The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is Also a Star continues my journey back into young adult fiction. I used to exclusively read only young adult fiction, but about five years ago, I decided that I needed to read outside my comfort area (and to read books with people my own age in them). Starting to read in a new area can be daunting, so I recommend looking at award-winning book lists and even articles with lists of books on different subjects. That is how I stumbled upon The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

Nicola Yoon had already been on my radar because of her book, Everything, Everything, but I had never actually read it. When I found an article that was talking up The Sun is Also a Star, I decided to give it a go and try to see what everyone was getting so excited about. (I was also slightly obsessed with making things using yarn when I saw this book cover, so I figured I needed to read it!)

The Sun is Also a Star takes place all in one day. Natasha is a girl who loves everything that is based in facts. She adores science and has a list of facts for almost any situation. She lives with her parents and her younger brother in a one bedroom apartment. Natasha’s life had been going along perfectly until one day when her father makes a mistake and ruins everything for the whole family. Her life could implode around her. Daniel is a boy who never messes up and is therefore seen as the good son at home and the good student at school. After his older brother messes up in college, the pressure on Daniel to be perfect becomes even higher.

When the two meet, Daniel finds himself questioning what his parents have always told him and just how he lives his life. He is a poet and a dreamer, but must live up to his parents’ high expectations. Daniel must find a way to be around Natasha more than he probably should. Natasha is more hesitant than Daniel and finds his exuberance about their “relationship” daunting and more than a little off-putting. Daniel feels that there is something magical and extraordinary between them, if only he could get Natasha to feel the same way. Daniel reaches out into the universe to try to convince Natasha that their futures can change, but he has trouble believing he can change himself.

This book, while taking place in one day, shines through a series of flashbacks into each character’s life. Minor characters that Natasha and Daniel come in contact with have their own sections within the book as well. The tiny snapshots into daily life show the effect a short interaction with a complete stranger can have on both your life and the other person’s. The ending left me wondering what had really happened between the two. Long after I finished reading this book, I found myself thinking a lot about fate, how even the smallest and inconsequential of our actions can greatly impact our lives and the lives of others, and how our attitudes and thoughts can influence our futures as well. The Sun is Also a Star had more of an impact on me than I thought it would. I’m glad I decided to pick it up and give it a try.

Now Departing for: Seattle

It’s time for our next stop on our 2017 Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re exploring Seattle in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Home of Pike Place Market, the first Starbucks, the Space Needle and lots of rain (although I’m sure there’s much more to it as well!). It’s also the setting for some great books and movies so this month’s Challenge should be a lot of fun too. Some suggestions to get you started:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. Steampunk. Zombies. Air-ships. Mad-scientists. All in a toxic and ravaged Civil War era Seattle. Don’t say we can’t mix things up.

Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister. Six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate’s recovery from cancer, where she strikes a bargain with them: to celebrate her new lease on life, she’ll do the one thing that’s always terrified her, but if she does, each of them will also do one thing that they’d find difficult.

Second Watch by J.A. Jance (all of the JP Beaumont series is set in Seattle) Second Watch shows Beaumont taking some time off to get knee replacement surgery, but instead of taking his mind off work, the operation plunges him into one of the most perplexing mysteries he’s ever faced. His past collides with his present in this complex and thrilling story that explores loss and heartbreak, duty and honor, and, most importantly, the staggering cost of war and the debts we owe those who served in the Vietnam War, and those in uniform today.

If you’d rather watch your Challenge this month (and remember – that’s totally allowed!), check out 10 Things I Hate About You with Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, based (very) loosely on The Taming of the Shrew and is full of sharp and witty dialogue, Sleepless in Seattle (of course) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or any season of the television series Frasier, possibly the best tv show ever unless you don’t like superb comedic acting, clever writing and engaging characters. Also look for Say Anything, the modern classic love story.

I’m planning on reading Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple which has been on my “to read someday” list for ages and has been a favorite with our patrons.

What about you? Do you know what you’re going to read for the Seattle leg of our journey? If you’re still looking for ideas, be sure to stop by any of our locations and check our Reading Challenge displays!

 

 

Now Arriving From: Rome

Coliseum

So, how did your “trip” to Rome go? Did you find any books (or movies) that transported you to the Eternal City? How did you like this first month of the Challenge?

As I said in a previous post, I watched Roman Holiday which had lots of scenes of Rome and lots of Roman atmosphere. However, I didn’t find a book to read so I’d be interested to hear what you read and whether you’d recommend it.

If you are a fan of Ancient Roman history, I’m sure you had no trouble finding lots to choose from. There seems to be an abundance of historical fiction set in Rome – lots of gladiators and togas. However, contemporary Rome was harder to track down – did anyone read a book set in Rome in the present day?

Don’t unpack your passport (um, library card) just yet – tomorrow we head back to the US and the great Pacific Northwest.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

I’m a cover girl (not the make-up kind of cover girl), but the kind of person who is intrigued by book covers and usually picks her next read based on what cover catches her eye. That’s how I started my latest read. In my latest fit of boredom in a doctor’s office, I was scrolling through OverDrive trying to find something new to listen to. I stumbled upon Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, an author whose book covers always caught my eye, but also an author that I had never read. The book blurb sounded promising(“Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?” – provided by publisher), so I decided to give it a go.

I loved it. Truly Madly Guilty is a domestic fiction romp into the lives of three different families: Erika and her husband Oliver, Clementine and her husband Sam (and their two little girls, Holly and Ruby), and Tiffany and her husband Vid (and daughter Dakota and their dog). Tiffany and family live next door to Erica and Oliver, while Erika and Clementine have been friends since childhood. Sam and Clementine seem to have everything together. Clementine is a cellist preparing for a new audition and Sam just started a new job. They are also busy parents to two adorable daughters.

Erika and Clementine have been friends for so long that they can have whole conversations just by looking at each other. Their friendship is immensely complicated though. The real story of Erika and Clementine’s friendship unfolds throughout the book. I was reminded of unpeeling an onion or a head of lettuce. There are so many layers to their relationship that just when I thought I had them figured out, I didn’t really know anything at all.

One day, Vid, Erika’s boisterous neighbor, invites everyone over to his house for a barbecue. Clementine is delighted because that means that Vid and Tiffany will be able to be a buffer between her and Erika. Erika and Oliver are the uptight, childless, responsible, and type-A couple, while Sam and Clementine are more care-free and go with the flow. Plus Clementine has always felt an obligation to Erika, due in part to the fact that her mother always forced her to hang around Erika even when she didn’t want to. This barbecue is just what they all needed: a chance to relax and enjoy good food, good company, and good music. A series of unfortunate events both leading up to that day and the events of the day of the fateful barbecue changes everything for all three seemingly perfect families. They are left reeling and feeling guilty for their actions.

Truly Madly Guilty is told from multiple characters’ points of view, as well as by switching back and forth between present day and the day of the barbecue. Readers are given crumbs of information throughout the book, but what really happened at the barbecue isn’t revealed until towards the end of the book, about 3/4s of the way through. I really liked all the background information that was given before we found out what happened the day of the barbecue. I’ve read reviews that disliked all the build-up, but I really enjoyed being able to guess what could have possibly happened.

This story is read in OverDrive by one narrator who manages to change her voice subtly for each character she is voicing, so much so that it seems at times that there is more than one narrator for this book. I was easily able to keep all of the characters separate in my mind, a feat I was amazed at given how many different points of view are represented within. I enjoyed Truly Madly Guilty and am looking forward to reading more Liane Moriarty books in the future.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I’ve been reading a lot of young adult fiction in my spare time. A vast majority of them have dealt with sad topics: mental illness, suicide, death, endings of relationships, abuse, homelessness etc. These are all topics that teens deal with on a daily basis, so I appreciate the fact that there are resources out there that teens(and their parents/guardians/loved ones) can turn to if they need some help. However, reading all these angsty books with no break and with no happy ending in sight is throwing me down a rabbit hole of sadness. I needed a break or a book with a happy realistic ending, not a sad realistic ending. Enter Jennifer Niven.

I’d read All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven last year and had loved her work (fair warning though: this book has a sad realistic ending dealing with mental illness and suicide). Flipping through a review magazine, I found Holding Up the Universe, also by Niven. The premise sounded like it could possibly end well and I was willing to risk it because I had loved her previous book so much.

Holding Up the Universe tells the story of Libby Strout and Jack Masselin. It is told from both of their points of view, alternating chapter to chapter. Libby Strout was once known as “America’s Fattest Teen”, a teen whose house had to be partially demolished in order to get her out of it. Back in school for the first time in years, no one can see past her weight. She’s still just the fat girl even though she’s lost 300 pounds. After her mom’s death, Libby is left picking up herself, her father, and their grief. She is ready for the new start high school has to offer.

Jack Masselin is the quintessential high school popular boy. He has swagger and the ability to give people what they want. He is able to fit in. While he seems like he has it all together, Jack has a major secret. He cannot recognize faces. Jack has prosopagnosia, the inability to recognize people by their faces. Everyone he meets, he has to try to figure out who they are by their identifiers: big hair, beauty mark, Mohawk, etc. Jack gets through life by being the funny, charming guy, but doesn’t let people get close.

Jack and Libby’s lives become entangled together in the aftermath of a cruel high school game. Sitting squarely in community service and group counseling together forces them to make a connection. This connection changes both of their lives, forcing them to confront issues that neither of them realized they are carrying. Will their connection change their world for the better or for the worse? Add in cruel high school students, family issues, obesity, brain injuries, and the possibility of love and Jack and Libby are in for a crazy ride of self-esteem, self-reliance, and teenage angst. Holding Up the Universe was the exact book palette refresher I needed.

Tippi: a Memoir by Tippi Hedren

 

If you do not know the name Tippi, you probably know her face. Tippi Hedren starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s,The Birds, playing the character Melanie Daniels. The role was Hedren’s film debut in 1963. Previously, she had modeled and starred in commercials. It was a television commercial that caught the eye of the famous director. Hitchcock told his staff to find the girl in the advertisement and they did what they were told. Tippi received a phone call letting her know that, “a famous director was interested in her”. No one would tell her who the famous director was but she was thrilled to find out that it was Alfred Hitchcock. Tippi signed a contract with him and starred in two of his films: The Birds and Marnie.

You may have heard that Tippi Hedren has said that Hitchcock sexually harassed her. And that he sexually assaulted her. While Tippi goes into some detail about the harassment, she will not reveal the full story of the assault. So if that is your only interest in the book, then you will be disappointed. There is a movie about Tippi and Hitchcock working together and there are scenes where Hitchcock is being inappropriate. The Girl (which was Hitchcock’s nickname for Tippi) was a HBO movie that is now on DVD. And if you don’t subscribe to HBO, you are in luck. You can check it out from the library. I watched the movie before I read the book ( I know, I know. Bad librarian!) and it made me interested to learn more about Tippi Hedren. Hence, that is why I read the book and why I am now writing this blog.

So even though Tippi went through a difficult time being an actress for Alfred Hitchcock, she continued to work in other films. But the big story in Tippi is that she ended up being the caretaker of several large cats. I do not want to tell the entire story, or how Tippi and her husband, Noel Marshall, thought it would be a great idea to have their own pride of lions to make a film about. The stories about her adventures in raising lion cubs are quite funny (and sometimes scary). Tippi also had tigers, cheetahs and leopards. There was also a Liger. Eventually they were forced to move out of Hollywood so they could live somewhere large enough to take care of all the big cats. They even acquired an elephant. Now the place is called Shambala. You can learn more about the place and the ROAR foundation at Shambala. Or read the book, Tippi: a Memoir.

The Birds
Marnie
The Girl

 

 

 

The Queens of England

People! Have you been watching the new series about Queen Victoria on PBS? Mark your calendar immediately – this is one of those must-see, highly addictive historical series that Masterpiece Theater is famous for (i.e. Downton Abby)

Opening just as the 18-year-old finds out her uncle has died and she is now the Queen of England, Victoria stars Jenna Coleman and airs on Sunday nights. As we have come to expect from Masterpiece Theater, the costumes and jewels are lavish and the sets are breathtaking (Filmed mostly in Yorkshire with various manors and castles standing in for Buckingham and Kensington Palaces and Westminster, you’d be hard put to tell the difference on screen) Coleman does an admirable job with this massive role, playing the young Queen who, in the early episodes, struggles to find her way. Sheltered and controlled by her mother and her mother’s partner (who had planned to rule thru Victoria), Victoria breaks with them quickly and forges ahead on her own. Nowadays, when we think of Queen Victoria, we tend to think of the old woman, heavy and dressed entirely in black with a dour expression. We often forget that she was once a young girl who loved to dance, who fell in love, who ruled the largest Empire in the world. In Victoria we catch a glimpse of that young girl, her naivete, her mistakes, her growth and her courage. It is fascinating to watch.

Victoria is currently showing on PBS. You can catch the first couple of episodes (there are 8 all together) online on pbs.org or you can request the DVD from the library. I recommend that you do!

While you wait for the next episode (or to fill your life-of-the-royals needs), here are some further recommendations.

Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt. Covering almost the same time period of Victoria’s life as the PBS show, this is another beautiful, superbly acted look at the young Queen, focusing on the romance between Victoria and Albert (which will begin in episode 3 of Victoria)

Mrs. Brown starring Judy Dench takes a look at the elderly Queen, still deeply in mourning for her beloved Albert, who meets and forms a deep friendship with the Scotsman who looks after her horses. Was there more than friendship?

For a great book about her life, try Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird or Becoming Queen Victoria by Kate Williams. For a closer look at their famous romance, check out We Two: Victoria and Albert by Gillian Gill or A Magnificent Obsession by Helen Rappaport.

If you’d rather go a little more modern, there’s a terrific series, The Crown, now running on Netflix about Elizabeth II – it just won Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress (Claire Foy who plays Elizabeth) and Best Television Drama. Each season will cover about a decade of Elizabeth’s life, with the first season starting just before she married Phillip and ending shortly after Winston Churchill (superbly played by John Lithgow) retires as Prime Minister. It’s promised to come out on DVD eventually, but no release date has been announced so either queue it up on your Netflix account, or find a friend that already subscribes!

 

 

 

 

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

Angel Catbird is author Margaret Atwood’s first official foray into graphic novels. In the book’s preface, Atwood tells readers about her life and her journey to the creation of Angel Catbird. She talks about her love of drawing and how she has loved comics in their varying forms. Atwood also talks about how Angel Catbird has a science and conservation side to it. Nature Canada and CatsandBirds.ca has included facts and statistics about birds and cats in banners throughout the book.

Angel Catbird tells the story of Strig Feleedus, a young genetic engineer, who was headhunted by a major company to help figure out and finish a secret project. He figures out the hole in the project, fixes it, and is on his way to meet his boss when he, his cat, and an owl are hit by a car. Feleedus is accidentally mutated by his own experiment, which results in his DNA being merged with a cat and an owl. He becomes Angel Catbird! This experiment is wanted for use by a nefarious person, Feleedus’ half-rat boss, and Feleedus soon discovers that he in not the only human who has either had his DNA mutated or was born with mutated DNA. Sinister plots are discovered and Feleedus and company must work together to save themselves and the people around them.

Animal puns galore run throughout this graphic novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect when reading this, but I was pleasantly surprised. Angel Catbird becomes an unlikely superhero whose adventures are not at all what I was expecting.


Atwood is also the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel that she wrote in 1985 that is being made into a television series starring many famous actors. The series will be released on Hulu on April 26, 2017. Talk about the show has been blowing up all over social media with the trailer garnering much speculation and excited responses from fans the world over. Want to watch the trailer? Hulu just released it and it’s haunting. I can’t wait to watch it.

Margaret Atwood has written many, many novels, pieces of short fiction, children’s books, one graphic novel, works of poetry, nonfiction, television scripts, radio scripts, has done recordings, edited works, and even wrote a play. She’s widely known and people flock to her work. Her work has been translated, so far, into more than 25 different languages. Her critical articles and reviews have appeared in newspapers and magazines all over the world. If you’ve never read anything by Atwood, I highly recommend you check her out. If you’re already familiar with her, try reading your favorite again or maybe pick up a new-to-you piece.

Want to try something by Atwood? I highly recommend you check out her website (http://margaretatwood.ca/). It’s fabulous! This site is very easy to navigate with a full bibliography, a section with interviews, and a section for works about Atwood herself. It’s one of the best author website I have seen.

Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie

Welcome to 2017 and our new updated blog! As our wonderful librarian Ann mentioned last week, we’re changing how we’re blogging and what we’re blogging about. I’m so excited to dig deeper into my reading and watching interests with you all! Let’s dive right in!

I had an epiphany moment with the last book I was listening to, Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie. I listened to Bad Country through the library’s Rivershare OverDrive app which I have downloaded on my phone (a FANTASTIC way to both listen to and read books, btw). Anyway, as soon as I started listening to this book, my brain seemed to revolt. It took me about five minutes to realize why. It was a male narrator! And only a male narrator! Every other audiobook I’ve listened to has been a female narrator or a combination of female and male narrators (with the female narrator having more to say). As a result, I’ve decided to actively search out more books with male narrators, so next time I stumble upon an audiobook with a male narrator, I won’t be so surprised.

Mark Bramhall narrates Bad Country and does a wonderful job. He does different voices and accents for each character (and there are TONS of different characters), which allowed me to easily separate and tell who was who. Bad Country is a mystery set in the Southwest. Rodeo Grace Garnett is a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator. He lives alone with his old dog in a very remote part of Arizona called the Hole. One day, Rodeo returns home to find a dead body near his home. Based on how the victim is dressed, Rodeo can tell he is not one of the many illegal immigrants who cross over just south of where he lives. The victim is instead a member of one of the local Indian tribes. He is also not the first Indian murdered in this county and town recently.

Rodeo is desperately looking for work. When his buddy offers him a job working for an elderly Indian woman who wants to know who murdered her grandson, he takes it. The woman has strange reactions to hiring him though, her behavior is slightly off, reactions that Rodeo begins to understand the more he digs into the case. Hatred swirls around this case, as well as the cases of the many murdered Indians in Rodeo’s area. Mystery, intrigue, death, and good old fashioned suspicion run rampant throughout this book with readers left wondering until the very end just who committed what crime.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. The narrator’s ability to provide different voices for each character really pulled me in. Towards the end, the plot seemed a little rushed, but I was able to keep up and found myself hoping that the author would turn this one book into a series. Here’s to hoping!

Do You Hygge?

And no, that wasn’t a rude question! But what exactly is hygge and how does one participate?

The word hygge has been showing up on social media and blogs a lot lately. It’s a funny looking word to those of us unfamiliar with it, but it describes a concept that is common in the Nordic countries. A Danish/Norwegian word, hygge (pronounce “hoo-ga”) roughly translates as “a feeling of coziness” and includes connecting with friends and family in meaningful ways, finding pleasure in simple things and embracing the outdoors. Maybe because countries like Finland and Norway and Sweden endure long, cold winters and brief summers, the people living there have learned to find the beautiful in everything.

How to Hygge : the Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is a lovely book that will inspire you to pare down, embrace nature and paint all of your furniture white. OK, maybe not the last one so much (although I’m tempted…), but the calm, harmonious atmosphere presented here is the stuff of dreams. So can Americans, with our loud, boisterous ways, find a way to hygge? It might not be for everyone, but How to Hygge will give you a reasonable chance to succeed.

A big chunk of the book is taken up with recipes and although I’m not much of a cook, most of them seem straightforward and simple with a strong emphasis on seafood and fish (to be expected from a part of the world so closely associated with the sea) Meals are healthy and emphasize fresh ingredients, but there are no calorie counts or grams of fat written out – the idea is to enjoy thoughtfully prepared, delicious food, especially with friends and there is no guilt in enjoying treats. There’s also a nice selection of drinks and cocktails and a section of muffins and cakes for “fika” – break time during the work day similar to English tea time or German “kaffe and kuchen” (a tradition I think we need to get started here in America – who’s with me?) There are also chapters on being physically active, preferably outdoors no matter what the weather (“there is no bad weather, only poor clothing choices”) and home design that is clean and simple and calm.

Surround yourself with beauty, with ease, with simplicity, with nature and with good food shared between family and friends. And candles. Lots and lots of candles. Sounds like a pretty good formula for a life well lived, doesn’t it?

If the idea of paring down and simplifying your life appeals to you (and it’s been a hot topic the past couple of years), you might want to take a look at some of these titles:

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and her follow-up title Spark Joy. These books have had their share of controversy caused by the extreme example of tidiness that is presented. Believers swear by how effective the program is; skeptics just want to take a nap on the couch.

The Curated Closet: a Simple System for Discovering your Personal Style and Building your Dream Wardrobe by Anuschka Rees. Inspired by the movement to build a capsule wardrobe (where you have a set number of clothes – usually 30-35 – to wear for the season), this book helps you save money and reduce stress (time for an extra cup of coffee in the morning when you don’t have to try on three outfits each morning. Or is that just me?!)

The Joy of Less: a Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize and Simplify by Francine Jay. The title says it all and you’ve probably heard it all before, but this book presents it beautifully with a clean, simple layout and lots of encouragement.

And if you really want to get into minimalism or are simply fascinated by the extremes that other people will go to – similar to watching the Ironman on tv (again, is that just me?!), I suggest watching YouTube videos by Light by Coco (who is Danish btw) and Jenny Mustard (who is Swedish). They both seem like really cool people and it’s always interesting to see what color eye shadow Jenny will wear next.

Go now people, and simplify. Skol!