Monthly Archives: December 2021

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built: Monk & Robot, #1
Becky Chambers
Tor.com (July 2021)
160 pages // 4 hours, 8 minutes on audio

Link to A Psalm for the Wild-Built in LFPL’s collection

Link to titles by Becky Chambers in LFPL’s collection

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a wholesome book about the friendship between a robot named Moss and a non-binary monk travelling the world, serving people tea, and listening to their problems in their journey to discover what it is that people need on the most basic level. Of course, there is some really interesting world-building that sets up the protagonists’ current situation, a history that includes robots becoming aware of their slave-like conditions, revolting, and disappearing into the wilderness, and lore surrounding the society that they created. My favorite of which is the tidbit that the robot’s name is Moss because moss was the first thing the robot saw when it woke up!

This is a perfect short read for those looking for an escape from a world where everything seems to be going wrong into a world where things went wrong, in the past, but in the current moment characters are allowed to explore themselves and their world peacefully. Although the subgenre of  “cozy mysteries” is well-established, I can’t say there is an equivalent in the science fiction genre – that is, aside from any book written by Becky Chambers. A Psalm for the Wild-Built is simply Chambers’ most recent. I *still* think it would be my favorite even if it wasn’t the most recent book of hers, though! I even bought a hard copy of it for my personal collection when I finished it! I’m hopeful that Chambers’ books are the beginning of a larger pattern within the genre of comforting books that are somehow still exciting, that explore our world and philosophy in ways that enable escapism without increasing the reader’s heart rate too much. 

And there are more adventures of Moss and Sibling Dex (the monk!) coming out in July of 2022, according to the rumors on the internet (by which I mean this incomplete Goodreads page).

– Review by Valerie, Newburg Branch

Breathe by Sara Fujimura

Breathe is a YA novel but after the first chapter or two reads more like an adult historical novel. It takes place during WWI but it is mostly focused on the United States and the 1918 flu pandemic. Virginia is the daughter of a doctor and aspires to be a doctor herself. She is from a wealthy family in Philadelphia.

Her mother would prefer she do the traditional thing and marry someone of her social class. Virginia falls for Marco, the family’s driver. Marco is also her father’s medical assistant, who aspires to go to college and become a surgeon. Marco is the son of Italian immigrants.

Medical issues of patients are explained in vivid detail. This aspect may be too intense for squeamish readers. Class and ethnic prejudices of the period plays a part in the novel. Fujimura shows this without making it heavy handed.

Breathe also touches on the Suffrage movement. Virginia’s rebellious older sister, Kit, is involved with that movement. Gender role limitations of the time are explored, including a well-done plot twist with Kit and Virginia’s mother. I was drawn to the novel, because I find that period fascinating. As my high school history teacher said, “the modern world was created by WWI”.

At the end of the novel, I found myself wishing for a sequel, wanting to know how their lives turned out twenty or thirty years from then. Strongly recommended.

– Review by Keri, Main Library


Editor’s note: While we do not have this particular title in the Library’s catalog at this time, we do have other titles by Fuijimara that are available.

Moses, Man of the Mountain by Zora Neale Hurston

I didn’t much enjoy Their Eyes Were Watching God, to be honest.  It has been so long since I read it, though, that I can’t remember why. In any case, I didn’t ever expect to read another work by Zora Neale Hurston. But when I ran across Moses, Man of the Mountain, the summary was so intriguing to me that I decided to give it a go.

A reimagining of the Book of Exodus, told from an African-American perspective.

Hurston, having travelled the American South and the Caribbean as an anthropologist, uses the knowledge gained by those experiences to recast the Book of Exodus from a black American perspective. Moses, long a hero of black folklore and song is now the black hero of the Exodus story, the emancipator of slaves. The plagues, the signs, the mighty works are fruits of his righteousness but also his knowledge of hoodoo.  And freeing the slaves was just the first of his tasks, for he then has to form them into a new nation, give them a new identity, and free them from a slave mindset.

Beyond providing a deeper understanding of Exodus, Hurston challenges the reader to examine their own role in society. For if the Hebrews are to be associated with the black American slaves, then white Americans, largely Christian and so used to identifying with the Hebrews themselves, must realize they have more in common with the Egyptians.  Moreover, the book was published in 1939 amidst Jewish persecution in Europe, drawing an obvious parallel between Pharoah and Hitler.

The book is not heavy though – it is entertaining, even humorous. A real delight. And when I finished, I went back for more. I immediately checked out Hurston’s Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica.

– Review by Scott, Main Library

Meshuggah Comes to Hoopla!

Hoopla is consistently adding new music to their database and they make it very easy to find their newest additions through their Just Added collection. Miraculously, they update their catalog so frequently that I can hardly keep up with the content. The variety is also impressive, sharing some of contemporary music’s most beloved artists like Diana Ross or Rod Stewart and some more obscure titles that even Spotify doesn’t offer, like this neat Latin Pop outfit I discovered here called SuSu.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Hoopla had recently added almost everything from Meshuggah’s 30 + year career. Which is not only incredible because the music is some of the most well regarded for its style of Metal, but also because this music can be hard to find, despite its significant impact in the Metal scene. As an avid record collector, I’ve only come across Meshuggah material a couple of times out in the wild, and its usually expensive. Thus, LFPL’s CD collection does not offer any Meshuggah material for circulation, so Hoopla is the only place that our patrons can access Meshuggah music through our catalog!

Meshuggah tends to exist in their own little bubble amidst the Metal scene. They are one of the few Metal bands that can both be categorized as “Extreme Metal” or “Technical Metal” and still appeal to the pickiest of Metal snobs as well as general Rock music fans. They are known for pioneering and perfecting their style of groovy and complex Metal and continuously producing some of the best additions to this subgenre. There is a lot of debate about what exactly to label Meshuggah as, but the Rock and Metal worlds have landed on using the term “Djent” to describe their sound. “Djent”, resembling the guitar tones that are present in many of these songs, is used to express complex rhythmic structures accompanied by very angular, aggressive, compressed, and groovy guitar riffs. Some people bicker about the legitimacy of using the word “Djent” to describe this music, but if we are to assume this to be a part of the Metal subgenre lexicon, Meshuggah are the disciples of Djent, for better or for worse. So much so, that many other bands with similar intentions get written off as “Meshuggah rip-offs”, even with so many bands influenced by this approach. Bands like Car Bomb or Frontierer come to mind, but I like these bands as well.

Hoopla’s selection starts with their 1995 album, Destroy Erase Improve, and moves all the way through to their 2016 album, The Violent Sleep of Reason, for a total of 9 full length albums, a live album, and a compilation of Rare Trax. I’d try out one of their older releases like Chaosphere to grasp the 90’s energy in the more brittle production and also to recognize their development for a later release. Their early stuff is raw and sounds more like a device for shredding junk cars than their later material. I’d might try Koloss for something from the last decade with much more even production value and a hypnotic aura. Imagine a meditation soundtrack for the Metal Gods themselves. I think my favorite is still Catch Thirtythree, as this one weaves the entire album into a single track and has a slow burn that erupts by the end. Though, there isn’t a bad choice in the catalog and I’d recommend them all in no particular order

If you had to check out ONE thing from the band, watch the music video for New Millennium Cyanide Christ. If this doesn’t sell you on the band, I’m not sure what will. A classically hilarious portrayal of the band playing this song on their tour bus, but entirely with air instruments. A band with such a heavy and complicated sound that also knows how to not take themselves too seriously is so refreshing in the Metal scene.

Here is a link to everything that Hoopla offers in the Meshuggah collection, and here is a link to Hoopla’s collection of Hard Rock/Metal. Enjoy!

— Reviewed by Noah, Bon Air