Author Archives: Tony

The Six by Mark Alpert

sixalpert

In the not too distant future six teens, each with a fatal illness, have chosen to leave their decaying bodies to transfer their “memories and personalities” to Pioneer robots, eight-hundred pounds of metal and neuromorphic electronic circuitry. Leaving their human shells behind is only the beginning for these adventurers.  At first, there is pain and anger at losing their human form. Then, the fear takes over; fear of losing their memories, their humanity or of simply disappearing.  Now they must learn to harness the technology at the tips of their synapse, as well as, coming to grips with the power and strength given their robotic forms. This second chance at life comes with a very high price. The Six must confront Sigma and all costs stop it. A highly developed, Artificial Intelligence, Sigma has escaped human control and is out to rid the world of its greatest nemesis, humans.

Adam, Jenny, Zia, Shannon, Marshall and DeShawn each with their own distinct personality demonstrates you can still be unique even when you are housed in identical forms. But, maybe one of the most difficult tasks for these teens will be learning to work as a team, caring about each other, fighting together and just plain getting along. Highly intelligent, each of these teens was chosen for the Pioneer Project because they are dying. Adam is a geek, who has spent years writing computer games, Zia, has street smarts and is tough as nails, Jenny, is a debutante who had everything, Shannon, a classmate of Adam’s is a wiz at math, Marshall, never let his deformity label him, and DeShawn, has a wicked sense of humor. Full of adventure, heart-ache and intriguing scientific facts, it is a roller coaster ride of emotions, a rousing battle for control of the Earth with teens who will face losses, death and decisions many adults couldn’t handle. And while they don’t come away unscathed, they command respect for who they are and how they handle what life throws at them. The final pages will have you searching the skies, or at least the Internet, for the next installment to hit the streets.

Mark Alpert takes us into our scientific future and begs the question can we hang on to our humanity, compassion, knowledge and understanding of others if we no longer hold a physical human form. Can we handle being given great strength and almost unlimited power to control the world around us?  I had a hard time putting The Six down, even though at times I was slowed down a bit by where Mark Alpert was going with his scientific knowledge. I could hear the teen’s voices clearly in the characters, right down to the misbehavior antics and lack of emotional control at times.  The commander was a bit stereotypical of a military leader, ‘my way or the highway’, but it fit in with the storyline. There was plenty of high adventure, strife, just a hint of romance and there was enough battle action to make me feel like I was watching a World War II movie.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

The Diviners by Libba Bray

thedivinersJust finished The Diviners today and it is definitely a compelling story set in an interesting time period – the Roaring Twenties.  And it is about fascinating (though occasionally disgusting) paranormal events. But I hate to say it, the book just isn’t as good as it should be.

The Diviners’ diminished impact stems primarily from stretches where the research was so good that Libba Bray couldn’t resist putting in all of her discoveries. The result is a novel which clocks in at almost 600 pages, a good number of which are non-essential to moving along an otherwise thrilling tale.

There are also odd descriptive elements – such as an anthropomorphic wind – that are convenient for linking scenes but do not really add much to the tale. Granted, it may be that the wind takes on a much more important role in the second book, Lair of Dreams, as varied dark forces rise across the land, but I doubt it.

Yet that’s not to say that this is a bad book, not at all.

In fact, the overall structure of the book is solid and the tale is a complete one but which also leaves room for further adventures of its ensemble cast. Further, Bray always delivers on witty dialogue and surprisingly complex emotional motivations for characters that would be flat and cookie-cutter in the hands of a lesser writer.

Take the emotional center, the vivacious Evie O’Neill, formerly of Zenith, Ohio, who has come to Manhattan to live with her Uncle Will. She is the quintessential teenager coming of age in the Jazz Age, all brashness and go, go, go attitude. Evie could have easily been a shell of a person, much as Daisy Buchanan was in The Great Gatsby, but ends up being much braver and tender-hearted than the flapper persona she works so hard at creating. Through her lens, this tale of ghosts and murders feels like an adventure closer to the action pulps of the day rather than a horror tale of the Lovecraftian persuasion it could have been.

lairofdreamsAlso, there is a good deal of mystery surrounding Evie’s Uncle Will and his connection to Sister Margaret Walker, industrialist Jake Marlowe, and con-man Sam Lloyd through a mysterious Project Daedalus. Just enough about the Project is leaked along the way by another character, Jericho Jones, so that one ends up naturally anticipating the unfolding backstory of these characters. Rarely does a series of this nature (horror bordering on paranormal fantasy) get a reader excited about the next installment unless the original plot is unfinished or there is a heavy romance angle left unresolved.

 

Bray also has a fun promotional website for this series at NOVL: http://thenovl.com/thedivinersseries

What’s New at the Library?

LFPL News

RSS at LFPL Check out what’s going on at the library with our Louisville Free Public Library news. Click here to see the current issue.

Audio

RSS at LFPL Listen up for recommendations on the best in new audiobooks. Each month, you’ll hear about new spoken-word audios to keep you entertained, enlightened and in-the-know.

Click here to see the current issue.

Book Sizzle

RSS at LFPL A weekly roundup of reading recommendations including bestsellers, new arrivals, collection highlights and books discussed on television and radio this week. Look for this newsletter in your inbox every Friday afternoon, just in time for the weekend. Then stop by the library to pick up your selections.

Click here to see the current issue.

Bookletters Daily

RSS at LFPL Stay in the know — sign up for this newsletter and receive a review of the “Book of the Day” each morning.

Click here to see the current issue.

powered by © 1994-2015 All Rights Reserved

Stealing Candy by Allison Hobbs

stealing candy

Allison Hobbs has written a book that is gritty, raw and brutally honest about the dark underworld of sex trafficking.  Fifteen year old Gianna “Lollipop” Strand goes to the boardwalk to meet a friend and befriends Bullet.  Unbeknownst to her, he is an ex-con who abducts her so that he can be her pimp.

Not intended to be a book with a happy ending, Stealing Candy warns about the dangers of living on the streets.  It reminds you to keep a close eye on your children so that they know about the hidden dangers of talking to strangers.  It also reminds you to focus on what is important in life.

I wish this book was more kid friendly.  I would definitely have recommended it to some of my younger readers but Hobbs has created a very graphic tale that can, at times, be utterly disgusting.  I’m not saying that she isn’t a fabulous writer but even I had to skip lines because they were too strong for me to take.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Something for Everyone in Five Comics Books

Whether you have always loved comics or you never picked one up in your life, if you want to read about cape-and-tights heroes or curl up with something trendy and artsy, then this list has something for you.

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is proof that a good story doesn’t even need words. A stunning narrative of an immigrant’s experience in a new and alien land, it’s like having someone play solos about hope and isolation on your heartstrings.

Barbarian Lord – Matt Smith

This is the comic book that Vikings would have written if Vikings wrote comic books. Sure, there are other comic books that try to capture the age, or even just borrow the aesthetic, but Barbarian Lord reads like a deadly-serious re-telling of one of the Icelandic Sagas.

Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde; Roy Thomas; Sebastian Fiumara.

It’s a hard task to adapt a longer book to graphic format, but Marvel does a fantastic job with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Taking a dark, psychological, Gothic novel and adapting it successfully to graphic format – that’s nothing short of a miracle.


Astro City: Confession– Kurt Busiek; Alex Ross; Brent Anderson.

If you never read comics because you felt superheroes were flat characters and the world they are set in simplistic, Confession will change your mind. Smart, sensitive, and nuanced.  The storytelling will keep you glued to the page.

Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others – Mike Mignola

Although the third in the Hellboy series, this volume of short stories speaks to the soul of the series: respect for the source material. If you like gritty, pitch-perfect renditions of folklore and mythology, and a bit of dry humor on the side, this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Originally posted on LFPL’s Teen Blog at http://blogs.lfpl.org/teen/2015/01/07/something-for-everyone-in-5-comic-books/

Best Graphic Story Nominees for 2015 Hugo Awards

 

Hugo

The nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards (named in honor of Hugo Gernsback, founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories ) were recently announced.

amazingstories

The Hugo Awards are given to the creators of the year’s best science fiction and fantasy works. Winners will be announced at this year’s Hugo Awards Ceremonies during the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention (also known as Worldcon), which will be held at Sasquan, August 19-23 in Spokane, WA.

In the near future, we’ll be spotlighting other Hugo Award categories but today we’ll be focusing on those for Best Graphic Story.  The following nominees can be found in the LFPL catalog:

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

msmarvel

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

ratqueens

Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

saga3

 

To see the complete list of this year’s categories and nominees, visit www.thehugoawards.org.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

findingaudrey

Sophie Kinsella, best known for her Shopaholic series for adults, takes a stab at teen fiction with Finding Audrey, the story of a 14 year old who suffers from a severe social anxiety disorder.  Throughout the book the reader is aware that Audrey wasn’t always the socially avoidant person she has become, something happened at school the previous year that has made her unable to even look another person in the eyes.  She wears dark glasses, doesn’t leave the house, and the very thought of many social situations leaves her in bed for days.

The reader joins Audrey at an important moment in her life; she is stuck with what is left of her after ‘”an incident” involving several other classmates.  Audrey is slowly progressing towards feeling better with the help of her chaotic and hilarious family and Dr. Sarah.  Then Linus enters Audrey’s life.  A friend of her brother’s, Linus is able to help Audrey talk through her feels and offers support in a way she felt safe and comfortable.  As her personal health improves a sweet romance blooms between Linus and Audrey that makes you feel all warm inside.

This is a great summer read, newly published, and sure to make you feel great.  It’s warm and gooey with hilarious family moments.  Laptops of chucked from windows, video game tournaments are lost, and at the heart of it all a serious message of teenage bullying and learning to overcome fears.  We never learn exactly what happened to Audrey – though we get small glimpses.  I think the not knowing makes the title more accessible to readers who might come to the book with a variety of issues in their own life.

There have been many teen books on the market that specifically detail the type of trauma their character has endured and while I find those helpful I think the flexibility of ambiguity.  It also ensures the book remains overall upbeat and light – we get the PSA without feeling low at the end.  I laughed so many times with this book, I hope you will too.  Enjoy!

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke

neptuneprojectGlobal warming has ravaged the planet in this dystopian tale of dwindling land and water needed to grow food and a government with little care for its people.  Nere is a young teen whose world is falling apart around her, even faster.  The supply of a rare medicine needed to help her breathe on land, is running out. Two years ago she lost her father in an accident, or so she thought. Then her beloved brother left after an argument with Gillian, their mother. Cam, her best friend, is involved with smugglers that could cost him his freedom, if not his life.  Her only escape from all the chaos around her is the time she spends in the water training and communicating, telepathically, with a family of dolphins.

Then the day comes, when the Western Alliance, the world’s rulers, have decided to move the people of the village away from sea. For three young teens Nere, Rory, Cam’s little brother, and Lena, an old school friend time has run out. In a final act of desperation, Gillian reveals the secrets she has been keeping. Nere and the others are part of an experiment; their genes had been altered so they could live in the world’s waterways and they must take the final steps that will make living on the land impossible.  James, her brother, had been part of the experiment too, but something had gone terribly wrong. The three teens must now set out on a journey to find the underwater settlement her father has been building for years, thousands of miles away. Gillian, Cam and Lena’s parents gather to say goodbye and give them instructions when soldiers show up to prevent them from leaving. A fight breaks out. Not everyone escapes.

The surface world is dying and humanity’s only chance for survival may be life under the sea. The journey is more than just the miles the teens will have to travel. They must face the reality that they will never be able to live on land again and while life under the sea is beautiful it is also deadly.  While, not all the danger they face comes from the marine life. The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke is the first in a trilogy.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Upcoming Author Talks at LFPL

Bestselling author and historian

H.W. Brands

brandshw

Main Library, Monday, June 15, 7 p.m.

Join bestselling author and historian H.W. Brands for a discussion of his latest book Reagan: The Life. Brands teaches history and writing at the University of Texas at Austin. #LFPLAuthors

This is a free event, but tickets are required – click here.


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

David Hoffman

hoffman

Main Library, Thursday, July 21, 7 p.m.

Join Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist David Hoffman for a discussion of his latest book The Billion Dollar Spy. Hoffman is a contributing editor at The Washington Post. #LFPLAuthors

Tickets available starting June 1, 2015.


Miss an author event, or just want to enjoy a presentation again?

Listen to the podcast or Watch it online

Authors at the Library
Welcome to LFPL’s “At the Library” series, an ongoing podcast featuring author talks, programs and events at the Louisville Free Public Library.

Subscribe to this podcast Subscribe with iTunes

In Defense of Comics, pt. 3

I had originally intended this segment to be a discussion of how comics can be differentiated from other visual arts but points in my original post have generated some very good questions from readers that should be addressed first.

The questions all refer back to the following statement:

“Comics are not just for kids and never really were except for those with some deep investment in an arbitrary highbrow/lowbrow distinction. This distinction is one based on historically constructed relations that give privilege to very debatable aesthetic principles.” (Buchanan, 2014)

You’ll notice that this paragraph is – primarily – composed of two assertions, one about the appropriateness of comics to any particular age group and another about the standards for judging a form of art.  The latter point also expressly questions such standards based on an – ancillary – investigation into how such standards are derived (or rather, constructed).  Implied in the standards are further questions regarding the nature of this “authority” (i.e., what fits a certain category of art, who can or should enforce standards for the categories, etc.).

Let’s look at the first assumption, often expressed by critics of comics as some variation of “comics are just for children,” and how it fails to hold up as something other there than a pat dismissal of the art form.

For the sake of discussion, let’s define comics quickly as publications that tell stories with pictures on paper using pencil and/or ink that may or may not incorporate words.  It’s not the only – or even best – definition but it conforms well to the general understanding of what makes a comic.  In the West, broadsides and their descendants, mass publication newspapers, have included such stories – either editorial or entertaining – in some form since the 18th Century.

These information outlets have hardly been within the purview of children in that time.  Other than following the comics page, children have used newspapers mostly for mandatory research into a current or historical event for class.  With the rise of the Internet, even the modern media-savvy child is less likely to read the printed newspaper than ever before.  Further, children’s input into mass publication newspapers has rarely extended beyond the comics page.  Only a few features such as comics page war-horse Slylock Fox have solicited input from and encouraged participation by kids.

Mass publication newspapers are owned by, created by, and published for adults.  As cartoons (and comic strips) have been a staple of newspapers for over 200 years, it would indicate that they are deemed appropriate for adults.  The function of the comic strip was to leaven serious publications with some light-hearted fun, helping to increase circulation.  It is this aspect of joviality that gave the comic its name, separating it from the more serious (in intent) “cartoon.”

The evolution of the comic strip to the comic book was tied to the fortunes of the newspaper in the era between the First and Second World Wars.  The earliest comic books were simply republications of strips in a different format.  The first monthly comic book, Comics Monthly, was published in 1922. It lasted for 12 issues and reprinted various comic strips from 1921. During the Great Depression, publishers even created comic books for give-away just to keep their very expensive printing presses running.

Traditional comic books have been consumed by adults continuously since 1920’s.  During World War II, about 44% of servicemen read comics regularly and another 13% read them occasionally. (Gordon, 1998, p. 139)  According to the U.S. War Department, comics accounted for approximately 25% of all printed materials sent overseas to soldiers in 1944. (Gordon, 1998, p. 140)  Figures for comic book readers over the years are notoriously hard to pin down but adults have become the dominant demographic as generations of comic fans have grown older and continue to read them.

So why were comics supposedly just for children?

Looking back to the period before World War II when this cultural attitude took root, the newspaper was often considered a lower form of information than literature or scholarly studies.  It was literally disposable.  Comic strips – one of the least important features – were especially ephemeral, viewed by many as nothing that an adult would think twice about.

Even the stand alone comic book was thought to be a cheap publication akin to pulp magazines rather than a proper book.  The lurid or gaudy figures that dominated comics in those days – private detectives, action adventurers, funny animals, and superheroes – were deemed inappropriate for “literature.”  The stories were seen as less coherent and less meaningful, as something that appealed to the under-developed tastes of children.

Further comics were under attack during the late 1940’s to early 1950’s.  The attacks were part of a general paranoia about the rising demographic of the “teen” and its potential delinquency.  It culminated in the Comics Code Authority, a self-regulating board for the comics industry, which enforced a series of rules which guaranteed that comics in the U.S. would be suitable for children.  Unfortunately, the industry was also stifled from developing for many years, so much so that mainstream comics ended up reinforcing the idea of the art form being “just for children.”

How this all changed is something for another article, though.

If you would like to talk about comics further, please join us for the Graphic Novel Discussion Group at the Main Library. The next meeting will take place tomorrow, May 11th, at 6:00 PM.

GraphicNovelGroup_Planetary_Main

______________________________________________________________________________

Works Cited:

Buchanan, A. (2014, September 25). In Defense of Comics. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://blogs.lfpl.org/readers/734/

Gordon, I. (1998). Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, 1890-1945. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

 Article by Tony, Main Library