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In the Spotlight

Like, Try, Why: Historical Mysteries with a Female Sleuth

If you enjoy well-written mysteries, set in a historical context, with women investigators then you may find a new favorite. These recommendations are for discerning readers who prefer to avoid explicit violence and brutal details. Each book highlighted here is the first title in the series. Find more information with this list in the catalog! Read More..

Like, Try, Why: Dystopian Stories

Tired of cold, rainy days? Be sure to count your blessings; at least you’re not a semi-slave to a ruthless general, fighting your high school friends for survival, or on the the run from a society that brands you a murderer because of the color of your skin. Those dark tales and more come from the following list of dystopias.  Read one and the new spring flowers will smell all the sweeter.

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Your Top 5: Reasons to Stop by LPL and Then Head Outside!

After another eventful Midwestern winter, April has finally arrived, and we at LPL are absolutely thrilled. Daffodils are blooming, temperatures are warming up, and downtown Lawrence is buzzing with activity.

This week we bring you our top 5 reasons to hit the library and then go outside!

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Why I’m Actively Avoiding Books by White Dudes

The folks at Book Riot have started a wonderful series this year on reading diversely, an issue very dear to my heart. For the past year, I have been striving to read – and request - more books by women of all backgrounds and by men who are not white. I’m essentially choosing to avoid the “dead white guy” as much as possible.

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Like, Try, Why: Neil Gaiman

These books offer up a dazzling (sometimes dizzying) display of wit and vivid imagination, through elegant, poignant storytelling. Mixing up a potion with equal portions of strange magic and suspenseful mystery, these authors combine the best of elements of horror, mythology, fantasy, sci-fi, and humor to masterfully weave highly inventive and darkly delightful narratives that you won’t soon forget.

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Six Degrees of Victor Frankenstein, or, How a Volcano Launched Science Fiction

You’ve probably heard that an Italian doctor is predicting the imminent re-attachment of severed heads to bodies. With the steady improvements in medical science and prosthetics technology, it’s not too surprising. Nor is it too surprising that there’s another Hollywood remake of Frankenstein in the works, this one told from the perspective of Igor — who didn’t even appear in Mary Shelley’s famous book. It is a little surprising that Igor will be played by the man forever to be known as a young wizard with a lightning bolt on his forehead.

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“There is no success like failure…”

“There is no success like failure, and failure is no success at all.” So sayeth Bob Dylan. What does it mean? Who knows?  But it does cause me to reflect on how subjective the concepts of success and failure are – especially when it comes to art.  And, to be honest, sometimes there is nothing more gratifying then a total cinematic train wreck.

But what about those projects that fall apart before they even come to fruition? I, for one, have always enjoyed stories of massive failures, abandoned projects, and total meltdowns. I know I’m not the only one as evidenced by a few recent books that have crossed my path like the mock Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure and  The Greatest Albums You’ll Never Hear. But the one that truly caught my attention was The Greatest Films You’ll Never See, which compiles tales of unfinished films. It seems that from as far back as Chaplin until the present day, every single director will end their career with at least one film that broke their heart.

By far the most fascinating entry, as well as the subject of the captivating documentary – Jodorowsky’s Dune, is the story of the little known Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky and his 1974 effort to adapt Frank Hubert’s Sci-Fi epic Dune.  Known for his insanely psychedelic films which contain, still to this day, some of the most bizarre images ever put to film; Jodorowsky saw himself as more than just a film director, but something akin to a shamanistic spiritual guru. With his acute sense of intuition, and some assistance from cosmic chance, Jodorowsky embarked on a country-hopping spree gathering collaborators, whom he likened to “spiritual warriors”, to create what was to be the greatest film of all time.  By the time he was done he had assembled a next level team of artists and designers, including future icons H.R. Giger and Moebius, and an all-star cast featuring David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Udo Kier, Pink Floyd and greatest of all – Orson Welles (with the promise of a personal gourmet chef), and Salvador Dali (with the promise to be the highest paid actor (per minute) ever. Also, adding to the religious fervor, Jodorowsky sacrificed his own twelve-year old son, casting him in a central role that required him to undergo daily martial arts training six hours a day for two years! After two and half years of development, and the creation of a gigantic book filled with detailed storyboarded images and elaborate costume sketches, everything had fallen into place.  Now all they need was a studio to cough up some more dough. And, of course, this is where it all fell apart.

Jodorowsky would fade back into obscurity and Dune would eventually be adapted by David Lynch in what is considered to be his worst film.  Remarkably, for the rest of the creative team, the years of sacrifice and hard work would not be a total waste. Connections were made, and ideas were generated, that would help lead to the outstanding success of Alien. And, as many experts love to point out, just about every sci-fi film that came in its wake owes their existence to the work they did.

It seems likely that there is a lot of hyperbole going into the creation of the Jodorowsky Dune myth, but I don’t really care about that. What I do care about is that this story of failure actually turns out to be incredibly inspiring.  Jodorowsky, now a very youthful 86 years old, seems not to look at the experience as a failure, but as a defining experience that shaped his, and his “spiritual warriors” lives. My big takeaway is that one should disregard concepts like success and failure, and fear mediocrity instead. Perhaps, as Jodorowsky’s attitude illustrates, the proverb stating that “hard work is its own reward” might actually be true.


Don’t Call it a Comeback: Mockingbird in 2015

Earlier this year, Harper Lee dropped a bomb on the literary world as we know it. Fifty-five years after debuting with To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee announced that its sister novel, Go Set a Watchman, will finally see the light of day. Mockingbird, with its innocent tale of growing up in hard times and learning a thing or two about what folk are like, cast a spell on readers. This summer, Watchman will continue our journey. We know little of its premise, but it will follow Scout and the Finch family—all grown up. Read More..

Like, Try, Why: Sue Monk Kidd

If you’re looking for lyrical, female-focused literary fiction, Sue Monk Kidd is a great go-to choice. Her most famous novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was later adapted into a film starring Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, and Dakota Fanning. I fell in love with this book in high school and have read it several times since. Her 2014 release, The Invention of Wings quickly became a favorite of mine for the year, and I wanted to put together a few suggestions for other fans of Sue Monk Kidd. Take a look below! Read More..

Like, Try, Why: Fantasy

Last week, we shared some suggested pairings for fans of urban fantasy, where the magical or supernatural elements exist in a world similar to that of our own. This week, we’ve got suggestions for epic fantasy!  Read More..