Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

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.
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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.

Affliction: An Anita Blake Novel by Laurell K. Hamilton

Woman's face obscured by blue fragments of paper. “Real ghosts are so much easier to deal with than the kind we carry around in our heads. Most people haunt themselves more effectively than any spirit.”

Laurell K. Hamilton is not unfamiliar when it comes to writing about vampires. This is the 22nd novel in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. The story continues with Anita receiving a call from Micah’s mother asking her to bring him home because his father is dying. Micah, years ago, deliberately turned his back on his own family to protect them against a sadistic killer. Micah rushes back home with Anita to spend time with his dying father, who is rotting inside from a strange infection that is whispered to be the “zombie disease”. While Micah visits his father, Anita, who makes her living raising zombies, must face an army of destructive “zombies” who feast on the living in gruesome ways.

I have read every Anita Blake book that has been published. In the last few novels, the focus has pulled away from Anita fighting paranormal creatures and more about her sex life with her men. However in this recent novel, fighting paranormal creatures became the main focus. Micah, who was introduced eleven books ago, remained a mystery to readers until in Affliction which gives us a glimpse of his world. I found myself once again engrossed with old characters and introduced to some new ones.

Find Affliction: An Anita Blake Novel in the Library

Shaira, Reference Services

When do you stop reading?

The Psychology of Abandonment: An Infographic from Goodreads.com

How many people can say they have an action figure modeled in their likeness? Nancy Pearl can. The librarian is famous for many things: the aforementioned action figure, her Book Lust series of literary recommendations, and her NPR book recommendation spot. She is also fond of telling people about her "rule of 50." Basically, if you don't like a book after 50 pages, stop reading. Her philosophy is there are too many books and not enough time to waste on something you don't like.

According to this infographic from goodreads.com, however, it seems that most people read more than 50 pages before calling it quits, at least among the people who took the survey on the social networking site. In fact, 38% of people say they always finish a book and over 25% read 50-100 pages.

Tell us about your reading habits. Do you always read an entire book even if you can't stand it? If you stop reading a book you don't like, when do you abandon it?

Find Book Lust in the Library.

Palms by Palms

album cover with a fiery scene over water.“The closer I am… I know that something’s wrong with you…”

Palms is a somewhat traditional rock band (who have chosen the somewhat traditional path of having an eponymous first release) with a familiar instrumental configuration for the genre (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals) but the energies coaxed from those instruments synergize into a sound much more ethereal than the likes of The Doors or The Stooges via the hands and minds (and tongue?) of the artists comprising the band. Instead of a lo-fidelity, dirty, bluesy rock sound the listener finds his or herself surrounded by a landscape of mellifluous sonic territory often similar to what you could expect from Disintegration-era The Cure with clean, echoing guitar notes twinkling and decaying across the sound field but with the added dimension of the recurring infusion of a deep, almost metal-style distorted guitar strum which flows heavily like the crest of an ocean wave crashing down or streams of rapid-motion magma. This offering actually feels as though it is placing you somewhere physically and carrying you around the mystical area as the songs flow and change from movement to movement. The vocals follow suit often soaring and breathing through the tracks with a sort of tranquility but always managing to complement the recrudescent aggression with a sharp and distinctive bite that retains musicality while vocalist/lyricist Chino Moreno both vaguely and colorfully references characters and emotions through the lyrics in his signature style.

I can't remember the last time I was so elated during a first listen to an album that I was anticipating before this one. After hearing “Tropics” and “Patagonia” before the album’s release, my expectations for it changed from what I initially envisioned that I would hear based on the mere notion of the two party's union (the vocalist has his day job with The Deftones who are known for fusing heavy metal with hip hop and the other three collaborators are ex-members of defunct post-progressive-metal band ISIS) but this LP is so much more than just a rehash of each members’ other or previous projects. In only six songs, which collectively clock in at about 47 minutes, the band manages to move from mood to mood with both subtle nuance and complete juxtaposition in song composition and structure all the while expanding on certain familiar styles from the pasts of these musicians’ bodies of work which coalesce into an all new flavor. That flavor’s name is “Awesome.”

Find Palms at the library.

Brian, Technology Clerk

Summer Blockbusters

world war z dust jacket. title over a muted orange background with blood splattering.World War Z

In World War Z, life as we know it ends the way many horror fans knew it would: zombies rise up! After the post-war devastation, author Max Brooks (son of actors Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft) "interviews" survivors and records their stories as well as details on what causes zombies, how they spread, what will stop them, and effective strategic warfare methods against them. (via Novelist)

Watch the trailer.

Find the book in the library.

 


black and white photograph of a man and woman staring into each other's eyes. "much ado about nothing" written in bright pink in between the couple.Much Ado About Nothing

The director of The Avengers takes on Shakespeare. Leonato (Clark Gregg), the governor of Messina, is visited by his friend Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) who is returning from a victorious campaign against his rebellious brother Don John (Sean Maher). Accompanying Don Pedro are two of his officers: Benedick (Alexis Denisof) and Claudio (Fran Kranz). While in Messina, Claudio falls for Leonato's daughter Hero (Jillian Morgese), while Benedick verbally spars with Beatrice (Amy Acker), the governor's niece. The budding love between Claudio and Hero prompts Don Pedro to arrange with Leonato for a marriage. (via Moviefone)

Watch the trailer. Find the play in the library.


Man standing upon ruins, gazing out at a destroyed city. Star Trek: Into Darkness

After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Watch the trailer.

Find the last installment at the library.

 


superman flying through his "s" symbol, which is supended in the clouds.Man of Steel

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race.

Watch the trailer.

Superman has been America's superhero since his debut in 1938. The library has a ton of great stuff about Earth's most famous alien. Find more about the Man of Steel at the library.

Peanut (graphic novel) by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe

dust jacket of peanut. completely blue cover with a peanut in the center. title at bottom of image.“The hardest part about a peanut allergy is remembering to stay vigilant…especially if you don’t actually have one.”

It all starts with a lie. Sadie is the new girl at Plainfield Central High School and she’s determined to stand out from the hoards of other high schoolers crowding the halls—what better way than a deadly peanut allergy? So what if it’s all a lie? Sadie even orders a fake medical alert bracelet and an EpiPen. Surrounded by new friends and a budding romance, everything is going according to plan. But life gets complicated as Sadie spins a web of lies too difficult to manage. When your proximity to peanut butter can spell certain death, keeping up appearances becomes difficult!

The well-developed supporting characters were something that I loved. Sadie’s boyfriend, Zoo is an anachronistic electronic-phobic boy delivering hand written notes via bicycle. Sadie’s friends are not two-dimensional. Instead, they are slow to forgive and continually transform. The storyline is simple, but Sadie is a complex girl spinning lies with big consequences.                               

Find Peanut in the Library

Kathleen, Reference Services

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