Aurora Public Library Blog

Welcome to Aurora Public Library’s blog. A place where our library staff share their thoughts, insider knowledge and overall love of all things book and community.

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December 2020 - Posts
Read It!

Family Book Club Year in Review: "Stella By Starlight" by Sharon M. Draper
by Tess

Join Family Book Club on Monday, Dec. 28 at 5 p.m. as we meet to discuss our favorite book(s) from this year! Here is the final of my four favorite books from this year. 

"Stella by Starlight" by Sharon M. Draper

Stella By Starlight

Stella by Starlight is a historical fiction novel about Stella and her family who live in North Carolina in the 1930s. They experience hatred and racism from the KKK (Klu Klux Klan) but find strength and joy in their community. That's what I loved most about this book. I really enjoy stories about people who come together and support each other during difficult times. I love stories about people who fight for their rights and persevere in spite of obstacles.

Stella is a very endearing character. She struggles in writing class. While most kids pursue things that come easily for them, Stella has a passion for something she finds challenging. Stella loves to write and she works hard to improve. She is brave, sweet, and tenacious. Above all, she and her family have hope. 

I highly recommend this book. Hopefully, you will learn some history and be inspired by the characters, as I was. It is available in print and as an eAudiobook via HooplaDigital. Click here to place a hold or check it out.
Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org  On Dec 28, 2020 at 8:52 AM
  
Read It!

APL Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2020

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”  

While we spent more time at home than anywhere else in 2020, books were able to transport us to anywhere in the world (or beyond)! Some were educational. Some were for entertainment. Some were an escape – to a far away world, or a different world just around the corner; into the future or the past; the start of a grand adventure or embracing the mundane everyday – every book took us somewhere. As we start to reflect on the year that has come and gone, our staff share some of their favorite reads.  



Elizabeth’s Pick: “Raybearer” by Jordan Ifueko 
Let’s talk about magic. Picture the first book you remember that made you feel like you’d stepped into another world. The colors felt more vibrant, right? You could imagine the world’s history, picture the wide halls and secret places, wonder about the magic, cheer for the brave young teen who wanted nothing more than to protect their friends and help good triumph over evil. 
That’s “Raybearer”, and I want this to become the next wildly popular fantasy series. Here’s a short, spoiler-free summary: Tarisai must compete to become one of Prince Dayo’s trusted, telepathically-bonded-for-life council. However, if she’s chosen, she’ll be magically compelled to kill the prince, her first true friend.  
Not persuaded yet? Here's what waits for you in this book. Do you like kind and clever heroines who fight for justice despite being cursed? Here you go. How about a detailed fantasy world full of fairies, alagbato (djinn/genies), and magical powers? There’s a country in this book where children are born to walk through the land of the dead, and a country filled with shapeshifters. There’s a corrupt dark secret in the empire, a secret backstory for the heroine, and everything else you long for in a fantasy world. Plus: it's the first in a series, so if you like it, you have plenty to look forward to! It’s on Hoopla right now. Stop reading this review and go get it! 

Erin’s Pick: “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman 
In a tranquil retirement village called Cooper’s Chase, four unexpected friends meet weekly to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. When a local businessman is found dead, the Thursday Murder Club makes it their mission to solve the crime!  
This book was an absolute delight! It was funny and smart with endearing and compelling characters, even the minor ones. The plot was twisting and turning and Osman writes with such a tenderness and affection for, not only elderly people, but humanity in general, you just come away feeling good inside. I really loved this one. Very excited for the next one to roll out. I'd love to retire to Cooper's Chase!  

Megan’s Pick: “The Mother Code” by Carole Stivers 
When a virus runs amok (sound familiar, anyone??), and threatens the whole of humanity, a group of scientists scramble to genetically engineer embryos who are immune to the disease. However, with the speed the virus is overtaking the world, there are serious concerns about anyone remaining alive to raise these children. Enter a new type of AI – the Mother Code – specifically created to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of a human, from infancy to adulthood, while keeping the child safe throughout it’s life. 
I love all science-fiction, but what I really find impactful is when an author creates a world that allows us to examine our current existence and norms, and nudge things down a path of future possibility in a realistic manner. The scenarios created are all logical steps forward, and the characters are regular humans; flawed, but trying their best to do what’s right for the future - no superheroes in this tale.  
This narrative jumps between timelines, from the onset of the virus to the future, where the immune children are being raised by Robot Mothers. The transitions between past and present are smooth, and following the storyline between timelines is deeply satisfying - all of the hints and clues click together to form connections between past and present. Overall, Stivers presents us with a refreshingly hopeful outlook on humanity’s relationship with technology, and our future as a species.  This is Carol Stivers’ second book, and I’m looking forward to her future stories.  

Nicole’s Pick: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens 
This book was one of my favorite reads of 2020. I had heard so much hype about this book for the last couple years that when my book club suggested we read it, I was looking forward to it yet skeptical at the same time. This book has long wait lists at the library, has been given multiple awards and has even managed to stay on the New York Time’s Bestseller list for 32 non-consecutive weeks! However, I must say this book was totally worth the hype!   
The story follows the journey of Kya Clark, also known as the Marsh Girl around town, and her experiences of growing up alone, love and loss, and finding herself along the marshes of Barkley Cove where she is the lone suspect of a murder case. The story takes us back and forth between the present day in 1969 where the murder takes place and 17 years before that where we see Kya grow up from a small awkward girl into a beautiful wild woman. There are twists and turns you don’t see coming, and a sweet budding romance that is perfect for a coming of age story. I couldn’t put this book down, it kept my attention until the very end! 
Those who enjoy romance, suspense and a strong female lead will definitely enjoy this book. 

Sara’s Pick: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins 
One of my favorite reads from 2020 was “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, Suzanne Collins’ prequel to “The Hunger Games”, following the life of Coriolanus Snow. It has been a long while since I had visited Panem, and I was honestly skeptical when I heard this prequel was being released. I loved “The Hunger Games” trilogy with our heroine Katniss so much – would I really care about Snow as a young adult? Yes. Very much, yes.  
"The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds" was just as enthralling as the original trilogy; I could not put it down. I've read many books before the Hunger Games and after, but there is something about this series that makes it hard to not consume all in one sitting. From a dystopian future to a unique cast of characters, from the (sometimes terrifying) biological inventions that come from the Capitol and the underlying commentary of human nature – it all make this series so good! Collins did an astounding job expanding on the world of Panem and setting the scene for what would become the world we know in the trilogy. Knowing how corrupt Snow becomes, it was interesting to read his backstory and get a glimpse of how a young Coryo, our protagonist in this novel, becomes the villain President Snow. 
Overall, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an engaging read and a truly great addition to “The Hunger Games” series. From beginning to end, there were twists and surprises that kept me guessing and immersed in the world of Panem as Snow worked his way through challenges to discover his ultimate fate and future.

Stacy’s Pick: “The Bear” by Andrew Krivak 
This book was by far my favorite read of 2020! This novel follows the story of a young girl and her father as she grows up in an almost-apocalyptic maybe-not-so-distant future. It focuses mainly on how she learns the stories of her passed mother, learns what civilization used to be like, and how to live, adapt, and survive alone in the mountains. 
One of the biggest reasons I loved this book - as someone who has gone through the loss of a parent, I resonated strongly with the main protagonist as she overcomes losing hers. The feelings and thought processes the girl goes through as she learns to accept her loss felt very reminiscent to how I felt. Although the situations were very different, the feelings are universal after a close loss such as that. While it was a difficult situation to digest, I love books that make me feel raw emotions. 
On a lighter note, this book very much reminded me of an adult version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. In a very simplified plot, this is a story of a child who grows up in the wilderness with two parental humanoid/animal figures. One of my favorite books/Disney movies since I was child, I was very very excited to be able to pick out hidden references and allusions (which may or may not have been intentional).  
As hard as I try, I can’t seem to put a finger on what genre this novel is. I would say it’s something between a dystopian novel, a coming of age story, and a survival tale. Though limiting this novel to just one of these three genres feels like an injustice as they all impact one another.  

Tessy’s Pick: “Wild Seed” by Octavia E. Butler 
“Wild Seed” was almost the first book of the year for me, and it was the second time I read this particular book. I love reading Butler’s science fiction works, and “Wild Seed” and the first novel in her “Xenogenesis” series, “Dawn”, always stand out for me.  
“Wild Seed” is the earliest book in her “Patternist” series, and the book I recommend readers start with (even though it’s the fourth book in the chronology). The “Patternist” series is a secret history that starts in Ancient Egypt, and through biological engineering, a group of telepaths emerge and gain dominance in society. “Wild Seed” is the beginning of this story, with two African immortals vying for power as they live through the centuries. Their choices are the incipience of the timeline.  
“Wild Seed” in particular is extremely interesting as you watch the power struggle between the two immortals, along with the gender dynamics and taking into consideration the powers that make them immortal. Doro is a spirit that can take over other people’s bodies, and in the process killing them. Anyanwu has complete control over her body, she can heal herself and change it into anything living. Eugenics and biological engineering come into play as well. However, the reason I love this book (and Butler’s other works) is for the Afrocentrism and Anyanwu as a strong black female protagonist, which can be hard to find in science fiction even now.  

Virginia’s Pick: “Frontier Follies” by Ree Drummond 
Having lived in Oklahoma for over a decade – I can relate to Ree’s stories of living out on a ranch and the liveliness that comes with it. O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, where the wind comes blowing down the plains! 😊  
In this relatable, charming book, Ree unveils real goings-on in the Drummond house and around the ranch. In stories brimming with the lively wit and humor found in her cookbooks and her bestselling love story, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree pulls back the curtain and shares her experiences with childbirth, wildlife, isolation, teenagers, in-laws, and a twenty-five-year marriage to a cowboy/rancher. 
A celebration of family life, love, and (mostly) laughter, “Frontier Follies” is a keepsake to curl up with, have a good laugh, and remember all that’s wonderful (and funny) about family. 
Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org  On Dec 26, 2020 at 8:18 AM
  
Read It!

Family Book Club Year in Review: "Mimus" by Lilli Thal
by Tess

On Monday, Dec. 28 at 5p.m., Family Book Club will be meeting to discuss our favorite book(s) from this year! Each Monday of December I will be posting a short book recommendation for four of my favorite novels that I read in 2020. Register to receive the Zoom link here. 
 
"When Stars are Scattered" by Omar Mohamed & Victoria Jamieson

When Stars Are Scattered

In this historical fiction graphic novel, Omar and Hassan are separated from their mother when war hits Somalia. They are forced to flee with neighbors to a refugee camp in Kenya. They live there for 15 years before being relocated to America. The story of their lives is one over 70 million people are currently experiencing and most people never get to leave the camps.  This book is an eye-opening account of life in a refugee camp, how difficult it is, but also how much love and support there is in the community, at least in Omar's experience. 

I appreciate that it is a graphic novel (and don't let anyone tell you those aren't real books!) because the imagery is that much more powerful. You can literally see how Omar and Hassan lived in the refugee camp. I am a visual learner and I know I'm not the only one! Sometimes it is difficult to imagine another person's experience without actually seeing it for yourself. 

The graphic novel is illustrated by Victoria Jamieson who has written many other graphic novels such as "Roller Girl". The dialogue and other text is written by Omar himself, which makes the book a memoir as well. I highly recommend this book!

"When Stars Are Scattered" is available in print as as an eComic via Overdrive, free with your library card.
Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org  On Dec 21, 2020 at 3:53 PM
  

Game on!
 Game reviews by Kristin, Brandon, and Stacy

Hello everyone! We hope you’ll enjoy these reviews for free games to amuse, or frustrate, you!  These are a all browser games and none of them will cost you anything to play.

Today's theme
Games that make you go AAAAUGH

Game One
QWOP 
A browser-based game available here

QWOP

The premise is simple—on your keyboard, the letters Q & W extend the runner’s thigh muscles, and O & P control his calves. What results is the most uncoordinated, undignified series of face-plants you could possibly imagine. What’s particularly great is, when you’re making even a teeny bit of progress, the music picks up like in an inspiring sports movie. Pro strat: If you get in a kneeling position you can wiggle your way a good distance… until you hit the first hurdle. And yes, if anyone recognized the style, this game was created by the same designer who created Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.   -Kristin

This game broke me as a human. Not only did QWOP go splat, but so did my pride - Brandon
Game 2
Fly Sui 
A browser-based game available here

Fly Sui
This infuriating game is about catching flies with chopsticks. Each fly you catch gives you more time. Catching them is nearly impossible. In college, some friends and I got really competitive and played this for days, posting screenshots of each new high score. After a while, you get into a meditative trance. You don’t just see the fly, you see where the fly will be, like seeing through the Matrix. You don’t just catch the fly, you are the fly. Best score we saw was 11.   -Kristin

I refuse to believe anybody can score in this game. I chop, but they don’t stop! The constant buzzing, I can’t escape it. I just wanted to catch one fly! - Brandon

Wow. This game. I didn’t think there could be a game more frustrating than QWOP until this. My inability to catch flies with one mouse click it somehow stings more than the confusing controls of QWOP and other like “I Am Bread.”  - Stacy

High scores: (after 10 minutes)
Kristin – 4
Brandon – 0
Stacy –  2
Game 3
Winnie the Pooh’s Home Run Derby
A browser-based game available here

Winnie the Pooh Home Run Derby

If you haven’t heard of this game, buckle in for some internet history. This game became a viral hit back in 2013 due to its insane difficulty. The controls are slow, it requires preternatural reflexes and when you get to higher levels the pitchers cheat with things like invisible or warping balls. The final boss is Christopher Robin, who was difficult enough to inspire dozens of memes depicting him as an Eldritch horror. Pro strat: Click the ‘Status’ button on the home screen to upgrade your abilities, such as Contact to make it easier to hit the ball. I only learned you could do this while writing this review, so no wonder I couldn’t get past Piglet the first time around.    -Kristin

This game, I remember this game. It lures you into such a false sense of security. Pleasant music, vibrant colors, and the frame rate seems to hold up! The menu is very responsive, and it’s natural to think you are in a for a good time. The true nature of this game begins to reveal itself in about five minutes in. The hit detection is way off, the music repeats constantly with no variety and worst of all, the pitchers all just stare at you, with their cold eyes. They challenge you, they dare you to take them on. Are you up for the challenge? (No, no you are not. I’m lucky I tied with Kristin)   - Brandon

Probably if I had known about the updates, I would have gotten farther than Piglet! But alas, Piglet was where my skills ended. I find the only way I could get home runs was if I blocked out the music and unfocused my eyes and only focused on the sounds of the pitcher throwing. Even then, it was a chance if I actually got a hit! - Stacy

High scores: (after 10 minutes)
Kristin – 11/12 vs. Kanga
Brandon –  11/12 vs Kanga
Stacy – 5/5 vs Lumpy
Tell us what you think!

Shatter one of our records? Let us know! Post your victories (or defeats) in the comments, we love to hear about it.
Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org  On Dec 18, 2020 at 1:08 PM
  
Read It!

APL Reader's Corner
with Julie & Elizabeth

Welcome to APL Reader's Corner! This month we are reading "We Met in December" by Rosie Curtis. Let us know what you think about the book in the comments! Check it out instantly as an eBook from hoopla digital.

Looking for some festive romance reads and movies? Check out Holiday Romance and December Movies of the Month on hoopla - free with your library card! 

Posted by svanholb@auroragov.org  On Dec 18, 2020 at 1:00 PM
  
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