A powerful princess of the Jinn (or genie) world falls in love with a human philosopher and spawns a race of humans that will play a key role in an impending war between the human world and the Fairy world. In the 21st century, a revolution erupts against the Jinn who escape their realm in order to conquer and terrorize humanity. Told from our ancestors point of view 1001 years in the future and inspired by Islamic mythology and theology, this is a layered and complex story with a wide range of characters. It is a whimsical tale full or popular culture references and humor but mixed with dazzling moments of philosophical insight. However, I will say this isn’t a book for readers looking for a straightforward and linear plot. Prepare yourself for stories within stories and digressions within digressions.
Super Sad & Symbolic Shipping News (3 out of 5)
Set at the time of writing in the 1990s, Annie Proulx’s second novel, The Shipping News, follows thirty-six year old Quoyle from his small hometown in New York on his quest to escape his tragic past. He moves to his ancestral home in Newfoundland, Canada, with his tough, no-nonsense aunt in hopes of providing his two young daughters with happier childhoods than his own. Quoyle joins a crew of quirky locals in writing a small newspaper in the fishing town of Killic-Claw. Assigned to report on car wrecks and shipping news, Quoyle slowly finds his voice while creating a home capable of housing love without pain.
The novel was written in a distinctly modern style, often mirroring the headline style of the newspaper articles Quoyle writes, providing bullet point factual accounts of the action. Although this was effective, I did find it distracting at times as I kept rereading in search of missing subjects or articles. While the plot takes a hopeful and uplifting turn towards the conclusion, the majority of the novel focuses on somber themes including lengthy descriptions of setting that are dense with symbolism. I think it was a challenging and worthwhile read, but one that makes you work and throws in some dark twists and turns. It’s not one for the beach.
Amazingly Imaginative All Soul’s Trilogy (4 out of 5)
Two scholars at Oxford seem to have nothing in common until they discover their mutual interest in an elusive enchanted manuscript hidden in the Bodleian Library. Matthew Clairemont and Diana Bishop are two stubborn and strong-willed opposites who quickly fall for each other as they team up to find the manuscript. Written by new novelist and historian, Deborah Harkness, The All Souls Trilogy is a unique combination of genres. One part popular fantasy where vampires and witches are real, one part science fiction where the vampire is a renowned geneticist and the witch can time travel, and one part history lesson where we learn about New England witch trials and journey to Elizabethan London.
As a sucker for unlikely romances between outcasts, of course I fell in love with this series. But even so, I found some scenes too cheesy or dramatic to take seriously and found myself laughing a bit instead. I also thought the obvious attempts to compare monsters and witches ostracism to the modern day plight of homosexuals a little heavy-handed. Although I agree with the message that love in any form or grouping is a major positive, I think the delivery could have been more subtle. It just felt a little too after-school-special. There were also times the plot became a little predictable due to it’s structural similarities to Twilight. But I will say I was happily surprised at the feminist aspects that were nowhere to be found in Twilight. In fact, the strong female characters and relationships are my favorite part of the series.
Simon Rich’s Silly and Smart Short Stories (5 out of 5)
Simon Rich is a Harvard graduate, a former SNL writer, a former Pixar staff writer, and co-creator of my favorite show on television, Man Seeking Woman. I read four of his short story collections this year including Ant Farm & Other Desperate Situations, The Last Girlfriend on Earth: & Other Love Stories, Spoiled Brats, and Free Range Chickens. Rich has a talent for summing up the Millennial experience in hilarious, concise, and unexpected stories.
On one page you’re reading about the futile existence of video game villains dying off after three punches, on the next you’re reading about the fantasy of putting your parents through the excruciatingly awkward situations of your youth, like inviting over their entire office for their birthday so as not to exclude anyone, or insisting on impromptu performances of their talents to impress your friends. One story describes Zeus’s inability to reign in a rebellious Cupid who would rather learn to rap than spread love. The ideas are so clever and original. I loved every collection and laughed out loud all the way through. Simon Rich is a new favorite.
After seven years of working at a community bank and a lifetime of feeling like a misfit without a tribe (family excluded), I’m excited to report the reasons I am so very thankful for my new job at the local public library.
There are happy children everywhere talking about stories and asking questions. They’re actively and excitedly looking to learn and their egos don’t even enter the picture. They just want to know answers to their questions and they’re excited to explore and discover. This morning was the weekly story time, where youth service librarians read aloud and play games with kids and parents before the library opens. So my day began with checking in books and listening to silly stories, nursery rhymes, and laughing toddlers. My day used to begin by calling a list of overdrawn customers to ask when they could make it in to bring their account positive and review their growing pile of fees. Each task is important and necessary, but so far I prefer listening to laughing children rather than yelling adults.
I’ll just list some observations to show you what I mean: A fellow worker approached me today to point out a particularly cute picture book cover with a cartoon mouse wearing pants held up by twine. Another coworker invited me to a “Biblio-Ball” in which we attend a ball at the library dressed as our favorite character from classical fiction. The staff lounge is covered in baked goods and invitations to employee events like weddings or concerts. The supply closet houses a pet rock, nicely labeled “pet rock” with a small, yellow post-it. I checked in about twenty books with cute dogs and puppies on the covers, all labeled “Puppers!!!!” in the computer system, by an enthusiastic librarian putting together a doggy display table.
My boss invited me to join a stretching circle this morning in which the Pages appeared to be doing Tai-Chi moves. I wasn’t sure what the routine entailed, but I curiously stepped into the circle and mimicked my coworker’s exercises, listening as he explained the benefits of the moves and how library work can strain certain joints and muscles. I was surprised and touched at the thoughtfulness of this gesture. We’d all been given pamphlets from HR regarding ergonomics and had to watch a cheesy 80’s video on back pain. I was delightfully surprised at the thorough and kind attention to our physical comfort on the job.
Hordes of Helpers.
Everyone is eager to answer questions without judgement and offer amazingly thorough resources including procedures, guides, cheat sheets, indexes, shortcuts, etc. to help me navigate the new software, policies, and procedures. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this, considering that librarians by definition organize information and strive to make it as accessible as possible. But they seriously have a guide for everything, so even if I were left alone, I’d easily be able to find answers using the searchable manual, or the indexed procedures, Excel charts of card comparisons and requirements, and so on. Librarians also educate so I’m also not sure why I’m surprised at how helpful and thorough my coworkers are. But these are all very pleasant surprises, of course. I hope to return the favor someday or at least “pay it forward.”
I actually get paid to blab about books, movies, and music with patrons and coworkers. I’ll also get paid to attend library costume parties, decorate display tables and desks, and write book reviews about my favorite recent reads. I already have a list of ten titles I want to add to my GoodReads “to-read” shelf after listening to customer and co-worker recommendations. I’ll let you know if I find any amazing reads. I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before I start writing reviews on this blog, since I’ll be doing it for work anyway. Fun!!
Thanks for reading. I’m thankful for YOU too!