The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget.

The tagline for V.E. Schwab’s latest book The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of the best I’ve seen at perfectly distilling a book down to its essence. V.E. Schwab is mostly known for her children’s and young adult fiction that she published under the name Victoria Schwab, but The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue  is a wonderful addition to historical fantasy for adults that you’ll want to cozy up and read as soon as you can get a copy.

France, 1714. Addie LaRue is desperate. Growing up in a small town in France, Addie thought she had successfully avoided marriage until she is promised to a man with young children. Knowing if she marries him she will be live and die in this same small town, Addie manages to slip away before her wedding. Stumbling in her desperation, Addie kneels in the woods and prays for freedom to a god who only answers after dark. This god, or is he a devil, answers Addie’s call and makes a deal with her that she so desperately wants. Over time, Addie learns the limits of the deal and regrets it: she will live forever, but she will be forgotten by every single person she meets. Every time they turn away, every time they close a door, Addie will slip from their memory, a person or a thought always just out of reach. She will spend her years traveling the world, never quite feeling at home anywhere, and never able to make her mark on the world. Addie must get creative in order to leave her legacy as she visits artists of all types and notices that the seven freckles that dot her cheeks can be found throughout history, like a scattering of stars.

Flash forward 300 years. Addie is searching for something new, anything new that will shake up what she’s already discovered in her 300 years. Walking the streets of New York, she yearns. Suddenly, Addie finds a bookstore that she has never seen before. In it, a boy named Henry will change her life with three little words, ‘I remember you’.

Those three words. How is it possible? Did Luc, the god who made her deal, mess up? He must have. She yearns to be remembered, yearns to belong to someone. She has found the one her soul has been searching for after 300 years. Both Henry and Addie have been yearning for years to not be alone, though Henry’s life has been considerably shorter than Addie’s, but his desire is just as strong. Wanting to feel that connection while they have been alone for all this time is something pressed deep into their souls. Addie and Henry are fearful of what they’ve discovered, that fear running strong in Addie as the anniversary of her deal approaches. Knowing that Luc may show up at any second, whenever the mood hits him, Addie is desperate that Henry remember as much of her life as he can before Luc makes him forget.

This novel tore me apart. It’s not a thriller or a swift ride through the characters’ lives. Instead Schwab introduces both Addie and Henry’s lives in a wonderfully leisurely way, one where readers get to know the characters as they work through whatever newness they uncover. Schwab mixes the past with the present, switching between long stretches of Addie’s 300 years with Henry’s exquisitely awkward and painful shorter life. These moments are presented in a way that tugs at your heart as you wish for peace and comfort for both Henry and Addie in the end.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Either, Both, Neither: Gender Identity 101

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the best way for me to learn about a big, confusing topic is to read both fiction AND non-fiction about it. Fiction often helps us make sense of things in a story-telling, empathetic way, while non-fiction is more explanatory and logical. Reading one (or two) of each on the same topic can help me get a well-rounded view of a complicated idea. Today I’d like to show you what I mean by talking about gender identity. This is a big and messy topic that is coming up more and more in politics, popular culture, and general conversation – and speaking as a genderqueer, genderfluid, gender-vague person myself I do think it’s something more people should know about. But where to start, with such a huge area of research, history, and complex personal experiences to draw from? Good news: there are some really great books for that – all available through the library! All you need to bring is your library card and an open mind. Here are just a few titles I’d recommend trying to help you better understand your gender-diverse neighbors, coworkers, family members – or in my case, your librarian!

NONFICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon is a brief, manifesto-style book, packed with thoughtful insights and explanations of just what “the gender binary” means, along with how (and why) people like them want to disrupt it. Primarily, Vaid-Menon focuses on how your expression of gender is an act of creativity, imagination, and liberation.

How to They/Them by Stuart Getty is a light-hearted, visually engaging book which acts as both a guidebook/dictionary of the world of gender-nonconformity, and as a memoir. Getty explains these confusing topics through the lens of their own personal experiences, in order to help anyone and everyone understand.

What’s Your Pronoun? by Dennis E. Baron is a title for those deeply concerned with the grammar of gender identity. Baron delves deep into the long, long history of gender-neutral pronouns, explaining all the different options that have been used over time and why they matter.

FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of Salem by Hal Shrieve is my most recent fiction read on this topic: a powerful and gritty YA urban fantasy. The book focuses on Z, a genderqueer teenager who has recently become a zombie. Together with their new friend Aysel, an unregistered werewolf, they struggle to survive in a town deeply, violently prejudiced against them. Z’s experiences both as a zombie and as a genderqueer teen show the rejection, dismissal, and suspicion faced by transgender individuals in the real world. I appreciated that despite the book’s dark depiction of society, the ending was hopeful.

I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver is another great but somewhat intense YA read. In this realistic fiction book, Ben comes out to their parents as nonbinary and is kicked out of the house. They move in with their estranged older sister, but struggle to overcome the trauma of their parents’ rejection, at last finding healing in a new romance with classmate Nathan. I like this book because it’s honest about how hard it is to navigate a complicated gender identity with both supportive and unsupportive family members. It’s also a good portrayal of living with anxiety, and has a hopeful ending.

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan is a fun fiction title I would recommend to get introduced to this topic. This is the second installment in Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, and in this book Magnus meets the feisty Alex Fierro, a genderfluid shapeshifter. As he builds an alliance and a friendship with Alex, Magnus (and the reader) gets a crash course in what it means to be genderfluid, including how pronouns work for those who are sometimes male and sometimes female. I recommend this book for a more light-hearted introduction to a complicated issue.

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

 

The Glorious Multimedia World of RPGs

Today, I’m going to share with you one of my deepest regrets: I’ve always wanted to play tabletop games, especially roleplaying (RPG) games like Dungeons and Dragons, but I’ve never had enough interested friends to learn how. I still hold out hope it could happen for me someday, but in the meantime, I’m happy to report there are lots of other ways to experience the RPG world, including podcasts, video games, and of course, books. Primarily, I want to share with you my favorite podcasts and video games that will give you the RPG experience even if you’re flying solo like me.

The arguably most famous – and wildly enjoyable – podcast about Dungeons and Dragons is The Adventure Zone made by the McElroy family. It’s available on a variety of free podcasting platforms including Podcast Addict. The formula is simple: a father and his sons sit down to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons together, recording it in real time so you can follow along with their campaign. The result is hilarious and addictive, and it gives you a real insight into how typical tabletop roleplaying games work. It’s so popular, in fact, that it now has its own graphic novel series!

The Glass Cannon is another option. This podcast is based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game, and is one of several put out by the Glass Cannon network. Like The Adventure Zone, it strives to give the listener an immersive gameplay experience, enjoyable for players and non-players alike. Unlike the Adventure Zone, it has an ensemble cast of various comedians, voice actors, and gaming nerds to flesh out the story and the characters. This podcast is also available on Podcast Addict, among other platforms.

As far as video games go, I personally strongly recommend trying Cat Quest and Cat Quest II for Nintendo Switch. As a self-declared newbie gamer, I appreciated the clear gameplay and intuitive controls as well as the frankly adorable graphics. In the second game (the one I’ve tried), you play as one or both of a cat and dog pair who are dethroned kings trying to regain their rightful places. Just like in role playing games like D&D, these two go on a series of quests to reach that goal, gaining supplies and abilities along the way. It presents enough challenge to be interesting but still manages to be relaxing.

If cute and cuddly’s not your thing, you might enjoy other RPG games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or the online World of Warcraft. These games lean heavier into the more typical fantasy world of elves, dwarves, dragons, and dangerous, bloody quests. In the case of Elder Scrolls, you play as a prophesied hero with a unique gift, which uniquely places you to deal with dragons returning to the realm.

Virtual Book Club – ‘The Night Tiger’ on August 19th

On Wednesday, August 19th, at 2pm, Virtual Book Club will be discussing The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. We are using GoTo Meeting which will allow patrons to video chat with the librarian about the book! More information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what the book is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dance-hall girl to pay her mother’s mahjong debts. When one of her dance partners leaves behind a gruesome souvenier, Ji Lin plunges into a world of secrets and superstitions. Eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy Ren is trying to find his master’s severed finger and bury with his body, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever. As both young people go on their quests, unexplained deaths plague their district in 1930s colonial Malaysia.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Aug 19, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/160996525

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (646) 749-3112

Access Code: 160-996-525

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/160996525

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The cover of this book was what first caught my eye when I was looking for a new book to read. I listened to this as an audiobook and I will admit that it took me about thirty minutes to become fully invested. Once that happened though, I was hooked. This book became my favorite book  and the one that I recommend to all of my friends. (Pretty big hype talk for this book, huh? I promise you – no pressure). Let’s get into it.

In The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, a massive labyrinth of tunnels and rooms filled with stories exists far underneath the surface of the Earth. This area isn’t accessible to everyone and those who wish to see its wonder must find an entryway. These entryways aren’t your typical doors. They are hidden throughout the world in places where you might not expect to find them. They appear before those seeking a change or those who are worthy or those looking.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont. One day in the stacks at the library, he stumbles upon a hidden mysterious book that doesn’t look like it belongs. Drawn to it, Zachary begins flipping through and is shocked when he sees a story from his very own childhood written there. Confused, Zachary tries to figure out why and how his story came to be there and finds a series of clues that lead him to a masquerade party to a secret club to a doorway to an ancient hidden library. That ancient library is hidden far far below the surface and is beyond anything that Zachary Ezra Rawlins could ever imagine. He is quickly drawn into this mysterious realm and is introduced to those who are willing to sacrifice anything to protect it. Zachary teams up with travelers and they begin traversing the many, many different hidden places in this labyrinth. Everyone who travels to this library seems to be looking for their purpose in the real world, in the library, and in that mysterious book Zachary first found.


This book is also available in the following formats:

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag

I picked up this book to read because the cover was relaxing and the lines swirling over it looked like map lines. It turns out that I was right! Those are map lines after all and they turn out to be a key element in this book.

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag is set over a hundred years into a dystopian future where rising flood waters have crept up and overtaken the continents. This slow rise of water has obliterated and destroyed the mountaintops and known landscape and has, as a result, left in its place deep wide expanses of open water.

Myra is angry. Why is she angry? Her husband Jacob abandoned her while she was pregnant with their daughter Pearl. To top it off, he took their oldest daughter Row with him when he took off. Myra and Pearl are travelling from island to island on Bird, the boat that Myra’s grandfather made in the attic of their house before he died. Surviving by fishing and trading at the islands they visit, Myra is constantly on the lookout for any information about Row and Jacob.

Their life may be tranquil and at an even keel, but Myra knows that this peace can be interrupted at a moment’s notice. A bad wave, an interaction with violent people and breeding ships, or a fish shortage could all spell disaster for the pair. While stopped at an island to trade, Myra learns that Row may in fact still be alive. This chance encounter leads her to pack up Pearl, search for help, and start the dangerous journey to The Valley. Far up north, the trek to The Valley will be full of breeding ships and savage people looking to steal anything they can and willing to take over any unsuspecting ships. Add in the fact that The Valley might be going through an epidemic and Myra needs to get there as soon as she can to save Row.

On their way to The Valley, Myra and Pearl are hit with obstruction after obstruction with death and strangers littering their path. They eventually end up on board the boat, Sedna. This boat couldn’t be more different than Bird: Sedna has a fully able crew and seemingly all the supplies they could ever need (food, ammo, weapons, building/boat materials). Myra slowly discovers that in order to make it to Row and rescue her, she will have to betray and deceive everyone around her. Is Myra willing to sacrifice Pearl in order to save Row? Is Row even there? Could this all be for nothing? Myra has to decide what she’s willing to do to find out the truth.

This book is also available in the following format:

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

guest post by Wesley B

I feel sorry for my co-workers that had to catalogue Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth. How do you categorize a book that does all it can to resist labels and push boundaries? On the bright side, that means Gideon has something for nearly everyone: space travel for science fiction fans, magic for fantasy fanatics, skeletons and other undead abominations for horror enthusiasts, romance for – well, romance readers. The characters are primarily young adults, but the content and themes transcend the YA label. The cover and content are pulpy, but the prose is literary. There’s plenty of humor, but Muir treats her characters and their problems with the gravity they deserve. After all, the stakes are higher than life and death – they’re life and undeath.

The story is told from the perspective of the eponymous heroine, Gideon Nav, an indentured servant in the Ninth House. It’s Gideon you see on the striking cover, clad in all black, her face covered with skull paint and aviator shades, walking away, sword drawn, from an explosion of skeletons. Her fiery red coif gives the cover a splash of color; similarly, her incandescent personality lends levity to the novel’s gothic, often grotesque proceedings. The book’s opening line, the most memorable I’ve read this year, is a masterclass in narrative table-setting: “In the myriadic year of our lord — the ten thousandth year of the King Undying, the kindly Prince of Death! — Gideon Nav packed her sword, her shoes and her dirty magazines, and she escaped from the House of the Ninth.” This simple declarative sentence immediately introduced me to Gideon and her world, and had me dying to learn more about them. Even when I was finished reading, that desire stayed with me; unlike many of her fellow authors of genre fiction, Muir never gets bogged down in the expository weeds of worldbuilding, instead letting her colorful characters stay in the driver’s seat as the plot moves propulsively from one scene to the next.

Gideon is a sort of inverted Harry Potter figure, leaving behind a hostile home for a new life in a place filled with wonder, danger, and people who know far more about it than she does. Unlike the boy wizard, however, Gideon isn’t so much called to adventure as dragged on it against her will, when her lifelong frenemy Harrowhark, daughter of the Ninth House’s leaders, foils her escape attempt. In doing so, however, she strikes a bargain with Gideon: if she accompanies Harrow to the First House and serves as her cavalier (essentially a bodyguard/personal assistant), where the aforementioned King Undying (a God-Emperor who should feel familiar to Warhammer 40k fans) is holding tryouts for new Lyctors (basically immortal lieutenants with vast necromantic powers).

Upon arriving at the First House, Harrow and Gideon meet their counterparts from the other seven Houses. My main criticism of Gideon is that it’s difficult to keep track of a dozen-plus characters dumped in your lap all at once, especially when only a few of them are as interesting or well-developed as our heroines. Thankfully, in its second act the book turns into an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, culling the cast significantly (plus there’s a handy list of dramatis personae at the front of the book). It’s during this section that Muir fleshes out her world’s magic system, one of my absolute favorite parts of the book. You’d think a book based entirely on necromancy wouldn’t be that varied in the magic department, but you’d be wrong – each House has its own special variety of death magic, from summoning skeletons to siphoning souls. What’s truly impressive, though, is that these differences in magic aren’t merely superficial. Instead, each necromancer’s style of magic reflects their personality.

In the third act, Muir gives readers the climactic action scenes and revelations of mysteries that we expect, and executes both with aplomb. Ultimately, however, what kept me reading was Gideon and Harrow. As they struggle to work together, they learn not just about the secrets of the First House, but about themselves as well. The ending is explosive and intimate, hilarious and heartbreaking, a tearjerker and a cliffhanger all in one. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year; in the meantime, I might have to re-read this one.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Video Game

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a unique tale in the world of video games. It started as a joke project back in 1993 that Nintendo developers worked on after-hours and eventually morphed into a full fledged game that was released on the original Gameboy. Because of the games peculiar origins, it stood out as a unique departure from any Zelda games that came before or since its creation. This game takes place on Koholint Island instead of the Kingdom of Hyrule where Legend of Zelda games typically reside.  Characters in the game use telephones to communicate and Nintendo characters from other properties even make their appearance such as Kirby and Yoshi. The story and gameplay of this game is utterly unique and has just been remade for the Nintendo Switch.

For a remake of a handheld game from almost thirty years ago, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening does an incredible job of staying true to its roots and not deviating from the original when it comes to level design. There is a new dungeon builder function that was added to this remake that was not in previous iterations. Other than that addition, its been kept in the same state as its predecessors. There are some quality of life improvements such as taking advantage of all the new button options that the Switch has that the original Gameboy did not have.

The basic gameplay also holds up. Controlling Link from a top-down perspective as you explore dungeons, fight baddies and unlock new items that help you further explore the world and solve puzzles. While it might not be the massive time sink that Breath of the Wild can be, that might actually be a strong suit. If you are looking for a fun game to play on the go and beat without having to devote hours and hours to, Link’s Awakening might be the game for you. Nintendo has an interesting track record of bridging the gap between the past and the present by remaking their games for the next generation. While this game is going to be a nostalgic trip back in time for some, it is also just a fun game for anyone who likes Legend of Zelda games whether you are a new or old fan.

 

Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan

Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan

Have you ever had that coworker or fellow student that always talked like they knew everything and contributed the most to a project or assignment but in reality, they did the least amount of work? Protagonist, plagiarist and thief, Henry Henry is that guy.

Once a generation, The Muse, a being from an alternate dimension known as the Fearscape, comes to our dimension and finds the greatest storyteller of our time. Henry Henry was in the process of “borrowing” a great work of fiction when The Muse comes to earth in search of a great storyteller. The Muse mistakes Henry for a great writer and whisks him away to the Fearscape to fight an evil that threatens both the Fearscape and all of humanity. The Fearscape is a plane where fiction becomes reality, writers use their imagination to fight off evil beings.

O’Sullivan’s writing in this Graphic Novel is fantastic and witty. We get all of Henry’s internal dialog and justifications for every slimy and dishonest move that he makes and it makes the story all the more entertaining because of it. Fearscape is a satire on the current state of fiction in pulp culture but it also serves as a love letter to the art of writing fiction as a whole. Everyone knows someone like Henry in their lives and seeing him go through all the trials and tribulations that he does is cathartic and entertaining in a lot of ways. I loved to hate Henry as the story progressed and he got more and more enthralled in his web of lies and deceit, all the while proclaiming that he was indeed a great storyteller to the point where you know that on some level, Henry actually believes it about himself despite never writing an actual work of fiction himself.

Andrea Mutti does a fantastic job as Illustrator of this work, his faces are incredibly emotive and the worlds in which Mutti is tasked with illustrating are fantastical but grounded at the same time. There are fantastical and incredible creatures and characters in the fearscape but even in some of the more ridiculous scenes, I could always tell what was going on and what I was supposed to be focusing on in the panel.

I recommend Fearscape to anyone that loves the dark fantasy genre and enjoys a bit of satire. Fearscape pokes a lot of fun at the state of fiction and pop culture in this modern age. It is no coincidence that the “Greatest Storyteller” of our modern age is a plagiarist with no original ideas in this story. This story never takes itself too seriously and is a fun ride along the way.