Wednesday, August 30, 2017

So Long, Summer

August is at an end, kids are back at school and About Books is taking a break to finish the last of our summer must read pile. And cheer the end of another fun summer reading adventure! (It’s not too late to turn in reading logs – September 2nd marks the official end of the program.)

We’ll be back next week with recommendations of new books read, FCPL services to highlight and other bookish news that has caught our eye.

-The Editors

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

If You Like... Game of Thrones


Political intrigue. Deception. Adventure. Humor. Disguises. Blackmail. Revenge. Alliances. Last minute escapes. More intrigue. Gold. Breaking alliances. Family. Betrayal. Did I mention intrigue? These are the kinds of things that are familiar to fans of George R.R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’re like me, you probably don’t think George is working quickly enough on books 6 and 7. You might even be a fan of the TV series. Read these four books with the same feel as The Song of Ice and Fire to keep yourself busy until he unleashes The Winds of Winter on us.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – George R.R. Martin

The easiest book to recommend to fans is this prequel of sorts to A Game of Thrones. Though the adventures of Dunk and Egg take place 100 years earlier, the world of Westeros will immediately seem familiar. You will recognize the families, the places and the feuds all accompanied by Martin’s familiar mix of adventure, humor and world-building. It doesn’t hurt that Dunk and Egg are some of the more likeable and honorable inhabitants of Westeros.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch

In the past, I’ve described The Lies of Locke Lamora, first book of the Gentleman Bastards series, as a mix of the orphans and thievery from Oliver Twist and the fantasy world-building, tone and feel of A Game of Thrones. It has all the traits of Martin’s series, and it had me thinking with a few tweaks it would be possible that all the action was taking place in one of the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea from Westeros.

The Once and Future King – T.H. White

White’s epic retelling of the tales of King Arthur is something any fan of Martin should read. As you read it, you will recognize the thoughts and behaviors of many characters in The Song of Ice and Fire books.  This is a classic for a reason, and I believe it’s the grandeur, adventure and humor (much of the humor coming via Merlin) that Martin fans will embrace. It seems Medieval England and Westeros are not too different from each other.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas

The three preceding books are either pure fantasy or have elements of fantasy, and, therefore, will feel right for anyone reading this blog post. This one is a little bit more of a stretch, but bear with me. The political intrigue, deception, adventure and humor that I mentioned earlier are here in spades. Young Edmond Dantes finds himself soon to be married and the captain of a ship until a few jealous “friends” get him locked in a dungeon as a so-called Bonapartist conspirator.  Sounds like time for revenge. The best part is at 1,200 pages it’s only a few hundred more than A Dance with Dragons, so I know you’ll breeze right through it.

-James Cullen, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

While You Wait for Louise Erdrich's New Book...

Editors Note: We are big fans of Louise Erdrich and can't wait for her newest book Future Home of the Living God to come out this November. The library has pre-ordered copies, and you can place a hold on this title. In the meantime while you wait, About Books suggests you read Erdrich's earlier book Plague of Doves.

A crying baby in a blood-spattered room quiets when the murderer plays a poignant violin solo on the gramophone while fixing his jammed gun. That scene sets the stage for generations of turmoil as the victims and perpetrators try to forget. Louise Erdrich takes the above horrific scene - where five family members perished and a group of innocent Native Americans were hanged in a measure of “rough justice” – as a vehicle to illustrate the deep tangle of lives where land, heritage and nationalities are all braided together in one misshapen strand.

Stories abound. A husband stages his wife's kidnapping to legitimize a ransom to take care of his lover’s child. An Indian judge secretly courts a white doctor to preserve the visible blood lines. A young college student working in a mental institution stumbles upon her own sexual senses during an encounter with a lesbian patient. Sister Mary Anita Buckendorf has a visage that emulates Godzilla but a wide heart of understanding and can pitch a mean ball in the recess pickup game. Billy Peace returns from Viet Nam and plows his frustrated energies into establishing a cult of spirit-filled devotees whom he molds ever more tightly into his maniacal, sensual mission of power. His wife eventually turns to snake-handling, stroking her bed-time beauties for comfort and finally milking their venom as a ticket to freedom, taking her two young children across the finish line as she imagines Billy’s "spirit crawling slowly toward heaven."

And threading the stories with haunting melody are the dancing, soothing, sobbing, joyous and devastating violins. Shamengwa, a child with an arm disabled by a cow, takes up his father’s violin in secret to deal with his family’s sadness and through the years lightens everyone’s burdens with his exquisite music. Corwin, a schoolyard bully, eventually steals the violin and as punishment Judge Coutts makes him learn to play. Years later, his haunting music strikes a death knell to the murderer in the initial scene.

Some attempt revenge, some atonement. All strive not to snap the taut band of truce. But “every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware.”

The doves descend early, smothering all - historically, biblically and politically. And to this day, the survivors work out their complicated salvation.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

If You Like...Wonder Woman

Are you a fan of the beloved and iconic superhero, Wonder Woman? If you particularly liked the movie that came out this summer, you can relive the experience on the page with Nancy Holder’s official novelization, newly acquired here at Fairfax County Public Library. But whether your Wonder Woman love comes from comic books, graphic novels, television or film, this book list is for you!

Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore [741.5 L 2014]

This is the first book to tell of Wonder Woman’s origins and the people, situations and culture that influenced and shaped both her story and her character. Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Lepore examines both the life of Wonder Woman as a fictional character and the lives of her creator, William Moulton Marston, and his family, as well as how her story was affected by and, in turn, affected the feminist movement.

Water Song – Suzanne Weyn [YFIC WEY]

For those who appreciated the historical setting of the Wonder Woman movie, this story is also set in Europe during WWI. Unlike Diana, Emma Pennington is no superhero. She has no superpowers or even a hint of magic, but she is beautiful and wealthy, accustomed to living comfortably despite the war that rages abroad. But the war unexpectedly touches even her life and teaches Emma many lessons about love and humanity.

The Lost Sisterhood – Anne Fortier [FIC FOR]

Everyone knows the legendary Amazon tribe is just that: a legend. But Diana Morgan has spent her academic career trying to prove that the Amazons actually existed, an obsession that began with her grandmother’s claim to be an Amazon herself. And she may just have stumbled upon the break she needs when a mysterious foundation invites her to decipher an unusual inscription they have uncovered in North Africa.

Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons [JFIC YOL]

Glimpse Wonder Woman’s legendary mother as a child in this novel. It is said that a second son born of an Amazon Queen must be sacrificed in exchange for Artemis’ protection or else he’d bring about the destruction of the Amazons. But when Hippolyta’s mother, Queen Otrere, bears a second son, she cannot sacrifice him and is stripped of her title and imprisoned. It’s up to Hippolyta to save her mother and brother, her people and herself.

Phoenix and Ashes – Mercedes Lackey [SF LAC]

This book is the third in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, a fantasy series that does not have to be read in any particular order. It tells the story of Eleanor, a 20th century Cinderella whose father dies during the Great War and leaves her under the thumb of a stepmother engaged in the darker blood-fueled side of Earth magic, and Reggie, an ace WWI pilot and Elemental Master of Air, scarred from his own experiences in the War.

The Foretelling – Alice Hoffman [YFIC HOF]

Like Diana, Rain is the daughter of an Amazon Queen, a powerful daughter training and preparing to be an Amazon Queen herself one day. A daughter who brings great sorrow to her mother, though through no fault of her own. A daughter who, unlike Diana, desires love and approval from a mother who can barely look at her, let alone speak to her. A warrior who begins to see a different future for herself than how she was raised.

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder – Jodi Picoult

At this time, you’ll need to take advantage of the reciprocal agreements Fairfax County Public Library has with Arlington County, Loudoun County or the City of Alexandria, or make use of our interlibrary loan service to get your hands on this one, but the extra effort will be worth it! In this graphic novel, Jodi Picoult shares a Wonder Woman struggling to understand both what it means to be human and who she is. Her name is Diana Prince, special agent of the Department of Metahuman Affairs. Her assignment: the apprehension of Wonder Woman.

Have other recommendations for others who love Wonder Woman? Don’t forget to leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Recent Nonficiton Titles - Dealing with Mental Illness

How do family dynamics change when a parent or child struggles with mental health issues? This question has long been a topic of fictional writing – most recently with the excellent Imagine Me Gone (a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize). But a spate of nonfiction accounts has caught my eye lately. Although they approach the topic from different angles, and the subject is naturally difficult, it is a positive trend that mental health and the American health care system can be discussed in such an open and frank manner.


No one Cares about Crazy People by Ron Powers - Tragedy is the only way to describe how mental illness manifested itself in journalist Ron Powers’s life. His younger son began showing signs of schizophrenia while at college and sadly committed suicide. Not long after, Powers’ older son developed the disease as well, though so far he has responded well to medicine. Powers’ courageous book is family memoir woven into a history of how mental illness has been treated in America and how the modern healthcare system often fails those same families.

A Really Good Day: Microdosing by Ayelet Waldman Waldman, well known for her 2009 memoir Bad Mother, has a history of writing controversial nonfiction. This book is no different. It’s an illuminating account of her mood disorder and experimentation with LSD to alleviate her anxiety and make her house a happier place to live. It’s also a probing look at why the justice system has criminalized this drug particularly harshly.

The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey - Award winning biographer Blake Bailey turns his lens onto his own family in this hard-to-read but equally hard-to-put-down memoir. His older brother’s battle with addiction and self-destructive behavior and how his parents try to hold his family together make for an unforgettable read. When I saw David Sedaris at a reading last summer, he couldn’t recommend this book highly enough, and he was right.

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library