This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

thisiswhereitendsThis fictional tale could have been taken from today’s headline news.

It is the story of a teen that has lost contact with reality and blames others for his feelings of abandonment and loneliness.  He enters his former high school armed with the means to lock down the school on his terms, with a deadly weapon to “show the world” and “to be remembered.”  The reader is initially placed outside when the gun shots are heard for the first time, locked out of the auditorium.   As the story progress, the author places you right there inside the auditorium facing death.

The story unfolds in four voices:

  • Claire is a senior on the track team who was excused from the school assembly this morning along with several other team mates for early morning practice. 
  • Tomas, on detention with his friend Fareed, for gluing the desk drawers of a teacher, also excused from the assembly. 
  • Sylv is a senior with her choice of college. 
  • Autumn is a junior and a gifted dancer with a dream.

The last two aren’t so lucky.  They are seated in the auditorium with a thousand other teens listening to the Principal’s speech.  That is until a young man steps up on stage to ask a question.  A young man with a gun named Tyler. 

Tyler is Autumn’s brother.  He is the son of an abusive alcoholic and their mother died two years ago in car accident.  Tyler’s girlfriend broke away from him when she saw the mean, abusive side he had hidden for so long.  In his eyes, he has lost everything and everyone he ever loved.  Tyler believes that it’s his turn to make people sit up, take notice of him, and pay for the pain they have caused him.

You are there, watching while innocent teens are murdered or maimed.  You are running for help but feel helpless to do anything about what is going on inside the school.  You are the heroes that, in spite of their bad boy images, risk their lives to free those students under fire.

Through flashbacks and memories you will learn about Claire, Tyler’s ex-girlfriend and her disabled brother Matt, who is in the auditorium.  Fareed, Tomas’ cohort in crime, is an A student who happens to be Muslim.  Tomas and Sylv are twins who were so close until a year ago and whose mother is mentally drifting away.  Autumn  dreams of going to Julliard when she graduates.  She is also Sylv’s girlfriend.  

The story draws you in and places you in seat at the center of the terror.  It locks you outside, scared for those inside the assembly hall, feeling helpless and places you in a heroes shoes.  This isn’t just a headline story anymore.  The fictional story has all the grit of a true tale.

This Is Where It Ends is a drama filled novel, full of emotion that may have you taking a second look at some of the people around you and realizing that there is more to them than what you can see on the outside.  And while Marieke Nijkamp has given us a diverse group of characters (various ethnic origins, different religions, and gay teens), each has their own perspective of what’s happening and what they are capable of doing.  Some are too terrified to move, some try to escape where there is no escape, some are targeted for death, and a few are foolishly brave, heroes.

By the end of the story, I really cared about this group that I had only met for a few hours before, and wondered where the the survivors would be a year from now.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Spotlight: A Great Way to Find the Books You Are Looking For!

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NoveList is a great tool for those who are either searching for a particular title (especially if one is unsure exactly what the title may be) or are just looking for recommendations.

This database is designed for use by readers of all tastes.  It opens with a clean, uncluttered splash page and has easy to use navigation buttons or tabs.  There is also a search engine if one would prefer to use text as the method of search.

Here’s what Novelist will look like when you click on the link (which can be found on the right side menu here on the Reader’s Corner or under LFPL‘s Research Tools page):

NoveList Display

How does it work?

The easiest way is to use the Basic Search box at the top of each page.  There you will be able to search for a title, author, series, or topic. When you use the default Keyword options from the drop-down menu, NoveList will search for your terms in the full text of all NoveList content, including annotations, reviews, and NoveList articles and lists

You can conduct a more focused search by selecting the Title, Author, or Series options from the drop-down menu.

Searching for books by an author:

Because the Basic Search box searches the full text of reviews and articles, NoveList will search for all instances of the author’s name when you enter it in the Basic Search with the default Keyword option selected. From the Author tab of your Result List, you can click on an Author link to access the Author Detail page.  From the Author tab, you will also be able to access the Detail pages for any pseudonyms that the author uses.

If you enter an author name in the search box and select Author from the search options drop-down menu, NoveList will ONLY search the Author Detail pages. An exact match will take you directly to that Detail page.

At the Author Detail page, you will find all books by the author, all series by the author (when applicable), all NoveList content about that author, and author to author recommendations when available.

Searching for books with certain plot characteristics:

In NoveList, you can search for books with certain plot characteristics using the Keyword option from the drop-down menu at the Basic Search box.

Search for a series:

You can search for a series from the Basic Search box by entering a series name and selecting the Series option from the search options drop-down menu. An exact match will take you to the Series Detail page, which includes a list of all of the titles in reading order. If multiple series match your search, they will be listed under the Series tab of your Result List, where you can click on the link to the Series Detail page.

Use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to help narrow your search:

  • AND tells the database that ALL keywords used must be found in an article in order for it to appear in your results list.
  • OR broadens a search by telling the database that ANY keywords it connects are acceptable.
  • NOT narrows your search by telling the database to eliminate all terms that follow it from your search results.

Once you find a suitable title, it will have a wealth of information about the book (Description, Keywords, Appeal Terms, Tone, Writing Style, and Book Reviews).  It will also link you to the database’s info on the Author and give detailed information about the book itself (e.g. Publisher, ISBN, or Dewey Number).  The Book Reviews are especially helpful as they are not overlong or academic but are descriptive of the general storyline and its quality.  Reviews are supplied by reputable sources such as Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly

The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History

artofhorror-atc-300x337When this book first arrived at the library, I knew that it was going to be one that I added to my personal collection just by looking at the cover. The book is heavily bound and literally a monster of a book at over 250 glossy color pages.

First let’s focus on the artwork presented throughout the book. The art presented within the book spans from early century paintings to modern contemporary art created digitally. He doesn’t fail to leave out the famous horror movie posters either. Mr. Jones organizes each section of the book beautifully by horror genre. All images are reproduced beautifully with no distortion or fuzziness. Even the historical images in this book are stunningly beautiful sitting beside their modern counterparts on the same page.

The editor didn’t aim to make just a book full of beautiful pictures when he put together The Art of Horror either. The book starts out with a foreword from legendary writer Neil Gaiman, and then continues on with ten different sections written by leading authorities of each subject. For example, S.T. Joshi writes a stunning essay on H.P. Lovecraft highlighted by gorgeous images throughout. Many of the essays deal with the origination of the genre, for example zombies, and then moves throughout history to modern times.

If you are a fan of the horror genre or just a fan of art in general, I certainly would recommend this to you. This book has become a common piece on my coffee table, and not just around Halloween time.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

 

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

“A bighearted gothic novel, an intergenerational mystery, a story of heartbreak, and romance, all crammed into one grand Midwestern estate.”Los Angeles Times

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The Hundred-Year House is a great sweeping saga about the Devohr family, and the seat of all their dysfunction, Laurelfield. Once a burgeoning artists’ colony in the 1920’s, frequented by luminaries of the time, the backdrop for inspiration, romance, violence and mystery; now sits decaying and forgotten.

Rebecca Makkai hints at the family’s haunting past with the first sentences:

“For a ghost story, the tale of Violet Saville Devohr was vague and underwhelming. She had lived, she was unhappy, and she died by her own hand somewhere in that vast house.”

Mayhem and mystery unravel over three generations of Devohr women as the house and its provenance looms over their lives and ultimately their happiness. Zee is Violet’s great-granddaughter, a Marxist scholar who is embarrassed by her family, and Grace, Zee’s mother and Violet’s daughter, and the current owner of Laurelfield. Both women grapple with trying to define their place, and their identity apart from the grim history of the family estate.

Makkai chronicles the life cycle of the house into four pivotal years: 1999, 1955, 1929 and 1900. With each year we are given a peek into the lives of one of the Devohr women. In 1999, Zee and her husband Doug move into the carriage house on the property while he works on book about Edwin Parfitt, a poet who may or may not have stayed at Laurelfield while it was an artists colony. In 1955, Grace is a newly married woman to a man her family despises, but she loves him despite this. Grace has taken refuge from her family’s disapproval and her husband’s temper in the attic of Laurelfield, the place where her grandmother took her life. While living there, the house and the grounds become a sanctuary for her but in reality it is a crumbling vestige of its former self. In 1929, shortly after the stock market crashes, Laurelfield is struggling to remain relevant as an arts colony. The staff and resident artists, including Edwin Parfitt, are desperate to convince Gamby Devohr (Violet’s son) that the estate is still profitable. And finally in 1900, when Augustus Devohr buys the land on which he will build his family estate or as his wife saw “it as a prison in the wilderness”, the story’s turbulent beginning is revealed.

In a mere 338 pages, The Hundred Year House, is at its’ core a story about a family whose history is colorful, ugly and full of secrets. It is an engaging novel that warrants a second read.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Type, Large Type)

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

cuckooscallingThe Cuckoo’s Calling was written by Robert Galbraith, the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. When I picked this mystery up I didn’t know what to expect. As a teen I loved the Harry Potter series. I attempted to read The Casual Vacancy, the adult fiction novel that she wrote under her own name, and didn’t really care for it. So I went into The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first book in the Cormoran Strike series, with caution even though I do love a good mystery. I was presently surprised with this book in a good way.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is a mystery set in contemporary London. Cormoran Strike is a wounded former SIB with the Royal Army, what would be the military police in the United States. The novel opens with his detective agency in trouble. Strike is in debt to people he really shouldn’t have borrowed money from in the first place; the same people are demanding that he repay the loan immediately or else. To top it off he’s living in his office and he cannot keep a secretary.

A case that could either make Strike’s career or finish it lands in his lap. The brother of one of his former school friends wants him to find out what really happened to the victim of an apparent suicide. The police have written the case off as a suicide but Strike’s client is convinced that the victim was murdered. He soon discovers there’s more to his new secretary than meets the eye. She’s actually quite capable of helping with his cases.

The Cuckoo’s Calling starts out a little slow but that’s to be expected with a first book in a series. It has to set up the storyline and character development. It starts to pick up from the middle of the book onward. The mystery ends with a twist that the reader might not see coming. The Cuckoo’s Calling puts a modern twist on the classic detective novel. Cormoran Strike is the new broody detective quite possibly Sherlock Holmes for a new generation.

The library also carries the next two books in the series, The Silkworm and Career of Evil.

Formats Available: Regular Type, Large Type, Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Beat Cabin Fever

Now that the weather’s actually acting like winter after a gray and soggy December, Cabin Fever is starting to set in, but spring won’t be here for a few months. Here’s four things you can do to beat cabin fever, and get yourself through to the spring thaw.

Get Organized

Don’t wait for spring cleaning to get organized, channel all that squirrelly energy you have right now into getting your living space in shape. Ditch the stuff you don’t need. Tidy up the things you do need. Do just a little bit a day, and feel productive and smug. Smugly productive.

Seriously, though. This book is better than any 10 books on "cleaning" out there. I mean, for real, get ORGANIZED.

Seriously, though. This book is better than any 10 books on “cleaning” out there. I mean, for real, get ORGANIZED.

Make checklists, and post them where you have to deal with them – physically touch them – every day. I post mine on a whiteboard with my daily schedule on it above my wall calendar, and put active checklists on top of my laptop. There are apps for this sort of thing, too, with reminders, and checklists, but those are easily disabled, or ignored. I’m talking about changing your behavior. A physical checklist forces you to deal with it.

Think about processes: “what do I do with and in my space?” Analyse behaviors: “why do these behaviors happen, and how can they be improved?” When dealing with an item while cleaning, don’t think “what should I do with this?” think “Triage.” If it’s DOA, ditch it.

Learn a New Skill

Your library is stuffed with books that can teach new skills, from the ground up.

You like snuggly scarves and warm mittens, and fuzzy sweaters. Everybody does.

crochet

Learn to crochet and make some.

afghans

Make an entire afghan.

amigurumi

Make stuffed animals.

Make cozies for things. Make cozies for everything. If you don’t have a couch-side holster for your remote controls, you should make one. Your exercise bike doesn’t have a drink rest? Make one. That’s what you can do with a new skill: use it in creative ways to improve your life. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to pay people to maintain your computer for you? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could alter the couch to match the walls? Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to get someone in to patch that hole in the drywall?

Fix Things

You won’t want to find out why the bathtub drains slowly when it’s April and sunny. Get in there right now with a pipe snake and fix it. If you don’t know how, then learn how:

dare to repair

You’ll feel better.

I dragged a wad of hair out of the bathtub drainpipe once that was the size and weight of a sodden guinea pig. I should have sold it to a circus. Fixing it felt GREAT. (And probably saved a truckload of money, which felt even better.) Fix everything you can indoors while the weather’s bad, and there will be less to deal with later. The more organized you are, and the more skills you have, the more time and effort and money you can save. Get organized now, and fix small problems before they become big ones. It’s easier that way.

(I’m not lazy: I prefer “efficient.”)

Make Plans

Plans give you something to look forward to, to work toward. They’re the best kind of leverage out of the depths of the mid-winter dumps.

Plan a garden.

Plan a garden.

Plan a road trip.

Plan a road trip.

Make any kind of long-term, complex plan you want. It’s even better, if you make it with friends. They’ll keep you to it. You know what goes great with complex, long-term plans? Organization and checklists.

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

 

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

The Continued Influence of Jane Austen on Contemporary Fiction: Longbourn by Jo Baker

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From various creatures of the ocean deep in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters to the untimely and homicidal death of Mr. Wickham in P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, the literary works of Jane Austen continue to inspire the writers of today. With Longbourn, author Jo Baker throws her own hat into the ring with a unique take on that well-known story, Pride and Prejudice.

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The setting is the same as the original story, the country estate of the Bennet family named Longbourn, but it is the protagonist that is quite different: a young servant of the Bennet household by the name of Sarah. Through her viewpoint, the reader is provided a decidedly different picture of the Bennet family and their lives than the one that was penned by Ms. Austen.

As with the original, Jane Bennet takes long walks and reads, Mrs. Bennet gossips and plots marriage arrangements, the youngest daughters giggle together while speculating on romances, balls are attended, and dinner is served daily. But what was required “below stairs” to create and maintain this existence for the Bennet family? Through extensive research of the time period, Ms. Baker is able to provide an accurate description of the endless, difficult, and oftentimes unpleasant tasks that servants of this period faced each and every day, which will be of particular interest to fans of Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs, and the like.

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Those sojourns through the English countryside, for example, enjoyed so much by Ms. Bennet and that so endeared her to the reader are seen quite differently by the servants, as Sarah ruminates:

“The petticoat had been three inches deep in mud when she’d retrieved it from the girls’ bedroom floor…the soap was not shifting the mark, but it was biting into her hands, already cracked and chapped and chilblained, making them sting. If Elizabeth had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.”

While daily life of nineteenth century rural England is a prominent and fascinating feature of this novel, it is not the primary focus; rather, the personal intrigues of the original cast of characters and their servants (along with some newcomers imagined by Ms. Baker) provide the reader with the storylines that supply the most entertainment and surprise.

With the plethora that currently exists of novels written by contemporary authors who do homage to the works of Jane Austen, those readers interested in this type of fiction have many options. In Longbourn, Ms. Baker has added an additional title to this genre that is distinguished from the others with her fresh and inventive look at one of the most enduring works of English literature.

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Caught Up by Shannon Holmes

caughtupholmesDixyn Greene is living the life that she believes she has always been meant to live. She has a beautiful daughter and is finally going to marry the man of her dreams, her daughter’s father, Bryce Winters. Bryce is a hustler and it isn’t until he is arrested in a raid of their home that Dixyn realizes the consequences of living the life with a narcotics dealer.

How will she cope in the aftermath?

If you are looking for a book that is fast-paced, Caught Up is the book for you. Mr. Holmes has created an intriguing plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It has all the elements of a gritty tale of the street: drugs, murder, and mayhem. It’s a page turner and I’m happy that I had a chance to read it.

shanon-holmesImage courtesy of African American Literature Book Club (http://aalbc.com/authors/shannon_holmes.htm)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Caught Up made Library Journal’s 2015 Best Book Books for African American Fiction.  If you are interested, their other picks in this and other genres can be viewed here

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch