Monday, October 29, 2012

Follow us to our new location!

The Urbana Free Library has a snazzy new website, and with it comes a new location for this blog.You can find all future posts from us at our new address: Make sure to update your bookmarks and feeds in order to keep up with everything new and exciting at The Urbana Free Library!

Friday, October 26, 2012

New fall fiction!

Fall is my favorite time of year, and the cool weather and early evenings make it an ideal time to curl with a good book. Lucky for me, fall is also the time of year publishers tend to release many of their eagerly anticipated new books. Recently I read two new fiction releases that were particularly impressive: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple and Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a hilarious satire focusing on the Seattle family of Bernadette Fox after Bernadette mysteriously vanishes before a planned family trip to Antarctica. The book is presented as a file of documents compiled by Bernadette's daughter Bee to try to explain Bernadette's disappearance. The story unfolds in a series of emails between various characters ranging from officials at Bee's private school to Bernadette's former colleagues. Bernadette is a bit of an enigma herself, a woman with a past who shuns those around her in the wealthy Seattle society she inhabits, going so far as to hire a virtual assistant in India to make phone calls and email arrangements for her. While this novel presents a biting satire of a certain segment of society, it has a lot of heart and often made me laugh out loud.

Blasphemy is a career-spanning collection of stories from Sherman Alexie, a prolific author of short stories, poems, and novels. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington and his work often focuses on the modern lives of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. He won the National Book Award in 2007 for his semi-autobiographical (and controversial) young adult book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. The stories in Blasphemy range from stories from his first collection to recent stories published in magazines like The New Yorker. These stories explore universal themes of relationships and identity along with the thornier issues of American life, like race and class, with remarkable heart and humor. Whether you are already a fan of Sherman Alexie, or want a great introduction to his work, this moving collection is one to seek out.

What are your favorite new books of the season? Stop by the library and let us know or share in the comments!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Drums, Flutes and Marimba at the Urbana Free Library

It was a full house for yesterday's UFLive! concert featuring the new group Costas playing the lively music of the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Colombia and Ecuador.  Drums pounding, flutes singing, and lots of applause...  Next UFLive! concert: Black Coffee Friday (recently featured in the News Gazette) on Sunday afternoon, November 18 at 2:00pm. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Weird tales and Frightful stories

With the leaves falling and the temperature dropping, it's time to think about my favorite holiday, Halloween! To get you in the mood for the season check out some of my favorite titles that evoke the dark side of autumn:

Noctuary by Thomas Ligotti
Noctuary (what the author describes as a "night diary") is the third collection of Ligotti's short horror stories issued by Subterranean Press. Ligotti is known for his powers of description, and this collection bears that out. In each tale the author creates an atmosphere thick with impending doom almost immediately, and skillfully builds tension from this setting. Secret bookstores, crumbling estates, boogiemen, and a child who conjures evil through the forbidden books of his father are all part of this wonderful collection.

From ChomĂ» press, The Dracula papers Book I, The scholar's tale is the first in a four part series that examines the backstory of Count Vladimir Dracula. Here we see Vlad as a heroic young aristocrat madly in love, on a grand and macabre adventure that includes battles, a burning rhinoceros, and a mechanical flying turtle. Although the rollicking pace is usual to lighter stories, here author Reggie Oliver takes us on a tour of 16th century Europe that  renders the occult as an expected and usual part of everyday life, with very dark overtones. Like Noctuary, the descriptive talent of the author is the major strength of this work, and makes for an extremely entertaining book perfect for the season.

Another title that takes a more charitable look at the monster from an earlier work is (the aptly titled) Monster: a novel of Frankenstein by Dave Zeltserman. Here we get an account of the famous story by Mary Shelley from the point of view of the man who came to inhabit the body of Dr. Frankenstein's creation. A young apothecaries assistant, Friedrich Hoffmann, is executed as the murderer of his fiancé. He awakes from death as the creature, and plots revenge. This entails an adventure that pits our protagonist against Dr. Frankenstein, a group of wealthy satanists, the populations of various small towns and even the Marquis De Sade. Great stuff!
Check out these titles and much more in your library's horror section! Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Talking Twain at the Urbana Free Library

Have you had a chance to pick up a copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?   People all over Champaign-Urbana are reading the classic as part of this year’s CU Reading: Two Cities, One Book.  There are great cultural programs for all ages at both the Urbana Free Library and the Champaign Public Libraries.  Here at the Urbana Free Library you can attend an amazing free performance by the Station Theatre, a guest appearance by the Storyteller–In-Residence from the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, and a Treasure Hunt especially for kids.  Check out the full schedule of events here.

This Monday, October 8 at 7:00pm we’ll be taking on one of the most provocative and controversial  themes in Twain’s books – his views of race and ethnicity.  Was Twain racist?  What is the message from his books about African Americans and American Indians?  We hope you’ll come with your own questions and opinions to what promises to be a very thought-provoking conversation.  We’re lucky two have to guest speakers who will get the discussion started:  RobertWarrior (Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois) and Bruce Michelson  (Director of the University of Illinois Campus Honors Program andthe former president of the Mark Twain Circle of America).  Hope to see you there!