Midnighters Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld 
submitted by Tony

The Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular Uglies series, is composed of three works. They are The Secret Hour, Touching Darkness, and Blue Noon.

The trilogy begins with high school student Jessica Day moving to Bixby, a small town in Oklahoma, because her mother has landed a job with a local aerospace company. Jessica soon is befriended by four other teens with which she shares two special attributes. They were all born at the stroke of midnight and are able to move around the world during the mysterious “blue time,” a secret hour which exists between the stroke of midnight and the first second of every new day. Each Midnighter also has a special talent that is individual to them.

Throughout the series, the five struggle against ancient shape-shifting monsters (called “darklings”) that live in the blue time. The darklings quickly target Jessica as her talent threatens their ultimate goal - to escape the secret hour in order to hunt humanity for food. Jessica and her friends also have to face down a fifty year old conspiracy by humans in the area who have been working with the darklings over the years.

Like the Uglies series, these books straddle the line between the science fiction and young adult genres. Two big differences are that Midnighters is set in the present rather than in an imagined future and the central conflict is against an ancient evil rather than the policies of a dystopian government. The feel of the tale falls much more strongly on young adult side in the first book and tilts to the science fiction side by the third.

My one major quibble with the series is more a quibble with how many books of genre fiction are being marketed these days - in multiple volumes. Many will stretch a story out to achieve a certain number of titles, most often a trilogy. In order to pump up the page count, unnecessary fluff at the start of subsequent books is inserted to catch the reader up on the story.

In some authors’ hands, this technique can feel awkward and even kill a reader’s interest. To his credit, Westerfeld does keep the recap to a minimum. As the characters are consistent, the time frame covered is reasonably short, and the story as a whole is well-paced, these three works could have easily have been published as one book.

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey 
submitted by Rob

“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail…the snail kept my spirit from evaporating. Between the two of us, we were a society all our own, and that kept isolation at bay.” - Elisabeth Tova Bailey

When Elisabeth Tova Bailey was struck with an illness of uncertain origin, her life dramatically changed, as she was left almost completely incapacitated, and all those daily motions that we take for granted, from rising in the morning to brushing one’s teeth, became, in all practicality, impossible. As a result, Ms. Bailey was forced to leave the familiar surroundings of her home for a studio apartment that was easily serviced by a professional care provider.

As one can imagine, this situation left Ms. Bailey significantly challenged and overwhelmingly distraught, but then one day, a friend of Ms. Bailey’s dropped by for a visit with a peculiar gift – a pot of violets taken from the local woods that included a wild snail, and it is from this deceptively simple present that Ms. Bailey experiences a sublime sense of renewal in her life as a convalescent.

Through close observation afforded by her confinement, Ms. Bailey comes to admire her new roommate and to realize that once one takes the time, whether by choice or force, to examine life from a different perspective, that of a snail’s in this case, modern life for the human being begins to seem entirely too fast in its pace, and that, just perhaps, it might be warranted to ponder why it is we all run about in such a frenzy.

And peppered throughout Ms. Bailey’s frank prose concerning a single year of her illness and the ruminations sparked by a single snail, were scientific sections about the snail as an animal, based on the extensive research that Ms. Bailey conducted, and I must admit that I had no real idea how truly amazing the snail is, regardless which of the roughly forty thousand types is being referenced. In the words of Ms. Bailey in a letter she wrote to her doctor:
“I could never have guessed what would get me through this past year – a woodland snail and its offspring; I honestly don’t think that I would have made it otherwise.”

With so many demands on our time and attention, it would be wise to remember the myriad details of life that are so easily missed, lest we forget the wonder that surrounds us always.

You can reserve a copy of her memoir, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by clicking here.

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How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid 
submitted by Caren

I had read a bit of buzz about this book so I picked it up, not really knowing what to expect. I absolutely couldn't put it down and read through it in one day. It begins as what appears to be a parody of a self-help book, in an unnamed country (but probably the author's native Pakistan), about an unnamed village boy addressed in the second-person as "you".

The story opens with the boy living in the family compound in a rural area. Each chapter heading is a piece of advice for how to get “filthy rich”. The first is: “Move to the City”. The boy’s father has been working in a big city and has finally saved enough money to bring his wife and three children to live with him.

The boy describes the strange feeling of being just five people now. He says,
“…you embody one of the great changes of your time. Where once your clan was innumerable, not infinite but of a large number not readily known, now there are five of you. Five. The fingers on one hand, the toes on one foot, a miniscule aggregation when compared with shoals of fish or flocks of birds or indeed tribes of humans.” (p. 14)

Each chapter takes us further along this boy’s odyssey. The early bits of advice are fairly basic: ‘Get an education’, ‘Don’t fall in love’, ‘Avoid idealists’, ‘Learn from a master’, and ‘Work for yourself.

The boy notes that some aspects of his life have made him fortunate just by chance. He is not a girl, so he won’t be sent back to the village at a young age to marry; he has an older brother who will be expected to get a job before he himself will, meaning there will be time for him to go to school. As he matures and enters the business world, the advice becomes more troubling: ‘Be prepared to use violence’, ‘Befriend a bureaucrat’, ‘Patronize the artists of war’, and ‘Dance with debt.’

Approaching the end of his story and of his life, the protagonist seems to change the focus of his advice: ‘Focus on the fundamentals.’ The ‘fundamentals’ no longer seem to be about getting “filthy rich”. They are a beautiful musing about the meaning of the life he has led. Really, even though this story takes place in a Third World country, it speaks to our modern striving wherever we are, and it is, at its heart, a love story.

The unnamed "you" is in love, all his life, with the also unnamed "pretty girl", even though one of the early injunctions as a requisite for becoming "filthy rich" was not to fall in love. Both the protagonist and the pretty girl do become rich but find it is ephemeral and that what really remains is their attraction for each other, formed in their youth.

Reading the last chapter, I found myself catching my breath at the exquisite way the author captured what it means to be human:
“We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.” (p.219-220).

Not so many books can capture the essence of humanity the way this book does. It is deeply felt, yet unsentimental which is a rare achievement.

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Spotlight: Graphic Novel Discussion Group 
submitted by Tony

Did you love comics as a kid and do you still? Or are you new to the magic of graphic literature?

No matter when you started, LFPL's Graphic Novel Discussion Group is the place for you!

The Group meets at the Main Branch on the second Monday of every month at 7:00 PM.

Join us on June 10, 2013 where we explore the topic of Metafiction in Comics.

Below are some suggested titles to read for June’s meeting. All of these items can be found at LFPL. Just click the links to reserve your copies!

For more information, call Anthony at (502) 574-1611.

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Jet Set  
submitted by Natalie

Whether or not you’re plan on traveling overseas with children this summer, you can still enjoy reading these picture books set in far off destinations.

Dodsworth in Tokyo by Tim Egan
“Dodsworth was a little nervous. Japan is a land of customs and manners and order. The duck wasn’t very good at those things.”

A mild mannered mole travels with his duck companion to Japan for sightseeing. To the surprise of Dodsworth, the duck manages to control himself (most of the time) but occasionally slips up in full public view. This beginning reader book is peppered with Japanese language and culture with characters that both parents and children can identify.

Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout
Many first time air travelers are naturally a bit nervous about flying. Prepare for takeoff with this boldly graphic counting book that asks, “When taking a flight, what do you see?”

Kiki and Coco in Paris by Nina Gruener

A lucky girl and her doll go on a journey documented in large photographic illustrations to the City of Light. They visit palaces, museums, a Parisian salon, and chic cafés. It will make you dream of visiting there yourself.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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