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profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

Hi! Brenda Hoffman here. Because Pippa Crews and I love the story of The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North, we thought it would be fun to do an interview style blog this week. “Hope” you enjoy.

Synopsis: When a dear friend of Hope’s commits suicide, she suspects a popular app called “Perfection” to be the cause. She embarks on a convoluted path to end perfection and “Perfection.” The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of a girl no one remembers, yet her story will stay with you forever. Told in first person, Hope explains her sad plight. From the novel:

My name is Hope Arden, and you won't know who I am. But we've met before - a thousand times.

It started when I was sixteen years old.

A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger.

No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

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Pippa Crews is a student and guest blogger who so loved Hope that she wanted to share her love of the novel with St. Johns River State College. Below is her bio:

My name is Pippa Crews. I’ve been at St. Johns River State College in St. Augustine for half a semester. My favorite genres are historical fiction, science fiction, and thrillers. My least favorite genre is YA fantasy. Some of my favorite books are The Sudden Appearance of Hope (of course), The Giver, The Outsiders, and Howl’s Moving Castle. I am not fond of any book by Sarah J Maas. I would not recommend going down that rabbit hole. 

I fell in love with reading at a young age. My parents read to me every other night and took me to the local library every week to pick out books. Most of the time I prefer to read the traditional way with paperbacks, but I like the convenience of eBooks. I love to read almost anywhere whether that be in a coffee shop or in my bed way past my bedtime.


Brenda: What is your favorite scene? Why? 

Pippa: My favorite scene was in chapter 36 when Hope went to Japan. I really liked how she described her surroundings and introduced readers to parts of Japanese culture they might not be aware of. I also appreciated the brief mention of Taekwondo. I used to do Taekwondo, so I am giddy over any mention of it in books and media.

Brenda: Does Hope remind you of any other dystopian novels? How? Which one (s)? 

Pippa: The Sudden Appearance of Hope reminded me of The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Giver tells the story of an eleven-year-old boy named Jonas who lives in a utopian society. However, the society is revealed to be more dystopian as the story progresses. In the world of the Giver, the government takes away pain and conflict by converting it to “Sameness,” a plan that removes emotion from their lives. The concept of “Sameness” is like “Perfection” in Hope in that both societies are against imperfection. While “Perfection” is mainly against physical imperfections, encouraging users to diet to get the perfect body and dress a certain way, “Sameness” is against imperfection on the emotional level.


Brenda: Hope’s gift is that she is unremembered. She is arrested and left in an interrogation room. When the officer returns to question her, she says, “Where is my client?” The cop forgot he arrested her. What is the worst aspect of being forgotten, especially by those for whom you care? 


Pippa: I feel like the worst aspect of being forgotten is not being able to form new connections with people. If I always knew I was going to be forgotten, I’d be reluctant to get close to anyone.


Brenda: The plot of Hope centers on a self-improvement app called Perfection that, ironically, encourages sadness and depression in its users. Do you see any connections between the Perfection app and Instagram, Twitter or TikTok? 

Pippa: Perfection reminded me of a lot of Instagram and TikTok. Though it is more present in TikTok than Instagram, the most beautiful or “perfect” creators with “pretty privilege” gain a platform of followers easier than someone who was not as conventionally attractive. Research also suggests that teenagers who spend more time on Tik Tok are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts about this wonderful novel, Pippa! I’m so glad that you enjoyed Hope as much as I did. I only wish that I could forget my first reading of Claire North’s masterpiece, so that I could read it anew again.

Check out North's 84K!

Cover Art84k by Claire North
ISBN: 9780316316804
Publication Date: 2018-05-22

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profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

In 1920, actor and humorist Robert Benchley opined:There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who don’t.” Since then, there have been hundreds of iterations of two kinds of people. Pinterest weighed in with: “There are two types of people in the world: Avoid both.” Mark Twain responded with his usual rapier wit: “There are two types of people in the world. People who have accomplished things and people who have claimed to accomplish things. The first group is less crowded.” And Neil deGrasse Tyson quipped on Twitter in 2017: “There are two kinds of people in the world—those who divide everyone into two kinds of people and those who don't." I classify people into two categories as well: There are two types of zombie fans: Those who prefer fast zombies and those who prefer slow zombies. Me? I am all in with the slow, lumbering zombie. Quora asked its readers to pick between fast and slow zombies, too. The granddaddy of the modern zombie film, George Romero, agrees with me and saw fast zombies as a symptom of a film industry “obsessed with size and speed.” "Logically," he claims, "zombies can’t run! Their ankles would snap. What would they do—wake from the dead and

immediately join a health club? I don’t get it.” Director and writer Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Peter Jackson (Dead Alive) of Lord of the Rings fame “[remain] stuck on the shuffle,” as they also prefer the slow undead. The fast zombie leaves no chance for the living to survive. It’s nerve-wracking. Remember that claustrophobic airplane scene from Marc Forster’s World War Z? Brad Pitt, even as a young and fit scientist, can’t outrun a fast zombie on a plane. Okay, so he did, but how believable was that? Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and the follow-up 28 Weeks Later leave Jim and Selena with little to no breathing room. One drop of zombie blood and the change to an undead flesh eater is immediate. Netflix’s “Black Summer” series features super-fast zombies, too. When the dead are unleashed at an airplane hangar, the living run between buildings dodging the turned-too-quickly walkers. The scene resembles a Bugs Bunny cartoon where that loveable rabbit runs down hallways, ducks into rooms, and bumps into Yosemite Sam along the way. Only Bugs’ nemesis isn’t the undead.

On the other hand, Shaun of the Dead’s shuffling zombies turn the genre on its head. A British zom-com, the movie’s protagonists, Shaun and Ed, can run faster than the undead, but they’re about as intelligent as them. But at least our beloved Brits stand a fighting chance! “The Walking Dead” television series revived the sleepy zombie genre with slow-moving walkers, too. I was introduced to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novel series at the Miami Book Fair in 2004 and was excited when AMC picked up the series for one season. The executives at AMC thought the eight-episode season would be one and done. Viewers, however, devoured the episodes like so many ravenous flesh eaters. This year marks the eleventh season and final eight episodes. Regardless of the shuffling walkers, George Romero didn’t like the series calling it a “soap opera.”

Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead remains the go-to ghoul/zombie (Romero didn’t use the word zombie; he called his undead ghouls) movie. If you’re new to zombie films, you might want to start with this perfect film. Shot near Pittsburgh on a shoestring budget of $114,000.00, this black and white masterpiece surpasses current gore fests. An allegory for the Vietnam War and the civil unrest that marked the late 1960s, Night works on two levels. The film is brutal in its depiction of flesh-eating zombies. Romero’s crew, made up mostly of friends and clients of his production studio, pitched in and helped define the current zombie mythology. One of Romero’s friends owned a butcher shop, so the guts and livers that zombies chow down on are from butchered animals. Pittsburgh city police answered Romero’s call with authentic cop cars and German shepherds to hunt down and kill the ghouls. And Pittsburgh native “Chiller Theater” host, Bill Cardille, shows up with his real cameraman as a reporter. Friends acted as zombies and when they asked for direction from Romero about how to act dead, his advice was to "walk slow and drag your feet."

Pittsburgh University holds a yearly event honoring Romero’s legacy, and I was fortunate to attend the inaugural program in 2018. Sitting in the audience, I was rapt listening to the famous director’s friends, co-workers, and film historians discuss the mark that Romero left on the horror genre. When an audience member asked if Romero’s subtext of Vietnam and civil unrest was intentional in Night, all panel members agreed that “George knew what he was doing. The subtext was intentional.”

If you’re looking for slow-walkin’ zombies with a social commentary bite, I implore you to check out Night of the Living Dead this Halloween. Borrow it from the library and invite some friends over for a very scary movie night, or catch it for free on YouTube here. The final shot of Night remains one of the most shocking and sad in film history. Which do you prefer? Crazy fast flesh eaters, or lumbering I-have-a-chance-of-escape walkers? Let me know what you think of the film, as well as your preference for fast or slow zombies in the comments section!

Since classes were canceled on Wednesday, Sept. 28 due to Hurricane Ian, we canceled the book club meeting. We return on Wednesday, Oct. 26 on all three campuses. See you then!

Night of the Living Dead
Call Number: PN1997 Night_Of _The_Living DVD
ISBN: B00005Y6Y2

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profile-icon Michael Ramey

While I have read many fantasy books over the years, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth contains the best world building in the genre. Tolkien’s command of history and linguistics gives his fantasy works an air of authenticity unseen in later imitators. With these elements, the world Tolkien created for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings feels lived in and real.

For Middle Earth, Tolkien created real languages that can be spoken by those with the patience to learn them. As a philologist who specialized in Old English (Anglo Saxon), Tolkien incorporated his love of language into his fantasy works. He created many languages spoken by the inhabitants of Middle Earth. These include elvish, dwarvish, and other fictional languages with pronunciation guides that define specific vowels and consonants. The creation of these languages helps give Middle Earth an old-world feel.

Tolkien massively expanded Middle Earth’s history in The Silmarillion, an anthology that describes the creation of the world among other foundational stories. The text of The Silmarillion reads like a civilization’s ancient history from a detached point of view; much like Herodotus’ Histories but without giving first-person impressions of events. Stories found in The Silmarillion include the “Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur” which describes the creation of Middle Earth à la The Book of Genesis, and the “Akallabêth” which is an account of the fall of Númenor with similarities to the fall of Atlantis. These homages to real-world foundational stories and mythologies help make Middle Earth feel connected to our collective past.

Tolkien’s mastery of linguistics and history gives Middle Earth a sense of legitimacy that has not been surpassed by other fantasy writers. Writers interested in world building with authenticity need to give J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth a look.

Cover ArtThe Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien; Christopher Tolkien (Editor)
ISBN: 0395257301
Publication Date: 1977-09-01
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profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

Hey what’s up everyone this is Andrew! For my next post, I am going to be examining a topic that has been a heartbreaking issue for a while in our country. This is the opioid epidemic. In my last blog, I spoke about the life of Kurt Cobain. He began using opioids in the late 80s and early 1990s. He used heroin, bought from the streets. My next book talks about synthetic forms of heroin, specifically OxyContin, which has wreaked havoc across the nation. This week I will be discussing and reviewing Dopesick by Beth Macy.

As I continue, let me tell you that this book is not for everyone. The opioid epidemic has affected many Americans. It has caused pain and suffering not only for the people who became addicted, but for their friends and families as well. The epidemic has ensnared people as well as entire towns and sections of the country. I have had both friends and family members who have passed from battles with addiction to prescription medication. If you are triggered by scenes of drug use or descriptions of violence associated with drugs, please be careful.

Beth Macy tells this story as a reporter who has entrenched herself in a corner of northwestern Virginia. It is the heart of Appalachian country and ground zero for the opioid epidemic. She follows the everyday lives of Americans who have become caught up abusing opioids. As she tells their stories, she begins to weave a narrative together that tells how this epidemic came to be. She tells about older folks prescribed OxyContin for pain, high school football players who were prescribed it for injuries. How they were treated by doctors who had been told that this synthetic opioid was not addictive and was a “miracle drug” in the treatment of pain.

This of course was not the case. The drug, OxyContin, a powerful, man-made opioid was patented by Purdue Pharma- the company owned by the Sackler family. Macy then goes into how Oxycontin was pushed by Purdue and its representatives, and how the research into the drug was buried by the company, in favor of record sales and profits.

If you are interested, please read more for yourself. I did because I wanted to understand what addiction is like for these people. I have seen the pain myself, I wanted to understand how it began, and what is being done now to help our fellow humans out of this mess.


Cover ArtDopesick by Beth Macy
ISBN: 0316551244
Publication Date: 2018-08-07
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profile-icon Kendall McCurley

I don’t like fantasy novels. I don’t like stories about the Fae and Fairies and magic. I stopped reading fantasy novels in middle school and never looked back. I dislike the genre so much that I have only ever read the first Harry Potter book. That being said, I have heard nothing but good things about Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series and with all the commotion about these books in regards to high school libraries, I figured I would give it a shot. I have to say… these books are amazing!


Here is the synopsis for A Court of Thorns and Roses from Goodreads…

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a terrifying creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not truly a beast, but one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled her world.

At least, he’s not a beast all the time.

As she adapts to her new home, her feelings for the faerie, Tamlin, transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But something is not right in the faerie lands. An ancient, wicked shadow is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it, or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


I started reading the first book in the series (A Court of Thorns and Roses) and through the first ten chapters, I was still on the fence about it. The first part of the book was a lot of buildup and character introductions but once I was past that, I was hooked! Before I even finished the book, I was already at Barnes & Noble buying the next two. I flew through the book and once I finished, I immediately started reading the second one. A Court of Mist and Fury has been my favorite book in the series (so far.) Maas’ writing really pulled me into the story and while the slight twist of the romance was predictable, it was so satisfying to watch play out. A Court of Wings and Ruin (which I finished last night) was just as good as the first two. While I thought that it dragged in places, it definitely picked up once the action started, and I couldn’t put the book down. I’m about to start reading the next book in the series which is a novella called A Court of Frost and Starlight, then finish with the latest book in the series A Court of Silver Flames.

Even as a reader who dislikes fantasy, I really liked this series. While this book does have a lot of talk of Fae and magic, it really plays the supporting role to the characters who go through hell and high water for each other. The characters are what hooked me and kept me reading. I really recommend reading these books if you have been on the fence about it or are just looking for something to read. While the second, third, and fifth book are very long, it is definitely worth the time!

Have you read this series? Tell us about it in the comments below! Don’t forget to subscribe!

A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
ISBN: 9781635575569
Publication Date: 2020-06-02
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