Author Archives: Mr. Gette

New Fiction News for November 2015

Hello readers!

We went on a bit of a tear, adding over 50 new books to our fiction collection in the past month. You can browse many of them below, or take a look through the Calarco Library Catalog. Clicking on a cover will take you to the record for that book.

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Summer Reading Survey Results 2015

Hello everyone, and welcome back: to Hopkins, to the library, and to the Calarco Library Blog!

Once again, the librarians sent out a summer reading survey to the whole school, asking you to pick one book out of everything you read this summer – required or not – as your very favorite. We received about 250 responses from students, faculty, and staff, which proves just how much you like reading. Or us. Or how accustomed you are to filling out surveys.

You continue to read a large variety of books: nonfiction, fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, classic novels, contemporary fiction, poetry, and John Green.Untitled Infographic

Last year, The Fault in Our Stars was by far and away Hopkins’ favorite summer read with 15 votes. The playing field is a little more even this year, with the top three books getting 6 mentions apiece. John Green continues his domination of the YA landscape with Paper Towns. Next, proving that the Pulitzer committee knows what they’re talking about, we have All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. And rounding out the top three is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Whether it’s the release of Go Set A Watchman, its status as a required summer reading book, or if Mrs. Riley just answered the survey a bunch of times, the story of Scout and Atticus remains popular.

Other popular books include:

5 votes: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

4 votes: The Great Train Robbery, by Michael Crichton; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; and Watchmen, by Alan Moore (shout-out to my adviser group!)

3 votes:  And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie (+1 “All the Agatha Christie books on the list”); The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon; Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee;  and Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell

We’re exceedingly pleased that most respondents (133 of you!)  read 5 or more books this summer, although we have some questions for the two seniors who admitted to only reading two books. Let’s hope at least one of them was The Tragedy of Arthur.

Book Survey Recommendations

Below is a spreadsheet of all the Summer Reading Survey favorites. Any items made available by the Calarco Library are color coded: blue = regular book, yellow = kindle book, green = both.

Remember, just because summer’s over (boo!) doesn’t meant reading is (yay!). Stop by Calarco Library for a book or Kindle – maybe one recommended above!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette, who both recommend The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

Summer Reading 2015!

JG: It’s almost summer! Time for sun, sleep, and – of course – reading. Last summer I read a lot, but it was mostly within my comfort zone; lots of sci-fi, mysteries, and YA. This year, I’d like to stretch myself a bit.

So here are the rules for the self-imposed summer reading challenge:

1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List

2. Fulfill the Summer Reading requirements: three books I haven’t read before, plus the books for my grade. Since my advisees will be 10th graders next year, I’m going to read along with them.

3. No genre books. No fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, or graphic novels. There is nothing wrong with reading and loving these kinds of books, but I read them all the time, and the point of this is to try something new.

So what am I going to read?

I’ve read The Great Train Robbery before (as a 10th grader), but it’s been long enough that I plan to re-read it.

After this, the list gets a little murkier. I plan to read one classic novel, one work of contemporary fiction, and one nonfiction book. Here’s the short lists:

There. Nine options which will condense into three books (though I can read more if I want to!), plus the two grade-required books for a total of 5.

…That’s not enough.

So here’s the other books I’d like to read this summer. No restrictions. Which means ghosts, murder, and explosions.

  • Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie.
  • The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler.
  • The Alienist, by Caleb Carr (yes, this is on the Summer Reading List. But it’s a mystery, so it doesn’t count for my personal challenge. But you can read it!)
  • All of the Peter Grant books, by Ben Aaronovitch. I’d read the first one (Midnight Riot) a couple years ago, but on a recommendation from Ms. Ford I’ve been listening to it on audiobook, and it is fantastic. This summer I am going to walk everywhere and listen to the whole series. Or at least the next few books.

No plan survives the first encounter with the library catalog, so I’m sure there will be additions and subtractions as the summer goes on. But as of right now, I’m pretty happy with this list!


JB: We aren’t counting down the days until summer (25) or anything, but seriously, summer. While some consider sunscreen to be a summer necessity, I carry a book/kindle/device with kindle app at all times. Last summer I did not have as much time to read as anticipated, but this summer I feel cautiously ambitious. I don’t have any challenges, per se, but I do hope to read more diversely than usual.

Here are my 2015 Summer “Challenges”:

  1. Read from the Hopkins Summer Reading List.
  2. Read more dudes (I tend to read a lot of female authors).
  3. Read fewer white people. I usually do O.K. with this, but I am making a conscious effort this summer.
  4. Don’t restrict by genre or type. I want to mix in some older stuff, non-fiction, and genre with my FAVORITE type of book – the modern fiction novel.

What will I be reading? Take a look

    1. Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin.
    2. The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi.
    3. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
    4. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
    5. The Alienist, by Caleb Carr

As Mr. Gette said, I have free reign for anything I want to read off the summer reading list. To also cite Mr. Gette, I doubt I will follow this list as closely as a needlepoint pattern.

  1. Missoula, by Jon Krakauer
  2. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick
  3. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
  4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews
  5. The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen
  6. The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters

What are you planning to read this summer? Did you set any goals or challenges for yourself? Tell us in the comments!

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows and James Gette (the former already suntanned, the latter already sunburned)

New Fiction News: December 2014

Here’s what’s new in the library: come pick something up to read over break! If nothing here appeals, we’ve got hundreds more to choose from.

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The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

Who can you trust when anyone around you might be an alien in disguise – a hostile, deadly alien bent on conquering Earth? Cassie is on her own, trying to get her brother back, and is understandably wary of the people she meets (no matter how handsome). The aliens are wiping out humans – and they’re winning.

I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

A novel in two parts, alternating between Noah and his twin sister Jude. There are three years separating Noah and Jude’s stories, with tragedy separating them. Love, loss, and a whole lot of art. Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

The strange relationship – and similarities – between a deputy sheriff adept at finding missing persons, and a serial killer awaiting trial.

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson

Sorry, not the sequel to Steelheart (That’s Firefight  – it’s coming out in January!) This one’s about a boy who is fascinated by magic he cannot himself use. That magic: chalk drawings that become living (if still two-dimensional) creatures. And someone is using them to kill students.

Stone Mattress: nine tales, by Margaret Atwood

A collection of short stories that include a black widow, a haunted fantasy author, a woman in a retirement home dealing with both protestors and visions, and a woman mistaken for a vampire.

Stranger, by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

A post-apocalypse dystopia. People with strange powers. An ancient, dangerous book. Carnivorous trees made out of crystal. Telekinetic squirrels.

Telekinetic squirrels.

Stranger is finally out, three years after the authors refused an agent’s request to change the sexuality of one of the point-of-view  characters from gay to straight. You can read all about it here.

And more!

The Eye of Minds, by James Dashner

Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick

Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne

Revival, by Stephen King

Book Review: Lock In, by John Scalzi

I’ve been meaning to read something by John Scalzi for a while – something other than his blog and his twitter feed, that is. I almost picked up Redshirts after it won the Hugo, but I wasn’t sure I knew enough about Star Trek to really appreciate it.

And then Lock In came out, to general acclaim, and I knew I had to read it. Earth-based sci-fi? Check. A global virus, with far-reaching effects? Check. Solid world-building? Check. Murder mystery? Check, done, sold.

In the near future, a flu-like virus has left a certain percentage of its victims “locked in”: still conscious, still aware, but unable to move or speak. These people are called Hadens, and many of them move through an interact with the world through threeps, robot bodies they can control with their minds. Other flu victims (called Integrators) escaped being locked in, but were left with the ability to connect with Hadens and act as flesh and blood threeps. Chris Shane was locked in at age 2, and has been a poster child for Hadens ever since. Now an adult and an FBI agent, Chris’s first case is a murder – and the suspect is an Integrator who may or may not have been integrated at the time of the murder.

From there the story involves disability rights, a giant virtual reality space called the Agora, the Navajo, programming, government funding, and what it means to be human when all your interactions are through a machine.

It’s really good.

Read if you like: Sci-fi, mysteries, robots, cops, robot cops.

Don’t read if you don’t like: property damage.

-Signing off, James Gette (who wants to be a FBI Robot Cop (not really)).

Our Favorite Spooky Books

It’s late October, and Halloween (and Pumpkin Bowl!) are right around the corner. Here are some of our favorite creepy, eerie, and downright horrifying books to get you in the mood for the best holiday.

Ms. Barrows Recommends:

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House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. A story inside a story, but even more complex than that. Basically, a family is living in a house that is larger inside than outside. And there’s other stuff. There’s weird page formats, including footnotes for footnotes (often citing fictional sources) and word layouts that depict events happening in the book. The result? Readers report feelings of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and overall creepiness.

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The Passage, by Justin Cronin. Just do yourself a favor and read this book. Need convincing? Click here.

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The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson. Terror, sheer terror, drives Jackson’s story. Forget monsters, who needs monsters when you have the good ol’ human psyche? Dr. John Montague, in an effort to investigate the supernatural, invites individuals who have been affected by unexplained events to come and visit Hill House. What is Hill House, you ask? Well it is just about the creepiest mansion ever constructed. The only people to take Dr. John Montague up on his offer are Theodora and Eleanor, the story’s protagonist. What follows is an exploration of the gray area between the supernatural, imagination, reality, and delusion. In a tightly written 174 page book Jackson develops a sense of tension and terror with each sentence.

Mr. Gette Recommends:

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The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. “There was a hand in the dark, and it held a knife.” How can you go wrong with an opening line like that? Boy’s family is murdered, boy is raised by ghosts, murderer comes back to finish the job. devil

The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. Sometimes truth is stranger (and scarier) than fiction. Devil follows two men: the architect who designed the Chicago World’s fair, and the murderer who used the fair to ensnare his victims. Includes creepy murder house!

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House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. Ok, sometimes fiction is a lot stranger. Even the premise of the book isn’t that simple: a man tells a story about a neighbor who wrote a scholarly paper on a documentary that doesn’t seem to exist. The documentary is about a man who discovers that his house is bigger on the inside than the outside: and it’s not as friendly as the TARDIS. Add in a ton of footnotes, footnotes with their own footnotes, words with their own color schemes, non-vertical writing – just reading this book is an adventure.

-Signing off, James Gette and Jenny Barrows (who are cowering in fear under a book fort)

Book Review: The Goblin Emperor

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I am not going to lie to you: in The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison, the words “thy” and “thou” show up with some frequency. Look past this. Solider on. It is worth it. The Goblin Emperor is one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in years.

Maia is his father’s unwanted fourth son, the only child of a loveless and ill-advised marriage between an elf and a goblin. He’s spent most of his life living away from the rest of his family – until they all die in a horrible accident. Did I mention that Maia’s father was the Emperor? Well, Maia is emperor now – the untrained, unprepared, reluctant emperor of all the Elflands. And some of his subjects are none too happy about having a half-goblin sovereign.

What follows is part coming of age, part mystery, part fish-out-of-water, and a whole lot of court intrigue. Maia must learn to govern, deal with his recalcitrant advisers, and investigate his father’s death – which may not have been an accident after all. Slowly he learns how to build alliances and trust himself. The lynchpin of the novel is Maia himself, who is so sweet, earnest, and well-intentioned that he wins over both his people and the reader.

In some ways, Maia is almost too good. In a world with strict class structures and gender expectations, he is infinitely egalitarian. Whether through basic decency or naivety, Maia forgoes convention over and over again.

I am in the habit of dragging my sister into a library, loading her arms with books, and whispering (because it is a library) “Read these!” before bounding away to find yet more books to bury her under. Shortly after I shoved The Goblin Emperor at her, I received an email that said “I think it’s been forever since I was so genuinely pleased at a developing romance as I was with Maia and [spoiler removed].” And I agree. Maia’s relationship with his love interest develops in a natural and charming way. I wish they had more
scenes together. I feel that way about a lot of characters – they’re engaging, funny, and real.

By the end of the book, all I wanted was more time with these characters. And there isn’t a better recommendation than that.

The Goblin Emperor is available on our Kindles.

Read if you like: politics, complicated families, underdogs.

Avoid if you don’t like: complicated naming structures, made up words, and other fantasy trappings.

-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who really wants a sequel, and is really sad the author has said there won’t be one).