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Archive for December, 2012

This post is a reminder that our Annual Planning Meeting will be on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm (please note – we start at 6:30 because we need that extra bit of time) in Meeting Room B of the Library.    We always have some extra food on hand, and I’ll provide some sodas, as well.   More food is always welcome, if anyone is so inclined.    🙂

Anyone is welcome to bring 1 – 3 book suggestions for the group.   While classics are always considered, we welcome books that have been published in the last 10 years, so we’re reading things that have been written recently (or somewhat recently, at least).

If you have any questions about what to bring, or how our planning meeting works, or anything else, please contact me (Jen) at ohzourkj@lislelibrary.org, or call me at 630-971-1675 ext. 1506.

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As always, people have an opportunity to mention what other books they’ve been reading when we meet every month.   Here are the books that were talked about at our December meeting:

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold ; Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold; The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold; Brothers in Arms by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

The Spenser series of books by Robert B. Parker

7th Sigma by Steven Gould

extra books-121912

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Les sent this link to me, so I’m posting the info here, as well.   I don’t know if everyone agrees with what’s on this list, so perhaps we’ll have some discussion here.  Out of the books listed, I’ve read Redshirts,  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, vN and the Dog Stars, all of which I liked.

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson

The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Intrusion, by Ken MacLeod

Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson

The Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood Duology), by NK Jemisin

Wonders of the Invisible World, by Patricia McKillip

Redshirts, by John Scalzi

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

vN, by Madeline Ashby

Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

The Dog Stars, by Peter Hiller

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Before our recent discussion of Smoketown, I had contacted the author to see if she would mind answering a few questions.    Ms. Johnson graciously agreed to answer my questions, and has given me permission to post them here.    If you’d like to visit her site, and learn more about her, and her projects, please click HERE.

  • Did you have a clear idea of what this story was going to be about, or did it develop when you were writing it?

I did have a clear idea of where I wanted the story to go, in terms of the general journey and themes, as well as what the arc of the story would be. Some individual elements came together as I was writing it but I find that I want to know the high points. It’s helpful to have those markers along the way so that each character’s interactions and development serve to tell that particular tale. I like to leave the details for fleshing out as I write. Some things did change upon revision because it better served the story and readers’ connection to it but overall the idea and the journey are the driving force for me. I don’t write until I know more than the situation and the characters. Those usually come first for me; so, mentally, I’ll hash out the permutations of what could before I begin.

  • What was your inspiration for the city of Leiodare?

I knew I wanted to put a jungle in Kentucky, and for that jungle to be the effect of global warming. In this way it would be both grounded in science and fantastic—and in this sense I don’t mean fantastic as impossible, but more so incredible. This is the kind of juxtaposition I wanted for the entire novel.

I also wanted Leiodore to be someplace that had a loveliness but was deeply flawed—an amalgamation of elements that when brought together, are in conflict. As an inspiration for this I had a few things in mind: the long-term effects of global warming (albeit taken to one possible extreme to illustrate the point); parts of Costa Rica; a couple of places in Kentucky, including the neighborhood of Smoketown in Louisville where my grandparents met; and most importantly what happens when lies and fear influence development and what happens when something subtly fundamental is taken away. How will people and societies cope? For Leiodare I wanted its new character to show the extremes people would go to regain a sense of control in reaction to forces outside their control.

  • You write poetry, as well as fiction.   Do you find your poetry influences your fiction, or vice versa?

My poetry influences my fiction in that I want to make the stories resonate on a sentence-level as well in the overall plot. I think words should not be wasted and when you have the opportunity to give the reader more meaning with nuance and musicality in a sentence, do (within in reason of course). It’s akin to having a more complex flavor in food or wine.

Fiction influences my poetry in that even in poetry I like to tell stories, and ones that are not in love with the sound of their own voice, so to speak.

Between the two there must be a balance so that it’s not just about what the story says, but how it says it—story structure is another dimension of that and part of the reason I enjoy writing and reading multiple points of view.

One other great gift that poetry gave me was multiple meanings for the same word. Poetry sort of prods you to be more open-minded in that way and especially for speculative fiction this is a good mindset.

  • Is there anything you’d like to share with us about the book — or what you’re working on right now?

Sometimes, I find myself humming the “The Life of Ever” as Anna does in the book.

Right now I’m working on two projects: a fiction album (like an audiobook, but with original compositions that are integral into the story) and a sequel to R/evolution, my novel in stories about genetics, revolution, and how to balance inequality in a near-future US. The sequel gets into the question of “how will humanity evolve?”

 

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We met on December 19th to discuss Smoketown.  While our discussion wasn’t as animated as it sometimes can be, people had some pretty interesting comments about this book.    Here are some of what people had to say (with aliases employed for those people who want them):

  • Mike started our discussion by saying that he liked the book overall, and really liked the writing style, but found the book moved really slowly.  While it was descriptive, it’s not the greatest book he’s read.  However, he did say that he enjoyed it, and looked forward to picking it up each time when he was reading it.
  • Furry also found the book to be beautifully written, and said she’d like to read more by this author.  She enjoyed the cool nanotechnology elements, mixed with the magic and fantasy elements, and also liked the approach to “carbon-based life forms.”
  • Taylor said she liked the book overall, even though she felt many things were left unexplained.  She did say that she liked the world building, and thought it was really interesting that birds were outlawed.  As she said, “Usually, birds are a sign of escape, fearlessness, or flying, for a somewhat obvious one, and the people are under such a strict law based upon fear.”
  • Nicole, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy the book as much.  She said she felt totally disconnected from the book, and was unsure of what was happening and felt nothing for the characters.  As a reader, she enjoys books where she feels a connection to the characters, and in this book, just didn’t have that.
  • Pokéthulu also didn’t enjoy the book.  She said that while there were certain elements of the story that she could go along with, there were others that she just couldn’t.  For example, the mention of hover cars towards the end of the story; where did that come from?   Pokéthulu also stated that she would have liked to have more information about elements of the story, like the Mendejano religion.  For her, the book just had too many unanswered questions.
  • Ed said that he kind of enjoyed it (putting him firmly on middle ground), and found there were a lot of interesting elements in the book.  However, he said it was clearly a first novel; he felt the author could have spent more time on the story, especially to tie some of the elements together.  As a reader, he found it was a lot of work to pull things together.
  • Naberius said that this was her second time through this book.  While she understood what people said about not having a connection to the characters, she said she kind of liked this aspect of the book.   She found Anna’s character to be interesting specifically because she didn’t really feel a connection (which is a different experience for her, as a reader).     She also really enjoyed the author’s writing style, not only for its descriptiveness, but for the poetic qualities of some of the book.
  • This led to some general discussion of how people felt about the book.   In response to what Ed said, Furry said that she liked that there was a lot of empty space in the story, which let her fill in details using her own imagination.  Pokéthulu, on the other hand, understood this, but said that she found the author to be so descriptive in some areas, and then other areas were much less descriptive; some chapters were beautiful and well-written, while others were just a big gap.   Kathy seconded what Nicole said, and stated that while there were some good ideas in the story, she didn’t think they were filled out enough, and she also didn’t feel connected to the world or the characters.    Mike said that a lot of the time, something would be described, but not quite with enough information.  However, he said, “But this made me think about it on my own.”  This echoed what Furry said, about how she would have to use her own imagination to fill in details.    Other readers had the same sentiments about there not being enough detail for them in the book (with varying degrees of disappointment).
  • As far as the setting was concerned, some readers said they never got a clear picture in their heads of what it was like.  Mike said that he thought it was interesting that overall, it seemed like the inhabitants of the city were pretty content ….. which meant that there wasn’t much conflict in the book.
  • There was also a bit of general discussion about some of the characters.  People brought up the strange relationship that Eucenio and Lucine had (what’s up with that weird vibe??), for example.   Rory was another character that some readers found interesting, and a few people mentioned that they liked the generational humor that happened when Rory encountered the Starlings.   Some readers found that they didn’t identify with, or have much connection with the characters.  Mike pointed out that because the book is so short, he didn’t expect to have that kind of connection, and saw the characters as a random group of individuals.
  • We also had some discussion about some of the ideas the author brought into the book.  Nicole liked the idea of the virtu technology causing the plague, and the irony that Rory was living with that technology on such a close level.
  • Ed made a point towards the end of our discussion which I really found pretty thoughtful.  He said that this is “A book written for book groups.”  He said that he felt he got a lot more out of the book in our group’s discussion than he did just reading it on his own.  This was something that other readers agreed with, which led Naberius to say that she felt the book read at times like poetry.  For her, poetry can sometimes have meanings enhanced when it’s discussed with other readers, and that definitely felt like what happened with this book.

So, it was an interesting discussion.  While about half the people didn’t really love the book, there were some good, discussion-provoking comments made.   If you have read the book and would like to add your own comments, please do!

The group gave this book the following codes: MAG, HIT, NFW, ECO and LIT —- and the overall rating was a 3.

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GN on order-120412

Since some people in our group like graphic novels, I wanted to highlight a handful of books that will be joining our GN section —-

Bleach #54 by Tite Kubo

Blood Song: A Silent Ballad by Eric Drooker

A Devil and Her Long Song #6 by Miyoshi Tomori

Durarara!! #1 by Ryohgo Narita

Naturo #60 by Masashi Kishimoto

Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel

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We usually meet towards the end of the month, but due to the holidays, our meeting date has been bumped up a bit.    So — this is a reminder —- our December meeting, to discuss Smoketown by Tenea D. Johnson, is on  WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 19th at 7:00 pm.

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