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Staff Picks

Dragons, Deserts, and Shakespearean Cheerleaders

What I find most exciting about young adult literature is that the books in this category are often not confined to any one genre. They blend elements from many, subvert tropes, and defy conventions. Because readers of young adult fiction are more willing to explore a variety of genres, authors of young adult fiction often have success writing in a variety of genres.

One such author is E.K. Johnston, who spun a tale about carbon eating dragons in her award-winning debut and reimagined the tale of Scheherazade in this fall’s release. Her latest book, due out this spring, subverts stereotypes of cheerleaders in an incisive critique of rape culture. Though vastly different, each novel focuses on the relationships between characters (though none contain a romance), have a rhythm and cadence to the story, and a strong sense of place, whether it’s a rural Canadian town built to withstand attacks from dragons, a sweeping desert, or a cheerleading camp.  Read More..

Going Gonzo

This weekend I had the chance to visit the Lawrence Arts Center’s exhibit curated by Daniel Joseph Watkins that explores Hunter S. Thompson’s bid for Mayor of Aspen in 1970 through art, writing, and ephemera.  The exhibit transported me to Budig Hall on the University of Kansas campus, where I spent a semester my Freshman year of college ignoring my Journalism 101 lectures and instead reading the collected works of the Gonzo journalist.

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Superhero Fiction for Grown Ups

If you visited the library over the weekend or yesterday, you might have noticed lots of superheroes wandering the stacks! This year, our summer reading theme is Every Hero Has a Story, so we’ve got lots of fun programs for kids and teens about superheroes, and of course, lots of superhero fiction for them to check out.

But what about adults?

Here are seven superhero novels written for grown ups! They run the gamut from fun and campy to more literary and thought-provoking. Read More..

Once upon a time there was a drummer, and his name was Oskar…

If I was forced to name a favorite fictional character, it would have to be Oskar Matzerath from German writer Gunter Grass’ 1959 novel The Tin Drum. It’s been several years since I read that outlandish and sprawling World War II era satire, and many of the finer details have been lost to memory, but I have never been able to forget about little Oskar who is, easily, the most radical and subversive figure I have ever encountered.  After all, could there be a greater act of defiance than to purposefully throw oneself down the cellar stairs, as a three-year old Oskar does, permanently stunting his growth for the sole purpose of avoiding  entrance into the grownup world? Oskar, who claims to have been fully mentally developed at birth, can already see the trappings of the adult life and he chooses to opt out. And with perfect timing too. This bold decision will leave him nearly invisible to the majority of the adults in his home city of Danzig, as they’re slowly being seduced by Hitler and the Third Reich. Read More..

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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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..

Girls Gone Graphic!

I bought my first comic seven years ago.

Feeling unsure and out of place, I ventured up the steps to Lawrence’s local comic shop, Astro Kitty, to buy Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8. As a longtime devotee of Joss Whedon’s TV show, I was thrilled when I learned it was going to continue in comic form, even if I didn’t have any experience with the format and had grown up thinking that it was just superhero stories that were really meant for boys who didn’t like to read (oh, how naive my younger self was). Read More..

Jes’ Walk Right In

For something different, I thought I would recommend a CD.

Growing up in Southern California, every Thanksgiving one of the Rock and Roll stations would always play all 23 minutes of Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.  I always enjoyed the satire and humor, as well as the powerful message of the song.  Read More..

Documentaries We Love

Released in 2013, Flex is Kings is a documentary following the lives of young African-American flex dancers over a two-year period.  Flex, an undulating, free-style street-dance, originated in Brooklyn, New York and is centered around Battlefest, where dancers face off to find out who flexes best. The filmmakers do an incredible job using artistic camera shots and beautiful staging to capture the evocative, athletic nature of flex dancing.  Focusing on the community of dancers and the struggles they face, the movie is an elegant reminder of the power of dance. Read More..

Dictating History

The stereotypical 20th century office secretary—taker of dictation, orderer of flowers for the boss’s wife, getter of coffee—was a silent participant in whatever glory or tragedy befell her employers.  Such secretaries rarely found themselves subjects of historical interest, except perhaps in studies of the marginalization of women in the workplace, and characters like Mad Men’s Peggy Olson have portrayed the heartbreaking limitations of the job with an empowered twist hopefully more reflective of today’s female labor force.  But in two of the best movies I’ve seen recently, real life secretaries quietly performing their duties became involved in the most momentous historic events of the last century. Read More..