Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday!
More favorite books of 2015!
Ann has two favorites that she read this year. “I loved Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale which is set in France during World War II, following the two very different paths that two sisters take. One joins the Resistance while the other stays in the countryside at the family home. Both face unimaginable danger, great risk and terrible sacrifice. My other favorite was The Boys in the Boat, a non-fiction account of the 1936 US rowing team that went to the Olympics. Against almost impossible odds, a group of hard-scrabble individuals come together as a team, beating every obstacle and hardship in their path. Both books offer unique viewpoints, both are nearly impossible to put down and both stay with you long after you’ve finish reading.”
Here’s Stephanie’s favorite:
One of my favorite books this year was Cinder by Marissa Meyer. This is the first book in her Lunar Chronicles series. I loved this book because it was a mix of fairy tales and dystopian fiction, two genres that are sure to capture and hold my interest. This first book tells the story of Cinder, a cyborg, who also is a gifted mechanic. Because she is a cyborg, she is treated as a second-hand citizen. Her stepmother hates her and blames her for her stepsister’s illness. Cinder meets Prince Kai very early in the book and we quickly see that in order for him to avoid war with the Lunars, he may have to marry the evil Queen Levana. This book has everything in it that I wanted and expected: fabulous world building like you find in dystopian fiction and really thorough character development that actually gives her stepsisters and stepmother full personalities and doesn’t just leave them as hateful people. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fact that Cinder wasn’t the typical heroine! She was a mechanic and knew how to fix things, no matter what was wrong. Such a breath of fresh air when it comes to young adult fiction.
There you have it, some of best loved books of 2015 from our bloggers. What about you – what was your favorite book that you read in 2015? And what do you plan to read in 2016?
More favorites from our Blogging Librarians!
Rachel nominated two books as her favorites for 2015.
Her first choice is The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory. “This novel is based on the life of Catherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII of England. I never really thought about how brave Catherine Parr was to be the sixth wife of a tyrant. Literally unable to refuse his proposal, she had to live out the remainder of his life walking on egg shells making sure she did nothing to provoke his anger. She had constant reminders of what happened to his previous wives when they disobeyed him. Even so, Catherine Parr managed to reunite Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and son Edward and to influence the religion of the King of England.”
Rachel’s second choice is a non-fiction book, A Dog’s Gift: The Inspirational Story of Veterans and Children Healed by Man’s Best Friend by Bob Drury. “This book is about a father and daughter team that operate the group Paws4People. This organization raises and trains puppies to be helper dogs for military veterans and children with disabilities. The dogs are trained in prisons by inmates which helps the inmates gain job skills. One thing from this book that stuck with me is that the dogs choose their people; the dogs are not assigned to anyone by the organization. This books is a great example of how an organization can help and touch so many people’s lives.”
It’s the end of the year and that means taking a look back at some of our favorite books. Here are some favorites from our blogging librarians.
Allison nominated a series of Marvel titles as her favorites:
“This year, I have really enjoyed the Marvel NOW!/All-New Marvel NOW!/Avengers NOW! relaunch that started in 2012, and sadly ended this year with the launch of Secret Wars. My favorite titles from the run are “Black Widow” by Edmonson and Noto, “Deadpool” by Posehn and Duggan, “Ms. Marvel” by Wilson and Alphona, “Thor” by Aaron and Dauterman and my very favorite, “Hawkeye” by Matt Fraction and David Aja. All feature witty, crackling dialog, plots explore each character while never slowing the action down, and fantastic art (especially “Black Widow”). You certainly don’t have to be a comic book nerd to enjoy these titles!”
Lynn’s favorite book would make a great summer read or anytime read!
“Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen was my favorite book this year. It will always bring back memories of how I read it on the back deck on sunny afternoons this last summer. Views of Iowa’s muddy creeks may not be as sought after as those of the Atlantic, but the two converged when I read this book. It’s about three women whose lives and relationships came together in a guest house on an island off the coast of Massachussetts. It’s fun to read this before or after viewing Enchanted April.“
If I sounded impressed with my review of the first volume of Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow a few weeks ago, then I can firmly tell you that his second volume, Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web intrigued me even more. This volume shows you that Black Widow is indeed a human capable of feelings. (If that statement made you roll your eyes, let me explain.) In the first volume, and really throughout any of the Avengers movies, the Black Widow, aka Natasha, is shown as a cold, yet ruthless, killing machine, one who will do whatever it takes to complete her mission, an M.O. that makes perfect sense since she used to be a KGB assassin. Edmondson expands upon Natasha’s past in this second volume, allowing readers a glimpse behind the dark curtain that hides Natasha’s true self.
Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web tackles the bigger idea of superheroes as a whole. In both volumes, readers see Natasha as part of the Avengers and SHIELD, going on missions for them, but also going on side jobs in order to atone for her past life as a KGB assassin. Once the Black Widow is seemingly outed through media footage splashed all over the news, other superheroes, SHIELD operatives, and the regular public are forced to question the idea of superheroes operating outside the reach of the law.
Another ongoing thread in this second volume focuses on the people who come and go in Natasha’s life. In San Francisco, Natasha runs into her ex Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, while hunting for cyber terrorists. On what she thinks is a simple mission in Prague, Natasha finds herself face to face with the Winter Soldier, who unbeknownst to her is there to stop the train from being robbed. Later, she runs into the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, a former Marine turned vigilante, while searching for information about a deadly criminal network that seems to be running communications off of the boat she is searching.
Add in a run-in with Hawkeye and this second volume reads less like a stand-alone Black Widow volume and more like a combination superhero graphic novel, which I found to be equally disappointing and riveting. I did enjoy the interactions she had with each person because it added an extra layer of depth to Natasha as a human being and highlighted important aspects of her past and her personality that would have been missed if readers were only privy to the conversations between her and her attorney, Isaiah. (Isaiah seems to be her closest friend and confidante and the doozy of a mess that Natasha finds herself in in this second volume comes back to harm Isaiah.) I just wish this volume had been more of a focus on Black Widow, more of a true stand-alone comic. I personally can’t wait for Edmondson’s new issues of Black Widow because it sounds like they will show more about her background.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth and latest installment in the Swedish Millennium series. Fans assumed that the series was finished as the series’ author, Stieg Larsson, had passed away with only writing the three books. But alas, the series has been revived by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. Let us rejoice!
Langercrantz does a fantastic job on many levels. He keeps the focus on Salander and her past, but develops the story into a plausible continuation for the series. Salander shines, finally living up to her full potential. She is a true heroine. More characters, unique in their own right, are introduced, and a slew of old ones are weaved in. Blomkvist is constantly on his game and devoted more than ever to helping Lisbeth. The story is fast paced and contains plenty of suspense, intrigue, computer hacking, and mathematical equations that only a handful of people in the world can understand. The best part is that it is clear that Langercrantz will not stop here. The door has been left wide open for the next Lisbeth Salander adventure.
If you are looking to start a new series, give this one a try. I have found it is more enjoyable and easier to follow the Swedish names and genius jargon when I listen to the audio books. Simon Vance is the reader of this series and really brings the story life. The first book in the series is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book exploded and was even made into a movie in the United States in 2011 starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvkist. Sweden has made the first three books into movies and those are all available on Netflix.
The fourth studio album from Cage the Elephant was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. Most of the songs were recorded in one take, capturing the band’s raw and frenetic onstage energy.
Coldplay — A Head Full of Dreams
Where Chris Martin spent Ghost Stories in a mournful mood — his sorrow perhaps derived from his divorce to Gwyneth Paltrow or perhaps not; it’s best not to read too much into the tabloid headlines — the Coldplay leader sees nothing but sunshine and stars on A Head Full of Dreams.
Grimes — Art Angels
Grimes already defied easy classification on Visions, a collection of dreamy electronic collages that resembled pop just enough to make it one of 2012’s most acclaimed albums. When she returned three years later with Art Angels, her music was even more paradoxical; Claire Boucher’s fourth album is wilder, more ambitious, and — at least on the surface — more accessible than her breakthrough.
John Williams — Star Wars: Force Awakens Score
The music that John Williams has created for the Star Wars franchise has become just as iconic as the films themselves. The Academy Award winner returns to a galaxy far, far away with another epic score.
The Wiz: Music from the NBC Television Event
The groundbreaking Broadway show that brought a little funk to Oz comes to television in an all-star production that includes Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, David Alan Grier, Ne-Yo, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, and Common.
When I watch any of the Avengers movies or really any movie about a superhero, I get really excited because it gives me more of a chance to understand each of their backstories. Sadly, one of the Avengers doesn’t have her own movie and it’s the one that I have the most questions about: the Black Widow. I’ve had to exhaust other sources to learn more about this infamous former KGB assassin and why she is on a mission to atone for her past sins.
My newest Black Widow source of information is Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmonson. (This is currently part of a series, so stay tuned for my review of the second volume whenever I can get my hands on a copy!) In this first volume, readers are introduced to the mysterious Natasha, who is known to her friends and enemies alike as the Black Widow. When she’s not helping the Avengers or on missions as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha is working to make up for her past as a KGB assassin. She still utilizes the tools and tricks she learned as an assassin, but is now able to pick and choose the missions that she goes on. In this volume, she finds herself thrust up against the “Hand of God” on an undercover mission in Russia. With the mention of Chaos, she quickly finds herself entangled in a deadly plot that has wrapped its web across the globe. No one is safe from Chaos’ grasp, not her close friends or even her employers.
This first volume mainly introduces readers to the sorts of missions that Natasha goes on and the people that are closest to her. She’s still cold-hearted, but as you follow Natasha through her missions and through her interactions with the stray cat by her apartment, you realize that she is working to better herself the only way she knows how. It gives a little more depth to the character of the Black Widow that Scarlett Johansson plays in the Avengers movies. This volume gives you enough information about present day Natasha to understand how she operates and gives you very little information about her past, just enough to leave you curious and hopeful that the subsequent volumes will explore more about her past.
In Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Edmondson has written an introduction into the Black Widow that allows for the truly artistic work of artist Phil Noto to shine. Throughout this graphic novel, Noto varies the colors used and the way he draws to highlight different scenes and the many different places where Natasha travels. The mysterious nature of Natasha as the Black Widow is elevated by the dark colors and stylized way of drawing the Noto employs. Edmondson’s words serve to add another layer of depth to Natasha’s character, since she’s primarily alone and spends a lot of time thinking out her next actions in her head.
Restitution claims resulting in the Nazi seizure of artwork, jewelry, money, furniture, etc., are upwards of billions of dollars with successful returning of stolen materials becoming more of the exception than the norm. Settlement agreements or restitution of any kind was opposed by many governments and sometimes even neglected until after the Cold War when the extent of both the worth and amount of objects seized became more widely known. The signing of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998 by over forty countries set into motion the identification of confiscated art pieces and the subsequent restitution of the art pieces to the pre-war owners.
Having said this, I found Woman in Gold to be a dynamic and intriguing portrayal of an actual art restitution claim that began in the late 1990s. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish woman who was forced to flee Vienna during World War II and who left with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Sixty years later, she began the arduous journey to get back her own family possessions that the Nazis seized, even while they were still living in their apartment in Vienna. Among these possessions, and arguably the one that created the most scandal in Austria, was the painting by Gustav Klimt called “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (aka “Woman in Gold”) that is a painting done of Maria Altmann’s aunt Adele. The Austrian government was not keen, to say the least, to just hand over the painting to Miss Altmann as it had become part of Austria’s heritage, even though it had been stolen from their family and not gifted as the government believes.
Ryan Reynolds plays as Maria Altmann’s attorney, Randy Schoenberg, a man who at first writes Altmann off and then becomes increasingly involved in this case, risking his job and family, and ultimately taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. This movie is a fascinating look into the tangled and confusing web of restitution claims, governmental politics, and legal processes. It also perfectly highlights how the actual process of reclaiming something that was illegally taken from you can be incredibly difficult. Woman In Gold is only one story of successful art restitution, but with the release of this movie, the public is made more aware of the atrocities committed and objects stolen by the Nazis and just how complicated it is to get back something that is rightfully yours!
Interested in learning more about art restitution? Check out the following items below!