New fantasy novels mirror old: like an old mirror with the paint backing chipping off










Queen of the Tearling, Blood Song, The Goblin Emperor, Traitor Baru Cormorant, The Red Queen…are all kind of the same. Substitute a young boy given to a brutal school; for a goblin, abused from childhood and suddenly thrust into the role of emperor; for a new queen, young and bereaved, but with amazing powers; for a savant lesbian imperial accountant ripped from her family; for…some other young adult embroiled in an alien world of political intrigue, conspiracy, and rebellion.

These are all well-written: some better, some worse. But I really couldn’t find much to choose between them. I wanted to, but they are mostly echoes of each other and of masters who have gone before. Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish series, Cherryh’s Foreigner series, Dune, Brandon Sanderson, and others have done all these things before, and, usually, with more imagination, better writing and exquisite creations.

Of the five new ones mentioned above, I think that Traitor Baru Cormorant and Blood Song are the best. The others weren’t too far behind. For most originality, I would have to go with Blood Song or possibly The Goblin Emperor.


The Goblin Emperor really failed, however, to make the most of its uniqueness. Here’s hoping Addison’s next book will discover the rich potential of her emperor. Traitor Baru Cormorant shocked me, but I think I must not have been paying attention—any reader ofDune should be well prepared for this book’s ending, if they don’t give up out of boredom during the battles. I know, it’s hard to believe, but the battles became quite tedious. Fantasy and science fiction is supposed to be edgy and original, not emulative and old hat. New worlds, not old tropes. Give Blood Song by Anthony Ryan and Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson a try, but the rest are simply optional. ~Tessa Various ratings March 2016

Questions About the Presidential Candidates?

The current presidential campaign has me somewhat on edge, because it is still not down to two candidates. That’s the longest I can remember the nominations remaining undecided, ever—and I am an old termagant. Suddenly all the primaries are getting attention, not just Iowa and New Hampshire. Even Michigan will have a role in the decision this year. The Michigan primary is coming up on March 8th. If you are still uncertain how you will vote in Michigan’s primary, the library has books on each of the main candidates.

Never Enough: Donald Trump and the pursuit of success by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael D’Antonio is an authorized biography of the Wharton School graduate. D’Antonio was given generous access to Trump himself and all his adult children, along with many other people close to Trump. The New York Times called the book a “straightforward, evenhanded but nonetheless damning account.” Thoroughly researched and reporting from his Queens’ childhood on, D’Antonio shows where The Donald comes from, what he was, what he is, and how he got here. trump-dantonio

ClintonMost people are already familiar with the former First Lady and Secretary of State, but for anyone who isn’t or who still has questions, check out the newest book, Hard Choices, by herself, Hillary Clinton.

Vermont senator and independent Bernie Sanders, now running for president as a democrat, has a long career as a populist. 35 years of distinguished public service give the author of The Essential Bernie Sanders and his vision for America, Jonathan Tasini, a lot of data to work with. However, Library Journal calls it “essentially an extended political pamphlet.” Still, if you want to know his platform or stance on particular issues, here is a great source.Sanders-Tasini

cruzFinally, a political newcomer and one of the more controversial candidates is portrayed in his autobiography: A Time for Truth: reigniting the promise of America by Ted Cruz. Cruz has only run in one election, coming to the Senate from the Texas’ Solicitor General office. Houston native Cruz is of Cuban descent, attended Princeton and Harvard Universities, and clerked for then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Professor Alan Dershowitz has said that Cruz, in law school, was “off-the-charts brilliant.”

The Jackson District Library has many other books, in many formats, on current candidates and political issues. Let us be your go-to source for current events! ~ Tessa February 2016

Tessa’s Syfy Series Recommendation: The Expanse by James S. A. Corey

An exciting new tv show will debut December 14th on the Syfy channel. This series, The Expanse, is based on one of the best new science fiction series in recent years. Starting with Leviathan Wakes, the coauthors (using a pen name) have created a future world in which interplanetary conflict puts mankind on the verge of war. What few people know, yet, is an alien threat so horrific it paralyzes people with panic. Normal people, anyway.

The Expanse books cross genres with political intrigue, horror, science fiction, mystery, some romance and humor. Currently at six books, the book series will ultimately encompass eleven novels and five novellas plus short stories. The TV show has two seasons completed covering the first two novels.

The trailers look awesome, and the actors chosen look like a good fit to their characters. Even though the Expanse solar system is a totally different place, I think they can make the show believable and engaging. Prepare for the conflict between Mars and Earth. Between Mars and the Outer Planets. Between everybody and something else. Who has allowed it in? Is it too late for us all? Don’t miss it—not the books, not the show. ~ Tessa November 2015 5 out of 5 stars

Tessa’s Book Review: One Year After by William R. Forstchen

One Year After, the latest book by Forstchen, is a good follow up to his first book as well as exploring further the possibilities of an American governmental collapse. While focusing on potential catastrophes from an EMP, the book could also be a great discussion starter on any topics, from economic collapse to ground invasion.


The first book in this series is One Second After, which came out in 2009. These two dystopian novels deal with the aftereffects of an EMP bomb, or electromagnetic pulse bomb, on the continental USA. The author situates the book in some beautiful country—the mountains of North Carolina. I read the first book when it was published, but even so, I reread it before reading the new release and second book, One Year After.

Recently on the New York Times’ bestsellers list, One Year After picks up the threads of the story, with a little more about the global situation, rumors of help, and continued bullying from Asheville. John is now the mayor, and Makala, now his wife, is head of public health & safety. They make a good team. There isn’t much of real interest in the first part of the book. I almost gave up, but then the raiders on the other side of the ridge above Black Mountain kidnap John. And the administrator in Asheville offers John the position of Major General, stationed at the nation’s center in Virginia. If John takes the position, the new draft for Black Mountain will be slashed in half. As Hans Solo would say, John has a bad feeling about this. But will he even escape from the raiders? And if he does, will he head up to Virginia, leaving Black Mountain? Some philosophical references to Machiavelli and others give the books more depth and provocative discussion, and tactical advantages and strategy play a big part in both books. Naturally, there is violence and battlefield medical care. If this kind of book is appealing, you will probably like them both. Recommended to lovers of dystopian or military action. ~ Tessa October 2015 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tessa’s Children’s Book Recommendation: The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer

If you haven’t kept up with children’s books over the last couple decades, you may have missed a terrific author. Nancy Farmer’s books have covered topics such as cloning, long-term effects of pollutants, social progress and culture change. In The ear, the eye and the arm, she takes us to Zimbambwe in the year 2194, when General Matsika, chief of security, suddenly finds that his three children went on an Explorer Scout adventure alone into the city center and were kidnapped. The kidnappers distracted them with an illegal blue mutant monkey–then chloroformed them.
The three detectives hired to find the children are called Ear, Arm and Eye, because of their unique skills. Arm has extremely long arms and legs and he can sense emotions as well as having premonitions; Ear has extremely sensitive hearing; and Eye, of course, can see the fleas on an eagle. Their mothers lived in a village near a nuclear reactor which leaked plutonium into their water.


The story gives us a tour of the huge city of Harare, from the busy market to the toxic waste dump where the poorest, slaves, mine for plastic and then on to a small traditionally African country contained within Harare, completely cut off from technology, medicine and the laws. The children are nearly rescued by the detectives time and time again, but there is a conspiracy, some African black magic, and a fine dinner at the top of the highest building in Harare before the great ruckus brings it all to a satisfying end.
Be sure to take special note of the excellent Shona word shooper. We don’t have an English equivalent: it means to say the one thing calculated to keep an argument going (or get it started). Some of you, I’m sure, know someone who is an inveterate shooperer, like Tendai’s sister Rita, or you immediately think of that blatant shooperism, such as “Just what do you mean by that?” Nancy Farmer is brilliant, and this book is timeless and funny. ~ Tessa March 2011 5 out of 5 stars

New Books & Brews Book Club


Books & Brews book club meets at Bifferhaus Brewing Company on 1st Wednesdays.

Cure your Wednesday night slump with a book paired with a pint.


Adults 21+ are welcome to discuss good books and sample good brews at JDL’s Carnegie Library’s Books & Brews book club. The group meets at Bifferhaus Brewing Company (900 Lansing Ave, Jackson) for a non-traditional book discussion in a brewery atmosphere.


Books & Brews meetings are the first Wednesday of the month, beginning October 7. Stop in and mingle at 5:30 PM; the discussion starts at 6:00 PM.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Our October read is Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Books are available at the Carnegie Library’s Reference Desk.


Participants are responsible for their own drinks. Bifferhaus does not serve food, but outside food is welcome.

Tessa’s Literary Recommendation: 92 Stories by James Thurber

If you don’t know anything about James Thurber except that his name is familiar, you might want to start your acquaintance by watching the 2013 remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller. This classic Thurber short story was also dramatized on film in 1947 with Danny Kaye, but Thurber hated it. No one knows if he hated the 2013 version.

However, if the wry humor of these movies appeals to you, or if you enjoy the so-called War between the Sexes, then you want to try more Thurber. The familiar household battleground was a frequent topic in his work. He was a famous wit and cartoonist, writing and drawing for The New Yorker from 1927 well into the 50’s.James_Thurber_NYWTS

One collection JDL owns, 92 Stories, also contains some original drawings, which have a distinct flavor of the cartoons of the early 20th century. (Dorothy Parker famously remarked his cartoons had a “semblance of unbaked cookies.”) Two of his most renowned stories are collected here—The Greatest Man in the World and If Grant had been drinking at Appomattox.

The volume The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze is reproduced in 92 Stories in its entirety, with many fun accounts of daily life. For those who suffer lazily rather than mend or replace torn or ill-fitting clothing, The Gentleman is Cold from this volume is required reading. (I subsequently checked over my own winter clothing, which I found mostly lying in a basket with the (still) dirty items from a long vacation.) We must all be relieved, I’m sure, that fashions have changed so much since those tedious and fastidious days.

The JDL library also owns the Library of America volume of Thurber called Writings and Drawings. Don’t put this reading off too long—winter won’t wait, and these stories are much too dry for the cold season. ~Tessa August 2015 4.5 out of 5 stars (less a half star for those stories I found too, too much like my own life)

Tessa’s Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

The new Harper Lee book Go Set a Watchman features the main character from To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout, as an adult returning home to Maycomb, Alabama, from New York City. She must deal with issues surrounding her family, the community, and her own life.

ToKillAMockingbirdCoverThe humor in this book is as enjoyable as in To Kill a Mockingbird—lots of great Southern talk, church folk, and descriptions that take me back to my Florida childhood. However, the book needed more editing. Inevitably this will be compared to Mockingbird, and that book neared perfection. In this, there were typos. There were sentences that didn’t make sense. There were literary allusions that couldn’t be figured out. But these were few. There was one passage that really bogged down in logic and debate that could have been handled better. The plot lacked completion, cohesion, and polish. The ending was anti-climactic, unfinished, abrupt, and needed closure. (Yes, I’m being redundant. It was bad.) I think that Harper Lee never really finished this manuscript.GoSetAWatchmanCover

But there were also passages that were sheer genius. I really enjoyed the Coffee, where she would catch parts of conversations, overlapping, which would yield to hysterical possibilities. The analogy of a scale worked for me there. I have attended such social occasions in the South and suffered through in the same way, serving things up to the important folk and then back to the children or unmarried.

The time jumps were brilliant–I loved and delighted in them, enjoying the mental challenge to be alert for time locational clues. These were better than any other such book, I believe. Her internal reasons for the childhood flashbacks were completely logical and tied in so nicely with the book’s present.
The overall impression I have, and had before I read this, is that this is the book she wanted to write–this is HER story, as she experienced it as a young adult. I imagine her family was alarmed by all the fame and notoriety and they would not let her publish anything that was critical of the family. I’m sure they enjoyed Mockingbird’s hero worship of her family and father. But reality is that she actually was this spoiled, sheltered, sharp-tongued woman who thought herself (and sometimes was) brilliant and blameless.

Sadly her family was by no means faultless and sterling–and they had to live in the Alabama of the Civil Rights Era, which was neither a safe nor a comfortable place, as portrayed in the book. The steps they took were not what she wanted, nor what we see, from afterwards and outside, as “right,” but she helps the reader understand that there might have been people doing what Atticus did, with seemingly good intentions. We judge them at our own peril.
Still, I wish she had gone back and finished the book. I wish she had told us more of her accommodations to her family, her family’s adjustments to her city ways, and more of Alabama’s small town life in those days. Even so, highly recommended. ~Tessa 4 out of 5 stars August 2015

Tessa’s Travel Guide Recommendation: 50 Hikes in Michigan: Sixty Walks, Day Trips & Backpacks in the Lower Peninsula by Jim DuFresne

JDL received the 3rd edition of Jim DuFresne’s 50 Hikes in Michigan as a donation from the author himself. DuFresne is a lifelong Michigander and has authored multiple travel and outdoor books, including this Explorer’s Guide entry. The well-organized, portable book is suitable for keeping in the car while traveling, although not one you would want to carry on the trail itself. This edition contains 10 extra walks, which explains the subtitle.


Even before the contents’ pages, there is a great graph listing the hikes by name, then region, distance, major features and notes. The contents page has a map facing it that shows all the hikes by number. These trails are all over the Lower Peninsula, in all types of terrain. At the beginning of each entry is a small box which gives details including distance, time, difficulty rating, GPS, and more. Each entry also has a map of the trail with significant features marked. Then the chapter will give a brief introduction and any historical significance followed by access directions and, finally, a breakdown of the trail itself. Photos accompany the sections, giving a sample of the views.

A proven listing in Michigan outdoor guides, this is a great book to check out or purchase for fresh inspiration and new horizons. Thanks to Jim DuFresne for donating this new edition.~ Tessa July 2015 3.75 out of 5 stars

5 Healthy Towns Recipes – “Our Own Backyard”

Healthy food options can be had as close as your local Farmer’s Market. Brad West had some great tips for staying healthy straight from the garden! If you’d like to attend the next 5 Healthy Towns healthy eating class featuring ‘Great Lakes Goodies’ on September 16 at the Whistlestop Depot in Grass Lake, call (517)522-8211 to reserve your spot!



Asian Sugar Snap Pea, Cucumber, and Radish Salad

(serves 8-10)

  • 4 cups snap peas, blanched for 30-60 seconds and then cold shocked
  • 2 bunches radishes, thin slices
  • 1 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and thin sliced
  • 1 spring onion, sliced thin julienne
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger root
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2-4 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 2-4 Tbsp. minced cilantro (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve on a bed of spring greens

Feta and Green Olive Dip

(serves 8-10)

  • 8 oz. feta, crumbled
  • 8 oz. lite cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup Daisy sour cream
  • 2-3 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup spring onion, minced
  • 2/3 cup chopped green olives ( can use any olive)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix well serve with fresh vegetables, pita bread, crackers, etc.


Lebanese Stewed Green Beans, Potatoes, Chick Peas, and Tomatoes

(serves 8-10)

  • 4 cups green beans, trimmed and snapped
  • 3 pounds redskin potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups onions, sliced into julienne strips
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. agave syrup (can sub 2 tsp. brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot, sauté onions in olive oil until golden. Add garlic potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, water, cumin, allspice, and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook stirring frequently until potatoes are done, 40-45 minutes. Turn off heat and add parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Fresh Beet, Carrot and Kohlrabi Salad

(serves 8-10)

  • 4 cups fresh beets, grated
  • 4 cups fresh carrots, grated
  • 4 cups fresh kohlrabi, grated
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 cup spring onion, thin sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Keep beets, carrots and kohlrabi in separate bowls. Combine all other ingredients and whisk well. Divide dressing into three equal parts and mix with each bowl of grated veggies. To build salad put down layer of beet salad first, layer of carrot salad next, and layer of kohlrabi salad on top. Garnish with minced parsley.

Nectarine Blueberry Crisp

(serves 8-10)


  • 8 cups blueberries
  • 8 nectarines, seeded and diced
  • 1/2-1 cup brown sugar (taste and adjust according to how sweet your fruit is)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. lemon juiceTopping:
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well until cornstarch and sugar are dissolved. Pour into a buttered cake pan and put into oven preheated to 325 degrees. Combine all topping ingredients except melted butter. Mix well, then add melted butter and mix well until the topping absorbs all the butter. Bake filling 40 minutes, pull out of oven and stir well. Spread crisp topping over the top, return to oven and bake another 20-30 minutes until the topping is a nice golden brown color. Serve with Greek Gods Vanilla Yogurt for topping.

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