The Hunger Games Trilogy

Originally posted on Tue, Aug 31 2010 at ROPL.org.

You live in District 12, you’re a teenager and you’ve managed to avoid being picked to participate in the horrific Hunger Games – until now. What happens next? This is, in essence, the beginning of Suzanne Collins’ YA novel, The Hunger Games.

What are the Hunger Games? It’s sort of a reality TV show, where one boy and one girl from each of the 12 Districts of the country Panem (formerly North America), must compete – to the death. The winner receives food for his or her district. It sounds gruesome, and some ways it is. But at it’s heart,The Hunger Games, and its two sequels (Catching Fire and Mockingjay), are about a sixteen year old girl who ends up being more than just a girl.catching-fire

The books are dark, very dystopian and often dangerous. But they are also full of life, of hope and fear. In Katniss, Collins creates a strong young woman who is forced to embrace a role she never wanted. Throughout the three novels, we follow Katniss as she embarks on a journey that will change not only her life, but that of all those who surround her – including those she loves most.

Collins’ writing is enthralling, leaving us breathless at the end of both The Hunger Games andCatching Fire. While Katniss is not likable (she’s a tough girl, who must illegally hunt animals in order to feed her family), we want her to succeed. She grows as the trilogy continues and Collins does an extraordinary job of making her self-aware, for good or for ill. The books are rough, but unlike so many series, the ending fits perfectly with the previous two novels.

Though these books are marketed for YA readers, they have wide-reaching appeal. Be sure to check out the series.

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Pakistan Relief

Originally posted on Sat, Aug 28 2010 at ROPL.org.

We’ve all seen the pictures of the flooding in Pakistan and read about the thousands dead and millions displaced. If you want more information and want to help, here are some resources.

Government (US and International)

News Sources

To learn more about flooding:

Please visit the library for books and other materials on both Pakistan and flooding.

Leviathan – A Taste of Steampunk

Originally posted on Sat, Aug 28 2010 at ROPL.org.

What is steampunk? It’s a genre of science fiction and fantasy that mixes together our pasts with our possible futures. The worlds may resemble our own, only instead of coal, everything’s run on steam. Or they may be completely different from our own. Scott Westerfeld’s young adult novel, Leviathanfalls somewhere in the middle. The world is familiar; the setting (just before World War I) from our past; but the machinery is unlike our own.

Westerfeld’s two main characters, a prince named Alek and a young midshipman named Deryn, are from two different worlds. Deryn is a Darwinist (who use real creatures as their ships, and so on) and Alek is a Clanker (who uses steam-powered machines that are similar, in some ways, to those of our past). Westerfeld mixes reality with fiction to create a masterful, engrossing novel about two teens who must fight to survive.

His novel is more than just an adventure story. It’s about war, about love, about family. And, of course, about coming of age. Deryn wants nothing more than to be able to fly, but because she’s a girl, she must pretend to be a boy in order to fulfill her dream. Alek, on the other hand, is a prince (the son of Archduke Ferdinand – a name we’re all familiar with in connection with World War I). He too must hide who he is, by pretending to be a commoner instead of the royalty he is.

The book is fun, with hints of sadness and fear (the loss of Alek’s parents, the fear  they’ll be found by the Germans, Deryn’s worry that she’ll be exposed as a girl) that keep things exciting. Alek and Deryn do eventually meet and by the end of the novel, we’re left wanting more. Luckily, the squel toLeviathan (called Behemoth) will be released in early October of 2010.

If you like Leviathan, or if you want to read more in the steampunk genre, check out our display in the library. Here are some titles to get you started:

Young Adult

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series
Airborn and Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish
City of Ember and People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Fullmetal Alchemist (manga series) by Hiromu Arakawa
Un Lun Dun by China Mievelle

Adult

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Scar by China Mieville
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Classics

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
The Time Machine by HG Wells
War of the Worlds by HG Wells

Declutter Your Life!

Originally posted on Fri, Aug 27 2010 at ROPL.org.

Feeling overwhelmed? Have too much stuff? From organizing your house to decluttering your life, we have resources that can help you get started.

Check out some of these titles found in our library:

  • Outwitting Clutter by Bill Adler
  • 10-Minute Clutter Control by Skye Alexander
  • Organize Your Digital Life by Aimee Baldridge
  • Garage Solutions by Rich Binsacca
  • Throw Out Fifty Things by Gail Blanke
  • Order from Chaos by Liz Davenport
  • Moving On by Linda Hetzer
  • Clutter Cutters by Vicki Ingram
  • Organize Your Garage in No Time by Barry Izak
  • Taming the Office Tiger by Barbara Hemphill
  • One Year to an Organized Work Life by Regina Leeds
  • Complete Idiot’s Guide to Organizing Your Life by Georgene Lockwood
  • Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  • When Organizing Isn’t Enough by Julie Morgenstern
  • Stop Clutter From Wrecking Your Family by Mexico Nelson
  • Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer
  • What’s a Disorganized Person to do? by Stacey Platt
  • Let go of Clutter by Harriet Schechter
  • Organizing From the Right Side of the Brain by Lee Silber
  • Organizing Plain & Simple by Donna Smallin
  • Mission: Organization by Amy Tincher-Durik
  • Lillian Too’s 168 Feng Shui Ways to a Calm and Happy Life by Lillian Too
  • Home Management 101 by Debbie Williams
  • Stephanie Winston’s Best Organizing Tips by Stephanie Winston
  • Organizing from the Inside Out by Niki Vettel (DVD)

Here are some blogs to help you unclutter your life:

Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Originally posted on Wed, Aug 04 2010 at ROPL.org.

You don’t need to like zombies in order to appreciate Lindqvist’s exceptional novel. Unlike traditional zombie stories, Handling the Undead is not about the coming zombie apocalypse. The undead, or reliving as they’re termed in the novel, have not come back to eat our brains.

Don’t misunderstand me, Lindqvist’s novel is a horror story. The novel, set in Stockholm, beings with an unbearable pain in the heads of it’s citizens. It intensifies as we’re introduced to our main characters: a loving father/husband and his son, an overweight and lonely grandfather/journalist and his daughter, and a young, rebellious teenager and her grandmother. Connected only by the loosest of events — and the zombies themselves, these characters carry us through the story of the reliving. When the headaches subside, it seems nothing’s changed — except the recently dead have returned.

Instead of a harrowing tale of survival and battling zombies in order to keep living, Handling the Undead is an intimate look at what happens when loved ones come back from the dead — and come back to us. Lindqvist explores the confusion that surrounds the return of the undead, the fears that cause some to run and hide from the undead, while others to take their reliving and hide away. There are no true happy endings, but it doesn’t matter. As with Lindqvist’s other horror novel, Let The Right One In, he creates a world that is like our own — but with subtle changes that make sure it’s one we don’t want to live in. Though where the vampires in Let The Right One In are scary and dangerous, the zombies/reliving in Handling the  Undead only want to be free.

Many zombie novels play on the idea that zombies are conscious beings who happen to have died (see: Daniel Waters’ Generation Dead series) or hoards that must be eliminated (see: Mira Grant’sFeed). Handling the Undead treats it’s zombies as the people they once were, which fills the novel with so much emotion that it’s hard not to care — both about the fate of the characters and the reliving they once cared dearly for. Near the end of the novel, there’s a moment of mayhem that will be familiar to every zombie fan out there. But in the end, Handling the Undead is more than just another zombie novel — it’s about love, letting go and moving on. While not particularly profound, it is a novel that makes us both feel and think about both live and death.

Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me May 17, 2015

Originally posted on Wed, Aug 04 2010 at ROPL.org.

Kristen Chandler’s novel is not about werewolves or anything else supernatural. In some ways, it’s not even about wolves. It’s about small towns, growing up and boys and girls.

That might sound a bit boring, a bit too much like real life. But Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me is anything but boring. It’s the story of KJ Carson, seventeen years old and trying to survive high school. Enter Virgil, new to the small town and only there because his mother is studying the wolves in Yellowstone.

When Virgil inadvertently gets KJ interested in wolves, bad things start to happen. The town turns against both teens and their families and friends. Chandler holds nothing back, keeping you on the edge of your seat. Unlike many YA novels, actions have negative consequences and parents play a key role in the story.

The novel is at times funny and slightly uncomfortable, all while being sweet and endearing, with a mix of suspense thrown in. It definitely falls into the category of unique coming of age novels (see a previous column I did). Chandler’s writing makes sure that even while we learn about wolves as KJ does, it doesn’t seem boring or like a lecture. Her characters are lively, they learn from their mistake, and suffer the consequences of their actions.

Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me was entertaining and enthralling. I completely enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it.

Be sure to check out some other books about wolves from the library!