Tag Archives: Fiction

New Books News – Game of Thrones Edition


Greetings Hopkins! The new year brings new things to the Calarco Library Blog. The newest of the new things is New Books News, a quasi-regular column that will highlight recent additions to the library.

A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. (Tyrion Lannister)

The Calarco Library has long had George R.R. Martin’s incomplete A Song of Ice and Fire series on Kindle; however, we came to realize three things:

  1. Some people might want to read epicly long books in their physical form
  2. Winter is coming…someone might need something to do. The Song of Ice and Fire series certainly qualifies as something to do.
  3. Some of us (including librarians) may have binge watched all four seasons of the Game of Thrones HBO series this summer and may have decided to read all the books before season five comes out in the spring.

So without further ado, we present Martin’s current installments in A Song of Ice and Fire! If you are interested in checking out a copy, simply pay a visit to the upper level of the library or search the library catalog for availability.

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Book Review: The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker

Turn, Turn, Turn

The Age of Miracles

They call it the slowing – the unexpected, inexplicable, quietly disastrous deceleration of the earth’s rotation. There are no predictions of its impending occurrence, or Armageddon-esque missions to prevent it – the slowing just happens, and continues to happen. The seemingly ordinary Julia wakes up on an ordinary Saturday after an ordinary sleepover in an ordinary house in an ordinary suburb and hears (along with her ordinary parents) the obviously un-ordinary news that the earth’s rotation on its axis is in fact slowing, and will continue to slow indefinitely.

What makes Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel quite brilliant is her decision to tell the story of the slowing through the voice of Julia, an 11-year-old girl with parents, a best friend, and two cats. The dichotomy between the extraordinary slowing and the ordinary Julia blurs, merges, overlaps, and swaps places repeatedly throughout Walker’s narrative. Everything from Julia’s best friend and the suburb she calls home, to her parents’ marriage and school bus stop sheds the facade of “ordinary”. Do all things become extraordinary because of the slowing? Does the slowing become ordinary when life is so? Or, can the slowing only be blamed for certain phenomena? Lengthened periods of light and darkness, drastic tide changes, agricultural failures, altered laws of physics, mass extinctions of entire species. Julia herself is never really quite sure.

I mostly enjoyed The Age of Miracles – it couples a coming-of-age story with a sci-fi plot set in a dystopian near-future. Often, there are instances when familiar moral questions are raised – persecution of outsiders (“real timers”), the human impact on planet earth, and the purpose of existence. Conversely, Julia recounts the universally familiar (but perhaps not so grand) personal experiences of middle-school loneliness, first crushes, loss, and marital troubles. Sometimes, I noticed Walker overreaching in her effort to draw parallels between  the microcosm of Julia and the macro phenomenon of the slowing; however, such flaws do not warrant distraction from the promise of this debut novel.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who is confident that she would be a “real timer” if the slowing actually happened….or just a very batty librarian)

Town Forum – Whiteboard Question #1

On Friday, Ms. Barrows and I found an unattended whiteboard in the library. So we decided to put it to use.

Hup two three four

The whiteboard levitates up the stairs.

Less magic, more muscle

Oh wait, it’s just Ms. Barrows.

Since we’re librarians, we have to ask about books. It’s in our contracts. We decided that a nice, easy, non-contentious question to start with would be “Suggest a good book!” And with help from a friendly freshman whose adviser must be wise and talented (Thanks, Nik!), we got set up.

Pretty soon, the whiteboard looked like this:

That was fast!

That was fast!

Seuss. S-E-U-S-S. Seuss.

And then it looked like this:

I've never heard of some of these.

Getting kind of crowded….

And then this:

My eyes! My eyes!

My eyes! My eyes!

Don’t think we didn’t notice that little change, folks. Please respect other people’s recommendations.

Also, The Popcorn Rat? I’m not sure I believe that’s a real book. And Google backs me up on that one.

And finally, at the end of the day:



To keep reading (no, really, keep reading) click here!

Book Review: Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones

Not exactly Great Expectations

Mister Pip

I discovered Mister Pip a few years ago (yes, the discovery is mine and mine alone). I was shelving other, less important books when that thing happened…when you notice a book for no remarkable reason. No glitter or bright colors, lusty vampiric individuals, geometric patterns or unusual shape—just a slim blue book that inexplicably made me double take and pull it off the shelf. I didn’t know what the Man Booker Prize was, and I didn’t care. I just knew that this book was going to be gold. Mister Pip introduces Matilda and the delicate dichotomy between the reality of her village being torn apart by war and her literary escape with Pip, Dickens, and Mr. Watts. When the divisions crumble with unexpected harshness, Matilda is left to cipher the events with insights from both worlds.

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who is STILL reading Great Expectations)

Book Review: A Visit From the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Time's a goon

A Visit From the Goon Squad

I adore dystopian fiction, the cancelled (and excellent) TV show Freaks and Geeks, non-linear plots, interconnected story lines  well-written bleak endings, and the film Almost Famous. Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad combines all of those elements (along with many others, whether she meant to or not) into what I will confidently proclaim the best book I read in 2012. A careful arrangement of dovetailing stories, Goon Squad visits 1980, Africa, New York City (several times), a studio apartment bathtub, the present, the near-future, a cocaine-filled penthouse, declining music producers’ boardrooms, San Francisco, high school, the desert and etc. via the appearances and reappearances of characters throughout the novel’s short stories (or chapters, whichever you prefer). Shifting between traditional narrative, PowerPoint images, text lingo, and perspectives, Egan’s characters and their stories reveal that, “Time’s a goon, right?”

-Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who would recommend this book to rock stars and wannabe rock stars…so that’s basically everyone)

Book Review: Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey


The Daughter of Time

So I was scrolling through the catalog looking for mystery books to bring for the Junior School Book Mobile, when I spotted this book and shouted “We have this?!” Ok, I didn’t actually shout, because I was at the upstairs desk and that would be embarrassing. But I wanted to. This is one of my favorite books of all time. Josephine Tey wrote mysteries, but Daughter of Time was a little different. It features her usual detective, Alan Grant, laid up in the hospital with a broken leg. In order to cheer him up, a friend suggests he try to solve a historical mystery. Grant settles on The Princes in the Tower, and whether they were really killed by their uncle, Richard III. I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy, but it’s a great read.

-Signing off, Kit Gette (who, when asked to recommend a book to Mrs. Riley, chose this one)

Library Shame Con 2012

And so commences Reads of Shame: A Series from your Calarco Librarians

This series will consist of Mr. Gette and Ms. Barrows being shamed into reading various books at irregular and inconsistent periods of time. These will be books that we really should have read by this point in our lives (as librarians and as humans), but for shameful, inexcusable reasons, have not. We will shame each other, and we ask the greater Hopkins community to finger point and assign books to us humble, shamed librarians.

For this first non-specific period of time, Ms. Barrows was shamed by herself and Mr. Gette into reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Why is it shameful Ms. Barrows hasn’t read Great Expectations? Maybe because she is obsessed with Mr. Pip, visited England (where she saw a massive Dickens museum display), and secretly watched the bad Ethan Hawke movie once.

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Mr. Gette has been shamed by Ms. Barrows into reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Ms Barrows was going on and on about how good it is while talking about how embarrassed she is that she’s never read Mrs. Dalloway (a preview of things to come?). And since Mr. Gette had read some Virginia Woolf in college,and had sort of thought about maybe seeing the movie, he figured maybe he should give the book a try. Plus, he doesn’t read much contemporary fiction, so this should be a change of pace.

The Hours

Reads of Shame, Round 1: Start!

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (does doing bicep curls with Great Expectations count as reading it?) and Kit Gette (who hopes The Hours won’t take hours).