Jen

About Jen

I'm an Adult Services Librarian at the Warrenville Public Library. I'll read just about anything you put in front of me, but I've always been a science fiction & fantasy fan. I'm also fond of history, true crime, thrillers, and popular anthropology that isn't written by Jared Diamond. When I'm not reading, I'm writing, knitting, or buying still more video games to fill up the neverending queue of games I really will play some day, I promise.

Pride Viewing

Movies – June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and to celebrate, here are some excellent documentaries you can watch to learn a little more about the community.

We Were Here – The AIDS crisis was the last great pandemic in the US, before the current crisis, but the stigma and prejudice associated with HIV left the full impact invisible to many people. This award-winning documentary interviews five individuals who played meaningful roles during the epidemic in San Francisco, including a political activist, a nurse, and a flower seller who supplied flowers to the overwhelming number of funerals.

(A)sexual – This documentary offers a personal look at asexuality, one of the lesser-known and most misunderstood orientations. What’s it like to be attracted to no one at all, when so much of society revolves around who you’re attracted to? What does sexual orientation really entail, anyway? If you’ve never encountered asexuality before, this can be an enlightening look at a concept you thought you already understood.

Before Stonewall/After Stonewall – These documentaries chronicle the history of the gay rights movement both before and after the seminal turning point, the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969. Made in 1984 and 1999 respectively, they’re now also historical documents in their own right, shedding light on just how far we’ve come in the last half a century.

All of these films can be streamed from Hoopla.

 

Discover Your Next Read

Looking for something new to read? Let us do the browsing for you! Fill out a simple form telling us a little bit about who you are and what you like to read, and within two to three business days a librarian will get back to you with at least two books (maybe more!) that we think you’ll love. Since our physical collections are unavailable right now, we promise they’ll be books that you can stream or download through Hoopla or Libby.

Tell us if you prefer audiobooks, if you’re dying for a new arranged marriage romance novel, or if you’re looking to learn something new. We miss chatting with you, and we can’t wait to help you discover your next read. Get started right away at https://warrenville.libnet.info/discover.

Chic Knitting Books

Books – I love to knit, I love the calming rhythm of it and the feel of the yarn and the finished product, but sometimes the whole process of picking out a new project is the best part. Fortunately there are a lot of gorgeous knitting books coming out lately that make this even more enjoyable, full of stunning photos of beautiful projects. Sure, I’ll never buy the $400 in luxury yarn they recommend to make that sweater, but I can enjoy thinking about it.

Coffehouse Knits offers a selection of simple projects with just enough fancy details to make them feel special, and the photos are wonderful. I want to move into this book; it looks so comfortable. (I’ll have to settle for knitting that Morning Brew Sweater…someday.)

For those of us who sometimes struggle with fit, Plus Size Knits is a great new collection of sweaters designed for larger figures, no additional math required. And, importantly, they’re extremely cute – a variety of styles, some with lace and some with interesting shapes. There’s something for everyone.

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps, and Stoles is a godsend for anyone who likes to knit shawls, because yes, there are thousands of free patterns, but sometimes you can’t find the thing that’s exactly what you need, and this book will help you figure out how to build it. If you like neatly organized diagrams, this is the book for you.

Wool Studio is one of those $400 sweater books, but they’re lovely sweaters (and they would still be lovely in a more affordable yarn). While a lot of knitting patterns are fun to make but difficult to wear, most of these projects are wardrobe staples that I can see wearing for years, and some of them are trendier updates of the same.

Alas, I can’t knit and look at lovely knitting books at the same time, so I’ll have to pick one or the other.

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

Book – There are two kinds of language: the formal, official language of grammar guides and English classes, and the way people actually write and talk and communicate. And what better way to see that than on the Internet, where billions of people write everything from formal blog posts to casual tweets to friends on a daily basis? Of course, writing isn’t speaking, which is why Internet users have developed things like the ~sarcastic tilde~ emphasis or the convention that typing in ALL CAPS is the equivalent of SHOUTING (I genuinely couldn’t bring myself to put more than a couple of words together in all caps; it feels so rude).

Gretchen McCulloch is a linguist who studies these things, everything from the differences in Twitter styles between different demographics to the grammatical structure of memes (it’s more rigid than you might think). I first heard of her when she was the Resident Linguist of the now-defunct website The Toast, but her work circulates in Internet circles on a regular basis. Her book is just as funny, insightful, and fascinating as her blog posts and podcast episodes. Anyone who’s interested in language and the way people adapt it to their needs will find Because Internet fascinating; anyone who’s ever sneered at chatspeak or Internet slang may find themselves a little more sympathetic after reading this book.

The Toll by Cherie Priest

Book – Titus and Melanie are on their honeymoon, driving out to a cabin in the middle of the Okefenokee Swamp where neither of them really want to be, when they cross a bridge that shouldn’t be there. When Titus wakes up, Melanie is gone, and so is the bridge. The locals in the nearby town of Staywater offer to put him up while he looks for his wife, but none of them seem to believe she’ll be found. Especially not Claire and Daisy, two little old ladies who know entirely too much about that bridge and what it demands of those who cross it.

Creepy small towns, ominous and mysterious wilderness, unknowable monsters and terrifyingly competent little old ladies – The Toll has everything you could want in a horror-adventure novel. While the atmosphere is tense and ghosts abound (both literal and metaphorical), I didn’t find this novel frightening as much as enjoyably spooky. Many of the characters are more annoying than sympathetic, but that’s all right, it means you don’t mind as much when bad things happen to them. Claire and Daisy, on the other hand, deserve a sequel of their own. If you like monster movies and Southern gothic, you’ll appreciate Cherie Priest’s newest novel.

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris

Book – You can absolutely judge a book by its cover, because I knew as soon as I saw this one that it was going to 1) be incredibly grotesque, 2) talk about one of my favorite historical topics (strange things people used to believe about the human body), and 3) contain exploding teeth. I’m horrified by the very thought, I had to read it.

This is a delightful collection of grotesque and horrifying stories about the strange things people used to believe about the human body, including, yes, exploding teeth. (Maybe. The author suggests some possible alternative explanations.) It covers everything from heroic and unlikely surgeries (saving lives by pinching blood vessels closed with bare hands!) to unlikely and undoubtedly worthless inventions (the tapeworm trap, which you were supposed to bait with cheese, swallow, and then pull out of your throat using the included string). This book is not for the weak of stomach, but if you’ve ever wanted to be enjoyably grossed out by medical history for a while, it’s a fun option. If you’d prefer to be grossed out by medical history in audio form, try the podcast Sawbones, which covers many of the same topics, hosted by a husband-and-wife comedian-and-doctor team.

The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling

Book – Gyre is determined to get off the mining planet she grew up on and to find her mother, who disappeared years ago. The easiest way to do that is as a caver, exploring the depths of the planet to find new sites for the mining companies that run the world. But caving is dangerous, so rather than take the time to build up a proper career and risk dying before she gets a chance to get out, Gyre’s faked her CV and signed on to one big job that should pay her enough to get offworld as soon as she’s done. Of course, there’s a reason this job pays so much, and it’s certainly not because it’s a normal caving expedition.

I never expected a novel about one person alone in a cave, sometimes talking with one person on the surface but sometimes not, to be so emotional. Gyre is a terrific character, stubborn and foolhardy and paranoid, and I was cheering her on even as I was cursing her terrible decisions. While the novel starts out almost like a horror novel, the deeper Gyre goes into the mystery of why she’s been sent into this particular cave and what happened there, the more the broader universe of mining corporations and alien predators – not to mention Gyre’s developing relationship with her handler, the woman who hired her for this expedition – comes into play. I adored The Luminous Dead and I can’t wait to see what Caitlin Starling does next.

The Favourite (2018)

Movie – In the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), early 18th century England, the physically and emotionally frail queen rules with the support of Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), her oldest and closest friend. When a cousin of Lady Sarah’s arrives at court, fallen on hard times and happy to take a job as a servant, Lady Sarah takes her under her wing, giving cousin Abigail a chance to regain her aristocratic status. War rages in France, Abigail (Emma Stone) takes advantage of Lady Sarah’s distraction to insinuate herself into the queen’s affections, and soon the war between the two women is as fierce as anything being fought on the Continent.

This is often described as a sex comedy, and while there’s quite a bit of sex and any number of funny moments, I wouldn’t call it a comedy – it’s far too bittersweet. The Favourite is a political story, full of backstabbing and dirty dealing, as nasty as anything out of House of Cards. It’s also a story about love and loyalty, including broken loyalties and broken hearts, and the particularly messy space occupied by women who love women in a time and social class when everyone must be married and produce heirs. This is a multi-layered film, and dismissing it as a sex comedy with good costumes (although the costumes are exceptional) is a great disservice.

The Bone Key by Sarah Monette

Book – Kyle Murchison Booth is an archivist at the Samuel Mathers Parrington Museum, and it causes him no end of trouble. He would very much like to be left alone with his books and his artifacts, but there are…things that won’t leave him alone. Things like an old school friend with a passion for necromancy, a necklace that carries more than memories of its old owner with it and a hidden tomb in his very own museum basement. Even a vacation won’t save him, if the hotel he winds up at is any indication.

Booth is the kind of character who really needs a hug, except if you did hug him he’d probably end up shaking from the trauma for days. He’s an immensely Lovecraftian character, more so than anyone else in these stories; in fact, I think he’s the only character who knows what kind of universe he’s in. Monette does a stellar job of building eerie tension without resorting to graphic violence or shock tactics — these are classy ghost stories.

As horror, the first few stories in this collection didn’t work so well for me, but the last two or three did. (Oooh, that hotel. *shudder*) As a modern take on Lovecraft, M.R. James and the early twentieth century ghost story, they’re all quite good. And as stories about Kyle Murchison Booth, they’re fantastic.

WPLD’s 40th Anniversary: Open House, Trivia Contest and More

It’s not every day a community gathering place turns 40. We want to show off a bit and take you for a walk down memory lane with photos, trivia and activities. On Sunday, April 7 we’ll be hosting an open house. Take a tour to see how far we’ve come in 40 years. Staff members will show off our spaces, features and amenities in our public areas and behind the scenes. Our tech gadgets and science kits will be on display. And we’ll have cake, too!

All week long, from April 7 through the 13th (that’s National Library Week!) we’ll run a trivia contest in the Library and on social media. Think you know literary events and pop culture through the past four decades? Give the correct answer to our daily trivia question and be entered to win a fun t-shirt and other prizes.