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Marie’s Reading: “All Our Wrong Todays” by Elan Mastai

274050062016 wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Tom knows.  He’s from the way the future is supposed to be: a techno-utopia free of want and war, where all material needs are provided for and the only industry left is entertainment.  However, his life kind of stinks.  His mother is dead and his father is a jerk, and Tom himself is a hopeless schmuck.  It’s down to his really, really stupid decision to go back to the past that history changed, the technology never materialized, and the world is what we’re used to.

And wouldn’t you know: Tom’s life in the wrong 2016 is awesome.  Much better than what he left behind.  Swiftly his dilemma becomes whether his wonderful family and life are worth the countless billions who were erased and the society that never was.

Like the best science fiction, All Our Wrong Todays has plenty of social commentary and ethical questions. But it’s such a refreshing change from dystopian fiction.  Particularly since, in this book, the reality that we know is the dystopia.  We have to kill plants and animals for food.  There’s pollution everywhere and we just keep making more.  Every technology we invent seems to do more harm than good, despite our best efforts.  Tom is shocked when he sees the conditions of our 2016.  Even though his world had problems, they were not on so grand a scale.

Tom is a great narrator, a totally directionless screw-up who seems incapable of changing.  Endlessly self-involved and self-deprecating, Tom’s emotional and personal arc over the course of the story is a rewarding one.  He finds himself cast in the role of hero by the end of the story, commenting on the fact that he suddenly  has a purpose and a duty.  Besides, he’s pretty funny, so that helps the narrative along.

I also really appreciated the optimistic ending.  The future (and the present) is what we make it.  It can be whatever we choose.  We should make sure we choose well.

All Our Wrong Todays is funny and smart, action-packed and cinematic.  It’s also a slightly mind-bending romp through alternate realities and the fabric of time and space.

The Martian by Andy Weir would be a great readalike for this, as would Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  If you like the humor and cinematic writing style, you could try The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn.  You could also try The Man In the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell, about a selfish time-traveler who has to solve his own murder.

–Marie

2016 Top Books!

One of our regulars just came in and asked if there’s any way to tell online which books get checked out the most at the library in a given year.  I realized that yes, there is, and it’s here on the blog, because I run the numbers and then post them here.

Except this year I forgot.  Whoops.

And then I forgot again.  For two weeks.

Thank you, Library Regular, for asking about our top circulated titles, and inadvertently reminding me that I’m the one who posts them.  Heh.

Below, please find at long last the (Belated) Most-Read Adult Fiction for 2016!

2016 Most-Read Fiction Titles

The Crossing by Michael Connelly
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Scandalous Behavior by Stuart Woods
by Sue Grafton
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
After You by JoJo Moyes
Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
Blood Salt Water by Denise Mina

 

 

Marie’s Currently Reading…Blizzard Edition!

As most of you have probably  heard, there’s a blizzard on the way to Maine tonight.  CRIPPLING, you guys.  It’s going to be CRIPPLING: http://haggett.bangordailynews.com/2017/02/12/home/crippling-blizzard-on-the-way-for-coastal-and-interior-maine-2/

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I’ll do my level best not to go insane.  No promises.

Tomorrow is looking like a wash.  A whitewash.  We’ve called a closure already here at the library, because…seriously, CRIPPLING BLIZZARD, guys.   In between shoveling out our driveway from the snowdrifts and baking brownies and praying that the power stays on, I’ve got lots of great books on the go for tomorrow’s snowstorm!

Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes–a history of hot air ballooning!  There’s something incredibly inspiring about the early aeronauts and their quest to take to the air.  Balloonists were showmen, scientists, adventurers, and everything in between.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart–fun, rollicking historical fiction with a fascinating lead and some cracking good dialogue.  It’s about a woman named Constance Kopp, who was one of the first deputy sheriffs in America.

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stewart–this is a witty and very entertaining novel about a barber in a small French village.  When he starts losing clients due to baldness, he decides that he’ll become the village matchmaker instead.  It’s clever and cozy but not twee.

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon–I need at least one thriller on standby.  An alcoholic journalist tries to redeem her life and career by taking on an unsolved case.

Not a bad set of companions for the day.  Apart from Snow Shovel, of course, who I’ll be seeing a lot of.  I hope you’re all holed up somewhere snug and safe tomorrow!

–Marie

 

 

 

 

Marie’s Not Reading This: Holiday Edition!

…holiday in that the holidays are swiftly approaching and my cookie-laden brain can only handle Christmas specials, not that these are holiday books.

I’ve got a bookmark in quite a few titles right now, but nothing at the point where I can write about it.  So here’s what’s on my coffee table/in my bookbag:

Mischling by Affinity Konar (so tough to read but so so good)

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis (fans of Daniel Woodrell and Cormac McCarthy take note!)

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (it is time to finally read past the first few pages of this!)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (haven’t started this yet, but I’m so excited for it–it’s been on a ton of best of 2016 lists)

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (thank you NPR Book Concierge for alerting me to the existence of this new biography!)

Not so long as other lists in this category!  Also, in looking over these titles, I realize I’ve made a rookie mistake in my reading choices.  Winter is not the time for sad/upsetting/bleak/generally heavy reads. No wonder I’m dragging my feet and reaching for Bill Bryson and Terry Pratchett.

I’m going to go home to eat candy and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  I’ll grapple with this list another day.

–Marie

Marie’s Reading About Animals!

Birds and cats, to be precise.  My favorites!

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The Lion in the Living Room: How Housecats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker focuses on the unlikely association between cats and humans.   Housecats aren’t “domesticated” the way dogs and other animals are.  Cats make a deliberate decision to stick with humans, and humans keep these fuzzy little hypercarnivores as cherished pets.  This book discusses how, on an evolutionary and ecological level, how truly bizarre this is.  It’s also a wonderful capsule biological history of the cat.  It’s also extremely fun and extremely readable.

one-wild-bird

One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives by Bernd Heinrich is armchair bird-watching at its best.  Heinrich is a fantastic nature writer, and the narrative is enlivened by his sketches of birds.  He lives in a cabin in the Maine woods and interacts with his bird neighbors both as scientist and observer. One review I saw called Heinrich’s work “hands and knees” science, and that’s a great way to put it.  But it’s also enjoyable because these birds really are Heinrich’s neighbors, the same way I feel about the chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, and goldfinches who are regular visitors to my backyard feeder (I am particularly partial to the chickadees).

I’ll be honest with you and say that I’m still in the middle of both of these books.  But given how slowly I read even slim volumes of nonfiction like these, I thought it prudent to go ahead and share now.

–Marie

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Thus ends another Horror Month, fellow Halloweenies.  Today’s the big day!

But it’s not too late!  We’ve still got a display chock-full of scary reads, and a full cauldron of candy so that you can soar on the wings of sugar into your Halloween night.

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click this picture for a sugar-frosted fright</span>" target="_blank">

I feel like this post needs something else.  Something Halloweeny, but not too scary.  Something frenetic, with crazy visuals.  I’ve got no other ideas but this.  Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

 

Not-So-Horrific-Horror: “Security” by Gina Wohlsdorf

Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s pretty horrific for a thriller.  I’m talking blood, slashers, more blood, chase scenes, Michael Myers costumes, and yet more blood.  But it’s not straight-up Horror so I’m putting in the Not-So-Horrific category.

It’s also a quick, compelling read, so you might even finish it before the big day tomorrow!

wohlsdorf

Manderley, an expensive luxury hotel, is in the final stages of preparation before its grand opening.  Several employees are inside the building.  There’s also an unexpected early guest–a knife-wielding murderer who takes out the employees one by one.  And all the while, a mysterious first-person narrator is watching everything on Manderley’s state of the art security system.

It’s a very complex book stylistically–the formatting of a page will sometimes reflect all of the many things going on in different cameras, to different characters.  Black humor and a love story play out against the gory backdrop.

Really, I’m not kidding you.  Gory.  Blood in the elevators, bodies in the bathtubs, bits  of employee strewn around various rooms.  But even so, the characters are wonderful and the story is so compelling you get past it.

The narrator is revealed slowly over the course of the story.  As the story unfolds and you learn more about the narrator and his background, as well as his present circumstances, you realize how elegant and original the “twist” is.

Enjoy, and see you tomorrow, pals!  I’m putting candy out again this year, so come on down to the library!

–Marie

 

 

Seven Days Until Halloween!

If, like my husband, you can read at the speed of a maglev bullet train, you probably have plenty of time to read several scary books between now and Halloween.  If, like me, you read roughly at the pace of a sleepy tortoise, you should have a creepy back-up plan.

Watch a movie!

Each of these movies won a Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay.  I took the summaries from the Internet Movie Database, parentheticals are mine.  Here are my personal top 3 faves from the awards list:

the-babadook-poster

2014: THE BABADOOK (JENNIFER KENT)–A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.  (atmospheric old-style horror, with plenty of creeping madness and a sympathetic lead)

cabin-in-the-woods

2012: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (JOSS WHEDON AND DREW GODDARD–Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (I wrote a whole post about this! Read it here)

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2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (SIMON PEGG AND EDGAR WRIGHT)–A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.  (this duo can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.  This movie is funny, smart, scary, and moving, with great actors filling every role)

If you need more ideas, check out Daniel Kraus over at Booklist.  He wrote two of my favorite scary books, Rotters and Scowlerand for the past several years he’s run the “31 Horror Films in 31 Days” Challenge. Great suggestions there!

 

Halloween Read: “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix

You might remember Grady Hendrix from such quirky horror novels as Horrorstor, in which retail employees fend off ghosts and torture devices in a big box store.  In My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a night of drugs and skinny-dipping leads to demonic possession.

best-friends-exorcism

Abby and Gretchen have been friends since they were kids.  But now that they’re in high school, something between them has shifted.  Gretchen’s acting awfully weird, and despite everyone saying it’s just a teenage girl phase, Abby’s convinced it’s something much darker than that.  And she’s willing to do anything to save her best friend.

This novel does a lot less with framing than Horrorstor, but the yearbook endpages are spot-on gold.  And the exorcism scene toward the end is suitably disturbing and moving.  Hendrix is great with blending creepiness, action, and humor, and it’s all used to very good effect here.

At its heart, this is the story of a friendship, and that core holds the novel together.  You really care about Abby and Gretchen, and you want their friendship to succeed against all odds.  Possession works incredibly well as a metaphor for adolescence, and while Hendrix doesn’t beat you over the head with it, that element plays a big part in the story.

If you like 80’s flicks and possession stories, give this one a try!

–Marie

Halloween Watch: Kittens!

felix-pumpkin

The only thing I love more than Halloween is kittens!

I tend to forget the non-Horror fans during the Halloween season.  So this is for all of you. Watch adorable fluff-trons act out iconic scenes from classics like The Shining and Psycho.

Enjoy!  Please visit the good people at the ASPCA’s website.  Click here to learn more about the history of black cats and Halloween.  And here are a couple of articles about adopting black cats, given the season: Photographs of black cats by Casey Elise, and Black Cat Rescue, an organization in Boston.

bear-stretch

In closing: More cats!  Specifically, a reading of Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat.”