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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PAWS to Read - 2014 Summer Reading Program at Fairfax County Public Library

After what seemed like the longest year on record, school is finally out for summer. Here at the Fairfax County Public Library that means it’s our favorite time of year—the Summer Reading Program! We always look forward to the many opportunities it brings to flex our readers’ advisory, storytime, crafting and just-plain-fun muscles.


Have the kids you know registered for the Summer Reading Program yet? Stop by any branch to pick up a reading log or keep track online.

Children of all ages are welcome to participate—from preschool to high school. Readers who turn in their complete reading logs to Fairfax County library branches will earn a coupon book with great prizes from local businesses. The program ends August 30. So, don’t wait to sign up.

What else can you find at the library this summer? Attend one of our many free activities for families, preschoolers, school-age youngsters, teens and adults. Book clubs, puppets, reptiles, mad scientists—we have it all! Search our calendar of events or pick up a copy of the summer calendar at your local branch.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

“What’s with All the Goggles?”

That’s the question I asked the clerk some five years ago, after seeing a display in my local bookstore. “It’s Steampunk!” was the answer I received. She handed me a copy of Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. “Try this! It’s awesome!”

 Well, I did, and it was, but it really didn’t answer my original question. So, like all curious people in the Information Age, I googled “steampunk”, and then proceeded to fall down a rabbit hole lined with Victoriana, clockwork, dystopias and the occasional monster or mad scientist.

Depending on whom you ask, steampunk could be any number of things: an aesthetic device, a philosophy or the intertwining of romance and science. Most agree that it started as a subgenre of science fiction where complex devices like cars and computers are powered by steam engines and clockwork and is usually set in the mid to late
1800s, generally in Victorian England or the American Wild West. As the science fiction author Caitlin Kittredge once described it, “It’s sort of Victorian-industrial, but with more whimsy and fewer orphans.”

As the genre has grown, it has meshed with other genres. Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series contains flavors of fantasy and romance. The main character, Alexia Tarabotti, finds out that she has the ability to turn vampires and werewolves human when she accidentally kills a vampire with a parasol during a dinner party.  The series counts werewolves, vampires and ghosts as well as humans among its main characters and takes place in Victorian London.

Carriger also writes young adult novels  set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate series. In the Finishing School series, the first of which is Etiquette and Espionage, Sophronia and other young ladies are sent to finishing school to “
learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course.”

In his Leviathan trilogy, young adult author Scott Westerfeld explores an alternate history in which World War I is being fought by the opposing sides of the Darwinists, who favor genetic experimentation and go to war on giant monsters, and the Clankers, who like to do their fighting with massive war machines.

My first foray into the world of steampunk, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, is set in the American West, Seattle, Washington, specifically, about 20 years after the Civil War. Sixteen years before the book begins, Russian gold hunters in the Klondike commissioned Dr. Leviticus Blue to create a machine to help mine gold. But things go terribly awry when the machine destroys several blocks of Seattle and releases a gas that turns the entire city into the walking dead. Years later, the city has been walled off, and Dr. Blue’s widow, Briar, must find a way in to rescue her son, who has braved the wall to try his hand at rewriting history.

And of course, there are the works that inspired the term “steampunk”: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, wherein a group of modern Londoners use Gates to go back in time to attend a lecture by Samuel Taylor Coleridge only to be kidnapped by Egyptian magicians, and James P. Blaylock’s Homunculus, which opens with a dirigible piloted by dead men that has been circling 1870s London for some time and which may or may not hold a tiny space alien on board.

Whatever your preferences, dark-themed or comical, wildly fantastical or purely scientific, there’s sure to be a steampunk novel out there to feed your fancies. Not sure where to start? Try Steampunk!: An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories by Kelly Link or Steampunk Revolution by Anne VanderMeer. Both of these short story anthologies are sure to whet your appetite.

-Stephanie Hutchins, Chantilly Regional Library

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Virginia Room

Lives Change @ Fairfax County Public Library - What can we do for you?

A young woman, adopted as a child, wanted to learn the identity of her deceased birth father. Using documents in her possession that held significant clues and the expertise of the Virginia Room staff, she discovered her birth father’s name and found his obituary, which lead her to more family. 

Research uncovering an ancestor’s service in the 10th Regiment Tennessee Infantry Union, not Confederate, army upends a generations-old family history of lineage from a loyal son of the Confederacy. 

A researcher who is certain that his people never left the South is encouraged to look again at the U. S. Census records, where he learns that they traveled far. 

The depth and breadth of collections in the Virginia Room at the City of Fairfax Regional Library offers tremendous riches for those researching Fairfax County and Virginia ancestors. Catalogued materials, such as books, maps and newspapers, as well as unique manuscript and photographic holdings, make the collection a superb one.  Genealogists will also discover that, while the library is rich in courthouse, military, church, and cemetery records, place and family histories, and periodicals relating to the Commonwealth, there are substantial holdings which serve researchers looking beyond the state’s borders.

So expand your borders. What’s your interest? What do you want to know? Come to the Virginia Room of the City of Fairfax Regional Library. It is true, libraries really do change lives.  What are you waiting for?
-Laura Wickstead, Virginia Room Manager, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Have a library story to share?  Let us know in the comments or send us an email!

The post is part of an ongoing series examining the library lives of Fairfax County residents. Read their stories here.

Editor's note: The Washington Post's John Kelly interviewed Laura in February 2014 about the Virginia Room. Read about what he found or begin your own search with the Virginia Room's website.

Friday, June 06, 2014

While You're Waiting to See "The Fault In Our Stars"

If you're as excited as we are to see the movie adaptation of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, you may not have much time for reading this weekend. But if the film leaves you craving more teen lit, try one of these great suggestions from Buzzfeed.  

17 Books to Read if You Liked "The Fault In Our Stars"

-Rebecca Molineaux, George Mason Regional Library & Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Book Club Pick: Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller

Health and fitness writer Kimberly Rae Miller has an enviable life with a tidy home, a flourishing writing career and a doting fiancĂ©. Miller was a high-achiever in high school and college and excelled as an actress, but all along she was hiding a secret shame. While she pretended her life was happy and normal, in reality, she was living in appalling squalor and filth. Her father’s hoarding habit was so uncontrollable that her parents had to abandon more than one home due to serious safety hazards. Miller refers to herself as “the girl who grew up in garbage.” 
Having grown up before hoarding was recognized as a specific disorder, Miller was an adult when she began to research the issue and find comfort in others online with similar stories. She finally “came out” to her supportive boyfriend, now fiancĂ©, about her parents’ living conditions and found further relief from sharing the secret.
Although her youth was impacted by her parents’ hoarding to such an extent that she once tried to end her life, Miller harbors no ongoing resentment towards her parents. She attempts to understand how their troubled childhoods may have caused the disorder to develop in otherwise bright and loving people. In spite of their flaws, Miller’s parents fiercely adored their only child, and the strength of that love may be what allowed her to survive emotionally even in the most dismal, external circumstances. The author’s health and wellness blog demonstrates how different her current lifestyle is from the way she grew up. If anything, Miller seems to have emerged more determined than ever to live a well-organized, conscientious life.
Hoarding has become a topic of fascination in recent years, with many television shows and books examining the disorder. In addition to hoarding, book clubs may wish to discuss the issues of secrecy and rising above a less-than-ideal childhood. Miller has answered some commonly asked questions in an interview with BookBrowse.  And as a bonus, she has extended an offer to speak via Skype with book clubs that choose to discuss Coming Clean.
-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, Kings Park Library 

See our other recommendations for Book Clubs here and here.