Tag Archives: Five Book Friday

Five Book Friday!

Despite the diversity of people’s activities this time of year, there is no doubt that this is time for “bustling”.  If you’re looking for some time to de-stress, to hide from the hectic pace in the real world, or are interested in some sensational new books, dvd, and cds, then the Library is an ideal place for you to be!  Let’s take a look at some of the books that have shuffled on to our shelves this week and are looking forward to joining you on all your wintery or holiday escapades!

King of the Road: R.S. Belcher is a fascinating author who can turn the most seemingly mundane topics into something genuinely fascinating.  His Brotherhood of the Wheel series is a perfect example, where he turns truckers into the legatees of the Knights Templar.  In this second book in the series, a missing-person case leads to a string of roadside murders and mutilations that stretches back decades―and to a cult of murderous clowns who are far more than mere urban legends.  And as if that’s not trouble enough, trucker Jimmy Aussapile and his allies must also cope with a violent civil war within an outlaw biker gang long associated with the Brotherhood, as well as run-ins with a rival gang led by a fierce werewolf biker chick who fights tooth and claw to protect her pack.  This is a funny, moving, wholly unique series that is absolutely transportive.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, saying in its starred review how Belcher’s “story wends expertly through a landscape filled with American folklore, ancient legends, and urban myths, culminating in a showdown that will have fans and newcomers alike eager for further installments of this fascinating series.”

River Bodies: Karen Katchur launches a new mystery series with this gripping story of long-buried secrets and the power they hold in one woman’s present.  A body has turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing. The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love.  Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface for Becca and her community—memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.  In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life—or end it.  This is a book, and a series, for people who love rich settings and a heavy sense of place.  It drew praise from Kirkus Reviews, who noted in its review that “Katchur is an engaging writer who ably navigates the dynamics of small-town life and the darkness that lurks beneath…Suspense with a tense family drama at its core.”

Hazards of Time Travel: Beloved author Joyce Carol Oates has come out with a powerful new book in which one young woman tests the limits of time travel and suffers the devastating costs.  When Adriane Strohl is named valedictorian of her high school class, she knows there’s a danger in standing and sticking out in her currently political climate.  Nevertheless, she gives her speech–and is immediately charged with with Treason and Questioning of Authority, the punishment for which is being sent back 80 years in the past to a place known as Wainscotia, Wisconsin.   Cast adrift in time in this idyllic Midwestern town she is set upon a course of “rehabilitation”—but cannot resist falling in love with a fellow exile and questioning the constrains of the Wainscotia world with results that are both devastating and liberating.  This is a quirky, unsettling book that looks at both our future and our past, with some wicked twists that will keep readers wondering.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, noting in its review that “Oates weaves a feeling of constant menace and paranoia throughout as Adriane struggles to remember her old life and adjust to her new one. The conclusion is surprising and ambiguous, leaving readers to question their own perception of events, making for a memorable novel.”

18 Miles: The Epic Drama of Our Atmosphere and Its Weather:  We live at the bottom of an ocean of air ― 5,200 million million tons, to be exact. It sounds like a lot, but Earth’s atmosphere is smeared onto its surface in an alarmingly thin layer ― 99 percent contained within 18 miles. Yet, within this fragile margin lies a magnificent realm ― at once gorgeous, terrifying, capricious, and elusive. With his keen eye for identifying and uniting seemingly unrelated events, Chris Dewdney reveals to us the invisible rivers in the sky that affect how our weather works and the structure of clouds and storms and seasons, the rollercoaster of climate. Dewdney details the history of weather forecasting and introduces us to the eccentric and determined pioneers of science and observation whose efforts gave us the understanding of weather we have today.  Engaging, fascinatingly researched, and wonderfully informative, this is a book for science buffs and more casual learners alike.  Library Journal loved this book, giving it a starred review and saying “This terrific, accessible, and exciting read helps us to better understand the aspects of weather and the atmosphere all around us.”

Before We Were Strangers: Brenda Novak’s newest book is a brooding, dark, twisty mystery that also deals with family secrets and the painful choices that one woman must make in confronting them.  Five-year-old Sloane McBride couldn’t sleep that night. Her parents were arguing again, their harsh words heating the cool autumn air. And then there was that other sound—the ominous thump before all went quiet.  In the morning, her mother was gone.
The official story was that she left, a story that hadn’t sat any better at the time than it did when Sloane moved out at eighteen, anxious to leave her small Texas hometown in search of anywhere else. But not even a fresh start working as a model in New York could keep the nightmares at bay. Or her fears that the domineering father she grew up with wasn’t just difficult—he was deadly.  Now another traumatic loss forces Sloane to realize she owes it to her mother to find out the truth, even if it means returning to a small town full of secrets and lies, a jilted ex-boyfriend, and a father and brother who’d rather see her silenced. But as Sloane starts digging into the past, the question isn’t whether she can uncover what really happened that night…it’s what will remain of her family if she does?  Fellow Harlequin author Susan Wiggs wrote a blurb for this book, cheering it as a “Riveting drama and suspense from a master of the craft. I loved this twisty tale of friends, enemies, lovers, liars, and a family fractured by secrets. It’s the perfect read to cozy up to on a long winter night.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free-For-All Birthday to American novelist, essayist, and poet, Willa Cather!

Image result for willa cather poem public domain
Via Academy of American Poets

Willa Cather was born in Virginia on December 7, 1873. Her family moved to Nebraska in 1883, ultimately settling in the town of Red Cloud, where the National Willa Cather Center is located today. She attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Cather moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1896 to pursue a career in journalism and work for the women’s magazine Home Monthly.  She also taught English, and pursued a career in writing.   In 1906, she moved to New York City to take an editorial position at McClure’s Magazine, which published her first collection of short stories.  In the 1920’s, unhappy with the way in which Houghton Mifflin was marketing her books, Cather turned to the young publishing house run by Alfred A Knopf, Sr, and his wife Blanche.  Especially impressed with Blanche’s capability (and skilled managing of the switchboards during her lunch break), Cather eventually published most of her novels with the firm.

via WikipediaAlthough enormously popular for a time, Cather’s works fell out of public appreciation during the Depression and the Dust Bowl, as her work no longer felt relevant to the dire difficulties of the age.  Disheartened and defensive, Cather destroyed a number of her manuscripts and put a clause in her will stating that her letters never be published.   Nevertheless, in April 2013, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather—a collection of 566 letters Cather wrote to friends, family, and literary acquaintances such as Thornton Wilder and F. Scott Fitzgerald—was published following the death of Cather’s nephew and second literary executor, Charles Cather.  Today, her work remains a critically important part of the canon of American literature, and research into her fascinating life continues to this day!

In honor of Willa Cather’s birthday, please enjoy this poem, which appears in Cather’s famous novel My Antonia: 

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

And now…on to the books!

The Darkness: Fans of Nordic noir really need to discover Ragnar Jonasson and his compulsively readable Icelandic mysteries.  In this newest release, a determined and insightful detective puts her life on the line for a woman no one else seems to remember.  The body of a young Russian woman washes up on an Icelandic shore. After a cursory investigation, the death is declared a suicide and the case is quietly closed.  Over a year later Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavík police is forced into early retirement at 64. She dreads the loneliness, and the memories of her dark past that threaten to come back to haunt her. But before she leaves she is given two weeks to solve a single cold case of her choice. She knows which one: the Russian woman whose hope for asylum ended on the dark, cold shore of an unfamiliar country. Soon Hulda discovers that another young woman vanished at the same time, and that no one is telling her the whole story. Even her colleagues in the police seem determined to put the brakes on her investigation. Meanwhile the clock is ticking.  Jonasson’s thrillers are always well-crafted and gripping, but he is also deeply compassionate toward his characters, giving emotional depth to these dark and twisty stories.  Kirkus Reviews loved this book, cheering,  “If you think you know how frigid Iceland can be, this blistering stand-alone from Jónasson has news for you: It’s much, much colder than you’ve ever imagined.”

All the Lives We Never Lived: Man-Booker-Prize-nominated author Anuradha Roy blends personal history and sweeping historical narrative into this novel, that deals with the nation of India during the Second World War, as well as about one son’s attempts to understand his mother’s story.  Growing up, Myshkin was known as “the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.”  Even though the man was, in fact, German, as Myshkin explains, “in small-town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British.”  For years, that was all that Myshkin knew about his mother, Gayatri, a rebellious, alluring artist who abandoned parenthood and marriage to follow her primal desire for freedom.  Though freedom may be stirring in the air of India, across the world the Nazis have risen to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, a German artist from Gayatri’s past seeks her out.  What follows is her life as pieced together by her son, a journey that takes him through India and Dutch‑held Bali. Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, he comes to understand his long‑lost mother, and the connections between strife at home and a war‑torn universe overtaken by patriotism.  Roy manages scale expertly in this book, creating a large-scale landscape while still providing a deeply moving and detailed portrait of one man and his remarkable mother.  Library Journal agrees, saying in their review, “This novel has an epic feel but also portrays the feelings of an abandoned child and captured woman while strongly evoking the sounds, scents, plants, people, and social structures of India at the time.”

Babel: Around the World in Twenty LanguagesEnglish is considered the world language, but most of the world doesn’t speak it.  As Gaston Dorren points out in this intriguing work, only one in five people does.  Furthermore, Dorren calculates, to speak fluently with half of the world’s 7.4 billion people in their mother tongues, you would need to know no fewer than twenty languages.  He sets out to explore these top twenty world languages, which range from the familiar, like French and Spanish, to the those to which we have little exposure, like Malay, Javanese, and Bengali, taking readers on a delightful journey to every continent of the world, tracing how these world languages rose to greatness while others fell away and showing how speakers today handle the foibles of their mother tongues. Whether showcasing tongue-tying phonetics or elegant but complicated writing scripts, and mind-bending quirks of grammar, Babel vividly illustrates that mother tongues are like nations: each has its own customs and beliefs that seem as self-evident to those born into it as they are surprising to the outside world.  This is a book that travelers and language-lovers of all stripes will find fascinating, and may very well change the way you think about the words you use every day!  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, delighting in the fact that “Dorren always succeeds in sharing his delight at the intricacies and compromises of human communication . . . Whether he is debunking common misunderstandings about Chinese characters or detailing the rigid caste distinctions ossified in Javanese, Dorren educates and fascinates. Word nerds of every strain will enjoy this wildly entertaining linguistic study.”

Nine Perfect Strangers: This came out a little while ago, dear readers, but due to popular demand, we’ve got more copies on the shelves for you! Fans of Lianne Moriarty’s Big Little Lies are going to delight in this newest of her novels, which brings her talent for creating complex characters with a classic mystery trope.  Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.  Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can? It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.  Twisty, turny, and utterly engrossing, this novel is getting plenty of praise from the likes of Oprah and Stephen King, and earned a starred and boxed review from Publisher’s Weekly (no easy feat), which read in part, “A cannily plotted, continually surprising, and frequently funny page-turner and a deeply satisfying thriller. Moriarty delivers yet another surefire winner.”

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?Nebula-award-winning author N.K. Jemisin’s first book of short stories is a rich and and intriguing collection that equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.  Fans of Jemisin’s phenomenal science fiction novels will love these stories, and those looking to introduce themselves to her ground-breaking work should look no further than this volume, which earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who praised the ways in which Jemisin  “[E]loquently develops a series of passionately felt themes… one of speculative fiction’s most thoughtful and exciting writers.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Six Book Saturday!

Since we weren’t around yesterday, beloved patrons, we weren’t able to bring you our traditional Five Book Friday.  But our doors are open today, and we are pleased to welcome you to come and find your new favorite reads (or films, or music…)!  And, to make up for the lack of reading recommendations yesterday, we’re adding an extra one to our list to provide you with a stellar Six Book Saturday!

Bitter OrangeClaire Fuller’s talent for creating psychologically complex, compelling fiction has already made her newest release a highly-talked-about title, but according to readers, this novel easily lives up to the hype.  We begin in the summer of 1969, where Frances Mother discovers a peephole in her dilapidated English country mansion that allows her to spy on the couple spending the summer in the rooms below while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens.  To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.  But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.   And as lies escalate to crimes, Frances’ small indiscretion threatens to spiral into some truly terrible.  Reviews are comparing this story to the incomparable Shirley Jackson, which, frankly, seems like enough reason to check out this novel soon!  In fact, the comparison was made by Kirkus Reviews, who gave this book a starred review in the process: “In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal. An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.”

The Feral DetectiveJonathan Lethem is a gifted storyteller with a rare talent for blending genres and tones into a work that is utterly unique.  This mystery, his second after the much acclaimed Motherless Brooklyn, features Charles Heist, a quirky detective to rival all quirky detectives.  Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble—caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe’s trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but she never thought it would end quite like this.   Critics are avid that Heist needs his own series, which makes it clear how much potential there is in this story. Booklist praised Lethem’s characters, as well as his narrative, calling this books, “A funny but rage-fueled stunner. . . . Both [characters] are compelling, as are the desert setting and the vividly realized descriptions of its dwellers. . . . An unrelentingly paced tale. . . . Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile.”

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know : The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce: Colm Tóibín begins his incisive and intriguing story of some of Ireland’s most famous writers and their fathers with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university—a wide-eyed boy from the country—and where these three Irish literary giants also came of age.  Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland.  In this insightful study, Tóibín illuminates not only the complex relationships between these men of letters and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work.  The Washington Post was just one outlet that wrote a glowing review for this slim but scintillating volume, saying “This gentle, immersive book holds literary scholarship to be a heartfelt, heavenly pursuit.”

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter, Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace: And speaking of controversial fathers….In 1815, the clever, courted, and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet.  Ada didn’t. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron’s little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits. Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary imagination.  When Ada died―like her father, she was only 36―great things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday’s experiments with light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars.  Utilizing new and under-utilized sources, Miranda Seymour has crafted a fascinating and revelatory new history that liberate Annabella and Ada from Byron’s shadow, while still recognizing the power his legacy had over both women.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a sparkling review of this book, calling it “Meticulously researched. A skilled and experienced biographer, Seymour weaves her way through cowboy curtains of rumor and gossip, showing how tabloid intrusions are nothing new, privacy has always been won at a price, and reputation―the judgment of the public―remains a slippery, fragile thing. The combination of pure mathematics and agonized personal passions gives Seymour’s book an arresting power.”

Born to be Posthumous : The Eccentric life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey: What can we say–it’s a good week for biographies! Edward Gorey’s wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.  But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O’Hara at Harvard, and was known–in the late 1940s, no less–to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes–but who was the real Edward Gorey?  Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Mark Dery has created reveals Gorey in all his quirky glory, a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious.  Anyone who has savored Gorey’s remarkable illustrations and poems will love this work–NPR agrees, saying in its review: “The best biographies are the result of a perfect match between author and subject, and it’s relatively rare when the two align perfectly. But that’s the case with Born to Be Posthumous–Dery shares Gorey’s arch sense of humor, and shows real sympathy for his sui generis outlook and aesthetics. Dery’s book is smart, exhaustive, and an absolute joy to read… the biography [Gorey] has long deserved.”

The Kinship of SecretsEugenia Kim is an author long-endeared to readers, and this newest novel is a beautiful mix of historical insight and deep character work that fans and newcomers alike will find compelling.  In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their infant daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.  But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?  This book, told in alternating perspectives by the two sisters, is a story inspired by Kim’s own life, and is full of moving truths that make it unforgettable.  The Washington Post noted how it “Beautifully illuminate[s] Korea’s past in ways that inform our present….Kim infuses a coming-of-age story about being an outsider with the realities of the war, which forced many family separations, some of which still persist today.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a messy, snowy rainy, bleak day it is out there, beloved patrons!  But never fear, we are here, the heat is on, and we have books, cds, and films galore to help you deal with the weather, holiday stress, and visiting relatives.

Just as a reminder, the Library has scheduled a staff meeting on Monday, November 19.  The Main Library will be closed from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.  The South Branch and West Branch Libraries will be closed from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.

Additionally, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, we will be closing at 5pm on Wednesday, November 21.  We will reopen on Saturday, November 24 at 9am.  We wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving and look forward to seeing you soon!

And now, on to the books!

FoeFans of Iain Reid’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things will be pleased to know his second book is out, and just as mind-bending and fascinating as his debut.  Set in the near future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company in the form of a synthetic replica of Junior.  But if you think the weirdness ends there, you haven’t read enough of Reid’s puzzling, eerie prose, and should pick this book up post haste!  Booklist gave this novel a starred review, cheering that “Reid is at it again, exploiting readers with plot twists, narrative unease, and explosive conclusions in his second novel… [he] has the rare ability to make readers both uncomfortable and engaged, and this drama will surely send them back to the beginning pages to track the clues he left to the surprise ending.”

In the House in the Dark: Local readers already have plenty of background for the setting and premise of this story, but the twists and turns it takes on its way to its conclusion are sure to keep even the most devoted scholar of witchcraft and Puritanism captivated.  The story opens in colonial New England, where an upstanding Puritan woman has gone missing.  Or perhaps she has fled or abandoned her family. Or perhaps she’s been kidnapped, and set loose to wander in the dense woods of the north. Alone and possibly lost, she meets another woman in the forest. Then everything changes.  On a journey that will take her through dark woods full of almost-human wolves, through a deep well wet with the screams of men, and on a living ship made of human bones, our heroine may find that the evil she flees may be much closer than she ever suspected.  This is a story that beautifully blends Native American folklore with colonial myths into a wholly unique original tale that is as haunting as it is unsettling.  The New York Times Review of Books loved this story, saying “[Hunt] has fashioned an edge of-the-seat experience more akin to watching a horror movie…Darkness is everywhere. . . . So prepare yourself. This is a perfect book to read when you’re safely tucked in your home, your back to the wall, while outside your door the wind rips the leaves from the trees and the woods grow dark.”

InsurrectoArmchair explorers, historians, and fiction lovers alike will love this tale, which uses a modern premise to tell the tale of the Balangiga massacre in the Philippines in 1901.  Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about the events that transpired in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside. Magsalin reads Chiara’s film script and writes her own version. Insurrecto contains within its dramatic action two rival scripts from the filmmaker and the translator—one about a white photographer, the other about a Filipino schoolteacher, creating a wholly unique narrative that sheds light not only on the stories we fear to tell, but on the way we construct history and memory.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this wonderfully inventive novel a starred review, describing how  “Apostol fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines in her ingenious novel of competing filmmakers . . . Layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey into the past and present of the Philippines.”

Death and Other Holidays: Marci Vogel’s debut novel has critics everywhere delighted, and the book has already been nominated for–and won!–several literary prizes.  Life is coming fast at  twenty-something April. All the heavy stuff of adulthood—including the death of a loved one—seems to have happened to her all at once, leaving her reeling, and challenging her wit and grit in ways she never imagined.  Over the course of a single year, we see her confront her fears and vulnerability, as well as find a deep well of strength that propels her forward.  This is a clear-sighted, enormously empathetic story that won a starred review from Kirkus, who called it a “beautiful book…The prose is stunning..a moving and graceful novella of overcoming sorrow.”

The Way of All FleshA fascinating historical mystery that has already earned a devoted following in the UK, this book blends fact and fiction into an intriguing concoction that readers are sure to savor.  We begin in Edinburgh, 1847.  Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson. Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognizes trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education. With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.  Ambrose Parry is the pseudonym of husband/wife writing team Chris Brookmyre and historian Marisa Haetzman, and their talents shine in what we hope will not be their last collaboration!  Publisher’s Weekly noted that “Parry provides a fascinating look at how medicine was practiced at a period when anesthetics were still not widely used or understood, as well as certain things that have changed little over time: mansplaining, the subservience expected of women of any social class, and religious leaders demanding their God-given right to control reproductive health. Readers will eagerly await the sequel.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

Holy Toledo, beloved patrons!  It’s been a whole week, and due to a terrible combination of common colds and general confusion, we have been pretty quiet this week–for which, our sincere apologies.  We look forward to making it up to you in the coming weeks with lots of scintillating posts and helpful information, so stick around, ok?

For now, we bring you a handful of the books that braved the damp and windy fall weather to hop up onto our shelves, and cannot wait to make your acquaintance!

MaroonedJamestown, Shipwreck, and a New  History of America’s Origins: Think you know the story of Jamestown–the first successful British colonial settlement in what would eventually become the United States?  Well, Professor Joseph Kelly in eager to challenge the common assumptions and legends around Jamestown.  In this gripping account of shipwrecks and mutiny in America’s earliest settlements, Kelly argues that the colonists at Jamestown were literally and figuratively marooned, cut loose from civilization, and cast into the wilderness. The British caste system meant little on this frontier: those who wanted to survive had to learn to work and fight and intermingle with the nearby native populations.  Kelly not only introduces us to a new way of thinking about history, but a new cast of characters, as well, making this a historical work for history buffs, political minds, and lovers of good adventure can all support.  Booklist gave this thought-provoking book a starred review, observing, “The U.S. loves its creation myths, and this mythmaking, myth-breaking history gives us a new character, Stephen Hopkins… Though Hopkins and those like him left few records, Kelly fleshes out the available glimpses with a vivid, detailed description of the settlement and its English and Native American contexts…Kelly’s dynamic narrative brings Jamestown to life and shows how history reflects the present as well as the past.”

LittleA fascinating historical fiction that challenges and reinvents a critical moment in world history, through the eyes of one remarkable young woman.  In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and . . . at the wax museum, heads are what they do.  Carey’s novel earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who noted “There is nothing ordinary about this book, in which everything animate and inanimate lives, breathes, and remembers. Carey, with sumptuous turns of phrase, fashions a fantastical world that churns with vitality, especially his “Little,” a female Candide at once surreal and full of heart.”

I Am Dynamite! A Life of Nietzsche: Plenty of people quote Nietzsche, and reference his philosophy, but so few people know much about the man himself, beyond his remarkable mustache.  Sue Prideaux is out to change that with this new biography that brings readers into the world of this brilliant, eccentric, and deeply troubled man, illuminating the events and people that shaped his life and work. From his placid, devoutly Christian upbringing—overshadowed by the mysterious death of his father—through his teaching career, lonely philosophizing on high mountains, and heart-breaking descent into madness, Prideaux documents Nietzsche’s intellectual and emotional life with a novelist’s insight and sensitivity.  She also produces unforgettable portraits of the people who were most important to him, including Richard and Cosima Wagner, Lou Salomé, the woman who broke his heart; and his sister Elizabeth, a hard-line German nationalist and anti-Semite who manipulated his texts and turned the Nietzsche archive into a destination for Nazi ideologues.  This is a biography for those looking to know more about Nietzsche himself, but also about the world and time that shaped him.  The Times in London loved that aspect of this book, calling this book “Witty, terribly clever and steeped in the wild, doomed peculiarities of 19th-century Germania…a tremendous and reformative biography of a man whom popular history has perhaps done a disservice.”

Pulse:  In a small apartment above Kenmore Square, sixteen-year-old Daniel Fitzsimmons is listening to his landlord describe a seemingly insane theory about invisible pulses of light and energy that can be harnessed by the human mind. He longs to laugh with his brother Harry about it, but Harry doesn’t know he’s there—he would never approve of Daniel living on his own. None of that matters, though, because the next night Harry, a Harvard football star, is murdered in an alley.  Detectives “Bark” Jones and Tommy Dillon are assigned to the case. The veteran partners thought they’d seen it all, but they are stunned when Daniel wanders into the crime scene. Even stranger, Daniel claims to have known the details of his brother’s murder before it ever happened. The subsequent investigation leads the detectives deep into the Fitzsimmons brothers’ past. They find heartbreaking loss, sordid characters, and metaphysical conspiracies. Even on the rough streets of 1970s Boston, Jones and Dillon have never had a case like this.  A little bit of paranormal, a little bit of mystery, and a wonderful amount of world-building, this is a unique, pulse-pounding novel for anyone looking for something entirely different–or, as The Guardian put it, “Both unexpected and extremely clever.”

Broadway to Main Street: How Show Tunes Enchanted America: The crossroads where the music of Broadway meets popular culture is an expansive and pervasive juncture throughout most of the twentieth century–from sheet music to radio broadcasts to popular and original cast recordings–and continues to influence culture today through television, streaming, and the Internet. The original Broadway cast album–from the 78 rpm recording of Oklahoma! to the digital download of Hamilton–is one of the most successful, yet undervalued, genres in the history of popular recording. The challenge of capturing musical narrative with limited technology inspired the imagination of both the recording industry and millions of listeners: between 1949 and 1969, fifteen different original cast albums hit number one on the popular music charts, ultimately tallying more weeks at number one than all of the albums by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles combined. The history of Broadway music is also the history of American popular music; the technological, commercial, and marketing forces of communications and media over the last century were inextricably bound up in the enterprise of bringing the musical gems of New York’s Theater District to living rooms along Main Streets across the nation.  Featuring interviews from composers, actors, singers, producers, and critics, this is a book for anyone with a song in their heart, stars in their eyes, or their ear tuned to the music of the Great White Way.  Library Journal was smitten with this book, giving it a starred review and cheering, “This is both a lovely gift to musical theater fans and a serious text for those who study Broadway – Maslon deserves and receives raves.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

The first hard frost of the year have arrived, beloved patrons, and you know what that means….

…..It’s time for more books!
It’s always time for more books.  Who are we kidding here?  That was a very easy question.

Here’s a list of some of the new volumes that have nestled onto our shelves this week who are willing to brave the wintry weather by your side!

A Life of My Own: Claire Tomalin is a world-respected biography of such literary lights as Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.  In her newest work, however, she turns her gaze inward, telling us about her own life surrounded by books and literature.  From discovering books as a form of escapism during her parents’ difficult divorce, to pursuing poetry at Cambridge, to the glittering London literary scene of the 1960s, this is a book of huge scope and private emotions, including Tomalin’s difficult marriage to a philanderer, his death, and her struggles as a single mother.  In addition, she sheds light on a longstanding career, including being commissioned to write her first book, a biography of the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Marked by honesty, humility, and grace, rendered in the most elegant of prose, Tomalin’s memoir is a portrait of a life, replete with joy and heartbreak. Vogue.com wrote a glowing review of this book, calling Tomalin “a master craftswoman, and it’s a thrill to see her prose and capacity for moving storytelling turned on her own life… If it leads you to read some of her biographies (Jane Austen is a favorite), you’ll be better off.”

The Accident on the A35: Readers who loved Graeme Macrae Burnet’s first Inspector Gorki novel (and his Man Booker Prize Shortlisted book!) will love to see the Inspector return in another fascinating puzzle, set in rural France. Detective Gorski is called away from his night of solitary drinking to the site of a car accident that left Bertrand Barthelme, a respected solicitor, dead. When the deceased’s rather attractive wife suggests that the crash may not have been an accident, Gorski looks closer into Barthelme’s circumspect movements on the night of his death. His investigation leads him to various bars, hotels, and brothels in the nearby city of Strasbourg. At the same time, Barthelme’s rebellious son, drunk on Jean Paul Sartre novels, is conducting an investigation of his own. Their independent, dual inquiries lead the reader down a twisted road marked by seedy back rooms, bar brawls, and–as we have come to expect from Burnet–copious amounts of wine.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this second book in the series a starred review, saying “Man Booker-finalist Burnet’s smart, sharp follow-up to The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau offers a “lost” novel by fictional French writer Raymond Brunet (who anagram is hardly subtle), released by his estate after his suicide….Burnet elevates what starts as a Simenon pastiche into something dazzling.”

Treason of Hawks: Lila Bowen’s stunning Shadows series draws to a close with this absorbing fourth book.  Rhett Walker is looking for peace, the memories of all he’s lost haunting his dreams.  But with the lawless Rangers on his heels and monster attacks surging, Rhett is surrounded on all sides. When his friends and allies are suddenly ambushed, Rhett must answer the Shadow’s call and ride into one last, fateful battle.  Fans who have already encountered Bowen’s limitless imagination and flare for prose will know how fascinating the world of this series has become, and for new readers…this is a perfect excuse to get started on a series that is sure to delight.  Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, calling it “Absorbing…fans will love this final chapter in Bowen’s story.”

Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short FictionTor.com has been a site for some of the most ground-breaking and innovative science fiction on the internet, and this volume brings together some of the highlights of the past decade for those looking to move away from the screen to the page.  Here, readers will find a wealth of remarkable stories that span the distances from science fiction to fantasy to horror, and everything in between.  With Nebula- and Hugo-Award-winning authors N. K. Jemisin, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jeff VanderMeer, this is a book for devoted fans and genre newcomers alike to savor.  Kirkus Reviews described this behemoth tome gleefully as “a small sampling of the excellent fiction they’ve been offering over the past decade…Short Fiction is awesome. Tor.com is one of the reasons why.”

Where the Crawdads SingA “new to us” book, this emotional and finely wrought story is a perfect fit for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell.  For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens. This is a book that has gotten rave reviews across the country, including from The New York Times Review of Books, who called it “A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature….Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

We also wanted to alert you to the fact that the West Branch Library is once again a site for early voting in Massachusetts!

Early voting will begin on October 22nd and continue through
November 2nd, 2018. Prior to the enactment of this new law, the only way a registered voter was allowed to vote prior to Election Day was through absentee voting. Although absentee voting will still be available for registered voters who qualify, only those who will be absent from their city or town on Election Day, or have a disability that prevents them from going to the polls, or have a religious belief
preventing the same, are legally allowed to vote by absentee ballot.
Unlike absentee voting, early voting is for every registered voter. Registered voters do not need an excuse or reason to vote early. Regardless of whether a voter wants to take advantage of early voting, vote absentee or vote on Election Day, the first step is making sure you are registered. To check to see if you are registered to vote, and to find information on how to register to vote, you may visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website. To be eligible to vote in the November 6th State Election, you must have registered to vote or made any necessary changes to your voter registration by Wednesday, October 17th, 2018.

Check out this handy fact sheet for early voting times and locations around Peabody!

And now, on to the books!

MelmouthAnyone who savored Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent will no doubt be delighted to hear her second novel has arrived!  For those who haven’t yet encountered this magical world, do yourself a favor and do so!  It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts—or, at least, refuge. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it, Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy. But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears.   What unfolds is a spellbinding, time-hopping, thoroughly haunting tale that is as philosophical as it is chilling, and is sure to keep you in suspense through these ever-lengthening nights!  Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, describing it as “An unforgettable achievement…Perry’s heartbreaking, horrifying monster confronts the characters not just with the uncanny but also with the human: with humanity’s complicity in history’s darkest moments, its capacity for guilt, its power of witness, and its longing for both companionship and redemption.”

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger: Women are angry, and with every passing day, it seems that rage is more and more justified.  But, as Soraya Chemaly notes throughout this book, contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and an entire lifetime of being told otherwise, women’s rage is one of the most important resources available, the sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. Women have been told for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode their bodies and minds in ways they don’t even realize. Yet anger is a vital instrument, a radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.  With insight, energy, and wit, Chemaly insists that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a new understanding of one of our core emotions that will give women a liberating sense of why their anger matters and connect them to an entire universe of women no longer interested in making nice at all costs.  The Guardian loved this book, praising it in a beautiful review which read in part “Rage is a battle-cry of a book, drawing on all corner of contemporary life, from media to education and medicine. She takes the reader through a woman’s life, from infancy to adulthood, highlighting the systemic ways female rage is suppressed, diverted or minimalised. And she provides scientific evidence to back up her ideas. If life as a modern woman is maddening, then Rage is a sanity-restorer.”

Shell Game: Sara Paretsky’s acclaimed detective, V.I. Warshawski, is back, and taking on a twisting shocker of a case that is sure to keep fans spellbound.  Legendary sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend’s nephew from a murder arrest. The case involves a stolen artifact that could implicate a shadowy network of international criminals. As V.I. investigates, the detective soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East. This is a case where nothing and no one are what they seem, except for the detective herself, who loses sleep, money, and blood, but remains indomitable in her quest for justice. Booklist gave this series installment a starred review, calling it “An expertly woven tale… Paretsky’s landmark series remains as popular as ever, and the social consciousness behind the stories seems ever more in tune with contemporary events.”

Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times: If you’re like me, and had a sensational crush on Chopin, then this is the book for you!  Based on ten years of research and a vast cache of primary sources located in archives in Warsaw, Paris, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., Alan Walker’s monumental work is the most comprehensive biography of the great Polish composer to appear in English in more than a century. Walker’s work is a corrective biography, intended to dispel the many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin. Throughout this compelling text, Walker presents the intricate dynamics of a dramatic life; of particular focus are Chopin’s childhood and youth in Poland, which are brought into line with the latest scholarly findings, and Chopin’s romantic life with George Sand, with whom he lived for nine years. Comprehensive and engaging, and written in highly readable prose, the biography wears its scholarship lightly: this is a book suited as much for the professional pianist as it is for the casual music lover. Kirkus agreed, giving this book a starred review and calling it “A sensitively discerning examination of a 19th-century superstar . . . a magnificent, elegantly written biography . . . An absorbing biography unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon.”

1,000 Books to Read: A Life-Changing List: This marvelous book takes the stress of dying out of your reading experience by instead presenting the volumes that will help you live a more full, engaged life.  Covering fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history, and more, these selections ranges across cultures and through time to offer an eclectic collection of works that each deserve to come with the recommendation, You have to read this. But it’s not a proscriptive list of the “great works”—rather, it’s a celebration of the glorious mosaic that is our literary heritage.  There are nuts and bolts, too—best editions to read, other books by the author, “if you like this, you’ll like that” recommendations , and an interesting endnote of adaptations where appropriate. Add it all up, and in fact there are more than six thousand titles by nearly four thousand authors mentioned—a life-changing list for a lifetime of reading.  Booklist waxes rhapsodical about this work, giving it a starred review and saying “Every so often, a reference book appears that changes the landscape of its area of focus. In the case of reading and readers’ advisory, this is one such book….lively, witty, insightful prose…It might be wise to invest in several copies of this wonderful meditation on life lived with and enhanced by the written word.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!