Month: February 2018

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Romance Beyond Regency: Diverse Romance Novels

Romance Beyond Regency: Diverse Romance Novels

By Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

Like many Kansans, I took ill this winter and faced a day at home recuperating.  Fortunately, my husband had Sonali Dev’s The Bollywood Bride checked out on his Kindle, so I decided to give it a whirl.  One day later, I was feeling better and needed another book to read.  Dev effortlessly combines Indian culture with all the trappings of a great romance novel, captivating me with a book unlike any other romance novel I’d read before.  While I loved the romance, I also enjoyed reading about a different culture, and, after finishing it, I was eager to widen my reading scope and find other diverse romance novel gems.

Once I went looking, I found a variety of culturally-diverse contemporary romance to read.  For instance, Alisha Rai’s Hate to Want You follows two third-generation immigrants who are torn apart by a family blood feud.  Back in her hometown after her mother broke her hip, Livvy and Nicholas find themselves drawn to each other, despite all the reasons they should stay apart.  Secondly, Latina author Priscilla Oliveras has just started a promising trilogy about three sisters, beginning with His Perfect Partner.  Yazmine Fernandez works as a dance teacher in Chicago, where she teaches Maria and clashes with the girl’s workaholic father, Tomás Garcia.  Inevitably, and oh, so sweetly, the pair are drawn to each other and the appeal of a being family together.  Finally, in Cheris Hodges’s I Heard a Rumor, both Chante Britt and Zach Harrington are running from the press and decide to hide out at a South Carolina beach.  When sparks fly, the two agree to start a fling, but feelings deepen and the press inevitably catches up with them.

When it comes to historical romance, Beverly Jenkins is the queen of writing about African American life and has been doing so for decades.  Her most recent offerings include Forbidden, first in a series about life in the Old West.  Rhine Fontaine has built up a successful life for himself by passing as White, but when he rescues a Black woman from the desert, all of his choices are thrown into question.  Is it worth giving up everything he’s worked for in order to be with the stubborn, clever Eddy Carmichael?  For a newer African American voice in the historical romance marker, look no further than Alyssa Cole.  In An Extraordinary Union, Cole combines historical romance with espionage for a delightful read.  Elle Burns and Malcolm McCall are both spies for the Union during the Civil War, and they must set aside their instant attraction in order to save their country.

When it comes to LGBTQ romances, I’ve been hearing a lot about Cat Sebastian, and it’s no wonder why.  Sebastian writes queer historical romances, starting with The Soldier’s Scoundrel.  Jack Turner is a lower-class fixer, helping people with problems that they can’t talk to the magistrate about.  When Oliver Rivington, a gentleman and a former soldier, learns that his sister has used Jack’s services, his interest is piqued and he looks in on Jack’s business.  Oliver’s interest is also piqued by Jack, and soon the two men are working to solve Jack’s newest case.  If you’re also interested in contemporary queer romance, it’s worth checking out Vanessa North, whose writing ranges across the LGBTQ spectrum, from Summer Stock’s male/male romance to Roller Girl, featuring a transgender main character.

Along with a good romance novel, I also love young adult literature, so I was thrilled to discover queer romances in that collection, as well.  Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a wondrous ‘80s-based coming-of-age novel, following loner Ari Mendoza as he meets, and eventually falls in love with, the openly-gay Dante.  In Our Own Private Universe, by Robin Talley, Aki meets Christa on a summer trip and decides to stop thinking about things so much and make the most of their time together.  I also found Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk about Love, in which asexual teen Alice struggles with whether or not she can actually find a happily ever after.  Much of Alice’s narrative involves generally-held misconceptions about asexuality, and I was pleased to see a romance that sensitively deals with the topic.

Whatever flavor of romance novel you’re interested in, the Manhattan Public Library has something for you.  If you’d like specific recommendations, feel free to stop by the Reference Desk for a chat, or request a personalized reading list!  We’re more than happy to recommend great books to read.

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New and Notable Picture Books

New and Notable Picture Books

By Laura Ransom, Children’s Services Coordinator

There’s nothing like cuddling up as a family around a great picture book. Picture books aren’t just for preschoolers, though; because of their rich vocabulary and vivid illustrations, even children in upper elementary school (and children’s librarians), can enjoy them. Here is a list of picture books that are sure to delight you.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell is an almost wordless book that tells the story of a lost wolf pup and a lost human girl. A snowy night causes the characters to get separated from their respective families, but together they make their way back home safe and sound. This satisfying book was just awarded the 2018 Caldecott Medal, which is given to the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole World by Mo Willems is a sequel to his 2005 book, Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Sam is afraid of almost everything, including spiders, dogs, and raindrops. He encounters two other things to be scared of: a girl named Kerry and her monster, Frankenthaler. However, Frankenthaler just happens to be friends with Sam’s monster, Leonardo. The kids have to decide if they’ll keep being scared of each other or make a brave choice to become friends.

Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi is filled with hilarious, detailed illustrations. Lola the armadillo has a small accident at home, and she is so scared of the consequences that she runs away to the library. Along the way, all of the animals she encounters are dealing with their own disasters, and no one knows what to do. Lola and her friends ultimately learn how to start over with an apology and the reassurance that even the most disastrous accidents can be resolved.

Vincent Can’t Sleep by Barb Rosenstock tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s colorful life. With short sentences and luminous illustrations by Mary GrandPré, readers get a glimpse into Van Gogh’s beautiful imagination. Rosenstock included this quote by Van Gogh, “It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day.” The book is a great introduction to his artwork and interesting life story.

La La La by Kate DiCamillo is another nearly wordless story that begins with a lonely little girl. She loves to sing and hopes that someone will join her song, but no one responds and she’s left dejected. When night comes, the moon lights up the sky, and the little girl longs to be closer to its light. In a magical scene, the moon comes down to earth and joins in the girl’s serenade. It amazes me how much an author and illustrator can communicate with just a few words and expressive faces.

The Giant Jumperee by Julia Donaldson has the same playful feel as her beloved book, The Gruffalo. Animals are too afraid to go near the rabbit’s burrow because a voice inside bellows, “I’m the Giant Jumperee and I’m scary as can be!” Rabbit and his friends try to overcome their fear of the Giant Jumperee, but only Mama Frog is able to address the thundering voice and command it to come out. Spoiler alert: it’s Baby Frog.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith describes the perfect day according to a cat, a dog, a chickadee, and a squirrel. A surprise visit from a bear turns their perfect day upside down. Now the bear is enjoying his perfect day with the squirrel and chickadee’s corn, the dog’s water dish, and the cat’s daffodils. The book provides an opportunity to look at “the perfect day” from a different point of view and maybe a challenge to make the most of a disappointing situation.

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward invites the reader into a garden guessing game. Seeds are planted and the question is posed, “What will grow?” Lift the flaps to discover sunflowers, carrots, and pine trees, plus intricately illustrated chipmunks, goldfinches, and rabbits. The book also includes facts about the plants from the story and growing directions for your own garden.

Our library is filled with literally thousands of wonderful picture books for you to discover. Stop by and check out some memorable books today.

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Great Love Stories for Valentine’s Day

Great Love Stories for Valentine’s Day

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Why not try something a little different from the candies and the flowers this Valentine’s Day? Treat that special person or persons in your life to a night at the movies. The American Film Institute (AFI) has identified the 100 greatest love stories on the silver screen. Encompassing multiple genres, these films all feature a romantic bond between 2 or more characters. As stated on the AFI website these movies “possess a ‘passion’ which has enriched America’s film and cultural heritage while continuing to inspire contemporary artists and audiences.”

Instead of listing the top few romantic movies, we’re going to sample the entire list. That should provide a little something for everyone.

Number 1 on the AFI list is “Casablanca,” from 1942 and directed by Michael Curtiz. Everyone knows this movie. It’s Bogart and Bergman. In World War II Morocco, a weary and bitter nightclub owner helps his former lover and her Resistance hero husband escape from the Nazis.

At number 12 is “My Fair Lady,” from 1964 and directed by George Cukor. At one time “My Fair Lady” was the longest-running musical on Broadway. Adapted from the play, “Pygmalion,” by George Bernard Shaw, an arrogant professor attempts to transform a working-class London street vendor into a sophisticated lady.

King Kong,” from 1933 and directed by Merian Cooper weighs in at number 24. Captured during a moviemaking expedition, giant gorilla King Kong, falls in love with the movie’s blonde star (Faye Wray). Taken to the Big Apple, King Kong goes on a rampage, taking the woman he loves to the top of the Empire State Building.

At number 38 is “It Happened One Night,” from 1934 and directed by Frank Capra. A screwball comedy starring Claudette Colbert as the spoiled heiress, and Clark Gable as the recently fired newspaper reporter who helps her get to New York. As they travel through a series of misadventures, the gruff reporter, and the spoiled rich girl fall in love.

Sleepless in Seattle,” from 1993 and directed by Nora Ephron is number 45 on the list. Inspired by the 1957 film “An Affair to Remember” (number 5 on the list), a woman falls in love with a man sight unseen after she hears him on a radio call-in show. Deciding it must be fate, she races across the country to meet him.

Number 58 is “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” from 1967 and directed by Stanley Kramer. Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, and Sidney Poitier star in this film about a young white woman who brings home her black fiancé. Both families of the young lovers are forced to examine each other’s level of intolerance and open-mindedness.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” from 1961 and directed by Blake Edwards makes the list at number 61. Audrey Hepburn is Holly Golightly, an eccentric playgirl who befriends her next door neighbor, a writer new to the city. Watch the romance between Holly and Paul (or Fred, as she calls him) blossom to the strains of Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”

From 1942, it’s “Woman of the Year,” directed by George Stevens at number 74. Hepburn and Tracy again in a hilarious excursion into the battle of the sexes. Newspaper columnists both, they fall in love and marry with disastrous results. But despite their divergent personalities, they are truly made for each other, as they realize by the movie’s end.

Number 88 is “The Princess Bride,” from 1987 and directed by Rob Reiner. A tongue-in-cheek fairy tale about stable boy-turned-pirate Westley’s journey to rescue his true love, Buttercup, away from the evil prince.

Grease,” from 1978 and directed by Randal Kleiser dances in at number 97. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John star in this musical revolving around the romance between a teen-age gang-leader and his naive girlfriend, set in the 1950’s. Grease was the highest-grossing film of 1978, and the highest-grossing movie musical ever at the time (now fallen to number 11).

All of the films highlighted here, as well as dozens of other romantic films, are available at the library in DVD and/or Blu-ray format.

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Short Stories and Resolutions

Short Stories and Resolutions

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

We are now fully entrenched in the new year, and I’m sure only a month or two away from not having to turn 7s into 8s when writing 2018. This is also the time of year when New Year’s resolutions begin to fall to the wayside at an astonishing rate. It doesn’t have to be that way, however, and the library can help.

I prefer to make resolutions throughout the year because New Year’s resolutions often feel forced. But New Year’s resolutions can still be a fun test of your willpower, and they allow you to be a more engaging participant in the inevitable conversations surrounding resolutions.

One of my resolutions this year is to write one short story each month. By June, I will have changed it to writing two short stories a month, to make up for not having written anything yet.  That’s the nice thing about resolutions: they aren’t set in stone and you get to make the rules.

Short stories are great because, as you may have guessed from their name, they’re a quick read. You don’t need to commit yourself to an entire book. Rather than sitting down and reading a chapter, only to be forced to put the book down to go about your life, not knowing where the story may lead until you’re able to pick the book back up again, short stories allow you to experience an entire story in one sitting. They cut to the chase and get you to the third act before bedtime.

One of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut, and my introduction to him was his collection of short stories in “Welcome to the Monkey House.” It is a collection of stories written early in his career for a variety of magazines and they showcase the wit, satire, and black humor that can be found in his writing throughout his career.

Trigger Warning” is Neil Gaiman’s third collection of short stories, and in the introduction he provides commentary for each story. As someone who is trying to write my own short stories, I appreciate a glimpse behind the curtain. This collection contains stories set in the worlds of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, but my favorite is the bedtime story “Click-Clack the Rattlebag.”

When it comes to seeing behind the curtain, “The Curiosities” and the follow-up, “The Anatomy of Curiosity,” both collections by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff, provide even more commentary on the writing process as a whole. “The Curiosities” began as a blog and a way for the authors to experiment with ideas outside of their current projects. The authors introduce their stories, provide commentary throughout, and make comments on the other author’s stories.

“The Anatomy of Curiosity” expands on this idea, with each author writing a single story and providing more extensive commentary on a specific topic, like world building, in the form of marginalia. It is entertaining while also being insightful and educational. I also got to use the word “marginalia,” an opportunity that doesn’t come up as often as it should.

Another unique short story concept can be found in “FaceOff” and “MatchUp,” pairing bestselling thriller authors and bringing their characters into the same stories. I grew up reading Goosebumps books, so the most interesting pairing for me is found in the story “Gaslighted,” that pits Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast against R. L. Stine’s Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy. “MatchUp” is the sequel that changes things up by pairing female and male authors together, like Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille or Sandra Brown and C. J. Box.

These are just a few of the books I’m looking at to find inspiration for my own short stories. And I haven’t even mentioned all of the books we have at the library on the topic of writing, like “Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence” or “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.”

It can be tempting to let your resolutions fall to the wayside as the year progresses, but there’s nothing wrong with tweaking them to fit your current needs. And regardless of your resolution, the library has books and classes to help, whether it involves exercise, preparing for retirement, or technology. We’ve even got a series on being a better adult starting on Tuesday, February 13 with a class on renting vs. buying a home, followed by classes on basic first aid, presentations by the police and fire departments, and gardening.