Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

Why the Public Library Beats Amazon

Kindle eReaderThe Wall Street Journal explains how your local public library offers FREE access to more best-seller eBooks than pay-subscription services such as Amazon, Oyster and Scribd. Though you still have to deal with due dates, hold lists and occasionally clumsy software, libraries have one killer feature that the others don't: eBooks you actually want to read.

Take advantage of Eisenhower Library's eBook collection here using Media on Demand. If you have questions about accessing eBooks through Media on Demand, visit the Answers Desk at Eisenhower Library or give us a call at (708) 867-2299.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

“I didn’t know what was Good or Wicked anymore. All I knew was what was right.”  

Dorothy Must Die is a dark fantasy written by Danielle Paige, derived from the classic story, The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. This story focuses on Amy Gumm, a country Kansas girl who is swept away in a tornado and brought to the mythical Land of Oz.

That may sound familiar to the original story, except Oz is different; a lot different. Dorothy may have gone home at the end of the original series, but she has come back in a big way. In the time elapsed between the original story and now, Dorothy has gone from sweet farm girl, to tyrannical magic hoarding “princess”, ruling over all of Oz with an iron fist. Now Amy has been dropped into the middle of it all, and everyone outside of the kingdom expects her to save the day.

Nothing is as it seems anymore. What once was good is now wicked, and what once was wicked is now good. Amy joins a group called the Order, who is secretly organizing a rebellion against the kingdom. The rebellion has one main mission:  to kill Dorothy Gale. Because Amy arrived from “the other place” like Dorothy, she is believed to be the only one capable of killing the powerful princess. Amy is not so sure of this, since she has never even successfully won a fight. But from observing the state of Oz, and seeing what violent and gruesome acts Dorothy and her henchmen (the tin woodsman, the lion, and the scarecrow) are capable of committing, she realizes that she has no other choice but to try.

This book starts out a bit slow and cliché, where the outcast teen is dropped into a different world and has greatness thrust upon her, followed by the mentor training, the coming of age, the awkward yet sweet romances, and the heartbreak. It is also a growing trend among YA novels to take an old classic and twist it around into something new. Some of the characters were flat and predictable, and only appeared to be written in order to take up space in the book.

However, my interest picked up once Amy’s training was over, and she began to work undercover, disguised as a handmaid in Oz’s kingdom in order to get closer to Dorothy. I felt the anxieties and fears Amy felt, and read in mesmerized horror at the way fear and manipulation were used to keep the servants in check. In fact, I flew through the final 200 pages in one day.

While the second half made up for the first half, one of my biggest disappointments with this book is how it ended. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I expected the big reveal, where all of our questions would be answered, and where Dorothy would face her miserable and deserving death. However, it didn’t end. It left an enormous cliffhanger for us to dangle from until the sequel’s release in 2015. The series plans to become a trilogy, along with two novellas.

Find Dorothy Must Die in the library.

-Becca, Answers

Stories Matter ...

"Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity."

We often hear one story, or one narrative, and apply it to an entire group of people. The narrative we are told about the Middle East is that everyone there is either a terrorist or a victim or terrorism. Everyone in Africa is destitute and has HIV. The entire city of Chicago is a dangerous place. Chimamanda Adichie pleads with us to read more stories, don't make assumptions based on one story, seek out other stories. That is the beauty of literature. You can learn without being told. You can decide what stories you want to hear. And you can find those stories at Eisenhower.

Watch this TED Talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and check out her books at the library.

Chipotle Cup Stories

Chipotle is going to start featuring short (very short) stories and essays by authors like Toni Morrison, Jonathan Safran Foer and Malcolm Gladwell on their cups. The idea came to Foer when he realized how boring it was to eat a burrito by yourself. In an inspired moment he thought of a fantastic way to bring stories to a wide range of people that might not otherwise have access to or interest in these authors.

Read the full story here.

Kids are Weird by Jeffrey Brown

"Since you're here I'm going to wash my hands for real". This is just one of dozens of those sometimes shockingly truthful things that kids say to their parents, family and total strangers that Jeffrey Brown includes in his latest book. 

Jeffrey Brown is best known for Darth Vader and Son and Vader's Little PrincessKids are Weird is about all the strange things that kids do and say often loudly and always in public places.

I don't know if people without kids would find this funny or not. I have kids and I laughed at some parts. It took me about 20 minutes to get through the whole thing so it's not a major committment. I read some parts out loud to my wife and she told me to stop. There were definitely funny panels but no "gut-busters". If you're going to read anything by him start with Vader's Little Princess.

I checked out a digital copy because I was out of the house and wanted something to read. Find it through Media on Demand.

Up From the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

“’Is that you, Reaper?’ a familiar voice drawled, dispelling that concern. ‘And if so, have you lost your mind?’”

Vampire, Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband, Bones, have faced many threats over the years, among them ghouls, ghosts, other vampires, and the U.S. Government. This last threat resurfaces in the latest Night Huntress novel, with a vengeance. Cat and Bones discover a diabolical plot involving genetic testing on humans and paranormal species, conceived and perpetuated with disturbing calculation by rogue CIA agent, Jason Madigan. Cat and Bones must stop these experiments in order to save the lives (dead and undead) of those they hold most dear. In the process, they uncover a horrifying super-secret project that brings Cat face-to-face with her deepest fears.

Bringing the Night Huntress series to a close with this 7th volume, best-selling Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance author Frost doesn’t pull any punches. Up From the Grave is sensuous, gritty, a little bit scary, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. Fans of the series will be pleased with the appearance of all of our favorite characters, including Tyler, the blasé medium, and ghoul queen Marie Laveau. While I am sad to see the series end, I must admire Frost, who felt that she had told all of the Cat and Bones stories she wanted to tell and decided it wouldn’t be fair to fans of the series to drag it out only for the sake of book sales. She intends to focus her efforts on her New Adult (meaning the characters are either college-age or in their early 20s) and her Night Huntress spin-off novels, featuring Cat and Bone’s co-stars. But that’s the great thing about vampires. They (almost) never die.

Find Up From the Grave in the library.

Soma by Windhand

“…Eight thousandgrayscale image of a barn-like structure in a field near tree cover years between the dusk and dawn…”

Soma is the gargantuan second album by Richmond, Virginia Doom Metal quintet Windhand who set themselves apart from the pack which represents the genre in a few ways but most noticeably via the utilization of clean, female vocals courtesy of lead singer Dorthia Cottrell. Other bands in the genre typically feature male vocalists who sound like they’ve been gargling with gravel nightly since they were pre-teens. Opening the set with a rumbling thunder toned guitar riff is “Orchard” which sets the stage for the sludge-fest that is about to ensue across this album’s approximately 75 minute runtime and has perhaps the albums most straightforward song structure albeit a song which is double the length of a standard radio Rock song. Bursting out of the feedback hum which closes out “Orchard” comes “Woodbine,” another similarly paced tornado of heavily distorted guitar chords and fluctuating drum grooves that ends with a dragged out, highly viscous and quintessentially “doomy” coda that spans the last 3 minutes of its 9 minutes and 22 seconds. The electrified guitar and drum driven sound that comprises the vast majority of this LP, which has such vastitude that it conjures images of endless skies riddled with storm clouds, is interrupted by acoustic/vocal track “Evergreen” in which Cottrell drones through three or four varied guitar chord progressions while complimenting the strumming with soaring vocal notes that are extended and exaggerated to wonderful, soothing effect. Elsewhere, in closing track “Boleskine” the overall heaviness is punctuated by soft acoustic strumming at the very beginning for a few minutes and then somewhere near the middle only to end up crashing back into the slow, oozing down-tuned fuzz riffing which informs the majority of the 30 and ½ minute opus. A few instances of lead guitar compliment the main riff before finally (and very slowly) fading out to the field recording sounds of gusting gales and other eerie, unidentifiable scratching sounds.

A band like Windhand is definitely a difficult pill to swallow for the casual listener or even for general fans of mainstream Rock music. What usually puts people off is the fact that most of the songs clock in at over 8 minutes, and a half hour long single song by itself is especially intimidating when you consider the common attention span that most modern music listeners have. However, the genre known as “Doom Metal” has gained a lot of popularity in recent years despite these facts and I would implore any fan of Rock music to attempt to consciously listen to Soma in full in one or even two sittings (I mean…its 75 minutes long. I understand you’ve got stuff to do). There is something infectious about the increased instance of repetition that comes with the territory of extended duration musical ventures like the songs featured on Soma and every few minutes there is usually a new element; either a guitar solo, an alternating set of drum fills or tempo shifts for example, which all tend to offer up a level of variation that can keep even the reluctant listener interested enough to continue the journey. The most notable purveyor of the aforementioned attributes being “Cassock” which, across its almost 14 minute duration, shows the band seamlessly shifting gears between half-time groove and almost moderate Rock tempos from one lyrical line to the next with multiple sections of the song structure being diced up and set in place by the command of seasoned drum wizard Ryan Wolfe. The overwhelming loudness and repetitiousness of the music gives a semi-meditative quality to the songs which lends itself nicely to the subtle nods to the Occult via song titles, pieces of lyrical content and a particularly dreary set of images in the album artwork. Soma will absolutely test a listener’s patience for a number of reasons but going into the listening experience with an open mind and a focused ear can be incredibly rewarding... you know, if you’ve got that kind of time. This review is 666 words long. Doom.

Find Soma at the library.

-Brian, Answers

Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

“After all, you’ve spent the past several months grieving for what you thought was the failure of your life’s work…and here I am, telling you that, no, you didn’t fail. In fact, you have created a being that far surpasses your wildest dreams.”  -VI in Man Made Boy

The young adult novel, Man Made Boy tells a tale of trolls and nymphs, robots and dragons, living throughout the United States, and having to hide from the non-magical public. The story looks from the point of view of 17-year-old Boy, who is the son of the Frankenstein Monster, and his Bride. Boy is a tech geek living in an underground commune of monsters in the heart of New York City, who make a living running a unique Broadway show. In the show the creatures display their powers as though they are merely special effects and makeup.

Boy feels cramped and unhappy living underground, performing these menial day to day tasks. He doesn’t fit in with the magical teenagers, he himself falling somewhere between magic and science. He spends most of his free time in his room, talking to his tech geek human friends online, and developing his AI virus. When he learns what his father has in store for his future, he leaves the commune to live with an internet friend in the city. With no legal identification, and only barely passing as a human, Boy does not have an easy time living in human New York City. Not to mention the fact that his AI creation (who has named herself VI for Viral Intelligence) has come to life, and is on a murderous mission of world domination! Boy somehow finds himself in an action packed adventure with the daughters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (who take turns in one body, just like their grandfather) trying to find a place call home, and figure out how to defeat his maniacal creation.

Man Made Boy is a unique, fast paced, and attention grabbing story. Instead of focusing on vampires and zombies, as so many of the recent young adult novels do, it takes all of the other fantastical monsters, and then weaves them into a city setting. At times, this story can get a little bit overwhelming with the action; what with Boy running away from home, his troll girlfriend hiding her appearance with drug-like glamour, the electronic rampage of VI, and not to mention Jekyll and Hyde’s brother chasing the girls down to rip them apart and kill Claire Hyde.

There is a fair amount of character development throughout the story for Boy. He realizes that he has to take responsibility for his creations, and that things may have turned out differently for his AI if he had shown her the way, and considered her side of things, instead of merely trying to push her out of his life. There are parallels drawn between Boy, and his father’s creator, Dr. Frankenstein, and how their fear and neglect of their confused creations caused a great amount of unnecessary peril. Boy is forced to face the fact that things are not always in simple black and white.

Overall, this story is a great one,  and it sends out a message of family, friendship, love, and not only accepting, but flourishing in who you are.

Find Man Made Boy at the library.

-Becca, Answers

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Drawing of a large hotel set in a mountainous landscape.How a movie is marketed can work against the unprepared moviegoer who just wants to watch the film. For me, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel is a good example of this. The film is being marketed as a comedy. Maybe that’s what Anderson’s fans expect, so the producers wanted to make sure they came prepared. From the earliest moments, it became apparent that the initiated members of the audience came to the theater ready to laugh. They laughed and they laughed, as if the things they found funny were all inside jokes. An actor they recognized appeared on the screen. They laughed. Another actor they recognized appeared on the screen. They laughed. If you know Wes Anderson’s films, you can imagine how often this happened.

My problem with all the laughing was that the movie was not funny. Not really. Is Billy Murray funny? Sometimes. Is Owen Wilson funny? Sometimes. But just because an actor who is sometimes funny appears on the screen is that cause to laugh? Apparently.

That having been said, did I enjoy the film? Yes. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori were wonderful as the hero and his sidekick. Visually, the film was spectacular, bringing the viewer into a world that no longer exists or, perhaps, never did. This surreal grand hotel experience with all its dark undertones might be Wes Anderson’s 21st century take on the Alain Resnais classic Last Year at Marienbad. Who knows what really happened? In this case, does it matter? Just go along for the ride. The ride is beautiful.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is currently in theaters, but find it here when it becomes available on DVD.