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Eli Hoelscher

The Means of Escape: Two Books in Conversation

People react in a variety of ways when faced with hardship. Some people eat an entire box of ice cream by themselves or blow off steam at the rec center, and these are perfectly reasonable choices. These people, however, do not get books written about them.

Two recently-released titlesGoatmanand Welcome to Marwencolpresent two incredible stories about the boundaries of creativity and escapism. Each book offers a look into a world where the desire to get away from it all is extrapolated with macro-sized reactions. Read More..

Books on our Radar for 2017

A new year means new books! Last year, we compiled a list of highly-anticipated titles in both fiction and non-fiction for adults. These were the hyped super-faves for the 2016 publishing world, and they were a lot of fun to write about. This year, however, we’ve decided to switch gears and focus on some upcoming titles that may be lesser-known, or by debut authors.

Put these books on your radar, and check back in with us as you read! Read More..

The Best Books from the Worst Year

Let’s be honest, 2016 has been kind of a hot mess. Between so many celebrity deaths (David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Prince, Alan Rickman, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel… holy cow, SO MANY) and some, uh, general upheaval, most people are ready to write this one off as a loss.

But! As much as we’d like to say goodbye and good riddance to the year as a whole, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the very good things that came from 2016; this year has offered readers a wealth of fabulous new books. Debut authors and big-hitters alike have released incredible works in 2016, and the staff of LPL would like to share a few of our favorites. If you’re looking for great gifts for bibliophiles in your life, try one of these librarian-approved reads: Read More..

Local Author Karen Vaughn Talks T-Rex with Short Story Debut

It’s been a good month for Lawrence writers. Author Karen Vaughn brings us the most recent piece of local literature with her debut, A Kiss for a Dead Film Star, a genre-blending collection of short stories. Read More..

Lawrence Author Bryn Greenwood Debuts with Novel All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

Lawrence’s own Bryn Greenwood comes from a long line of Kansans, a heritage that suffuses her Midwest-set debut, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. The novel follows the young life of Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn, daughter of an Oklahoma meth baron and an unstable, germophobe mother. Read More..

Reading Under the Influence with James Patterson’s Bookshots

If Nike gave out shoe deals for authors, James Patterson would be the first to have a line of $120 premium sneakers. Literary tastes aside, there’s no denying that he’s running the popular fiction game right now, with scores of best-selling titles coming out every month.

How does he do it? I think it’s time to ask a daunting question, one that might have revelatory, world-changing consequences—is James Patterson actually a human being? Read More..

The Bite-Sized Sci-Fi Vignettes of From Now On

We’ve all heard the cautionary advice “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And sure, there’s a lot of truth to that. On the other hand—being judged is totally what book covers are for. My resistance to this old adage has been validated time and again by impulse check-outs that turn out to be awesome, the most recent example being Malachi Ward’s graphic novel From Now On.

When I dove in, I had no idea what to expect; I just knew things were going to get weird. From Now On does not disappoint, with stories dealing with bizarre alien worlds and the peculiarities of time travel. The thirteen vignettes stand alone as brief glimpses into future worlds, replete with imaginative technology and creatures  like lime green aliens that appear to be half-mole, half-elephant

Despite the strangeness, though, Ward manages to evoke a deeply-human and reflective mood. Flipping through the stories of lonely, hopeful space colonists made me feel like I was reading the sparse, blue-collar oriented short stories of Raymond Carver, or the succinct and wistful comics of Adrian Tomine. The science fiction elements are posed skillfully against the emotions of the characters—Ward offers only minimal world-building to let the heart of each story shine.

“Top Five” follows the daily work of a lone explorer. While carrying out his labor—menial tasks that are never explained to the reader—he thinks about the five best Star Trek episodes that feature time travel. That’s it. Though it  may seem insignificant or uneventful, “Top Five” is actually a well-crafted portrait of regret, desire, and small victories—in other words, life itself. The unearthly backdrop makes it all the more compelling, too, adding a layer of the weird that demonstrates how universal these feelings can be. It’s subtly funny, too.

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Ward’s art style is similarly restrained. Simple  illustration shows the wonder of alien landscapes, being suggestive rather than comprehensive. The result is a collection that showcases incredibly efficient and meaty story telling. Just because you don’t have time to read a doorstopper like Dune doesn’t mean you can’t go on an adventure to the stars. As much as I love the cover of From Now On, I have to admit the immersive and poignant stories within are even better.

-Eli Hoelscher is a Reader’s Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library

Image scan of “Top Five” via studygroupcomics.com, author Malachi Ward.

Fresh Cookbooks for Fresh Spring Veggies

For me, there’s no more-definite sign of Spring’s arrival: the return of the Lawrence Farmer’s Market. Beginning this Saturday, fresh, local fruits, vegetables, and more will once again be available to all. Read More..

A Conversation With Local Author Cote Smith

Author Cote Smith, a Kansas native and KU graduate, has a debut novel hitting the shelves. Hurt People follows two brothers coming to terms with the struggles of family, the dangers of the world, and the reality of growing up in a city defined by its prisons: Leavenworth, Kansas.   Read More..

New Year, New Books! Hot Reads for 2016

2016 is here, which means it’s time to write the wrong date on your checks. I mean, it’s time to take a look at some exciting upcoming titles. We’ve put together a collection of some of their most anticipated releases, both in fiction and nonfiction. It’s been both fun and challenging to speculate about which books will become our new favorites, and we hope you enjoy browsing the selections. At the very least, it’ll give you something to take your mind off the fact that it’s somehow freakin’ 2016 already. (Seriously. Wasn’t it just 1998?)

Anyway, bring on the books!

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
In this kaleidoscopic debut novel, protagonists Effia and Esi are half-sisters who were born in different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. The sisters are unknown to one another, and we follow their radically different journeys into privileged English society and American slavery, respectively. Yaa Gyasi, an author born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, is already receiving high praise for her debut, which comes out in June 2016. (To prep yourself, check out another amazing Ghanaian author – Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go.)

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Historical fiction lovers, listen up: The Queen of the Night is here with a rich, captivating story. Lilliet Berne, a world-renown opera singer, is offered a life-changing original role that she soon learns is based on her own tangled history. As her closely kept secrets are brought to the surface, Lilliet must wrestle with competing desires for fame and privacy. Dazzling, passionate, and rich with historical details, Alexander Chee is an author to follow.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Author Grady Hendrix breathed new life into a zombified horror genre in 2014 with his hilarious— and terrifying— tale of a haunted IKEA store. His next novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, boasts a similarly refreshing premise: a 1980’s high school is faced with demonic possession. It’s being described in pre-publication reviews as The Exorcist meets Mean Girls. Hendrix will surely bring his unique blend of wit, quirkiness, and chills.

Zero K by Don DeLillo
Zero K follows a man whose billionaire father has created a secretive compound where people have their bodies preserved, hoping to be brought back to life in the future. The title implies a cryogenic setting, but nothing can be assumed of DeLillo’s masterful prose. Zero K promises to be another substantial novel of the human condition, this time meditating on life and how it is ended. Look for it in early May.

 

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Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
Much was said of Ta-Nehisi Coates and his acclaimed 2015 release Between the World and Me. For 2016, though, he’ll be commenting on racial injustice in America— and other societal problems— not with essays, but with comics. Coates is writing a year-long story arc for the first black superhero, Black Panther, who was introduced in 1966. “A Nation Under Our Feet” is set to begin sometime this spring. The transition in medium isn’t as jarring as it might seem, as Coates has described being an avid comics fan since childhood.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
Sunil Yapa bursts onto the international literary scene with this debut novel, which follows seven people dealing with the 1999 protests against the WTO in Seattle. Earnest and powerful, Yapa examines the humanity of his characters amid the violence and strife unfolding in the streets. Fans of historical fiction and raw, emotional stories alike will enjoy this novel.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
This is one I’m super pumped about. Imbolo Mbue made headlines last year for receiving a million-dollar advance from Random House. This is a first for an African author, and to say that fans of African literature – myself included – are excited is an understatement. The novel is a beautifully crafted immigrant’s tale that explores heavy topics as race, class, marriage, and the potential pitfalls of “The American Dream.” Not much is known about the author, as she keeps a pretty low profile, but if you’d like a glimpse at her writing style check out a previously published excerpt here. The original publication date of Behold the Dreamers has been pushed back to August, but I hear it’s worth the wait. (How’s this for a cryptic review??)

Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up took the world by storm with its brilliant and easy-to-implement advice on de-cluttering one’s life. Now she’s back with an illustrated guide and more tidying wisdom. Read both to jumpstart your spring cleaning! This one comes out TODAY, so be one of the first in line.

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Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Another debut novel by an award-winning writer, Here Comes the Sun comes out in July and captures rhythmic, lyrical Jamaican life in prose form. I am a big fan of novels written in dialect so captivating that you can almost hear them read aloud, and this one seems like it will deliver. It features themes of gender equality, sexual orientation, and political/personal independence. While you wait, try Under the Udala Trees, for similar themes but within a Nigerian community.

Lust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
It’s been years since dry, witty, hilariously caustic author Augusten Burroughs has released a memoir. If you’re new to his work, check out Dry and Running with Scissors, and then hop on the holds list for this one. Note: Given his past works, I’m 99.9% certain this will contain “adult language,” so keep that in mind.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
The frontrunner for 2016’s most-devastating book is definitely When Breath Becomes Air. The memoir, written by late neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, recounts his journey from being a healthy, successful young man with a family, to battling an abruptly-diagnosed case of stage IV lung cancer. With eloquent, vulnerable prose, Kalanithi seeks to understand death and explores what life he has left before his terminal illness deprives him of it.

Note: Kate thinks this review should simply consist of the “sobbing” emoji.

Frantumaglia by Elena Ferrante
Frantumaglia: Bits and Pieces of Uncertain Origin collects a variety of essays and letters written by the intriguing Italian author Elena Ferrante, who has managed to keep her true identity hidden from the world. Ferrante, whoever she might really be, discusses her life and experience with writing, as well as other topics concerning art and culture. Don’t worry, it won’t be released until April, so you’ll have plenty of time to work on being able to say the mouthful that is Frantumaglia with some level of grace.

Since some of these titles are coming in the next few months, you can get on the holds list already! Keep an eye on this list, and we will add books as they are ordered for the collection.