Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

“We are like water, aren’t we? We can be fluid, flexible when we have to be. But strong and destructive, too. And something else, I think to myself. Like water, we mostly follow the path of least resistance.”

We Are Water is a layered portrait of the modern American family. It centers on Anna Oh—wife and mother; outsider artist and lesbian bride-to-be—and the family relationships that are severed and mended as Anna moves through her life. Anna’s hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut serves as a quaint backdrop masking a history of personal trauma and racial tension. Anna’s turbulent past and transitional present intersect as each chapter is narrated by a different character: Orin, martyr and ex-husband; Andrew, Ariane, and Marissa, Anna’s dissimilar children; and Kent, Anna’s cousin and childhood tormenter.

We Are Water is more than the portrait of a broken American family. Alternating narrators spring between past and present to capture the emotional trauma that leads to the Oh family’s destruction. As readers begin to fully know the Oh Family their secrets peel away chapter by chapter unveiling the destructive nature of silence. We Are Water is a lengthy emotional upheaval demanding sympathy, disgust, and forgiveness. 

Find We Are Water in the Library

Kathleen, Reference Services

The World's End

The World's end PosterThe new collaboration from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg opens in theaters this weekend. The World's End tells the story of a group of friends who return to their hometown to re-attempt the greatest bar crawl in history, visiting every pub in town in a single night. Everything turns into a disaster as the townsfolk begin acting strangely and the friends realize they might be in the middle of the apocalypse. The World's End is a satire like the other two films in Wright and Penn's loosely connected trilogy of movies, Shaun of the Dead, which parodied the zombie genre, and Hot Fuzz, a send up of action films. This time, the filmmakers poke a little fun at science fiction. Thanks to their genuine love for the movies they skewer, Wright and Penn raise their films to a higher level than most parody films. The addition of a little subtext strengthens their work, making them solid standalone pictures even if you aren't really a fan of the genre's they reference.

If you haven't seen them yet, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are available through Eisenhower. If you like them, you might also like Spaced, the British sitcom on which Wright and Pegg began to develop their earnest style of satire.

Chris, Marketing

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

Even the wallflowers will move their feet!

Eight years after the release of Human After All, the French electronic duo Daft Punk are back this summer with Random Access Memories, their fourth studio album. Released in May, Random Access Memories has proved to be worth the wait. While the record still holds true to the duo’s musical roots and style, the years in between releases has seemingly allowed them to produce a noticeably more mature, more accessible and perhaps most importantly, a more complete album. While tracks such as Lose Yourself to Dance, Touch and Get Lucky will receive most of the attention and air time, deeper cuts such as Giorgio by Moroder, Within and Instant Crush are (in my opinion) what make the album great.

Find Random Access Memories at Eisenhower

Elias

Blood Lust by Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

70s themed purple and black cover with a distressed woman looking up.“I’ll leave you lying at death’s door…”

Up and coming Cambridge, England-based rock band Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats are relatively new to the underground rock music scene but you wouldn’t know that by listening to their sophomore LP Blood Lust. Once you hit play, you’re greeted first with the sampled sounds of a mid-20th Century vintage rotary dial television being scrolled through what few channels it picks up with broken bites of dialog, dial clicks and intermittent television static tones. This passage is quickly followed by an abrupt, distorted lead guitar melody which sounds almost as though its notes are sizzling through the overdriven speaker of an old transistor radio and that overall tone in the musical production continues to define the sound of the entire album, bringing the listener back to an earlier time in rock music. That time is roughly somewhere in the 1960’s. The actual music here is a chilling hybrid of down-tuned Black Sabbathesque guitar riffing accentuated by more of a traditional blues-styled beat and topped off with a somewhat modern sense of melody all purified through a production technique that brings to mind the heaviest and loudest cuts of Led Zeppelin II or Fun House by The Stooges. But every riff and theme in the music is always dramatic, giving the listener a sense of urgency or impending doom.  The vocalist sounds like a strung-out and absolutely mad version of John Lennon who chooses to sing in a register that is almost as high-pitched as a male voice can get before breaking into falsetto and is nearly always self-harmonized or double tracked. It’s heavy, it’s noisy, it’s melodic and it’s practically everything that rock music should be presently and should continue to be as we move headlong through the 21st century.

Each of the eight tracks on this album has a unique way of expressing itself despite the somewhat monotonous instrumentation and production. “Death’s Door” is the longest song on the album at nearly seven and a half minutes and has some of the most riveting guitar work I’ve heard in a quite some time. All of the songs exhibit this to some degree, but the way the solos compliment the harmony of the main riffs in this cut truly brings the urgency of the music to life and is only rivaled by album closer “Withered Hand of Evil” which ends with a forlorn string section overlaying the already highly emotive guitar riff. “I’m Here To Kill You” has a lockstep drum and guitar theme which recalls the early and most spastic work of The Mars Volta with incredible drumming acrobatics which retain an excellent groove despite matching the jagged rhythm of the dual guitar chord harmonies. Blood Lust is an album that takes a classic style and imbues it with a very unique personal touch by the musicians who make up Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. It is a challenging and rewarding listen for any music lover but it will mostly appeal to those who crave a raw, vintage and engaging psychedelic rock sound. Blood Lust may put your ears through the ringer upon first listen but once you adjust to it, you’ll be glad you took the beating.

Find Blood Lust at Eisenhower.

Brian, Tech Clerk

Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Woman with wings nursing baby and holding a gun, man with ram horns holding a dagger.The first six issues of Saga are collected in this volume by Brian Vaughan (Y: The Last Man; Ex Machina; Lost (t.v. show)) and award-winning illustrator Fiona Staples. This story gives a different perspective to the phrase 'star-crossed lovers'. Alana and Marko are from two different planets that are at war with each other. Alana was born on a technologically advanced planet while Marko hales from its only satellite, Wreath, a place whose people wield magic. The pair fall in love and try to escape the war to to raise their family but are hunted as traitors. They have to fight off armies, assassins and all types of otherworldly monsters.

I picked this book up because I liked the cover and I knew the author from Y: The Last man. I found out that it won 3 Eisner Awards (comic book industry awards). I don't often read comics but when I do this is what I want them to be.

Find it in the library.

Dennis Farina

Actor Dennis FarinaActor Dennis Farina died last week. If you don’t recognize the name, then you surely recognize his face and his distinctive voice, a Chicago accent that stood out in Hollywood movies. Before becoming an actor, Farina served for 18 years on the Chicago Police Department. In 1981, he was hired as a police consultant for the Michael Man film, Thief. The small role he played in the movie sparked a new direction in Farina’s career. He began performing in Chicago theater productions and eventually quit the police force to concentrate on acting full time. His skill as both a dramatic and a comedic actor provided him with steady work and brought him into the highest tiers of character actors. Governor Pat Quinn has named today "Dennis Farina Day in Illinois."
 
To celebrate his life, take a look at the list of Farina's movies available to reserve from the Library. Or, just check out one of my favorites listed below.
 
 
Farina's family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the 100 Club of Chicago, an organization that provides assistance to the families of police officers, firefighters and paramedics who have lost their lives in the line-of-duty.
 
Chris, Marketing

The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

A zeppelin in an orange sky over flat cracked ground with the backlighting-blurred silhouettes of people walking under its shadow, more figures fading into the distance

"[A] silence was falling across all the Long Earth..."

The Long War is set about a decade after the events of The Long Earth, which introduced the world-wide discovery of innumerable pristine parallel Earths, only a 'step' away thanks to simple technology disseminated quickly over the Internet. Pioneer celebrity Joshua Valiente is approached by his old travelling companion and cantankerous frontierswoman, Sally Linsay, with a mission - return to the original Earth (called Datum) and argue for the rights and protection of one of the Long Earth native species, the benevolent natural 'steppers' called trolls. Traveling thousands of worlds with his wife and son, Joshua is pulled back into the machinations of the enigmatic Lobsang and the ubiquitous and innovative Black Corporation. Meanwhile, colonists on distant Earths agitate for revolution, two more sinister species conspire to stifle the human diaspora, and a disaster of another nature entirely lurks on the horizon.
<--break->

I was disappointed by this book. I love the world(s!) introduced by the first book in this series, The Long Earth, and further explored here. The world-building alone is worth the read. But most of the characters aren't very personable, even when they're supposed to be. I got through the spotty storytelling okay up until about fifty pages from the end, when a lot of things happened very quickly and not very sensibly. One character is badly maimed (twice in rapid succession, actually) and everyone just sort of ..shrugs and carries on - including the injured character! The ending was also just as much an unresolved cliffhanger as in the first book - I can only hope that in the next book they address the impact of this cliffhanger better than the first one. Still, there were points of humor, the setting is fascinating, and I greatly appreciated the return of Sister Agnes, the strong-minded, motorcycle riding Catholic nun.

Find The Long War in the Library

The Healing by Jonathan Odell

Ilustration of a dark hand reaching upward with a vine wrapped around the wrist.“Look up, Granada. Look to your people. We as beautiful and as plentiful as them stars knitted together in heaven. We just forgot. Somebody’s got to remember for us all.”

In The Healing, Jonathan Odell introduces us to 12 year old Granada, a slave girl on a Mississippi plantation. She’s an anomaly – a dark-skinned slave brought up from infancy in the master’s house, dressed in his dead daughter’s finest gowns on Preaching Sunday. One day, Granada is stripped of everything she knows and cherishes and is given as an apprentice to the new healing woman the master has purchased to cure the sick slaves on his plantation. Polly Shine knows Granada has “the sight,” but Granada doesn’t want it. She becomes an unwilling pupil as Polly teaches her about what it means to “remember” her people, remember herself, and about a place called Freedom Land.

Ultimately, The Healing is about the stories of a people. As Odell writes in his Author’s Note, “If you want to destroy a people, destroy their story. If you want to empower a people, give them a story to share.”

Find The Healing in the Library.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rom poster depicting a giant robot waking through the seaThe giant robots vs. giant monsters movie Pacific Rim hits the big screens this weekend and perhaps you’d like a little background on a few of the books, movies and comics from which director Guillermo del Toro may have taken some influence.
 
Released only a decade after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Godzilla, the grandfather of the Japanese giant monster genre was clearly a grim metaphor for nuclear destruction. The original Japanese film holds little in common with the American re-edit or the campier sequels and is well worth a watch.
 
Although Pacific Rim draws influence from many Japanese science-fiction animation series, the one most similar, Neon Genesis, tell the story of a group of young people recruited to pilot huge robots in the defense of Earth from giant inter-dimensional monsters. If you like Pacific Rim, drop by the Library for our screening of the recent Evangelion movies on July 30th and August 6th.
 
The giant robot limited series from comic book master Warren Ellis is considered a western-centric retelling of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and like Pacific Rim, has been criticized for perhaps being more appropriation than homage. Despite that, it is a pretty enjoyable read.
 
Del Toro is an outspoken fan of the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft , having planned a big budget film version of At the Mountains of Madness which he hopes to direct. The monsters threatening Earth in Pacific Rim are thought to be directly inspired by Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos.
 
Of course, Del Toro’s own film’s should be seen to put his recent work into context. Plus they’re all pretty good. The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy, and Pan's Labyrinth shouldn’t be missed.
 
Chris, Marketing

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Woman walking alongside train tracks toward wooded area. Dust jacket has a sepia tone.As a fan of Ian McEwan’s novels, I have trained myself to read each of his books perched on the edge of my seat waiting for the one unexpected and truly gruesome event that comes out of nowhere and changes the lives of the characters forever.  His last few books have broken from this pattern and I find this break oddly alarming.  When you’ve come to expect a sudden horror, there’s a puzzling letdown of sorts when it doesn’t happen.

"My name is Serena Frome… and almost 40 years ago I was sent on a secret mission for the British security service." That mission we learn was code-named Sweet Tooth and its objective was to fund unsuspecting right-leaning authors.  Through a series of twists and turns we observe the transformation of Serena’s author Tom Haley’s writing life.  I found this to be McEwan’s most gimmicky novel but still hard to put down and generally satisfying.

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