablocki (Center Street)

Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison

sevensoldiers.jpegGrant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory plays out a lot like a time-travelling , magic-drenched, comic book version of a Guy Ritchie film. Seven different stories about seven different heroes unfold in their own unique ways, yet they all end up tied together to stop the destruction of Earth by a terrible elf-like race from the future called the Sheeda. These seven heroes are an eclectic lot, with equally eclectic tales: The Shining Knight (a teenage girl disguised as a man from an ancient Celtic King Arthur's Court who ends up in modern times), The Manhattan Guardian (a former police officer hired to be a shield-wielding masked hero in the name of a tabloid newspaper), Zatanna the Magician (former member of the Justice League who happens to be stripped of her magical powers for this story), Klarion the Witch Boy (a blue-skinned young boy in a puritanical underground civilization), Mister Miracle (master escape artist), Bulleteer (a woman with indestructible metal skin thanks to her husband's experimentation), and even Frankenstein's Monster himself (who just happens to be an agent of a supernatural fighting government organization called S.H.A.D.E.).

Elements from each of these stories interweave in fun and intriguing ways; you'll find yourself flipping back and forth in the pages to make sure you don't miss any of the little details. Also, like most of Grant Morrison's work this 'maxi-series' is a bit of a doozy, filled with magic, mayhem, secret societies, underground cities, ancient prophecy and more. For people who love the oeuvres Neil Gaiman, Quentin Tarantino, and the aforementioned Guy Ritchie, this is absolutely a fun set of strange stories to check out today from your local neighborhood library branch.

Tim @ Central

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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And the Mountains Echoed spans more than a half century, intertwining stories from character's in a Kabul mansion and an Afghan village.

An Afghan villager gives his daughter to a wealthy couple for adoption without realizing how this will impact lives from the 1950s to the present day and from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco. The repercussions of Kabul being overtaken by the Taliban bears down on everyone even more.

The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini's previous novels, were told from a single point of view. This time he links the narratives of many by blood or circumstance, offering insight into the souls of those affected by events.

Each section has a distinct worldview, ranging from a village boy who loses his sister to adoption to a shy stepmother with an awful secret to the adopted daughter/sister herself. As time goes on the story crosses the Atlantic and shares the experience of Afghans living as immigrants, building a new life while still missing home.

Jacki @ Central

Center Street Reads

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The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson is set in New Zealand when Marion Flint, a woman in her early 50s, suddenly finds herself caring for a young boy trying to get away from a dangerous situation. As she sets about trying to meet his needs, she slowly opens her heart to the memories of her past. It's not only the locale that makes this book a breath of fresh air to read, but Olsson's writing is lyrical and easy as well.

Mary S @ Zablocki (Center Street)

pyg.jpegStyled in the fashion of an actual eighteenth-century memoir, Pyg: The Memoir of Toby the Learned Pig is an amusing little book. Toby's life goes through all sorts of exciting little adventures, from barely avoiding the slaughterhouse after winning the grand prize at a fair, to becoming part of an all-animal circus and beyond. The tale is quite grounded for a concept that could have easily been taken away with whimsy or sentimentality, though sometimes this leads to the story feeling almost a little too dry and serious for the story of an intelligent pig.

For those who love the stories of Babe and Wilbur or any of the other yarns about smart swine, Pyg is definitely worth a read. The pace is steady enough so that the concept never outstays its welcome, and there are a few nice moments where the author (Russell Potter disguises himself as the 'editor' to increase the illusion that the book is indeed the memoir of the porcine protagonist) manages to touch upon deeper themes without getting preachy. Check it out from your local library today!

Tim @ Central

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"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

I'll tell you one thing; rock n rollers aren't the only ones who've dabbled into excess! Keith Richards has nothing over Edgar Allan Poe or Oscar Wilde. Lord Byron and Charles Baudelaire were indulging in shocking behavior long before Elvis ever shook his pelvis on television.

Literary Rogues: A Scandalous History of Wayward Authors by Andrew Shaffer is a delightful literary romp through a rogue's gallery of Western Literature's most famous misbehavers. We learn how Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald fueled the Jazz Age on gin fumes. We get a nice summary of the Marquis de Sade's literary and literal debauchery. Hemingway had issues, Truman Capote partied more than he wrote, Dorothy Parker could make a longshoreman blush, and Hunter S. Thompson truly takes the excess cake.

This fun book is like a compilation of gossip page headlines for the literary set. Fact filled, fun, and eye opening, this collection of short bio's will be a true hair of the dog for lovers of good literature and the people who wrote it.

Submitted by Dan@Central

voicespacific.jpegVoices of the Pacific: Untold Stories from Marine Heroes of World War II by Adam Makos and Marcus Brotherton should be taught in every high school across the country. It does not give battle reports and dates. It doesn't have a political agenda. It is simply a book of personal recollections of war in the Pacific from men who fought there. This is real. It's like sitting at your neighborhood tavern shooting the breeze with veterans of Guadalcanal and Okinawa and Peleliu. Each passage has a distinct voice and all of the voices, when strung together, tell the real story of warfare. It's not pretty. Friends being bayoneted, buddies blown to bits; slit trenches and wormy bread, bloated bodies bursting in the heat and staining your pants. These stories are real and within a few more years, there won't be any surviving veterans of WWII left to tell them. This book is important and vital and sad. No flag waving here, just stories of men and the horrors they faced while serving their country.

Dan K @ Central

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

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NOS4A2 by Joe Hill is an epic novel spanning three decades that horror fans will enjoy because of its unsettling imagery and omnipresent dread.

Ever since Victoria McQueen helped police apprehend serial child abductor Charles Talent Manx, she can't keep out of trouble's way. Manx is in a coma and Vic is receiving phone calls from his victims. His dead victims.

The kids were never found; when they call, they tell Vic that they're not dead, they're thriving in a place called Christmasland. No matter how hard she tries, she can't forget the boy she found in the back seat of Manx's Rolls-Royce Wraith--a disturbing creature that looked like a vampire, with hooks for teeth.

So, that might sound creepy to you, but what really got me was Bing, the Gasmask Man, Manx's assistant. He's charged with trapping the mother's of Manx's victims; reading about the House of Sleep and Bing gassing his victims into submission nearly put me over the edge.

Jacki @ Central

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

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As the summer settles in, no cookout or picnic is complete without snacks! But have you ever wondered why those potato chips, cookies, or soda taste so addictive? Michael Moss's recent book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us is an exploration of the places where biology, corporate profit, convenience, and food science overlap. Moss explores how the food industry has manipulated desirable ingredients (salt, sugar, fat) to enhance their food, creating a "bliss point" that our taste buds simply cannot resist. The book weaves together the rise of convenience food with information on our biological predispositions, nutritional needs, and susceptibility to food-related illness. The reader is introduced to the chemists that produce these convenience foods as well as the stealthy marketing devices corporations use to sell the products. This investigative work gives the modern reader a historical perspective on our current grocery store shelves. Journalistic in tone, this is a logical next read for anyone who has enjoyed books by authors like Michael Pollan or has an interest in the food industry.

Shannon @ Center Street

Center Street Reads

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The Mediterranean Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone is much more than just a collection of amazing recipes, this cookbook has a brilliant introduction to slow cooking, as well as a comprehensive section on the items found in the Mediterranean pantry. Busy cooks interested in easy-to-prepare, healthy, and intriguing meals such as Greek shrimp with tomatoes and feta to lesser-known dishes such as creamy polenta lasagna, port-braised chicken and Bandit's Lamb will appreciate the wide range of delicious choices, clear and simple instructions, and mouth-watering photographs. Bon appetite!

Tricia @ Center Street

Urban Fiction

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In Real Wifeys Hustle Hard Sophie "Suga" Alvarez (childhood friend of Luscious from Real Wifeys Get Money and with a surprising connection to Goldie from Real Wifeys On the Grind) is a fierce female committed to her loved ones and making as much cash as possible. Suga and her fiance Dane live life via a delicate balance of legit and illegal operations in Newark, New Jersey. Dane is one of the best loan sharks in the area and pulls in a lot of paper, which Suga enjoys, but she won't marry him until he shows her that he's serious about leaving the hustle behind.

Amid uninhibited sex, graphic violence and a lot of profanity, readers will cheer for Suga to rise above the fray as she encounters slippery associates and co-workers, barely escapes the law and realizes how much betrayal her life depends on.

Jacki @ Central

ruthieleming.jpegRegular readers of Rod Dreher's blog at American Conservative magazine have followed the story of the illness and death of his beloved younger sister, Ruthie Leming. Leming, a schoolteacher who served in the rural Louisiana parish they both grew up in, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer at the age of 40. This is a remarkable book about the last months of Ruthie's life and the community that rallied around her in the darkest of times.

But it's so much more than that.

Ruthie's death inspires the author to move back to his hometown with his own family, the place he left two decades ago to seek his fortune in the world. Back home, he grapples with his complicated relationships with his parents, nieces and Ruthie herself, whose death still left much unresolved between them. Themes of family, community, obligation and trust abound in this warm and absorbing book.

Brett @ Central

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

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The Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb follows a group of dragons and the humans that keep them. The dragons are nearly extinct, but the humans work to defeat disease, adversity, mother nature, poachers and the government to keep the species going. The first three books, Dragon Keeper, Dragon Haven and City of Dragons cultivate the characters and build suspense. And although Blood of Dragons is the final book in the series, it reads quickly, with plenty of back-story details to bring readers up to speed, so it can even be read as a standalone. Fantasy fans will also find the story finishes well...loose ends are neatly tied up and closure for all major characters is included.

Jacki @ Central


Whatcha Readin'@Central Library

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Ever wonder what the library staff are reading? Here's a snapshot of what's currently being read by workers at Central:

Laura P is reading The Summer Queen by Joan D. Vinge

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Hilary E is reading Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton

Christine O is reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

John S is reading Deity, Mantra, and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra by Jigme Lingpa, Patrul Rinpoche, and Getse Mahapandita

Allie S is reading Visa for Avalon by Bryher

Leslie F is reading An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon and listening to The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

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Gail B is reading Disturbance by Jan Burke

Tom O is reading Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

Tom F is reading I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography by Richard Hell

Mary M is reading Amazing Things Will Happen: A Real-World Guide on Achieving Success and Happiness by C.C. Chapman

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Victoria S is reading The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price by Lynn O'Shaughnessy

Kelly K is reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Manuel C is reading Blue-Blooded Vamp by Jaye Wells

Jim B is reading The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Joanne B is reading Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy

Emily K is reading Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose

Pam H is reading Dance of the Gods by Nora Roberts

Roxanne S is reading The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Chris M is reading Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich (a forthcoming title, July 2013)

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Kathy B is reading Anjum's Eat Right for Your Body Type: The Super-Healthy Detox Diet Inspired by Ayurveda by Anjum Anand

Watch for future lists of what the staff at the branch locations are reading!

The Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

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Sonali Deraniyagala thinks nothing of it at first. She and her family are almost ready to leave their hotel at Yala, a national park on the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka, when a friend says "Oh my God, the sea's coming in." Sonali turns and sees the white curl of a big wave that does not seem particularly alarming. But then the wave turns to froth, the froth to foam, and the foam to waves rushing closer and closer to their room. The family tries to flee, but when the tsunami has subsided, only Sonali has survived.

Dead are her parents, her husband, and her two sons, seven-year-old Vikram and five-year-old Malli. From this stunning opening, the author takes us through her odyssey of grief, despair, and remembrance in the years to come. She plots her suicide, starts drinking too much, and stalks the Dutch family who moves into her parents' former home. Her sorrow is palpable as she describes herself, mutilated by loss. Yet this book is so much more than a wild shriek of pain. Memories of her childhood, the early days of courtship with her husband, and details of her boys' lives come to life in pristine prose. The imagery in this book is amazing, from the "gluey dark snot" coming out of Sonali's nose after she emerges from the filthy water of the wave to happier memories of eating mussels on the beach with her family, "the clatter of slurped-out shells on a tin plate, salt on the children's eyelashes, sunset."

Six years after the wave forever changes her life, Sonali goes on a whale-watching excursion. As the boat chugs out of the harbor, she remembers Vikram's fascination with whales and feels the agony of having this experience when he cannot. But as she finds herself transfixed by the "unearthly dimensions" and "effortless grace" of possibly the largest creatures that have ever lived, she begins to "want to take in all this blue whale magic," maybe more so because her son cannot. What a beautiful, powerful book The Wave is.

Anna W @ Central

Center Street Reads

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The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell is a unique, heartbreaking story that takes the reader to a squalid neighborhood in Glascow where two teenage sisters have a couple of secrets buried in their backyard; their parents. The girls are taken in by their lonely, gay neighbor who tries to heal the damage done by their drug addled, neglectful parents. Told in alternating chapters by each sister and their neighbor, this dark tale explores the wide range of human brutality and kindness.

Tricia @ Center Street

Treasures of the Rare Books Room: The Yellow Book

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The Milwaukee Public Library is fortunate to own a complete set of the British art and literary journal The Yellow Book. It was published in London from 1894 to 1897.

The first art director of this quarterly publication was Aubrey Beardsley, the British illustrator infamous for his dark, grotesque and often erotic drawings which were influenced by Japanese prints. Beardsley has been credited with the idea of the yellow cover, a reference to books sold in Paris wrapped in yellow paper which became a sign of their lascivious content. However, the journal was respectable and featured the writings of such luminaries as Henry James, H. G. Wells and William Butler Yeats as well as the artwork of others.

It was a famous publication in its day and references to it are found in W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage and Evelyn Waugh's Put Out More Flags.

If you are interested in viewing this set, call the Art, Music and Recreation Department at 414-286-3071 to arrange a visit.

Pat DeFrain, Rare Books Librarian @ MPL Central

extralives.jpgVideo games are currently a multi-billion dollar industry, permeating our popular culture more and more. As we reach the point where entire generations of adults have grown up playing video games, the more they begin to permeate our popular culture. The late Roger Ebert famously argued that video games could never be art (though he did later apologize for his position, in a manner). Tom Bissell's Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter takes up the unenviable task of arguing not only for the cultural significance of video games, but also for the declaration of video games as an art form.


Extra Lives itself is structured in a series of different essays, most of which reflect specifically on a single game, whether it be BioShock, or Mass Effect. Bissell, a journalist who has won awards for his travel writing, makes each chapter so intensely personal by way of his own reactions and circumstances relating to these games. He talks about missing the election of Barack Obama because he was too busy playing Fallout 3 and dedicates an entire essay to talking about playing Resident Evil in the second person to convey his emotions in as direct a manner as possible. Most compelling is the gloomy final essay of the book, where Bissell discusses the addictive quality of games by way of a story of actual drug addiction where his experiences playing the infamous game Grand Theft Auto IV became intrinsically linked to his becoming addicted to cocaine.

While Bissell's writing is often fascinating and rarely boring (and proffers some excellent theories and concepts on the nature of narrative and its role in video games), some discussions of his experiences with specific games such as Far Cry 2 can easily fall flat if one is not familiar with the game in question. Highly recommended to the video game loving crowd as well as those who take interest in narrative theory, the book is a quick read that is definitely worth your time.

Tim @ Central

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fridays

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I know Walter Mosley for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, but the Crosstown to Oblivion series has also piqued my interest. Mr. Mosley describes the series, saying, "a black man destroys the world." Stepping Stones; The Love Machine is the third and final pair of short novels, following Merge; Desciple and Gift of Fire; On the Head of a Pin.

Why two novels in one volume? Well, you can choose either story to start with, and once you've finished, flip the book over and start again. Love Machine follows Lois Kim and Dr. Marchant Lewis. Dr. Lewis has developed a way to share consciousness with other living beings, animal and human. Stepping Stone introduces us to mailroom manager Truman Pope, who is essentially a loser, but also crucial to humanity's future.

While Stepping Stone was my favorite of the two, they are both shrewd stories that bring the characters to life and reveal the hidden desires and fears of what it means to be human.

Jacki @ Central


Reflections on F. Scott Fitzgerald

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"Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The works of F. Scott Fitzgerald are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. With the updated film of The Great Gatsby being released, now is a great time to take a peek at some other celebrated stories from the gifted but troubled author.

Fitzgerald is truly a writer of the Jazz Age (a term he created himself) in both literal and literary contexts. His best work is from the Roaring 1920's when flappers danced the night way and people were living high on the hog.

Named after his famous cousin Francis Scott Key (who penned The Star-Spangled Banner), Fitzgerald attended Princeton University where, due to poor grades and constant boozing, he never graduated. He joined the Army with hopes of serving overseas during WWI. The war ended without needing the soppy writer and along with Hemingway and T.S. Eliot, the Lost Generation was born.

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

talesofjazz.jpgFitzgerald routinely lived well beyond his means, so in order to pay the bills he wrote short stories for magazines and other publications. His most celebrated story collection is probably Flappers and Philosophers (1920). My favorite short story anthology is Tales of the Jazz Age (1922). Featuring eleven stories broken up into three sections roughly by subject matter, this compilation includes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, later made into a film starring Brad Pitt that shares little resemblance to this story besides the title and the anti-aging process. Skip the film and read this instead! The Diamond as Big as the Ritz is another standout from this collection. A few stories from his Princeton days are also featured here.

beautifuldamned.jpgBesides The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald published 4 other novels. My favorite is probably This Side of Paradise (1920), but another, often overlooked work is The Beautiful and Damned (1922). Almost semi-autobiographical in theme and plot, the story revolves around New York socialite Anthony Patch and his fights with alcoholism, his wife and the society he circulates within. Inner demons abound and Fitzgerald certainly knew around personal conflict. Despite the downer of a story, the lavish language and rich character development create a world of 1920's grandeur that is romantic, gaudy and tragic.

The joy of reading Fitzgerald, in my opinion, is his choice of words that are lyrical but powerful; poetic but sharp; flowery but brutal. Beautiful but seriously damaged. Almost perfect.

"I'm a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won't." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Submitted by Dan@Central

Center Street Reads

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Just in time for spring, Lawn gone! Low-maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard by Pam Penick is sure to offer new ideas for maintaining and creating your perfect yard. In the age of do-it-yourself projects, the author introduces simple and achievable plans for beginners or seasoned gardeners and landscapers. You can create beautiful spaces with less lawn by instead adding in low maintenance plants, grasses, and stones. Less can definitely be more!

Hermoine @ Center Street

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