To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

As someone who doesn’t read a plethora of science fiction books, it has been a while since I have read anything like Christopher Paolini’s latest release, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. While I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book while browsing at the library, this title has been on my to-read list since it was announced due to my love of the Inheritance Cycle series, a fantasy tetralogy Paolini began writing at the age of fifteen. For anyone who has read Paolini or enjoys a good space opera, I assure you that this title will not disappoint!

Taking place in a future in which humans have established colonies on planets beyond Earth, this story revolves around Kira Navárez, a xenobiologist who studies new planets to gauge their habitability for human life and future societies. While Kira is truly passionate about studying and discovering new worlds, she and her fiancé, Alan, decide they want to begin a life of their own together in one of the established colonies. They plan to marry and settle down after their last mission on Adrasteia, an Earth-sized moon they had been surveying for a few months. Just before this mission ends, however, Kira stumbles upon an alien relic that quite literally transforms her life and world. Soon afterward, she finds herself in the middle of an intergalactic war in which she becomes humanity’s greatest hope for surviving in the face of a violent extraterrestrial species.

While this book is full of aliens and space travel and warfare, as well as a string of catastrophic events that never seems to end, this book was also full of introspection and camaraderie, capturing the true resiliency and depth of what it means to be human. I will admit that this book was intense – definitely more so than Eragon and the rest of the Inheritance Cycle series, but it truly was out of this world (pun fully intended!). It was both exhilarating and humbling to find myself lost among the stars alongside the unforgettable characters in this story. Another neat aspect of this novel was the obvious research Paolini did to familiarize himself with the scientific background of space travel and space itself. While some of the explanations went right over my head (physics class was a long time ago), it was still interesting and didn’t detract from the story at all.

Additionally, according to Paolini’s website, this book is the first of many in the Fractalverse series and it is slated to become a movie, scripted by Paolini himself. While I find that movies rarely do their respective books justice I am, nevertheless, excited at the prospect of losing myself in this story on the big screen.

Overall, I cannot wait for the rest of the series to be released and would highly recommend this book! Despite its nearly 900 pages in length, I flew through the story and didn’t want it to end upon reaching the last page.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book on CD

Overdrive eAudiobook

Overdrive eBook

Playaway

Spanish text

What Should I Read Next? BONUS: Library LibGuides

To conclude our series of posts highlighting different resources the library offers to help you discover your next read, I’d like to tell you about what we call our LibGuides. These are detailed resource lists created by our librarians. To view them, go to our website and click on LibGuides under the Research Tools tab (Fig. 1). This will take you to a full list of all the guides our librarians have created (Fig. 2). Clicking on a guide shows you a robust and annotated list of resources, often in different formats including books, webpages, and archival materials.

The benefits of LibGuides are that you know these titles have been selected by a librarian, they’re meticulously organized into categories like format and age groups, and the guide’s homepage (Fig. 3) gives you background on the topic or person it focuses on. Some will even provide links to the catalog so you can place items on hold directly — but not all guides do this.

Our more than 30 LibGuides include guides to writers’ resources, soft skills, comics for all ages, ebooks, genealogy resources, historical figures like Annie Wittenmyer, Fifty Shades of Grey readalikes, and much more! Don’t miss out on such a treasure trove of resources.

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Hidden Database Gems: Reference Solutions

If you don’t spend much time scrolling through the research tools on our library website, you might not know about all the amazing online databases you have access to with your library card. The list includes encyclopedias, newspaper archives, genealogy resources, children’s encyclopedias, and much more! One specific hidden gem you might not know about is Data Axle Reference Solutions (previously known as ReferenceUSA).

Reference Solutions acts primarily as a business database, allowing you to look up established and new businesses by name, executives, location, or phone number. However, it also includes searches for individuals, health care providers, and job postings. It’s a very useful database for finding contact info or addresses, especially for people or businesses.

To try out Reference Solutions, go to our website, then under Research Tools, click on Online Resources. Scroll to the “D”s and you’ll find Data Axle: Reference Solutions.

You’ll probably be asked to log in with your library card. The front page when you log in looks like this:

Here you can choose to search for an individual, a business, a job, or a health care provider. When you hover over a category, words appear underneath saying “Search” or “More Information”. If you click on “Search”, it takes you to the default search page, which includes an Advanced Search on a second tab (circled).

You can put in as much information as you want, narrowing down by location and a name, and then click Search.  The search results will look like this:

For such a useful database, it’s pretty easy to use and gets you some fast information. One caveat: not every person or business is recorded in this database, so results aren’t guaranteed. Also, in the case of corporations, you may get several phone numbers or separate entries for regional offices. You can see where a business falls in the corporation by clicking on “Corp Tree” in the far right column.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

“The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”

Any Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell fans out there? If so, I am happy to share that Susanna Clarke has recently published a new book called Piranesi. While this title doesn’t have any direct ties to Clarke’s first novel, it does share magical and fantastical elements in a world you won’t want to leave. Let’s jump right in!

This novel follows the journal entries of Piranesi, one of two humans living in “the House.” This setting is described as an endless labyrinth of halls, corridors, and vestibules filled with statues, an entombed ocean, and various types of wildlife, such as the majestic albatross. Piranesi lives to explore this world, documenting his travels by mapping its contents and cataloging all of the statues he finds, all while utilizing the House’s resources in order to survive.

In this world is only one other human besides Piranesi, aptly called “the Other.” They initially work together in an attempt to find and unleash the “Great and Secret Knowledge,” or the God-like powers the Other believes are harnessed in the House. Over time, Piranesi begins to fall away from this quest, as he doesn’t view the House as merely a means to an end, but still assists the Other with anything he requests of him. As the story progresses, however, Piranesi comes to question the world as he knows it upon discovering journals in his own handwriting he can’t remember writing and the existence of another person in the House. This story then blurs the lines between magic and reality, identity and purpose, as Piranesi endeavors to solve the mysterious and mind-bending plot he finds himself in the middle of.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the dream-like escapism this story provides and reveled in Clarke’s suspenseful writing style that leaves you guessing until the end. While Piranesi is a very innocent protagonist, he also proves to be unreliable as the story unfolds, which lends an additional interesting twist to the story. I did find myself wanting more, though, as this book is a mere 245 pages in comparison to the 1,000+ pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (I even missed having footnotes!).

I would also recommend taking a look at the name “Piranesi” before or while you are reading this book. It is named for Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an 18th century Italian artist who is well known for his prints of dizzying and fantastic imaginary prisons. Interestingly enough, Piranesi always considered himself to be an architect, which absolutely shows when viewing the architecture he brought to life in his etchings. Viewing his work definitely helped me visualize and wrap my head around the extraordinary world Clarke creates in this story.

All in all, if you are looking for a quick read in which you are immersed in a surreal labyrinth of beauty, fantasy, and discovery, I would highly recommend this title!

This book is also available in the following formats:

Overdrive eBook

 

How to Be a Heroine, or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much

how to be a heroineHow to Be a Heroine, or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much is a mix between memoir and literary criticism as author Samantha Ellis realizes that maybe the heroines she modeled herself after when she was younger were not the best choices.

As a young child raised in an Iraqi-Jewish family in London, Ellis describes herself as someone who devoured books as a way to judge the characters in them for characteristics and actions she wanted to emulate. Reading this book, I found myself identifying with Ellis as I, too, looked to books as a way to test out new identities without having to fully behave the same way. Ellis realized that she had perhaps chosen the wrong heroine to try to become, so she decided to look at the female characters and writers that she had loved since childhood. What followed became this book.

As she examines these characters, who range from books such as The Little Mermaid, Anne of Green Gables, The Valley of the Dolls, as well as characters Franny Glass, Scarlett O’Hara, Lizzie Bennett, and the authors Austen, Woolf, Forster, Plath, and the Bronte sisters, Ellis realizes just how they all influenced her life and how some still do. Many other characters, authors, and books are also examined. Throughout this journey, Ellis dissects each heroine in an intriguing format that that pulls readers into both her life as a child and her life now. As she reevaluates these heroines, Ellis interjects stories from her childhood and eventually figures out just who she feels she should have looked up to back then and who she looks up to know.

Heroines, Ellis realizes, have shaped all of our lives, whether positively or negatively, and it is important to remember that growing and finding new heroines to model ourselves after is perfectly okay.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

“Remarkable” can describe many things in this novel – the remarkable time period (the early 1800s) when the pursuit of science became the rage, the remarkable fossils being discovered and studied, and the two remarkable women – based on real people – who did so much to uncover the fossils that challenged the beliefs of the time.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is set in Lyme-Regis, on the southwest coast of England. Spinster Elizabeth Philpot and her two sisters have been forced by reduced circumstances to leave their comfortable life in London and move to a smaller, less expensive house. Their new location suits Elizabeth; she has no hope of suitors and soon becomes addicted to searching for the fossils that can be found along the sandy beaches. It is here that she runs into Mary Anning and a friendship, spanning social status, age and circumstance is quickly forged. Mary has a gift for finding the half-hidden fossils – sometimes complete skeletons – and these remarkable discoveries eventually attract the attention of the scientific community at large. The attention brings much needed income and (some) credit to the women, but it also causes tension, misunderstandings and finally a falling out. This remarkable friendship, with it’s ebbs and flows and eventual  renewal, form the core of this fascinating story.

As expected, Chevalier does a wonderful job of setting the time period and creating a believable atmosphere. Her characters are also carefully drawn, each with their own complex motivations, from the various scientists that visit them to the townspeople who snub them, and she brings this fascinating story of the past alive again.

Columbus Day

“In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

Happy Columbus Day, where we celebrate the discovery of the North America by Christopher Columbus. Of course, there are many theories about other people that may have gotten here first, and there are several Native American groups that would have an argument about how great this was, but tradition (and the lure of a three-day weekend) keeps us setting aside the second Monday of October in observance of the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

Many government offices, banks and schools are closed today, but your Davenport Public Library is still open! We’ll be open our regular Monday hours – 9:30am to 5:30pm at Fairmount, and 12 noon to 8pm at Main for all your information and reading needs, Christopher Columbus-related or not.