Author Archives: Jenny Nicolelli

Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling Trilogy (so far)

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Kelsea Raleigh grew up in hiding, training for her future on the throne as Queen of the Tearling. Although she received the best education any fledgling Queen could hope to receive, Kelsea grew up in ignorance of the problems that plagued her realm. She wasn’t surprised when the Queen’s Guard came for her, after all, she was always meant to take the throne back from her uncle. What Queen Kelsea did not anticipate were the dangers she would encounter before she even ascended the throne. Dodging the elite assassins hired by her uncle become the least of Kelsea’s worries when she enters the Tearling capital and discovers the internal chaos and corruption destroying her realm. But even this pales in comparison to the threat of neighboring Mortmesne and its leader, the Red Queen.

Kelsea may have Queen’s blood in her veins and questionably magical sapphires to prove it, but is her cunning and strength enough to save the Tearling from internal chaos, making ready to face the Red Queen’s impending attack? How is Kelsea supposed to rule when she falls victim to pre-Tearling flashbacks, rendering her catatonic for hours? Can the Queen’s Guard set aside its own internal disputes to support Kelsea Raleigh in her attempts to bring justice to her realm? And who is the mysterious, handsome Fetch? Why does he show up precisely when Kelsea needs him most?

The Queen of the Tearling trilogy is being hailed as the YA version of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones, to you HBO watchers). However, the comparison is not made to belittle Erika Johansen’s work as little more than a rip off. The Tearling‘s similarities lie in its complexity and uncensored approach to medieval-like rule. George R.R. Martin refuses to create wholly good or wholly bad characters, asking questions like: what happens to the realm when the war is over, after the “good guys” win? Johansen’s characters and their motives defy easy categorization. I think what makes this book a YA fantasy novel (rather than high-level fantasy, like Martin’s work) is Kelsea Raleigh’s POV, which naturally leads the reader to root primarily for her cause. However, Tearling‘s hero and her world leans far closer towards Westeros than Hogwarts. Despite initial appearances, there’s few clear good and bad guys in this series.

My main complaint for Tearling was world building. I use was purposefully. Although I was enamored with the story in Johansen’s first installment, I was disappointed in the lackluster and unclear depiction of the Tearling. I was wistfully remembering the fantastic world building of Seraphina or Harry Potter. Then I read the second Tearling installment. As Johansen further reveals the mysterious crossing to the reader, more world building falls into place. I can’t say much more without being spoilery, but I want to suggest being patient with a couple world building holes in the first novel.

Overall, two thumbs up for the Tearling trilogy. Shout out to Hollywood for nabbing film rights and for the rumors that Emma Watson will play Kelsea in the film version!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who is also reading A Song of Ice and Fire and is starting to wonder why her world is so suspiciously fantasy-free)

 

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Coming to Calarco: October 2015

coming soon

Keep an eye out for these new and noteworthy books.

Fiction

Fates and Furies -Lauren Groff

A Window Opens -Elisabeth Egan

Best Boy -Eli Gottlieb

Still Life -Louise Penny

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories -Anthony Marra

Eileen -Ottessa Moshfegh

Everybody Rise -Stephanie Clifford

Undermajordomo Minor -Patrick deWitt

Quicksand -Steve Toltz

Girl with a Pearl Earring -Tracy Chevalier

Animal Dreams -Barbara Kingsolver

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena -Anthony Marra

The Sportswriter -Richard Ford

YA Fiction

The Invasion of the Tearling -Erika Johansen (sequel to The Queen of the Tearling)

All the Bright Places -Jennifer Niven

The Young Elites -Marie Lu

The Rose Society -Marie Lu (sequel to The Young Elites)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here -Patrick Ness

The Sleeper and the Spindle -Neil Gaiman

Dumplin’ -Julie Murphy

Another Day -David Levithan (companion to Every Day)

Nightfall -Jake Halpern

Darius & Twig -Walter Dean Myers

Fake ID -Lamar Giles

Fairest: Levana’s Story -Marissa Meyer (a Lunar Chronicles book)

Habibi -Naomi Shihab Nye

More Happy Than Not -Adam Silvera

Everything, Everything -Nicola Yoon

Non-Fiction

Ordinary Light: A Memoir -Tracy K. Smith

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsburg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War -Steve Sheinkin

The Billion Dollar Spy -David E. Hoffman

I’m Fine -Emily Wang (stories by one of Hopkins’ very own!)

Fire Shut Up in My Bones -Charles M. Blow (memoir)

The Art of Memoir -Mary Karr

Kafka: The Decisive Years -Reiner Stach

Steve Jobs -Walter Isaacson

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir -Bill Bryson

Graphic Novels

Nimona -Noelle Stevenson

This One Summer -Mariko Tamaki

Go see The Martian (Movie Review)

It was a given that Ms. Barrows and I were going to go see The Martian, Ridley Scott’s multi-million dollar blockbuster film that was released this past weekend.

See, Mr. Gette and myself have been captivated by Andy Weir’s novel since we read it over a year ago during the 2014 March break (as made evident by our texts during that short but exciting period in our reading lives). We proselytized for this book for months. We put it on display. We recommended it to everyone who so much as looked at the library. We did not shut up about it at the lunch table. We were insufferable.

When Bookriot announced The Martian was opted and being made into a film, we were ecstatic. When we saw the teaser trailer and found out Matt Damon would be playing the titular character, we ran victory laps on the lower level of the library, high-fived everyone in the vicinity, and threw books in the air while Queen’s We Are The Champions played in the background. It was, to say the least, a celebratory moment in our reading lives.

But we balked – we were hesitant. We should have been the ones who were first in line for the midnight showing. But we weren’t. We were…afraid. Book-to-movie adaptations are almost never successful. And when they are successful, book fans must respect the film enough to accept it as a different entity. But then the reviews started coming in (93% on Rotten Tomatoes!). By Saturday, we were both in the theater. And thus, here is our review.

IT’S SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD.

Ahem. But really, SO GOOD.

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JG: They got the tone just right. One of the best parts of the book is how funny it is, and i was worried that would be lost in the pursuit of super-serious-suspenseful-space…movie. And it does have its serious moments, but the jokes are still there. I haven’t laughed this hard in a theater in a long time. And oh man, is it a beautiful movie. I give it five Martian Potatoes.

JB: To rip off the Wired review, the movie is the book with better editing. Those who read Weir’s book will remember the paragraphs upon paragraphs of science-y, engineer-y text. With the help of visuals and, well, better editing, those descriptions are pared down. When Matt Damon looks into the vlog and does describe science, it is always funny and fascinating. I didn’t expect the film to have moving and/or serious and/or touching moments. But it did. And they were, to be repetitive, SO GOOD. If you can, take the time/money to see The Martian in a 3D IMAX theater. It felt like you were on Mars with Mark Watney, harvesting martian potatoes and kicking science butt. I give it 5 stars (harhar, space joke).

If you need any more encouraging, watch this:

it's over

-Signing off, Steely-eyed rocket man (James Gette and Jenny Barrows)

New Books News: Spring Edition

The Calarco Library has kept busy this spring finding new books for the Hopkins community. Check out the list of recent editions below or visit the library catalog to find a specific title.

*A friendly reminder: Calarco Library rents Kindles to staff, faculty and students alike with full access to our 600+ e-book collection. If you would like to check out a Kindle, stop by the library at any time!

March Bookmobile Highlights

Ms. Barrows’ Highlights

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The 5th Wave -Rick Yancey

Yancey masterfully weaves together classic elements of sci-fi, dystopia, and adventure fiction in The 5th Wave. The world of Yancey’s creation undergoes five “waves” of destruction orchestrated by an alien species, and each installment leaves his world and its main characters more destroyed and fragmented than before. The characters – Cassie, Sam, Ben and Evan – lead adult-less lives (an often employed tactic of YA literature)  and are therefore forced to struggle and survive amidst the devastating and seemingly irreversible five “waves” of annihilation. There’s nothing technically “new” in Yancey’s story, but the masterful layering of elements creates a rich, fulfilling read. Bonus points to Yancey for making the leading female character 12 and therefore that much more likeable.

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post -Emily M. Danforth

The day before her parents die in a car accident, Cameron Post is kissing her best friend Irene. In the fallout, Cameron finds herself cultivating a shoplifting habit and barely surviving the guardianship of her ultra-conservative religious Aunt Ruth. As Cameron struggles to hide something she has barely discovered, she cannot help but seek information and experience. When Cameron befriends Coley, the heterosexual picture-perfect cowgirl, it becomes a matter of time before Cameron’s sexuality is discovered. A tribute to Montana and the early 1990s, The Miseducation of Cameron Post transcends coming-out tropes and YA stereotypes.

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The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy -Kate Hattemer

A sleeper hit of 2014, The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy follows Ethan and his three best friends as they react to the takeover of Selwyn by a reality TV show designed to exploit the talent of the art academy’s students. As the title suggests, the protest takes the form of poetry – specifically, guerrilla poetry inspired by Ezra Pound’s Cantos. However, Ethan and his friends soon understand the depth and detail masterminded by the creators of the reality TV show.

Mr. Gette’s Highlights

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Graceling –Kristin Cashore

People who are Graced have a special talent; dancing, painting, or – in Katsa’s case – killing. Forced to be  a thug for a tyrannical king, Katsa figures out a way to make her life – and her world – better, by setting up a secret resistance. The sequel, Bitterblue, delves into espionage. Both are a lot of fun.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl -Jesse Andrews

I’m going to be straight with you: this is a book about cancer. It is also very, very funny. If those two facts seem irreconcilable to you, trust me – Andrews manages to pull it off. When Greg’s mother insists that he rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel (who has leukemia), the socially-awkward  Greg’s best idea is to show her the terrible movies he makes with his friend Earl. Don’t dismiss this as a John Green rip-off –  this is a very different book that stands on its own. The film is coming out in July, and got great reviews at Sundance. Read the book first!

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Seraphina –Rachel Hartman

In the kingdom of Goredd, an uneasy peace exists between humans and dragons. It’s the 40th anniversary of the peace treaty, the dragon ambassadors are coming to the human capital, and a member of the royal family has just been murdered in a very dragon-like way. In the middle is Seraphina, assistant court musician – and secret half dragon. She teams up with the brave, smart, and (unfortunately) engaged Prince Lucian to figure out whodunnit. The much-awaited sequel comes out tomorrow (March 10)!

David Barber’s Book Review

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A Cover-Up

By David Barber

At first glance, Red Handed, seems like a simple but long comic book. However, it quickly dives into a deep story. Matt Kindt’s main character is Detective Gould, whom is seen as America’s best detective. Detective Gould gets compared to England’s own Sherlock Holmes because of his crime-solving talents. The book is set in the town of Red Wheel Barrow. It is Detective Gould’s ten year anniversary of work on the police force. As all detectives, Gould works on the crimes after they have been committed. This has lead to a drastic decrease in unsolved-crime. However, the murder-rate in Red Wheel Barrow has not changed. Red Handed describes and follows Detective Gould as if he is a superhero. Nothing gets by him. Over the years he has honed his skills and upgraded his technologies to compliment his job in an outstanding manner. On this his 10 year anniversary, he solves a number of seemingly unrelated crimes. Some of these crimes include; The Jigsaw, The Ant, The Forgotten, The Repairman, The Performance Artist, The Escape Artist, The Fire Starter, The Detective, and finally The End. Detective Gould has solved every murder case he has taken. These cases are not an exception to his impeccable record. Each case has its own story. Yet, by solving each case, Detective Gould sets up a deadly final attack. Matt Kindt delivers this book in a dramatic fashion. His way of illustrating the action grabs the reader’s attention. Kindt uses a mixture of the Sunday newspaper comics, a typical novel setup, and his own interpretations of comic books today to spin an intricate story. The language in Red Handed is simple and professional. None of the characters speak in slang. Along with that, the colors Kindt decided to use draws a lot of attention to certain actions on each page. I believe Red Handed would be suitable for ages twelve and up. It is not very violent or gory but has some themes that would be too much for younger children.

Justin Nitirouth’s Book Review

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A GAME OF THRONES

by Justin Nitirouth

Have you ever wanted to stray away from your boring, non magical world? Would you also like to read about dragons and the conquest for power to become the strongest person in the seven kingdoms? This is not your average fantasy story. In a world full of conniving families, and a seemingly neverending lore, A Game of Thrones is full of astounding detail and plot to keep you for hours at a time in one sitting.

A few main families are introduced to set the tone: House Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, and Targaryen. Each family has their own legacy, customs and traditions that they follow. Many of those families have had one of their members on the Iron Throne as the rightful king of the realm. Each time a new king is decided, the conquest for power grows among the factions. This may sound like a lot to handle, but this is only a glimpse of what George R.R Martin spews out in his book. Personally, I loved reading in depth descriptions about individual people from their own family. No single character is the perfect protagonist or antagonist; every character has their flaws. Like I said, A Game of Thrones is much more than mindless killing and sex and not just a mere fairy tale.

For the people who have neither seen the TV show nor read any of the stories by George R.R Martin, I would suggest reading the books first. As a reader, you can establish your own image of the characters instead of what a director sees in them. Based off of my own experience, the TV show has altered my perception of their appearances. Also, George R.R Martin can tell a bit too much information about things you may not want to read about if you are a mere Junior-Schooler. Without any context, here is an example:

After a while he began to touch her. Lightly at first, then harder. She could sense the fierce strength in his hands, but he never hurt her. He held her hand in his own and brushed her fingers, one by one. He ran a hand gently down her leg. He stroked her face, tracing the curve of her ears, gently running a finger gently around her mouth.

Do I have to continue? Seriously, read this book at your own risk if you are sensitive with any of the following: incest, rape, murder, sexism, graphic nudity, and possibly more. However, if you are willing to plow through the pages of sex and enjoy the everlasting lore about this fictional world with kings, queens, and the neverending realm of Westeros, please continue. George R.R Martin’s world of Westeros is so full of detail that it seems he has lived in it himself. I’m impressed with the way he keeps track of each little tidbit about many of the characters in the story, and I’m sure you will too. Sex and incest aside, I would highly recommend this book to those who were okay with reading what I listed with above. Once you take a glimpse at this book, you’ll have a hard time returning back to reality.