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.

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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

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

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

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

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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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

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

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The University of Southern California recently released some astonishing statistics on the amount of information a person encounters every day.  Whether it comes from advertising, content on social media or bumper stickers seen on the drive home, a good deal of what we consume is riddled with faulty logic! If you’ve ever heard or read an argument that sounded wrong but you weren’t quite sure why, The Art of Thinking Clearly can help.

Dobelli’s book is a catalog of logical fallacies and everyday examples to illustrate them.  “Catalog of Logical Fallacies” is not a sexy title so Dobelli wisely chose something more accessible. A cheerleader for precision in thought and speech, he teaches his readers to identify fallacies so they can spot sloppy thinking and build sound arguments of their own.

While the web provides numerous free sites that explain fallacies, Dobelli adds value to the learning experience. A recurring theme in the book is how to overcome the human weaknesses that lead us to make bad decisions.  We struggle to understand exponential growth, which can affect our financial lives; believe that there is a balancing force in the universe, which can affect our success at the craps table; and over plan, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and a stack of unfulfilled to do lists.  For each fallacy, the author offers a next time component, advising readers how to change their response in order to achieve a better outcome.

Dobelli’s collection includes 99 brief chapters that are perfect to breeze through and contemplate one-by-one.  Even if you only read a dozen, it will change how you respond to information and ultimately make you a better decision maker.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print), eBook

Reviewed by Valerie, Iroquois Branch

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is Canadian animator Guy Delisle‘s cartoon diary of his stay in North Korea while working in an animation studio. While other books focus on North Korea’s history, leadership, or place in international politics, this one examines with dry humor and sharp wit the day to day experience of living as a foreign guest worker in Pyongyang, and the tension between what is there, what visitors are allowed to see, and what everyone is allowed to say. The huge fake smiles plastered on the faces of the accordion girls – the illustration chosen for the cover – mirrors the ongoing theme of this bizarre masquerade.

Delisle’s style is classic cartoon, with clean line art and caricature, and he uses it to best effect, telling his story – presented as a series of vignettes – directly, effectively, and with great clarity and force. While other presentations of the same material could come off as heavy-handed or unrelievedly grim, Delisle manages the mood with a keen eye for the absurd, and pitch-black humor.

This often-surreal travelogue benefits from the distance of the author’s outside perspective, a remove that allows for humor and wit. Despite this, Pyongyang remains good-natured and compassionate, as well as insightful and entertaining. If you’re looking for a short but incisive and genuinely funny perspective on life in North Korea (at least the parts foreigners are allowed to see) this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Upcoming Author Talks at LFPL

Bestselling author and historian

H.W. Brands

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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.


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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.

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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

Redeployment by Phil Klay

redeploymentGerman philosophy Peter Sloterdijk talks about books as “thick letters to friends.”  Phil Klay mentions this in his acceptance speech for winner the recent National Book Award winning title for Redeployment.  Drawing from the front line of serving in the Marines during a 13 month deployment, Klay follows the life of one soldier on the front lines serving with his troop and the daily routine of survival in the Anbar Province where the Islamic State is attempting to takeover currently. Filled with grit, laughter, sadness, and contemplation, this work lured me in to keep on reading in attempting to understand how one individual attempts to resettle after being deployed in to another country.

Readers, who may suspect the story being filled with horrid violent scenes and moments of combat, will be disappointed as the real battle not only exists amongst the time away from the United States but in answering the question of “Who am I as a human being?”  While listening to book in my vehicle and having to keep it for a longer than the average 2-3 weeks, I contemplated on what personal challenges have I dealt with where the soldier survived to tell.

Formats Available:  Large Type, Audiobook, Regular Print, Book Discussion Kit, and Downloadable EBook.

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch

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If this title pleasures your literary mind, here are some titles similar in first person point of view and military orientation that you can check out from the Library.

the things they carriedYellow Birds

 

Facing Adversity: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

 

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“Let me embrace thee, sour Adversity
For wise men say it is the wisest course.”
– King Henry, Henry VI, Part Three, Act III, Scene I, William Shakespeare

Have you at any time considered your conduct should the thing you most value be taken from you, a loss that would throw in to doubt both present and future? Whether you have or not, please take a moment to carefully ponder this notion. What is it you imagine, I wonder? Bitterness, hope, resentment, or religiosity? No matter our station in life, one thing is certain: we will at some point encounter adversity, and it is at this moment that our true nature is revealed.

It is just such a scenario faced by the protagonist of Gabrielle Zevin’s latest work of fiction, A.J. Fikry, who is the young proprietor of a small business located in a charming purple Victorian cottage whose front porch sign invites:

ISLAND BOOKS
Alice Island’s Exclusive Provider of Fine Literary Content since 1999
No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World

From the start, it seems clear what A.J.’s choice is. However, fate has a way of thwarting the most carefully laid of plans, and A.J. finds himself with a unique challenge when returning from a run he discovers a baby girl alone among the few children’s picture books he stocks.

As the story progresses, the reader is drawn into the small community on Alice Island, a simple ferry ride from the coast of Massachusetts. Plagued in the past by slow traffic, business begins to increase due to the sudden youthful addition to Island Books, allowing A.J. the opportunity to share his literary expertise and to affect the lives of his fellow islanders through the power of literature.

A.J., a non-native of the island, was once considered an outsider and now finds himself creating connections and finding an acceptance that was previously neither sought nor bestowed. Book discussion groups multiply at the bookshop, with the local police chief’s, named the Chief’s Choice, becoming especially popular. A.J. navigates a variety of sticky situations, from a visit by an drunken author/Santa Claus impersonator to a sister-in-law married to a local celebrity infamous for his philandering, all the while admirably playing the hand that he was dealt.

Ms. Zevin has written an engaging book that presents the reader with an investigation of that very old concept of adversity and the role that fate can play, all through the framework of a very believable character, A.J., a person who, when first encountered, appears an unremarkable curmudgeon, but, in the end, is quite the opposite.

come on, sweetheart
let’s adore one another
before there is no more
of you and me”

– Rumi (Epigraph of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type and Large Type), eBook, Audiobook (CD)

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Ghosts By Daylight: Love, War and Redemption

Until I read Janine Di Giovanni’Ghosts By Daylight: Love, War and Redemption, I never considered the emotional toll journalists endure to bring us stories from the world’s conflict zones.  It turns out that giving a voice to the voiceless, as Di Giovanni calls her work, carries a heavy price.

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A veteran journalist who currently serves as Middle East editor at Newsweek, Di Giovanni routinely shares first person accounts of wartime suffering and violence that are often difficult to read. After reading her memoir I believe she would say that if she didn’t include details of the abuse the powerful inflict on the powerless, she wouldn’t be doing her job. If you’re hesitant to read about how humans torment other humans in wartime, be assured that Ghosts by Daylight is less about the atrocities of war than it is about how journalists cope with having witnessed them.

In her memoir, Di Giovanni describes her decision in her early 40s to leave her life in war zones behind, at least for awhile, to start a family in Paris with a French war photographer and love of her life. While one would expect her to experience relief at finally getting out of the insecurity of war and into a comfortable Parisian life, the reality is that human beings, like the conflicts we create with each other, are much more complicated. From her apartment in one of Paris’s quietest districts, she describes hoarding food, water, antibiotics and drafting an evacuation plan in case the city was ever under siege. When recounting her actions, she recalls that she never worried about being able to take care of herself, but the idea of being responsible for her infant son in a situation like the ones she has seen in the field gave her overwhelming anxiety.  Di Giovanni never felt afraid when she was dodging snipers in Sarajevo or negotiating with drugged and armed child soldiers in Cote d’Ivoire. Instead the realities and responsibilities of parenthood triggered the debilitating terror for which she had never gotten treatment.

Di Giovanni cites the disproportionate number of war correspondents who experience depression, substance abuse and suicide, all suggestive of untreated PTSD.  Whether symptoms strike at the work site or after returning home, the consequences can be deadly. She describes PTSD manifesting itself in reckless behavior, like her colleague who had once driven around Sniper Alley in Sarajevo with his car spray painted: Don’t waste your bullets; I am immortal.  Attributing her actions to the overconfidence of the survivor, she once argued with a soldier who had a weapon pointed at her heart to let her companion, a rebel who was surely to be executed, go free. After years of running into dangerous situations and not knowing where she would sleep each night, she came home to find that the danger she had evaded in the field felt as close and menacing as ever.

War correspondents make a career of helping us understand what it’s like to live in the absence of safety. Janine Di Giovanni’s memoir of living with PTSD offers a glimpse of how journalists experience that insecurity long after their assignment is over.

I first encountered Janine Di Giovanni’s work in Best American Travel Writing 2014. Her essay on covering the Bosnian War was so engrossing that I pursued her other works, including a piece about Syria in Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014. To find her thought-provoking and candid coverage of conflict zones all over the world, search for her name in the library’s EbscoHost Academic Search Complete  database.

Her new book, Seven Days in Syria, is due out this summer.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Valerie, Iroquois Branch