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Tales of Wonder

January 2 is National Science Fiction Day

Why January 2nd?  It's the birthday of Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), the preeminent and prolific science fiction author and master of "hard science fiction." Best known for his Foundation and Robot (I, Robot) series, Asimov published over 500 books over his long career and won every science fiction award possible. Asimov's work influenced generations of science fiction writers and was instrumental in elevating the genre from the fringe of pulp magazines to the literary mainstream.

lostandthefoundIn honor of the day, why not try another of the canonical writers of American science fiction? Literary icon Ursula Le Guin, winner of scores of science fiction writing awards, one of the few women to be named Grandmaster of Science Fiction, and the recipient of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 2014, has issued a collection of her novellas this year: The Found and the Lost : the collected novellas of Ursula K. LeGuin. The volume contains 13 of Le Guin's novellas with an introduction by the author. "With this astonishing volume, Le Guin demonstrates that she is just as relevant and thought-provoking as ever. No former knowledge of her works is necessary to delve into this remarkable writing, just an open mind with a desire to be filled. Pair this with the reissued The Unreal and the Real: The Selected Short Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin, and the author's many admirers will be in heaven." (Library Journal)

You know my methods, Watson.

Sherlock: Season 4

The long-awaited new season of Sherlock, the contemporary adaptation loosely based on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories, begins with the first of three episodes on Sunday January 1, on PBS. The last season ended with Watson's wedding, Mary's pregnancy, and Sherlock's seeming banishment from England. But is Moriarty still alive? As the show's press release puts it. "Season four begins with the mercurial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), back once more on British soil as Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) prepare for their biggest challenge yet: becoming parents. ...Ghosts of the past are rising in the lives of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and terror and tragedy are looming. This is the story we’ve been telling from the beginning and it’s about to reach its climax.”

Want to do a deeper dive into Sherlockian lore?

bigbookThe Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories by Otto Penzler, editor
Billed as the largest collection of Sherlockian tales ever assembled, this anthology contains 83 stories, pastiches, parodies, and mysteries, all based on the great tales by Arthur Conan Doyle. Published over a span of more than a hundred years, the selections feature pitch-perfect cases by acclaimed modern-day Sherlockians Leslie S. Klinger, Laurie R. King, Lyndsay Faye and Daniel Stashower; pastiches by literary luminaries both classic (P. G. Wodehouse, Dorothy B. Hughes, Kingsley Amis) and current (Anne Perry, Stephen King, Colin Dexter); and parodies by Conan Doyle's contemporaries A. A. Milne, James M. Barrie, and O. Henry, not to mention genre-bending cases by science-fiction greats Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock. "This is the only book of its kind to collect so many pastiches dedicated to Holmes, 83 total. Fans of the fictional detective will find great joy in this tome." (Library Journal)

Star Wars Princess

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

princessdiaristActresss and author Carrie Fisher passed away Tuesday, December postcards27 after a heart attack late last week. Born in Hollywood to celebrity parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she was brought up in the entertainment industry, working on stage and in movies as a teenager. Best known (and loved) for portraying the competent and spirited Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, Fisher was also an accomplished screenwriter, author, and humorist. She published five novels, numerous screenplays, and several memoirs, all punctuated with her characteristic wit and irreverence. Her comic, semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards From the Edge, was adapted for film and starred Meryl Streep as the troubled daughter of a famous actress mother. Fisher's most recent book, a memoir, The Princess Diarist, was published this year with the juicy details of her experiences during the filming of the Star Wars movies. In her book Wishful Drinking, she suggested her own epitaph,"I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra," which was based on a discussion with George Lucas about why Princess Leia could not wear a bra in space (lack of gravity). The New York Times memorialized Fisher as "a Princess, a Rebel, and a Brave Comic Voice."



A Little Holiday Love

wreathMiracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan                                       miracleon5th
It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this festive fairy tale of New York. Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to decorate a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. The owner, bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade, is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings.. "Sexy, touching, and often hilarious,.." (Library Journal)




Books to Movies - December 2016

Now (or soon) playing:

tony and susanNocturnal Animals/Tony and Susan by Austin Wright
This thriller is based on Wright's 1993 novel which wasn't a huge hit when first published, but got fresh life in a later reprint that caught director Tom Ford's attention. The story starts with Susan Morrow, who left her first husband, Edward Sheffield, an unpublished writer, fifteen years ago. Now, she's enduring middle class suburbia as a doctor's wife, when out of the blue she receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband's first novel. He writes asking her to read the book. As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a math professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine.  As the Hastings' ordinary, civilized lives are disastrously and violently sent off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, reflecting on her life with Tony and the collapse of their marriage. The film stars Amy Adams, and Jake Gyllenhaal.


silenceSilence by Shusaku Endo
Director Martin Scorcese labored for years to bring this 1966 novel to the screen. Endo's tale is set in seventeenth-century Japan where two Portuguese Jesuit priests, seeking their mentor, travel to a country hostile to their religion, as feudal lords force the Christian faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs. Shusaku Endo is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese fiction writers of the twentieth century and the book garnered critical praise when published. The film stars Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, and Liam Neeson and opens on December 23.

live by nightLive by Night by Dennis Lehane
Written and produced by Ben Affleck, and based on Lehane's 2012 crime novel, this film is scheduled for a limited opening on December 25. Lehane (Mystic River, Shutter Island, Gone, Baby, Gone) has written an historical, set in the 1920s and 1930s, with the story following Joe Coughlin, the prodigal son of a Boston police captain. During Prohibition, Joe  defies his strict law-and-order upbringing to climb the ladder of organized crime as a bootlegger, rum-runner, and later a gangster, as he moves from Boston to Florida and then to Cuba where he settles down, marries, and builds a criminal empire in the illegal rum trade. However, nothing lasts forever amid a dangerous cast of characters who are all fighting for their piece of the American dream. The film stars Affleck and Elle Fanning.



Critics' Faves

New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016

stackofbooksAlthough The New York Times Book Review editors have already issued their "Best" lists (100 Notable Books of 2016, Ten Best Books of 2016), the three daily book critics, Michiko Kakutani, Dwight Garner, and Jennifer Senior, plus contributor Janet Maslin, have compiled their own lists of favorites out of the approximately 250 books they reviewed this year. Described as "the fiction and nonfiction books that most moved, excited and enlightened them in 2016," the lists offer a wide-ranging collection of reading material.

On Janet Maslin's list:

iqIQ by Joe Ide
A resident of one of LA's toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.They call him IQ, short for Isaiah Quintabe. He's a loner and a high school dropout, his polite, unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. This time, it's a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. Maslin's take: "This is the start of a brand-new comedic crime franchise with a bright future. Isaiah Quintabe (IQ for short) is an unlikely Sherlock, an incongruously polite cogitator operating out of gangsta turf in East Long Beach, Calif. ... This series is a Los Angeles classic right from the start."



A little mystery with your mistletoe?

eggnog murderEggnog Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and wreathBarbara Ross

"Three terrific tales of yuletide murder in coastal Maine" (Booklist)

Eggnog Murder: When a gift-wrapped bottle of eggnog--allegedly from the Real Beard Santa Club--proves to be a killer concoction for a Tinker's Cove local, all Lucy Stone wants for Christmas is to find the murdering mixologist who's stirring up trouble.

Death by Eggnog: Food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell has never cared much for Bar Harbor's grouchy town librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. But after the Scroogy senior has a fatal--and suspicious--allergic reaction to supposedly non-dairy eggnog, it's up to Hayley to ladle out some justice.

Nogged off: Julia Snowden's tenant Imogen Geinkes seems to be jinxed. First, her poorly named "Killer Eggnog" gives all her co-workers food poisoning. then her boyfriend's body shows up in Julia's truck as she's headed back to Busman's Harbor. Now Julia has to get moving to catch the cold-hearted culprit.

 "These three tales of deadly eggnog will make you pause before indulging in the holiday treat. ... This collection of short cozy mysteries set in Maine and featuring delicious recipes serves as a great introduction to these authors' series for new readers or as a bite-sized delicacy to tide established fans over until the next book." (Library Journal)



Another story from that galaxy far, far away

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogueoneThe first of Lucasfilm's Star Wars Anthology standalone movies opens later this week, on December 16. Rogue One, a prequel of sorts, is set shortly before the events of the first of the original Star Wars films, now re-titled Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope. The plot follows an unikely group of Rebels, led by young Jyn Erso, who attempt to steal the plans to the Empire's new megaweapon, the Death Star. (These would be the same plans that Princess Leia hides in the droid R2D2 at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope.) The official website explains,"This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves." As Jyn says, "This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel."


To bring you up to light-speed about the development of the catalystDeath Star, a tie-in novel, Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno, was released on November 25. This installment takes place a few years before Rogue One starts, and follows brilliant scientist/inventor Galen Erso as he tries to prevent the use of his research for the creation of the Death Star while protecting his wife and daughter (Jyn) from the wrath of the Emperor.

The movie tie-in novelization, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed, featuring new scenes and expanded material, will be released  on December 20, 2016.


May the Force be with us.



Getting a Jump on January

January 2017 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



# 1 for January 2017:

girlbeforeThe Girl Before by JP Delaney
Alternating between two times periods, this psychological thriller tells the stories of two women and one house. After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space--and to its aloof but seductive architect. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home's previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before. "... a masterfully crafted spellbinder... The tables turn, and turn again, and the ending is guaranteed to both astonish and satisfy the reader." (Booklist)

The book is already in development for a film adaptation to be directed by Ron Howard.



Celebrate Jewish Book Month

Jewish Book Month (November 24-December 24) began in 1925
in a library in Boston where a librarian set up a jewishcouncildisplay of Jewish-themed books. Other communities across the county adopted the custom in what was known as Jewish Book Week. In 1943, the celebration was extended to a month-long observance each year in the month before Hanukkah as a way of promoting Jewish books nationwide. Jewish Book Month is a program sponsored by the Jewish Book Council which serves as the coordinating body of Jewish literary activity in North America in both general and Jewish venues.


Recent Jewish Fiction:

gameofqueensGame of Queens : A Novel of Vashti and Esther by India Edghill
Edghill breathes new life into the biblical story of Vashti and Esther, the two wives of King Ahasuerus of Persia. Vashti, one of the most beautiful women in the empire, lost her crown when she defied her husband. The King set her aside and commanded that the most beautiful maidens be sent to his court so he might choose a new queen. He set the queen's crown upon the head of the virtuous and beautiful Esther, a young Jewess, who later defied both king and law to save her people from a treacherous fate. "...Edghill's novel is a fresh, multivoiced approach to the celebrated tale of Purim. Richly textured, thrilling, and totally fascinating, this sweeping saga is sure to captivate readers across the board." (Booklist)


Judas by Amos Oz                                          judas
Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a young biblical scholar, is adrift in his life when he starts work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abarbanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. "The latest novel by prominent Israeli writer Oz folds a meditation on loyalty and loss into a tender coming-of-age story, and the result is touching and intellectually potent." (Booklist)


debtoftamarThe Debt of Tamar by Nicole Dweck
In 2002, thirty-two-year-old Selim Osman, the last descendant of the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, flees Istanbul for New York. In a twist of fate, he meets Hannah, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and an artist striving to understand the father she barely knows. Unaware that the connection they share goes back centuries, the two feel an immediate pull to one another. In 1544, as the Inquisition raged, young José Mendez escaped Portugal with the help of the Ottoman sultan, and made a new life in Istanbul. But when his own daughter secretly fell in love with the sultan's Muslim grandson, José found himself in a life-changing dilemma, one that would shape generations to come. From a sixteenth-century harem to a seaside village in the Holy Land, from Nazi-occupied Paris to modern-day Manhattan, Dweck weaves a spellbinding tapestry of love, history, and fate.


City of Secrets by Stewart O'Nan                                         
cityofsecretsIn 1945, with no homes to return to, Jewish refugees by the tens of thousands set out for Palestine. Those who made it were hunted as illegals by the British authorities there and relied on the underground to shelter them; taking fake names, they blended with the population, joining the wildly different factions fighting for the independence of Israel.  One survivor, Brand, drives a taxi provided--like his new identity--by the underground. Alone, haunted by memories, he tries to become again the man he was before the war and falls in love with Eva, a fellow survivor and member of his cell. As he reclaims his faith, and commits himself to the revolution, he accepts secret missions that grow more and more dangerous even as he begins to suspect he's being used by their dashing leader, Asher.