Friday, April 12, 2019

sci fi fantasy novels

This week, your RART met at the Leeds Jane Culbreth Library to discuss science fiction and fantasy novels.  Not only was the conversation lively but we were also treated to the most scrumptious snacks from a nearby café called the Three Eared Rabbit.  Those pecan bars were AmAzInG!

Twelve in attendance:
Holley W., Emmet O'Neal
Riana M., Pinson
Nancy K., Leeds
Ken H., Leeds
Maura D., Trussville
Laura T., Homewood
Christine W., Hoover
Liz W., Pinson
Jon N., Avondale
Michelle H., Irondale
Mary Anne E., BPL Southern History
Kelly L., Springville Road

The next RA Roundtable meeting will be on Wednesday, June 12th at 9am at the Hueytown Library.  Our summer soiree will be the chilling topic of true crime.  Your favorite podcasts are a welcome addition!!

PLEASE NOTE THE DATE CHANGE OF JCPLA Staff Development Day! It will now be held on Friday, August the 16, but still at the Homewood Library! Alabama Power scheduled an extended power outage the week the event was originally planned.



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In 2017 Sarah Gailey made her debut with River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow, two action-packed novellas that introduced readers to an alternate America in which hippos rule the colossal swamp that was once the Mississippi River. Now readers have the chance to own both novellas in American Hippo, a single, beautiful volume.

Years ago, in an America that never was, the United States government introduced herds of hippos to the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This plan failed to take into account some key facts about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

By the 1890s, the vast bayou that was once America's greatest waterway belongs to feral hippos, and Winslow Houndstooth has been contracted to take it back. To do so, he will gather a crew of the damnedest cons, outlaws, and assassins to ever ride a hippo. American Hippo is the story of their fortunes, their failures, and his revenge. (amazon.com)

Holley, Emmet O’Neal

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Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo, translated by Lola Rogers

From the author of the Finlandia Award-winning novel Troll: A Love Story, The Core of the Sun further cements Johanna Sinisalo’s reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction and of her country’s unique take on it, dubbed “Finnish weird.” Set in an alternative historical present, in a “eusistocracy”—an extreme welfare state—that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state.

The Eusistocratic Republic of Finland has bred a new human sub-species of receptive, submissive women, called eloi, for sex and procreation, while intelligent, independent women are relegated to menial labor and sterilized so that they do not carry on their "defective" line. Vanna, raised as an eloi but secretly intelligent, needs money to help her doll-like sister, who has disappeared. Vanna forms a friendship with a man named Jare, and they become involved in buying and selling a stimulant known to the Health Authority to be extremely dangerous: chili peppers. Then Jare comes across a strange religious cult in possession of the Core of the Sun, a chili so hot that it is rumored to cause hallucinations. Does this chili have effects that justify its prohibition? How did Finland turn into the North Korea of Europe? And will Vanna succeed in her quest to find her sister, or will her growing need to satisfy her chili addiction destroy her?

Johanna Sinisalo’s tautly told story of fight and flight is also a feisty, between-the-lines social polemic—a witty, inventive, and fiendishly engaging read. (amazon.com)

Holley, Emmet O’Neal

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Renegades by Marissa Meyer

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies―humans with extraordinary abilities―who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice―and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both. (amazon.com)


Maura, Trussville

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The Promised One by Morgan G. Farris

Some færytales end with a kiss, but for Elizabeth and Ferryl, the kiss is only the beginning.

When the memories of their happily-ever-before are inexplicably stolen, Elizabeth sets off to uncover the truth and save her fabled love with the crown prince, no matter the cost. Meanwhile, Prince Ferryl must unravel the mystery behind his father's crippling headaches, grapple with the band of rebels infiltrating the borders of his kingdom with suspicious acumen, and undermine the manipulation of a queen with an unslakable thirst for power and control. All while trying to keep his mind off the beautiful stranger who seems to know and understand him too well.

The Promised One is the first book of The Chalam Færytales series--a coming-of-age epic fantasy, a story that begins after the first kiss. It's a færytale to remind us that magic is everywhere, if only we look--and love may be the most powerful magic there is. (amazon.com)


Maura, Trussville

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When Harlie Was One by David Gerrold

H.A.R.L.I.E. (Human Analog Replication, Lethetic Intelligence Engine) is an artificially intelligent machine. David Auberson, the psychologist responsible for guiding HARLIE from childhood into adulthood, struggles to understand his erratic behavior.

When humans begin vocalizing their wishes that HARILIE be shut down, he has to prove his existence and value to his warm-blooded counterparts. Throughout HARILIE’s fight to stay alive, Auberson discovers the machine has vast knowledge and understanding of life, love, and logic, posing the philosophical question whether or not HARLIE is human, and for that matter, what it means to be human.

Nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novel of the Year, the themes of love and discovery in When HARLIE was One are even more important today than when first published. (gerrold.com)

Mary Anne, BPL Southern History

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Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

Imperial Earth is the fascinating odyssey of Duncan Makenzie, traveling from Titan, a moon of Saturn, to Earth, as a diplomatic guest of the United States for the celebration of its Quincentennial in the year 2276. Titan, an independent republic, was originally colonized from Earth three generations earlier. Duncan's initial challenge is to prepare, physically and intellectually, for the 500-million-mile trip to Earth. Once there, he is caught up in a sweep of new experiences, including the social and political whirl in Washington, a strange visit to a carefully preserved ancient city once prominent in the 20th century, and a search for and meeting with a woman he loved since she visited Titan years before. The result of twenty years of thought by a celebrated novelist and scientist, and overflowing with skilled characterization and exciting events, Imperial Earth is one of Arthur C. Clarke's most ambitious, successful, and important novels. (amazon.com)

Mary Anne, BPL Southern History

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The House of Zeor by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Earth is divided between Sime and Gen, both offspring of the ancient race of men—and mortal enemies. The Sime cannot control their thirst for the kill; terrified Gen cannot escape the sinuous tentacles whose grip means death.

Hugh Valleroy, crossing into Sime territory in a desperate search for the woman he loves, comes on a brave new experiment—one that could mean the survival of his world! (www.schlock-value.com)

Mary Anne, BPL Southern History

Anything written by Vonda N. McIntyre




















Ken, Leeds

The Hugo Award for Best Novel nominees this year:

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)


Ken, Leeds

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Space Opera by Jack Vance (LINK TO ILL)

A society matron underwrites the interstellar tour of an Earth opera company, performing Beethoven, Mozart and Rossini for bewildered human and alien audiences on a kaleidoscopic range of planets. But intrigue and secret agendas complicate what was already a doubtful enterprise, and the matron’s feckless nephew finds that the simple country girl he plans to marry is far more mysterious than she seems.

This is Jack Vance at his funniest, rolling out a rollicking picaresque tale where the belly laughs play a perfect duet with the grandmaster’s sly observations on the absurdities of life, love and librettos. (amazon.com)

Ken, Leeds

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The Lost Queen by Signe Pike

Compared to Outlander and The Mists of Avalon, this thrilling first novel of a debut trilogy reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin.

I write because I have seen the darkness that will come. Already there are those who seek to tell a new history...

In a land of mountains and mist, tradition and superstition, Languoreth and her brother Lailoken are raised in the Old Way of their ancestors. But in Scotland, a new religion is rising, one that brings disruption, bloodshed, and riot. And even as her family faces the burgeoning forces of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons, bent on colonization, are encroaching from the east. When conflict brings the hero Emrys Pendragon to her father’s door, Languoreth finds love with one of his warriors. Her deep connection to Maelgwn is forged by enchantment, but she is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of a Christian king. As Languoreth is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue, she must learn to adapt. Together with her brother—a warrior and druid known to history as Myrddin—Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way and the survival of her kingdom, or risk the loss of them both forever.

Based on new scholarship, this tale of bravery and conflicted love brings a lost queen back to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of one of the most enduring legends of all time. (amazon.com)
  
Christine, Hoover

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Neverworld Wake by Maria Pessl

Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim--their creative genius and Beatrice's boyfriend--changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft--the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world--hoping she'll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim's death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she's never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers . . . and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake. (amazon.com)

Christine, Hoover

The fine folks at the Hoover Public Library shared some information about books with diverse characters and authors.

























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“They Will Dream in the Garden” by Gabriela Damián Miravete
In a garden populated by the holograms of women murdered through sexual assault & domestic violence.  The children are able to ask them questions and learn better ways of living from the experiences of the dead.

The only place to find this short story translated into English is on the website Latin American Literature Today at http://www.latinamericanliteraturetoday.org

Liz, Pinson

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The Near Witch by V.E. Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Part fairy tale, part love story, Victoria Schwab's debut novel is entirely original yet achingly familiar: a song you heard long ago, a whisper carried by the wind, and a dream you won't soon forget. (amazon.com)


Liz, Pinson

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The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when a senator’s daughter is summoned to the galactic court as a hostage, but she’s really the galaxy’s most dangerous weapon in disguise.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire. (amazon.com)

Liz, Pinson

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On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

A ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to piece the past together.
Two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love―only to learn the pain of loss.
With interwoven timelines and stunning art, award-winning graphic novelist Tillie Walden creates an inventive world, breathtaking romance, and an epic quest for love. (amazon.com)

Liz, Pinson

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It starts with a simple note. Roger Bascombe regretfully wishes to inform Celeste Temple that their engagement is forthwith terminated. Determined to find out why, Miss Temple takes the first step in a journey that will propel her into a dizzyingly seductive, utterly shocking world beyond her imagining.

Nothing could have prepared Miss Temple for the things she would find behind the closed doors of forbidding Harschmort Manor: men and women in provocative disguise, acts of licentiousness and violence, heroism and awakening. But she will also find two allies: Cardinal Chang, a brutal assassin with the heart of a poet, and a royal doctor named Svenson, at once fumbling and heroic—both of whom, like her, lost someone at Harschmort Manor.

As the unlikely trio search for answers, hurtling them from elegant brothels to gaslit alleyways to shocking moments of self-discovery, they are confronted by puzzles within puzzles. And the closer they get to the truth, the more their lives are in danger. For the conspiracy they face—an astonishing alchemy of science, perverted religion, and lust for power—is so terrifying as to be beyond belief. (amazon.com)


Nancy, Leeds

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The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

The Tower Motel was once a thriving attraction of rural Vermont. Today it lies in disrepair, alive only in the memories of the three women—Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot—who played there as children. They loved exploring the abandoned rooms … until the day their innocent games uncovered something dark and twisted that ruined their friendship forever.

Now, Amy stands accused of committing a horrific crime, and the only hint to her motives is a hasty message that forces Piper and Margot to revisit the motel’s past, and the fate of two sisters who lived there in its heyday.  Sylvie Slater had dreams of running off to Hollywood and becoming Alfred Hitchcock’s leading lady, while her little sister, Rose, was content with their simple life. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one knows the secret that will haunt the generations to come. (amazon.com)
  
Nancy, Leeds

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The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
Five books chronicling the exploits of Alexia Tarabotti, a lady of considerable assets including a large Scottish werewolf, a battle-parasol, and treacle tart. Oh, and she has no soul. (gailcarriger.com)


Kelly, Springville Road

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The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger
Sophronia is recruited to a finishing school for spies located in a dirigible. Set in Gail's Parasolverse, these four YA books are full of steampunk etiquette, well-dressed espionage, and flying food. (gailcarriger.com)


Kelly, Springville Road

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Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

In London, which is now a huge 7-tiered city comprised of metal, Tom, a lowly apprentice, saves the life of Thaddeus Valentine, a renowned architect, only to find himself left for dead in a sea of mud, in an epic story of intrigue, betrayal, and Municipal Darwinism. (amazon.com)
  
Michelle, Irondale

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A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.
Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer—Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.
Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?
Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook. (amazon.com)
  
Michelle, Irondale

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Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it....
The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants--from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys--except for Claire's rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire's quiet life is turned upside down--along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy--if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom--or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own.... (amazon.com)

Michelle, Irondale


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They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy. (amazon.com)

Laura, Homewood

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Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Welcome to Chromatacia, where the societal hierarchy is strictly regulated by one's limited color perception. And Eddie Russet wants to move up. But his plans to leverage his better-than-average red perception and marry into a powerful family are quickly upended. Juggling inviolable rules, sneaky Yellows, and a risky friendship with an intriguing Grey named Jane who shows Eddie that the apparent peace of his world is as much an illusion as color itself, Eddie finds he must reckon with the cruel regime behind this gaily painted façade. (amazon.com)

Laura, Homewood

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All Roads End Here by David Moody

Set in the world of David Moody's Hater trilogy, All Roads End Here is the sequel to the "top drawer horror" (Booklist, starred review) One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning.

It’s taken Matthew Dunne almost three months to get home. Never more than a few meters from the Haters at any time, every single step has been fraught with danger. But he’s made it.

In his absence, his home city has become a sprawling, walled-off refugee camp. But the camp–and the entire world beyond its borders–is balanced on a knife-edge. During his time in the wilderness, Matt developed a skill which is in high demand: the ability to anticipate and predict Hater behavior. It’s these skills that will thrust him into a web of subterfuge and danger. As the pressure mounts inside the camp, he finds himself under scrutiny from all sides.

He’s always done his best to avoid trouble, but sometimes it can’t be helped. The shit’s about to hit the fan, and this time Matt’s right at the epicenter.

All Roads End Here is a fast-paced, and wonderfully dark story about humanity’s fight for survival in the face of the impending apocalypse. (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

Every dog has its day...
And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from London, the day his city falls is finally a chance for adventure. Too bad his master Reg plans to hide himself away from the riots outside...
But when an abandoned child shows up looking for help, Reg and his trusty hound must brave the chaos in a journey that will prove not just the importance of bravery, but of loyalty, trust, and finding family in the unlikeliest of places.  
When the world has gone to the dogs, who will you choose to stand with? (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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The Power by Naomi Alderman

*WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION*

One of the New York Times's Ten Best Books of the Year
One of President Obama's favorite reads of the Year
A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year
One of the Washington Post's Ten Best Books of the Year
An NPR Best Book of the Year
One of Entertainment Weekly's Ten Best Books of the Year
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A Bustle Best Book of the Year
A Paste Magazine Best Novel of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

An Amazon Best Book of the Year

"Alderman's writing is beautiful, and her intelligence seems almost limitless. She also has a pitch-dark sense of humor that she wields perfectly." --Michael Schaub, NPR

All over the world women and girls are discovering they have the power. With a flick of the fingers they can inflict terrible pain, and even death. And with this small twist of nature, everything changes drastically.

Ambitious and provocative, visceral and page-turning, award-winning author Naomi Alderman's THE POWER at once takes us on a journey to an alternate reality and exposes our own world in bold and surprising ways. (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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Louise Erdrich, the New York Times bestselling, National Book Award-winning author of LaRose and The Round House, paints a startling portrait of a young woman fighting for her life and her unborn child against oppressive forces that manifest in the wake of a cataclysmic event.
The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time. (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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Thin Air by Richard K. Morgan

Hakan Veil is an ex–corporate enforcer equipped with military-grade body tech that’s made him a human killing machine. His former employers have abandoned him on a turbulent Mars where Earth-based overlords battle for profits and power amid a homegrown independence movement. But he’s had enough of the red planet, and all he wants is a ticket back home—which is just what he’s offered by the Earth Oversight organization, in exchange for being the bodyguard for an EO investigator. It’s a beyond-easy gig for a heavy hitter like Veil . . . until it isn’t.

When Veil’s charge starts looking into the mysterious disappearance of a lottery winner, it stirs up a hornet’s nest of intrigue and murder. And the deeper Veil is drawn into the game, the more long-buried secrets claw their way to the Martian surface. Now it’s the expert assassin poised against powerful enemies hellbent on taking him down—by any means necessary. (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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In the pantheon of superheroes, none are more loveable and loyal than everyone's favorite good ol' dog, Sparky. Surviving in the wintery apocalypse of the undead, this former TV show stunt dog turned zombie killing machine just wants to make friends and be a good boy. As his fellow survivors scavenge for supplies in the frigid wasteland, will Sparky be able to protect his companions from threats both undead and otherwise? (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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Beautiful Death by Mathieu Bablet

When humanity came face to face with insectoid aliens from outer space intent on taking over the earth, it never occurred to anyone that they would come out the other side of the battle that followed the losers. But they did. Now, with what remains of the human race in tatters, a small band of misfits scraping a living in the remins of a city question what it means to be truly alive in a world where surviving asks everything of you, and hope is just a memory. (amazon.com)

Jon, Avondale

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Winner: 2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella
Winner: 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella
Winner: 2018 Alex Award
Winner: 2018 Locus Award
One of the Verge's Best Books of 2017
A New York Times and USA Today Bestseller

A murderous android discovers itself in All Systems Red, a tense science fiction adventure by Martha Wells that interrogates the roots of consciousness through Artificial Intelligence. "As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure."

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid ― a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it's up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth. (amazon.com)

Riana, Pinson

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A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance. (amazon.com)

Riana, Pinson

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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy, young girls are raised to be killers. In some few children the old bloods show, gifting rare talents that can be honed to deadly or mystic effect. But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls.

A bloodstained child of nine falsely accused of murder, guilty of worse, Nona is stolen from the shadow of the noose. It takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist, but under Abbess Glass’s care there is much more to learn than the arts of death. Among her class Nona finds a new family—and new enemies.

Despite the security and isolation of the convent, Nona’s secret and violent past finds her out, drawing with it the tangled politics of a crumbling empire. Her arrival sparks old feuds to life, igniting vicious struggles within the church and even drawing the eye of the emperor himself.

Beneath a dying sun, Nona Grey must master her inner demons, then loose them on those who stand in her way. (amazon.com)

Riana, Pinson

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Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

An enjoyable read (so far). Imagine all the sentient life forms in the universe battle it out in a Euro-vision-style singing competition. Basically, if you are not last, your civilization may survive. If it is last, your civilization is erased, and planet is mined for valuable resources. I laughed, especially at the music references and what makes for a sentient life form. 

Samuel, Springville Road

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Obscura by Joe Hart

In the near future, an aggressive and terrifying new form of dementia is affecting victims of all ages. The cause is unknown, and the symptoms are disturbing. Dr. Gillian Ryan is on the cutting edge of research and desperately determined to find a cure. She’s already lost her husband to the disease, and now her young daughter is slowly succumbing as well. After losing her funding, she is given the unique opportunity to expand her research. She will travel with a NASA team to a space station where the crew has been stricken with symptoms of a similar inexplicable psychosis—memory loss, trances, and violent, uncontrollable impulses.

Crippled by a secret addiction and suffering from creeping paranoia, Gillian finds her journey becoming a nightmare as unexplainable and violent events plague the mission. With her grip weakening on reality, she starts to doubt her own innocence. And she’s beginning to question so much more—like the true nature of the mission, the motivations of the crew, and every deadly new secret space has to offer.

Merging thrilling science-fiction adventure with mind-bending psychological suspense, Wall Street Journal bestselling author Joe Hart explores both the vast mysteries of outer space and the even darker unknown that lies within ourselves." (Goodreads)

Samuel, Springville Road

Books that came up in general discussion:

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The acclaimed modern science fiction masterpiece, included on Library Journal's Best SFF of 2016, the Barnes & Nobles Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog Best Books of 2015, the Tor.com Best Books of 2015, Reader’s Choice, as well as nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Kitschie, and the Bailey's Women's Prize.

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe. (amazon.com)

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Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn't be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Redshirts is the winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel. (amazon.com)

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Among Others by Jo Walton

Winner of the 2011 Nebula Award for Best Novel

Winner of the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Othersis at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.
Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead. 

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England-a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off... 

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin. 

One of School Library Journal's Best Adult Books 4 Teens titles of 2011 

One of io9's best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of the year 2011 (amazon.com)

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Starlings by Jo Walton

“Starlings isn’t really a short-story collection. It’s something better: a written showreel, illustrating yet again that [Walton’s] imagination stretches to the stars (or the starlings), and that she’s endlessly inventive in finding new methods to express it.”—NPR Books.

An ancient coin cyber-spies on lovers and thieves. The magic mirror sees all but can do nothing. A cloned savior solves a fanatically-inspired murder. Three Irish siblings thieve treasures with bad poetry and the aid of the Queen of Cats.

With these captivating initial glimpses into her storytelling psyche, Jo Walton shines through subtle myths and reinvented realities. Through eclectic stories, subtle vignettes, inspired poetry, and more, Walton soars with humans, machines, and magic—rising from the everyday into the universe itself. (amazon.com)

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Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series
Capt. Will Laurence is serving with honor in the British Navy when his ship captures a French frigate harboring most a unusual cargo–an incalculably valuable dragon egg. When the egg hatches, Laurence unexpectedly becomes the master of the young dragon Temeraire and finds himself on an extraordinary journey that will shatter his orderly, respectable life and alter the course of his nation’s history.

Thrust into England’s Aerial Corps, Laurence and Temeraire undergo rigorous training while staving off French forces intent on breaching British soil. But the pair has more than France to contend with when China learns that an imperial dragon intended for Napoleon–Temeraire himself– has fallen into British hands. The emperor summons the new pilot and his dragon to the Far East, a long voyage fraught with peril and intrigue. From England’s shores to China’s palaces, from the Silk Road’s outer limits to the embattled borders of Prussia and Poland, Laurence and Temeraire must defend their partnership and their country from powerful adversaries around the globe. But can they succeed against the massed forces of Bonaparte’s implacable army? The Temeraire series was published to immediate acclaim. Here is a list of the novels (naominovik.com):




Wednesday, February 13, 2019

essay collection




Mark your calendars! Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 9am at the Leeds Library and the topic up for discussion is science fiction and fantasy. 

In attendance:
Holley, Emmet O'Neal Library
Judith, Homewood
Laura, Homewood
Kelly, Springville Road
Michelle, Irondale
Mary Anne, Southern History
Maura, Trussville
Jon, Avondale
Leslie, Homewood

This week, we met to talk about essay collections. What a variety of books!

Image result for dear fahrenheit 451 by annie spence

If you love to read, and presumably you do since you’ve picked up this book (!), you know that some books affect you so profoundly they forever change the way you think about the world. Some books, on the other hand, disappoint you so much you want to throw them against the wall. Either way, it’s clear that a book can be your new soul mate or the bad relationship you need to end.
In Dear Fahrenheit 451, librarian Annie Spence has crafted love letters and breakup notes to the iconic and eclectic books she has encountered over the years. From breaking up with The Giving Tree (a dysfunctional relationship book if ever there was one), to her love letter to The Time Traveler’s Wife (a novel less about time travel and more about the life of a marriage, with all of its ups and downs), Spence will make you think of old favorites in a new way. Filled with suggested reading lists, Spence’s take on classic and contemporary books is very much like the best of literature―sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes surprisingly poignant, and filled with universal truths.

A celebration of reading, Dear Fahrenheit 451 is for anyone who loves nothing more than curling up with a good book…and another, and another, and another!
Michelle, Irondale

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The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

The classic Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, the most important Christian writer of the 20th century, contains nine sermons delivered by Lewis during World War Two. The nine addresses in Weight of Glory offer guidance, inspiration, and a compassionate apologetic for the Christian faith during a time of great doubt.
Michelle, Irondale

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A Woman is a Woman Until She is a Mother by Anna Prushinskaya (not available in print in the JCLC, audiobook available via Hoopla for subscribing libraries)

Anna Prushinskaya explores the deep life shifts of pregnancy, birth and motherhood in the United States, a world away from the author's Soviet homeland. Drawing from inspirations as various as midwife Ina May Gaskin, writer and activist Alice Walker, filmmaker Sophia Kruz and frontierswoman Caroline Henderson, Prushinskaya captures the inherent togetherness of motherhood alongside its accompanying estrangement. She plumbs the deeper waters of compassion, memory and identity, as well as the humorous streams of motherhood as they run up against the daily realities of work and the ever-present eye of social media. How will I return to my life? Prushinskaya asks, and answers by returning us to our own ordinary, extraordinary lives a little softer, a little wiser, and a little less certain of unascertainable things.
Michelle, Irondale

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With her disarming, intimate, completely accessible voice, and dry sense of humor, Nora Ephron shares with us her ups and downs in I Feel Bad About My Neck, a candid, hilarious look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself.

Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. But mostly she speaks frankly and uproariously about life as a woman of a certain age. Utterly courageous, uproariously funny, and unexpectedly moving in its truth telling, I Feel Bad About My Neck is a scrumptious, irresistible treat of a book, full of truths, laugh out loud moments that will appeal to readers of all ages.
Mary Anne, BPL Southern History

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The bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Werewolves in Their Youth, Wonderboys, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union Michael Chabon “takes [his] brutally observant, unfailingly honest, marvelously human gaze and turns it on his own life” (Time) in the New York Times bestselling memoir Manhood for Amateurs.
Mary Anne, BPL Southern History

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Anything written by Celia Rivenbark
Celia Rivenbark was born and raised in Duplin County, NC, which had the distinction of being the nation’s number 1 producer of hogs and turkeys during a brief, magical moment in the early 1980s. Celia grew up in a small house in the country with a red barn out back that was populated by a couple of dozen lanky and unvaccinated cats. Her grandparents’ house, just across the ditch, had the first indoor plumbing in Teachey, NC and family lore swears that people came from miles around just to watch the toilet flush.

Celia now lives in Wilmington, N.C., with her very patient husband, Scott Whisnant. Their daughter, the Princess, is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill but hasn’t managed to get her parents any tickets to the Duke game. Dammit all.








Judith, Homewood

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The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is—a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friend—an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably—but only because it’s over.
Judith, Homewood

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In Billy Ray's Farm, Larry Brown brings the appealing blend of candor, humor, and poignancy of his acclaimed novels Fay and Father and Son to nine personal essays that explore the emotional and physical landscape of the corner of Mississippi he calls home. The centerpiece of this collection offers a moving description of life on his son's cattle farm, capturing Brown's deep-seated attachment to his family and to the land. In other pieces, Brown takes readers inside the writing cabin he built, chronicles his attempt to outsmart a wily coyote intent on killing the farm's baby goats, and reveals his reactions to being constantly compared to William Faulkner, a writer inspired by the same geography. Threaded through each piece are warm reflections on the Southern musicians and authors who influenced his writings.

At once entertaining and insightful, Billy Ray's Farm brilliantly illuminates how a great writer responds, personally and artistically, to the patch of land he lives on, providing a wonderful look into the mysterious sources of a writer's motivation.
Kelly, BPL Springville Road

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Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett

Immediately upon its publication in Ireland, Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut began to attract attention well beyond the expectations of the tiny Irish press that published it. A deceptively slender volume, it captures with utterly mesmerizing virtuosity the interior reality of its unnamed protagonist, a young woman living a singular and mostly solitary existence on the outskirts of a small coastal village. 

Sidestepping the usual conventions of narrative, it focuses on the details of her daily experience—from the best way to eat porridge or bananas to an encounter with cows—rendered sometimes in story-length, story-like stretches of narrative, sometimes in fragments no longer than a page, but always suffused with the hypersaturated, almost synesthetic intensity of the physical world that we remember from childhood. The effect is of character refracted and ventriloquized by environment, catching as it bounces her longings, frustrations, and disappointments—the ending of an affair, or the ambivalent beginning with a new lover. As the narrator’s persona emerges in all its eccentricity, sometimes painfully and often hilariously, we cannot help but see mirrored there our own fraught desires and limitations, and our own fugitive desire, despite everything, to be known.

Shimmering and unusual, Pond demands to be devoured in a single sitting that will linger long after the last page.
Kelly, BPL Springville Road

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A podcast of interviews and essays focusing on women's and gender issues, including non-binary and gender fluidity, in the children’s literature community and all its intersectionality!
Laura, Homewood

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Perhaps no twentieth-century writer was so observant and graceful a chronicler of his times as Truman Capote. Portraits and Observations is the first volume devoted solely to all the essays ever published by this most beloved of writers. Included are such masterpieces of narrative nonfiction as “The Muses Are Heard” and the short nonfiction novel “Handcarved Coffins,” as well as many long-out-of-print essays, including portraits of Mae West, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe. From his travel sketches of Brooklyn, New Orleans, and Hollywood, written when he was twenty-two, to the author’s last written words, composed the day before his death in 1984, the recently discovered “Remembering Willa Cather,” Portraits and Observations puts on display the full spectrum of Truman Capote’s brilliance. Certainly Capote was, as Somerset Maugham famously called him, “a stylist of the first quality.” But as the pieces gathered here remind us, he was also an artist of remarkable substance. 
Leslie, Homewood

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It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here. In her New York Times bestselling memoirs,Corrigan distilled our core relationships to their essences, showcasing a warm, easy storytelling style. Now, in Tell Me More, she’s back with a deeply personal, unfailingly honest, and often hilarious examination of the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.

In “I Don’t Know,” Corrigan wrestles to make peace with uncertainty, whether it’s over invitations that never came or a friend’s agonizing infertility. In “No,” she admires her mother’s ability to set boundaries and her liberating willingness to be unpopular. In “Tell Me More,” a facialist named Tish teaches her something important about listening. And in “I Was Wrong,” she comes clean about her disastrous role in a family fight—and explains why saying sorry may not be enough. With refreshing candor, a deep well of empathy, and her signature desire to understand “the thing behind the thing,” Corrigan swings between meditations on life with a preoccupied husband and two mercurial teenage daughters to profound observations on love and loss.

With the streetwise, ever-relatable voice that defines Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a moving and meaningful take on the power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.
Leslie, Homewood

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The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

From stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, comes The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself.

Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend.

None of that worked (and she’s still single), but it allowed Tiffany to imagine a place for herself where she could do something she loved for a living: comedy.

Tiffany can’t avoid being funny—it’s just who she is, whether she’s plotting shocking, jaw-dropping revenge on an ex-boyfriend or learning how to handle her newfound fame despite still having a broke person’s mind-set. Finally poised to become a household name, she recounts with heart and humor how she came from nothing and nowhere to achieve her dreams by owning, sharing, and using her pain to heal others.

By turns hilarious, filthy, and brutally honest, The Last Black Unicorn shows the world who Tiffany Haddish really is—humble, grateful, down-to-earth, and funny as hell. And now, she’s ready to inspire others through the power of laughter.
Holley, Emmet O’Neal Library

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From the break-out star of BuzzFeed and the People’s Choice Award-winning comedian behind the web series “Whine About It” and “To Be Honest” comes a collection of hilariously anguished essays chronicling awful moments from his life so far, the humiliations of being an adult, and other little indignities.

Matt Bellassai has no idea what he’s doing. Well, to be fair, he did become semi-Internet famous by getting drunk at work, making him a socially-acceptable—nay—professional alcoholic. He’s got some things figured out. But the rest is all just a terrible, disgusting mess.

This is Matt’s book. Just to clarify, though, it is absolutely not a memoir; Matt is far too young to have done anything worth remembering (though he did win an actual People’s Choice Award for his BuzzFeed web series, “Whine About It,” which is pretty good, if you ask his mother). This is also most certainly not a book of advice; he is too woefully ill-prepared for life to offer anything in the way of counsel (though that won’t stop him from talking). Call this a collection of awful moments that led to his grumbling, blundering adulthood—a chronicle of little indignities that, when taken together, amount to a life of hilarious anguish.

With keen wit and plenty of self-deprecation, Matt reveals how hard it is to shed his past as the Midwest’s biggest nerd, that one time a taquito nearly murdered him at his brother’s surprise birthday party, and the time he came out to his friends and family (the closet was a bit messy). Matt also wrestles with the humiliations of adulthood, like giving up on love in New York City, living alone with no one to heat his microwave dinners, and combating the inner voice that tells him to say aloud all the things the rest of us are smart enough to keep to ourselves.

You probably don’t need this book, but let’s be honest—you do. Since you’re already reading, you might as well pull up a chair, grab your glass(es) of wine, and enjoy.
Holley, Emmet O’Neal Library

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris-a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world. 

Intrigued by the snail's molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal.The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.
Holley, Emmet O’Neal Library

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Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world's preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.

Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network--and Facebook itself--really about? "It's a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." Why do we love libraries? "Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay." What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? "So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we'd just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes--and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat."

Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, "Joy," and, "Find Your Beach," Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.
Maura, Trussville

Image result for how to be a good creature sy montgomery

National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals—her friends—who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet’s rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy’s life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.

This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals—Sy’s friends—and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.
Maura, Trussville

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The essayist, Jonathan Franzen writes, is like “a fire-fighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames of shame, is to run straight into them.” For the past twenty-five years, even as his novels have earned him worldwide acclaim, Franzen has led a second life as a risk-taking essayist. Now, at a moment when technology has inflamed tribal hatreds and the planet is beset by unnatural calami- ties, he is back with a new collection of essays that recall us to more humane ways of being in the world.

Franzen’s great loves are literature and birds, and The End of the End of the Earth is a passionate argument for both. Where the new media tend to confirm one’s prejudices, he writes, literature “invites you to ask whether you might be somewhat wrong, maybe even entirely wrong, and to imagine why someone else might hate you.” Whatever his subject, Franzen’s essays are always skeptical of received opinion, steeped in irony, and frank about his own failings. He’s frank about birds, too (they kill “everything imaginable”), but his reporting and reflections on them―on seabirds in New Zealand, warblers in East Africa, penguins in Antarctica―are both a moving celebration of their beauty and resilience and a call to action to save what we love.

Calm, poignant, carefully argued, full of wit, The End of the End of the Earth provides a welcome
breath of hope and reason.
Maura, Trussville

Image result for what's next jane buckingham

In this book, originally published in 2008, the author of The Modern Girl's Guide to Life asks fifty experts, artists, business leaders, trendsetters, doctors, athletes, environmentalists, and intellectuals:

What will the next decade look like? Where are we headed? 

That is the question professional trendspotter Jane Buckingham posed to fifty influential leaders in a wide variety of fields—and their responses are surprising, provocative, compelling, and important. The result of her conversations with some of the most fascinating men and women in America today, What's Next is an essential collection of highly individual perspectives on tomorrow's world, including:

Our world is changing faster than ever. The essential insights offered in What's Next can help us keep up—and stay ahead.

Acclaimed writer Reza Aslan's belief that American Islam may become the model for Islam throughout the rest of the world

Attorney Alan Dershowitz's views on the very scientific future of criminal defense law
Campaign adviser Joe Trippi's thoughts on how politics will be turned upside down . . .
and more

Our world is changing faster than ever. The essential insights offered in What's Next can help us keep up—and stay ahead.
Jon, Avondale

Image result for reader come home maryanne wolf

From the author of Proust and the Squid, a lively, ambitious, and deeply informative epistolary book that considers the future of the reading brain and our capacity for critical thinking, empathy, and reflection as we become increasingly dependent on digital technologies.

A decade ago, Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid revealed what we know about how the brain learns to read and how reading changes the way we think and feel. Since then, the ways we process written language have changed dramatically with many concerned about both their own changes and that of children. New research on the reading brain chronicles these changes in the brains of children and adults as they learn to read while immersed in a digitally dominated medium.

Drawing deeply on this research, this book comprises a series of letters Wolf writes to us—her beloved readers—to describe her concerns and her hopes about what is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums. 

Wolf raises difficult questions, including:

Will children learn to incorporate the full range of "deep reading" processes that are at the core of the expert reading brain?

Will the mix of a seemingly infinite set of distractions for children’s attention and their quick access to immediate, voluminous information alter their ability to think for themselves?

With information at their fingertips, will the next generation learn to build their own storehouse of knowledge, which could impede the ability to make analogies and draw inferences from what they know?

Will all these influences, in turn, change the formation in children and the use in adults of "slower" cognitive processes like critical thinking, personal reflection, imagination, and empathy that comprise deep reading and that influence both how we think and how we live our lives?

Will the chain of digital influences ultimately influence the use of the critical analytical and empathic capacities necessary for a democratic society?

How can we preserve deep reading processes in future iterations of the reading brain?
Who are the "good readers" of every epoch?

Concerns about attention span, critical reasoning, and over-reliance on technology are never just about children—Wolf herself has found that, though she is a reading expert, her ability to read deeply has been impacted as she has become, inevitably, increasingly dependent on screens.
Wolf draws on neuroscience, literature, education, technology, and philosophy and blends historical, literary, and scientific facts with down-to-earth examples and warm anecdotes to illuminate complex ideas that culminate in a proposal for a biliterate reading brain. Provocative and intriguing, Reader, Come Home is a roadmap that provides a cautionary but hopeful perspective on the impact of technology on our brains and our most essential intellectual capacities—and what this could mean for our future.
Jon, Avondale

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A brilliant stylist known for an uncompromising honesty that challenges conventional wisdom at every turn, Krauthammer has for decades daz­zled readers with his keen insight into politics and government. His weekly column is a must-read in Washington and across the country. Now, finally, the best of Krauthammer’s intelligence, erudition and wit are collected in one volume.

Readers will find here not only the country’s leading conservative thinker offering a pas­sionate defense of limited government, but also a highly independent mind whose views—on feminism, evolution and the death penalty, for example—defy ideological convention. Things That Matter also features several of Krautham­mer’s major path-breaking essays—on bioeth­ics, on Jewish destiny and on America’s role as the world’s superpower—that have profoundly influenced the nation’s thoughts and policies. And finally, the collection presents a trove of always penetrating, often bemused re­flections on everything from border collies to Halley’s Comet, from Woody Allen to Win­ston Churchill, from the punishing pleasures of speed chess to the elegance of the perfectly thrown outfield assist.

With a special, highly autobiographical introduction in which Krauthammer reflects on the events that shaped his career and political philosophy, this indispensable chronicle takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the fashions and follies, the tragedies and triumphs, of the last three decades of American life.
Jon, Avondale

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The Source of Self-Regard is brimming with all the elegance of mind and style, the literary prowess and moral compass that are Toni Morrison's inimitable hallmark. It is divided into three parts: the first is introduced by a powerful prayer for the dead of 9/11; the second by a searching meditation on Martin Luther King Jr., and the last by a heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. In the writings and speeches included here, Morrison takes on contested social issues: the foreigner, female empowerment, the press, money, "black matter(s)," and human rights. She looks at enduring matters of culture: the role of the artist in society, the literary imagination, the Afro-American presence in American literature, and in her Nobel lecture, the power of language itself. And here too is piercing commentary on her own work (including The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby, Jazz, Beloved, and Paradise)and that of others, among them, painter and collagist Romare Bearden, author Toni Cade Bambara, and theater director Peter Sellars. In all, The Source of Self-Regard is a luminous and essential addition to Toni Morrison's oeuvre.
Liz, Pinson


GENERAL DISCUSSION:

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Mary Anne, BPL Southern History

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We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.
Holley, Emmet O’Neal Library