Why Yes, You Can Do That At The Library…

Via Wibki

The days are definitely getting shorter, dear patrons, but there are plenty of ways to counter the darkness and the gloom of late autumn.  Here at the Library, we are keeping our schedule full of classes, workshops, and performances to help you think, learn, and explore.  Why not check out a few of the programs we have on offer in the coming weeks?  You can learn how to make some potential holiday gifts (or keep them for yourself.  We won’t judge at all.), try a new skill, or simply escape the hubbub out there for a little while and enjoy.  You can register for these events on our website, or call the Library offering the program to register in person.

And please note: these are only a few of the programs on offer at the Main Library and Branches.  You can check out the Events section of our website too see everything we offer.  And, as always, please  let us know if there is a program that you would like to see offered.  We are, after all, here for you!

West Branch Historical Adult Book Group
Thursday, November 9: 7:00pm – 8:30pm

Meetings are held at the West Branch Community Room the 2nd Thursday of every month at 7 pm.  New members welcome!  For additional information call (978) 535-3354.


Lyle Brewer Guitar Concert
Tuesday, November 14: 7:00pm-8:00pm
Lyle Brewer has been an integral part of the Boston music scene for over a decade. He has released six albums and has toured and recorded with dozens of artists. His guitar playing weaves effortlessly throughout a variety of musical styles, and his album, ‘Juno,”  made the Boston Globe’s list of Best Local Albums of 2015.
 
Lyle Brewer is on faculty in The Guitar Department at The Berklee College of Music. Currently he is working on a transcription book of his own music and a recording of two suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. He will perform original songs and classical music.  To register, please call (978) 531-0100
 
The Fall Concert Series is generously sponsored by the McCarthy Family Foundation and the Peabody Institute Library Foundation.

South Branch Super Sleuths Adult Book Group
Monday, December 4: 1:00pm-2:00pm

The South Branch welcomes adult members to the Super Sleuths Book Group the first Monday of every month from 1-2 p.m. New members are welcome!  For more information or to find out this month’s title, please call (978) 531-3380.


Introduction to Cold Process Soap Making
Tuesday, December 5: 10:00am – 12:00pm
Creating soap from scratch allows you the freedom to formulate bars specifically to meet your wants and needs. This presentation will go over a brief history and basic chemistry of soap making; necessary materials; supplies and equipment; safety considerations when working with sodium hydroxide; taking accurate measurements & proper mixing temperatures; coloring and scenting your soap; preparing your molds and molding options; and insulating, cutting, curing and storing your finished soap.
Presenter Jennifer Hofmann has been making soap for over eight years. She fell into it by accident, but once she made her first batch of soap she found she couldn’t stop…Jennifer makes and sells her own soaps and body products which have been featured on Etsy and can be found at many local farmers markets. Information can be found on her website: www.jennifersoap.com.  Jennifer has passed her Basic and Advance CP/HP Soapmaking Certification test. To register, please call (978) 531-0100

Managing Your Digital Mailbox
Saturday, December 9: 10:00am – 11:30am
In this class, we’ll talk about taming your e-mail.  We’ll cover managing, sorting, and organizing messages, searching your e-mail, sending messages and attachments, filtering, setting up contacts, folders, and more. To register, please call (978) 531-0100
 
Please Note:
  • The library has (5) laptops available for users, but you are welcome to bring your own device.  
  • This class is for active e-mail users. Please bring a valid e-mail address and password to class

 

Five Book Friday!

And welcome to our first 5BF of November, beloved patrons!

via The Library of Congress

And speaking of November, don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour this Sunday, as it’s the end of Daylight Savings Time.  Though we all give Benjamin Franklin credit for coming up with the idea of Daylight Savings Time, there is a debate as to whether he meant the idea as a lighthearted jest more than a practical suggestion.  It was, in fact, Germany, under the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II during the First World War, which was the first country to adopt daylight saving time – or “fast time” as it was then called – as a means to minimize artificial lighting and save fuel for the war effort. The act was quickly followed in both Great Britain and France, where it was also credited with getting in an extra hour for cultivation of war gardens.  As this article in the Great Falls Tribune points out, the movement had something of a rocky start in the US:

The cause for turning the clocks back an hour in the United States was taken up by Pittsburgh industrialist Robert Garland. Garland successfully lobbied for the “Standard Time Act,” establishing that U.S. clocks be set back one hour between March 31 and Oct. 27.

The act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on March 19, 1918, but was repealed just seven months later. The war had ended, and nobody seemed to like the idea, especially American dairy farmers who worked tirelessly to overturn the Standard Time Act, even overcoming a veto by Wilson.

Undaunted, Garland continued to advocate for daylight saving time. For the next 20 years, he argued before any group that would invite him that a permanent daylight saving time would improve industrial efficiency and add an additional hour so Americans could enjoy more outdoor activities such as golf, tennis and baseball. He even enlisted the support of the motion-picture industry, arguing that daylight saving would increase attendance at the theaters.

Garland’s efforts were largely unsuccessful, although several large U.S. cities including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston and New York did adopt the time switch. It wasn’t until World War II that the practice once again became universal.

So why not come into the Library and find a new book with which to enjoy your extra hour of weekend?  Or, you know, sleep. That’s fine, too.  But here are some books to tempt you otherwise….

 

An Enchantment of RavensFans of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, who loved the weird fairy settings and the talented, resourceful women who populated it, need to read Margaret Rogerson’s book.  Isobel is a portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, who crave human Craft with a terrible thirst. Isobel’s paintings are highly prized, but when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.  Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. But when the are waylaid in their journey, Isobel and Rook are forced to depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts.  If this gorgeous cover isn’t enough to intrigue you, then come for the powerful, transformative love story, complex characters, and the simply sumptuous descriptions that make this book completely transporting.  RT Book Reviews named this book a Top Pick, noting “Though Rogerson fills her tale with unique and complex characters, and her storytelling is beautiful, it is the powerful bond between her mortal heroine and her constantly surprising, supportive and fascinating hero that makes this story such a phenomenal read.”

Beasts Made of Night: Another phenomenal fantasy book, this one from the African tradition, from debut author Tochi Onyebuchi, who drew on his own Nigerian heritage to write this powerful and utterly engrossing book.  In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts—lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt. Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.  When Taj is called to eat a sin of a member of the royal family, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves—and his own life.  The lessons of self-acceptance, forgiveness, the keen understanding of what really separates the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and an utterly bewitching world all combine to make this a book that fantasy and sci-fi readers of all ages won’t want to miss!  Kirkus Reviews agrees–they gave this book a starred review, noting “”Epic” is an overused term to describe how magnificent someone or something is. Author Onyebuchi’s novel creates his in the good old-fashioned way: the slow, loving construction of the mundane and the miraculous, building a world that is both completely new and instantly recognizable.”

The River of ConsciousnessThe world lost a great deal when Oliver Sacks passed away, but his medical and literary legacy has touched countless lives.  Sacks, an Oxford-educated polymath, had a deep understanding and love of not literature and medicine, though, but botany, animal anatomy, chemistry, the history of science, philosophy, and psychology. The River of Consciousness is one of two books he was working on up to his death, a series of ten essays consciously written with his own mortality in sight, and it reveals his ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us human. Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl, wrote a stunning blurb for this book that says it all: “Oliver Sacks knew how much his readers would miss him, and he outlined these ten essays before he left us. Indeed, blessed are we who mourn. His was a voice that could untangle even the most formidable knots of medical mystery—the bewildering maladies of the brain—and roll them out into smooth ribbons of human story. I read these essays in one night, spellbound as he described petals, cameras, bombs—and, of course, neurons—so enraptured with details that only later did I realize how he had also explained the weightiness of time, memory, and learning itself. The River of Consciousness is the precious voice of Oliver Sacks come back to us, to do what all great seers do: lead us to places that we could never have found on our own.”

Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill:  It was in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883 that William F. Cody—known across the land as Buffalo Bill—conceived of his Wild West show, an “equestrian extravaganza” featuring cowboys and Indians. The idea took off. For four months in 1885 the Lakota chief Sitting Bull appeared in the show.  This book, from award-winning author Deanne Stillman, tells the story of these two iconic figures through their brief but important collaboration.  Unearthing little told details about the two men and their tumultuous times, this book casts light not a broad swath of 19th century American history, but also on the cultural and personal importance of Wild West Shows for Native Americans and white performers alike.  During this time, the Native American rights movement began to flourish, but with their way of life in tatters, the Lakota and others availed themselves of the chance to perform in the Wild West. Cody paid his performers well, and he treated the Native Americans no differently from white performers. When Cody died in 1917, a large contingent of Native Americans attended his public funeral. This book enriches our knowledge of these two men, and the world they inhabited, in well-researched detail, and with beautiful storytelling.  In it’s review, Booklist called this work “Thoroughly researched…Stillman’s account of this period in American history is elucidating as well as entertaining.”

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone:  On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than eighteen thousand people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned. It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways. Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings, and met a priest who exorcised the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to one specific village that had suffered a loss too heartbreaking to forget.  This is a fascinating, heartbreaking, wrenching, and wonderfully insightful book that offers a stunning portrait of a tragedy that often feels completely indescribable.  As The Chicago Tribune recognized, this book is “Remarkably written and reported . . . a spellbinding book that is well worth contemplating in an era marked by climate change and natural disaster.”

 

Congrats to the Houston Astros!

It’s been a tough few months for Houston, and just as we at the Free For All have been eager to help in the recovery efforts, we also share in their joy as the Houston Astros win the 2017 World Series.

via houstonlibrary.org

And because we’ve been up too long watching the game (and every game in these series, for that matter!), we will simply refer you to this article, which documents the Library Battles that have ensued between the Houston Public Library system and the Los Angeles Public Library system.  Here’s a brief sample of a magic, via the Los Angeles Public Library and Houston Public Library Instgram feeds:

 

We launched our blog with some book-spine poetry, but we are seriously going to have to step up our game if we are ever going to compete at this level!

The Romance Garden

Girl in Green by Sara Hayden

The weather has turned at last, dear readers, and, rather suddenly, it is not longer garden time.  But that means it’s the perfect time to snuggle up with a good book!  Thankfully, here in our romance garden, there is always sunshine, and always plenty of books to help you through those lengthening winter evenings.  Here are just a few from our genre experts for this month!

 

Bridget: London’s Perfect Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch

I’ve been in a bit disillusioned by the romance genre of late, so I went back to an oldie by goodie for this month.  This was one of the first romance novels, and still remains a favorite of mine.  Though it’s the second in Enoch’s Lessons in Love series, new readers won’t have any trouble getting into this story.

the Marquis of St. Aubyn’s may be referred to as “Saint”, but all of London society knows that him as a dangerous–if alluring scoundrel.  Evelyn Ruddick would normally have nothing to do with him, but St. Aubyn is the head of the board of trustees for the Heart of Hope Orphanage, and she will do anything to get them the help and support that they need, even if it means forming a partnership with this rakehell.  But when their working relationship takes a turn for the scandalous, Evie and Saint are both forced to reconsider who they really are, what they really want…and how many rules they are willing to break to make their hearts happy.

First and foremost, I loved the chemistry between these protagonists.  Saint may be selfish and spoiled, but he is also quite smart, and therefore has the capacity to recognize and respect Evelyn’s intelligence and determination.  He may enjoy making her blush, but he’s not cruel, and he’s honest, which is my favorite part of a hero.  For her part, Evie is no simpering miss–she is strong and determined and doesn’t back down.  The result is a book full of snappy, witty banter that doesn’t do much to hide the growing respect and devotion these two characters feel for each other, both in spite of, and because of, their differences.  It was a treat to see how well this story has aged, and I hope it can bring a smile to other readers, as well!

Note: The cover image on the Boston Public Library’s site is incorrect for this listing. The book is indeed by Suzanne Enoch.  And is very good!

August Macke “Blue Girl Reading”, 1912

 

Kelley: The Scot Beds His Wife by Kerrigan Byrne

When an American gunslinger finds herself pitted against a notorious Scottish earl, things are bound to get interesting, and that’s just what happens in Kerrigan Byrne’s latest Victorian Rebels book, The Scot Beds His Wife.

Samantha (“Sam”) Masters, former member of an American family of train robbers, comes to the Highlands posing as a Scottish heiress in order to hide from dangerous associations from her past in the American West. Upon arrival she immediately meets Gavin St. James, Earl of Thorne, her new neighbor, and the person intent on purchasing her property which has been unoccupied for years. When Gavin finds Sam unwilling to sell, the two quickly become adversaries, but the arguments and banter that ensue lead them to a reluctant respect and powerful physical attraction to one another. When Sam finds herself in danger, she and Gavin marry for mutual convenience, her for protection and him for the ownership of the land he believes to be hers, but what they don’t expect is to fall in love. Gavin’s devotion to his family and tenderness with his wife are not at all what Sam expected, and as for Sam, Gavin is deeply affected by her unique blend of strength and vulnerability.

This is one of my favorite types of romance, one with well-developed characters all around, including many secondary characters who would be welcome additions to upcoming books in the series. It’s also both fiery and fun, never taking itself too seriously, but still managing to pack in plenty of danger and passion to make for a good story. For those who, like me, didn’t love The Highwayman, the first book in this series, I encourage you to give Kerrigan Byrne a second chance. The Scot Beds His Wife was a fun read, and I look forward to exploring some of the Victorian Rebels books that I missed between this one and the first.

Until next month, beloved patrons!

Happy All Hallows Read!

We wish you the very best for this years official All Hallows Read, beloved patrons and readers!  May you sample all the candy you desire, may you be filled with treats and free of tricks.  And, for those who would like a little spooky reading for your All Hallows Read, we are happy to present you with a classic and shiver-inducing story: “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs.

Portrait of W.W. Jacobs by Elliot & Fry, via Wikipedia

 

Jacobs was born in Wapping, London in 1863, the son of a wharf manager.  He was well-educated, and eventually began work as a clerk in a post office savings bank.  The work afforded him both a living and time to write, and by 1885, he had his first short story published.  He married Agnes Eleanor Williams, a noted suffrage activist, in 1900.  Though Jacobs is remembered as a writer of horror stories (“The Monkey’s Paw” being the story for which he is most well-remembered), his career was mostly as a writer of humorous stories, predominately about mariners and sea-faring.  He was successful enough that he retired from the post office in 1899.

There are aspects of this story that are certainly dated, not the least of which is the “magical thing that comes from a faraway part of the Empire to destroy British people” trope.  It’s a theme that pops up everywhere in Sherlock Holmes stories, it was the basis for Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, it’s the main premise of Dracula…safe to say, it’s a well-worn theme that helped create the idea of the “other”–a figure that was frightening and dangerous and needed to be controlled.  And we should recognize that.  On the other hand, this story is still read, and still shared, because it is wonderfully constructed, finely wrought, and genuinely unsettling.  It is a perfect embodiment of the old maxim “be careful what you wish for”, but without feeling pedantic or rehashed.   Jacobs’ talents as a humorous shine through in places, as well, helping him create characters who are sympathetic and real, even down to their inability to play a good game of chess.  And it’s that connection to these people, and this ability to relate to them, even when they make the most dire of mistakes, that makes this story such an effective–and affecting–one.

So, we hope you enjoy “The Monkey’s Paw”, and that your All Hallows’ Read, or Halloween, or Tuesday evening, is one that brings you great joy.  And maybe a few shivers.  Just click on the title below to access!

The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs

Five Book Friday!

Happy Friday, dear readers!  If you’re looking for a fun adventure this weekend, be sure to check out the Boston Book Festival, a glorious weekend of book-loving, book-buying, and book-discussing!  It’s all taking place in Copley Square, and the line-up of authors this year is really impressive, diverse, exciting, and engaging.  You can get all the details at their website: https://bostonbookfest.org/

And if that isn’t enough books for you for one weekend, then feel free to check out these books (and many others!) that gamboled onto our shelves this week!

 

The Power: The winner of this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has at last arrived, both on our shores, and on our shelves!  This is a book that is both outlandish and challenging–but Naomi Alderman possess a phenomenal talent for making the world of her book feel normal, believable–and all the most chilling for it.  In this story, Alderman creates a world that looks remarkably like ours, with a wealth of intricate characters from around the globe, whose lives converge when a vital new force takes root and flourishes: Teenage girls now have immense physical power–they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.  This is a book is as much about our own world as that of the world that Alderman has created, and offers plenty of commentary on the state of gendered and age power structures.  Perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing is the correspondence that frame the main book, which highlights in painful clarity the language we use in talking about women, and how absurd it is taken out of context.  The Boston Globe‘s review echoed this sentiment, saying, “Alderman has conducted a brilliant thought experiment in the nature of power itself…Turning the world inside out, she reveals how one of the greatest hallmarks of power is the chance to create a mythology around how that power was used. In that sense, The Power is a testament to its own force – it begins and ends in the voice of the author herself – as if to say, lightning would be nice, but for now – and here – there’s the pen. It can do a lot.”

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: In 1916, at the height of World War I, brilliant Shakespeare expert Elizebeth Smith went to work for an eccentric tycoon on his estate outside Chicago. The tycoon had close ties to the U.S. government, and he soon asked Elizebeth to apply her language skills to an exciting new venture: code-breaking. There she met the man who would become her husband, groundbreaking cryptologist William Friedman. Though she and Friedman are in many ways the “Adam and Eve” of the NSA, Elizebeth’s story has always been overshadowed by William’s…until now.  In this well-researched and very well-told story, Jason Fagone presents Elizebeth’s life, her genius, and the real import of her work, bringing into focus the unforgettable events and colorful personalities that would help shape modern intelligence.  Fans of Hidden Figures are sure to find plenty to enjoy here!  Booklist gave Fagone’s work a starred review, too, hailing it as “Riveting, inspiring, and rich in colorful characters, Fagone’s extensively researched and utterly dazzling title is popular history at its very best and a book club natural.”

Death in the Air: the true story of a serial killer, the great London smog, and the strangling of a city: Fans of Erik Larson and David King should not waste a minute in checking out Kate Winkler Dawson’s fascinating and unsettling history of the deadliest air pollution disaster in world history…and the murderer who worked alongside it.  In winter 1952, London automobiles and thousands of coal-burning hearths belched particulate matter into the air. But the smog that descended on December 5th of 1952 was different; it was a type that held the city hostage for five long days. Mass transit ground to a halt, criminals roamed the streets, and 12,000 people died. That same month, there was another killer at large in London: John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least six women. In a braided narrative that draws on extensive interviews, never-before-published material, and archival research, Dawson captivatingly recounts the intersecting stories of the these two killers and their longstanding impact on modern history.  Authors from Douglas Preston to Simon Winchester have written blurbs for this all-around winner of a book, with the latter providing a poignant reminder of how close to these events we still are, and what a rare gift it is to be able to discuss such events in an insightful way.  He writes: “I was seven, and living in London, when these two dreadful and murderous events uncoiled, and I–asthmatic as a result–remember them still. It seems to me that only an outsider, a non-Londoner, could possibly bring them so vividly, so excruciatingly and so unflinchingly back to life. Kate Winkler Dawson has done the history of my city a great service, and she is to be commended for telling a terrible tale memorably and brilliantly.”

RighteousFans of Joe Ide’s debut mystery, IQ, should definitely check out this follow-up story featuring the compelling  Isaiah Quintabe.  Ten years ago, when Isaiah was just a boy, his brother was killed by an unknown assailant. The search for the killer sent Isaiah plunging into despair and nearly destroyed his life. Even with a flourishing career, a new dog, and near-iconic status as a PI in his hometown, East Long Beach, he has to begin the hunt again-or lose his mind.  But at the same time, I.Q. and his volatile, dubious sidekick, Dodson find themselves plunged into a case featuring Chinese gangsters, a terrifying seven-foot-tall loan shark, and a case that threatens not only I.Q. and Dodson, but the love of I.Q.’s life, as well.  This series is a hit with fans, critics, and other mystery writers alike, with its gritty scenarios, trash-talking characters, and the deep emotionality that Ide brings to the hardest of hard-boiled characters’ interactions.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this case a starred review, declaring it “Outstanding . . . Ide again makes his hero’s deductive brilliance plausible, while presenting an emotionally engaging story that doesn’t shy away from presenting the bleakest aspects of humanity.”

The Written WorldWhat is better than a book?  A book about books!  In this groundbreaking book, Martin Puchner leads us on a remarkable journey through time and around the globe to reveal the powerful role stories and literature have played in creating the world we have today. Puchner introduces us to numerous visionaries as he explores sixteen foundational texts selected from more than four thousand years of world literature and reveals how writing has inspired the rise and fall of empires and nations, the spark of philosophical and political ideas, and the birth of religious beliefs. Indeed, literature has touched the lives of generations and changed the course of history.  From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Harry Potter, Puchner’s delightful narrative also chronicles the inventions—writing technologies, the printing press, the book itself—that have shaped religion, politics, commerce, people, and history, making this a book that history buffs, techno-geeks, and book lovers alike will savor.  Any time Margaret Atwood composes a Tweet to your book, it’s a good day, and this tweet says it all: “Well worth a read, to find out how come we read.”

All Hallows Read: The Haunted House, Part 3

This week, we’ve been talking about the haunted house in literature, and detailing the kinds of haunted houses that one can find in traditional horror novels/ghost stories/All-Hallows Read selections.

Via The Business Journals

But as I was working on these posts, it occurred to me how many other kinds of haunted sites have been cropping up in fiction, especially lately.  According to many scholars of genre, the horror novel is entering a new phase, that isn’t wholly defined as yet.  Some of its core themes, however, deal with 1) our growing unease with the unknown, especially amidst the information explosion brought about by the internet, 2) a kind of existentialist despair–being faced with the realities and future threats of global climate change, nuclear armageddon, and other issues over which we have comparatively little control has introduced the fear that perhaps doom is inevitable.  That perhaps we can’t vanquish all the monsters with technology and fortitude.  Whether these genre tropes will grow and mature into a new era of horror has yet to be seen.  But what we do know is that we’ve already been treated to a host of horror novels that up-end conventions, while still providing the fears, dreads, and very human journeys that make horror novels so pleasurable to read.

Via Youtube

One of the noticeable themes that these books overturn is the notion of the haunted house.  In an age where fewer people are buying houses, it makes sense that the living situations reflected in horror novels needs to change, too.  You can’t really be scared of something if you have no frame of reference.  But while some of these books looks at a haunted apartment building, others keep pushing the line, giving us haunted superstores and haunted ships.  They enrich our thinking about the spaces we inhabit and the memories they carry inside them.  They challenge us to remember, even as we are told to look forward to the future, to not be held back by the past.  They also allow us to explore the dark secrets and troubling pasts that our characters carry with them, and how our own personal darkness can affect our perception of the world and each other.  No longer are our characters hapless victims of the spirit world–they are the dry charge themselves that make the spaces ugly and scary by bringing their very real-world ugliness and scariness into it.

So what are some of these new haunted spaces?  Take a look below and see what you think!

Horrorstör: Grady Hendrix is a really interesting author, who plays with conventions while still delivering interesting and engaging stories.  He’s also written a book that is laid out like a high school year book, which is perfect for those with 1980’s nostalgia.  But this book is very much of the moment, set in a generic Ikea, known as the Orsk furniture superstore.  Strange things have been going on in this Cleveland store, but when three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined.  This book is a model of good design (thanks to designer Andie Reid, illustrator Michael Rogalski, and cover photographer Christine Ferrara).  It is laid out like a glossy catalog, complete with showroom shots and maps of Orsk’s labyrinthine layout, providing a delightful contrast between the ironic and the horrific.

The Graveyard ApartmentThis Japanese horror novel, originally published in 1986,  takes us into an enormous apartment building that was constructed next to a graveyard. The young couple and their daughter who move into this household are dealing with their own inner darkness and wrestling with secrets they are fighting to keep hidden.  The longer they stay in their new place, though, the stranger and stranger things seem to get.  People around them move out one by one, until this small family is left alone in the building.  Alone, except for whatever is living in the basement. Mariko Koike is a master of the psychological novel, and this book doesn’t always show, and resists answering all the questions it asks.  Instead, it leaves it up to the reader to slide their own fears and doubts to the reading experience, and playing on our inherent fears of the dark and the unknown to create a genuinely chilling reading experience.

The Apartment: Another haunted apartment, this one set in the glamor of Paris.  This young family and their daughter (is there a trend here?) move from Cape Town after surviving a violent break-in that left them traumatized.  At first, the house-swap plan they find sounds perfect.  But upon moving to their European haven, they quickly realize that nothing is as advertised.  This is a story where the ‘haunting’ is a way to get to the heart of these characters, breaking down their defenses and facades and forcing them to confront each other’s worst (and sometimes best) qualities.  This is very much a story about people bringing out the worst, not only in each other, but in the space they inhabit, and that interaction makes it feel very modern, indeed.

 

Happy reading, beloved patrons.  And Happy All-Hallows Read!

 

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass