advice for readers

Boxer or Saint?

Boxers / Gene Luen Yang ; color by Lark Pien
Saints / Gene Luen Yang ; color by Lark Pien
I know that we're only in February, but this is the best book (actually two books) I've read all year.  This set is epic and dramatic and cinematic.  I turned off House of Cards to finish these books and I've skipped meals and sleep to catch up on that series.  In these and earlier books, Gene Yang has taken on the topics of race, nationality, immigration, religion and family with with honestly and humor, but without sweetener.  As the story goes, he was asked to write the reboot of the Avatar series (airbender, not blue people) after a blog post expressing his outrage at the lack of Asian and Inuit actors in the movie cast.  It kept me from seeing the movie.  
In Boxers and Saints we meet Little Bao, the youngest in boy in his family, and Four-girl, a child from a family with so many issues, they fail to give her a proper name. They are both coming of age in rural villages during the Boxer Rebellion in China; "foreign devils" have brought terror, political influence and a new religion. To some Chinese, the arrival of these foreigners means grief and destruction, to others it's safety and community in the short-term and the promise of an afterlife in heaven. Villagers must chose between this promise of community and afterlife and betraying their family, traditions and country on earth.
Both young people chose to become crusaders for their causes, Bao with aide of the ancient Chinese gods and the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fist defending the Chinese homeland, and Four-Girl, now with the Christian name Vibiana, with Joan of Ark on her side defending her faith.
If you don't know Gene Luen Yang and Lark Pien, and really, why don't you know them, their local, at least get to know their work.  You won't be disappointed.
Are you a Boxer or a Saint? Let's talk about nationality and religion, but keep it civil, and about comics if you can.
Submitted on February 21, 2014 by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Ave branch Library


A Valentine for Jim Dale

The plan for this blog post was to reflect on the impressive audiobooks that have come out over the past year, as nominations for the 2014 Audie awards have just closed.  Then I realized that there's really only one voice actor that I hold dear (besides Neil Gaiman, of course, I can listen to him read source code), and that's Jim Dale, ahem, MBE

Dearest Jim Dale,

Your voice is like buttered velvet, but not in a gross way.  Actually, that's a terrible description, what I mean is that your voice is complex and sophisticated and terribly pleasing. Will you please read the phone book to me?  

For me, what makes a great book even better is superior narration, and I'm a big fan of Jim Dale.  With every word, I'm more convinced that our world is filled with magic and wonder.  He seems to almost exclusively narrate stories that are moody, otherworldly, extraordinary, and often a bit dark.  He embodies each character completely, from the meek to the gruff to the absurd.  

The Harry Potter series is one of only two bodies of work to make in into the Audio Publisher's Associations Audiobook Hall of Fame. Granted, the APA isn't the only awards game in town, in addition to numerous Audie awards and nominations, Jim Dale has also won multiple Audiofile and Grammy awards for his work.

 The boy with the cuckoo-clock heart  [a novel] / Erin Morgenstern  Christmas Carol 

Besides the entirety of the Harry Potter series, he's narrated several works of Adult fiction including:

The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu.  A modern fairytale, both chilling and sweet.  This is my favorite of the list.

The Night Circus: a novel by Erin Morgenstern, also available in e-audio version here

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

And just a quick program plug: if you're having trouble getting an audiobook on your phone or tablet, check out one of these programs at Main (1/25/14) or Lakeview (2/8/14). You can also talk to one of our Ready, Set, Connect! Assistants at the following branches for help: Main, Asian, César E. Chávez, Dimond, Eastmont or Rockridge, give them a call for details.

Do you have a favorite narrator? Whisper sweet nothings in the comments. 

Submitted on January 17, 2014 by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Ave branch

A few (1) of my favorite things

As I reflect on the great books I've read this year, one really stands out: Where'd you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.  Bee is an over-schedule teen in a Seattle private school filled with parents who seem to have too, much time, show too much interest or otherwise are over-involved in school politics.  Bee's dad is an up-and-comer at Microsoft, and her mom, Bernadette, is a former prodigy-turned mom-on-the-verge (of a breakdown).  This book is sassy, charming, and Bernadette is totally relate-able.

At a recent holiday party, a friend told me that here favorite part of the book was actually in the reader's guide at the back (trade paperback version).  It's a short piece called "Dear Mountain Room Parents" and it's hilarious!  A mostly one-sided email exchange from a parent attempting to set up a Día de los Muertos altar at the school.  Everyone is too PC for their own good and everything gets lost in translation:

Hola a los Padres:

El Día de los Muertos begins with a parade through the zócalo, where we toss oranges into decorated coffins. The skeletons drive us in the bus to the cemetery and we molest the spirits from under the ground with candy and traditional Mexican music. We write poems called calaveras, which laugh at the living. In Mexico, it is a rejoicing time of ofrendas, picnics, and dancing on graves.



I sincerely apologize for Adela’s e-mail...How about we process our feelings face to face?

Finally, to those parents who are offended by our Day of the Dead celebration, I’d like to point out that there are parents who are offended that you are offended.


Lucky for us, "Dear Mountain Room Parents" is available at the New Yorker website.  If you haven't read it, consider this my gift to you.

Happy Holidays!


picture of book cover - Becoming Mr. OctoberWhen I started this post a few weeks ago, the A's were riding high on a wave of victory, sadly, the season is over for us now, but there's always next year.  Here's a look a one of the best players our team has ever seen:

Reggie Jackson played for our hometown Athletics from 1967–1975 and then again in 1987.  His phenomenal success led him to be dubbed "Mr. October" and what's even better (in my opinion) he got a candy bar named for him.  How Amazin' is that?  
In his book Becoming Mr. October, Jackson, along with co-writer Kevin Baker, describes his journey from sought-after high school football star to national baseball fame. Of course, his journey was not without tribulation, what would he write about? Jackson writes that even 19 years after Jackie Robinson went pro, he was still the odd man out on his college team.  After several successful seasons with the Oakland Athletics, he was lured by George Steinbrenner to the Yankees in 1977.  Having a major contract only served to make his teammates jealous and his manager question his worth.  "I didn't know what alone meant," Jackson remarked about his treatment.  He later returned to California, playing with the Angels and then the A's again.  He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and is now an adviser to the Yankees.
I remember Jackson of the '87 A's, the team of my childhood seemed unstoppable and he had the very best afro.  Hey! ESPN has announced that "the Bay Area has been the best sports region in the country this year."  That's thanks to the tremendous fans in the east bay.  Did you get a chance to see Jax in action in the 70's or 80's?  What are some of your favorite baseball memories?  Tell us in the comments.
Posted on: October 18, 2013, by Jenera Burton, Piedmont Ave branch