Author Archives: Tony

The Elaborate Life of Stan Lee

stanleeA memoir in graphic novel form?  Say it isn’t so!

Stan Lee, creator of a vast universe of superheroes (The Avengers, Fantastic Four, The Punisher, and Spider-Man to name just a few), recently released a memoir of his journey to becoming an icon in the world of comic books, entitled Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir.  Early in his adolescent years, Lee could always be found with a book close within reach, reading anything he could wrap his hands around.  Lee was greatly influenced by classic characters found in pulp literature (such as Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan), as well as Shakespeare’s works of drama and poetry.  These literary influences were combined with images of what a human could become to produce his intriguing, well-rounded characters for Marvel Comics.

While much of the book is devoted to his character development of the superheroes and villains, there is also a more serious side that details Lee’s time in the military.  One of his first duties was as a graphic artist for a campaign on sexual abstinence.  He also developed materials focusing on how American troops should act in other countries.

Readers also learn about how Lee came to do hysterical cameos in recent Marvel movies.  One such example from the recent Avengers: The Age of Ultron shows him sitting around a table with the characters discussing stories over a few beverages.  Lee is as proud of his appearances as all the work he has done over the years.

Lee presents his memoir to readers as if one were to meet him at a Fandom Fest or Comic Con.  Read Amazing Fantastic Incredible and meet the man behind the worlds of some of your comic and film characters.  Hard work, dedication to his craft, and a roller coaster ride of events in his life have formed Stan the Man, a man who has brought joy to millions around the world.

Lee also dedicates portions of his memoir to staff editors, writers, and artists who have contributed to his career.

For the reader who may traditionally prefer reading graphic novels, this selection will possibly open other opportunities to read similar autobiographical texts.  A brief list of works available through the library can be found below.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

darksparklerDark Sparkler is a stunning look into the dark and alluring world of Hollywood and the toll it claims. It is a haunting glimpse into how Hollywood and the world fixate on actresses/women/icons; then discards them.

Just to warn you it’s a book of poems all inspired by dead actresses. You know, thought I’d throw some light reading at you for the New Year.  :-)   But if you enjoy poetry and/or unsettling, provocative prose like I do give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

Tamblyn’s poetry is exquisite and the short glimpse of each of these women was an intense and emotional experience. Tamblyn explores over 25 different Hollywood actresses with poetic sway and truth. It’s enough to knock the wind out of you.  Some pages are a punch to the gut. Check out Lindsay Lohan, Taruni Sachdev and Sharon Tate to name a few (I know, Lohan isn’t dead. Take a look at her “poem” though).

Some of the names I had heard of and others I had to look up. Each one is equally fascinating and evocative. Tamblyn, (an actress herself) often inserts herself into the narrative, particularly in the epilogue, which is superb in itself. Possibly facing her own demons? Regardless, Tamblyn is a legit poet that I highly recommend checking out.

Formats Available: Book

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Thin Air by Ann Cleeves

thinaircleevesThe Shetland Islands, the northernmost fragments of Scotland, are so far out into the North Sea they are often pictured as an inset on maps of the United Kingdom.  Windy, treeless protrusions of earth where the sun hardly sets in the summer and barely rises in the winter, they are the atmospheric setting for Ann CleevesShetland Islands mystery series.

In Thin  Air, the sixth installment of the series, Detective Jimmy Perez is called to the island of Unst, the the most northern island of the Shetlands, to investigate the murder of Eleanor Longstaff,  She was one of a group of mainlanders visiting the islands for a hamefarin’, a traditional Shetland wedding celebration, for one of their friends. Lowrey, who grew up on the island but went to college in England, has just married Caroline.  Eleanor and Polly are bridesmaids, attending the hamefarin’ with Eleanor’s husband Ian and Polly’s boyfriend Marcus.ravenblackcleeves

Cleeves uses details of the culture and history of the islands that have grown up from the isolation and geography of the islands as springboards for many of the stories in her series.  Jimmy Perez, her most consistent character, claims to derive his Spanish heritage from a sailor shipwrecked way off course from the Spanish Armada of the sixteenth century.  Perhaps the most dramatic is her first novel, Raven Black, which culminates on the night of Up Helly Aa, a fire festival held in coldest January that celebrates the islands’ Viking heritage, complete with a parade of a Viking re-enactors and the burning of a replica Viking longship.

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(Image courtesy of Shetland.org: http://www.shetland.org/things/events/culture-heritage/up-helly-aa)

Cleeves portrays the islands both traditional and modern, a landscape that draws artists, tourists and other mainlanders.  One story features a fiddler who is becoming known worldwide for popularizing the islands’ traditional music.   The tension between these two groups, those who perpetuate the old way of life, living in their croft houses and farming neeps (turnips), and those who arrive to create art and exploit the islands’ old ways, often lead to the violent feelings that fuel murder mysteries.

In Thin Air, we learn the legend of Peerie Lizzie, a 10-year-old daughter of the rich family who drowned almost 100 years before the story takes place, supposedly because her nanny wasn’t watching her.  In her white dress and Sunday curls, Peerie Lizzie has appeared to people throughout the years, her appearance gaining the reputation of presaging a pregnancy.  Ironically the victim, Eleanor, who is recovering from a miscarriage, and her friend Polly, the other bridesmaid, both see a little girl who fits this description the day of the hamefarin’.  Eleanor wanders off during the night and her body is found posed on the beach the next day.

Detectives Perez and Willow Reeves explore the complex relationships among the participants in the hamefarin’ – both the wedding guests and the islanders, mostly Lowrey’s family, but also the couple who’ve bought the house where Peerie Lizzie lived and have converted it to a Bed and Breakfast.  Perez takes a trip to London to explore Eleanor’s family and life.

Perez shifts points of view, sometimes taking us inside the mind of Jimmy Perez or Willow Reeves, but most often she focuses on Polly, whose insecurity in her relationships with her female friends and her boyfriend possibly distort her reality. And it’s Polly who ends up in danger from the killer as the story races to a close.

Circumstances, culture, environment, personality, folklore, finances – all figure into the intricate mystery current day mystery and mystery of Peerie Lizzie’s death, which Perez and Reeves unravel in time to save Polly at the climactic ending.

Finishing an Ann Cleeves Shetlands Islands mystery always has me checking airfares for the Shetlands so I can experience this fascinating set of islands for myself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out Ann Cleeves’ website for more information about the Shetland Islands, the author, and her other series!

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), Downloadable Audiobook

Reviewed by Laura, Main Library

So You Want to Be a Writer?

Saturday, January 23, 2016 – 10:00 AM12:00 PM

KellyCreagh

Join author Kelly Creagh for a crash course on writing and publishing.

Space is limited.  Please call 574-1611 and press “0” to register.

The idea of writing a book can be overwhelming.  Where do you start?  What do you need to know about the craft?  What are your options for publication, and how do you find an agent or editor?

Join author Kelly Creagh for a crash course on writing and publishing, and learn tips and strategies to help you start, finish, and publish your work.

BIO: Kelly Creagh is the author of the Nevermore trilogy, a modern day, supernatural romance for young adult readers that is inspired by the life, works and mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe. Kelly is a 2008 graduate of Spalding University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. In addition to writing, Kelly enjoys teaching and performing the ancient art of belly dance. Visit her at www.KellyCreagh.com.

301 York Street

Louisville, KY USA 40203

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

furiouslyhappyI love listening to comedic biographical audiobooks, better yet are comedic audiobooks read by the author themselves.  I think it adds a more genuine quality to the listening experience because only authors truly know how they meant something to be interpreted.  On an especially bleak day this fall I needed something uplifting and turned to Jenny Lawson’s newest book Furiously Happy.  Jenny Lawson’s first title, Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, chronicles the bizarre things that seem to always happen to Lawson.  From digging up a dead pet in her backyard so vultures won’t get it, to buying lots of taxidermied animals through the internet, Lawson has a lot of weird things happen to her.  You’ll find the same love of taxidermy and strange happenings in her second book, but Lawson gets bit more personal this time about her mental health struggles.

The title of her second book comes from a blog post on one of her especially dark days.  She is in the midst of a depression so dark she wasn’t seeing anyway out of it and instead of giving in and falling further into the black hole she makes a choice, be happy.  Be so furiously happy that there is no room for darkness.  Within hours of the blog post attached to #FuriouslyHappy thousands of messages poured in relating to Lawson’s experience and offering support.

The fame of her blog and the success of her first book put the spotlight on how many people suffer with anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders that are often misunderstood or diminished by those unfamiliar with the symptoms.  Lawson delivers a slightly uncomfortable look at what dealing with these disorders does to your body, your family, and your friends.  She is brave and honest about her attempts to hurt herself, the days when she isn’t able to leave her bed, and how much she hates and loves being successful.  She approaches these setbacks not with defeat but with the knowledge that tomorrow is a new and hopefully better day.

Her awkwardness is relatable as I’m sure everyone has had a moment where they’ve said something they regret or made a fool of themselves and can’t hide.  Perhaps we haven’t all pulled a taxidermied raccoon claw from our bags during a huge press conference for a newly published book; but the metaphor is there.  We’ve all done embarrassing things because we are all human.  Getting up, moving forward, and trying to make better tomorrows is the overall message in this hilarious book where almost anything could come out of Jenny Lawson’s mouth.  Really, she says some ridiculous things.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

(Note: LFPL does not have this title in Audiobook format at the moment)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

In Defense of Comics, pt. 4

 

Display Sign for Graphic Novels

Welcome back to the series! 

So let’s talk comics.  Specifically, just what are comics?

Comics can be said to be stories told with pictures all the time and words some of the time.  As such, the forerunners of comics made their appearance very early and can be found all over the world.  It can further be argued that comics are some of the oldest verifiable stories in human history.

Cave paintings found in Africa, India, and Australia tell the story of early people’s hunts. Later on, Egyptian friezes, ancient Greek pottery, and Mayan codices all convey stories of everything from an individual’s life to the end of the world. Tapestry was used to celebrate and perpetuate historical events (e.g., the Bayeaux tapestry depicts the events of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror).  Japan’s Choju-Giga paintings laid the foundations for today’s Manga as far back as the 12th Century. Closer in time, William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” – exhibited at the Soanes Museum in London – is a classic work of art that follows the life and rapid decline of Thomas Rakewell, the titular rake.

While related and influential, these predecessors of modern comic books are more properly examples of something broader than comics, sequential art (defined by Will Eisner as, “an art form that uses images deployed in sequence for graphic storytelling or to convey information.”). (Eisner, 1996, p. 6)  These works deployed a variety of media to visually convey their story but those were not some combination of paper, pencil, and ink (as found in modern comic strips, comic books, and manga).  More importantly, they were not the products of a printing process with an eye towards mass forms of distribution, purchase, and consumption.

What, you say?  Comics are not consumed in a mass manner.  They may be mass produced but still each reader has to take the singular item (be it comic book, graphic novel, or manga) and use it on their own.

True, the act of reading itself is generally an individual pursuit.  This point ignores obvious instances where it is not, such as author readings and reading of texts in educational settings.  It also stops analysis at the instant of initial consumption without placing that consumption in context.  Much of the reading of comics is done in anticipation of talking about it with others, a behavior pattern that often starts early as experienced comic fans initiate the new reader (ex: an older brother declares his love of Thor, loans his favorite issues to his younger brother, and asks what his sibling thinks of them).

Comics these days are also big business.  They feed into the movie and television industries to the tune of billions of dollars, as well as pushing up sales in bookstores and check-outs in libraries.  That they are so widely spread across the landscape of pop culture, it is inevitable that they will be discussed in some manner by many people on a daily basis.

If you haven’t been following this series of articles but are interested in some of the history of why modern comics are paper-based mass commodities, check out the previous installment. Or if you’d prefer to start at the beginning, you can go directly to Part One.

Also, if you would like to talk about comics further, please join us for the Graphic Novel Discussion Group at the Main Library.  Our next meeting will take place on Monday, December 14th, at 6:00 PM.  The topic will be Webcomics.

GraphicNovelGroup_Webcomics_Main

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Works Cited: Eisner, W. (1996). Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative. Tamarac: Poorhouse Press.

Article by Tony, Main Library

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

This historical fiction novel by Kenneth Oppel takes place in Canada in the late 1880’s.  The country is young and exploring its boundaries.  The last spike has been driven into two great railway systems, creating a coast to coast system.  Now travelers can journey across the country at record speeds but no train exists that is big enough or strong enough to make the full trip until The Boundless arrives.

boundless

The Boundless was a dream of railway manager Mr. Vanhorn.  It pulls over seven miles of train cars including a circus, a gym, a pool, three classes of passengers cars, and much more.  Sadly, it also pulls Mr. Vanhorn’s funeral car as he did not live long enough to see his dream built.  Surrounded by a current of electricity, Mr. Vanhorn’s car will travel the rails forever as part of the Boundless.  But there are many people who would like to get their hands on the treasure that travels along inside the funeral car next to Vanhorn’s body.

Only two people know where the key is to unlock the funeral car, the guard hired to protect it, and James Everett.  Once a poor employee of Mr. Vanhorn, James saved Mr. Vanhorn’s life three years previous and, in gratitude, James was left everything Mr. Vanhorn owned.  James alone knows what and how to get in that car- knowledge that soon endangers his son, William.

William is shy and unsure of himself but full of excitement to be traveling on The Boundless’ maiden trek across the country with his father.  That is until he witnesses the murder of the funeral car guard and quickly becomes the prey himself.  Will, stuck an unplanned adventure, he must out run and outsmart those trying to use him to get to the riches inside the train car.

No one is who they seem and even those trying to help Will stay safe and the speeding train has ulterior motives.  Can anyone be trusted?  Is everyone using him to get inside the funeral car?

The Boundless tells a wonderful story of a young boy trying to find faith in himself and discover who he truly is.  This is a grand adventure full of mysterious creatures and strange magical happenings that no reader should miss.

There is also a book trailer which you can view by clicking here.

Formats Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Middle school is hard. Add the facts that your twin brother now has a girlfriend and ignores you, your mom is your assistant school principal and knows everything, and oh yeah your dad died of heart disease and you’ll understand why middle school is especially tough for Josh.

thecrossover

Written in verse, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander explores the world of two 14 year old twins who excel at basketball just like their father but find themselves going in opposite directions. They have new emotions and feelings they can’t quite express or understand and aggression they can’t quite control. Full of highs and lows that normal students go through, this book expresses clearly what it feels like to grow up, having the comfort of people near you always to suddenly feeling alone. I often find that books written in verse are especially powerful in the succinct ways words are phrased, this book was exactly that.

The Crossover is part of this year’s Kentucky Bluegrass Award nominations. I highly recommend this title to any upper elementary or middle school student. The KBA book award is a reader choice award. This list of nominations can be found at http://kba.nku.edu/ and is open to any Kentucky student in grades K-12.

Formats Available: Book, eBook, Audiobook

 Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

What is Digital Storytelling?

“Digital storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Throughout history, storytelling has been used to share knowledge, wisdom, and values. Stories have taken many different forms. Stories have been adapted to each successive medium that has emerged, from the circle of the campfire to the silver screen, and now the computer screen.” Digital Storytelling Association

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Join renowned cellist, composer, and storyteller Ben Sollee as he discusses Digital Storytelling: Trends and Opportunities for the Independent Musician.

This is a ticketless event but registration is required.

To reserve your spot, click here or call our ticket line at (502) 574-1644.

Guilty Pleasures for the Ears: Downloadable Murder Mysteries

LFPL has recently added 1000 new titles to its Downloadable Audio subscription, One Click Digital.

Here are two recent titles that I have enjoyed:

  • Dan Stephens, a.k.a. Cousin Matthew from Downton Abbey, narrates Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.  Whether you’ve read this story before or not, you’ll enjoy the voices and accents Stephens creates to accessorize the colorful characters in Christie’s plot of a murder on a train isolated in a snowdrift somewhere in the Balkans.

murdaondaOX

  • Meet Mary Russell, young wife of a retired Sherlock Holmes, whose first person narration is vocalized by Jenny Sterlin in several of Laurie R. King’s novels about this unlikely looking couple whose minds are a match.  In Dreaming Spies, the latest in the series, Russell and Holmes travel to Japan in 1924 and help the Crown Prince of Japan, with the help of a family of samurai, foil blackmailers who hold an ancient Japanese treasure.  Russell’s sharp perspective and the details of Japanese culture create a rich tale that holds the listener’s attention.

dreamingspies

Reviewed by Laura, Main Library