Goodreads: Age of the Witch Series: Silk #2 Age Category: Adult Source: Library Publication Date: 2022
Cindy Moon is trying to find her place in the world and discover what inspires her. But an ancient witch has awoken and is stealing the energy of young people. And, of course, Silk is the witch’s next target! Cindy will have to uncover the secrets of Korean magic and navigate the strange world of social media in order to defeat her latest enemy.
Cindy Moon continues to inspire in the latest installment of her adventures. Newly returned to the world after spending years in a bunker, she is trying to find her place in life by doing good–acting as the superhero Silk, but also chasing leads as a newspaper reporter. Still, something seems missing and Cindy wants to find out what motivates her, what makes her unique. Even though she has superpowers, Cindy feels both relatable and aspirational–a character who doubts herself at times, but who has a desire to grow and become the best that she can. Each Silk story I read gives me just a little more hope that good people are out there, and they are working to change the world.
Cindy’s stories are delightful not only because of her kindness, however, but also because of the subtle humor that then turns into social commentary. Even though she is young, Cindy has missed out on a lot during her time hidden away. So it is funny to watch older generations assume she must be wonderful with technology and a pro at social media. Aspects of life that readers take for granted take on new significance through Cindy’s eyes, and it becomes clear that things do not have to be the way they are. Cindy’s removal from the world allows her to question it.
Cindy, for instance, really does not understand influencers, and that is just the starting point for a reflection on the role of social media in society, the power given to individuals we do not even know, and the dangers of pursuing internet fame at all costs. I appreciated the depiction of an influencer who puts himself in the way of physical harm, for instance, to get more likes. And I even wish the story had gone further, and perhaps explored the rising trend of fake news to generate controversy, and thus more exposure. A trend that arguably tech companies participate in and encourage since more views means money. But admittedly there is not room for a complete survey of social media and its problems. It is refreshing to see a story touch on even aspects of it, instead of assuming that the internet/progress must be celebrated unequivocally.
Indeed, the social media aspect of the book is perhaps more dominant that the titular witch, though the witch is the catalyst for the story. The witch allows Cindy to explore her cultural heritage a bit more, and later inspires her to continue doing so. Altogether, however, I must admit that I think the witch is a bit under-developed, even with her compelling backstory. The point the witch makes about social media influencers being like religious leaders is more interesting than anything the witch herself actually does.
Cindy Moon is such a delightful character that it is a shame she does not seem to appear in more comics. I will, however, continue to read her volumes as they come out because I love how earnest she is, how desirous she is to do good, how convinced she is that the world itself is good. Superhero stories should be uplifting. They should inspire. And Cindy’s always do.
We love libraries here at Pages Unbound! And, because of that, we also know there is always so much more to learn, even for avid library users. Below are a few of my tips for getting the most out of your public library. Feel free to leave your own tips in the comments!
Search the catalog for books you want to read before the release date. This ensures you will be among the first to borrow them.
Did you know that libraries often put books in the catalog before the book hits the shelves? Sometimes even before the book is released? If you search for a book before the release date, it may show up with a tag like, “On order,” or, “Being catalogued.” This means the book is being purchased and the library is getting it ready by putting all the labels on it and coding it so it is ready for checkout. You can still place a hold on it, though! And if you are early and fast enough, you will be among the first (if not the first) on the wait list!
Use the Suggest a Purchase form to borrow books your library does not have–and get on the wait list early.
If you do not see the book you want to borrow, you can ask the library to buy it. This works for new releases and other titles you are interested in. I especially like to put in purchase requests for new releases that are not in the catalog because the library will then put that title on hold for me. I don’t have to remember to put it on hold later, and I will theoretically be number one on the wait list!
Take advantage of interlibrary loan to borrow books from across the U.S. (Also usually works for DVDs, audiobooks, and CDs.)
I often hear people complain that their library does not offer all the books they want. Sometimes this is due to space or budget constraints. But, fear not! Most U.S. public libraries offer interlibrary loan. You just fill out a form and a librarian will contact another library to have the book send to you. I have seen some libraries charge a nominal fee for this service, but it is still cheaper than buying the book if you are on a budget.
Visit the library website often to be among the first to register for cool programs and free giveaways.
Library programs that are especially cool are often quick to fill, so I make sure to visit the website regularly to make sure I am aware of all upcoming programs, events, and giveaways. This is helpful, too, because even though the library social media team does a wonderful job with advertising, the library offers way too much for it all to appear on any one social media platform. (Pro tip: Not all library websites are created equal/updated regularly, but the events calendar at least is usually current, even if not beautiful.)
Use the comment form to offer suggestions such as ideas for new services or future programs.
Libraries usually take their mission to serve the public seriously, and I have generally gotten the sense that the library had looked into my suggestions even if they could not all be implemented at the time. Any time I read a news article about a cool service another library offers, I have passed this on in some way–a survey response, a talk with a staff member, a comment form. So if you are wondering why your library cannot offer a type of outreach event you have seen elsewhere, or why they do not circulate some non-book item you have seen others circulate (think video games, STEM kits, museum passes, etc!), or anything else, why not…ask? The library wants to know that its services are reaching people and being appreciated, so the staff will in all likelihood start looking at the feasibility of at least some of these suggestions. And don’t worry if you don’t hear back. Sometimes I didn’t hear back–but I saw my idea being implemented later, anyway. Whether I was the inspiration or just confirmation that the service was welcome didn’t matter–I felt like my feedback had ultimately been heard.
Ask about any non-book items you can borrow.
Many libraries now offer what is called a “library of things”–anything from seeds to museum passes to telescopes to art kits. If you aren’t certain what the library has on offer, you can ask at the desk or peruse the website to see what is available. Sometimes what is on offer can be surprising, and not anything you would have thought to ask about specifically!
If you have a large or complex request, consider calling ahead.
I’ve seen other people do this and it makes a lot of sense! Sometimes people have very specific requests, like they are looking for historical fiction about a certain time period for a specific grade. Maybe they are homeschooling or want a selection of books for their class. If it’s going to take the librarians a bit of time to look up and track down a bunch of titles, ask if it’s more convenient for them if you call ahead and have them gather a selection that will be ready for you to peruse when you arrive. They will be able to work in the request at a time when they may not be as busy at the desk, and you will not have to follow them around awkwardly for fifteen minutes while they search the collection.
Talk to library staff whenever you have a question or concern.
Yes, I’ve had poor experiences with library staff over the years, but, most of the time, they really are there to help. If you notice something like book three of the series you are reading is missing, let them know. They might order it for you. Or if you have a hold that is about to expire, but something prevented you from picking it up, call and see if they are able to extend the hold for a day or two. Many people never approach the library desk for a variety of reasons. But often talking to a staff member can lead to solutions you did not know were available. (Pro tip: Being nice always results in better outcomes than yelling!)
Contact the branch that is responsible for a specific event or program.
I always like to contact the branch that is responsible for a specific program, event, giveaway, or initiative. It may feel awkward to do this if they are not the usual branch you go to, but the staff there will presumably know more about the topic and will be able to help you more easily. They may also offer courtesies for you that other branches will not simply because the staff at other branches do not want to step on anyone’s toes, or offer a courtesy they are not sure their colleagues can fulfill. It’s always best to go right to the source!
Take time to explore the library website.
When I have time, I just click around the library website to see what is on offer. This is how I have discovered useful databases for myself and family members, ongoing initiatives that may not be getting advertised at the moment, useful newsletters I can sign up for, non-book items that get circulated, and more. Sometimes I even browse the library websites of friends and family so I can pass on information they might not have known about. How would they know to sign up all their little ones for something like the Imagination Library unless I sent them a link, right? Library websites are really a trove of information, even if some are admittedly out-of-date and hard to navigate. Checking back regularly means I am less likely to miss out on something spectacular.
What are your tips for getting the most out of your library visits?
The third episode of The Rings of Power picks up some threads of mystery that watchers have been avidly discussing since the first two installments, and I was interested to see exactly how much was answered. There are still people convinced, for instance, that Halbrand is Sauron, even though the show says pretty plainly he’s some disinherited king of the Southlands, which was my theory. He’s clearly being set up as some sort of parallel to Aragorn, though I also like the theory he’ll end up as one of the Nazgul. Maybe he’ll take one of the Rings to try to save his people, but it backfires, etc. I don’t buy the running theories that Sauron is actually more than one person, so presumably Adar AND Halbrand? (Or Celebrimbor, according to some people, which I find delightfully hilarious.)
But beyond getting some answers, did I like this episode? The answer is a resounding yes! I missed some of the characters from the first two (like Elrond, Celebrimbor, Durin, and Disa), but I liked Arondir much more than I have previously. He shows more range, and you can see that he cared for the other Elves he had been working with in the Watchtower, which was not a sense I’d actually gotten before in the show. too bad they’re dead now. It would have been even more gut-wrenching if their relationship had been build up previously.
This episode also crushed my vision of the Harfoots, however. We see them chanting, “No one goes off path, and nobody walks alone.” But apparently this is not a promise they will stick by one another. It’s a threat that they won’t! If you’re slow, you get left behind. Cue a ceremony remembering all those left behind i past migrations, only some for legitimate reasons, and then the decision to basically ditch the Brandyfoots rather than have someone help pull the cart. It’s dark.
Numenor was definitely a highlight of the show. It’s gorgeous. We get to meat Elendil and Isildur and see hints of what’s to come. Miriel is aggravating but seems to know more than she is letting on. I’m not sure I love that Galadriel is here. So much of her plot seems to be the showrunners trying to make other stuff happen that she’s just the vehicle for. Here it’s getting more information about Sauron and Halbrand from the Hall of Lore. I hope her plot gets better as the show goes on.
I’ve said that episode 3 would be the real test of how much I liked the show and whether I’d be willing to pay for a month of Prime to finish the season, and I think the answer is yes. I don’t love it as much as the movies, and there are choices I certainly find odd, but it’s growing on me and I want to see what happens next.
Goodreads: Empty Smiles Series: Small Spaces #4 Age Category: Middle Grade Source: Library Published: 2022
Three months ago, Ollie made a bargain with the smiling man. She would go with him, in exchange for the life of her father. Her friends would have one chance to save her. Now she spends her days trapped in a traveling carnival–one where people disappear. She has to figure out the rules of the game, and fast–but the game has already begun. The finale to the Small Spaces quartet.
As the final book in the Small Spaces quartet, Empty Smiles might, one assume, take particular care to build up to a riveting cliffhanger and a satisfying conclusion to the characters and their story. It might, one assume, take care to fulfill the promises of earlier books, focusing on Phil’s point of view, revealing more about the origins of the smiling man and his games, providing closure. Empty Smiles does none of this. Rather, the book feels like a student paper written the night before and handed in just as the clock turns midnight. The pages have been filled with words to satisfy the assignment, but the content just isn’t there. This series may have started out with critical acclaim, but reading four books just to get to a lackluster climax and rushed ending is an experience sure to sour many fans. I really cannot recommend Empty Smiles to anyone except those who need to be completionists at any cost.
So far, the books in the quartet have followed a similar premise. The smiling man makes some sort of bargain with the protagonists and the children must play a game to either escape his webs or be trapped forever. Ollie, Coco, and Brian each received a story from their perspective, and it seemed like book four was set to be Phil’s book. Phil does keep complaining about feeling a “less-good Ollie” and wanting a moment to prove himself. And I really thought he would! I kept waiting to hear the story from his point of view! But this never happens. Instead, Arden conveniently removes Phil from the plot, leaving Ollie, Coco, and Brian to solve the puzzle alone! What a bait and switch!
But this is not the only broken promise created by the book. The story leads up with great care to the final puzzle, the one the readers have all been waiting for. The smiling man tells Ollie’s friends that they must find three keys, and Ollie begins searching. One might think that this final game would receive a lot of attention from the author, with much drama, suspense, and action. One would be wrong. The puzzle is solved easily in the last ten pages (or even fewer!) of the book! The story could have used at least another 50 pages to wrap up decently, but those final pages at the end are actually excerpts from the previous three books in the series. Empty Smiles just abruptly ends, almost mid-scene! I truly wondered if Arden was about the miss the publishing deadline and just wrote something in twenty minutes and pressed submit. But her editors should have stopped her.
And the smiling man? Empty Smiles does a lot of work to (oddly, I thought) almost humanize him and make readers feel sympathy for him. I was mildly appalled, since this is a man who kidnaps people and turns them into scarecrows, but maybe there was going to be some message about the good in everyone, the complexity of people, the possibility of redemption. Well, there isn’t. I can respect that Arden would not really want to reveal too much about the smiling man or make him seem too human. The mystery is what makes him magical and scary. But then why build up all this, “Oh, maybe he’s lonely and not so bad after all?” feeling? Why work so hard on that aspect of the book while ignoring the entire final puzzle? The book feels more like a draft than a finished manuscript.
I liked the premise of the creepy carnival well enough, even if scary hunting clowns are not that scary, to be honest. And kind of reminiscent of the hunting monster and scarecrows from previous books. But I respect a good creepy carnival. I do. But that is one of the few really redeeming qualities of this book. Had it gone in for another round of editing, I think Empty Smiles could have been really great. I’m just not sure what happened to make a critically acclaimed author turn in an half-finished book.
Goodreads: A Pocket Full of Rye Series: Miss Marple #7 Age Category: Adult Source: Library Published: 1953
Businessman Rex Fortescue is found dead in his office after drinking a cup of tea. But why does he have a pocket full of rye? Only the mind of Miss Marple is keen enough to realize the significance of the action, and how it ties in to a decades-old wrong.
So far I have enjoyed my read through Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books immensely. Christie’s shrewd mind not only routinely provides readers with unexpected plot twists and seemingly unsolvable mysteries, but also offers keen observations of human nature. Sadly, however, though I found A Pocket Full of Rye a perfectly serviceable book, I do not think it one of Christie’s finest. I prefer mysteries that readers have a sporting chance of solving, but A Pocket Full of Rye ends abruptly with information discovered off-page by our amateur sleuth. The mystery thus starts out in a promising manner, but may leave readers ultimately unsatisfied.
Many of Christie’s mysteries seem to follow the formula of one murder begetting multiple murders, and A Pocket Full of Rye proves no exception. However, Christie’s trick is to take an old formula and so something new with it. In this case, the police (with the aid of Miss Marple) must figure out the connection between a pocket full of rye and a dead man. More clues emerge, but Miss Marple’s explanation still puzzles the police. Where is the method in the madness? I admit I could not figure it out and still think it a conceit that was created merely for novelty, and not because it makes a lot of sense in the story.
The characters sadly are almost all rather disagreeable, so there are few figures for readers to sympathize with or cheer on. Miss Marple and Inspector Craddock, of course, prove the exception, as the ones attempting to bring the murderer to justice. But the reality is that, once a person knows how this book ends, I am not sure if there will be enough to bring them back for a second read. Christie is a masterful storyteller with incisive prose, of course, but there is just no joy to be found in spending time with the characters here.
The ending itself is rather disappointing. Miss Marple seems to make several leaps of logic to scenarios that are highly implausible–but that turn out (of course) to be correct. Normally, a good mystery should give the reader an aha! moment, a sense of satisfaction and completion. A Pocket Full of Rye does not really do that because the solution seems to come from nowhere. The ending feels like it needs more lead-up, as well as a bit more to tie up the loose ends.
A Pocket Full of Rye is a solid mystery, certainly one worth reading by any fans of Agatha Christie’s. I do not, however, see myself prioritizing it for a reread in the future.
Yesterday, the Orangutan Librarian published a post on why she will not be watching Rings of Power, which made me realize that, while I had initially been skeptical of the series and had no intention whatsoever of watching a show that is based on so little canon material that the writers inevitably must be making up much of the plot, and which was early-on plagued by rumors that made it sound like it would try to copy Games of Thrones in tone . . . I actually am, at last, excited to see what this show will bring. *Ignoring the minor difficulty I am not currently a Prime subscriber. I have a 30-day free trial which will expired after 3 episodes are released, so you will know I like the show if I actually pay to watch more.
I know the show is not going to be “perfect.” It’s certainly not going to be 100% “accurate,” if we look only at the fact the showrunners do need to fill in some gaps Tolkien left in the events of the Second Age, and they have already stated they need to compress the timeline rather than try to tell a story that takes place over more than 3,000 years. But no film adaptation of a book can ever adhere to that book perfectly, so what is left for viewers to decide is: What changes are they willing to live with? And what changes are dealbreakers?
For me, the most important thing is for the show to capture the tone/spirit/worldview of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Details are nice, and characterization is important, but I want the show to feel like something Tolkien might have created, to have clear spiritual undertones and a sense of what is right and wrong. (And to be very clear, this does not mean, “I want a world with no POC actors and no ‘woke’ feminism stuff,” like all the online trolls are going on about; that doesn’t describe Tolkien at all and would not be in line with what Middle-earth is built on.)
And based on what I have seen from all the Tolkien scholars and influencers who were invited to an exclusive sneak peak of the show and then to the two episode premiere in NYC, the feeling of Middle-earth and Tolkien’s philosophy is there. Some of the reviews I saw seemed carefully neutral, like, “The costumes are gorgeous and the actors did very well,” but a lot were more glowing. And this gives me hope. I also saw people specifically mention there seems to be a sense of Ilúvatar in the show and of a deity’s guiding hand.
But the details seem to be in place, as well, from what I’ve seen from early reviews, from the language to the hand gestures characters are using.
The early advertising for the show was awkward (“Not your father’s Middle-earth”, whatever that was supposed to mean) and raised a lot of concerns for me and other fans, but the fact that so many people so familiar with Tolkien’s work have seen something promising in the show leads me to be optimistic. I explicitly saw people state that the advertising they had seen and the show they had seen seemed to have little to do with each other, and this will be a show avid fans will find something to like about.
Will I like everything about the show? Probably not. I don’t even like everything about Peter Jackson’s trilogy (hello, changes to Faramir), even though I like the movies as a whole. So I have gone from complete lack of interest to having an open mind. I hope I enjoy the show.
This year, Pages Unbound is hosting a challenge to support and promote book bloggers through sharing posts, commenting on posts, and otherwise recognizing book bloggers. If you would like more information on how it works or how to join in, read the introduction post here.
THIS MONTH’S CHALLENGE
Again, you can do the tasks in any order you like, but August’s “official” task was to Follow 5 New Book Bloggers (Less Than or about One Year Old).
Also, if you are a new book blogger, feel free to comment below so people can check out your blog!
Write a Guest Post for a Blog or Feature a Guest Post on Your Blog
This one is probably going to take some planning, so you may want to start early in the month!
LINK YOUR COMPLETED TASKS BELOW IN THE COMMENTS!
If you wrote a post, shared a Twitter thread, or did anything else this month you’d like to share, please leave a link in the comments. And since we’re supporting bloggers, be sure to check out some of the links that other people have left!
Goodreads: A Murder Is Announced Series: Miss Marple #5 Age Category: Adult Source: Library Published: 1950
One day, the local paper of Chipping Cleghorn publishes, “A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.” The locals think it a joke, or perhaps some kind of party. But then, someone actually dies….
A Murder Is Announced brings Miss Marple back in spectacular style, as the amateur sleuth must solve a murder that was advertised in advance. At first, the case seems clear cut to the local authorities, but, as always, small details lead to more questions. Everyone in the village seems to be hiding a secret and, soon, all of them will be potential suspects. An engaging read from the master of mystery!
Though I admit that this is the first Miss Marple mystery I have solved in awhile, I still found A Murder Is Announced to be one of the more interesting novels. Agatha Christie draws her cast of characters with vivacity and shrewdness, and I loved catching glimpses of each of the suspects at home as they variously try to puzzle out the crime, pursue their own interests, and conceal their lies. Part of the fun of mystery novels is that so much comes out when a crime is committed, and many times what people want to hide is in no way related to that crime. But it does make one wonder about the past lives of all the neighbors!
The ending in a way proves a bit too pat for my taste, but I am willing to overlook that because the lead-up is simply so engrossing. Miss Marple is present, but not overwhelming, so readers have a fine chance to guess the solution to the mystery themselves without the amateur detective dropping too many hints. I cycled through various possibilities as the story went on and new information was revealed–and that uncertainty, that check where one considers that one might have been wrong, is exactly what makes a mystery great.
If you love mystery novels or Agatha Christie’s work in particular, A Murder Is Announced is absolutely worth a read. It brings a small town to love with all of her characteristic wit and insight–and, of course, drama.
One morning, the Bantrys awake to find a girl dead in their library. No one in the household knows who she is. To stop the local gossip, Mrs. Bantry enlists the help of her old friend Miss Marple, who must solve the case before the scandal ruins the Bantrys’ reputations forever.
The Body in the Library is my second Miss Marple novel, and I had no idea what to expect. While Murder at the Vicarage is told in first person by the vicar, this follow-up takes a turn by presenting the case in third person inside. Perspective shifts between Miss Marple and the inspectors on the case remove some of the charm found in a more personal account, while also making some of the story feel a bit redundant. While I still enjoyed the mystery, The Body in the Library probably will not end up on the top of my favorites list.
For some reason, I had supposed that Miss Marple mysteries might be told in turn by various locals who know the keen spinster. I was not expecting the shift to third person in this book, and I found it much less engaging than the vicar’s narrative, which includes many insightful and witty character observations. The trouble is that Miss Marple, as an amateur sleuth, does not possess the resources of the police force and has to pursue her own lines of investigation. So, to ensure that readers understand how Miss Marple put her case together, the book will often describe how the police uncover information or evidence, and then switch to a chapter of Miss Marple finding out the same thing through her own means. Perhaps readers are meant to be charmed by how Miss Marple uses her wits to uncover clues, in contrast to the official way of doing things. But it all feels rather redundant.
Aside from this, however, the book contains the usual witty characterizations from Christie that make her books shine. Mrs. Bantry’s excitement over having an actual murder in her house, while quite inappropriate, also seems awfully true to life. As does a young boy’s fascination with the murder and his desire to collect mementos to show to his friends. People are not always pretty, but Christie is willing to show all their facets in a way that still feels incredibly modern. Change a few details about how life used to be, and such a story feels like it could be set in the present day.
While I am not convinced that The Body in the Library is a book I shall reread, I enjoyed testing my wits against Christie’s once more. Her works tend to surprise me more often than not, and I love reading mysteries where I have to remain in suspense until the very end. I certainly shall keep on reading through the Miss Marple stories, ready to see an overlooked spinster beat the professionals once again.