Claudio Bianchi sees a unicorn on his farm. He can’t keep it a secret for very long. Then there are two of them. Then comes trouble. This is basically a story about a middle-aged man who meets a much younger woman, which is a typical plot. However, this story is far from the average romance.
Claudio lives on a small hillside farm in Southern Italy. His companions include cows, pigs, a goat, and three cats. Later, Giovanna shows up while delivering the mail. She sees the unicorn and everything in Claudio’s solitary life begins to change. Claudio is also a very amateur but quite dedicated poet. His writing, like every other aspect of his life, takes on new meaning. Is it the unicorn or is it Giovanna? Maybe it is both of them that change him. This story shows that it may take a few miracles, but good can prevail.
The one thing I don’t like about this book is that the author writes in gruesome detail about the murder of one of Claudio’s cats. Otherwise, this is a nice, sweet, quaint romantic story about a poor, Italian farmer and the sister of the village postal carrier. A romance, that is, which is interrupted by violence, monsters, gangsters, and thugs.
The heroine of this humorous, satirical fantasy is Princess Alex, also called “Stormy” (her middle name). She goes on an accidental and occasionally chilling adventure, fulfills a witch’s prophesy, and manages to kill off three princes. In her effort to save her homeland, Morainia, from the threatening Oosarians she becomes a legendary, almost magical, figure.
The clever, specialized vocabulary used in this story is well defined in the Glossary. But, this was the only part of this book that I did not like. It obviously required significant creativity and effort. It somewhat detracts from the story and slows down reading of an otherwise fast moving and charming fantasy in which time has yet to be “invented”.
It may seem odd that this not very anarchistic and would-be fairy-tale with a teenage heroine is found in the adult Science Fiction section of the library. The story appeals to both age groups but it might be more popular as a Teen book.
In Northern Spy, Tessa – a producer for the BBC – claims to be largely non-political. Like everyone living and working in Northern Ireland she is impacted by conflict between Irish republicans and British loyalists, but she herself has never been involved. Then one day she looks up to see news footage of her sister Marian pulling a ski mask over her head and participating in an armed robbery. Tessa insists her sister must have been kidnapped or coerced into participating in the heist, but eventually comes to realize the sister she thought she knew so well has been secretly working for the IRA for years. When Marian tells her she may have a path for peace Tessa has to decide where her loyalties lie and how far she will go protect everything that is dear to her. This book is a fast read. The chapters are short and the plot moves quickly. This is a great read for anyone who likes mysteries and political thrillers.
Say Nothing is also about two sisters, Dolours and Marian Price. While the fictional Tessa and Marian in Berry’s book were not raised to be political, the real Price sisters were raised in a well-known republican family. Marian and Dolours were participants in several high profile bombings in the UK in the 1970’s. Both sisters spent time in jail, both were subjected to force feedings when they tried to go on hunger strikes, and both received widespread press coverage. Keefe’s investigation also turned up audio recordings, interviews Dolours Price gave to oral historians at Boston College that seem to implicate one or both sisters in the murder of Jean McConville, a single mother of ten children in 1974. Keefe’s book is wonderful at examining 400 years of conflict through the lens of a handful of IRA members and one murder. There’s a surprise twist at the end that is guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps. Say Nothing is perfect for fans of Erik Larson who want a fast-paced, well researched look at the ongoing struggle in Northern Ireland.
In 1935, the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt founded an important federal program intended to provide employment opportunities to the throngs of workers left unemployed as a result of the Great Depression: the Works Progress Administration. And it is from this unprecedented federal program that the Pack Horse Library program was born, a program whose primary purpose was the distribution of books via horse to isolated communities in the eastern Appalachian counties of Kentucky. Those who engaged in this venerable work became known as Pack Horse Librarians.
When Kentucky native Kim Michele Richardson learned about this program, she became fascinated with those who worked so hard to bring enlightenment to so many and set off on a multi-year research endeavor. The result? In 2019, Ms. Richardson published her debut work of fiction, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, which tells the story of Pack Horse Librarian Cussy Mary Carter, called the book woman by those she served. While a fabricated character, the research Ms. Richardson executed in preparation for her writing of this book is obvious.
Cussy is a well-drawn character for whom it is easy to cheer, since her life is one with many difficulties. Among these challenges is the fact that she is one of the last of the “blue people of Kentucky,” a group of Kentuckians of the past who, due to a genetic disorder, possessed skin the color of blue and were treated with disdain and prejudice by many. Add to this poverty and a lack of opportunities of any kind, and one is left with a rather sympathetic character. But Cussy is not one to let any obstacle stand in her way, and her journey is one fraught with both hardship and danger, but also of love and deep friendship. And the reader accompanies Cussy through this amazing story, sharing in her losses and triumphs.
LFPL no longer charges fines for overdue items. With this change, LFPL officially joins library systems across the country who recognize that fines statistically do not ensure the return of borrowed materials. They merely create a barrier to library services that disproportionately affects the people who need access the most.
While this proposal eliminates overdue fines, library items not returned will still result in a patron being billed for the replacement cost and blocked from additional checkouts until the items are returned or paid for.
Why is LFPL going fine free?
To provide more equitable access to the library’s materials and resources.
To encourage previous patrons to come back to the library and attract new users.
To improve customer service and the patron’s overall library experience.
What this means for you:
You will no longer accrue a daily late fee on overdue materials.
If you have overdue fines (not replacement costs) accrued before we were fine free, you are no longer required to pay those fines.
You are still responsible for your items. We encourage you to return all items in a timely manner.
The library will continue to send you courtesy reminders to return your items.
Past replacement fees for lost or damaged items still apply.
Comic-Con has announced nominations for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2021. The nominees are for works published between January 1 and December 31, 2020 and were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges.
All professionals in the comic book industry are eligible to vote.
The deadline for voting is June 30, 2021. The results of the voting will be announced in July in a virtual ceremony as part of Comic-Con@Home.
For a list of items in the library that are Eisner Award-winning works, click here.
We all know that setting is important to every story but in some books it takes on a life of its own. There are books where the setting feels like an extra character, not just an extra character, a vital character. There are proper terms for these sort of settings, integral setting, symbolic setting, and antagonist setting to name some. If you are seeking authors who know how to create a scene, look no further. Check out these books below.
The Guest Listis set on the wild and isolated Cormorant Island off the coast of Ireland. Guests arrive for the wedding of glamour couple, Julia Keegan and Will Slater but things take a dark turn when a storm starts brewing and guests are left stranded. The setting is eerie with a Lord of the Flies vibe. You can almost feel the dread in the air. The guests and the islands secrets start to come to light and emotions run high in this dark and twisted tale.
Mexican Gothic is set in 1950’s Mexico. Strong-willed, Noemí Taboada travels to the countryside after her father receives a concerning letter from her newly married cousin. Married to a wealthy Englishman, her cousin, Catalina lives in High Place, an estate set high in the hills tucked away from the small village. Catalina’s husband and family are serious and menacing. Noemi works to uncover the cause of her cousin’s illness and strange behavior and in turn exposes deadly family secrets.
The Sun Down Motel takes place in upstate New York. The timeline shifts between 2017 and 1982. Carly Kirk arrives in Fell, New York to investigate the disappearance of her Aunt Viv. Viv disappeared in 1982 while working at The Sun Down Motel and Carly is looking for answers. As part of her investigation, Carly begins working at the Sun Down Motel. She retraces her Aunt’s movements and begins to uncover some disturbing events. The hotel seems to be trying to tell her something important. Will she figure it out before it’s too late?
Ghost Wall takes place in the northern England countryside. Silvie and her family join some of her father’s fellow professors and their students in an anthropological reenactment. The group must live and work as if they are part of the Iron Age, gathering roots and hunting from the surrounding forest and bog. Things take a turn when the group decides to build a ghost wall like those of their ancient counterparts. The spiritual turn provides a perspective into the role of ritual and lore and it’s consuming power.
Tokyo Ueno Stationtakes place at a park in Tokyo, Japan near Ueno Station. It spans from 1964 to 2011 and is the story of Kazu and his life living homeless in the park. In the story Kazu is our ghost guide who leads us through his life, the history of the park and his friends that live in the park with him. Kazu’s story is one of thousands and yet unique to him. The park is both a refuge for those that call it home and a constant upheaval. A National Book Award winner, Miri takes us on a spectral look at the outcast of society.
If you watched the Grammy’s this year, you might recognize this name from the four nominations she brought in for Best New Artist, Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Song, all in response to her 2020 studio album Punisher. Many parts of Bridgers‘ discography have been put into my personal rotation as of recent and we carry some of them in our system, so I’d like to point out her relatively short career to supplement the buzz around these Grammy nominations. She has put out a lot of work in a short amount of time, but I have a feeling this is only the beginning.
Despite not having as much visibility as her 2020 album, this got plenty of play from the Indie music sphere with over six million views for Motion Sickness. This album lacks the complex production you’ll see on Punisher, but the simplicity is just as effective here and paints a clear image of Phoebe’s intentions that will grow over the years. While still appealing to a wide variety of Indie fans, the Alt-Country inspired rhythms on cuts like “Motion Sickness” will encourage square dancing as much as melancholy. Phoebe writes her songs in the Folk tradition and almost always has a hauntingly gloomy tone with shockingly direct lyrics and an affection for minor resolutions and quiet moments. This record fits snugly into Indie Folk standards like Sufjan Stevens or Elliott Smith and her character is strong enough to remind me of female titan energy found in Fleetwood Mac or Alison Krauss
After Phoebe’s debut album, she joined forces with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form a supergroup named Boygenius to release a self-titled EP. This term “supergroup” can apply to any project comprised of members that are recognized in other musical outfits, but not every one of them is necessarily “super”. In this case, the term is applied appropriately, presenting a sweet bunch of songs that caters to each of their strengths. When you survey theirsolocareers, genres like “Indie”, “Folk”, and “Rock” will all come up – sometimes exhibiting hybrid combinations of those terms. On this release, they have the support to individually focus on each style and compliment each other to seamlessly weave an elaborate tapestry that takes on a life of its own. Even with such a star-studded cast, this release is humbly bold, patient, and strong.
The following year, Phoebe starts a second supergroup project, this time with the elusive and legendary Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame. Considering the professional gap between these two, I find this collaboration surprising. Conor Oberst is known as a godfather of Indie Folk, producing monumental releases in the genre over his nearly 30 year career. Though Conor is not new to collaborations, his presence is generally seen as a rare blessing, so the fact that Phoebe works alongside him suggests a promise in her style. The duo leans into their Rock tendencies here and produce jaw-droppingly magical moments, like on Sleepwalkin’ and Dylan Thomas. The aura from their chemistry creates a breathtaking environment inhabited by the rare forms of these musicians. If Boygenius distills the hallmarks of each members sound, BOCC illuminates their hidden potential.
The very next year, Phoebe releases an album that is as delicate as it is crushing. Everything is turned up to 11, even when most of it comes in at a whisper. This is still a singer-songwriter record, but the production choices make this a very unique addition to the likes of this style. There is a plethora of blissful soundscapes with loads of electronics and orchestration, but its subtlety still allows Phoebe’s quiet voice the leading role. Phoebe has a lot of personal things to say on this record, but in not too many words and with rich and devastating emotion. The first time I listened to the title track, I replayed it 28 more times to linger on the heart-string it just plucked. Much of this album is brooding but she offsets it with moments of triumph, like on the Grammy nominated single “Kyoto“, making this album more complex than just a sad anthem. This release is brilliant and I’m eager to see what she brings on the next one.
The first time I heard the name “Phoebe Bridgers,” I assumed the music to be another dime-a-dozen dreamy Indie outfit. Especially considering how late her career started, I was sure it was going to be an overplayed sound from the early 2010’s (ex: Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes). Well, I am pleasantly embarrassed to admit that my assumption was foolish and pedantic. Phoebe gives this sector of Indie a lot of life and it’s encouraging me to be more open about other music that falls under this same umbrella. Thanks, Phoebe.
An often overlooked time period, at least in my personal historical fiction reading habits, is the Reconstruction Era immediately following the end of the Civil War, especially as it was for formerly enslaved people living in the American North. Nicole Glover’s debut speculative mystery novel The Conductors is an interesting depiction of that time period, a slow-paced mystery set in a world where Black folks can work magic, and featuring chosen and found family.
Hetty and Benjy were Conductors on the Underground Railroad who are now trying to find their place in post-Civil War society in Philiadelphia’s Seventh Ward, along with some of the people they helped escape from slavery. They are married but it was a marriage of convenience, something they’ve fallen into to allow greater freedom of movement for each of them. Although the magic system isn’t as well explained as it could be at times, I was really enchanted with the use of constellations as the source of the magic’s power, both from a historical perspective as well as the striking imagery it brings to the world. Hetty and Benjy used their magic skills to help them guide other enslaved people to freedom, but magic can be used for evil here too.
When an acquaintance stumbles across the dead body of an old friend and comes to Hetty and Benjy for help, they know they can’t trust the police to pay attention to the murder, much less solve it or prevent others from happening. Hetty and Benjy quickly realize they’ve gotten into something more sinister than they had expected, and have to work together to learn things about their community that some would prefer remain hidden. For those interested in speculative historical mysteries with found family, I strongly recommend checking out The Conductors.
The Conductors includes mention, discussion, and/or portrayal of enslavement, physical restraint, scars, discrimination, bigotry, racism, colorism, murder, infertility, alcohol consumption, drug use as a coping mechanism, war, gun violence, injury, broken bones, drowning, explosions, torture, funerals, death, grave robbing, miscarriage, and crossdressing as a disguise.
The second book in the series, The Undertakers, is due out in November of 2021, but it can be read as a standalone if series aren’t your thing.