Beyond Bestsellers: Epic Fantasy, Part 2

by Jocelyn R.

Welcome back, fantasy readers! The month is half gone already, and I wanted to check in. How goes the epic fantasy challenge? Have you fallen for any new authors or series? Or done a re-read of an old favorite?

In my post at the beginning of the month, I mentioned that Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series introduced me to epic fantasy. And that’s accurate as far as it goes, since it was the first epic fantasy I read. But it was really my dad who kindled my love of epic fantasy. He would read a book, hand it to me to read, and then we’d have a grand time discussing the novel and the series. After Robert Jordan, we moved on to Dragonlance, beginning with Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and then tackled Terry Brooks’ Shannara series.

I still enjoy suggesting titles to my dad, and spending time together discussing the series. My newer favorites (and recommendations to Dad) include Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. And one that I haven’t suggested to my dad since it’s probably a bit too dark for him, was a book I was shocked to discover I enjoyed – Godblind by Anna Stephens. This was an extremely grimdark epic fantasy, with brutal violence and completely unexpected twists and turns and betrayals. It kept me on the edge of my seat (and gasping in shock) and I am now anxiously awaiting the next installment.

Do you recommend epic fantasy to anyone in particular? How did you discover this wonderful genre? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to share your favorite epic fantasy novels with us by creating a Beyond Bestsellers book list.

Happy reading!

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Movies to Escape Winter

by Michelle C. 

Picture this. A toasty fire in the fireplace. A comfy couch with lots of throw blankets. A person, dog, or pillow to cuddle up with. And a movie that helps you escape the gloom of a Pacific Northwest winter. This time of year I like to watch movies that feature sunshine, travel, and exotic places. Even if I am not going on vacation, I can escape for a few hours while watching a movie.

In The Endless Summer two surfers chase the perfect wave as they travel from Africa to Australia. This movie features beautiful locales that will make you want to pick up a surfboard and quit your job in pursuit of an endless summer.

 

A Good Year features a hard-hearted businessman who discovers he has inherited a home in Provence. He goes down there looking to sell it fast, but discovers a slower pace of life. Warning: This movie may make you want to quit your job and move to the south of France.

 

I grew up in Arizona so it’s no wonder that I start craving the sun and desert during the long winter days. In City Slickers, a man suffering from a mid-life crisis and his friends decide to go on a two week trip to the American West. Watch it for the slap-stick laughs and the beautiful desert scenery.

Check out the full list of movies and share with us some of your favorites to watch during the winter!

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Audiobooks to Transcend Rush Hour

by Kristi S.

Like most Western Washingtonians, I spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. A lot of time. Seriously, I spend more time on one freeway on-ramp than I do with my mother. So, I started bringing audiobooks on the road with me as a way to stay calm and composed while I drive. If I get the right storyline with a talented reader, it can completely transport me from rush hour to another world and make my trip stress-free. I’ve saved you the search and compiled a list of audiobooks that saved my mental health last year.

Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Letters from Skye is a beautiful story with parallel narratives of love and loss told through letters from across continents during both world wars. The characters are engaging as written, but they are brought to life by the full-cast of award-winning voice actors. The accents are wonderful, the setting lush, and the storyline both inspirational and heart-breaking. True story: I was almost done with this book when I pulled into work one day. I could not stop listening, so I brought the disc in with me and cried in my cubicle for my entire lunch break. This was an awkward time for my coworkers in surrounding cubicles, so I highly suggest listening to the last disc in the comfort of your own home. Maybe with tissues and snacks.

 Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman. I will read everything he ever writes, and then I will listen to it in audio because he narrates his own books. His voice is like sweet summer and I could listen to him read literally anything. Stardust is particularly dear to my heart because it was the first Neil Gaiman book I ever picked up. It is an epic tale of adventure, magical lands, and the crazy things we do for love. The world-building is excellent and the characters are so engaging and relatable it is impossible not to be invested in their story. With Gaiman as the reader, we get a peek into his mind, and his love for the characters shines in this performance.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

This is the most beautiful audiobook I have ever heard. The story itself spans from the early rise of the Nazi party in Germany, to the Great Depression in Pennsylvania, to the immigrant experience during WWII in California, connecting three children from different backgrounds through a magic harmonica. The voice actors really seem to connect with the characters, and tell their stories in an emotionally engaging way. What makes this audiobook truly special, though, is the gorgeous harmonica music that plays throughout the story. The music entwines itself in the story, bridging time and distance to tell a tale that haunts and heals.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

The Scarlet Letter meets the Handmaid’s Tale in this book with a creepy and realistic dystopian atmosphere. Taking place in a near-future United States where convicted criminals are “chromed” to change their skin color to match their crimes, Hannah Payne struggles to live with her choices and the stigma of her crime. The premise is so eerily possible and the narrator, Heather Corrigan, forces us to feel the emotion as her voice changes with the character. I could not stop thinking about this story for weeks after it ended.

While those audiobooks are my current favorites, I have compiled a larger list of books with strong storylines and talented readers that have helped me through my most grueling commutes:
What do you do to battle the rush hour blues? Have you listened to anything recently that completely transported you? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

 

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A24

By Grant P.

I saw recently that Disney was buying 20th Century Fox. Aside from the prospect of the greatest film of all time, this is not great news for movie fans. It means we will probably continue to see more giant blockbusters and remakes that don’t need to exist and fewer medium budget films. I miss a time when every movie wasn’t some huge sequel or larger part of some IP (intellectual property). Luckily, small budget cinema is still providing quality films and one production company in particular has been consistently (since 2013) putting out many interesting and engaging movies. A24, has both Lady Bird and The Disaster Artist currently in theaters, (one of which was briefly the all-time highest rated movie on rotten tomatoes) and last year’s Academy Award winner Moonlight. I love A24 because they don’t stick to just one kind of film, they finance horror, documentary, comedy, everything. Peruse the list below for some outstanding A24 features, or just search the catalog with A24.

 

Bling Ring – Director Sofia Coppola makes some of the most visually interesting films (she also has acted in two of the most popular film series, guess which in the comments without looking it up.) In this film, based on a true story, she follows a group of teens stealing from Hollywood celebrities. Apparently the early Aughts were a time when it was easy to break into houses of the rich and famous.

 

 

Obvious Child – Jenny Slate gave life to one of the most hilariously awful television characters of all time in Parks and Recreation, here she has to deal with a very real life situation. This movie is honest and funny and doesn’t give in to a traditional Hollywood ending.

 

Room – Room and Moonlight are better movie watching experiences if you go in knowing nothing about the movie. So, in a vague hope that you don’t know what this film is about, I can say Brie Larson won an Oscar for best actress and that it is good (seriously don’t even read the two sentence synopsis).

 

 

 

 

Here is a list of even more A24 films.

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LibraryReads List January 2018

by Lindsey A.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of a new year of books, and 2018 is no exception. January’s LibaryReads list has arrived, so start adding to your lists!

It looks like we have a number of series continuations this year, including the third in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, the third in Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You series, and the second in Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy (which I am currently reading so I can vouch for its excellence). High on my TBR (to be read) pile from this list are The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (that cover!) and Eternal Life by Dara Horn (also a gorgeous cover).

January 2018 Releases

Are you looking forward to any of these LibraryReads titles? Additionally, seeing as it is January, do you have any bookish resolutions for 2018?

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Beyond Bestsellers: Epic Fantasy

by Jocelyn R.

Welcome to 2018! Now that January is upon us, we’re back with the first Beyond Bestsellers theme of the new year. New to Beyond Bestsellers? This reading challenge highlights a different theme each month, along with some titles to get you started. To participate, readers sign up here, then simply read at least one title within the theme and create a list of books to share on our website (don’t forget to include the Beyond Bestsellers in the name of your list so that we, and other participants, can find your suggestions).

Now sit back, relax, and get ready to dig in for the long-haul, because this month we’re reading one of my favorites: epic fantasy!

Epic fantasies are sweeping stories that often feature quests (usually related to world-ending problems like dark lords, evil wizards, or other events that must be prevented), swords, sorcery, and fully developed immersive worlds. Traditionally, these fantasies have clear-cut heroes and villains, but more modern works often favor morally complex characters. Epic fantasy novels range from light-hearted to dark (including grimdark) and tend to be written in long-running series (often with three or more books). Note: While urban fantasy can be epic in scope, this month we are focusing solely on worlds that are not Earth.

Over the past few years epic fantasy permeated pop culture with movies and television series based on novels (as well as some awesome video games like Skyrim and Dragon Age). Do you recognize the line, “Winter is coming?” If you do, you may already be a fan of epic fantasy. The quote is from the popular television show, Game of Thrones, which is based on George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Two major epic fantasy motion picture trilogies that hit the box office, based on the famous novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, were The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings. And now there are rumors that Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is headed for television! This is the series that made me fall in love with epic fantasy, so I’m both delighted and a little nervous (since it could go horribly wrong).

While I enjoy watching epic fantasy on the big screen, it rarely lives up to the richness of the novel (and few are actually chosen for film or television). So let’s do some reading! Check out the epic fantasy suggestions below or take our quiz for more ideas.

Can’t wait to get started? The ebook, Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb, and audiobook, The Immortal Crown by Kieth Merrill, will be available all month through Overdrive without ever having to place a hold! And don’t forget to take a peek at the Epic Fantasy booklist on OverDrive for even more possibilities.

I’ll check in on your epic fantasy journey mid-month, but don’t forget to update us on your progress in the comments section below.

Happy reading!

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Self Help(less)

By Emily Z.

Are you ready to revolutionize your new year’s resolution? Deep-dive into a personal epoch of self-help, self-control, and self-confidence? Me neither. It’s dark outside, it’s cold, and maybe, like me, you’re having regrets about downing so many deviled eggs like they were Jello shots (or vice versa) over the holiday(s). It’s time for some derisive distraction. I have herded together some unruly books of advice to hopefully help you have a laugh at life before you go about changing yours. A number of these are also available as eBooks (some of them exclusively as eBooks), so you might not even need to leave your home to obtain them. Truly, the future is upon us.

Alright then, what kind of life-advice can we expect from this lineup? Well, all of these books offer some kind of guidance on how to improve some aspect of your existence (work, love, children, health), but most of their suggestions are to be taken with a grain of salt (if not an entire margarita). These tips are a mix of the farcical, satirical, sarcastic, roguish, and downright sassy, except for Baba Yaga’s. Lady Yaga actually has some intriguing ideas and I’m not just saying that because she is an ancient and powerful supernatural being. I’m not afraid of her.

Ask the Past by Elizabeth P. Archibald

Archibald has plumbed the depths of Medieval and early modern European history in search of the finest of life hacks. In her introduction, she also neatly distills the appeal of self-help books: “How-to manuals…assure readers that overcoming a limitation of nature or society does not require divine intervention, inborn privilege, or years of practice—just a clever technique, and perhaps the gall of a weasel.”

However, in regards to the kind of advice she’s dug up, she warns that the passage of time has rendered the line between parody and sincerity paper-thin at times, so be careful before you go about applying any of these tips to your life. For example, Marcus Graecus can tell you how to make a simple missile out of various incendiary chemicals and a live bird, but should you? Did anyone ever actually do that? The Breviarium Barholomei (Johannes de Mirefield, 1380) advises applying roasted onions to a man’s nostrils to determine whether or not he is alive (living men will scratch their noses). This tip was likely penned in earnest, but in light of recent medical advancements, it seems absurd to go roasting onions during a possible medical emergency.

Gin & Juice: a Guide to Parenting by Alan Tyers

If you’re hoping for insight on historically accurate Victorian child-rearing, this is not the place. Gin & Juice is a guide for the well-heeled, well-bred, and wholly ridiculous expectant parent of the 19th century. It includes many sections on how to ignore your child with greatest efficacy. There’s also passage on how to pit one twin against the other (lest they join forces against you) too. The narrator has equally ludicrous opinions about foreigners, lower socio-economic classes, and women. Paired with the outlandish (though convincingly rendered) ink and composite illustrations of ferocious nannies and alarming child-care contraptions, it all makes for a wonderfully groan-worthy read.

Saving Face by Andy Robin 

If you’re not afraid of a little lying, dissembling, or figuratively spinning yarns like a literal Amish woman, Andy and Gregg have some tips for you. It’s not just about little falsehoods, really, but carefully controlling or changing situations through fakery, passive aggressiveness, aggressive passiveness, and ridiculousness. They cover everything from relationships (workplace and non) and simply getting through a workday to more everyday skills like dealing with solicitors, explaining yourself when caught re-gifting, and “feeling obligated to buy from a friend who makes crafts”. And the section on using a bathroom stall that has no lock? Life-saving.

Glop: Nontoxic, Expensive Ideas That Will Make You Look Ridiculous and Feel Pretentious by Gabrielle Moss

Glop is about being noticeably, extravagantly, and obnoxiously healthy, both physically and emotionally. Miss Moss is your guide to shopping for a personal shaman and replacing most foods with vitamin tablets and gentle breathing exercises. There are sections on parenting, love, love-making, entertaining (is your Karaoke locally-sourced?), beauty, fashion, gift-giving, etc. Some examples of chapters include: “5 Everyday Things That Can Turn Water into Poison” and “How to Decorate the Wings of Your Home That You Have Closed Off”.

100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying by Sarah Cooper 

After her series of business tips for women gained attention from the likes of Forbes , Fast Company, and Bustle, Cooper went all out and created a book crammed with clever, crafty meeting tactics for everyone. Do you want to know how to appear more engaged in meetings or at work in general? Do you want to appear to be the most engaged out of everyone in the room? To be absolutely crushing it, engagement-wise? Well this book will advise you on where to sit, when to stand, what to say when you haven’t been paying attention, what to say when you have nothing to contribute, and more. She also really drives home the importance of talking about the weather where you are when you’re meeting with a group remotely.

Check out the rest of the list for more really great bad advice:

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Urban Fantasy Spotlight: The Mortal Instruments

by Kimberly P. 

Big City Life with a Side of the Supernatural.

Have you ever been curious about urban fantasy? Exactly what is it? In general, urban fantasy novels are set in contemporary times, and contain supernatural elements. One Friday out of each month, I’ll highlight an urban fantasy book for the interested.

Welcome back to U/F/S. We’ve been living it up on an extended vacation in Melbourne, Australia, but now we’re back stateside and have just touched down at JFK International airport. We’ve abandoned the hot summer days and are exchanging them for the Big Apple’s frigid winter. As the holiday season winds down, what better way to ring in the new year than with a high-octane, quick read packed with angels, demons, and teenage drama?

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare starts with a nightclub, an execution, and an abduction. When Clary Fray witnesses an impossible murder, she confronts the killers and discovers that the New York she’s used to is much, much darker.

And it has special plans for her.

The Mortal Instruments is one of my favorite teen urban fantasy series. It reminds me of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer with its neo-Gothic atmosphere, slices of horror, and family secrets. I love its diverse characters–my fav is “Malec”–and that the plot is complex but not overly complicated. City of Bones hit fast and hard, and left me craving more. I’ve watched the movie and spinoff television series, Shadowhunters, and still can’t get enough!

Interested in this fun adrenaline rush? Browse a few sample chapters.

And for my historical fiction lovers, Cassandra Clare’s follow-up urban fantasy series, the Infernal Devices, is just up your alley. Set during Victorian-era England, the first book, The Clockwork Angel, follows orphan Tess Fell as she searches for her missing brother. Her journey thrusts her into an underworld of infernal magic, Shadowhunters, and demonic mechanical creatures.

What Tess uncovers about her heritage and her family will forever alter her world.

Eager for an enchanted carriage ride through 19th century London? Or just want to read it before it becomes a television series? Try a sample chapter.

Also, if you love beautiful illustrations, flip through the manga adaptation. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

As always, stay tuned for the next installment of U/F/S where we’ll join the hunt alongside a pair of brothers whose family business is chasing down monsters. . . .

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Biblio Files on Bibliophiles

By Kaley C.

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One of my favorite places to be surrounded by books, in Dorian Books of Youngstown, Ohio. Photo Credit Christopher Barzak, published by TinHouse

Arguably one of the best things about working in a library is constantly being surrounded by books. And I mean it less in a SWAT team way and more like Belle when she realized it was the best plus side to hanging out in a mansion with this guy way. Besides all the whimsical singing cutlery, of course. Anyway, it only makes sense that some of the best books out there are about books and language!

The Librarian job in the Invisible Libraries series​ is a dream! Imagine, if you will, a library that sits at the intersections of all possible realities. It’s staffed by Librarians acting as thieves and spies that will do whatever it takes to protect knowledge and steal books to house in the Library. Irene has successfully completed many missions, but before she can take a rest from her latest one she’s sent to one of the most dangerous worlds with a brand new trainee, Kai. This mission takes terribly dangerous and unpredictable turns as she and Kai discover their target book has already been stolen.

While we’re on the topic of literary spies and fast-paced and plot driven stories, Lexicon is about orphaned street rat​ Emily Ruff, who has become a prodigy in her secretive government-run school. They teach students how to use language as a means of controlling people based on their personalities. Unfortunately for her, falling in love with Wil Jamieson could bring about the end of language as we know it. This book is violent, but action-packed. It’s perfect if you have a dark sense of humor and enjoy satire.

The Shadow of the Wind is so much fun. It hits all of my personal check marks in terms of reading an excellent book. It’s so beautifully written. Ruiz Zafón​ pulls off well developed characters with a gripping narrative set in post- Civil war Barcelona. Young Daniel has been mourning his mother’s death when his father introduces him to the Cemetery of the Lost Books. It’s there he picks up called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. After he becomes enthralled with Carax’s work, Daniel tries to find more. Unfortunately, someone has been destroying everything he has ever written. This sends Daniel on a hunt to find out who Jilian Carax is, and you’re introduced to fascinating characters along the way.

As always, a list follows below with even more books about books!

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Library Music and a Little Light Music

by David M.

The term “library music” possibly conjures up images of a string quartet very quietly performing in the back of the library meeting room during some special event, but library music (or production music as it sometimes called) refers to a specific type and use of music. And you’ve very likely heard a lot of it, though you may not know it. Listen to this example. Library music is found in z-grade movies, third-rate TV shows, even driver’s training films — anywhere where there isn’t enough money in the budget to hire a composer. Here’s a piece called “In the Limelight” and another called “Trafficscape“.

Library music is different from soundtrack music because it is contractually composed for a production music library. The composer gets paid a flat one-time-only fee, and the copyright is owned by the company. This allows the production music library to sell to aspiring filmmakers for rock-bottom prices.

So why would a composer choose to be paid like any other factory worker? Well, you ARE being paid to write music, and several composers managed to break out and do more lucrative soundtrack work (the example above was written by Laurie Johnson, who later wrote this iconic piece of ’60s music.

Light music is classical music, usually British, designed to be easy to follow with a memorable ‘hook’, and thus it shares some similarity with library music.   Many seaside resorts in England featured small orchestras who would play relaxing music as a background for sunning vacationers. Because light music is so easily consumed, many pieces were used as radio and TV themes, including this chestnut from my childhood.

There are also examples of light music that are sweet and sentimental, just right for that holiday waltz. I’m a sucker for sentimental music (my family is mostly Irish) and this piece by Cecil Armstrong Gibbs actually brought a tear to my eye. John Ireland’s “The Holy Boy” is another example, and then there’s something breezy like “Jaunting Car“.

These and other pieces are collected on “British Light Classics” via Hoopla.

 

 

 

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