The view from my reading pile.

Book Review: In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker February 1, 2010

I went into this book really not knowing what to expect. It had been sitting in a stack of books next to the recliner in our living room for months, since my fiance had picked it up on a whim and left it there, to be read at some point. So when I came across a news item a week or two ago that the author, Kage Baker, was very ill, I went and picked up the novel and started to read. Time travel Science Fiction, to be honest, is not usually my thing, so I’m not sure I would have read it on my own. This would have been a huge mistake.

I guess I’m trying to give some context to my feelings about the book, because I whole-heartedly loved it from page one, had trouble putting it down, and almost didn’t sleep a few nights for wanting to read more.

In the Garden of Iden is Baker’s first novel, and the first in a series about The Company; scientists who discover the process of immortality and time travel, and create immortal agents from history and use them to preserve antiquities that would have otherwise been lost. Baker’s writing brings humor and sweetness to the drama of immortal agents and the tricky moral questions about the Company’s purpose. I liked the romance and didn’t feel like the science or the reality of the situation ever took a backseat once it was introduced, rather it fit in with the story and added another dimension to the dilemmas of Mendoza, the main character. I am so excited that there are more books for me to read in this series.

I wrote most of this post on Friday, and left it over the weekend while I continued to think about the book and what I liked. Yesterday morning, Kage Baker passed away. I am so sorry for the loss to her friends and family, and to her fans.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have finally read this book, knowing that there are more Company novels for me to devour, but at the same time I am so incredibly sad that there will be no more when I am done. 15 novels, short story collections, and novellas in this story, plus Baker’s other works, will certainly keep me reading for quite a while, and yet I am still feeling bereft: there should have been more. Thank you, Kage Baker, for what there is.


Interfictions 2 Reading and Concert, Friday! Boston! November 11, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stackscene @ 12:12 pm

I’m working on about a million book review posts right now, and some should be going up soon, but in the meantime, Boston locals, there is an AWESOME book event happening this Friday!

Boston Interfictions 2 Reading and Concert

That’s right, Friday at 7:30pm at the Lily Pad in Inman Sq, Cambridge, authors will be reading their stories from the Interfictions 2 Anthology, while musicians give us a concert to go with the words! So cool! So much fun! Everyone come! Tell your friends!

And while we’re talking about Interfictions, you should know that the Interstitial Arts Foundation, who put out the book and are sponsoring the event, are also running an auction of art pieces inspired by the stories in the collection. You can see them all here, and, oh, right, this one’s mine.

Thanks for reading!


Update on Philadelphia September 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — stackscene @ 10:14 pm

They don’t have to close the libraries after all! Whew, talk about 11th hour saves! I’m thrilled about this, and especially about the outpouring of community support to keep the libraries open. Public libraries are expecially important during rough economic times, and it’s great to see a community who values their library system.


Books to movies and back again, with Hayao Miyazaki September 7, 2009

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I love my Google reader. More specifically, I love how my friends share things that make me think. Honestly, I could do a whole post about how having good people sharing with you on your Google Reader is almost like having a do-it-yourself reference section. Maybe another day.

TODAY, what I want to talk about, on this lovely holiday, is this post from the io9 blog about Hayao Miyazaki’s films and the genres they inhabit, sort of. If you don’t recognize Miyazaki’s name right away, you’ve almost certainly heard of his films, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and the latest, Ponyo, are some of his better known titles here in the States. Let me just say, I love most of the movies Miyazaki makes (I say most because there’s a couple I still haven’t seen). He does seem to inhabit a genre all his own though, which is what the io9 post is getting at.

I really enjoy the way they try to fit the movies into specific genres, noting at the same time the places the movie breaks out of the genre norms and expectations.

Now, though, the real reason this post piqued my interest so quickly: most of Miyazaki’s movies are also books. I love being able to tie popular movies into the books that inspired them. I also love the quick synopses of the stories in the movies given by the blog post. I’m not saying copy them for book/movie talks, but I am saying they’d be a great place to start writing a talk about Miyazaki movies and books. Not all of the movies started as books, but many of them are published as manga after the movie is released. Thing is though, they’re usually really, really good. In the case of Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki actually did an entire manga series himself, then based the movie off the first few books in the series. Howl’s Moving Castle, on the other hand, was based on the Diana Wynne Jones novel of the same name. Both book and movie are excellent, but must be enjoyed on their own terms, as they are quite different. Still, I think a booktalk that begins with a movie and then moves into the book the movie is based on could be a lot of fun. Double bonus if they’ve already seen the movie, because then you don’t have to worry about spoilers, and can still let them be surprised by some of the turns the book takes.

And obviously, this is not a new idea to me, but more of a reminder that displays of books that correspond to popular movies are always a good idea, as well as book/movie clubs. Watch the movie, read the book, have discussion, ??? profit? Ok maybe not that last part, but the book and movie discussion club seems like it could be a lot of fun.

After all, as XKCD reminds us, Hollywood will never stop making movies from books, so we’ll have plenty to choose from for the displays and discussion groups. But some people still think books are dead. Oh well!


Women in Comics, Comics in the Library August 19, 2009

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I love this article on Bitch Blogs about the history and inspirations for Lois Lane.  There’s going to be a Part II tomorrow, and I can’t wait!  My fiance is a huge comics fan, and we have a lot of the Showcase books of old comics, so I’ve actually read some of the older Superman stuff, and also the Superboy and Legion of Superheroes stories that feature Lois and Lana Lang (Superboy’s girlfriend) being told that they can’t handle whatever important thing, because they’re clearly just girls.  I love that, sexism aside, these characters were still motivated to go out and prove themselves, even if the writers were using that as comic relief and a convenient way to get them into trouble so they could be saved.  I also love the point the post makes about Lois being a marker of the ways that attitudes towards women, especially professional women, have changed over time.

The article also makes me think about ways to use comics in the library, as a way to get kids and teens engaged with reading.  Getting kids involved with some of the older comics and using that as a jumping off point to discuss some of the historical elements (I’d love to get a bunch of comics from the 80’s and show them say, the giant cell phones.  Remember those?) of what was going on, and the ways that comics reacted to the larger contexts of the time.  Like, how often did Superman fight Nazis?  A lot?  And Superman was created by Jewish guys, right?  Not that it’s a terribly deep analysis right there, but as a different angle for studying history and reading, I think comics could definitely help refresh the process for some kids.  It could also be used as a way to look at gender studies and race issues.  Like with this article, having kids read comics featuring women from different eras and then talk about the different ways the women are presented and treated might be an interesting way to get kids engaged with the history of feminism.  Along the same lines, I can think of some interesting conversations about the way race relations are portrayed in comics.

Too often I see educators and other adults dismiss comics as having no educational value, but I think there’s a lot that can be found in them with some guidance.  I’m not necessarily saying that every comic is worth reading, and I’m not going to start handing kids Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose (LINK IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR ANYTHING ELSE YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) or anything, but I love the idea of taking something kids will engage with and using it to help them learn about other things, as well as encouraging reading in general.

In conclusion: Lois Lane rocks and is a better reporter than Clark Kent anyway.


Introducing Stackscene August 14, 2009

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Why Stackscene?  Because of the giant stack of books to read on my dining room table (and next to the bed, and in the craft room, and over there. . .), because of the time spent wandering the library stacks, because of the stacks of crafting projects alongside the books; my life is organized in stacks.  Shelves are good too, but stacks are clearly where it’s at.

So hi, I’m Emily, I’ll have my resume’ up soon on this blog.  This is actually not my only blog.  If you want to read about the cool things my friends do and listen to my podcast, that’s over at We Have Thumbs.  There might be a little bit of overlap between the two blogs, but this one really is more for me to talk about the books I’m reading/have read, post the text of booktalks I write, and talk about issues in librarianship and literacy.

Who am I and why am I here?  I’m a recent graduate of the Simmons Graduate School of Library Science, and I’m currently looking for a job in the greater Boston area (really greater, I’m outside the city and willing to go reasonably far out into the rest of New England), and I’m mostly interested in public library jobs, specifically Young Adult librarianship or technology outreach types of work.  I do other things too, including work on literacy and providing access to people with disabilities.  You may have gathered that I also like to play with string, in the form of knitting and spinning, and I also like: podcasting, genre fiction in the fantasy and science fiction vein, and going to SF/F conventions.  Cons are great for meeting other readers and talking about books, and I also end up meeting new authors to check out (some of whom give me ARCs of their books, which is always awesome), talking about reading and literacy issues, and just generally finding out what’s going on in that world.

As a matter of fact (ooh, busting out the cliches early!), I just got back from the 67th Annual World Science Fiction Convention, Anticipation, held this year in Montreal!  I had a great time seeing friends, totally did not stalk Guest of Honor Neil Gaiman, and found new authors to fall in love with.  I was on panels about literacy, traditional women’s crafts in fiction, and a few other interesting topics, as well as being staff for the kaffeeklatches with authors.  One of the best parts for me was actually going to a kaffeeklatch with Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner, who as well as being some of my favorite people to talk to at conventions are also excellent writers.  I have plans to read Delia’s Changeling series sometime soon, and I can’t wait!  If you want to get a taste of her words for free, check out Delia’s story “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” at Podcastle.  I fell completely in love with this story almost from the beginning, and couldn’t wait to get to Worldcon and discuss it with Delia!

Actually, talking about Delia and Ellen reminds me of something *else* I do!  The Interstitial Arts Foundation is dedicated to providing a place for art and story that doesn’t fall neatly into marketing categories.  Ellen and Delia were involved in founding the IAF, and Delia is currently editing their second anthology, Interfictions 2.  The Foundation is doing a really cool art auction to go along with the release of the book, with people making all kinds of things to go with the stories.  I’m making art yarn to go with the story a friend of mine, Shira Lipkin, has published in the book!  In addition, I’m a volunteer with the IAF and am producing a Boston-area event for them, called the Bryan Slattery Project.  This is going to be a really interesting event, with improvisational music, live readings of the stories from the book, visual elements, and more!  There will be more information about the event as we get details squared away, but I’m really excited to be working with the IAF and helping with this event.

So that’s me and what I’ll be doing here, I’ll start posting about the books I want to talk about soon!