Tag Archives: Fiction

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).

And the Winners are…

The Calarco Library is proud to announce the eight winners of our “Take a Book on Vacation” photo contest! Below are the photos and credits. Congratulations to EVERYONE who read a Calarco Library book during the March break.

Cecilia Giaimo with Tangerine by Edward Bloor

Chloe Glass with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Amalia Correia with Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan

Isabel Balcezak with a Hopkins Library Kindle

Malcolm Drenttel with Middlemarch by George Eliot

Sanaea Bhagwagar with Unknown

Shira Bedford with Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

Valerie Daifotis with Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

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Hopkins Students Take Library Books on Vacation

The Calarco Library held its first-ever Take a Book on Break program during the two days leading up to March break. On the Thursday prior to break, Ms. Bray and I (Ms. Barrows) ventured up to the Weissman Room in Heath with books and cookies in tow. Junior Schoolers were invited to visit during their free period to browse through dozens of young adult fiction books brought up from the library. Friday was devoted to Middle and Upper School students. There were many more new books on display in the library (including a popular cart of books “leftover” from the JSchool event) and cookies for everyone who checked out a book. Your librarians thoroughly enjoyed both events. We had a great time hearing about how much our students love to read for pleasure and sharing book recommendations with them.

Junior School

Below you can see the room set up, ready and waiting for students. Ms. Bray, Mrs. Dubois, Ms. Prendergast and I wondered how many students would venture upstairs. Five? Twenty-five? Maybe even thirty? Think about  how you feel when you present a project that you’ve put a lot of effort into: confident, because you’ve worked hard so you expect good results; nervous, because this is the culmination of all your effort; and anxious, because you are unsure of how the audience will react to your ideas. That’s how we felt! So we crossed our fingers, hoping everyone would enjoy themselves and find something great to read on their vacations.

Before the chaos

We promoted the Junior School Take a Book on Break program with a Glog (with an embedded Animoto video) that was e-mailed to the 7th and 8th grade students and advisers; Ms. Bray made announcements during JSchool lunches.

We arranged the books into broad themes – LOLScience Fiction and FantasyThrillers and ChillersDrama, and Award Winners – put some cookies on the table for students to take when they checked out books, set up a Prezi of book trailers, and waited.

As you can see in our Animoto video below, the outcome was terrific. While 43 students checked out 55 books, their enthusiasm was the best part of the event. Thank you for visiting JSchool, and we hope to see you again soon!

Upper School

Since Middle and Upper School students have more flexibility in their schedules, we decided their event should be casual and not restrained by a time-frame. We had high expectations about student response to our invitation, but there was no way to predict how many would actually respond to the Glog and Animoto video promoting the event. But, Hopkins students rose to the occasion, as usual, and dozens visited Calarco to check out books, ask for recommendations, snack on some cookies, and talk about spring break plans.

In short, we were thrilled by the turn-out and excitement of all our students. In total, 116 books were checked out during the Upper School program. Your librarians thoroughly enjoyed sharing book recommendations and hearing about how much you love to read for fun. We want to thank all of you who asked questions, ate cookies, and/or left with a book (or sometimes several books) in hand, and invite you to share your thoughts about the Take a Book on a Break Program.

Questions and Suggestions are welcome in the comments section.

Coming Soon: Stay tuned for an upcoming entry featuring our “Photograph a Book on Vacation” contest winners.

How to Pick a Good Book…

…or at least how to do more than close your eyes and select at random.

So many books, so little time!

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

What makes a book a good book? Of course, the entire process of making that decision is inherently subjective. Let’s present a hypothetical: you (the reader) are a fan of the comprehensive genre “horror”. Some of your favorite movies are Dawn of the DeadThe Shining and The Omen. You not only watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but you read the Buffy comic books written and published by Joss Whedon. You have also read many of the classic “horror” books—DraculaFrankensteinInterview with the VampireThe Shining (again), The Tell-Tale HeartThe Haunting of Hill House—your list is diverse and substantial. But now you want to read something new, whether there is an upcoming vacation or all of your college applications have been submitted, you have decided that you deserve a good book.

Will you like Twilight?

Is this for you?

photo credit: hollowcrown_ via photopin cc

The answers are wide-ranging and inexact, and the logic behind the answer could be debated, but that is not the point. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate how even a well-read individual with a predisposition to a particular genre could be misguided in a reading choice.

photo credit: lyk3_0n3_tym3 via photopin cc

We are not all so lucky to be biased towards any particular genre, and many of us muddle even deeper through the Land of Lost Readers. This is a general roadmap, not an exact GPS-generated directional route that can help you choose a good book. Hold fast to this guide during your initial ventures, or even more conveniently, download the WordPress app to your iPhone for easy access to the information presented below.

Tip #1: The Calarco Library LibGuides

Our reading-based LibGuides are a good place to get started. Check out the What’s New in the Library guide for the list of all fiction and non-fiction books that are new to the library. The Kindle LibGuide includes a list of titles loaded on our Kindles along with links to a motley collection of book awards lists. This latter point leads to Tip #2…

Tip #2: Book Award Lists

Each award has its own parameters and stipulations, but most “major” awards serve as reliable starting points. Here are the links to some of the most popular awards:

Tip #3: Blogs

Blogs are becoming regular pit stops for readers seeking book selection advice, and it goes without saying that we think you should use this one as a resource. Although the quantity of reader advisory blogs may initially seem overwhelming, you can develop your personal list of “go to” blogs by exploring several and visiting them regularly. Here are a few to get you started:

Tip #4: Review Sources

There are almost as many book review sources as there are blogs about books. Rather than list dozens of premier book review sources, I am only going to mention two: Kirkus Review and The New York Times, bedrocks in the intimidating world of formal book reviews.

Tip #5GoodReads.com 

Social networking for books—who wouldn’t want to explore this resource? When you sign up with GoodReads, you choose if you want to link your GoodReads profile to Facebook and Twitter. Linking can help find more friends on GoodReads, but it is not necessary. The avenues to finding a good book are varied—add friends to see their latest reads, rate books in order to get recommendations (must rate a minimum of 20), and find books to add to your shelves. The default bookshelves are Read, Currently Reading, and To Read. You can also add more shelves that are organized to fit your particular needs. Is there an app? Of course, but only for iPhones.

Calmly pick a book amidst the whirlwind of choices

photo credit: Casey David via photopin cc

Tip #6: Yourself

This tip should be obvious, but it is oftentimes elusive. Trust your instincts—sometimes a book grabbed at random off of a library or bookstore shelf (whether physically or on a tablet device) proves an excellent read. Pay attention to your “inner reader,” and listen to the people whose reading opinions you value. Sometimes the best resources for opinions are not found in critical reviews or auto-generated book recommendations, but amongst those whom you see everyday.

Walk through the fog with a friend, and you will find your way

 photo credit: Casey David via photopin cc