Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

I'm not quite sure where to start with this review.  It seems unfair to recommend and review a book by first raving about the author's previous novel, but I think that Grasshopper Jungle is unique enough to warrant a bit of back-tracking.

Adam Smith has been writing for years, but the first Smith book I read was Winger, which came out in May of 2013.  This book is beautiful and perfect.  Funny, heartbreaking, and so painfully true at giving voice to Ryan Dean West, the brilliantly awkward yet charming 14 year old rugby player who narrates Winger.

I've been recommending Winger to anything with a pulse that I've had a chance to bump into over the past few months and I already knew that I would be reading the next book that Smith wrote.  So when I saw the advance buzz about Grasshopper Jungle, I placed my hold immediately, even though I knew that the book was about six foot tall insects that destroy the planet.

Yes, if you want to read this book you'll have to be okay with reading about giant, hungry bugs, and no, I'm not talking about giant grasshoppers as a metaphor for humanity's natural desires for destruction and consumption (although Smith deftly weaves that in as well).  Much of the story and plot really is about humongous, genetically modified insects whose only urges are to eat and procreate.  

So why does Grasshopper Jungle work, and most importantly, why should those folks who loved Winger at least give it a try?  Because as he does in all his novels, Smith is a master at beautifully revealing the inner lives of teenagers, specifically teenage boys.  Austin, Grasshopper Jungle's main character and most likely the earth's last remaining historian, reveals his humor, his multitude of worries, and his history while figuring out why people in town are disappearing and how to kill an eight foot tall grasshopper that wants to eat your head.  Ultimately, the novel is at its best when Austin struggles with the question, "Is it possible to be in love with two people at once?", and "If you are in love with two people at the same time, what do you do?"  

If you've loved any of Smith's previous novels definitely give this one a try.  I think this book is great for all teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, but since there is quite a bit of violence and some drug use, I can also agree with many of the reviewers on Good Reads and who recommend it for grades 9-12.

If you are brand new to the amazing world of Adam Smith, start with Winger, or one of his earlier novels, and then work your way up to Grassphopper Jungle.  Unless you have a thing for giant bugs...

Hoopla issues caused by latest iOS release

Hoopla users, if you have an iOS device you might want to wait (if you can) to upgrade to Apple iOS 7.1  People who have upgraded have been having difficulty playing Hoopla Audiobooks and Music.  Here's the offical notice from Hoopla:

Dear hoopla Fans,

March Follow Up

Last night, the Books on Tap attendees realized that maybe we don't have as much control over our thoughts and actions as we thought. The group came to a general consensus that they enjoyed reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and would like to read more of his work. 

Below are brief synopses of other works by Gladwell taken from

Night Visions

Through the years, I've always had a love of music, from attempting to sing or play an instrument myself to analyzing vocal arrangements and complexities of others.  There was a time when I did everything to music, I could barely brush my teeth without the radio on, but in the past few years I had a lag in my listening.  Recently with the Hot Reads for Cold Nights program, my love of music was reignited!  I've been listening to all kinds of music from Jazz to Pop to Rock to Rap and everything in between and beyond.

The 2014 Grammy performance by Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar of Radioactive inspired me to listen to their CD, Night Visions.  I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard.  I can always appreciate when artists are not limited by the genre they are typically categorized in musically.  Although the group would be defined as Pop/Rock, the album mixes classical strings, electronic instruments reminiscent of the '80s, a hint of country and little bit of bass beats to add an extra twist.  Let's not forget the vocals, Imagine Dragons has a little bit for just about any musical taste.

Film Series: Racial Healing--- A Community Conversation, March 23 at 2pm

Please join us on March 23 at 2pm to view and discuss Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing.   MSU Professor and filmmaker Jeff Wray will be facilitating discussion.   

Film Synopsis:  Producer/writer/director/star Spike Lee combines humor, drama and music in a technique used in his previous films to again expose the absurdity of racism. Do the Right Thing moves it's cast of characters through a minefield of sensations over the course of the hottest day of the year, on one block in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.  This 24-hour period will change the lives of its residents forever. 


Jeff Wray's Bio:  Associate professor of Film Studies in the department of English at Michigan State University. MFA in filmmaking, history & theory and screenwriting from Ohio University School of Film in 1994.  Teaches courses in screenwriting, black American & African cinema and film production.  A screenwriter and filmmaker with several completed several projects, including China (2003), a feature film produced for and broadcast by PBS. The Soul Searchers: Three Stories (2008) was screened in New York and Berlin. Current film projects Songs for My Right Side, a 30 minute short and a feature Evolution of Bert are in post-production with completion anticipated for 2014. Screenplays include Summer of 64, a story of history, race and family in turbulent times and Cliff’s Friends in Detroit, a tale of three middle aged men returning to Detroit for the funeral of their childhood friend. Honors include the John Anson Kittredge Foundation Fellowship, Art Serve Michigan Individual Artist Award, Ohio Arts Council Major Fellowship, and three nominations for the Rockefeller Foundation Film and Video Fellowship and most recently a Wexner Center for the Arts Filmmaker Residency.

The Racial Healing-- A Community Conversation film series is intended to cultivate an inclusive community through conversations that bring about greater awareness, understanding and respect for our differences and similarities.  This program is part of MSU's Project 60/50.  For more information about Project 60/50 (including a list of events), click here

***We will be posting new films in the series shortly, please check our website for updates.*** 

Week 9 Leader Board - The home stretch

With just 24 days left for Hot Reads for Cold Nights here's where everyone stands:

When fairy tales don't follow the rules

What if Sleeping Beauty had never poked her finger on the spinning wheel? What if Cinderella never had lost her mother? These are questions that are explored in Mercedes Lackey’s book The Fairy Godmother. This is the first book in the 500 Kingdoms series, each of which looks at a different aspect of the fairy tale world put forth by the Brothers Grimm and asks, “What if?” Although classified under science fiction, there is definitely more of a fantasy element with hints of romance and mystery added in. If you’re thinking about dipping a toe into the sci-fi end of the swimming pool - and you’ve ever had any interaction with fairy tales - I would recommend The Fairy Godmother as a place to start.

If you like this one, be sure to follow up with the rest of the 500 Kingdoms novels.

Mad Hungry Cravings by Lucinda Scala Quinn

Loved this cookbook!  I have added it to my list of cookbooks to buy so that I'm not constantly hogging ELPL's copy.  I appreciate that she gives practical tips as to how to stock your pantry and refrigerator so that at a moments notice you can feed anyone, including three hungry male teenagers.  Her personal anecdotes and humor about food and cooking (her rant about the size of muffins is spot on) made me laugh.  I made her Italian Vinaigrette and Oatmeal Raspberry Smoothie and both were excellent.  This cookbook has healthy, flavorful veggie side dishes as well as heavenly-Oh-My-Gosh-we-can-only-eat-this-once-a-year-it has-so-many-calories splurge dishes.

If you check this out and like it try another title by Scala Quinn, Mad hungry: feeding men and boys: recipes, strategies and survival techniques.  

The Art of the Selfie: How Selfies Create Confidence


The Art of the Selfie: How Selfies Create Confidence - Workshop for girls in 7th-12th Grades

A joint MSU RCAH - 60/50 Project – East Lansing Public Library Project

This free, two-part workshop is designed to encourage girls to use selfies to dig deep into ideas about beauty and self esteem in US culture today. 


March 25th, 7-9 pm, workshop to engage in dialogue about how we think about our own beauty and then learn from artists and photographers how to artistically express our ideas through selfies.  Girls then work independently to produce a selfie that will be printed and displayed at the library.

April 27, 2-4 pm, Selfie Gallery opening and reception

All girls in grades 7-12 welcome.  Please register to ensure a spot in the workshop.  Walk-ins are also welcome, first come first serve.  The first 20 registrants will be guaranteed that their photos will be enlarged, printed and mounted for the gallery.

Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine

Eleven-year-old Fin has just been orphaned. Now under the care of his half-sister, Lady - beautiful and carefree in every sense of the word - he is transported from his parents' farm in rural Connecticut to the heart of Greenwich village. As he adjusts to New York City life in the 1960's, Fin comes into his own, tolerating and even befriending Lady's many suitors, finding friendship across the street, and even adapting to his new, very progressive school (no desks, no grading...). When Lady suddenly decides to flee their Greenwich village brownstone, Fin finds himself adjusting yet again to life on the island of Capri, where surprises await around every bend. 

Written by author Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmann's of Westport), Fin & Lady offers an encapsulating picture of life and social change in the 1960's. Lady's impulsive actions and Fin's steadfast nature will have readers guessing who the real parent is in this already unconventional family. Recommended for anyone searching for an enjoyable read that explores the high (and low) points of family life. 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Set in a small, coastal town, Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward takes place the twelve days leading up to Hurricane Katrina.  The story follows the lives of Esch’s family and their friends as they go about their daily lives as the killer storm approaches. The main character is fourteen year old Esch, who is pregnant. Esch and her three brothers are motherless and her father is a hard drinker and is mostly absent. Told through Esch’s young eyes, the story plods along through the seemly normal routines of the family--basketball games, swimming in the river, dog fights and saving the little bit of food they have as Katrina blows closer. The book climaxes as Katrina’s tremendous force plunges ashore and rips through Esch’s family and her world.

The reader is struck with the fact that this family has very little in material things, little in adult supervision and their lives seem to have little hope for a different future, yet it is evident that Esch and her brothers love each other, will risk their own lives to save each other and have a true sense of community.  As the storm intensifies and Katrina hits, the force of Ward’s writing strengthens to hurricane level.  Ward shows us, again, the inequities of poverty and race in America.

Jesmyn Ward was raised in Mississippi.  She received an MFA from the University of Michigan.  Salvage the Bones was the 2011 National Book Award winner.

To Taste Temptation

Review written by: Laura Brooks

An American veteran of the French and Indian Wars is now a successful merchant with a younger sister to launch. However, this is a cover for his true purpose: to question the few other survivors of a massacre which he suspects was caused by a traitor in their midst. He asks a widow who is informally engaged to a fellow survivor to chaperone his sister and they gradually become involved. The book surrealistic descriptions of how PTSD affects the traumatized and how it may affect each person differently. Well written and moving.

By Author/Artist: Hoyt, Elizabeth
Format: ebook

The Serpent Prince

Review written by: Laura Brooks

A gently bred spinster finds a naked viscount nearly beaten to death near her country home and nurses him back to health. He is trying to avenge the death of his brother, who was pushed into a duel and killed because he was an obstruction to some fellow investors, and they are pushing back. Her affections shift from her local vicar who has been courting her but never asking for her hand to the nobleman, which puts both in danger. The book is well written but the titular fairy tale composed for the novel falls flat.

By Author/Artist: Hoyt, Elizabeth
Format: ebook

The Leopard Prince

Review written by: Laura Brooks

A spinster heiress falls for her land steward, a man far below her on the social scale and falsely accused of murder by a local landowner with a grudge. Interesting to compare the present and historical mores regarding illegitimacy and sexual and social standards. Well written.

By Author/Artist: Hoyt, Elizabeth
Format: ebook

The Raven Prince

Review written by: Laura Brooks

In 19th century England, a barren widow finds herself in need of money and takes a job as a secretary to a disagreeable earl in need of a wife and heir. They develop a mutual unrequited attraction. During the course of her work, she discovers the name of a high end brothel he uses and finds a way to substitute herself there masked. Complications occur and love wins out. Though somewhat formulaic, it is well thought out and written.

By Author/Artist: Hoyt, Elizabeth
Format: ebook