Once again another great read by Sawyer! What Once Was Lost tells the story of Christina Willems as she carries on the work of the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor. The Asylum is the only home Christina has ever known. When a fire displaces all her charges, Christina is determined to bring them back together. However, circumstances seem to be against making that task possible. The characters are interesting and the setting takes you back in time.
Australian author Graeme Simsion has written a very funny romantic comedy about a 30 something, socially challenged genetic engineer who decides it is time to find a wife scientifically. Don Tillman creates a 16 page double-sided questionnaire to judge prospective mates. Along comes intelligent and beautiful Rosie Jarman whom he is able to actually spend time and converse with, yet he disqualifies as a wife candidate. He does help Rosie search for her own answer to who her real father is. This Asperger-like character is similar to people we all know as absent-minded professors, nerds or geeks. Getting into the mind of Don and seeing the way he thinks life should be referenced by this unemotional, critically- thinking person is very insightful and extremely funny. Rosie helps him break free of some of the socially inept tendencies and their relationship becomes very complicated. The Rosie Project was begun as a screen play project and became an award-winning manuscript before it was published in Melbourne.
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.
by Stacy Hawkins Adams
I read this series in eBook format, which I use for my “on the run read”. I downloaded all three books from the Sunflower eLibrary. We do have the third book from the series in paperback on the shelf.
In the first book, The Someday List, Rachelle Covington, the wife of a very successful brain surgeon, isn’t totally happy with her life. While her doctor husband goes off to Africa on a missions trip, she heads back to her hometown and not so wealthy relatives. The characters are fun to be with, even if they do have their own set of troubles.
The second book, Worth a Thousand Words, features Rachelle’s cousin Indigo Burns as the main character. She is growing up and falling in love. Her fiancé wants her to push their wedding plans forward. Indigo wants to go to college and get her career started before she weds.
Dreams That Won’t Let Go, the third book in the series, Indigo’s wedding plans are underway. However, troubles come when Reuben, her estranged brother, comes back home.
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.
How can one precocious six-year-old boy be so much fun! Bertie shines on in Sunshine on Scotland Street, the newest installment of the 44 Scotland Street novels by Alexander McCall-Smith. In this episode, Bertie finds a very inventive way to forever be done with wearing his strawberry colored dungarees that have embarrassed him numerous times through several previous books. His mother continues to make life difficult in additional ways, such as insisting that Bertie sell healthy snacks, carrot-men, at the school fair. We follow Cyril, the gold-toothed dog, on his adventurous life while his master, Angus Lordie and Domenica are on their wedding trip. I love the way the author makes simple everyday encounters a lesson in the way people think and interact. McCall-Smith makes us laugh at the absurd way we look at ourselves and perceive others using little boys and dogs and a variety of people.
By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager
She was not a recognized personality nor was she a Revolutionary War figure. She was not wealthy, nor was she well educated. There are no surviving paintings of her, and many details of her life are relatively sketchy. In fact, hers was an ordinary life except for one factor: she was the younger sister of Benjamin Franklin.
To be honest, many of the details we do know about her have been made available only because of her brother’s celebrity. We are well aware of his adventures because of his prolific writing, his interactions with other famous personalities, and his incredible role in American history. Fortunately for us, he was an avid writer of letters, and many of his surviving letters were sent directly to his younger sister. Many of her letters to him have also survived, and it is because of those that we have clues to Jane’s personality and day-to-day life.
In a family of seventeen children, of which twelve survived to adulthood, Benjamin was the youngest son while Jane was the youngest daughter. The two enjoyed a closeness that endured despite their very different lives. Benjamin, it seems, left home at an early age and became a self-educated man, traveling to Europe and acting as an American ambassador. Jane remained home and married at the age of fifteen. As was often true at the time, she bore children, many of whom died tragically. And her husband, who was prone to incur debts he could not repay, probably spent some time in a debtors’ prison.
“Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin” by renowned history professor Jill Lepore is a rare treasure. It is that wonderful tale that manages to piece together the details of one life through a careful scrutiny of old letters and other documentation. Continue reading
Drum roll, please! Dan Zevin has received the 2013 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his book Dan Gets a Minivan. I reviewed this laugh-out-loud memoir of parenting back in September and can’t imagine a more appropriate choice for this honor.
For more award winners, check out our Award List page.
In this beautifully written sequel to If I Stay, Gayle Forman tells the story of the three years following Mia’s accident and of the lives that Adam and Mia have built while apart from each other. This book is told from Adam’s perspective and reveals his anguish and devastation over their separation.
Following her recovery, Mia left her home town to attend Julliard and has become an accomplished cellist. Adam, devastated by her leaving, has transformed his grief and heartbreak into powerful rock songs, which have propelled his band into stardom. But neither is able to truly enjoy the experiences they have as their dreams of success in music come true, as both have regrets about the past, and Mia comes to realize that her choice to stay has affected not only her life but the lives of others in deep and painful ways. This is a touching and emotional story about forgiveness, love, hope and healing. Where She Went is an exquisite and unforgettable novel with compelling characters we come to care about, and this window into their lives makes us hope for the best for Mia and Adam on their journey towards healing and love.
I greatly enjoyed this collection of short stories from Susan Jackson Rodgers. I first heard about it by reading about the Book Reviews from Manhattan Mercury’s column. I wanted to give it a try after hearing that Rodgers was a Kansas State alumnus.
The short story that collection gets its title from is about the thoughts, feelings and emotions going through a divorcee’s heads as she does late night grocery shopping and encounters an ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend is stoned, happy and in the arms of a new younger lover. The story avoids becoming overwhelmed by bitterness. Instead, it embraces a sardonic and humorous outlook on the situation that sounds like a cross between a Sex in the City and Bridget Jones narrator. To get a taste of this story, a reading is available on youtube.
Another of the stories which stood out to me, was entitled “What Happens Next.” This story, is a collection of story beginnings that don’t really go anywhere and have only circumstantial connections. The beginnings are told with longing and sadness that I was left really wanting to know what happened to them. An example of part of the collection is entitled, “Taking a Geography,” and it says “This is what they say at AA meetings when someone moves away, tires a new life in a new place instead of staying in the old place with all the old problems.”
This collection of short stories is very melancholic. It’s the kind of sad that’s not afraid to laugh. Most of the stories are centered around women in their mid 20s to late 30s. The issues explored include ugly divorces, old friendships, children and romance. They are the kind of stories that are quick to read, but hard to forget. I found myself returning to some of them over and over again re-examining hidden meanings and re-exploring her language.
Linda Henderson, Adult Services, Manhattan Public Library
Mysteries are a very popular literary genre. People think of mysteries as dark, scary thrillers full of graphic violence, sexuality, and strong language. “Cozy” mysteriesare gentle reads, containing little violence, coarse language, or sexual themes. Death and criminal activity happen mostly off-stage.
For a fun, intriguing read that engages the mind and provides fast-paced entertainment with unexpected twists and turns, try a cozy. Cozies come in many flavors: they are set in tea shops, bed-and-breakfast inns, and renovated homes; they deal with cats, dogs, and horses; they involve cooks, nuns and gardeners. There are paranormal cozies, Victorian cozies, religious cozies, and many other varieties. Many grow into extended series, letting readers follow likable characters through new adventures.
Cozies often take place in small towns. The hero might be an amateur sleuth, or just a bright, educated, or witty person, such as a teacher, store owner, librarian, or homemaker. These characters may happen to know people with access to information, such as detectives, police officers, or medical professionals.
Cozies are often family stories. In “Little Black Book of Murder,” Nora finds wealthy Swain Starr brutally murdered in his barn. Her harassing boss wants her to scoop the police, but family ties make things complicated in the ninth book in Nancy Martin’s Blackbird Sisters series.
“Father Knows Death“ by Jeffrey Allen is a “stay-at-home-dad” mystery. Deuce may not be an expert on running a concession stand at a small town fair, but he knows that dead bodies don’t belong in the freezer.
In “Murder in the White House” by Margaret Truman, the well-known author of many mysteries set in Washington, D.C., the White House staff and the President are stunned when they find the Secretary of State strangled in the Lincoln Bedroom.
“Sweet Tea Revenge” by Laura Childs, follows the owner of a tea shop, Theodosia Browning. Always a bridesmaid but never a bride, she is asked to be in her best friend’s wedding. But, the groom will never make it to the altar. He doesn’t just have cold feet – his whole body is cold.
Many cozies have quilting, scrapbooking, and knitting themes. In Terri Thayer’s “Monkey Wrench,” shop owner Dewey Pellicano prepares to launch a quilter’s crawl when her assistant’s boyfriend and a quilter turns up dead. Laura Child’s “Postcards from the Dead” opens as French Quarter scrapbook shop owner, Carmela, is getting ready for a busy Mardi Gras when she finds TV reporter Kimber Breeze dead, hanging from a balcony. Continue reading
Last weekend we decorated our house for Halloween and after tacking up the fake spiderwebs to the corners of the ceiling and setting out pumpkins, I decided that a good, scary book was in order. One book that has been on my to-read list for a while now has been Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Continue reading
Cal Weaver, a private detective, is driving home in the rain when at a stop, he hears A Tap on the Window. A teenaged girl is looking for a ride and when she mentions Weaver’s son, who recently died, Weaver allows her to get into the car. He realizes that he might have placed himself into a compromising position but still is reluctant to make her get out of the car. He is hoping, as a friend of Scott’s, she might offer him some information about who sold his son the drugs that killed him.The girl, Clare, asks Cal to stop at a fast food drive-in and she runs inside. A girl returns to the car and Cal realizes that it is not the same girl. When both girls are later missing, Cal becomes a suspect in their disappearances. As he searches for the truth and answers to both Scott’s death and the girls disappearances, he begins to uncover dark secrets in his small town.
Barclay has created a suspense-filled story, one that is fast paced and with a complex plot. The characters are involved in murder, corruption and scandal and are believable and well drawn. This is a mystery with a twisting plot and lots of surprises that will provide an engrossing read for fans of suspense.