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2015 ALA Teen Book Award Winners Announced

Teen Book Buzz - February 16, 2015

2015 ALA Award Winners

Every January the American Library Association hosts its annual Youth Media Awards Press Conference. At this time, authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult literature are recognized for the amazing works they have published over the last year

Have you read any of this year’s award-winners? What did you think? Who might you have picked for this year’s top awards?

Alex Award Winners are the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizes an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults.

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adult.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award honors a Latino writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

  • Middle School Award Winner: “Rain Reign” by Ann M. Martin
  • High School Award Winner: “Girls Like Us” by Gail Giles

Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award is given annually to children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults.

Originally published at 2015 ALA Teen Book Award Winners Announced.

Categories: Book Buzz

2015 ALA Teen Book Award Winners Announced

DBRLTeen - February 16, 2015

2015 ALA Award Winners

Every January the American Library Association hosts its annual Youth Media Awards Press Conference. At this time, authors and illustrators of children’s and young adult literature are recognized for the amazing works they have published over the last year

Have you read any of this year’s award-winners? What did you think? Who might you have picked for this year’s top awards?

Alex Award Winners are the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizes an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults.

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adult.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award honors a Latino writer whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience:

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

  • Middle School Award Winner: “Rain Reign” by Ann M. Martin
  • High School Award Winner: “Girls Like Us” by Gail Giles

Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award is given annually to children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults.

Originally published at 2015 ALA Teen Book Award Winners Announced.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Emily St. John Mandel

DBRL Next - February 16, 2015

Station_ElevenPost-apocalyptic fiction is as popular and ubiquitous as this simile is confusing and ineffective. For some it is a gloomy respite from the constant barrage of good news, utopian grocers and complementary snacks. For others it is a chilling vision of events horrifyingly near at hand. For others still it is a genre of stories that they read for pleasure.

Unlike the supplies in these stories, there is a massive selection of such books to peruse. Readers know that one of the following, in order of likelihood, will be what brings civilization to its knees: zombies, super flu, war, aliens, weather or vampires. We know roughly how things will play out and that the most important people left will be attractive and/or magical. We know it will be nearly as excruciating to experience as it is fun to read about. But what we don’t know, and what has long been one of my chief concerns about life in a hellscape, is whether or not there will be traveling bands of actors and musicians, and if there are, whether or not they will eventually run into trouble. Emily St. John Mandel’s gnarly novel, “Station Eleven,” answers my questions while being really fun to read.

One of this novel’s nifty tricks is to jump around in time and among characters. It opens, just prior to the “Georgian Flu” outbreak it uses to decimate the population, with one of its main characters dying on stage, and then proceeds forward and backward in time to check on characters connected to the dead thespian. One connected character is the child actress that helped provide a twist to his production of “King Lear,” and twenty years later was one of the world’s foremost traveling actors. Another is a paparazzo that hounded the actor until switching careers to be a paramedic and attending the actor’s fateful play. Another, the dead actor’s agent, starts a “Museum of Civilization” (its most popular exhibits include stilettos and cell phones) in an airport where several people take refuge after the outbreak. (The airport is home to one of the novel’s best and most distressing images: a plane, landed safely on the runway but with its doors sealed to forever contain infected passengers.)

This novel quickly introduces a plethora of questions (like why is the nefarious prophet’s dog’s name taken from an extremely limited edition comic that happens to be another character’s most prized possession?), and as the answers start to come the book becomes extra-impossible to put down. “Station Eleven” bounces between post-apocalyptic suspense and pre-apocalyptic drama, but its characters and language are always well-crafted and immersive. It is doubtful the looming Armageddon will be anywhere near as enjoyable.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Emily St. John Mandel appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: More From DBRL...

The Gentleman Recommends: Emily St. John Mandel

Next Book Buzz - February 16, 2015

Station_ElevenPost-apocalyptic fiction is as popular and ubiquitous as this simile is confusing and ineffective. For some it is a gloomy respite from the constant barrage of good news, utopian grocers and complementary snacks. For others it is a chilling vision of events horrifyingly near at hand. For others still it is a genre of stories that they read for pleasure.

Unlike the supplies in these stories, there is a massive selection of such books to peruse. Readers know that one of the following, in order of likelihood, will be what brings civilization to its knees: zombies, super flu, war, aliens, weather or vampires. We know roughly how things will play out and that the most important people left will be attractive and/or magical. We know it will be nearly as excruciating to experience as it is fun to read about. But what we don’t know, and what has long been one of my chief concerns about life in a hellscape, is whether or not there will be traveling bands of actors and musicians, and if there are, whether or not they will eventually run into trouble. Emily St. John Mandel’s gnarly novel, “Station Eleven,” answers my questions while being really fun to read.

One of this novel’s nifty tricks is to jump around in time and among characters. It opens, just prior to the “Georgian Flu” outbreak it uses to decimate the population, with one of its main characters dying on stage, and then proceeds forward and backward in time to check on characters connected to the dead thespian. One connected character is the child actress that helped provide a twist to his production of “King Lear,” and twenty years later was one of the world’s foremost traveling actors. Another is a paparazzo that hounded the actor until switching careers to be a paramedic and attending the actor’s fateful play. Another, the dead actor’s agent, starts a “Museum of Civilization” (its most popular exhibits include stilettos and cell phones) in an airport where several people take refuge after the outbreak. (The airport is home to one of the novel’s best and most distressing images: a plane, landed safely on the runway but with its doors sealed to forever contain infected passengers.)

This novel quickly introduces a plethora of questions (like why is the nefarious prophet’s dog’s name taken from an extremely limited edition comic that happens to be another character’s most prized possession?), and as the answers start to come the book becomes extra-impossible to put down. “Station Eleven” bounces between post-apocalyptic suspense and pre-apocalyptic drama, but its characters and language are always well-crafted and immersive. It is doubtful the looming Armageddon will be anywhere near as enjoyable.

The post The Gentleman Recommends: Emily St. John Mandel appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Happy Valentine’s or as Good as It Gets

DBRL Next - February 13, 2015

Photo of a Rose by Svetlana GrobmanWe got married on Valentine’s Day. My husband thought that it was romantic. (Well, he also figured that it would help him remember our future anniversaries.) I thought it was cute and also special, since there was no Valentine’s in my home country, Russia. Yet whatever our ideas about the joys and responsibilities of marriage were, our Valentine’s wedding turned out to be a true commitment.

I’m not talking about the everyday challenges of married life: suppressing your true feelings about endless football, basketball and what-ever-ball games, picking up things lying around the house (like his size-large gloves on our dining table), suffering through Chinese meals he loves so much and patiently repeating questions that he cannot hear because he’s watching some bloody thriller on TV. You expect these things after you say, “I do.” I’m talking about difficulties that are outside our control, like every year we want to celebrate our anniversary, we have to compete with a whole slew of people who go out on Valentine’s Day just for fun.

It took us a few years to realize what we had gotten ourselves into, since on our first anniversary we (meaning me) had to plan a long time in advance anyway. That year, Valentine’s happened to fall on Friday, so we drove to St. Louis (a two-hour drive) for an “Evening of Romantic Music,” performed by the St. Louis Symphony. Since we had to buy tickets a couple months earlier, it seemed only logical to reserve a hotel room and a dinner to go with it well in advance, too.

Everything worked like a charm that time. The orchestra was good, the music was beautiful and romantic (with the exception of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah, which I personally find erotic and not good PR for women :) ). And after the concert, every woman was given a piece of chocolate and a rose.

For our second anniversary we drove to Kansas City (also a two-hour drive) to see the Russian opera “Eugene Onegin.” That also had to be carefully arranged, since the opera seemed to have attracted every Russian living in a 100-mile-radius of Kansas City. (There were a few Americans there, too — probably spouses or companions of the Russians :) .)

Book cover of The Saint Louis Art Museum Handbook of the CollectionLater, things began getting harder. For our third anniversary, I planned another out-of-town outing, which included visiting an art museum and other stuff like that. Yet the weather turned bad, and although the temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the roads were covered with sleet. (How rain can turn into ice when the temperature is above freezing is beyond me!) So, instead of enjoying the experience, all I could think about was whether we’d get home alive.

After that, I decided that February is not a good month for traveling, and we should celebrate our anniversary locally. There were other reasons for that, too. For one thing, Valentine’s Day rarely takes place on weekends, and unless you don’t have to work or you’re retired (which my husband now is, but I am not), next day you have to go to work. For another, sleeping in a strange bed has much less attraction for me now.

The thing is, I am a creature of habit. I eat the same cereal every day. I sleep on the same side of the bed. And when we go to the movies, I like to have my husband to the left of me, so I can lean on his shoulder if I feel sleepy, and when we attend concerts, he has to be on my right, so I can squeeze his hand with my right hand when I get excited.

Book cover for Ultimate Food JourneysI like going to the same restaurants, too, and I usually order the same dishes in each one of them. Yet, as soon as I get used to a particular restaurant, it closes down. If that is because I always order the same meal or because we don’t eat out often enough — or both — I cannot tell. All I know is that it’s getting harder and harder to make reservations at those few I like.

Some of them don’t even take reservations for two people. (How do they expect couples to celebrate Valentine’s? To my knowledge, communal living, which was so popular in the 1960s and 1970s, is long gone!) Some restaurants don’t take reservation for holidays, and some seem to be full even if you call them just after New Year’s! They first say that it is too early, but when you call them close to Valentine’s, it’s already to late :) . Of course, it’s all relative. A friend of ours, who once found himself stuck in Tokyo, feeling lonely, decided to go to a nice restaurant. Yet they wouldn’t serve him at all! The reason being that he went there alone.

Another thing about celebrating an anniversary on Valentine’s Day is that there is too much chocolate around, which is a terrible temptation for chocoholics like me :) . Once, during our Valentine’s dinner, I ate a whole flowerless chocolate cake (my husband doesn’t like chocolate)! It tasted great while I was eating it, but, for the rest of that day, I didn’t feel so good. Since then, I’ve ordered chocolate-covered strawberries, so I eat less chocolate and more vitamins.

Photograph of an Orchid by Svetlana GrobmanAnd what about flowers? You’ve got to have roses for Valentine’s, right? Yet again, roses triple in price on that day, and I don’t even like them that well. One year, I told my husband that I like orchids much better (we had no orchids in Moscow, so they seem special to me, too). The problem with that is that I have a green thumb, and as soon as orchids appear in our house, they just stay there. And since my husband buys new orchids every year, recently, I looked around and realized that our house resembled a jungle, and I was spending all my free time watering orchids!

Well, once again, our anniversary is coming around, marking the eighteen years we have spent together. To tell the truth, despite all my complaints, I still like the fact that we got married on Valentine’s. I like talking about it and, more importantly, I still love my husband. And although the passion that brought us together all those years ago may not be as burning as it once was, there is no tragedy in that. For what really counts in people’s lives is mutual trust and respect, and also that hand you can squeeze in the moment of excitement and that shoulder on which you can lean in a moment of weariness or distress and feel valued and protected by the person by your side. And that is as good as it gets.

Happy Valentine’s to you all!

The post Happy Valentine’s or as Good as It Gets appeared first on DBRL Next.

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Images of the Past: Docs Featuring Archival Footage

DBRL Next - February 11, 2015

how to survive a plague

Creating documentaries can take a lot of time, but it can be even harder when you don’t shoot the footage yourself. Check out these documentaries that use old footage to tell a story from the past.

the black power mixtapeThe Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” (2011)

Footage shot by a group of Swedish journalists documenting the Black Power Movement in the United States is edited together by a contemporary Swedish filmmaker. Includes footage of Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver.

how to survive a plagueHow to Survive a Plague” (2012)

The story of two coalitions whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. The activists bucked oppression, helping to identify promising new medication and treatments and move them through trials and into drugstores in record time.

let the fire burnLet the Fire Burn” (2013)

A found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. In 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial Black Power group MOVE came to a deadly climax. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated, resulting in the tragic deaths of 11 people.

The post Images of the Past: Docs Featuring Archival Footage appeared first on DBRL Next.

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What to Read While You Wait for The Girl on the Train

Next Book Buzz - February 9, 2015

Book cover for The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train”  by Paula Hawkins  follows the mundane life of down-and-out Rachel who commutes daily into London by train. Before long she realizes she has been observing a couple every morning as they enjoy breakfast up on their roof top. Rachel begins to fantasize about their life, creating names for the couple while wishing their life was all hers. Then one day she notices a stranger in the garden, and the woman she fondly named Jess is no longer there! Written in the same vein as “Rear Window,” you will soon find yourself entangled in this psychological thriller. Place a hold on this popular best-seller, then pick up one of these similar books that draw in the curious observer.

Book cover for A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil HoganA Pleasure and a Calling” by Phil Hogan

Mr. Hemming, such a nice man. He is a real estate agent for a small community and likes to spy on his clients. He does this by keeping keys to the homes he has sold — all of them.  Then his creepy little secret life gets put on hold when they find a dead body in one of his homes.

 Book cover for Death Match by Lincoln ChildDeath Match” by Lincoln Child

Eden Incorporated — surveillance, artificial intelligence, state of the art matchmaking. It’s a perfect company. They create the perfect couple, the perfect match. Young, attractive, they have everything — it’s perfect. Now, a double suicide on their perfect living room floor. How is it that if everything was so perfect, they are dead? Isn’t Eden perfect?

Book cover for The Other Woman's House by Sophie HannahThe Other Woman’s House by Sophia Hannah

Unable to sleep, Connie Bowskill uses her husband’s laptop to log on to an Internet real estate site to view a home she has become obsessed with. While taking the virtual tour, she is witness to a woman lying face down in a pool of blood! Flustered by what she sees, she awakens her husband to show him, but when they return to site the photo is no longer there!

Have other similar titles to recommend to your fellow readers? Let us know in the comments!

The post What to Read While You Wait for The Girl on the Train appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

What to Read While You Wait for The Girl on the Train

DBRL Next - February 9, 2015

Book cover for The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train”  by Paula Hawkins  follows the mundane life of down-and-out Rachel who commutes daily into London by train. Before long she realizes she has been observing a couple every morning as they enjoy breakfast up on their roof top. Rachel begins to fantasize about their life, creating names for the couple while wishing their life was all hers. Then one day she notices a stranger in the garden, and the woman she fondly named Jess is no longer there! Written in the same vein as “Rear Window,” you will soon find yourself entangled in this psychological thriller. Place a hold on this popular best-seller, then pick up one of these similar books that draw in the curious observer.

Book cover for A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil HoganA Pleasure and a Calling” by Phil Hogan

Mr. Hemming, such a nice man. He is a real estate agent for a small community and likes to spy on his clients. He does this by keeping keys to the homes he has sold — all of them.  Then his creepy little secret life gets put on hold when they find a dead body in one of his homes.

 Book cover for Death Match by Lincoln ChildDeath Match” by Lincoln Child

Eden Incorporated — surveillance, artificial intelligence, state of the art matchmaking. It’s a perfect company. They create the perfect couple, the perfect match. Young, attractive, they have everything — it’s perfect. Now, a double suicide on their perfect living room floor. How is it that if everything was so perfect, they are dead? Isn’t Eden perfect?

Book cover for The Other Woman's House by Sophie HannahThe Other Woman’s House by Sophia Hannah

Unable to sleep, Connie Bowskill uses her husband’s laptop to log on to an Internet real estate site to view a home she has become obsessed with. While taking the virtual tour, she is witness to a woman lying face down in a pool of blood! Flustered by what she sees, she awakens her husband to show him, but when they return to site the photo is no longer there!

Have other similar titles to recommend to your fellow readers? Let us know in the comments!

The post What to Read While You Wait for The Girl on the Train appeared first on DBRL Next.

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Voting for Sweet 16 Ends February 20

Teen Book Buzz - February 9, 2015

2015 March Madness Booklist

VOTE NOW through February 20 for the Sweet 16!

Daniel Boone Regional Library has received nearly 50 ballots in our March Madness Teen Book Tournament! Through a series of votes, we are narrowing our list of the 32 most popular teen books to one grand champion. Voting for the Sweet 16 will end on Friday, February 20. We’ll take a few days to tabulate the results and then announce those titles that will advance in our single elimination bracket on Tuesday, March 4.

Which titles will be among the Sweet 16?  “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins?“City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare? “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl?Voice your opinion by voting today! Don’t forget that by supporting your favorite book, you’ll also be entered to win prizes like a gift card to Barnes & Noble. 

Who can participate?

March Madness is open to all teens ages 12-18 who live in either Boone or Callaway County, Missouri.

How It Works:

  • Round 1: VOTE NOW through February 20 for the Sweet 16.
  • Round 2: Vote March 4-11 for the Elite 8.
  • Round 3: Vote March 12-18 for the Final 4.
  • Round 4: Vote March 19-25 for the final two contending titles.
  • Round 5: Vote March 26-April 1 for the book tournament champion.
  • April 7: The champion is announced!

Each round that you vote, your name is entered into our prize drawing! Limit one ballot per person, per round.

Originally published at Voting for Sweet 16 Ends February 20.

Categories: Book Buzz

Voting for Sweet 16 Ends February 20

DBRLTeen - February 9, 2015

2015 March Madness Booklist

VOTE NOW through February 20 for the Sweet 16!

Daniel Boone Regional Library has received nearly 50 ballots in our March Madness Teen Book Tournament! Through a series of votes, we are narrowing our list of the 32 most popular teen books to one grand champion. Voting for the Sweet 16 will end on Friday, February 20. We’ll take a few days to tabulate the results and then announce those titles that will advance in our single elimination bracket on Tuesday, March 4.

Which titles will be among the Sweet 16?  “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins?“City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare? “Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl?Voice your opinion by voting today! Don’t forget that by supporting your favorite book, you’ll also be entered to win prizes like a gift card to Barnes & Noble. 

Who can participate?

March Madness is open to all teens ages 12-18 who live in either Boone or Callaway County, Missouri.

How It Works:

  • Round 1: VOTE NOW through February 20 for the Sweet 16.
  • Round 2: Vote March 4-11 for the Elite 8.
  • Round 3: Vote March 12-18 for the Final 4.
  • Round 4: Vote March 19-25 for the final two contending titles.
  • Round 5: Vote March 26-April 1 for the book tournament champion.
  • April 7: The champion is announced!

Each round that you vote, your name is entered into our prize drawing! Limit one ballot per person, per round.

Originally published at Voting for Sweet 16 Ends February 20.

Categories: More From DBRL...

The Work of Denis Johnson

Next Book Buzz - February 6, 2015

Book cover for Train Dreams by Denis JohnsonIf you’re a Denis Johnson fan, part of the excitement about a forthcoming book is anticipating where he will take you this time. He is not an author to be pigeonholed. His wonderful novella, “Train Dreams,” was originally serialized in “The Paris Review” and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. (Nobody won that year — the Pulitzer Committee couldn’t come to a final decision.) The story follows a day laborer’s travels in the American West during the early 20th century. Before that Johnson published another novella, “Nobody Move,” this time serialized in Playboy. It tells an archetypal noir story about a group of shady characters in pursuit of a bag of cash. You can get an idea of the diverse subjects he is interested in through his nonfiction collection, “Seek.” There he writes about hippies, militia groups, gold mining in Alaska, Christian biker gangs and war-ravaged Liberia.

Book cover for The Laughing Monsters by Denis JohnsonSome of his experiences in Liberia were inspiration for his newest book, “The Laughing Monsters.” This book treads some similar territory to a previous one, “Tree of Smoke.” That was Johnson’s “Big Novel,” which won the 2007 National Book Award. It focuses on a spy-in-training during the Vietnam War engaged in psychological operations against the Vietcong, but its scope is broad. Covering a span of 20 years, it is as much about the character of America as the war in Vietnam. “The Laughing Monsters,” on the other hand, is a novella with a small cast of characters, set in the present day, and covers a short period of time. Like “Tree of Smoke,” it concerns intelligence operatives who have represented western governments, although their original countries of origin are convoluted, and their loyalties/allegiances are dubious. These operatives are also traveling through damaged and war-torn countries on missions, and maybe counter-missions, while opportunistically pursuing personal profit. It might be the closest thing to a comedy Johnson has written, although there aren’t many belly laughs to be had. The New York Times picked the book as one of it’s 100 notable books for 2014 and described it as “cheerfully nihilistic.”

Book cover for Tree of Smoke by Denis JohnsonTwo of the main characters in “Tree of Smoke” are soldiers in the Vietnam War, the brothers Bill and James Houston. Bill Houston is also one of the central characters in Johnson’s first novel, “Angels.” Bill meets a wife running away with her two kids on a Greyhound bus. Together they bounce around the fringes of America through bus stations, bars and cheap motels. They encounter lots of dispossessed, strange and dangerous people. They inevitably get into trouble and make bad decisions, which get them into even more trouble. The book’s bleak subject matter could come off as exploitative in another author’s hands, but Johnson’s deft characterization and artful sentences make this story of marginal characters about something bigger than them. While it isn’t necessary to read “Angels” before reading “Tree of Smoke,” there is an added poignancy to reading about Bill Houston’s past when you already know his future.

The setting, time period and character types of Johnson’s stories can vary greatly from book to book, but there are shared characteristics within his body of work. Like most writers, he returns to certain themes and fascinations. You can see his interest in the spy genre in “The Laughing Monsters,” and “Tree of Smoke.” They are more like the spy stories of Graham Greene or John LeCarre than Ian Fleming, but the trappings of spycraft are there, as is the thrill of reading about it. He’s also a fan of crime, noir and hard-boiled fiction. (He adapted the Jim Thompson novel, “A Swell Looking Dame” for the screen.) His novel “Already Dead” is a complex noir about a descendant of a wealthy family who’s at risk of losing what remains of his fortune. After crossing a member of a drug syndicate, he’s on the run from two of his goons, including one who likes to punctuate punches to the face with quotes from Nietzsche.

While the protagonist in “Already Dead” might already be dead, the protagonist in “The Name of The World” is living a “posthumous life,” or so he has felt since his wife and child were killed in a car crash. An excellent addition to the genre I’m going to call “University Novels,” “The Name of The World” is about an academic in a small college town who finds himself forced to “act like somebody who cares what happens to him” despite his tentativeness about re-engaging with life. It is another short, poignant and beautifully written novel by Johnson.

Denis Johnson started his writing career as a poet. His first book of poetry was published when he was 19. I think this is the reason so many of his novels are short, but they never suffer for it. The books are as long as they need to be and crafted as precisely as his sentences. Sometimes he illuminates the emotional weight of his stories with language and images that are borderline hallucinogenic. There are always elements that surprise in his work and a consistency of quality, whether it’s short stories or plays, fiction or nonfiction. Despite some of his awards and critical acclaim, he remains an underappreciated writer in many ways. Just as he deserves the accolades he has received, he deserves to be read widely.

The post The Work of Denis Johnson appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

The Work of Denis Johnson

DBRL Next - February 6, 2015

Book cover for Train Dreams by Denis JohnsonIf you’re a Denis Johnson fan, part of the excitement about a forthcoming book is anticipating where he will take you this time. He is not an author to be pigeonholed. His wonderful novella, “Train Dreams,” was originally serialized in “The Paris Review” and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. (Nobody won that year — the Pulitzer Committee couldn’t come to a final decision.) The story follows a day laborer’s travels in the American West during the early 20th century. Before that Johnson published another novella, “Nobody Move,” this time serialized in Playboy. It tells an archetypal noir story about a group of shady characters in pursuit of a bag of cash. You can get an idea of the diverse subjects he is interested in through his nonfiction collection, “Seek.” There he writes about hippies, militia groups, gold mining in Alaska, Christian biker gangs and war-ravaged Liberia.

Book cover for The Laughing Monsters by Denis JohnsonSome of his experiences in Liberia were inspiration for his newest book, “The Laughing Monsters.” This book treads some similar territory to a previous one, “Tree of Smoke.” That was Johnson’s “Big Novel,” which won the 2007 National Book Award. It focuses on a spy-in-training during the Vietnam War engaged in psychological operations against the Vietcong, but its scope is broad. Covering a span of 20 years, it is as much about the character of America as the war in Vietnam. “The Laughing Monsters,” on the other hand, is a novella with a small cast of characters, set in the present day, and covers a short period of time. Like “Tree of Smoke,” it concerns intelligence operatives who have represented western governments, although their original countries of origin are convoluted, and their loyalties/allegiances are dubious. These operatives are also traveling through damaged and war-torn countries on missions, and maybe counter-missions, while opportunistically pursuing personal profit. It might be the closest thing to a comedy Johnson has written, although there aren’t many belly laughs to be had. The New York Times picked the book as one of it’s 100 notable books for 2014 and described it as “cheerfully nihilistic.”

Book cover for Tree of Smoke by Denis JohnsonTwo of the main characters in “Tree of Smoke” are soldiers in the Vietnam War, the brothers Bill and James Houston. Bill Houston is also one of the central characters in Johnson’s first novel, “Angels.” Bill meets a wife running away with her two kids on a Greyhound bus. Together they bounce around the fringes of America through bus stations, bars and cheap motels. They encounter lots of dispossessed, strange and dangerous people. They inevitably get into trouble and make bad decisions, which get them into even more trouble. The book’s bleak subject matter could come off as exploitative in another author’s hands, but Johnson’s deft characterization and artful sentences make this story of marginal characters about something bigger than them. While it isn’t necessary to read “Angels” before reading “Tree of Smoke,” there is an added poignancy to reading about Bill Houston’s past when you already know his future.

The setting, time period and character types of Johnson’s stories can vary greatly from book to book, but there are shared characteristics within his body of work. Like most writers, he returns to certain themes and fascinations. You can see his interest in the spy genre in “The Laughing Monsters,” and “Tree of Smoke.” They are more like the spy stories of Graham Greene or John LeCarre than Ian Fleming, but the trappings of spycraft are there, as is the thrill of reading about it. He’s also a fan of crime, noir and hard-boiled fiction. (He adapted the Jim Thompson novel, “A Swell Looking Dame” for the screen.) His novel “Already Dead” is a complex noir about a descendant of a wealthy family who’s at risk of losing what remains of his fortune. After crossing a member of a drug syndicate, he’s on the run from two of his goons, including one who likes to punctuate punches to the face with quotes from Nietzsche.

While the protagonist in “Already Dead” might already be dead, the protagonist in “The Name of The World” is living a “posthumous life,” or so he has felt since his wife and child were killed in a car crash. An excellent addition to the genre I’m going to call “University Novels,” “The Name of The World” is about an academic in a small college town who finds himself forced to “act like somebody who cares what happens to him” despite his tentativeness about re-engaging with life. It is another short, poignant and beautifully written novel by Johnson.

Denis Johnson started his writing career as a poet. His first book of poetry was published when he was 19. I think this is the reason so many of his novels are short, but they never suffer for it. The books are as long as they need to be and crafted as precisely as his sentences. Sometimes he illuminates the emotional weight of his stories with language and images that are borderline hallucinogenic. There are always elements that surprise in his work and a consistency of quality, whether it’s short stories or plays, fiction or nonfiction. Despite some of his awards and critical acclaim, he remains an underappreciated writer in many ways. Just as he deserves the accolades he has received, he deserves to be read widely.

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Books for Dudes – Ultimate Comics: Spider-man, Volume 1

DBRLTeen - February 6, 2015

Miles as Spider-manThink you know Spider-man? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t! Peter Parker, Spider-man, debuted in Marvel Comics Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, and you can still read his adventures in comics, newspapers, and graphic novels today. In 2000, Marvel decided to create a separate, updated universe as if all its characters were created in modern day. Dubbed the Ultimate line, Ultimate Spider-man #1 premiered with a teenage Peter Parker being bitten by a genetically modified spider (as opposed to the radioactive one of the primary Marvel Universe).

After a successful run, Ultimate Spider-man writer Brian Michael Bendis decided to push differences between the regular and Ultimate Spider-man even further by killing off teenage Peter Parker. Right before his heroic death, a 13-year-old boy named Miles Morales gained powers similar to Peter Parker. Inspired by Peter’s heroic death fighting evil, Miles Morales became the new Spider-man in the Ultimate Universe. So, Marvel currently has two universes being published, with two different Spider-men. Grown-up Peter Parker is in the regular universe, Miles Morales is now Spider-man in the Ultimate universe. To get started on the ground floor of Mike Morales’ adventures, check out Ultimate Comics: Spider-man Volume 1

As readers get into the new Ultimate Comics: Spider-man series, we quickly find out that Miles has more differences than Peter besides just ethnicity. Due to the modified spider that bit Miles, he can become invisible, he can administer a venom sting, and his spider-sense doesn’t work quite as well as Peter’s. Miles also, at least initially, lacks Peter’s webs.

Volume 1

Initially skeptical of a non Peter Parker Spider-man, I quickly grew to enjoy Miles as a character. He has a great supporting cast, too. His best friend, Ganke, is an enthusiastic help as Miles deals with life’s complications to becoming a super hero. And for those who follow Marvel comics regularly, this summer’s “Secret Wars” sees a big event that ends both the regular and ultimate universes, with something new coming out of the event by the fall…something that may just have Miles Morales and adult Peter Parker in the same world. Marvel has already been quoted as saying Miles plays a large part of this big summer story which changes the Marvel landscape. Start reading now and catch up on this great series.

Originally published at Books for Dudes – Ultimate Comics: Spider-man, Volume 1.

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Books to Celebrate a Century of Black Life, History and Culture

DBRL Next - February 4, 2015

Book cover for Extraordinary Black Missourians by John A. Wright and Sylvia WrightFebruary is Black History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans in our nation’s history and our local communities. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) was founded in 1915 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and in celebration of this organization’s 100th anniversary, this year’s Black History Month theme is “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.”

Perhaps no book illustrates how African Americans shaped the past 100 years better than  “The African-American Century” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornel West. From authors to politicians, activists to artists, this book profiles the rich variety of black Americans’ contributions to this nation’s development.

Similarly grand in scope is “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson. This sweeping narrative follows the movement of black citizens, looking for a better life, from the South to cities in both the north and west over a period of more than 50 years.

Black America a Photographic JourneyBlack America: A Photographic Journey” by Marcia A. Smith surveys the black experience throughout the past century and earlier, using powerful visuals to accompany written narratives about the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement and more.

Want to know more about black history in Missouri? Educator and writer John A. Wright, with the assistance of his wife Sylvia Wright, has published a number of books on the history of African Americans in Missouri, particularly in the St. Louis area. Their most recent book is “Extraordinary Black Missourians: Pioneers, Leaders, Performers, Athletes, and Other Notables Who’ve Made History.”  For more local history, check out Gary Kremer’s “Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri” and Rose Nolen’s “African Americans in Mid-Missouri: From Pioneers to Ragtimers.”

More resources from DBRL

  • Browse our Black Culture and History subject guide with links to library research databases and the best web links for learning about African Americans in Missouri and nationwide.
  • Discover our African-American History Online database (free with your library card) and find expansive and in-depth information – including primary source documents – on the people, events and topics important to the study of African-American history.

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FAFSA Frenzy Sessions Begin This Month

DBRLTeen - February 2, 2015

Scrabble MoneyWhat is the FAFSA and why is it important?

F-A-F-S-A. Commit these five letters to memory. If you plan on attending college, they will follow you throughout the course of your entire academic career.

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. All prospective college students looking to qualify for federal grants or loans must complete this online application. Most colleges also require this application so that they can award institutional scholarships based on financial need.

Another important note: Once you are admitted and attending college, you will have to complete this form every year until you graduate. Typically the latest version of the FAFSA form is available in early January, or shortly before.

Of all the applications you submit, your FAFSA ranks right up there with your application to the college or university you have chosen to attend. Translation: Very Important. You have through early spring to complete this online form, though deadlines vary by state. Be sure to review the 2015 FAFSA deadlines.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has an assistance program called FAFSA Frenzy to help you and your family successfully complete this online application form. They will be hosting several free events at mid-Missouri high schools. If you are planning to attend college in the fall, mark your calendars now for one of these four sessions. 

Best all, FAFSA Frenzy attendees are entered for a chance to win a scholarship to a Missouri postsecondary institution for the Fall 2015 semester!

Where are FAFSA Frenzy events being held in Boone & Callaway counties?

Location: Address: Date & Time: Fulton High School 1 Hornet Dr., Fulton Tuesday, February 3 from 4:30-7 p.m. Battle High School 7575 St. Charles Road, Columbia Tuesday, February 10 from 6-8 p.m. Hickman High School 1104 N. Providence Rd., Columbia Wednesday, February 18 from 5-7:00 p.m. Columbia Area Career Center 4203 S. Providence Rd. Sunday, February 22 from 2-4 p.m.

What to bring:

  • Your parents’ and your 2014 W-2 forms
  • Copies of your parents’ and your 2014 tax forms, if they are ready.
  • Student PIN and parent PIN. You may apply for your PINs at www.pin.ed.gov before attending a FAFSA Frenzy event.

If you or your parents have not yet filed your 2014 tax returns, be sure to bring any statements of interest earned in 2014, any 1099 forms and any other forms required to complete your taxes.

Originally published at FAFSA Frenzy Sessions Begin This Month.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2015 List

Next Book Buzz - February 2, 2015

Library Reads LogoThis month’s LibraryReads list definitely has something for every reading taste (just like the library itself)! The list of books publishing in February that librarians across the country recommend includes an entertaining historical fiction set in Hollywood during filming of “Gone With the Wind,” as well as a Regency romance, fantasy and plenty of mysteries to keep you and your cup of tea company. Top of the list is the latest penetrating look at a family’s inner life from Anne Tyler. Enjoy this month’s selections!

Book cover for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne TylerA Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler
“In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks — a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book’s timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale.”
- Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Book cover for A Touch of Stardust by Kate AlcottA Touch of Stardust” by Kate Alcott
“With the background of the making of ‘Gone with the Wind,’ this is a delightful read that combines historical events with the fictional career of an aspiring screenwriter. Julie is a wide-eyed Indiana girl who, through a series of lucky breaks, advances from studio go-fer and assistant to Carole Lombard to contract writer at MGM. A fun, engaging page-turner!”
- Lois Gross, Hoboken Public Library, Hoboken, NJ

Book cover for My Sunshine AwayMy Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh
“A crime against a 15-year-old girl is examined through the eyes of one of her friends — a friend who admits to being a possible suspect in the crime. This is a wonderful debut novel full of suspense, angst, loyalty, deceit and, most of all, love.”
- Alison Nadvornik, Worthington Libraries, Columbus, OH

And here is the rest of the list with links to these on-order books in our catalog.

Happy reading!

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

Categories: Book Buzz

Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2015 List

DBRL Next - February 2, 2015

Library Reads LogoThis month’s LibraryReads list definitely has something for every reading taste (just like the library itself)! The list of books publishing in February that librarians across the country recommend includes an entertaining historical fiction set in Hollywood during filming of “Gone With the Wind,” as well as a Regency romance, fantasy and plenty of mysteries to keep you and your cup of tea company. Top of the list is the latest penetrating look at a family’s inner life from Anne Tyler. Enjoy this month’s selections!

Book cover for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne TylerA Spool of Blue Thread” by Anne Tyler
“In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks — a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book’s timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale.”
- Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Book cover for A Touch of Stardust by Kate AlcottA Touch of Stardust” by Kate Alcott
“With the background of the making of ‘Gone with the Wind,’ this is a delightful read that combines historical events with the fictional career of an aspiring screenwriter. Julie is a wide-eyed Indiana girl who, through a series of lucky breaks, advances from studio go-fer and assistant to Carole Lombard to contract writer at MGM. A fun, engaging page-turner!”
- Lois Gross, Hoboken Public Library, Hoboken, NJ

Book cover for My Sunshine AwayMy Sunshine Away” by M.O. Walsh
“A crime against a 15-year-old girl is examined through the eyes of one of her friends — a friend who admits to being a possible suspect in the crime. This is a wonderful debut novel full of suspense, angst, loyalty, deceit and, most of all, love.”
- Alison Nadvornik, Worthington Libraries, Columbus, OH

And here is the rest of the list with links to these on-order books in our catalog.

Happy reading!

The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The February 2015 List appeared first on DBRL Next.

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How Do You Brew? All About Tea

DBRL Next - January 30, 2015

Photo of tea cups by Naama ym via FlickrMy tea drinking habit goes way back. I recall developing a tea drinking routine as a university undergraduate.  Tea was cheaper than coffee (which I adored). At that time, I was pinching every single penny, so that might be the reason for my pronounced commitment to the way of tea. I’m hardly alone in my predilection — worldwide, tea is the most consumed beverage after water.

Although the tea plant originated in ancient China, over the centuries it traveled around the globe, leaving a rich historical trail, and it is now cultivated on five continents. It derives from the evergreen tree Camellia sinensis, and only the leaves of the plant are used in making the beverage. All tea starts as freshly plucked leaves, but it is transformed into six classes depending on manufacturing processes, which yield either green, yellow, white, oolong, black or Pu-erh style tea, each with a distinctive taste and appearance. It’s possible to become quite a connoisseur of this aromatic plant, given the varieties and diverse terroirs of its evergreen leaves.

Photo of tea by Gloria Garcia via FlickrTea is soothing; tea is invigorating. Served hot, it can warm you on a cold day, or it can quench your thirst and cool you down when served iced on a hot day. Either way, it’s hard to deny the joy its flavor and caffeine infusion can bring. In fact, I’ve claimed strong black tea dosed with heavy cream to be my first line of defense in fending off the blues. In order to enjoy a cup of tea to its utmost, it is important to brew it correctly. Here are the basic instructions, but know that depending on the class of tea, the brewing instructions can be tweaked to enhance the outcome. Is it possible to brew a bad cup of tea? You bet! The worst cup of tea I ever had was served in a tavern where the server ran lukewarm tap water into the mug with a tea bag and delivered it to me. It was undrinkable and truly a disappointment on that cold and clammy day.

Your favorite tea can change over time. (And so can your favorite teacup and teapot — I’ve broken many!) Earl Gray, a black tea flavored with oil of bergamot, was my first favorite. Later, I went on a serious binge of drinking mango-scented black tea, complete with little pale orange mango blossoms in the mix. Nowadays, my preference is English Breakfast, a blend containing a few types of black tea. It has a rich, full-bodied, robust flavor that calls me back again, day after day and year after year.

Photo of macaronsThe British have a deep appreciation for tea, and the wealthy classes developed a formal ritual of “afternoon tea” that dates back to the 1800s. It was a light meal usually eaten between 4 and 6 p.m., and it began as a means to stave off hunger until the evening meal (which could be 8 p.m. or later). Along with cups of tea with milk and sugar added, small sandwiches, cakes and pastries were served. In modern times, most folks are working at this time of day, so this formal tea meal is reserved as a treat for those visiting fancy tea houses or hotels, or as a way to celebrate a special occasion. Still, taking a less formal afternoon tea break with a little confection is a deeply embedded cultural habit, and this little batch of books attests to that fact.

With the winter dark bearing down, I’ve decided it’s time to have an afternoon tea party chez moi. I’ll invite my girlfriends, and we will visit over our cups of hot tea served with sweets and savories. Then we will retire to the living room where we will read aloud to each other our favorite inspirational poems and enhance the boost from the tea and camaraderie. Ahhhh…

 

Photo Credits:
Tea cups by naama via photopin cc
Tea by Gloria García via photopin cc
Macarons by ajagendorf25 via photopin cc

The post How Do You Brew? All About Tea appeared first on DBRL Next.

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Dining Out: Docs About Restaurants

DBRL Next - January 28, 2015

Jiro Dreams of Sushi DVDCapturing the ambiance of a specific restaurant on film can be tricky. Check out these films that try to serve you up the sights and sounds associated with some exceptional restaurants from around the world.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi DVDJiro Dreams of Sushi” (2012)

The 85-year-old Jiro Ono is the proprietor of a 10-seat sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.


El Bulli DVDEl Bulli: Cooking in Progress” (2011)

For six months of the year, renowned Spanish chef Ferran Adrià closes his restaurant El Bulli – repeatedly voted the world’s best – and works with his culinary team to prepare the menu for the next season. An elegant, detailed study of food as avant-garde art.

I Like Killing Flies DVDI Like Killing Flies” (2007)

With more than 900 items on its menu all made from scratch, Shopsin’s has long been a quirky gem of New York food culture. The film follows Kenny Shopsin, his family and customers as the restaurant looks for a new place to move to in New York.

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Program Preview: Wii U Family Game Afternoon

DBRLTeen - January 27, 2015

Just DanceColumbia Public Schools are out on Friday, February 13, so make plans to join us for our “Wii U Family Game Afternoon” at the Columbia Public Library at 2 p.m. Become a dancing superstar in “Just Dance 2015″ or a gold cup winner in “Mario Kart 8.” Snacks served. Ages 10 and older. Parents welcome. Registration begins Tuesday, January 27. To sign-up, please call (573) 443-3161.

Originally published at Program Preview: Wii U Family Game Afternoon.

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