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GoSetWatchman

New Harper Lee Novel Announced!

Chills ran up and down my spine as I watched clips of people reading aloud from the book To Kill a Mockingbird. The clips were aired with the huge announcement that there is a sequel, with a scheduled release date of July 14th. The sequel, written in the 1950’s, is called Go Set a Watchman. The announcement has taken fans the world over by surprise.

GoSetWatchman

The new book features the main character, Scout, as an adult returning home to Maycomb, Alabama. She must deal with the issues surrounding her father, the community, and her own life. Harper Lee, now 88, was delighted when the manuscript of Watchman turned up last autumn attached to an original copy of Mockingbird. She showed it to a few people and, with their encouragement, arranged for publication.

Almost immediately charges began swirling around the announcement. Many people were suspicious about the timing, since Lee’s lawyer, her older sister, passed away mere months ago. But Lee herself has confirmed multiple times that she is aware and excited about the new release.

The original book Lee submitted for publication was actually Go Set a Watchman, but her editor at the time became more interested in Scout’s childhood backstory. When asked to write about that, Lee put aside Go Set a Watchman and wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.
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Now we will all find out what happened next. In preparation for this astounding event, Jackson District Libraries have ordered multiple copies of the new novel. Come in, call or go online to place your hold on the waiting list for Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman.

2015MarApril

March/April 2015 Newsletter

March is a great time to grab your favorite book and dive right into reading!

To kick things off, join us at the fun-filled Where’s Waldo Carnival, or one of the many March is National Reading Month activities we have planned throughout the district.

Not only is March a great month to get into reading, it is also a great time to seek out fun events to enjoy with family or friends!

2015MarApril

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

 

The Silkworm is the anticipated sequel to Robert Galbraith’s debut novel The Cuckoo’s Calling.

 

After the events of The Cuckoo’s Calling, detective and former Special Ops Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott are busy with lucrative clients. When author Owen Quine goes missing his wife hires Strike to find Quine, Strike finds himself in the back-stabbing world of writers and publishers. He discovers that Quine’s recently finished manuscript criticizes his family and friends. Meanwhile, Robin’s fiancé has set a date, and she finds herself torn between her relationship with the two men and her love of detective work.

 

Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Her skill is apparent throughout this book. The novel is set in London. I’ve visited the city, and I enjoyed the return to familiar landmarks. As the second book in the series, less time was needed to build the main characters, so the detective work shines. And most importantly, the ending was not obvious.

 

Have you read The Silkworm? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

January/February 2015 Newsletter

The newsletter has arrived!

The new strategic plan has shaped up and is presented in this edition of Chapters. Excellent programming on the effects of climate change, tackling barriers to student success, and Brad West ponders just how overrated bacon is.

We also look ahead to the newest offering to JDL patrons. Streaming digital magazines are on the horizon!

StationEleven

Tessa’s Book Recommendation: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Bestsellers come and go with hardly a glance from me. Occasionally I will pick one up, especially if it is science fiction or fantasy, and usually I find it a huge disappointment, as it will also be for any experienced readers. Books such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Ben Percy’s Red Moon, or Justin Cronin’s The Passage are a few examples from science fiction.


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RedMoon
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Then something special steps out of the fog of words and jacket covers.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel stood out and let fall a soft flickering lantern light on the dystopian novel.

First the author gives us a personage, a celebrity named Arthur Leander, and then a pandemic, the Georgian Flu, to “wipe out civilization as we know it.” Then we are introduced to a new version of the traveling show. We meet people who behave in the flawed yet typical ways that society expects in a crisis.

StationEleven But these people are abruptly dropped and picked up again in an amazing and skillful use of flashbacks and point of view shifts. One wonders what happened, distressed by the characters’ dilemmas, but we quickly become enthralled in the next person’s experiences. And then, there we are, back with someone previous. Gradually the twists and turns come closer together. Finally we expect the end, if not the exact one we get.

It’s interesting to me that this favorite is set in Michigan, my current home. One of my other favorite post-apocalyptic novels, Alas, Babylon, by Pat Frank, was set in Florida, my home when I read it.AlasBabylon I would suspect influence from that, except that I am not the only person singing the praises of these two masterpieces.

Extremely evocative and sad, yet also hopeful, this book is one of the best post-calamity books I’ve ever read. ~ Tessa January 2014

belzhar

Three YA Boarding School Books

I’ve been going through a huge E. Lockhart phase. She is a Young Adult (YA) writer who recently released the wildly popular We Were Liars. I devoured that book, I bought a copy for my niece for her birthday, and I started on a mission to read everything Lockhart has written.

This is what brought me to The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I adore this book. I love the word “disreputable,” I love the protagonist, Frankie, a teenaged girl at a prep school in New England. I love how Frankie takes it upon herself to infiltrate the school’s all male secret society. She’s bold and determined and clever but also sometimes insecure and maybe also doing it all to impress a boy.disreputable

What was most interesting to me is that where we ultimately leave Frankie is in a place that I’m still thinking about constantly, with the question of what we collectively do with a girl like her. Because Frankie’s weird. The book is weird and, like everything else by Lockhart, nuanced. And, without giving anything away, we leave the book with Frankie just starting to sort out what all of this means. It’s a difficult place to end a story but it’s really interesting and really resonates.

And then I accidentally fell into a bunch of other YA books about teens at boarding schools.

The second one was Meg Wolitzer’s latest, Belzhar. I’d been looking forward to this one since I found out it existed. Belzhar is basically a YA take on and tribute to Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. This is a magical realist look into another New England boarding school, this time one that specifically caters to teens dealing with mental illness. Wolitzer’s protagonist, Jam, was sent there by her parents on her therapist’s recommendation after losing the boy she loved.

belzharOK, just a digression to talk about how the catalysts for both of these stories are girls trying to hold on to a boy. In general, this is a not uncommon YA trope and, in general, it makes me feel tired and bored and sometimes angry. I don’t even know if I have a way of explaining why I feel differently about Frankie and Jam – maybe it is the fact that all that these boys end up being, in the end, is a catalyst. Like, they’re actually not the most important part of the story or the most important thing about the girls.

Frankie ends up working to dismantle the entire boys’ club of her school’s secret society and Jam discovers a whole secret fantasy world. Their priorities shift radically and, I think, by the end of each book, both girls have broadened their ideas about what’s important and have started to demand that boys recognize them as actual people. Which I guess is the important shift for me: I think it’s fine to worry about boys, what breaks my heart is making boys the protagonist of your own story. Frankie and Jam become their own heroes and that is so, so cool to read.

Which brings me to Andrew Smith’s Winger, this time about a 14-year-old junior at a private boarding school in the Pacific Northwest told from the perspective of the 14-year-old boy in question, Ryan Dean West. This was Henrietta’s November book club suggestion and I wouldn’t have started it (and absolutely would not have finished it) were that not the case.winger

But what my book group was able to remind me of were some of the book’s charms (and the way Smith just nails the perspective choice). Ryan Dean writes and draws comics and we get to see some of the ones that he shares with his friends. Smith lets us see all of Ryan Dean. A lot of the narrative is affected and self-conscious (again, he’s a 14-year-old junior in high school) but the comics let us see him on another level. The style changes throughout the book and it’s really just an excellent representation of character growth.

I guess what, again, made me feel exhausted about reading this book was that it felt like Ryan Dean’s character growth was built on the lack of character growth of everyone else, particularly the female characters. I will admit my bias and say that I, personally, am tired of reading about boys coming of age and have hungered desperately for the same kinds of stories about girls. After delighting in those very stories for months, it was hard to peel myself away.

That said, Winger is a pretty big accomplishment and I respect Smith’s storytelling abilities. I would just be quicker to recommend Lockhart or Wolitzer to teens. The good news is, we have them all at JDL so no one really has to choose.

Belle-cover-image

Tessa’s DVD Recommendation: Belle (2013; Rated PG)

Feature Films with Food at Carnegie watched a sleeper this week! And I mean that in the nicest possible way, the film industry’s meaning of “something that succeeds when no one thought it would.” Belle is based on the true story of an 18th century woman named Dido Elizabeth Belle. Belle was the daughter of a British naval officer, John Lindsay, and an African woman, Maria Belle, who might have been a slave, but the details are not certain. Her father brought her back to England and left her to be raised by family, specifically an uncle who was the first Earl of Mansfield and became the Lord Chief Justice. A childless couple, the earl and his wife were already raising another niece, and Belle became like a sister to her. There is a famous portrait of the two young women, available for viewing in Scotland, which inspired the film.Belle-cover-image
Not only will Jane Austen fans adore this; history aficionados will appreciate it as well. The movie does a good job of portraying the privileged life as well as the tensions for Belle and her family in 18th century upper crust England, where slaving as a business still thrived. Although they take a few liberties, the film is faithful to the facts as we know them. The family raised Belle lovingly, providing education and a generous allowance. Once the earl and his wife passed away, Belle soon married and bore three children herself before passing away in her 40s. The film places the earl into his historical milieu, showing the pressures and temptations of his position and how his rulings influenced England and the world towards the abolition of the slave trade. He is considered the founder of contemporary commercial law. This admirable man and the unusual life that Belle lived is a worthy topic for a film. Since it is also a well done film, it will, I’m sure, only increase in repute and viewings for years to come. Highly recommended.    December 2014

Modiano

Tessa’s Nobel Prize Winner Rejection: Missing Person by Patrick Modiano

Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize for Literature this month, mainly for work he did “on the human identity” in the book, Rue des Boutiques Obscures, which translated is, Missing Person in English. I just don’t see the reasoning behind this award.The story is an endless dull grind of Guy Roland looking, searching, for his “real” identity, lost with his total amnesia more than eight years previous. While not as dull and depressing as some French writing, this “detective story” still left me cold. I didn’t find the writing particularly lovely or expressive.Modiano

The individuals Roland encounters along the way are eccentric and vaguely ominous. I began to wonder at all the people who had committed suicide in the book, suspecting a horrible disclosure. No such climactic reveal, I should have known. Even Georges Simenon, the Belgian detective story master, manages to make crime boring, so how much more a French literary philosopher?

It is probably a pretty accurate and atmospheric trip through Paris and its quartiers, with glimpses of wartime streets, but, hm, hasn’t that been done a bit elsewhere? The ending really bugged me, too. Sheesh. All that work to get to a conclusion like that? No spoilers here, just my gut reaction. I definitely feel they should have given the award to someone else. ~ Tessa Eger           November 2014