Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The tale of Achillies and the Trojan War (as chronicled in Homer’s Epic Poem “The Iliad”) told from the point of view of his steadfast companion Patroclus. Starting from their shared childhood, it presents a comprehensive view more than could ever be told in that classic tale. “The Iliad” tells only the events that happen in the last year of the Trojan War. So Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achillies” is a refreshing and totally innovative retelling of the great hero throughout his childhood and his relationship with the man that would bring about his fate prophesied since birth. Their friendship and love for each other transcends the eons and is still “sung” of today in this brilliant novel. (I’ll mark this as a spoiler even though the poem dates back to the 8th Century BC just as a precaution) Even after Patroclus’ death on the fields of Troy, the novel lives on through his ghost. Told with longing, and often heartbreaking prose this book should live on as long as the poem and a true testament to not only the great hero Achillies, but of his friend, lover and closest confidant, Patroclus.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

A taut and eerie thriller from debut Author AJ Finn. This was dubbed “One of the best books of the Year” and rightfully so. This reader flew through the audiobook in a mere two days because it was impossible to put down (or hit pause in my case).

Anna is agoraphobic, and has not left her brownstone in almost a year. She spends her days watching her neighbors, playing chess, attempting to help others like her online and drinking red wine. The the Russell’s move across the park from her. She becomes obsessed with their comings and goings and even makes friends with the lady of the House, Jane Russell. When she witnesses a crime from her window, everything she knows is cast into doubt.

The parallels to a Hitchcockian film are really justified here. There’s the unreliable narrator, mistaken identity, and most importantly, the single tension filled setting.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

This was a fun read--well, listen. I picked up this title because the third in the series just came out and it has been optioned for a movie. It will make a fantastic movie. This is the story of Rachel, an ABC--American Born Chinese (except she isn't), taken to Singapore by her long-term boyfriend Nick for the wedding of his best friend. He doesn't tell her many things--it's the wedding of the year (so she brought one dress to an event that required four); his family is filled with gossip and distrust of anyone they haven't known for generations; he and his family are crazy rich--not just rich, crazy rich; and most of all the family puts the "Fun" in Dysfunction (as the saying goes). As to be expected--things go wrong and get bad (and will make you laugh out loud). In an effort to not spoil, I'll say this is a good, fun, read that made me want to read book two right away. 

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir

 This brand new graphic novel is a must-read for anyone who loves museums, ghost stories, or creepy mental hospital lore.  Our protagonist is troubled yet persistent Cel, who takes a questionable job as an archivist at a medical museum after losing her long-time job as a library assistant due to a mental breakdown.  Even though no one ever seems to visit the museum, Cel is required to work outside opening hours (i.e. in the middle of the night) and is encouraged to live in the windowless basement apartment that used to house tortured patients.  Oh, and her boss is clearly hiding something from her.  Add in artifacts that move around when no one’s looking, mysterious writing on the walls, and a girl who keeps visiting Cel in her nightmares, and you have all the ingredients for a story that should only be read by daylight.

Despite its many elements of horror, at its heart this is really a story about a young woman’s reckoning with her own inner demons.  As our cultural conversation begins to include more and more about mental health, it’s interesting to watch the impact this has on all literary genres, including the graphic novel.  The minimalist illustrations are colorful and expressive; I’ll definitely be waiting impatiently by the next work by both author (Weir) and illustrator (Steenz).

Recommended by Sophie 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (Drama)

With some exception, Hollywood pretty much makes two distinct kinds of biopics. The first kind are the ones that almost seem obligatory –  movies about historical giants who did truly incredible things with their lives, incredible things that should be projected on the silver screen for the world to see. 

Then there are the ones about the others – your oddballs, your misfits – the characters that history books often ignore but are nevertheless important in the way our world is shaped. Professor Marston is certainly one of the latter folk. Outside of DC comic devotees and polygraph historians, William Moulton Marston is not a name people know. Marston is the creator of Wonder Woman, the most famous female comic-book hero ever, but did you ever wonder (pun intended) how she was thought up?

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a biopic unlike any I've seen in recent memory, intriguing, sexy and a unique story about what it means to love.  In the 1920's Marston and his wife Elizabeth work in the psychology department at Tuft's University where they meet undergraduate Olive Byrne, hired on to be Marston's research assistant.  The attraction between the three is like a lightning bolt and they soon strike up a polyamorous relationship.  But this is the 1920's, and they are shunned from academic society for their love. 

We follow Byrne and the Marston's through the years as they struggle to have a functional family unit all while keeping their arrangement secret from the world.  Marston uses these two strong women in his life as inspiration to create Wonder Woman (arguably one of the most recognizable superheroes of all time).

What stands out for me in this film is a story about three people trying to be in a loving relationship with one another in a world that's still not really ready for what is going on here. So, it was a romance film done differently, under a mask of  the drama and the biography( How very Superhero-like of them).

Recommended by Monica Shine

Click here to view in the catalog.

She Persisted: 13 American Women who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton

Just in time for Women's History Month comes Chelsea Clinton's "She Persisted", a picture book which features 13 amazing American women who dreamed big, reached for the stars and cemented their place in history.  The women featured in this book belong to all races, creeds and professions and have done some truly inspirational things.  

Against all the odds, women like Harriet Tubman, Clara Lemlich, Virginia Agpar and Claudette Colvin never took no for an answer and are now celebrated as trailblazers who all are equally deserving to grace these pages.  The illustrations by Alexandra Boiger are beautiful and poignant as well and will keep even hold the pickiest reader's attention. 

This isn't just a book for girls, but for everyone who ever had a dream.  To open doors, children need to know there are others who have opened doors and we can now step through. 

Recommended by Monica Shine

Click here to view in the catalog

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Black Witches are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends.

Three Black Witches, all fair to be seen
two to devour
and one to be queen

So begins the wonderful YA book “Three Dark Crowns” by Kendare Blake.  And with an intro like that, who wouldn’t want to keep on reading?  The whole story is just so delightfully creepy, intense, and yet somehow super emotional. The story starts with during the Ascension Year, when the three sisters will display their powers and then have exactly one year to kill the others for the crown.
Our three dark queens are:

Katharine the poisoner, but her gift is seemingly weak. She doesn't have the ability to survive any poison like she should, so she's been steadily poisoned throughout her life in order to build an immunity.  The last three queens of her land have all been poisoners so she feels a steady pressure to uphold that legacy at all costs.

Mirabella is an elemental, meaning she can control the elements.  She is by far the strongest of the three sisters and many have been touting her as the next queen.  However, she is by far the most soft hearted of the sisters.  She mourns the loss of her sisters at a young age, but does she have what it takes to ascend to the crown?

Arsinoe is a naturalist whose gift is pretty much nonexistent.  She is supposed to be able to control what happens in nature (harvests, animals, plants etc.) but struggles to find her way and is constantly frustrated by her lack of a gift.  Is she a lamb to the slaughter, or is there more to her than meets the eye?

It’s impossible not to get engrossed in this lush, vivid story.  You think you know which queen you will side with, however, you have no idea.  Happy reading!

Recommended by Monica Shine

Click here to find in the catalog.