Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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Times are rough for Clay Jannon.  As a single male, he finds himself desperately trying to survive in San Francisco’s lackluster job market.  Working as a social media specialist for New Bagel Company, he attempts to draw more people in, to little avail, by offering coupons.  As things go wrong the company folds and the owners are off to another country.

Now, following in the footsteps of other unemployed workers, he searches through the online newspaper classifieds, in the hopes of finding employment and becoming a successful, accomplished young adult.  Walking around the streets keeping a vigilant eye out for stores with HELP WANTED signs displayed.  Clay spots a bookstore with a sign in the window:

HELP WANTED
Late Shift
Specific Requirements
Good Benefits

Thus begins a new chapter in Clay’s employment career as Mr. Penumbra, a little old shop keeper, reminiscent of Mr. Magoo sans visual impairment, hires him on the spot.  Filled with adventure and secret societies, the bookshop isn’t your typical bookstore, People from the community visit it to take out a book without ever having to pay for it.

While the late night shift turns slowly, one after the other, Clay decides to make a model of the bookstore, down to the exact dimensions of its contents, using his laptop.  When he finally completes the 3D blueprint of the store, secrets are revealed, which lead not only himself, but his friends and Penumbra on a through-provoking adventure.

Though this book may be labeled as Science Fiction, disregard the genre and immerse yourself as a fellow bibliophile ready to see what happens next in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Formats Available:  Book (in both Regular Type and Large Type)

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch

Laika by Nick Abadzis: The World’s Saddest Graphic Novel

Laika

 

Have you already read The Fault in Our Stars and need another tear jerker?  Look no further – this is it.  I started Laika in a coffee shop but I had to leave when the water works started.  I finished the book in private where no one would judge me crying over a graphic novel about a dog.  It was…an awkward moment.

You’ve been warned.

Before humans went into space, before chimps, there was Laika – the first living creature to go into orbit around the Earth.  Laika went up in Sputnik II; a rushed second satellite launched by the Soviets in 1957.

Laika was a loveable and loyal terrier mix who ended up going from home to home, even being a homeless stray, before getting caught by the dog catcher and given to the Soviet space program for experimentation.   Through all of it she was an upbeat dog, even loving the scientists who put her through such experiences like  being in the centrifuge at 4 G’s or strapping her into special dog space harnesses.   Those who worked with her came to love her so dearly, and author Abadzis really conveys the pain of the scientists who knew what they were doing – sending the dog on a one way trip into space.

Abadzis not only shows us what the stressed out and overworked Soviet scientists went through, but also lets us see the world through Laika’s eyes.  We see her confusion, her love, and in the end her pain.  This is story is not sugar coated – and it will break your heart.  Even if the story of Laika is familiar to you, this is a recommended read.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Lynette, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

LFPL’s Summer Reading begins June 1st!

SR2014

Help us kick off the biggest Summer Reading ever on May 31st, 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the Main Library!

There will be BIG games, BIG performances, BIG crafts, and Dinosaurs!

The kickoff is free.

For more information call (502) 574-1620.

The Library’s Summer Reading Program is presented by The Library Foundation and is free for children up to 5th grade.

Click here to learn more.

And be sure to join us for lots of FREE, family-friendly programs and activities all summer long at the Library - click here.

 

 

Six Months Later by Natalie Richards

sixmolater

 

Ever heard your-self say, “I don’t remember what I did yesterday?”  Imagine waking to find that you have lost six months of your life and in the interim you have changed into someone you don’t even recognize.

It was May when Chloe drifted off to sleep in detention class but when she awoke it was November, snow falling outside the dark cafeteria window.  Her fingernails were caked with dirt, the knees of her jeans, too, were dirt packed.  Then he was there, behind her, asking why she had called him. Called him? Never in her right mind would she have called Adam Reed, the quintessential bad boy at school. Was this a nightmare or reality?

Chloe, formally an average student, was now at the top of her class, her boyfriend was Blake Tanner the most popular guy in the school and her best friend, the reason she had gotten detention, hated her. She had everything her parents ever wanted for her, grades that could get her into the best college, a boyfriend who was the catch of the school, friends that were from the best families in town and yet, something was definitely wrong.

When had she and Adam Reed had become more than just friends?  Why had a family that had lived here since the beginning moved away and why did Chloe care?  Even Adam and Blake seemed to have secrets between them that centered around her. Then, the psychiatrist she had gone to for answers turns up dead. Chloe had better find answers soon or she could very well be next.

The characters are brought to life with all their imperfections. Some you may want to hug, some you may want to cry for, some you may want to shake some sense into and some you just want to choke. There is intrigue and mystery, murder and mayhem, romance and friendship and a whole lot of questions. In the end, one of the most important questions is left up to the reader to decide for themselves. “How could this have happened in the first place?”  Get ready to curl up in a warm spot because Six Months Later could make your blood run cold.

Formats Available:  Book, eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

May 10, 2014 is The How-To Festival!

There’s something for everybody, even readers!

Here’s a few things being offered that you can learn how to do:

  • download newpaper articles using microfilm
  • search historical newspapers
  • read and write braille
  • publish your own book

How-To Festival -- Saturday, May 10 at the Main Library

Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Main Library

For the complete schedule of presentations - click here.


If you are planning to go, let us know:

Want to join the conversation? Connect with us (#howtofestival):

 


In the meantime, check out our videos about The How-To Festival at LFPL’s YouTube channel.


Special thanks to our sponsors:

Community Foundation of LouisvilleThe Library Foundation

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist by Nancy Goldstein

jackieormes

Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist is a strange bird of a book.  On one hand, it is a reverent – albeit short – biography of a mostly-forgotten forerunner of modern black women in comics.  Cheryl Lynn Eaton (creator of the web-comic Simulated Life and founder of the Ormes Society), Rosario Dawson (co-creator of Occult Crimes Taskforce), Afua Richardson (artist for Genius), and Jackie Broadnax (creator of the Black Girl Nerds blog) all owe a huge debt to Jackie Ormes‘ trailblazing comics.  Ormes authored and drew four different strips from 1937 to 1954 which appeared in African American newspapers, particularly the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender.

This was a time, of course, when opportunities for African Americans and women, let alone African American women, were limited in the comics industry.  In addition, the series were – mostly – not the kind of simple gag strip that was a major part of the industry.  They expressed many moods and dealt with topics often not touched by other comics.  Her work Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger was very direct in taking on racism and McCarthyism. Another strip, Torchy in Heartbeats followed an educated African-American protagonist as she not only navigated romantic options but also issues of race, environmental activism, and even foreign intrigue.

Due to Ormes’ outspoken political beliefs and activism on their behalf, she was targeted by the FBI during the late 1940’s and 1950’s.  Goldstein has appended excerpts from the FBI file.  These primarily consist of several different interviews that were conducted over the years due to her leftist leanings and the anti-Communist hysteria of the times.  Ormes consistently stated (and nothing to the contrary was definitively documented by the FBI) that she was not a Communist though sympathetic to the Party’s anti-racist and pro-worker principles.

But on the other hand, author Nancy Goldstein was previously known for having written histories of dolls. It is Goldstein’s initial interest in dolls that lead to the creation of this biography. Jackie Ormes developed a positive African American doll, produced by the Terri Lee Doll Company, in the late 1940’s.  An examination of the doll’s creation, marketing, and impact – a small part of Ormes’ artistic output – takes up a large portion of the book.

The Patty-Jo dolls were based on the younger sister of her most prolific strip.  Patty-Jo was not as glamorous as her older sister, Ginger, but she was the one given all the pointed dialogue in the strip.  As a doll, though, Patty-Jo had many outfits and hair that was able to be easily styled.  This made her an appealing toy to young African-American girls who had – at that time – very few choices for African-American dolls that were not stereotypical or demeaning.

For readers primarily interested in the comic side of Ormes’ work, there are copious illustrations from her strips, some early drawings, and other sketches.  Her line work is typical of the time in that it is solid, clean, and mostly realistic.  Sometimes the perspective of the human body is odd but oddly enduring at the same time.  I found great joy in just flipping back and forth over the illustrations.

Goldstein knows that this book is somewhat incomplete in documenting the impact of Jackie Ormes and acknowledges so in the Conclusion.  Some of this is due to the general lack of archives for old African-American newspapers in many library collections.  To help rectify this problem, she calls for renewed donation of materials to and funding for several main collections of comic material such as the Cartoon Research Library (Ohio State University) or the Comic Art Collection (Michigan State University).

 Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by Tony, Main Library

Vagabond by Inoue Takehiko

Author’s Note:  For consistency, all Japanese names in this review will be in traditional order – surname first, and given second.

 

13Vagabond

 

Inoue Takehiko has created a masterpiece in Vagabond – not just for the breathtaking artwork, but for the story as well. A loose retelling of Yoshikawa Eiji’s 1935 novel Musashi, in turn loosely based on history, this manga series follows Miyamoto Musashi as he follows the way of the sword, testing his skill in mortal combat, ultimately transforming him through introspection into a more whole and compassionate human being. Yet, despite the action-heavy premise, characters drive the plot and interest.

 

Slam Dunk

 

The author’s previous experience with the high school basketball saga Slam Dunk informs the fight scenes with the crackle of tension and physical struggle, yet the characters and their development through slow growth and sudden insight hold just as much interest, if not more, as duels to the death. Tightly plotted encounters and fleshed-out characters illustrate facets of the journey to enlightenment in the way of the sword. What to do with pain and rage or even kindness in an unfair and often violent world – this question, and the success different characters have in answering it, lies at the heart of the story. Is it possible to run away forever, from pain and responsibility, as Matahachi tries to do? What if rage grows unchecked, as it does for Gion Toji? Grief, love, and death stand as open and complex questions underpinning the plot. Despite characters’ places in the story as questions or foils, they each grow, or fail to, thrive, or die, in a vivid and electrically realistic way.

Inoue has taken liberties with the original novel, but even those update and refresh aspects that would not be as relatable to a modern audience. The character Otsu, for example, while a blank, rather flat archetype of a love interest in the original novel – is a much more developed, complex person in Vagabond, struggling to transcend her own abandonment and rejection, first by her birth parents, then by her fiancée, and even her own adopted mother.

21Vagabond

It takes a lot of guts for an author to adapt a classic and acclaimed work of literature from the past for the present. In addition to the pitfalls inherent in re-telling a well-known story (how to keep it fresh?), every decision the author makes comes under microscopic scrutiny (what to change, what to keep?). Even more challenging, then, is an adaptation across media, such as turning a Shakespeare play into a film. Adapting a beloved work of the modern literary canon for a comic book, however, is audacious, bordering on career suicide. Yet, Inoue Takehiko has done just this, and triumphed. Whether you love manga already, or if you have never tried the medium, Vagabond is a thrill to read – intelligent, sophisticated, and driven by the sensitive depiction of its characters.

 

Editor’s Note:  If you are new to the Japanese format of manga (or its sister format anime), check out the author’s FAQ (which is also available on the Reader’s Corner’s Comics and Manga page).

Formats Available:  Manga

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

dont look back

What would you do if you woke up in the hospital, not knowing who you were, and also learning that your best friend went missing on the same day and hasn’t been found? Do you try and solve the mystery on your own or do you just give up?

When I first began reading Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout, I thought to myself that is seemed like I had read it before. The storyline seemed to be a little bit overused. But once I got past the first three chapters, I could tell that it was going to be nothing like I had ever read.

This book had mystery, intrigue, love and horror, all wrapped up into one crazy book. The main character, Samantha, known to her friends as Sam, wakes up in the hospital, not knowing who she is, where she was when they found her, and how she got to the hospital. She also finds out that her best friend, Cassie, is also missing. We learn that she has suffered some form of traumatic amnesia and she must learn who she is all over again. As she starts to talk to the people that were closest to her, including her twin brother Scott, she finds out that she was the queen bee of a group of mean girls who “ruled the school.”

As the story progresses, Sam begins to disassociate with her previous “friends” and begins the task of trying to mend some broken friendships, including that of Carson, whose father works for Samantha’s family and whom she learns used to be her best friend. Of course, she was an utter crazy person to him but he begins to see that maybe she has changed for the better.

As new facts begin to surface, Samantha begins to see that things were the way they were in her life because she was trying to be someone that she wasn’t.  Once she took her life in her own hands, the people around her begin to drastically change. All the while, she is trying to figure out what happened the night that she and Cassie disappeared and, more importantly, where in the heck was Cassie?

There are so many things in the book that make it exceptional. If I write too much, I would give the story away and then what would be the point of you reading it on your own? Let me just say this, you will be very shocked to find out the surprise twist. I would highly recommend this book to teenagers over the age of fifteen. The reasoning behind this is because there are some subject matter in the book that is very mature. I would almost say that it borders on being a New Adult book, but older teenagers would find it very intriguing.

I gave the book four stars and not five because the amnesia story has been done so many times. As a matter of fact, there was a book published recently with the same premise, girl has amnesia, finds out she is super rich and that she was a super-bitch. You know, been there, read that. I almost put it down and did not finish but I also wanted to see if it had any redeeming qualities and if it was like any of the others that I ever read and I’m glad I did. It completely blew my mind. I’m super glad that I didn’t judge this book by the storyline.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Key series by Nora Roberts

Sometimes family isn’t just about the blood that runs through your veins.  Sometimes family is also the bond you form in your most desperate of hours when it seems like all hope might be lost, and the love that grows from that, that could last a lifetime. This is what I often call my heart family, the ones who’ll stand beside me no matter what happens, not because we share blood, but because we share our hearts.

So, if you take that concept of a heart family, throw in a couple of Welsh and Celtic gods, cursed sister souls trapped in a box for a few thousand years and throw in the incredible writing skills of  Ms. Nora Roberts, what do you come up with?  Why that would be the KEY series of course.

keyolite

So our trilogy begins with three beautiful strangers who all live in Pleasant Valley but have never actually met, all of them twenty-something professionals on the verge of a major career change… or possibly a crashing and crushing end of those respective careers?  The first story (Key of Light) focuses on Malory Price, the art expert and manager for the town’s most successful gallery.  She knows her art and her customers too well, and quickly tangles with the owner’s new trophy wife (who, well, doesn’t know art) and puts her career and her future on the chopping block.  

keyoknowledg

Second comes (Key of Knowledge) and Dana Steele, the town’s highly skilled and super well-read librarian, and the go to girl for world class trivia challenges, who’s fighting both nepotism and budget cuts within the ;system’.  Third comes (Key of Valor) and Zoe McCourt a struggling but talented hairstylist, and warrior hearted mother to 9 year old Simon who has a jealous salon manager who’s bent on seeing her fired.

keyovalor

All three ladies are brought together on one dark and stormy night (yes, the classic line is finally brought to life in this series) for a cocktail party hosted by the mysterious Rowena and Pitt, an old souled couple who own Warrior’s Peak, the ethereal fortress of stone high up on the hill that overlooks Pleasant Valley… guardians of the valley, or so it seems. Shockingly, they are the only three guests to be invited, and there seems to be no connection between the three ladies at first, other than, of course their eerie and striking resemblance to the ‘Daughters of Glass’ a trio of demi-goddess sisters whose souls were cursed three centuries ago.

And therein lays the challenge of the gods…literally.  Can this valiant trio of women of women, in just one short cycle of the moon, find one of three lost keys?  These keys can, when brought together, unlock the prison box, and release the souls of those three trapped demi-goddesses before it’s too late and the curse lasts forever.

And what is their reward, just for accepting the challenge that they, at first, think is totally crazy?  Why $25,000 of course…each, upon acceptance of the contract, with an ultimate prize of $1 million for each woman should all them succeed in their quest.

And little do these three ‘sisters’ know that they are beginning the quest of a lifetime, (of many lifetimes and of many trios of women as it turns out) a friendship and sisterhood is quickly formed, and a family (of sorts) is born.

Enter Simon, the spitting image of his ‘pulled herself up by her bootstraps’ mom Zoe, whose spirit simply cannot be tamed and whose curiosity and energy knows no bounds.  Then there’s Flynn, Dana’s step-brother and his incorrigible beast of a dog Moe (if that’s what you dare to call an animal which is more wooly mammoth than actual pooch).  Flynn falls hard for, and ON, Malory the first time they met, with the help of Moe who has so much energy to burn he might be considered a hazard.  He’s a flirt (Flynn and Moe) and may just be more than Malory bargained for.  So, can she, the woman who’s planned her life out in detail and reset her plan yearly get passed the goofiness of Moe to fall for Flynn too. 

And Flynn is only the beginning.  He’s also one part of a ‘trinity’ himself, with two childhood best friends who all share a long history in the valley. 

One, Jordan, is the famous author and golden child success story of Pleasant Valley. He has a heart filled with regrets over a decision made in haste when he was no more than a boy, who, as a man, still pines for the woman whose heart he callously broke and for the love of the one woman he cared for, but sacrificed far too easily because he didn’t understand that real love, with that one, good woman (Dana) could cure any pain in his heart, even that of the loss of a parent.  Can Dana forgive the man, and risk her heart again to the boy who broke it?

The other friend is Brad, the rich boy from town and the heir apparent to the town’s lumber dynasty.  He fell head over heels for a woman he never met (Zoe) just from seeing her face in a painting.  Zoe, the poor white trash girl, who’s mom cut hair out of their trailer to feed her family, who never believed someone like him could fall so hard and so fast for a girl like her, much less the 9 year old that’s part of the package. But, alas, those are stories for the two sequels…ones well worth getting to know.

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook

Reviewed by Tracie, Southwest Branch

The Lady Vanishes

EmptyMansions

What is it about a mystery that so captivates the imagination and spikes one’s interest?  Hidden histories, concealed conspiracies, and secrets spirited away spur the cogs of the human mind to rotate in double time in an effort to consider and grasp the possibilities that exist.

Empty Mansions: the Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. attempts to shed some light on the mysterious life of an American woman, Ms. Huguette Clark, whose unconventional way of life and veiled existence leaves one with an overwhelming curiosity and a wish to pierce the cloak of her life.

But this is not the typical mystery involving murder, a legendary bank heist, or the disappearance of some person.  It is, rather, the life led by Ms. Clark that would seem incomprehensible to many if not most.  You see, Ms. Clark was born the youngest daughter of one of the wealthiest American men of the Gilded Age, Mr. William Clark, but despite her incredible inherited wealth, Ms. Clark led a quiet and extremely reclusive life.

With estates in both California and Connecticut, lodgings in the Upper East Side of Manhattan that encompassed an entire floor, and an art collection that included paintings by Renoir and Monet and valued in the tens of millions of dollars, Ms. Clark most certainly could have provided herself with every creature comfort available, yet she did not.

Instead, she chose to spend her last years in an isolated hospital room, surrounded not by family or friends, but those persons in her paid service, and what a lucrative service it was, which begs the question: had she in fact chosen this fate?  Therein lies the mystery.

After her death in 2011 at the age of 104, distant relatives, many of whom had never spoken with Ms. Clark, came together to file a suit that contested a recent will that left Ms. Clark’s family out.  With missing jewelry, art being stolen and sold, and large sums questionably spent, many questions abound, and Mr. Dedman has made an admirable attempt to provide possible answers based on his extensive research and investigation.  This is a tale that is sure to hold the interest of the reader and intrigue with its many facets.

Formats Available:  Book, E-book

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill Branch