The Tsar of Love and Techno: stories by Anthony Marra

I don't possess the writing chops to adequately review Anthony Marra's latest novel, The Tsar of Love and Techno: stories.  It is simply too exquisite to describe.  Here's the best I can do as I recover from an intense book hangover:

  • For some reason I haven't yet read A Constellation of Vital Phenomenahis first novel.  My only defense is that there is only so much time in each day.  Which seems a very lame excuse.  Anyway, A Constellation... is now next on my list, but if you have read it and haven't yet picked up The Tsar of Love and Techno, good god, what are you waiting for?
  • If you have any interest in Russia, Chechnya, and/or the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, then this is the novel for you.  
  • If you have avoided this title because you have heard it is a book of short stories and you dislike short stories, don't worry, this is most certainly a novel.  Marra uses the short story format to brilliantly link seemingly disparate persons and events together to create a remarkable...Nope, again, I don't have the words!  Just trust me, it is a novel; a beautiful, engaging novel.
  •  Our library catalog, which handily lists read alikes for every title we carry (did you know it did that?) helpfully lists the following as readalikes for The Tsar of Love and Techno: stories:

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley
The Call by Yannick Murphy
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I think it also contains shades of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, except it is told from the perspective of natives, not newcomers.


Five stars, 10 out of 10, most certainly one of the year's best, please, give it a try.

Hot Reads for Cold Nights 2016 Complete Rules

1.  Participants are required to read and agree to the following when signing up:

I understand that by registering via the library's website I am entering the Hot Reads for Cold Nights contest at the East Lansing Public Library.  I understand that my point totals, progress and name (or username) will be displayed on  where I can track my points and progress.  I also understand that I will need access to a computer or device with internet access to sign up and submit future entries to the Hot Reads for Cold Nights contest. 

Better Living Book Club - January 2016

East Lansing Public Library

January's title is Emotional Freedom by Judith Orloff.

Upcoming titles for Better Living Book Club:

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Calvin: a novel by Martine Leavitt

Calvin: a novel is a beautifully written, quick-to-read story about a 17 year old named Calvin, who is obsessed with Bill Watterson and the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.  The novel begins with the real Calvin's schizophrenia diagnosis and his decision that he must have Mr. Watterson's help to overcome his illness.  This is a quick read not only because it is written mostly as dialog, but also because you'll want to push on through to the end to find out what happens to Calvin and his friend/girlfriend Susie as they try to get Bill Watterson's help.  Yes, there are many similarities between the 17 year old Calvin in the novel and the infamous Calvin of the comic strip.  This is the perfect book for fans of Calvin and Hobbes, as well as anyone interested in the Great Lakes - Lake Eerie lovers in particular.

This book was a delightful surprise.  A definite crossover for adults as well as the intended teen audience.  ELPL has Calvin in print and in the Cloud Library.  

Fresh Made Simple by Lauren Keiper Stein

Let me start by saying: I love food. But I also hate cooking, which is problematic since I especially love food that is both delicious AND beautiful, which usually involves lots of work and prep and things I generally don't like doing. Which is why I absolutely adore this cookbook so much. This cookbook changed my way of thinking about making food that was healthy, and surprisingly easy to make. The book is interesting in that it is not a list of recipes - each page is a beautifully drawn, watercolor and ink picture of the finished product (or a few steps), with short instructions written in the margins. The (76!!) recipes are so lovely to look at it, and for the most part true to the name - very simple! They're separated into categories titled things like Stacked, Tossed, and Chunky rather than your typical 'soups, salads, and appetizers', which I thought was quite cute. The ones I'm looking forward to trying the most are the Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Quesadilla, and Pineapple Cilantro Salsa that will be perfect by itself or for topping my fave grilled salmon with, as well as literal every single thing in the 'Cheesy' category (Honey Ricotta Crostini?! Sign me up!).

I recommend this book for the lazy cook like me, as well as anyone looking to switch up their healthy food game! Forewarning: Almost all of the recipes are vegetarian, but the end of the book gives options for adding meat or fish to each dish for an extra protein kick - yum!

Books on Tap - January 2016

Welcome the new year at Jimmy's on January 12 at 6:30pm when we discuss Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read selection.

"Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. 
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed."

Review from Amazon.

New Titles for the Cloud Library - December 2015

Fresh titles in the Cloud Library include:










See the full list of all new Cloud Library eBooks for Adults.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

I first picked up this book when I noticed it was a future story for our Books & Bagels group, and then was further convinced to read it when I saw a review by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman, on the cover.

Thankfully I trusted in his review and our children's librarian Eva who picked it, because this book was an absolute delight to read. It features a 12-year-old girl named September who is whisked away from her mother in Omaha, Nebraska to go to Fairyland, where she has all sorts of adventures and finds true friendship with a wyvern named A-L (his father was a library, of course) and water-loving marid named Saturday along the way. The prose reads magically (almost in a Gaiman-esque way) and kept my attention throughout the story. Each chapter features a different adventure that September and her friends go on, from meeting alchemists in a land that is forever Autumn, to a bathhouse with a lonely soap golem, all part of the main goal of the story, which is September retrieving a sword for the Evil Marquess.

Like I said, this book is a delight, and a stunning example of why adults shouldn't neglect YA and children's fiction! This book was one of my favorites this year, and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a tale with a very happy ending.

Books on Tap - December Follow Up

Hearing about new-to-me books is always a good time! We had an amazing wrap up of 2015 giving us all a new list of books to add to our libraries!

Click here to see a list of the books brought in by our group so that you have a list readily available for the holiday season.

In January 2016, we will read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, the 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read.

My Account Access in Library Catalog has Been Restored

The My Account portion of the library's catalog is back online.  You are now able to:

  • Place holds
  • Renew items
  • Pay fines
  • View your reading history (if you have already opted-in to this program)
  • View the Cloud Library eBooks checked out on your account, and check-out/place holds on Cloud Library eBooks directly from the library's catalog. 

Thank you for your patience while we worked with our vendor to restore access to the My Account portion of the library catalog.

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: a Memoir by Carrie Brownstein

Brownstein has fervor beyond the typical "music moves me" descriptions. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is a well-written biography that gives herstory to the Pacific Northwest punk scene.

If you've missed any of their albums, listen to the Sleater-Kinney catalog instantly on Hoopla.

Only Superhuman

Only Superhuman, by Christopher Bennett, is a hard scifi superhero novel.  Set in the future, genetically-enhanced humans have moved apart from the normals and gone to live in colonies on the astroid belt.  Some of these humans have powers that are decidedly beyond those of the average man, and to help preserve law and order, a group of such humans have banded together to fight crime.  The group that they have formed is called, "The Troubleshooters". 

The Troubleshooters have their work cut out for them, from fighting terrorist groups to investigating shady superhuman collations, to evaluating partnerships with other groups.  Bennett's story follows the adventures of a Troubleshooter named Emerald Blair, a.k.a. the Green Blaze, as she is drawn into a web of intrigue.  After all, in order to stop evil, you first have to recognize it as such.

The story's strengths are those traditionally associated with a comic book.  There are excellent fight scenes and an action-packed story keep the reader engaged.  Also, now we get to hear more of a superhero's inner monologue.  I found this to be somewhat entertaining at times, particularly the sections of the book that involve Blaze's concerns about making an entrance and tossing off one-liners.  Lastly, I respect Bennett for writing a plausible, hard-scifi superhero story.  "Hard Science Fiction" is a term usually reserved for stories with scientific advances which, given the state of science at the time of the books publication, seem both futeristic and reasonably plausible.  (The opposite would be "soft" scifi, where the science works in a manner functionally indistinguishable from magic.  Think of Superman's "I'm an alien with a human body type and I can fly!") 

However, the story is not without weaknesses.  There were quite a few romantic endeavours chronicled in the story. I don't mind romance in the books that I read, but I do mind frequent scenes with gratuitous details.  However, that is the only quibble that I have with the book.  Should one enjoy an action-packed superhero story and find such detriments as I have mentioned tolerable, then I would certainly recommend this book.

Out of This World - January 2016

East Lansing Public Library - Conference Room

January's title is The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester.

Upcoming sessions of Out of This World for 2016:

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