I went into reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain with a blank slate. I had never read any of Ernest Hemingway’s novels, and I knew only the bare minimum of biographical information about his life. This book is a fictionalized account of Hemingway’s first wife Hadley. It details all of the highs and lows of their complicated relationship, from their first meeting in Chicago in 1920 and subsequent whirlwind marriage to their years of living in Paris and the unraveling of their once happy life together. Their lives seem glamorous on the surface: spending time with the Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein, writing in chic Paris cafes, and taking extended vacations to exotic locales around Europe. But boiling below the surface is a host of problems. As attentive and accommodating as Hadley tries to be, she simply cannot contend with Ernest’s ambition, neediness, and thirst for the drink.
The story is told through Hadley’s point of view. She grew up in a very different setting, much more conservative and traditional than the Jazz Age Paris of the 1920s, so we’re learning about this time and place through brand new eyes. The writing is lovely and McLain is very successful in making the time period come alive. Plus, the English major in me got giddy every time a different historical figure popped up in the story. I actually listened to the audio version of The Paris Wife and it was very well done. Even though anyone who knows even a little bit about Hemingway has an idea of how this story ends, it’s still a compelling and engaging read that I would recommend to fans of historical fiction, novels about love and marriage, and Ernest Hemingway.
Hillary Jordan’s novel When She Woke is often described as a new dystopian take on The Scarlet Letter. It is set in a future where an epidemic has left the majority of women sterile and abortion has been made illegal to prevent a declining population. Prisons are also wildly overcrowded, so to remedy this, criminals who aren’t considered dangerous to society are not locked up but are instead “melachromed”: their skin is dyed so that their crime is instantly recognizable to the population.
The novel’s main character, Hannah Payne, is a very religious young woman who broke the law by having an abortion in order to protect the baby’s father, world-famous Reverend Aidan Dale. Hannah is caught and tried, and she wakes up a the beginning of the novel with scarlet red skin. The book flashes back to how she ended up in this position and how she deals with entering society as a an outcast due to the color of her skin and the nature of her crime.
This book was very compelling, so much so that I found it a little painful to have to put it down at times. It’s a very interesting take on a futuristic society; it’s unique, but not so out-there that you can never imagine it happening. This might even be a fun pick for a book club because its controversial nature could bring up some very lively discussion!
The library just added 20 new kits to our Bookclub in a Box collection! These kits include a minimum of 10 copies of a book along with a folder of discussion questions and book reviews. Some of them even come with the book on CD. Here’s a list of our newest kits:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides
Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos
Hope’s Boy by Andrew Bridge
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Stranger Among Us
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
The Condition by Jennifer Haigh
Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
Time is a River by Mary Alice Monroe
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Did you know that 6 of this year’s 9 Oscar nominees for Best Picture are based on books? In addition to those, several films nominated in other categories were also books before they were movies. Check them out at the library before the big night!
Moneyball – nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor. Based on the book by Michael Lewis. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, place a hold here.
The Descendents – nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings.
Hugo – nominee for Best Picture and Best Director. Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.
War Horse – nominee for Best Picture. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – nominee for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor. Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – nominee for Best Actor. Based on the novel by John le Carré.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – nominee for Best Actress. Based on the novel by Steig Larsson.
The Help – nominee for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, place a hold here.
Did you or your kids get a Wii, XBox 360, or PlayStation 3 for Christmas? Instead of spending tons of money to buy new games for your system, check them out from the library for free! Here are some of the latest additions to our video game collection:
Batman: Arkham City
Super Paper Mario
Just Dance 3
Lego Star Wars III
Hasbro Family Game Night 3
Plants Vs. Zombies
Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
Bakugan: Defenders of the Core
Mario Strikers Charged
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
Tomb Raider Trilogy
Super Mario Galaxy
We have lots of older games for all three systems as well, so feel free to search our catalog or stop by any of our three locations to see what we’ve got!
It’s hard to choose a favorite supporting character on The Office, but I consistently enjoy the self-absorbed airheadedness of Kelly Kapoor, played perfectly by writer and actress Mindy Kaling. So imagine my excitement when I found out that Mindy was about to release a book of humorous essays called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns. In the book, Mindy tells stories about her childhood, how she dealt with living in New York in her 20s while trying to get discovered, and what it’s really like to work on The Office. There are also a lot of funny and seemingly-random chapters on things like “karaoke etiquette”, why she likes guys with chest hair and her top eleven favorite comedic moments in film and TV. By the end, despite the fact that I was thoroughly entertained, I was mostly sad that Mindy and I aren’t best friends. She writes in such a laid-back, conversational tone and is so relatable despite her fame that it really feels like you’re chatting with one of your good friends.
I find it hard to summarize books like this, so instead, here are a few of my favorite parts and things I learned:
- Mindy wrote my two favorite episodes of The Office: The Injury and The Dundies. If you haven’t seen these, go watch them as soon as you finish reading this so that you can be even more impressed with Ms. Kaling.
- Her views on romantic comedies: “I enjoy watching people fall in love on-screen so much that I can suspend my disbelief for the contrived situations that only happen in the heightened world of romantic comedies….I simply regard romantic comedies as a sub-genre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
- One of my favorite chapters was the incredibly truthful “Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities”, a list of things your best friend is expected to do for you and vice versa. For example, “I will try to like your boyfriend five times” and “I must be 100% honest about how you look, but gentle”.
- Her big break was when Greg Daniels saw her perform in the off-Broadway play that she and a friend wrote called “Matt & Ben”. Mindy played Ben Affleck.
- On being a chubby girl when she was young: “My mom’s a doctor, but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids. In fact she and my dad didn’t mind having a chubby daughter. Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like ‘Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?'”
- And finally, to get herself through a workout on the treadmill, Mindy has to come up with elaborate revenge fantasies to pass the time. I won’t spoil them here, but trust me when I say this chapter is just as funny as it sounds.
This book inevitably gets compared to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (another excellent book that you can read more about here), and while Kaling and Fey are very different women, both have written laugh-out-loud books that I highly recommend.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is set in the year 2044 when technology has reached a peak and people don’t interact much in the real world anymore. Instead, they interact in the OASIS, a virtual reality utopia where you can be whoever and whatever you want. Created by wealthy programmer James Halliday, the OASIS has become the real world to many people, since the actual real world is in shambles following the great energy crisis. After Halliday’s death, a video will is released with a challenge: whoever can find the hidden “Easter egg” that Halliday left in the OASIS will inherit his company and his entire fortune. The hunt quickly becomes an obsession for the whole world, including teenager Wade Watts. Wade has lived in a trailer with his drugged-out aunt ever since the death of his parents and has studied Halliday’s life relentlessly in hopes of figuring out the clues Halliday left behind in order to find the Easter egg and create a better life for himself.
If you like advenuture and quest stories, Ready Player One is a really fun and unique one, since it basically all takes place inside a video game. It’s especially fun if you have fond memories of the pop culture of the 1980s. Halliday was obsessed with ’80s pop culture and included a lot of it in his clues, so all the best movies and video games of the decade are very well represented. It’s also really fun as a fan of “geeky stuff” to hear pretty much all of your favorite things referenced (I couldn’t help but get excited that Wade’s OASIS character was riding around in a Firefly-class spaceship).
The book also has a lot of suspenseful moments as Wade tries to become the one to find the Easter egg. One of the biggest corporations in the world, called IOI, has entered the quest for the egg in an effort to gain ownership of the OASIS and start charging for use of it. Wade and his friends (including love interest Art3mis and his mysterious best friend Aech, neither of whom Wade has ever met in person) are racing to beat IOI to the Easter egg in order to preserve the OASIS that they have known and loved for so long. Overall, Ready Player One is an inspiring story about the little guy trying to overtake Goliath and make a better life for himself and the people around him. It’s very affirming for fans of “geek culture”, and it teaches that being yourself and having a little perseverence can get you pretty far. And of course, it’s a really fun story that I would highly recommend.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has become one of the most buzzed-about books of the year, and with good reason. Set in the late 1800s, it is the story of a boy named Marco and a girl named Celia who are bound in a competition that they don’t truly understand, but they know that it will involve using the magical abilities that both show at a young age. They spend their young lives being trained by instructors whose methods differ greatly until the time comes for the challenge to begin. For this purpose, a venue is created: a stunning, mysterious black-and-white circus that travels constantly and only operates at night, called Les Cirque des Reves. It is like no other circus you have ever seen, complete with a fortune teller, an illusionist, acrobats, the most delicious food you can imagine, and tents filled with landscapes that will take your breath away. The two spend years using their abilities to make alterations to the circus, constantly one-upping each other as they grow more and more aware that the consequences could be dire. Especially once they realize their true feelings for one another.
The story is told through multiple points of view all while bouncing around in time to different points in the lifespan of the circus. Initially this can make it a little hard to follow exactly when and where everything is happening, but once you catch onto the flow of it, this makes the story more complete and layered. The focus of the story isn’t just on Celia and Marco, but on all the supporting circus folk as well. In fact, the part of the story I found most compelling was the story of Bailey, a boy who becomes enthralled with the circus at a young age and waits for years for it to come back. Eventually he befriends two of the circus performers and find his fate intertwined with that of the circus in a way he never expected. But my absolute favorite thing about the book is how beautifully it is written. The language is absolutely lovely and creates the most vivid and uniquely beautiful pictures in the reader’s head. I don’t even want to describe any of it to you because part of the fun of the book is discovering new parts of the circus as Celia and Marco make their alterations! Morgenstern creates a very sensory experience; you can see, hear, smell, and taste the circus as though it is going on all around you.
Making my expereince with The Night Circus even better, I listened to the audio version read by the amazing Jim Dale (narrator of the Harry Potter audio books). He really brings the characters to life, and his narration makes this already beautifully-written book even more magical. If you like magic, romance, and very vivid reading experiences, I highly recommend picking up this incredibly enchanting novel.
As a pretty big fan of sci-fi TV and movies, I am embarrassed that it took me this long to watch Joss Whedon’s critically-acclaimed and short-lived TV series Firefly. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Firefly is a 14-episode sci-fi series documenting the travels and missions of the spaceship Serenity. It is set about 500 years in the future when humans have relocated to a new star system controlled by a group of central planets called The Alliance. Though a band of rebels try to overthrow the corrupt Alliance, they are defeated and The Alliance remains in power. In the pilot episode we meet Serenity’s captain Mal Reynolds and his second-in-command Zoe, who were on the losing side of the war with The Alliance and now take odd jobs (mostly smuggling) to get by. The rest of the crew is a compelling cast of characters including adorable mechanic Kaylee, professional companion Inara, and pilot Wash. To make some extra money the crew picks up some folks willing to pay for transport, including a preacher and a doctor with very mysterious cargo.
Being a unique hybrid of sci-fi and western, Firefly is like nothing else I’ve watched before, and that’s one thing I really love about it. Despite the futuristic technology, the planets on the outer rim of the new star system (where the outlaw crew of Serenity spend most of their time) aren’t as well-off as the core Alliance planets, so they have a very rustic Old West look and feel. But my favorite thing about this show is probably the characters. There are nine very different members of the Serenity crew, and I can’t possibly pick a favorite or a least favorite because they’re all compelling and interesting in their own way. Firefly was unfortunately cancelled before fans could get answers to a lot of the biggest questions of the series, including the full backstory of the show’s most mysterious character: crazy genius River Tam, who was experimented on at the hands of The Alliance. But luckily for us, fans of the show rallied and a follow-up movie was made called Serenity, which serves as a very satisfying conclusion to an incredible series.
Did you stop by the library to pick up one of Chelsea Handler’s hilarious books only to discover that they’re all checked out? While you’re on the waiting list for a copy of Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, My Horizontal Life, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, or Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, check out some other books that you might enjoy:
Pretty In Plaid, My Fair Lazy, and Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster: Humorous memoirs about the author’s life with stories about dieting and food, sororities, lots of clothes, drinking, and reality TV.
You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start In The Morning by Celia Rivenbark: A collection of humorous essays written by a brash Southern woman. The title alone tells me that this book is something Chelsea Handler would approve of.
Official Book Club Selection by Kathy Griffin: Stories of the comedienne’s life peppered with Kathy’s trademark humor concerning all things celebrity.
The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman: The famously crude comedienne tells the story of her life, managing to bring her signature humor into even the most serious stories about depression and late-in-life bedwetting.
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley: A collection of witty essays about a 20-something trying to make it in Manhattan. I particularly enjoyed her evil boss stories and her explanation of her bizzare collection of plastic ponies.