Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PNW Book Awards, Defending Libraries with Neil Gaiman and Among Others by Jo Walton, Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers and Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

I've read most of these books, or they are currently on my TBR, and so far, they are wonderful titles. So trust your library staff and swoop in on one of these titles ASAP!

Top Library Recommended Titles for 2014

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, has released its inaugural annual "Favorite of
Favorites" list--the top 10 titles that public library staff most
enjoyed recommending in 2014, in order of voting.

Stephanie Anderson, head of reader services at the Darien Library
(Conn.), commented on behalf of the LibraryReads Steering Committee: "A
wide range of library staff has signed on with LibraryReads, from all
over the country, and from public libraries of all sizes. Library staff
are tastemakers in their communities, and this list showcases the broad
and brio-filled scope of their reading enthusiasm."

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (Algonquin Books)
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Simon & Schuster)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Griffin)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown)
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, (Delacorte Press)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf)
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Pamela Dorman Books)
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (St. Martin's Press)
Longbourn by Jo Baker (Knopf)

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, and his latest movie about Alan Turing comes out in a couple of days. I plan on seeing it this weekend, if possible.

A trailer, clip, TV spot and 15-minute Google Talk are out for The
based on the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Indiewire
noted. The project, which is directed by Morten Tyldum and stars
Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, opens in the U.S. November 21.

Neil Gaiman is such a wonderful author, and, like myself, a fan of libraries far and wide. So when he defends libraries from closing prematurely, he's singing my own favorite tune!

Gaiman: 'Closing Libraries Is Endangering the Future'
 "I think it's short-sighted. For me, closing libraries is the equivalent
of eating your seed corn to save a little money. They recently did a
survey that showed that among poor white boys in England, 45% have
reading difficulties and cannot read for pleasure. Which is a monstrous
statistic, especially when you start thinking about it as a statistic
that measures not just literacy but also as a measure of imagination and
empathy, because a book is a little empathy machine. It puts you inside
somebody else's head. You see out of the world through somebody else's
eyes. It's very hard to hate people of a certain kind when you've just
read a book by one of those people. So in that context, as far as I'm
concerned, closing libraries is endangering the future. You know, at
least with the libraries there, you're in with a chance."

--Neil Gaiman
in the Guardian's edited extract from an interview in Create
which will be published by the Arts Council today

I am thrilled to see that so many authors on this list have books that are best sellers and well-known outside the Pacific Northwest. I'm also rooting for the Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, because I read it earlier this year and LOVED it.

The 15 finalists of the 2015 Pacific Northwest Book Awards
the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, have been chosen by a
committee of independent booksellers; the six winners will be announced
in early January. The shortlist:

Loitering: New and Collected Essays by Charles D'Ambrosio (Tin House
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (Scribner)
A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories by Renee Erickson
(Sasquatch Books)
Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an
American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn (Viking)
Sex Criminals Volume One by Matt Fraction (Image Comics)
If Not for This by Pete Fromm (Red Hen Press)
Falling from Horses by Molly Gloss (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
My Fluorescent God: A Psychotherapist Confronts His Most Challenging
Case--His Own by Joe Guppy (Booktrope Editions)
A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun (Penguin
The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe (Viking Children's Books)
Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade
by Walter Kirn (Liveright)
Jackaby by William Ritter (Algonquin Young Readers)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (Mulholland Books)
The Free by Willy Vlautin (Harper Perennial)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
(Candlewick Press)

I just finished "Among Others" by Jo Walton, a book that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, in addition to a ton of good ink about it's brilliance from no less a source than the fantastic folks at Shelf Awareness. I was surprised to find that the book is in diary form, so almost epistolary, but not quite, and that it takes place in 1979-1980 in Wales and England. Here's the blurb:
Winner of the 2011 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Winner of the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel
Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.
Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled—and her twin sister dead.
Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…
Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
  Though the girl in this book is 3 years younger than I am, (so she would be my younger brother's age) she still is something of a contemporary, as I was 18 when she was 15 and I experienced many of the same things she did in terms of being bullied because I couldn't participate in sports or go outdoors (in my case due to severe asthma and allergies, while she has a crippled hip and leg) and spending an inordinate amount of time in libraries and bookstores, while also trying to find my people, bookish SF nerds who wouldn't treat me like a child, but would listen to what I had to say. I also struggled to understand my parents, my crazy older brother and things about boys and my changing body. In fact, I felt throughout this novel that I could have written something very similar about my teen years, and I could have taken notes from the journals/diaries that I wrote from the time I was 12 years old on through to today, when I'm nearly 54. Of course things are somewhat different in terms of environment, as we didn't have boarding schools in Iowa, nor did we have tea shops and the same class system that they have in England and Wales, where kids are often relegated to groups based on the wealth and titles of their parents. Because I grew up in the vast white middle class protestant households that were very common in Iowa, I don't think I felt looked down upon, as Mori does, for being Welsh and having a father who lives off the income of his wealthy sisters now that he's divorced from her crazy witch mother. Though there isn't a whole lot of magical action until the final 10 pages, there are salted into the text some interesting facts about fairies and their world, and how humans interact with them, and, surprisingly, how piercing your ears apparently shuts down your ability to see the Fae. The prose reads like diary entries of a smart 15 year old who considers magic to be somewhat mundane, and the plot chugs along like a steam engine on clear tracks. Though the ending was somewhat anticlimactic and slightly rushed, I'd still give this book an A, and recommend it to all my fellow science fiction/fantasy geeks who know what it is like, especially the girls, to grow up smart and different.

Mortal Heart is the third book in the My Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. This book is Annith's story, and while I wasn't surprised to discover who Annith's mother is, I was surprised by her father, and by who the author decided to pair her with as her one true love. At heart, all three books in this series are paranormal/historical romances, and that is why  each of the trio of friends, Ismae and Sybella and Annith are paired with extraordinary men who compliment their skills and help them through their various problems and plot devices. Here's the blurb from Publisher's Weekly:
This final volume in LaFevers’s much-praised His Fair Assassin trilogy centers on Annith, the most brilliant of the young women brought up in the convent of St. Mortain, an ancient Celtic god still very much present in the tale’s 15th- century Brittany. Despite being unequalled with knives and bow, Annith has been refused assignment as an assassin by the Abbess even though her close friends, Sybella and Ismae, have already made their first kills. When a much younger and underprepared girl is sent out in her stead, probably to her death, Annith rebels, fleeing the convent. She hopes to aid the endangered Duchess of Brittany whose meager forces must protect their country from a French invasion. On her way, however, Annith meets Balthazaar—a Hellequin, one of the damned souls charged with bringing the recently dead to Mortain, but also “breathtakingly handsome in a dark, almost broken way”—and her life is changed forever. Both a powerful tale of political intrigue and a heady supernatural romance, this memorable adventure will entirely satisfy devotees of this series. Ages 14–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Nov.)

LaFever's prose is elegant and smooth, keeping the plot flowing along at the perfect pace. As with her previous two books in this series, the characters are brilliant and vivid, full of passion and determined to find their own way in life, even though they're all struck by cupid's arrow. While I found the first two gals, Ismae and Sybella's beaux to be believable, the only fly in the ointment in this book was the love of Annith's life being (SPOILER ALERT) a god, more specifically, the god of death, Mortain. The author doesn't let you really know how Mortain will continue with his duties, or if he will, when he falls in love and renounces his divinity to be with Annith. So will it be like "Death Takes a Holiday" and nobody dies? How horrific, if so. You have only to watch Torchwood: Miracle Day to see how hideous that could become. So despite loving the book, reading it in one day from cover to cover, I am giving the book a B+, and recommending it to anyone who read the previous two books. 
Waistcoats and Weaponry is the third book in Gail Carriger's steampunk YA series, with protagonist Sophronia going to a finishing school in a dirrigible that is actually training young female assassins and spies. Here's the blurb:Class is back in session...
Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.
Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.
Carriger is quite the witty writer, being half British, and half curmudgeon. So it's always a pleasure to watch Sophronia scheme and plot and get herself and her friends into dangerous scrapes and then back out again. My only problem with this book is that there are two young men vying for Soph's attentions, and she honestly seems to not be all that interested in either one, mainly because she wants to get out there and work as a spy and establish herself in a career before becoming involved in marriage and children. On the one side she has Soap, her beloved friend and "sootie" who is black and of the lower classes who keep the dirigible running with coal, and on the other is Lord Felix Mersey, who is gorgeous and white and of the proper class, but his father is a "pickleman" a group of men dedicated to eradicating all supernatural elements from society. While Soap has to know that Soph is out of his league, he follows her around the entire book, "protecting" her from the advances of Mersey, who behaves like a real twit much of the time, and whom I couldn't see Soph actually ending up with anyway. Fortunately, now that Soap has changed his circumnstances and Soph has made her deal with a well-placed supernatural, there might actually be a chance for these two to make a go of it. All in all, fun and fascinating, I'm giving this book an A, and I recommend it to all those who love her Parasol Protectorate series and the other two books of this series. 

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