Tag Archives: Five Book Friday

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All birthday today to  Charles Perrault, French author, and one of the founders of the fairy tale genre.

Perrault’s portrait, approximately 1671-2

If you’ve ever read Cinderella, Puss In Boots, or Little Red Riding Hood, you’re familiar with Perrault’s work.  Born on this day in 1628 to a wealthy family, he trained as a lawyer, and began his career in government service, where he took part in the creation of the Academy of Sciences as well as the restoration of the Academy of Painting.  His career was quite the successful one: he was able to get his brother employed as a designer on the Louvre Museum, he convinced King Louis XIV to include thirty-nine fountains each representing one of the fables of Aesop in the labyrinth of Versailles in the gardens of Versailles, and gained a reputation as a writer, as well.  However, after being forced into retirement and unable to find other long-term employment, Perrault decided to dedicate himself to his children, publishing stories that he told and collected for them.   In 1697 he published Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals(Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé), subtitled Tales of Mother Goose (Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye).  Mother Goose herself was not a real person, by the by, but instead was a kind of a wise woman of folklore who was known for dispensing homespun wisdom.  These tales which were all based on French popular tradition, became extremely popular in among Perrault’s former colleagues in the French court, and the book’s publication made him suddenly quite famous.  Although Perrault is often credited as the founder of the modern fairy tale genre, his writing was both informed and inspired by writers and storytellers like Le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness d’Aulnoy, who coined the phrase “fairy tale” and wrote tales as early as 1690.  

Although many of Perrault’s tales, like Cinderella and Puss In Boots remain generally the way he wrote them, a number of them were changed through re-telling.  For example, his Sleeping Beauty also exists as Little Briar Rose, which was a story collected by the Grimm Brothers a century later.  Additionally, his Little Red Riding Hood ended quite grimly, with Red getting eaten.  The story was meant as a warning for girls not only about the danger of the forest, but of the “wolves” (read: men) who might prey upon them as they attempted to make their way through that forest.   Though Charles Perrault died in Paris in 1703 at the age of 75, his stories live on today is countless adaptations, re-tellings, and in myriad versions through the years.

If you’d like to read more of Perrault’s stories, stop on by the Library!  Also, here are some of the new books that have wandered on to our shelves this week, and are eager to make your acquaintance:

The TransitionLuke Kennard’s first novel is a wickedly funny, elegant little dystopian novel that skewers everything from capitalism to dating with such skill and flair as to make even the darkest moments irresistible.  Set in Britain several years from now, the book focuses on Karl and Genevieve, a couple whose spending always seems greater than their earnings, and who are toeing the line of financial ruin.  When they trip over that line, however, Genevieve and Karl aren’t sent to prison, but to The Transition: a six‑month break from their normal lives, during which they will live with an older, more successful couple, and learn from them about all that boring adult stuff like financial planning , proper hygiene, and, with their help. save up enough money to buy a rabbit hutch on the bad side of town.  But even as Genevieve falls under the spell of The Transition, Karl can’t help but notice that somethings just don’t seem right.  Who left those scratched warnings on the bedpost, for example?  And what happens to those who are “B-streamed”?  And just what is going on in the basement?  Publisher’s Weekly loved this book enough to give it a starred (and boxed!) review, describing it as a “sharp, witty debut . . . Enlivened by crisp dialogue and Wildean epigrams… Kennard calibrates satire and sentiment, puncturing glib diagnoses of a generation’s shortcomings while producing a nuanced portrait of a marriage.”

The Widows of Malabar Hill: Inspired in part by Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female attorney, this is a beautifully written mystery that captures the multicultural  setting 1920’s Bombay beautifully, and gives readers a fantastic new feminist sleuth to follow.  Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.  When she is appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows, Perveen notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity, leaving them nothing on which to survive.  Are these secluded women being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian?  As Perveen tries to investigate, tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.  Perveen’s first case has been hailed as a ‘best of’ by a number of literary magazines and websites, with Booklist giving it a starred review, and saying “In addition to getting an unusual perspective on women’s rights and relationships, readers are treated to a full view of historical downtown Bombay—the shops and offices, the docks and old fort, and the huge variety of conveyances, characters, and religions—in an unforgettable olio that provides the perfect backdrop to the plot and subplots. Each of the many characters is uniquely described, flaws and all, which is the key to understanding their surprising roles in the well-constructed puzzle.”

Beau Death:  Anyone whose read any of Peter Lovesey’s mysteries featuring Bath detective Peter Diamond will know that these books very seldom disappoint, and this new installment is a corking good historical mystery that will keep new and old fans alike riveted.  A wrecking crew is demolishing a row of townhouses in order to build a grocery store when they uncover a skeleton in one of the attics. The dead man is wearing authentic 1760s garb and on the floor next to it is a white tricorn hat—the ostentatious signature accessory of Beau Nash, one of Bath’s most famous historical men-about-town, a fashion icon and incurable rake who, some say, ended up in a pauper’s grave. Or did the Beau actually end up in a townhouse attic? The Beau Nash Society will be all in a tizzy when the truth is revealed to them.  Chief Inspector Peter Diamond, who has been assigned to identify the remains, begins to fantasize about turning Nash scholarship on its ear. But one of his constables is stubbornly insisting the corpse can’t be Nash’s—the non-believer threatens to spoil Diamond’s favorite theory, especially when he offers some pretty irrefutable evidence. Is Diamond on a historical goose chase? Should he actually be investigating a much more modern murder?  Lovesey’s sense of place and his ability to capture characters effortlessly make each of these mysteries a delight, and he gets to put his talents to extra-good use here, comparing present-day Bath with the hedonistic fun-fair of Beau Nash’s time.  Kirkus Reviews gave this case a starred review, delighting in the way “Lovesey moves from one dexterously nested puzzle to the next with all the confidence of a magician who knows the audience won’t see through his deceptions no matter how slowly he unveils them.”

RoomiesThere are very few sure bets in this world, but a book by the writing team known as Christina Lauren is definitely one of them.  This delightful, snarky, steamy marriage-of-convenience romance is a treat, and Lauren’s ability to create emotional honesty and chemistry between protagonists just can’t be beat.  For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions.  Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until it comes to light that he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago.  Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, Holland impulsively marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him.  As their relationship evolves, however, and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway, will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?  Though the very real fears of immigration may be treated a bit lightly here, the heart of this story is the terrific relationship between Holland and Calvin, and the way it brings out the best in both of them.  Entertainment Weekly agrees, noting, “Lauren masters rom-com banter and plotting, while also reminding us that the best entries in the genre are all about recognizing our own value regardless of relationship status. One of our 10 best romances of 2017.”

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: The title of this book alone is enough to attract attention, but Dan Harris backs it up with some simple, straightforward reasons for and approaches to meditation, based on his own experiences.  After having a panic attack on air in 2004, Harris was eager for a way to reduce his anxiety and help him focus.  This book is the result of that search, and of Harris’ cross-country quest to tackle the myths, misconceptions, and self-deceptions that stop people from meditating.  Along with his friend,  teacher and “Meditation MacGyver” Jeff Warren, Harris rented a former rock band’s tour bus and journeyed across eighteen states, talking to scores of would-be meditators—including parents, military cadets, police officers, and even a few celebrities–collecting their reasons for not meditating, and offering science-based ‘life hacks’ to help readers overcome them.  This thoroughly unique, genre-defying book featuring Harris’ one-of-a-kind insightful, sarcastic, and highly readable narrative voice, as well as plenty of down-to-earth advice for anyone looking to make a small change for the better in the new year.  Publisher’s Weekly helpfully notes that “Meditation newbies will particularly benefit from the topics covered: how to find time, how to sit, how to overcome self-judgment, and other FAQs about the powerful, life-changing practice the authors strive to unpack and promote in this clever guide.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

The Library is closed today, beloved patrons, thanks to the Nor’easter yesterday…pardon, the ‘Bomb Cyclone’ that left two-foot drifts outside my house, and caused plenty of other headaches and heartaches around the state.  We sincerely hope you are all safe, warm, and enjoying a little pillow-fort book time.  We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to the Library tomorrow!  And if you’re eager for some new reading material, check out this selection of new books that braved the elements to settle onto our shelves this week:


J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax 2018Yeah, yeah, we know.  It’s no fun, and it’s super stressful.  But if you’re looking to do your own taxes this year, we’re here to help.  Check out the rest of our useful information on Tax Season help, too…tax forms should be here shortly, and our West Branch is accepting calls for people looking for help filling out their taxes.  Give them a call as soon as possible to secure a spot on the schedule: (978) 535-3354.

Green: A NovelSam Graham-Felsen is a former Obama campaign staffer, but his career as a novelist seems to be off to a terrific start.  His debut coming-of-age novel opens in Boston, in 1992.  David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School. Everybody clowns him, girls ignore him, and his hippie parents won’t even buy him a pair of Nikes, let alone transfer him to a private school. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school—which, if practice tests are any indication, isn’t likely—he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future.  Nobody’s more surprised than Dave when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him in the school cafeteria. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: He’s nerdy and neurotic, a Celtics obsessive whose favorite player is the gawky, white Larry Bird. Before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given—and that Mar has not.  Charming, fun, startlingly insightful and unflinchingly honest, this is a book that is as heart-warming as it is eye-opening, and was an Editor’s Pick by Library Journal, who raved that it “poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.” 

The Annotated African American Folklore: In this stunning book, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar have assembled a groundbreaking collection of folktales, myths, and legends that reveals and revitalizes the vibrant details of African American culture.  Arguing for the value of these deceptively simple stories as part of a sophisticated, complex, and heterogeneous cultural heritage, Gates and Tatar show how these remarkable stories deserve a place alongside the classic works of African American literature, and American literature more broadly.  Beginning with the figure of Anansi, the African trickster, master of improvisation―a spider who plots and weaves in scandalous ways―The Annotated African American Folktales then goes on to draw Caribbean and Creole tales into the orbit of the folkloric canon. It retrieves stories not seen since the Harlem Renaissance and brings back archival tales of “Negro folklore” that Booker T. Washington proclaimed had emanated from a “grapevine” that existed even before the American Revolution, stories brought over by slaves who had survived the Middle Passage.   This work is being hailed as the comprehensive and ambitious collection of African American folktales ever published in American literary history, and is a fascinating read for folklore, culture, and history fans alike.  Library Journal also wrote a terrific review for this book, noting that “Survival, both physical and spiritual, is the reality that underpins these stories, as is resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity. This valuable and much-needed anthology is highly recommended for readers interested in folklore and African American history.”

Mean:  Myriam Gurba is a queer spoken-word performer, visual artist, and writer from Santa Maria, California, and is also building an impressive career as a writer, artist (her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach), and as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.  This new release combines true crime, memoir, and ghost story, to create a wholly original, thought-provoking, and starltingly comedic story of Gurba’s coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Gurba takes on sexual violence, small towns, and race, turning what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, intoxicating, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.  This is by no means an easy read, but it’s a necessary one.  The New York Times agrees, saying “Mean calls for a fat, fluorescent trigger warning start to finish — and I say this admiringly. Gurba likes the feel of radioactive substances on her bare hands.”

The Wine Lover’s Daughter: Anyone who has settled in with a nice glass of red (or white) during this tough stretch of winter will appreciate Anne Fadiman’s memoir of growing up with one of the beverage’s most devoted aficionados.   An appreciation of wine–along with a plummy upper-crust accent, expensive suits, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Western literature–was an essential element of Clifton Fadiman’s escape from lower-middle-class Brooklyn to swanky Manhattan. But wine was not just a class-vaulting accessory; it was an object of ardent desire–from the glass of cheap Graves he drank in Paris in 1927 through the Château Lafite-Rothschild 1904 he drank to celebrate his eightieth birthday, when he and the bottle were exactly the same age, to the wines that sustained him in his last years, when he was blind but still buoyed, as always, by hedonism.  Wine is the spine of this touching memoir; the life and character of Fadiman’s father, along with her relationship with him and her own less ardent relationship with wine, are the flesh.  Ultimately this is a book about love, and the journeys on which it can take us that earned a starred review from Booklist, who said in its review, “In this crisp, scintillating, amusing, and affecting memoir, Anne incisively and lovingly portrays her brilliant and vital father and brings into fresh focus the dynamic world of twentieth-century books and America’s discovery of wine.”

Five Book Friday!

And a frigid one it is, dear readers.   Though many of us consider ourselves hale and hearty New Englanders who tweak the nose of bad weather and giggle at climatic extremes…it’s really cold out there, and it never hurts to read, reread, and reminder ourselves of these helpful tips from the Red Cross about keeping everyone, humans and furry friends alike, safe during weather like this. They also have some winter tips and advisories for you to peruse.

We are here and the heat is on, so feel free to come warm up here at the Library, and take a gander at our books, movies, audiobooks, and other material to help pass these long winter nights.  Here’s just a preview of some of the sensation books that have sidled onto our shelves this week:


After the End of the World: Personally speaking, I could not be more excited that this book has arrived on our shelves.  It’s an open secret that Jonathan L. Howard is a Free-For-All favorite author, and his Carter and Lovecraft series is a terrific sci-fi adventure–particularly for fans of H.P. Lovecraft…particularly for those fans who would really like to confront and defy Lovecraft’s own odiousness while still enjoying the weirdness of his fiction.  In this second book in this series, PI Daniel Carter and his erstwhile partner Emily Lovecraft find themselves trapped in the Unfolded World.  In this world, the Cold War never happened because the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1941. In this world the Nazi Großdeutschland is the premier superpower, and is not merely tolerated but indulged because, in this world, the Holocaust happened behind the ruins of the Iron Curtain and consumed only Bolsheviks, Communists, and others the West was glad to see gone. In this world, there are monsters, and not all of them are human.  But even in the Unfolded World, there are still bills to pay and jobs to do. Carter finds himself working for the German secret security service to uncover the truth behind a major scientific joint project that is going suspiciously well. The trail takes Lovecraft and him to a distant, abandoned island, and a conspiracy that threatens everything. Fortunately, if there is a character who is going to face down the mind-bending darkness at play here, it’s Emily.  And she has a shotgun.  If my praise for Howard’s limitless imagination, fiendishly clever and detailed plotting, and talent for creating character you would willingly follow to the gates of Hell (often literally), then trust Booklist, who said in their review “This is a wonderful novel, ambitious on many levels and thoroughly successful. Its central characters are even more compelling than they were in their first appearance…and the story is diabolically clever and convoluted. As readers wait for the next installment, they will ask themselves where Howard will take Daniel and Emily next.”


The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny With a Dashing StrangerVictoria Alexander’s Lady Travelers series is just what the armchair adventurer needs for days like this–intriguing characters, beautiful locales, smart adventures, and plenty of witty banter and chemistry to keep things moving at a wicked clip.  When  Lady Wilhelmina Bascombe’s carefree, extravagant lifestyle vanishes with the demise of her husband, her only hope lies in retrieving a family treasure—a Renaissance masterpiece currently in the hands of a cunning art collector in Venice. Thankfully, the Lady Travelers Society has orchestrated a clever plan to get Willie to Europe, leading a tour of mothers and daughters…and one curiously attentive man.  Dante Augustus Montague’s one passion has long been his family’s art collection. He’s finally tracked a long-lost painting to the enchanting Lady Bascombe. Convinced that the canvas had been stolen, he will use any means to reclaim his birthright—including deception. But how long before pretend infatuation gives way to genuine desire?  Willie and Dante know they’re playing with fire in the magical moonlit city. Their common quest could compromise them both…or lead them to happily-ever-after.  The Lady Travelers series has already won plenty of acclaim already, and this second installment has been praised by critics and readers alike, with RT Book Reviews saying “”Alexander is an original and so are her romances…[she] fulfills readers’ desires and then some.”

Fool’s River: Timothy Hallinan’s Poke Rafferty thrillers deal with some pretty rough themes, including the Bangkok sex trade, but Hallinan balances these issues with such humanity and genuine sympathy that it makes his stories quite the compelling read.  In this eighth book in the series, Poke, a Bangkok writer, is facing down the worst days of his life.  It all started when Edward Dell, the almost-boyfriend of Poke’s teenage daughter, Miao pays an emergency visit.  The boy’s father, Buddy, a late-middle-aged womanizer who has moved to Bangkok for happy hunting, has disappeared, and money is being siphoned out of his bank and credit card accounts. It soon becomes apparent that Buddy is in the hands of a pair of killers who prey on Bangkok’s “sexpats”; when his accounts are empty, he’ll be found, like a dozen others before him, floating facedown in a Bangkok canal with a weighted cast on his unbroken leg. His money is almost gone.  Over forty-eight frantic hours, Poke does everything he can to locate Buddy before it’s too late.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this series entry a starred review, calling it “Outstanding . . . Fans of hard-boiled detective fiction will feel right at home.”

What It’s Like to Be a DogPeople with pets–and, no doubt, people without pets–often wonder just what is going on in the brains of the animals with whom we share this planet.  Enter  neuroscientist Gregory Berns, who set out to discover what it’s like to be a dog…and a bat….and a dolphin? Berns and his team began with a radical step: they taught dogs to go into an MRI scanner–completely awake. They discovered what makes dogs individuals with varying capacities for self-control, different value systems, and a complex understanding of human speech. It turns out, they are as emotionally complex, in many ways, as the humans they love.  And dogs were just the beginning. In this fascinating, insightful, and wonderfully educational book, Berns explores the fascinating inner lives of wild animals from dolphins and sea lions to the extinct Tasmanian tiger.  This book has gotten high praise from critics and readers, as well as experts like Temple Grandin and the Humane Society of the United States, who noted “Gregory Berns is a remarkable scientist, whose pioneering MRI studies of the brain across a range of species have opened up a pathway to deeper understanding of animals’ internal awareness and perspectives. He’s also an exceptional thinker, whose grasp of the ethical and practical significance of his findings for the status and treatment of animals is pervasive in this absorbing work.”

Hellfire BoysThe rules and experience of war changed permanently in 1915 when the German Army successfully unleashed poisoned gas along the Western Front of the First World War, earning international fury, as well as launching a new kind of international arms race.  The development of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service in 1917 left an indelible imprint on World War I. This small yet powerful division, along with the burgeoning Bureau of Mines, assembled research and military unites devoted solely to chemical weaponry, outfitting regiments with hastily made gas-resistant uniforms and recruiting scientists and engineers from around the world into the fight. Drawing from years of research, Theo Emery brilliantly shows how World War I quickly spiraled into a chemists’ war, one led by the companies of young American engineers-turned-soldiers who would soon become known as the “Hellfire Boys.” As gas attacks began to mark the heaviest and most devastating battles, these brave and brilliant men were on the front lines, racing to protect, develop, and unleash the latest weapons of mass destruction.  Emery’s book emphasizes the importance of the First World War to American history, not only in terms of military technology, but also in understanding the ruthlessness of modern military ideology, in a work that earned a starred review from Library Journal, who praised both his research and storytelling skills: “Moving crisply between stateside turf wars and battlefront combat, this well-written and well-researched slice of history will appeal to virtually any history or war buff.”


Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And happy first Friday of winter, beloved patrons!  It looks like winter has finally remembered us, and it’s going to be rough going this weekend.  So this seemed as good a time as any to remind you about our Winter Weather Policies.  If you have any questions about Library Hours during the wintry season, just give us a call.   The answering message will be updated to reflect any changes in our hours (this includes holiday closings).

Main Library: (978) 531-0100
South Branch: (978) 531-3380
West Branch: (978) 535-3354

Also, we would also like to make you aware of the new Parking Advisory in Peabody, which you can access via this link here.  This should help in the case of parking bans and emergency closures.

But, in advance of any climactic unpleasantness, why not come into the Library and check out a few films, audiobooks, or books to help while away the long winter evenings?  Here are just a few of the titles that have braved the elements to make it onto our shelves this week, and would love a chance to spend the holiday season with you!


The Emerald CircusMultiple-award winning author Jane Yolen’s first full collection in more than ten years is a vibrant, wondrous, and thought-provoking journey through some of the best-known fairy tales and children’s stories.  Her characters may be familiar, but these stories are all refreshingly unique: Edgar Allan Poe’s young bride is beguiled by a most unusual bird. Dorothy, lifted from Kansas, returns as a gymnastic sophisticate. Emily Dickinson dwells in possibility and sails away in a starship made of light. Wendy leads a labor strike against the Lost Boys.  Beauty sneaks out to get a Christmas gift for the Beast, with…interesting results.  Like fun house mirrors, these stories flip the tales you know upside down, stretch them and skew them, but always create something that is wholly unique and simply delightful.  Library Journal agrees, giving this collection a starred review and saying, “These delightful retellings of favorite stories will captivate newcomers and fans of Yolen as she once again delivers the magic, humor, and lovely prose that has attracted readers for years.”

Improv Nation: How We Make Great American ArtAt the height of the McCarthy era, an experimental theater troupe set up shop in a bar near the University of Chicago. Via word-of-mouth, astonished crowds packed the ad-hoc venue to see its unscripted, interactive, consciousness-raising style. From this unlikely seed grew the Second City, the massively influential comedy theater troupe, and its offshoots—the Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, SNL, and a slew of others.  Sam Wasson charts the meteoric rise of improv in this richly reported, scene-driven narrative that, like its subject, moves fast and digs deep.  He revels in the anecdotal stories of the now-famous improv artists and comedians who have made this genre great, from the chance meeting at a train station between Mike Nichols and Elaine May to the after-hours bar Dan Aykroyd opened so that friends like John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner would always have a home.  This is a fast-paced book full of nostalgic photos and fun stories that The Seattle Times called “A fast-paced, thoroughly engaging road map of how improv — that rapid-fire art of entirely unscripted performance — came to infiltrate and shape the American pop-culture landscape . . . A whirlwind of quick, sharp anecdotes, never lingering too long yet still giving the reader a full sense of the people and the history shaping improv into what it is today.”

Signal LossReaders looking for a bit of an escape this holiday season might want to consider Garry Disher’s Australian noir series featuring  Inspector Hal Challis.  Although there are six books in the series to date, this mystery can certainly be read as a stand-alone–and may be the perfect way to get into this gritty, gripping series.  A pair of hit men working a job for a meth kingpin have a very bad day, and the resulting bushfire draws attention to a drug lab and two burned bodies in a Mercedes.    With meth-related crime on the rise, interdepartmental tensions mount, and Challis soon finds himself fighting to keep control of his case. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ellen Destry—newly minted head of her department’s sex crime unit and Challis’ partner— is hunting for a serial rapist who is extremely adept at not leaving clues.  Darkly funny and compulsively readable, this series installment earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Excellent . . . A searing commentary on the meth crisis and its tremendous toll on users and communities alike.”

One of Us Will Be Dead By Morning: Fans of David Moody’s Hater trilogy will be delighted to know that it isn’t over yet.  Returning to his near-apocalyptic world, this psychological thriller is one that longtime readers–and newcomers, too!–will be on the edge of their seat to finish.  Fourteen people are trapped on Skek, a barren island in the middle of the North Sea somewhere between the coasts of the UK and Denmark. Over the years this place has served many purposes―a fishing settlement, a military outpost, a scientific base―but one by one its inhabitants have abandoned its inhospitable shores. Today it’s home to Hazleton Adventure Experiences, an extreme sports company specializing in corporate team building events. Life there is fragile and tough. One slip is all it takes; and when the body count quickly begins to rise after a single seemingly tragic accident, questions are inevitably asked. Are the deaths coincidental, or something else entirely? Those people you thought you knew, can you really trust them? Is the person standing next to you a killer? Will you be their next victim?  This isn’t a tale for the faint of heart, but horror and slasher aficionados shouldn’t miss this winner of a series.  Booklist gave it a starred review, gushing that “Moody really knows how to write creeping, claustrophobic terror, effectively sneaking up on his readers and, finally, scaring the life out of them. Top-drawer horror.”

London’s Triumph: Merchants, Adventurers, and Money in Shakespeare’s CityFor most, England in the sixteenth century was the era of the Tudors, from Henry VII and VIII to Elizabeth I. But as their dramas played out at court, England was being transformed economically by the astonishing discoveries on the American continents and of direct sea routes to Asia. At the start of the century, England was hardly involved in the wider world and London remained a gloomy, introverted medieval city. But as the century progressed something extraordinary happened, which placed London at the center of the world stage forever.  In this fascinating story, Stephen Alford neatly side-steps the “rise of the West” histories that are typically invoked to explain this period of history, and instead describes the network of merchants, visionaries, crooks, and sailors who traded with Russia and the Levant, explored areas now known as Virginia and the Arctic, and searched the Indian Ocean for exotic spices and new flavors.  This is an intriguing tale about big personalities, wondrous discoveries, and the growth of the human world that continues to have echoes in our lives to this day.  Kirkus Reviews wrote a glowing report of this book, saying “Alford makes expert use of individual lives to bring London’s various stages to life…These and many other stories bring the past to life in warmly human terms, as do Alford’s evocative descriptions of the city’s changing landscape and architecture…Solid scholarly history written with an accessible verve that will appeal to general readers.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

Holy cow, it’s cold!  You know what that means, beloved patrons–it’s getting to feel a lot like Blanket Fort Season!  So get ready, start stock-piling pillows and snacks, and get that list of books that you’ve been putting off during the chaos of the year, and get ready to snuggle in.

If you’re casting about for just such a book for your blanket fort, while not check out some of these books that have braved the cold and made it on to our shelves this week.  It’s nice and warm here in the Library, and we’re more than happy to help you find your perfect Blanket Fort read!

Nightblind: If you want a perfect wintertime read, then Ragnar Jonasson’s series (translated by Quentin Bates), featuring Icelandic police officer Ari Thor, is a perfect choice.  In this second book in the series, Ari Thor is continuing to make a home in Siglufjörður, an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel.  He hasn’t had an easy time of it, and as a result, his relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him. The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman – shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Thór to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will. Then a mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all.   These books are delightful,  oddly funny, insightful, slow-burns that so beautifully capture a sense of place that you will be immediately transported to the stunning, alien, homey little village.  It’s also an ingeniously structured mystery, which earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who noted in their review, “Jonasson plants clues fairly before a devastatingly unexpected reveal, without sublimating characterization to plot.”

The Sun and Her FlowersRapi Kaur’s first book of poems held a position on the New York Times’ bestseller list, a wonderful statement about the fierce power of her work.  This second book is vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing, honoring one’s roots, and rising up to find a home within yourself.
Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, this is poetry unlike anything you’ve grown accustomed to reading, and has made poetry lovers out of the most confirmed prose devotees.  The Economist agrees, cheering “Rupi Kaur reinvents poetry … (she) is undeniably equipped with the poet’s ability to articulate emotions that readers struggle to make sense of.”

It Devours Any fans of This is Nightvale–the book or the podcast–are going to love the new addition to this remarkable world.  Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret.  The NIght Vale world is nothing if not weird, but that weirdness allows authors Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor to play some really big questions and ideas, and to explore not only their world, but the bigger issues at play with fun-loving freedom.  Booklist loved this book, saying in its review, “With a gripping mystery, a very smartly built world (a place similar to our own world but at the same time distinctly other), and a cast of offbeat characters, the novel is a welcome addition to any library’s SF shelf.”

Enchantress of Numbers: a Novel of Ada Lovelace: A lot of people know about Ada Lovelace, but few people know the person behind the myth, and sometimes, fiction is the best way to explore historic characters fully.  In this novel, author Jennifer Chiaverini is the kind of stilled, insightful author who can present Ada to us in all her complexities.  The only daughter of Lord Byron, Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination–or worse yet, passion or poetry–is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes. When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage–brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly–will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world. All the while, she passionately studies mathematics–ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman–falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents’ estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.  This book is getting named as a ‘best of’ from a number of sources, and the USA Today waxed eloquently about it, saying, “Cherished Reader, Should you come upon Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini…consider yourself quite fortunate indeed…Chiaverini makes a convincing case that Ada Byron King is a woman worth celebrating.”

Peabody: 100 Years of a City in the Making: It’s finally here!  The commemorative volume of Peabody’s centennial and first hundred years is available here for you to check out.  Take a look at the city as you know it…and see what now-familiar areas once looked like in this beautiful illustrated volume!


Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All birthday to Anna Margaret Ross,  who is alleged by some to be the worst poet in the world.

Via http://www.culturenorthernireland.org

McKittrick was born on this day in 1860, in Drumaness, County Down,  Ireland, where her father was the principal of Drumaness High School.  She herself became a teacher, securing a position at a school in Larne, County Antrim.  During her first visit to Larne, she struck up a friendship with the station master, and they married in August, 1887.

It was Anna’s husband who financed the publication of her first novel,  Irene Iddesleigh, as a tenth anniversary present, launching her notorious, if not quite illustrious literary career.  She went on to write three novels and dozens of poems under the pen name Amanda McKittrick Ros.  In a biographical essay, McKittrick wrote She wrote: “My chief object of writing is and always has been, to write if possible in a strain all my own. This I find is why my writings are so much sought after.”  She also predicted that she would “be talked about at the end of a thousand years.”…Well, she was, but perhaps not in the way she might have wished.  Mark Twain read her novel, and called it “one of the greatest unintentionally humorous novels of all time.”  An 1898 review called it “the book of the century”. ..again, not in a complementary way.  But she very well may have had the last laugh–according to McKittrick, she earned enough money from her writing to build herself a house, which she named Iddesleigh.  

Ros believed that her critics lacked sufficient intellect to appreciate her talent, so we’ll let you read them for yourself and judge.  This is the opening sentence of her novel Delina Delaney:

Have you ever visited that portion of Erin’s plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?

If you’d like some more, McKittrick’s last novel, Helen Huddleson, features characters who are all all the named after fruits, including Lord Raspberry, Cherry Raspberry, Sir Peter Plum, Christopher Currant, the Earl of Grape, and Madame Pear. Of Pear, Ros wrote:

…she had a swell staff of sweet-faced helpers swathed in stratagem, whose members and garments glowed with the lust of the loose, sparkled with the tears of the tortured, shone with the sunlight of bribery, dangled with the diamonds of distrust, slashed with sapphires of scandals….

And finally, here is her poem about Westminster Abbey.  C.S. Lewis and his writing group, the Inkblots, used to have a competition to see who could get through McKittrick’s poetry without laughing.  See how you fare:

On Visiting Westminster Abbey

Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with ‘blue’
Undergoes the same as you.

Famous some were–yet they died;
Poets–Statesmen–Rogues beside,
Kings–Queens, all of them do rot,
What about them? Now–they’re not!

And now, on to our books, which are, we think it’s safe to say, of an entirely different class than Mrs. McKittrick’s…

No Time To SpareUrsula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades, creating and re-creating the science fiction genre. Now she’s in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice—sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical—shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula’s online writing, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her unceasing wonder at it: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”  This is a book that any reader, from sci-fi fans to literature devotees, will be able to adore.  Le Guin’s commentaries on life, feminism, race, and the world at large are precious and insightful and wonderfully accessible, even though they contain huge, big, beautiful ideas.  Critics are over the moon about this collection, with The New Republic noting that this book “feels like the surprising and satisfying culmination to a career in other literary forms…Even in the familiar relationship of an old woman and her cat, Le Guin finds an ambit for challenging moral insight and matter for an inquisitiveness that probes the deep time of evolution…Blogs may not be novels, but a blog by Le Guin is no ordinary blog, either. It is a comfort to know, as reality seems to grow more claustrophobic and inescapable, that she remains at her desk, busily subverting our world.”

Where the Wild Coffee GrowsCoffee is one of the largest and most valuable commodities in the world. This is the story of its origins, its history, and the threat to its future, as told by Jeff Koehler, who wrote the fascinating history of Darjeeling tea.  Deftly blending in the long, fascinating history of our favorite drink, award-winning author Jeff Koehler takes readers from the forests of Ethiopia on  the spectacular journey of its spread around the globe. With cafés on virtually every corner of every town in the world, coffee has never been so popular–nor tasted so good.  But diseases and climate change are battering production in Latin America, where 85 percent of Arabica grows. As the industry tries to safeguard the species’ future, breeders are returning to the original coffee forests, which are under threat and swiftly shrinking.  This book, at once a fascinating history and an environmental warning, will captivate foodies, armchair travelers, and science-minded readers alike.  In fact, the Smithsonian rated it as one of the ten best books about food in 2017, calling the book “A deep dive into the fascinating history of coffee that meanders from the once-isolated, deep forests of Ethiopia’s Kafa region to the warm embrace of your local bodega. Coffee’s path to world domination is anything but straightforward and this story might be unwieldy in the hands of a lesser talent, but Koehler is more than up to the task. A must-read for coffee enthusiasts.”

Bryant and May: Wild ChamberFans of Christopher Fowler’s delightful Peculiar Crimes Unit Mysteries–wait no longer!  Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are back on the case in a wonderfully quirky locked-room mystery.  Helen Forester’s day starts like any other: Around seven in the morning, she takes her West Highland terrier for a walk in her street’s private garden. But by 7:20 she is dead, strangled yet peacefully laid out on the path, her dog nowhere to be found. The only other person in the locked space is the gardener, who finds the body and calls the police. He expects proper cops to arrive, but what he gets are Bryant, May, and the wily members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit.  Before the detectives can make any headway on the case, a second woman is discovered in a public park, murdered in nearly identical fashion. Bryant delves into the arcane history of London’s cherished green spaces, rife with class drama, violence, and illicit passions. But as a devious killer continues to strike, Bryant and May struggle to connect the clues, not quite seeing the forest for the trees, putting innocent lives, the fate of the city’s parks, and the very existence of the PCU in peril.  This series is a treat from start to finish, and if you haven’t started it yet, it’s definitely a recommendation, from us and from The Guardian, who gushed “[Fowler] takes delight in stuffing his books with esoteric facts; together with a cast of splendidly eccentric characters [and] corkscrew plots, wit, verve and some apposite social commentary, they make for unbeatable fun.”

Hiddensee: Gregory Maguire gives us another alternative version of the classic tales we’re grown up hearing–this time, the tale of the man who would become Dr. Drosselmeier, who crafts the Nutcracker in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story (that became Tchaikovsky’s beloved ballet).  This is a story rooted in, and told like a Bavarian fairy tale, mixing stories about elfin folk and forest creatures with deep questions about death and life, disadvantage and power, and the hope that remains even when everything else seems destroyed.  It’s a wonder-full, intriguing tale, unlike others that Maguire has told, but still full of his trademark whimsy and insight, and earned a starred review from Kirkus, who described it as “A delightful, mystical, mythical confection by zeitgeist whisperer Maguire… A splendid revisitation of folklore that takes us to and from familiar cultural touchstones into realms to make Freud blanch. Wonderful.”

The Girl in the Tower: Katherine Arden continues her tale, rooted firmly in Russian folklore, but featuring a marvelous unique heroine, who grew up hearing the tales of her people and family.  Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch.  Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey.  But when the Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, Vasilisa realizes she cannot reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family.  This is a glorious fantasy/fairy tale, full of heart, hope, emotion, daring, action, and adventure that is winning rave reviews from readers and critics alike.  Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, cheering it as a “sensual, beautifully written, and emotionally stirring fantasy . . . Fairy tales don’t get better than this.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Six Book Saturday!

We’re having some connectivity issues, beloved patrons, which kept us from posting our traditional Five Book Friday in a timely manner.  In compensation, we now present to you Six Book Saturday, which will introduce you to some of the splendid titles that have waltzed onto our shelves this week, and are very eager to join you in your wintertime adventures!

A Good Day to Marry a DukeFans of American ladies in English society, a trope that Eloisa James and Laura Lee Guhrke have employed so well, will find plenty to enjoy in Betina Krahn’s series opener.  “In 1890, most Americans trying to start a new life are heading west, but Daisy Bumgarten has been sent all the way east: to London, to snag a duke.  Even though the process is humiliating (and boring), she knows she owes it to her three younger sisters to succeed.  Now, under a countess’s tutelage, Daisy appears the perfect duchess-in-training.  That is, until notorious ladies’ man Lord Ashton Graham, a distraction of the most dangerous kind, glimpses her mischievous smile and feisty nature—and attempts to unmask her motives. Daisy has encountered snakes on the range, but one dressed to the nines in an English drawing room is positively unnerving—and maddeningly seductive. When a veiled plot emerges to show up Daisy as unworthy of the aristocracy, will Ashton be her worst detractor? Or the nobleman she needs most of all?  Kirkus Reviews really enjoyed this tale, noting, “The contrast between stuffy London high society and dusty American cowboy culture heightens the humor of the story, and excellent pacing adds just the right amount of suspense….Krahn returns to historical romance with a barn burner of an 1890s love story.”

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder: Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls―the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser―the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series―masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.  Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman behind the classic stories that Booklist called “Unforgettable… A magisterial biography, which surely must be called definitive….it is its marriage of biography and history―the latter providing such a rich context for the life―that is one of the great strengths of this indispensable book.”

An Echo of Murder Fans of Anne Perry’s William Monk mysteries will no doubt be delighted to hear that he has returned in an investigation that deals with the prejudices, dangers, and bigotry of the Victorian age.  In the course of his tenure with the Thames River Police, Commander Monk has yet to see a more gruesome crime scene: a Hungarian warehouse owner lies in the middle of his blood-sodden office, pierced through the chest with a bayonet and eerily surrounded by seventeen candles, their wicks dipped in blood. Suspecting the murder may be rooted in ethnic prejudice, Monk turns to London’s Hungarian community in search of clues but finds his inquiries stymied by its wary citizens and a language he doesn’t speak. Only with the help of a local pharmacist acting as translator can Monk hope to penetrate this tightly knit enclave, even as more of its members fall victim to identical brutal murders. With the able assistance of his wife—former battlefield nurse Hester, who herself is dealing with a traumatized war veteran who may be tangled up in the murders—Monk must combat distrust, hostility, and threats from the very people he seeks to protect. But as the body count grows, stirring ever greater fear and anger among the Hungarian émigrés, resistance to the police also increases.   This is a race-against-time mystery steeped in history that The New York Times Book Review called a “rich, if blood-spattered narrative from this chapter of history. As the murders [of Hungarians] continue, Monk and his clever wife, Hester . . . struggle to fathom the new climate of hatred. ‘I think it’s fear,’ Hester says. ‘It’s fear of ideas, things that aren’t the way you’re used to. Everyone you don’t understand because their language is different, their food, but above all their religion.’ How times haven’t changed.”

The People Vs. Alex Cross: And speaking of fan-favorite investigators, Alex Cross is also back in a mystery that puts him on the wrong side of the law for the first time in his career.  Charged with gunning down followers of his nemesis Gary Soneji in cold blood, Cross is being turned into the poster child for trigger-happy cops who think they’re above the law. Cross knows it was self-defense. But will a jury see it that way? But even as Cross fights for his professional life and his freedom, his former partner John Sampson brings him a gruesome, titillating video tied to the mysterious disappearances of several young girls. Despite his suspension from the department, Cross can’t say no to Sampson. The illicit investigation leads them to the darkest corners of the Internet, where murder is just another form of entertainment.  It’s the trial of the century, and Alex Cross is in the crosshairs once again.  With several engrossing plot lines and a heaping helping of tension–along with some fascinating insight into the mind one of his most well-known characters, this book proves why it is so easy for author Ian Rankin to say in his cover blurb “James Patterson is The Boss. End of.”

Bunk : the rise of hoaxes, humbug, plagiarists, phonies, post-facts, and fake news: Award-winning poet and critic Kevin Young traces the history of the hoax as a peculiarly American phenomenon–the legacy of P.T. Barnum’s ‘humbug’ culminating with the currency of Donald J. Trump’s ‘fake news’. Disturbingly, Young finds that fakery is woven from stereotype and suspicion, with race being the most insidious American hoax of all. He chronicles how Barnum came to fame by displaying figures like Joice Heth, a black woman whom he pretended was the 161-year-old nursemaid to George Washington, and ‘What Is It?’, an African American man Barnum professed was a newly discovered missing link in evolution. Bunk then turns to the hoaxing of history and the ways that forgers, plagiarists, and journalistic fakers invent backstories and falsehoods to sell us lies about themselves and about the world in our own time. This brilliant and timely work asks what it means to live in a post-factual world of ‘truthiness’ where everything is up for interpretation and everyone is subject to a pervasive cynicism that damages our ideas of reality, fact, and art.  Young has earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for this work, which noted “Young chronicles a distinctly American brand of deception in this history of hoaxers, fabricators, liars, and imposters. . . . [He] astutely declares the hoax a frequent metaphor for a ‘deep-seated cultural wish’ that confirms prejudicial ideas and stereotypes.”

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau : a historical thriller: From Booker Prize shortlisted author Graeme Macrae Burnet comes another mystery with a startling twist and keen character insight that is as gripping as it is unsettling.  Manfred Baumann is a loner. Socially awkward and perpetually ill at ease, he spends his evenings quietly drinking and surreptitiously observing Adèle Bedeau, the sullen but alluring waitress at a drab bistro in the unremarkable small French town of Saint-Louis. One day, she simply vanishes into thin air and Georges Gorski, a detective haunted by his failure to solve one of his first murder cases, is called in to investigate the girl’s disappearance. He sets his sights on Manfred.  As Manfred cowers beneath Gorski’s watchful eye, the murderous secrets of his past begin to catch up with him and his carefully crafted veneer of normalcy falters. Burnet’s masterful play on literary form featuring an unreliable narrator makes for a grimly entertaining psychological thriller that NPR called “”A stylish, atmospheric mystery with a startling twist . . . satisfies like Simenon and surprises like Ruth Rendell.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!