Craeft by Alexander Langlands

Book – Before the modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, before mass production and manufacturing, most everything humans did was a matter of craft (or, to use the archaic spelling, Craeft) – a combination of skill, thriftiness, ingenuity, and necessity. In this book, Alexander Langlands explores some of the components of craeft from historic England, reflecting on the skills and resources involved and the way all the various components of the landscape interact with one another.

Langlands had my dream job: he was an experimental archaeologist, using the tools and techniques of history to better understand the way the past worked. He was clearly in this job by temperament as much as anything, because throughout this book he displays a remarkable curiosity about not just the individual components of historic life but the whole system of the thing: the way one skill led into another, one craft creating byproducts that in turn become the core structural elements of another. He calls this kind of systemic, interdependent thinking “craeftiness,” a mode of relating to the world that abhors waste the way nature abhors a vacuum, finding a clever, economical use for every scrap, and making every expenditure of energy do at least two jobs.

This isn’t your ordinary history book; in fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything to compare it to. It’s deeply personal, each chapter (focusing on a different craft, from haymaking to basket-weaving to wall and barrow building) exploring Langlands’ own experience with the skill as well as his archaeological knowledge of its history. It’s profoundly location-based, as suits a book about the way pre-industrial people lived. And, crucially, it’s not nostalgic or romanticizing of the past: Langlands is well aware of how hard all this work is, having done much of it himself, albeit without life-or-death consequences. What he’s explaining is not just these individual skills that have been lost in the wake of cheap petroleum-based energy, but a way of thinking that was lost along with them, one which might become necessary in the near future, as petroleum-based energy becomes not so cheap.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book – Some books ripen in a certain season, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a perfect summer book to me: gossipy, escapist and propulsive, but not lacking in substance.  It’s been months since I’ve been in the mood to read fiction, but Evelyn is so addictive that I gobbled my way through its 400 pages in less than a day, and resented the hours when it had to be out of my hand.

The novel’s title character is a household name, a beloved film star whose career began in the 1950s and who is now (in roughly the present) setting her affairs in order.  Most pressingly, that means offering her first interview in decades to a young reporter named Monique who doesn’t understand why she is Evelyn’s hand-picked choice–and is even more astonished when Evelyn tells her that she has been chosen not as an interviewer, but to write Evelyn’s authorized biography.  Monique’s sections in the present alternate with (and are utterly eclipsed by) Evelyn’s first-person recollections of her eventful past, including the true story behind those seven spouses–and the secret eighth.

Evelyn Hugo is a ‘popcorn book,’ to be sure, wrapped in the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and more focused on entertaining its audience than stretching their minds.  But that doesn’t mean that it avoids deeper topics–especially identity, and the ways we shape, obscure, invent, discard, forget and rediscover parts of ourselves.  It’s historical but very timely, touching on questions of race, gender, sexuality, class, abuse, and what it means to grow up and grow old.  It’s a book about the compromises we make to have what we want and to be seen as who we want to be, and I highly recommend it for your next quick summer read.

Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eyre Ward

Book – When she was six years old, Lauren’s mother was murdered, her father arrested for the crime. Lauren’s brother Alex has always been convinced that their father is innocent, but Lauren doesn’t buy it. She remembers seeing something – she’s not sure what, but it was bad – and she trusts her memory. But when Alex disappears during a tour in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders, Lauren is forced to come to grips with her memories, her father, and her family’s history. Meanwhile, a pregnant young woman has left her boyfriend, hoping to reunite with her best friend — but she, too, has childhood memories that have yet to be resolved.

I enjoyed this psychological thriller about the unreliability of childhood memories. The characters are not always sympathetic, but they’re well-drawn and intriguing. This isn’t really a fast-paced thriller; the story moves from one point to another in the abrupt staccato way of memories itself. While the point of view shifts can be a little disorienting to start with, the whole story weaves itself together in the end in a most satisfying way.

No Regrets!: Temporary Tattoo Art for the Indecisive

Books – Tattoos can be intimidating, choosing a design that’s going to be ingrained on your skin for years and years to come; it’s more than a little scary, considering the involvement of stabbing needles.  Welcome to the world of DIY temporary tattooing!  No pain involved, easy to remove, but still a way to showcase your creativity in body art.  Temporary tattoos remind me of childhood, picking out a fun design, perhaps a pirate, or festive holiday image.  Now, there are so many more options in temporary tattooing for all ages, many conveniently found in the following books!

They both include templates in the back that you can scan to a computer and use to to create your own tattoos via special transfer paper.  It’s just like the tattoos I used when I was younger!  They recommend websites and different types of tattoo transfer paper to buy, and have a lot of good recommendations for the application and care of your temporary works of art.
With so many different types of mediums and application, there’s something for everyone.  Some are only meant for a night, a fun party costume that isn’t going to keep its composure for an extended period.  Then there are longer lasting art techniques like Henna, and the transfer printed tattoos.  I’ve experimented with henna before, both on the skin and as a natural hair dye.  It’s tricky to pipe out the intricate designs, but after allowing the henna to dry on your skin and washing it off, it’s amazing to enjoy the art as it lasts.

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Books – A rogue SecUnit is one of the most terrifying things imaginable: a part-living, mostly-machine entity designed for security applications, without a working governor module, free to kill and destroy at will, and unstoppable by human agency.

The narrator of All Systems Red is technically a rogue SecUnit. It hacked its governor module, but instead of going on a murderous rampage, mostly it keeps doing its job and watches media in its downtime. (It particularly enjoys Sanctuary Moon.) That is, until a neighboring science mission goes dark and the humans SecUnit has been assigned to protect are threatened. SecUnit (who also calls itself Murderbot, although never out loud) doesn’t particularly like interacting with humans, but it doesn’t want them to die. After all, if all the humans died, who would make the media?

The Murderbot Diaries are short science-fiction thrillers, full of corporate espionage and underhanded dealings, but the real joy of them is watching Murderbot try to figure out how to be a person – because despite its continued insistence that it’s a bot, it’s one of the most intensely relateable characters I’ve ever met. (After all, who doesn’t want to spend long, boring shifts at work watching TV?) It struggles with human interaction, interactions with other bots, and how to handle personal responsibility, all while staying far enough under the radar to avoid being captured and reprogrammed. Artificial Condition follows Murderbot’s attempt to understand it’s own past (and its reluctant friendship with a science research transport). The series continues with Rogue Protocol in August and Exit Strategy in October.

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Book – Growing up is hard. Growing up in a poor werewolf family is even harder.

Mongrels written by Stephen Graham Jones is the coming of age story of a young nameless narrator. Steeped in werewolf lore this story bares its fangs and sinks it teeth into you. It’s an inventive take on the werewolf that gets under your skin—in a good way. It’s not a simple horror book but a cleverly disguised social commentary on the impoverished American south. The book follows our young protagonist, an orphan raised by his aunt Libby and uncle Darren. The boy grows up hearing wild and at times gruesome tales from his grandfather. Theirs is a family of werewolves; at least that’s what his grandfather has led him to believe. It’s why his family is always on the run, living at the edges of society, outcasts, transients, wandering the south in a beat up trailer with no destination in mind, scouring for loose change to buy hotdogs. Libby and Darren take up odd jobs always trying to stay two steps ahead of the law and those who hunt their kind. His family is as dysfunctional as anyone else’s, and he always feels like an outsider waiting for something to happen. He desperately longs to fit in, convincing himself it’s for all the right reasons, but he hasn’t turned and if he hasn’t turned by his late teens, he never will. He’s close to it, he can feel it, can scent the coppery stench of blood in the air, he just knows it.

While episodic books might not appeal to some, if you enjoy creature books, I urge you to give this book a try. Dark themes abound in each page and I found myself unable and unwilling to put this book down.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Book–In John Green’s first novel since standout hit The Fault in Our Stars six years ago, Turtles All the Way Down follows 16-year-old Aza Holmes. She and her fearless best friend Daisy hear that the criminal billionaire father of Davis, one of Aza’s childhood friends, has gone missing, with a $100,000 reward offered for finding him. Daisy ropes Aza into trying to find him for the reward money. The actual heart of the book, though, is Aza and her struggles with mental illness, anxiety and intrusive thoughts.

Despite the mystery around which the plot revolves, all of the tension and interest in the story derive from Aza’s thoughts and her interior life. If you like John Green’s signature blend of philosophy, eloquence and navel-gazing, this is a great thing: you will love this book. If, like me, you prefer your books to be a touch more plot-driven and full of dialogue, you might prefer John Green’s other books, or possibly another author entirely. What I can say is that Aza has a strong narrative voice and her difficulties with mental illness feel utterly real. If you enjoy this book or want to read more YA books with mental illness themes, I recommend Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub

Book – As a lover of all things sweet, Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub sounded like the worst thing imaginable.  A whole year? No sugar!?  How awful!  Once I got over my initial shock, however, I immediately grabbed the book and started reading.

Eve was inspired to start her Year of No sugar project after reading books by obesity and sugar experts, including Dr. Robert Lustig.  Though Eve and her family led a relatively healthy lifestyle, she soon discovered sugar was in nearly everything they ate.  And so the project began.  The first few chapters introduce the planning of the project, as Eve consulted with her husband and two daughters on how the year would run out.  I loved the idea of doing this project as a family, having that support system to get through it together.  I can imagine the kids dismay, learning how their lives would be affected, and dealing with social pressures outside of the home with all things sugary and sweet.  Instead of going completely cold turkey, Eve and her husband finally decided on the 1 Dessert a Month rule.  Also, the two daughters could make their own decisions when it came to offerings of sweets at school, sleepovers, and other functions, as long as they were open to their parents when they did choose to indulge.

Eve is an honest, funny, and wonderful writer.  She managed to mix science with her own experiences without making my brain explode.  I appreciated her point of view, with the added input of her husband and children as they embarked on a journey not for the faint of heart.  Check out Eve Schaub’s newest memoir, Year of No ClutterOne book at a time, Eve is conquering my biggest vices.

 

 

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

Book – Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s so bad, so unbelievable, so outrageous, that it goes straight past unwatchable and becomes compelling. In 2003, that movie was The Room, written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau. The Room is so uniquely, outrageously bad – and not just bad but also deeply, deeply weird – that you can’t help but wonder about the guy who made it. Fortunately, Wiseau’s co-star, co-producer, and best friend Greg Sestero has written a memoir about his friendship with Tommy and the filming of The Room, and while it doesn’t exactly shed any light on who Tommy Wiseau is or why he felt compelled to make this weirdly compelling, illogical relationship drama of a movie, it’s a delightful trainwreck of a story.

You can now experience The Disaster Artist in a variety of formats – there’s the original book, the audiobook as read by Greg Sestero, and the film starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. While Franco’s Tommy Wiseau impression is impressive, if you really want to experience the full range of weirdness, I recommend the audiobook. Even if you’ve never seen The Room – and I can’t in good conscience recommend that you do – this is a wild ride through one of the most implausible Hollywood productions of our time.

Shot on Gold by Jaci Burton

Book- This is the 14th book in the Play by Play series. We have a few here in the library and the majority of them available on Hoopla – provided by the library.

Will is a hockey player thru and thru. He loves his life as a hockey player, and this is his second year at the winter games for team USA.  Last time he was here he played too hard and partied too hard. This year he wants to take a step back and really be in the moment.

Amber is a figure skater thru and thru. She is here at the winter games for the third and final time. At the ripe age of 26, she is too old to compete again. She has stood on the medal stand at the end of the games, but this year she is going for gold. Nothing is going to get in her way. She had worked on a new routine and honed her skills for 4 years for this moment. Always the good girl, she never really went out of her room unless it was to practice the last trips. This year, she wants to do it all! Can she party and find a man to help her let loose, and win the gold??

I adore this series, and this book is amazing overall. Jaci Burton does an amazing job detailing what it must be like in the Olympic village. I really felt I was there with Amber and Will. Of course this is a romance novel, so the ever looming question is at the end of the book, will they stay together forever or was it just a fling? Most romance novels read that way I think. However I thought of a dozen ways to wrap this story up and Jaci Burton went above and beyond, with a little bow on the whole package.