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GEPL Teens: Great Historical Fiction

Teens Blog BannerHistorical fiction is a funny thing.  I find when I read it that a lot of times, it feels a lot like reading fantasy.  Not because all fantasy is based in historical times (although much of it is,) but because often the time period I’m reading about is so different from our own times that it might as well be another world.  That said, historical fiction does offer something fantasy can’t – a fresh look at a real event.  Fantasy can offer perspective on human actions, and sometimes even re-write history.  But the historical fiction perspective is something different.  Good historical fiction thrives on good research, but is of course fiction, which allows for this new perspective.  And speaking for myself, historical fiction almost always teaches me something or makes me interested in learning something about the period.

But of course most importantly, good historical fiction – like any good fiction – is fun to read.  So check out these historical fiction novels set in Tudor England:

Blog Entry 34 - Image 1The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope – This is the book that made me think of the Tudor period for this list.  The Perilous Gard is one of my absolute favorite books, and Kate is one of my absolute favorite heroines.  When Kate is banished at Queen Mary’s order, she is taken to a house arrest of sorts at the Perilous Gard, an isolated castle in the forests of England owned by the Heron family.  There she finds a mystery surrounding her host and his brother, as well as rumors about an ancient and dangerous race of fairies.  Before she knows it, her curiosity gets her much more deeply involved with the Herons and the Fair Folk than she could have imagined.

Blog Entry 34 - Image 2Tarnish, by Katherine LongshoreTarnish is one of admittedly many takes on Anne Boleyn, looking at her life at court before she became queen, and her relationship with courtier Thomas Wyatt.  Anne is an outcast when she first comes to court, and struggles to find a place.  When Thomas Wyatt takes her under his wing, he assures her that if she plays his game, she will find acceptance at court.  Anne agrees, but what neither of them count on is that the stakes of their game will be raised when they start to fall for each other…and Anne attracts the attention of King Henry VIII.

Blog Entry 34 - Image 3VIII, by H.M. Castor – This book is another story involving King Henry VIII, but this time from his own perspective.  VIII introduces us to Hal, the young Henry before he became king.  He is a good fighter, an idealist, and determined to not rule like his family has.  But as Hal grows into all his powers and privileges as King Henry VIII, it will be harder to escape his past – and harder to control his future.  Like BBC’s The Tudors, VIII starts with a Henry very different from the fat balding man with a string of deserted and dead wives behind him that most of us are used to thinking of.  But throughout the novel, Castor shows us how he became that man.

Blog Entry 34 - Image 4The Fool’s Girl, by Celia ReesShakespeare in Love gave us one suggestion about the inspiration for Twelfth Night, but The Fool’s Girl gives us a wholly new one.  Violetta is the daughter of Viola and Orsino, the lead characters in Twelfth Night.  She arrives in England, accompanied by the fool Feste, to try and stop a plot of the villainous Malvolio.  There she meets Shakespeare, who hears her story – leading to him writing his famous play – and assists her and Feste.  Combining characters from Shakespeare’s plays and historical figures of his time, The Fool’s Girl will appeal to fans of Shakespeare, fans of historical fiction, and fans of engaging and awesome heroines.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Announcing Homework Cafe

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 33 - ImageNew program announcement!  Late Night Study was awesome you guys.  At least for us.  And I hope, despite the studying, for you all.  You certainly seemed to enjoy it, based on the amount of pizza eaten and hot chocolate drunk.  So much so, that I started thinking it seems unfair to only offer that twice a year.  Plus, I noticed how many teenagers come to the library every day after school, and how you’re usually working your butts off.

So going back to my old “how to make anything in the world better” standby, I decided that hot chocolate and caffeine are obviously the best way to make the daily homework grind better.  So a couple weeks ago, we launched “Homework Café” – your one-stop shop for study space and hot drinks after school.

Every Thursday afternoon from 2:30-4:30, we will be serving coffee and hot chocolate in the Teen Scene for teenagers.  Like Late Night Study, you can take your drink anywhere in the library (as long as it’s covered!) or stay in our awesome teen room to study, chat, or whatever else you’re whiling away your after school time with.

I’m excited that this program has already gone smoothly twice in a row, and I’m looking forward to fulfilling your chocolate and caffeine needs for the rest of the semester!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Why I Love…The Girl of Fire and Thorns

Teens Blog BannerThis may already be obvious, but when I love something, I tend to really love it, and talk about it a lot.  Which is why you’ll often see me mention the same authors or books several times – it’s not really conscious, I just can’t help myself.  So I thought I’d try doing a few posts explaining why I love these particular authors or books (or characters or movies or TV shows or whatevers) so much.  I’m not promising I will stop referencing them, but maybe it’ll get them out of my system just a little bit.

Blog Entry 32 - ImageToday, I thought I’d start with one of the worst offenders, The Girl of Fire and Thorns series by Rae Carson.  I believe I’ve included this book in at least two or three lists and personally recommended it to at least a few people.  There’s so much good about it that I can’t possibly write about it all in one short blog entry.  But I’ll try!So just why do I love this series so much?

Because Elisa is wicked cool and strong without it being all about physical strength – Look, I love Katniss, Tris, and a good workout as much as the next person.  But both Katniss and Tris rely a lot on their physical prowess and strength to survive, to win, to accomplish their goals.  It’s wonderful to see a different type of heroine.  Elisa reminds me of Hermione a little bit in her book-smartness, but she’s got something else going too.  Although it takes her a while to realize it and let this skill flourish, Elisa also has people-smarts.  She understands people, including how to manipulate them, and she uses this.  She’s not physically weak – very early on in the first book, she kills a man to protect someone – but she is much more reliant on her mental and emotional abilities than her physical ones.

Because Hector! – I hope I’m not spoiling too much when I say that Hector becomes a big character in this series, even moreso after the first book.  And he is wonderful.  It’s so great to see a fascinating, complicated, attractive male character who does all this without being “bad” in any way shape or form.  It would be so easy to make Hector interesting by giving him a much darker side than he really has.  It would also be really easy for Hector, since he is so freaking good, to be extremely boring.  But Carson does a masterful job of creating a complex, complicated and charming character without making him bad or boring.

Because Elisa is not even close to thin, and that’s okayAnd – Elisa never gets skinny.  It’s just so dang refreshing to read about.  Granted, at the start of The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa has an unhealthy relationship with food.  She eats when she’s not hungry, she eats as comfort, as protection.  She eats without thinking about it, often to the point of discomfort.  She is dominated by her food cravings.  BUT – never once is her weight the problem.  Only her relationship with food.  And when – minor spoiler – she has no choice but to eat less and exercise more, she is still not skinny.  Yes, she loses some weight.  Yes, she breaks her unhealthy food cycles.  Yes, she gains muscle and physical strength.  But she’s never going to be a skinny girl – which doesn’t make her any less of an amazing heroine, doesn’t make her any less attractive to people who matter, and doesn’t stop her from enjoying the heck out of some really delicious honey cakes.

Add on top of all these things some really outstanding world-building and character development, and I just can’t think of any reason not to love The Girl of Fire and Thorns series.  Don’t believe me?  Read it yourself and find out!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Pets and Clothes?

Teens Blog BannerOkay guys, I’m still sick of winter, despite the warmer days, and I think it’s starting to sap my inspiration.  So instead of any discussion about a famous literary character, or a booklist, or anything librarian-ish and literature-ish like that, I’m going to my old standby for humor and cheerfulness – adorable pictures of animals.  So I present to you:

Five Reasons You Should Not Embarrass Your Pet With Clothing

1. The results can veer disturbingly into the uncanny valley.

Blog Entry 31 - Image 1

2. Your adorable pig might start plotting murder.

Blog Entry 31 - Image 2

3. Your cat will definitely start plotting, then commit, murder.

Blog Entry 31 - Image 3

4. That shirt will have hair in it FOREVER.

Blog Entry 31 - Image 4

5. You will NEVER get over this kind of guilt!

Blog Entry 31 - Image 7  Blog Entry 31 - Image 6

  Blog Entry 31 - Image 8  Blog Entry 31 - Image 5

Posted in GEPL Teens

Learn to Maximize Your Healthcare Dollars During GEPL’s Health Insurance Program

news-blog-bannerConfused about your health insurance options in 2014? Join Lori Martin, President of Envision Benefit Specialists on February 19 at 7pm for an informative discussion about healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act and Medicare updates.

“The healthcare and Medicare landscapes are changing at such a rapid pace that it has become difficult to truly understand your healthcare options and make an informed decision about whether to stick with your current plan or shop for a new plan,” says Marketing Coordinator Anthony McGinn. “We wanted to provide the Glen Ellyn community with an opportunity to learn from a healthcare expert and present them with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the healthcare industry.”

Martin will cover a wide variety of topics including: Medicare changes, healthcare trends, public exchanges, tax credits, marketplace subsidies and how to manage benefit costs.

Click here to register for How to Maximize Your Healthcare Dollars and Save.

Posted in GEPL News

Glen Crest Middle School Presents: Fine Arts Night on 2/18

news-blog-bannerOn Tuesday, February 18 the Glen Crest Middle School will host a Fine Arts Night  at the Glen Ellyn Public Library from 6 to 8pm.

Join Glen Crest Middle School on the library’s second floor as they display works of art in various mediums including videos, music, sculpture and home arts.

GC Fine Arts Night Logo text

Posted in GEPL Kids, GEPL News, GEPL Tweens

GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Midwinterblood

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 30 - ImageSo now that the American Library Association has announced their youth media award winners, I’m back on lots of award reading!  Currently the book of choice is the winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

What I’m Reading Now: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumor has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visitor arrives. He is greeted warmly, but something is wrong. Something is hidden on the far side of the island. Something that, as if in a dream, he cannot reach.

And so it is that under the light of the waxing and waning moon, seven stories unfold: the story of an archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact; of an airman who finds himself far from home; of a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking. And the story of a love so primal and passionate it slips the bonds of time.

This is the story of Midwinterblood.

Do I Like It: Let’s just say it is abundantly clear why this book won an award!

Thoughts: I don’t even know where to start with Midwinterblood.  In a way it’s like a short story collection, except that the same two characters appear in some form in all the stories.  And each story is part of a larger story, so it has a much more connected narrative thread.  That I’m reading backwards.  I kind of want to go back to re-read all the chapters in reverse order when I’m done.  And I guess that says something, that I’m not even done yet and I already want to re-read it!

So, this kind of confused excitement is most of what I feel about Midwinterblood, but I’ll try to give a little more of a review.  The characters of Eric and Merle, two connected souls finding each other through different lives, are what hold the novel together and bring each shorter episode into the larger story.  Each story in Midwinterblood so far has been really unique, despite the fact that they all have Eric and Merle in them.  But the stories are so different tonally, and the characters come at different ages and with different relationships to each other, so each story feels fresh.  Some of them – like the opening story – get my “doom sense” tingling.  Other ones, like “The Painter”, have more of a sad sweetness about them.  Nothing is completely free of the overwhelming creepiness of the island and the mystery of who Eric and Merle are and why their lives keep connecting.

Sedgwick’s writing is wonderful.  He does a great job creating the eerie but still beautiful and seductive island of Blessed.  At this point, I’m half in love with the island and half terrified of it.  He makes even the littlest things – an apple, a hare – important and appealing and delightful.  It’s easy to see why this book won a prize known for honoring “literary” books.

Midwinterblood isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever read before, but I’m really enjoying it for its own sake – and for the experience of reading something so fresh.  Midwinterblood is a great read for anyone who likes more “gothic” kind of creepy, as well as anyone who likes intergenerational stories or just really great writing.  I’m definitely enjoying it, eeriness and all!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Someplace Warm

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 29 ImageAs opposed to my last couple displays, the newest book display in the Teen Scene makes perfect sense for me.  I find right about February every year is when I start getting sick of winter.  Really, really sick of it.  Now, generally speaking, I’m a cold weather kind of girl.  Most of the time, I think any temperature about 80 degrees is way too hot.  I like boots and scarves and jeans.  But after three months of winter – especially this winter – I start to think fondly of shorts.  Of walking outside without having to put on extra layers.  I even start to think fondly of sweating (which, let’s be clear, is terrible.)

Unfortunately, I can’t take the month of February off to go to Florida every year, which would obviously be the ideal solution.  But I’ve found just escaping mentally for a few hours someplace warmer can make all the difference.  When I read The Blue Sword I can practically feel the desert sun pounding down on me.  When I immerse myself in Persis Blake’s world in Across a Star-Swept Sea, I fall asleep thinking of tropical drinks, turquoise seas, and whatever the heck frangipani smells like (can anyone help with that?)  When I listen to Legend in my car, I feel like I could be fighting my way through a dystopian (but still toasty!) Los Angeles.

And ultimately, this is one of the best things about books in any situation – they can transport us somewhere else.  They can allow us to see and experience things that we never will, or at least that we can’t right now.  Or they can guide us through something so relatable that the book feels like an alternate version of our own life, and we almost believe we are living it.  Either way, novels allow us to be in the book.  And so for this month, when winter feels like it will never end and summer seems way too far away, I hope you’ll agree with me that the best possible place for a book to take anyone right now is someplace warm.

Posted in GEPL Teens

Celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympics with the GEPL!

news-blog-bannerThe Glen Ellyn Public Library is excited to announce a series of programming inspired by the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The library will throw several Winter Olympic Viewing Parties where community members can come together and cheer on Team USA during various events including figure skating, men’s hockey, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, bobsledding any more! Winter Olympic Viewing Parties will be held on Saturdays, February 8 through February 22 from 9am to 1pm.

On Sunday, February 9th GEPL members can view the award winning PBS documentary Age of Champions and watch as five elderly competitors triumph over age during the National Senior Games. After the film, guests can meet 2013 Senior Games competitor and Personal Best Award winner Bob O’Connor, who will discuss his experience after the film. The Age of Champions program runs from 2 to 4pm.

Families who enjoy friendly competition can attend GEPL’s Uno Olympics event at 2pm on Saturday, February 22nd. During Uno Olympics,thirty-six Uno players will compete for an Olympic-size prize. Due to limited space, advanced registration is strongly encouraged by calling the Information Desk at 630-790-6630.

Finally, adults ages 18 and older, can join Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Winter Reading Club. Participants will receive one iPod raffle entry for every book read between February 6th and February 24th. The first 100 people to register at gepl.org/winter will receive a stainless steel water bottle. Individuals can register at gepl.org/winter.

For more information on Winter Olympics programming, please visit gepl.org.

Posted in GEPL News

GEPL Teens: Holden Caulfield

teens-blog-bannerCatcherSo I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Holden Caulfield.  And as weird as that sounds, this isn’t actually abnormal for me.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Holden Caulfield.  In fact, I had a pretty big crush on Holden when I was a teenager (crushes on fictional characters are totally real and totally legit guys!  Despite the fact that your crush will clearly go nowhere.)

But what brought on this most recent round of Holden-centric thought was a conversation I had with a family friend last week.  This family friend – about my parents’ age – recently re-read Catcher in the Rye, and found that she didn’t like it.  At all.  This was a surprise because she remembered reading it as a teenager and loving it.

There tends to be a sharp divide about Holden.  Most people either LOVE Catcher in the Rye, which usually means they love Holden despite his faults, or HATE Catcher in the Rye because they can’t stand Holden.  The complaints usually include some or all of these issues: that he’s whiny, he’s over-privileged and unappreciative, that he’s as phony as the phonies he complains about thus making him a hypocrite, that he’s just plain annoying, and more.  Interestingly enough though, I agree with most of this – but it doesn’t make Holden any less interesting or likable to me.  I love him because when I’m reading about him, he’s real.  I love him because he’s deeply damaged but still tries to reach out to other people and form connections.  I love him because for all his whininess and privilege, he’s also funny and compassionate and smart.

But I also think the reason some people like him and some people don’t simply has to do with when they read the book (like my friend who loved the book as a teenager and couldn’t stand it as an adult,) as well as – ultimately – how much the individual in question likes teenagers.  I’m not in any way saying that all teenagers are like Holden, or that all teenagers will like Holden.  But so much of him is directly related to his adolescence, to the conflicting forces of change and nostalgia in him, and to the fact that he is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants his relationship with the world to be.  Plenty of teenagers can’t stand Holden either, but I still think that whether or not a reader can understand and sympathize with Holden’s difficult adolescence makes a huge difference in whether or not a reader will like Catcher in the Rye.

So I suggest giving Holden another chance, and giving Catcher in the Rye another chance.  Even if you still don’t like Holden, the book is a masterpiece, and absolutely worth your time.  And if I can’t convince you, maybe John Green can:

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 1)

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 2)

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 3)

What do you think?  Have you always loved Holden?  Have John Green and I convinced you to give him the benefit of the doubt?  Or are you still on the “whiny and obnoxious” side of things?

Posted in GEPL Teens