Book Review: The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

fifth-season

I picked up The Fifth Season for two reasons: one, it’s by N. K. Jemisin, whose Inheritance Trilogy I greatly enjoyed, and two, it recently won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Those two reasons are why when I was tempted to put the book down and walk away (twice in the first fifty pages), I kept going.

The Fifth Season starts slow, or as slow as a book that starts with a murder and a cataclysm can. The story is told from three different perspectives, and each viewpoint character (and their supporting cast) needs to be introduced. One viewpoint is told entirely in the second person. There is a lot of setup.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of payoff, too. Jemisin is really good at fitting things together, at making these disparate accounts converge in a satisfying way. She’s a master of world-building – the Stillness feels rich and alive, with a deep history.

The Fifth Season takes place in a world that is literally coming apart. Earthquakes and volcanoes are a constant threat, and everyone knows the rules for living through a “fifth season”  – an extra-long winter brought on by the ash and dust kicked up by an event. Orogenes are people with the power to control the earth, and they are used to quiet quakes and protect the empire.

This is not a happy story. It begins with the murder of one child and the loss of another. Orogones are seen as monsters or tools to be controlled rather than human, and that attitude is reflected in their treatment.  The school for orogones is like a Hogwarts run entirely by Umbridges. The empire is built on a system of castes and oppression. And from the beginning, the book tells you this is a story of the end.

Oh, but what an end.

Read if you like: interesting magic systems, deep world-building, diverse characters.

Avoid if you don’t like: Constant impending doom.

Summer Reading Survey Results 2016

So Long Sweet Summer

Courtesy of Meg Bisson, Katie Slater Photography

Hello and welcome to another exciting year at Hopkins! Here in Calarco we’ve got new textbooks waiting to be pulverized, fresh notecards itching to become memorization rectangles, and librarians gazing wistfully at beautiful summer photos instead of shelving books.

Three years running,  we librarians asked you to tell us about the best part of your summer – that’s right, summer reading. A whopping 198 of you responded, recommending 139 different books. There was a lot of turnover this year – two of the top three books from 2015 (Paper Towns and To Kill A Mockingbird) weren’t mentioned at all. In fact, no John Green books were recommended for the first time since we began this survey.

 

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What is it about The Da Vinci Code? Is it the ciphers, the fast-paced thrills, Tom Hanks’ rumpled (no, not rugged) good looks? Whatever the “it” factor, The Da Vinci Code is Hopkins’ most recommended book of Summer 2016! Seven respondents wrote that it was “exciting,”  “incredibly suspenseful,” and that it “keep[s] you at the edge of your seat.”

Almost as popular were The Great Train Robbery and The Apothecary, both of which benefited from being assigned books. Other favorite books (or movies) were Emma Donoghue’s Room and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather – perhaps because of their film counterparts. David Levithan’s Every Day and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood were the other two unassigned books to make appearances on the “most read” list.

This was the first year we asked for your thoughts about your favorite book(s). In doing this, we discovered that even faculty and staff enjoy ALL CAPS. Please see some of our favorite commentary below.

The Godfather

It was AMAZING. I went in thinking it would have a pace similar to other books of its time, with lots of description and thoughtshots. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it moved like an action film, and it kept me going despite the length.

The Girl on the Train

Unreliable narration is key. What made this book so excellent was how you couldn’t trust anyone — even the protagonist with her flawed memories.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves was the weirdest book I have ever read and it invokes mild paranoia.

Americanah

This was an amazing book about African immigration. As a child of to Nigerians I found many similarities with their struggles. When many people think of Nigeria or Africa in general, they may think of thick jungles, aboriginal tribes, and no electricity. It is seen more as a charity case. This books lets you in on the lives of the people. The struggle to make it to America and become something. The stress of stereotypes and myths continually reminding them that they do not belong. The fear of coming back to their homeland and catching “Americanah.” And international love. How years and miles cannot erase true bonds. Wow. I wrote more than you probably wanted. Sorry about that.

[editorial note: no such thing as saying too much about a book you love]

The Apothecary

I thought that this was a great book and I could not put it down. I also would have never chosen this book if it was not required.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

It was great because it was kind of like a lot of kids dreams written out on paper. (Running away from home with your friends.)

An Officer and a Spy

It’s a great account of the Dreyfus Affair and is riveting from start to finish. My Dad forced me to read it, and when I finally gave in and started reading it, I was hooked.

[editorial note, again: good job, anonymous Dad]

Below you will find a list of every book recommended this year. Thanks to all of our respondents, and happy reading!

 

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

Patrick Ness proved his YA writing chops with A Monster Calls (soon to be a major motion picture!). In The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Ness flips the “chosen one” trope over and puts it on the back burner. Ever-present in literature (particularly of the fantasy genre), the “chosen ones” are known for their ability to bear the weight of the world while they battle the forces of darkness/evil/supernatural to save the day.

But what if the plights and perils of the chosen ones – or “indie kids”, using Ness’ terminology – were secondary to the real story? What if the real story lay with the never-gonna-be-chosens? The no-way-never-indie kids? The sidekicks? The acquaintances?  What if instead of Harry Potter, we had Seamus Finnigan? What if the Hunger Games was Prim’s story, not Katniss’?

In The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Ness cleverly puts the indie kids in the background. Each chapter begins with a small, bolded excerpt of the latest indie kid development before quickly turning to Mikey and his friends. Set against the backdrop of “a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a city that takes about an hour to get to,” Mikey just wants to get through his last month of senior year. Sure he’s worried the indie kids might have to blow up the school again, but he has bigger concerns. Will he be able to puzzle out his feelings for Henna before she leaves on a mission trip to the Central African Republic? Why is Mikey’s OCD deciding now is the right time to get worse? Maybe Mikey has more to cope with than the typical indie kid. He may not be battling blue-eyed zombie people, but he looks after his older sister Mel while she recovers from anorexia, shields his younger sister from the worst influences of his politically driven mom and alcoholic dad, and tries to support his best friend Jared: the cat whisperer (you’ll see).

Ness asks us to consider what it really means to be chosen, and Mikey must face what it really means to be a hero. I loved this book for two reasons: 1. it is good, and 2. it harks back to one of my top 5 favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes: season 3, episode 13 The Zeppo. It is the moment when Buffy, literally the Chosen One, and her apocalyptic battles take a backseat to Xander. The best friend. The one with no powers. The sidekick. The one who just gets knocked out by vampires on the reg. In that episode, Xander finds the opportunity to be a hero. Maybe Mikey finds that chance in The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

New Fiction News for March 2016

Hello readers!

We’re quickly approaching March Break, which means it’s time to come by the library and check out something to read as you sit on a beach or your couch or anywhere that is not here. May I suggest one of the new books listed below? You can click on the cover to go to that books record in our catalog. Happy reading!

calamity   red queen.jpg  broken.jpg  and again.jpg

library.jpg  thousand.jpg  accident.jpg  tlccontent.jpg

allamerican.jpg  ashley.jpg  avenue.jpg  childrens.jpg

crooked.jpg  dogs.jpg  fifth.jpg  find.jpg

forgetting.jpg  salt.jpg  since.jpg  hartgrove.jpg

truth.jpg  molecules.jpg  heart.jpg  alloy.jpg

bone.jpg  blood.jpg  gods.jpg  delicious.jpg

guest.jpg  find.jpg  people.jpg  short.jpg

simon.jpg  painted.jpg  uproot.jpg  bands.jpg

luckiest  year  rosalie

 

 

 

Sneak Peek: YA to Watch for in 2016

Before reading this post, it is important to note two things:

  1. These books are in no particular order (other than alphabetical, by author’s last name). They are not ordered by release date OR genre. Some of them do not have a hard release date…just a guestimate (or guestiDATE).
  2. There is loads of YA bookish “coming soon” news on the interwebs. I tried to glean the best of the best, but I had no method of doing that other than using my librarian brain.

Here we go! As determined by Librarian Barrows, the most anticipated YA fiction on the 2016 horizon. All books are linked to their respective Goodreads pages.

Glass Sword (Red Queen #2), by Victoria Aveyard

Bookishly Ever After, by Isabel Bandeira

Passenger, by Alexandra Bracken

The Crown (The Selection #5), by Kierra Cass

A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro

Lady Midnight, by Cassandra Clare

The Fever Code (The Maze Runner #0.6), by James Dashner

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas, by Kate Hattemer

The Love that Split the World, by Emily Henry

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, by Rosamund Hodge

We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson

Exit, Pursued by a Bear, by E.K. Johnston

Rebel, Bully, Geek Pariah, by Erin Jade Lange

Untitled (Young Elites #3), by Marie Lu

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above, by Marissa Meyer

The Mystery of Hollow Places, by Rebecca Podos

The Shadow Queen, by CJ Redwine

Riders, by Veronica Rossi

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash

Into the Dim, by Janet B. Taylor

The Muse of Nightmares, by Laini Taylor

My Name is not Friday, by Jon Walter

P.S. I Like You, by Kasie West

The Last Star, by Rick Yancey

And finally…an anthology of YA goodness!

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, featuring stories by:Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith

 

 

New Fiction News, December 2015

We’ve added a bunch of great new books to the Calarco Library fiction (and graphic novels!) sections in December. Completely new titles, sequels to popular stories, mythology mashups, podcast spin-offs – there’s a little bit of everything. 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.

bazaar  finders keepers.jpg  trigger.jpg  nightvale.jpg

silkworm.jpg  career.jpg  baru.jpg  ruin.jpg

challenger.jpg  spinning.jpg  wicked.jpg  divine.jpg

revenant.jpg  grownup.jpg  gilded.jpg  plough.jpg

saga1.jpg  saga22.jpg  saga3.jpg  tlccontent.jpg

saga5.jpg  wind.jpg  swift.jpg  manywayters.jpg

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

queenoftearlingtearling

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)