For a Jane Austen enthusiast, I’m also a pretty big fan of creepy-crawly stories. It probably goes back to my childhood and reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Aaron Schwartz (secretly and under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, of course). As frightening as those tales were, though, The Shining has long been the pinnacle of creepiness. So naturally, I was waiting on the edge of my seat for Doctor Sleep, Stephen King’s latest book and sequel to The Shining. When my hold arrived last week, I devoured it in a weekend. Continue reading
Sandra Brown’s latest novel, Deadline, tells the story of Dawson Scott, a journalist just returned from covering the war in Afghanistan. He becomes involved in a story that began 40 years earlier, on a FBI raid of a house sheltering domestic terrorists. Dawson decides look into the disappearance and suspected murder of Jeremy Wesson, a former Marine and son of one of the terrorists. He travels to Georgia and develops a relationship with Wesson’s widow Amelia, and her two sons. As he delves into the story of the murder and of Wesson’s behavior before his death, he comes to suspect that perhaps Wesson is not dead, and is a threat to Amelia and her boys. Brown has created a novel that is more suspense than romance–although the relationship between Amelia and Dawson is touching and believable. The mystery aspect of the story is filled with suspense and intrigue. Characters are well-developed, from the young boys to the older FBI agent. The plot unfolds with twists and turns and an unexpected ending. This is a story that is sure to please readers who enjoy romantic suspense!
In this compelling novel by Nathan Filer, Where the Moon Isn’t tells the story of Matthew and a tragedy that he has grappled with for most of his life. At nineteen, Matthew tells the story of his life and that of his older brother, Simon. Simon had Downs Syndrome, making Matthew often responsible for his older brother. One tragic night they sneak out of the house and Simon dies in an accident. Matthew struggles with feeling responsible for the death of Simon as well as with schizophrenia as he grows older. He also tries to deal with the disappointment of his family as he grieves for his brother. This is an eloquent and mesmerizing portrait of a person struggling with mental illness. Matthew’s character is complex and sympathetic and he tells his story in layers, jumping from past to present and allowing the reader insight into his thoughts and relationships with his family, his doctors and his illness. This is an amazing debut novel and one that leaves the reader with a greater understanding of mental illness and those needing treatment.
I’ve been waiting for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder on the Sunflower eLibrary this week, and to pass the time, I decided to check out one of her earlier, less well known works, The Magician’s Assistant. It was a detour from my reading list, but it is one that I am glad that I took. Continue reading
Sara Paretsky shows us in Bleeding Kansas that people who think Kansas is a boring place have obviously never lived here. The Fremantles, the Schapens, & the Grelliers moved to rural Lawrence as abolitionists. They have been neighbors through the turmoil of the “Bleeding Kansas” era before and during the Civil War and through the societal confusion during the early 70s. The Grelliers are known for harebrained schemes while the Schapens have become the reporters of all things “sinful” in the community. The Fremantles have died off or moved away until distant relative Gina moves to the homestead to recover from a divorce. Gina’s lifestyle and ideas ignite conflicts that have been smoldering for decades.
Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky has been chosen as the Kansas Reads book for 2014 and it is full of issues and topics that are begging to be discussed. Paretsky gives us some of the history of the area with the stories of the original settlers and what they lived through in their attempt to make Kansas a free state. She also discusses the clashes in the 70s between the hippies from KU and the locals, which the community is still feeling repercussions from. The current inhabitants in the book disagree over the justice of the war and what constitutes a sinful life.
Although the issues are intriguing, the characters pull us into the story as Paretsky examines their hopes and fears. Their motivations and beliefs move the story forward, keeping us needing to find out what happens next.
I can’t wait to hear what others have to say about this book. I find myself mulling over it, even long after I’ve finished, picking apart the characters and issues and analyzing how I feel about them. I also find myself asking how close it is to the reality of life in Eastern Kansas college towns. Early next year we will have some opportunities to discuss and explore the topics in the book further.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is about the awkward Simon Snow-loving, fan-fiction writing, protein-bar eating, staying-in-on-Friday-night, comfy-clothes-wearing Cath. During her first year in college, she is having a difficult time adjusting to life away from home. While her more socially ambitious and outgoing twin sister is out partying and making friends, she is stuck with a surly roommate who’s boyfriend is always around. Her long-gone mother attempts to re-connect, but she wants nothing to do with the woman who abandoned her. Her father is facing an upward battle at work because of his inability to face his own mental shortcomings. His bipolar disorder has him on a constant roller coaster between being everyone’s best friend and his own personal worst nightmare. But now Cath is wondering if she isn’t the crazy one.
I liked this book because everyone in it felt like real people that I was hanging out with, not just reading about. I didn’t feel like I was reading about Cath struggling to finish her short-story for her class or reading about her gushing about her latest man friend. I felt like we were hanging out in her dorm room, drinking hot cocoa and staying up way too late.
This book is for anyone who has ever doubted themselves or felt really really crummy. This book is for anyone who finds comfort in the unreal; who needs a really good fantasy story to escape reality for a little while. This book is for anyone who wants to remember what it’s like to fall in love for the first time. This book is for anyone who has ever self-identified as fangirl, fanboy or nerd.
Kate Worthington, dismayed and disheartened by the loveless marriage of her parents, has vowed to never marry. She hopes to instead travel to India with her aunt, to escape the discordance of her family and to find both adventure and peace. Her closest friends are Sylvia and Henry Delafield. She has grown up with the siblings and has taken advantage of that by having Henry teach her what he has learned in his classroom. Henry is also the heir to Blackmoore, an estate in Northern England which has always captured the imagination of Katherine. When Katherine finally has the chance to visit Blackmoore, she makes a bargain with her scandalous mother–if she turns down three marriage proposals, she may go off to India. She makes an arrangement to receive the proposals–but will her bargain free her or allow her to lose her heart and her happiness? Katherine is a passionate, intelligent young woman struggling to find her place in the world, wanting independence and love, but not wanting to sacrifice her happiness for the loveless marriage her mother is trying to arrange. Blackmoore captures the desolation and remoteness of the moors and creates a fitting atmosphere for the story. Katherine and Henry are believable, intelligent and compassionate main characters. The portrayal of Kate’s dilemma, in 1820′s upper-class England, illustrates the difficulties faced by young women of the time who were reluctant to marry just for social status or to be considered respectable. This is a charming romance with likeable, well-developed characters, full of atmosphere, emotional tension and intrigue.
Emily McKellips, about to be married, is trying to be responsible, logical, traditional and conforming. Raised by her single mother, with a larger than life personality and 4 marriages to her credit, Emily has reacted by making her life predictable and settled and by doing the correct thing at all times. Engaged to Grant, a transplant surgeon (the perfect man with the perfect family), they spend The Week Before the Wedding at a resort in Vermont, finalizing the wedding plans and welcoming family members. At the resort, Emily’s best laid plans are turned upside down–Grant’s staid and correct mother and aunts are appalled by the behavior of Emily’s mother, her best friend Summer is disappointed in the way Emily is willing to go along with all of the wedding traditions from Grant’s family, and Ryan, Emily’s ex-husband appears on the scene. Ryan and Emily were married on a whim right after college and despite their chemistry and love for one another, were divorced after Emily tired of their lack of stability. Ryan is in Vermont scouting movie locations, and claiming that she is still the love of his life, forces Emily to question her choices. Will she opt for stability and tradition or be the free-spirited woman she one was? Author Beth Kendrick has created amusing situations and a cast of witty and charming characters, with a story that keeps the reader guessing who will Emily choose. This is an entertaining, enjoyable novel filled with likeable characters and laugh-out-loud scenes. A fun read!
As much as I love a book that warms that heart and reaffirms my faith in humanity, I also sometimes like a book that takes a hard and unrelenting look at the deep flaws in people. For these moods, writers like Lionel Shriver provide a bracing tonic against sweetness. Shriver, the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin, has recently released Big Brother, a book that more than lives up to her reputation as a writer of difficult stories. Continue reading
Librarians often get asked what we’re reading. One of the perks of our job is seeing what is new and being surrounded by readers who share what’s good. So I was excited to hear about Library Reads, a group that has started compiling lists of the “top books published this month that librarians across the country love.” Looking through the list significantly increased my “to read” list!
2. They also list Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming, another installment in the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. I’ve been addicted to this series from the very beginning and I’m chomping at the bit to get my hands on this book.
4. Joshilyn Jackson has established a reputation for Southern Women’s Fiction. She’s back with Someone Else’s Love Story, the endearing story of a single mom who is forced to face the truth of her son’s conception. Continue reading
Anne Blythe is happy and successful in most aspects of her life, except for her love life. Leaving her latest partner after learning he was unfaithful, and surrounded by friends with meaningful relationships, Anne finds a business card for “Blythe and Company” and decides that fate is telling her to sign up at what she thinks is a dating service. She works up the courage to make an appointment and discovers that the company is not a dating service but one that arranges marriages. As the company rep describes the matching process and their success rate, Anne decides she has nothing to lose and signs up for the service. The clients all meet their matches on a vacation at a resort, where they marry the day after they meet. Anne has been matched with Jack, and although he is not her usual “type”, she realizes that there is a connection between them. They begin to care for one another when a secret between them is revealed–can their Arranged marriage survive?
This is a fun, entertaining romance with flawed but endearing characters and a unique and unpredictable plot. Anne and Jack are both on voyages of self-discovery and their journeys and their relationships are fascinating to observe — this is a delightful romance!!
In the spirit of the coming holiday of Halloween, I wanted to talk about some of the classic and not so classic horror films we have available here at Manhattan Public Library.
Psycho, the Iconic classic directed by Alfred Hitchcock is one of my personal favorites. Filmed in black and white, you are guaranteed to instantly recognize its iconic Pscyho muscial track. It tells the story of a woman running away from her life who mysteriously disappears. Something is very much not right about the strange owner and his sickly mother, but police have a difficult time pin-pointing just what’s wrong with them. If you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, you can also check out, The Birds.
Rosemary’s Baby is another of my favorite classic horror movies. It’s a movie that haunted me a long time after I finished watching it. Mia Farrow’s acting is breath-taking and absolutely chilling. Despite being made in 1968, I still consider it relevant and enjoyable to watch. It is about a young couple moving into a new apartment and being confronted by strange neighbors and unusual events. Mia Farrow’s character becomes mysteriously pregnant and consequently obsessed with the safety of her unborn child.
The Cabin in the Woods is a modern-day satire observing common reoccurring themes in horror films. A group of five friends go away for a weekend at an isolated country cabin. The group represents a stereotypical group of horror movie participants. There is the jock, his sexually active girlfriend, the nice guy scholar, the stoner and the virgin. All find themselves thrown into the thriller of their lives when they discover that their every action is being observed by a cast of horror specialists who are manipulating their every move.
House at the End of the Street was another horror flick that I enjoyed a lot mainly because one of my favorite actresses, Jennifer Lawrence, takes a leading role in it. I would say that the first half of it was somewhat slow-placed and uninteresting, but after an unexpected twist I became more invested in the premise. It is about a newly divorced mother and her daughter who move to a new neighborhood to restart their lives. The daughter becomes increasingly interested in the boy who lives in the house at the end of the street because he is different than anyone else there, but he has a dark history. His past and the haunts of his past eventually become a problem for both Elissa and her mother.
Drag me to Hell is another horror movie from a couple of years ago that I still love to get out and watch when it gets cold out. Christine, a loan officer, denies a loan extension to a suspicious customer in order to impress her boss and gain a promotion. In the process, she gets a curse placed on her and her life gets destroyed. This movie is full of seances, curse rituals, and evil gypsies. It’s pretty great.
This is, of course, a small selection of the vast collection of DVDs offered here. For a better idea of the horror movies offered here, check out the catalog.
by John Pecoraro, Assistant Director, Manhattan Public Library
It’s nearly Halloween and time to snuggle up with a classic horror story that will scare you silly. According to H.P. Lovecraft, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Great horror stories create eerie and frightening atmospheres, provoking emotional, psychological, or physical responses. For most of us, that response is fear.
With its origins in folklore and religious traditions focusing on death, the afterlife, evil, and the demonic, horror has grown into a popular genre in both literature and cinema. Horace Walpole’s gothic classic, “Castle of Otranto,” (1764) is considered the ancestor of the modern horror story. Throughout the remainder of the eighteenth century, writers of gothic fiction were often women, such as Ann Radcliffe (“The Mysteries of Udolpho,” and “The Italian”), and featured resourceful female protagonists.
Gothic blossomed into horror during the nineteenth century with works such as Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818). In addition to its continued popularity as a novel, this story of regenerated life has inspired over two dozen films, including such off the wall classics as “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”
Other influential authors of nineteenth century horror include Robert Louis Stevenson (“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and “The Body Snatcher”), Joseph Sheridan La Fanu (“Uncle Silas”), Ambrose Bierce (“Can Such Things Be?”), Oscar Wilde (“The Picture of Dorian Gray“), and Bram Stoker (“Dracula“). But for sheer eeriness, you can’t beat Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe’s short stories define horror for many readers. We experience being bricked into a living grave in “The Cask of Amontillado” and dread the approaching plague in “The Masque of the Red Death.” “The Fall of the House of Usher” hints at acts too horrible to speak of, and the best laid plans of a murderer come to ruin in “The Tell-Tale Heart.”
The twentieth century saw another explosion in horror with the proliferation of the pulp magazines. H.P. Lovecraft published stories in “Weird Tales” and “Astounding Stories” among others. Lovecraft’s “Chthulu Mythos” pioneered the sub-genre of cosmic horror. Denizens of the Chthulu universe are minor players, insignificant to the powerful Great Old Ones who exist on a cosmic level beyond human understanding. A character’s search for knowledge in Lovecraft’s stories usually ends in disaster.
The most popular, and perhaps the most prolific, writer of modern horror is without a doubt Stephen King. Since 1973 and his debut novel, “Carrie,” King has published fifty novels and nine collections of short fiction. His work has won the Bram Stoker Award, presented by the Horror Writers Association, over a dozen times. Some of King’s more famous titles include “The Shining,” “The Stand,” and “The Dark Tower” series. Many of King’s novels and stories have been made into movies. King has also collaborated with fellow horror novelist Peter Straub on two titles: “The Talisman,” and “Black House.”
Dean Koontz is another prolific writer of horror among other genres. In “Phantoms,” for example, two sisters visit a ski resort in California and find no one alive. The few bodies they do find are mutilated or exhibit a strange cause of death. Koontz’s more recent titles include the series on Odd Thomas, who has the uncanny ability, not only to see the dead, but to see the shadowy figures lurking around people who cause death or who soon will die.
“I am Legend,” by Richard Matheson, was influential in the development of the zombie genre and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease. This title was adapted to film three times, including the classic “Omega Man” with Charlton Heston, and “I am Legend” with Will Smith.
In “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury, two teenage boys have a harrowing experience with a nightmarish traveling carnival that comes to their Midwestern town. Mr. Dark, the carnival’s leader, bears a tattoo for each of the unlucky souls enthralled to him, those lured by his offer to make their secret fantasies real.
The Internet is replete with sites offering lists of the most frightening in horror. Still having trouble deciding on the scariest story? A simple search of the library’s catalog will point you in the right direction for your scary, sleepless night.
The Round House by Louise Erdich won the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction. This story is told through the eyes of 13-year-old Joe, an Ojibwe living on a reservation in North Dakota, well-loved and cared for by his tribal judge father and his court clerk mother. His secure world is turned upside-down after a brutal attack on his mother near the ceremonial Round House on the reservation, which leaves her fearful, depressed and withdrawn. As Joe’s father tries to protect him from the harsh realities of the attack, Joe feels no one is working for justice for his mother and he and his friends Zack, Cappy and Angus decide to investigate the crime themselves. Their search for justice brings them into contact with many diverse characters on the reservation and their search also forces Joe to recognize the intricacy and injustice that exists in the legal system on the reservation–a maze of local, state, federal and tribal jurisdictions. He is faced with a difficult choice–take justice into his own hands in order to help his mother recover from her fears resulting from the attack, or trust the various systems to bring the attacker to justice.
This is a haunting and powerful story, with memorable, well-drawn and interesting characters — rich and vividly drawn , with each facing different challenges of living life on the reservation. The story raises questions about right and wrong, and the meaning of justice–a tale that won’t soon be forgotten.
Josh Michaels, alone in his cabin in the Colorado mountains and suffering a broken heart over a lost girlfriend, is outraged when a neighbor dumps a very pregnant dog, Lucy, on his doorstep. Josh has never had a dog, much less a pregnant one. But Josh can’t resist her warm brown eyes and is soon in over his head. He seeks help at the local animal shelter, where socially inept Josh meets lovely Kerri. Lucy, malnourished, goes into labor and loses the pups at the local vet’s office. When Josh arrives home with Lucy, he notices a large box in the back of his truck—and finds five abandoned pups—and the adventure begins. The Dogs of Christmas is a heartwarming holiday tale that explores the power of love, trust and a basketful of puppies, as warm and bright as Christmas morning.