Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew has inspired adaptions in the largely successful musical, Kiss Me, Kate and the teen movie classic, 10 Things I Hate About You. Throughout the years Shakespeare’s play drew critical reviews and the various retellings provide their own meanings on the themes of the play. Anne Tyler lends her masterful craft in her novel Vinegar Girl: The taming of the shrew retold 
as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare collection where Shakespeare’s plays are reimagined by bestselling novelists.

The comedy’s story focuses on Kate Battista as the heroine who finds herself attempted at being tamed by Petruchio. Vinegar Girl is set in today’s world where marriages of convenience are a rarity but the ideal of marriage is still a real ambition. Taking care of her eccentric scientist father on the brink of a breakthrough and her younger and wilder sister, Kate is stuck figuring out her place in the world.

When Pyotr, her father’s irreplaceable lab assistant, is threatened with deportation, Kate is given a harrowing proposition to help the two men. What will Kate decide? And how will her decision impact the lives of everybody around her, especially her own?

Vinegar Girl is a short tale but is full of wit, humor, and an endearing set of characters. Tyler’s reimagination is in a way a response to the play’s original themes of gender roles, family, and a woman’s role in a marriage. The story is set in modern day Baltimore, Tyler’s iconic setting for her stories, so these themes are addressed with a contemporary perspective. It is hard to deny Kate the laud she deserves. She’s thrown into ridiculous situations and it is satisfying to watch her character develop towards the end.

If you enjoy Vinegar Girl, you’ll also enjoy these titles, all retellings of classic novels: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The trope of haters turned into lovers is not anything new in the realm of romantic comedies. Take classics such as When Harry Met Sally or Pride and Prejudice. Everyone loves a brooding male lead and a spitfire heroine who’s not afraid to stand up for herself. That’s exactly what you find in The Hating Game by Aussie newcomer Sally Thorne, but it’s a refreshing take on a timeless tale.

The novel features Lucy and Josh, colleagues who are vying for the same promotion open to only one victor. It’s a battle of wits, and their constant quick-fire discord lends itself to the humorous dialogue in the novel. A workplace environment is the perfect backdrop for the slow burn of tension between Lucy and Josh. And when the embers burn into flames, the romance between them sizzles.

Thorne captures the transformation of Lucy and Josh’s rivalry in an entertaining way. But what’s most satisfying about this pair is the emergence of a great friendship and the care they show for one another. The sweetness is as romantic as it is funny. Lucy is a truly funny character and her interactions with Josh are laugh out loud entertaining.

Lucy and Josh are characters who grow in this novel, which is what sets Sally Thorne apart as a writer. With each other’s support and help they find their own paths; their individual character development is crucial to the well-rounded plot. The story is more than Lucy and Josh’s romance and it’s good to be able to cheer our protagonists on.

If you enjoy The Hating Game, you’ll enjoy office romances such as Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz

Want to learn about amazing women who made American history as fast as you can sing your ABCs? Grab a copy of Rad American Women A-Z written by Kate Schatz with illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl. Each page is dedicated to each letter of the alphabet and accompanied by a rad lady whose first name starts with that letter. 

The short biographies portray the life these women led and their extraordinary accomplishments, many of whom had difficult childhoods. Written in a fun and conversational style, readers are engaged by these true stories. The women chosen for the book are all diverse as far as their cultural and racial backgrounds, the work they did throughout their lifetime, as well as the time period they were born in. But the one thing they have in common is the impact each of them had on people.

Rad American Women A-Z include a great assortment of amazing women, such as activists, scientists, artists, writers, athletes, and architects. What is refreshing about this youth nonfiction book is that it features inspiring women who may not be as well-known as other female icons. It provides a well-rounded collection of more women who have been an influence on American history.  

If you want to enjoy more inspiring books on inspiring women as Women’s History Month comes to a close, you can check out Amazing Women by Caryn Jenner, Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs for adults, and Rad women worldwide : artists and athletes, pirates and punks, and other revolutionaries who shaped history also by Kate Schatz for teens, all available through Virginia Beach Public Library. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

One Pan and Done by Molly Gilbert

I’m sure many people would agree with me when I say that cleaning up is the worst part of cooking. Because of that, I was excited to see a new book that came into the library. One Pan and Done makes the after-meal clean up simple without compromising great flavor. 

There are sections for breakfast foods, appetizers, vegetable dishes, poultry, fish, meats, and sweets. The one pan could be any common dish, from a cast iron skillet to a 9 x 13 pan or a Dutch oven. Many of the recipes still require a mixing bowl or two, but I am happy to say that everything I tried out of this book had minimal mess and easy clean up.

With over 100 recipes, I didn’t get a chance to try very much of what this book has to offer, but what I did try was great. I recommend the artichoke gratin, bacon biscuit bread, and ultimate oven mac & cheese. The baked eggplant parmesan is great, too, if you like paprika, but I’ll be cutting that ingredient back when I make it again.

For more low-mess recipes from the same author, try Sheet Pan Suppers.

Or branch out with:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Literary Wonderlands by Laura Miller

If you’ve ever wondered what the real locations might have been that influenced the voyages in Homer’s Odyssey, or which real-world scientific paper was the inspiration for H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, you need to check out Literary Wonderlands. This book offers a “journey through the greatest fictional worlds ever created” covering everything from Beowulf to Fahrenheit 451 to Inkheart and of course Game of Thrones.

The title promises a journey, but you’re getting a lot more than maps of fantasy worlds in this book. The sections on each book—usually done in two to four pages—might contain information about the author, the inspiration for the story, the philosophy behind the work, or anything else interesting and relevant. Beautiful artwork is reprinted along with each book discussed.
Learn something new about your favorite fantasy stories or discover a new world to read later.  

When you’re finished with Literary Wonderlands, try:
Curiosities of Literaturetrivia about different literary works
Plotted: A Literary Atlasmaps and information about famous literature

The Literature Booka tour through the history of literature looking at major trends and pioneering techniques 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits

Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a Danish word for the feeling of contentment, comfort, and connectedness. The word itself may not translate wonderfully into English, but the feeling is universal; it’s one of peace and relaxation in your favorite places with your favorite people. You might hygger (the act that makes you experience hygge) when you have coffee with a friend, sit down to dinner as a family, cook a meal together, or spend a summer evening around an outdoor fire. Hygge is the basic language of comfort.

This book will make you feel good, the way very few books can, as you think about just what hygge means for you.  Just reading The Book of Hygge evokes the feeling of being curled up in blankets with a cup and tea and a good book. A feeling which is also an example of hygge.

Brits never tells her readers how to hygge, believing it a thing we all do without realizing it. Nor does she aim to prescribe a certain amount of hygge that will make reader’s lives better. Even if you aren’t looking to change your habits or embrace a new routine, The Book of Hygge is a great read that will make you recall all of those lovely moments when you were perfectly content.   

There is more hygge in the Virginia Beach Public Library! After reading this try:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele

Like any social theory, the origins of Queer theory are deep, nuanced, and at times contradictory. But if you’re interested in learning about it, or just reaffirming what you already know, check out Queer: A Graphic History. Barker and Scheele explain some of the things queer can be: an umbrella term for the ever-expanding LGBTTQQIA, or a verb because queer is something that you do. And also what queer isn’t: a binary, it isn’t “us vs. them” and everyone’s identity is fluid.

Queer theory is an academic discipline that has involved thinkers and theorists for over one hundred years. Barker and Scheele’s easy-to-follow and visually interesting graphic novel explains the foundations of Queer theory, its development, and its strengths and weaknesses while avoiding academic jargon as much as possible. They explain some of the ways that prevailing western culture has been critiqued over the years by different social theorists and how contemporary queer theorists seek to question things.   

After you’ve read Queer:A Graphic History, check out some of these less theoretical books on LGBT rights in the VBPL collection:

When We Rise—a memoir of Cleve Jones, a famous gay rights activist

LGBT Hampton Roads—A local look at the LGBT movement

Or if it was the graphic format you particularly liked, try:

Love is Love—a comic anthology benefitting the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting