Off The Shelves

Twists on Classic Tales

I found books by Mary Renault on a library shelf when I was in high school, and they inspired a love of books based on mythology. The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea flesh out the story of Theseus who kills the Minotaur on Crete. Here are some other, more recent, novels based on myths or on works by Homer or Virgil.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault         The Bull From the Sea by Mary Renault

Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

House of Names by Colm Toibin

Ursula Le Guin is perhaps better known for her science fiction, including the children’s Earthsea series. In Lavinia, Le Guin weaves a story about a minor character who appears near the end of Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid.

Clytemnestra, the wife of King Agamemnon is the protagonist of House of Names by Colm Toibin. Depicted in the Odyssey and the Iliad as a murderous mother in search of vengeance, Clytemnestra may evoke some sympathy when you’ve heard her side of the story.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller  Circe by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller soared up the bestseller lists with her two stand-alone novels The Song of Achilles and Circe. Both books bring a deeper understanding to relationships found in the original works of Homer and show the dangers faced by those who dare to anger the gods.

The last three titles are all focused on the events of the Trojan War, but told from different perspectives. That’s what makes retellings so much fun!

Song of Kings by Barry Unsworth A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Bleak Books with Olivia: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Have you ever read a book all the way through just to close it for the last time and say “wow, that was bleak”? Well, I’m here to make the case for those dark, dreary, haunting, and disturbing reads that keep you up at night long after you put them down. Welcome to Bleak Books with Olivia, your resident creepy book lover at the Aurora Public Library District.

Leigh Bardugo is all over the place right now. Her three teen series that comprise the “Grishaverse” are wildly popular and have been since the first book in the Grishaverse came out: Shadow and Bone. The Grishaverse is also newly represented onscreen as a new Netflix series titled “Shadow and Bone” as well. Ever since the show was announced, these books have been flying off our physical and ebook shelves, and I must admit, I am one of those newly ravenous readers. But I didn’t pick up Shadow and Bone in hopes of finishing it before the Netflix series came out. I actually found myself drawn to the series after reading Bardugo’s excellent adult debut, Ninth House.

(It is important to note that this book is very much for adults. There are very graphic depictions of violence, gore, and sexual assault.)

Ninth House tells the story of an unlikely Yale freshman: Galaxy “Alex” Stern. Alex finds herself with a full ride to Yale after surviving an apparent overdose and an unsolved multiple homicide, but there’s one major hitch. Alex has to assume all the duties of a member of Lethe, a secret society set up in order to keep all the other infamously secret societies on campus in check. Keep them in check from what, you ask? Oh, just the typical, everyday, run-of-the-mill dark magic ritual. And these… unsavory and, at times, just plain gory rituals attract ghosts, or Grays, which can be a bit of a problem. That’s where Alex steps in. Alex has seen Grays since childhood and, as one may rightly assume, her experiences with them have caused a massive amount of trauma. This new role in the House of Lethe forces her to confront her trauma until an odd murder takes place on campus. Alex is told to leave it up to the authorities. After all, it is just a townie. But Alex knows something is wrong, and she’s up for the challenge of decoding this unnatural crime scene. What follows is a supernatural rollercoaster ride as you piece together both the cause of the murder and Alex’s past through flashbacks.

One part murder mystery, one part supernatural fantasy, and one part dark academia makes up this disturbing, sinister read. It’s the jack of all trades when it comes to bleak books. Can’t get enough of the story? Here’s some good news: not only is Ninth House the first book in a supposedly five book series (according to Bardugo’s Twitter account), but Amazon is reportedly making this series into a television show as well with Bardugo as head writer and executive producer. Three cheers to my fellow hyperfixaters! Looks like we’ll be seeing Alex for years to come.

Thank you for joining me on this dissection of one of my favorite Bleak Books. I hope to see you again sometime soon! Please take a look in the Adult Fiction section at the Aurora and Dillsboro Public Libraries for my favorite Bleak Books. If you are looking to check out this specific title, please look at the Get Caught Reading display in the stairwell at the Aurora Public Library. It’s one of my staff picks! If you meet me in the library and have any Bleak Books suggestions, please let me know! I’m always looking for a new book to disrupt my life for a couple of weeks.

New at the “Other” Branch

We know that many of our readers love to browse the “New” shelf at our libraries. Although we buy two copies of many titles, you could be missing out on some great titles by looking at the new releases at just one branch. Staff members are always happy to help you learn about the new books at the “Other Branch” by using the online catalog. Here’s a sampling of the one-copy titles that were purchased in the last month. You can ask the circulation librarian to have the books you want sent to the branch of your choice.

Happy Reading!

 

Taking it Outside

The trees are green, the flowers are beginning to bloom, and it’s a perfect time of year to take a family hike! Walking along the river at Lesko Park and hiking along the Dearborn Trail are great choices for a shorter hike, but within an easy drive, there are many rewarding trails to explore. If you’re looking for some new ideas, you can take a look at these books from the Aurora Public Library District collection.

Hiking Indiana by Phil Bloom Rail-Trails Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio Best Hikes Cincinnati by Johnny Molloy

A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana by Steven Higgs

 

Don’t forget to check for more titles online at the Indiana Digital Download Center.

Remember, we’re just a short drive away from the trails at Versailles State Park, Clifty Falls State Park, and at the Oxbow Nature Conservancy.

The Cincinnati/Hamilton County Park system is one of the best in the country and offers over 78 miles of trails at multiple locations around the tri-state area. You’ll be able to find a trail that’s just right for your family, whether you’re looking for a day-long adventure or a short nature hike that ends at a playground.

Novels in Verse

When I recently read A Time to Dance, I remembered again how much I enjoy reading books written in free verse. This has become an increasingly popular writing style in books for readers of all ages. Here are a few that I would definitely recommend to readers who want to try something a little bit different.

For younger elementary school readers:

Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost Love That Dog by Sharon Creech Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger

For older elementary or middle grade readers:

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai Booked by Kwame Alexander Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

For Teens or Adult readers:

Collateral by Ellen Hopkins The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo Bull by David Elliott

Special mention must be made of two of my favorite writers who write in verse. Helen Frost is a Hoosier author who has written a wide variety of books for children including non-fiction, chapter books, and picture books. I am in awe of the variety of poetic forms she uses in her novels, and I have learned to look for the author’s note in the back that explains what she’s done. For example, in Diamond Willow, the story is told in diamond-shaped poems that contain a secret message revealed by the bold text. In The Braid, the characters’ voices are braided together by echoing words and rhythms.

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost Salt by Helen Frost The Braid by Helen Frost

I became a Margarita Engle fan when I read The Poet Slave of Cuba, a biography written in verse. In addition to numerous picture books, Engel has written a memoir in verse as well as historical novels set in Cuba and Panama.

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle The Poet Slave of Cuba by Margarita Engle Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle

New WW II Fiction

Historical fiction is one of our most popular genres, and during the last few years, there have been some amazing novels written about World War II. Right now, we have a great selection of those on our “New Release” shelf, which means the books have been in the Library less than 4 months. Take a look at these newer books, but also share the name of your favorite WW II novel by posting the title and author in the comments.

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear is unique among the listed books because it is part of the long-running Maisie Dobbs series. The rest of the books shown are stand-alone novels. Fans of the series know that Maisie served as a nurse in The Great War, trained as a private investigator, and now runs her own investigative agency. The Elephant of Belfast is notable for its focus on a short episode in the war’s history, the 1941 bombardment of Belfast.

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

Although many WW II novels are set in either France or England, Eternal by Lisa Scottoline is set in Italy and begins with Mussolini’s rise to power. If you are a fan of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Girl from the Channel Islands takes you to a similar setting during the German occupation.

The Last Night in London by Karen White  The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Set during the London Blitz, The Last Night in London offers readers a story of friendship and espionage with a twist of betrayal. The Rose Code is also a spy novel, this time set in the top-secret facility known as Bletchley Park.

We seem to never get enough of World War fiction, so let us know your favorites!

Reading as a Springboard

I realize we read for lots of reasons. Maybe you read to escape, or maybe you read to learn something new or to improve your lifestyle. One reason I love reading is that it makes me curious about so many topics. Almost always, the book I’m reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, will lead me to look up more information about the book’s subject.

For years, I have been recording every book I read on both Librarything.com and Goodreads.com and listing subject tags for the books. Here’s a list of the last 10 books I’ve read, along with their tags and what I researched after reading the book.

Eugene Bullard by Larry Greenly

 

 

I discovered this book on a library display during Black History month, shortly after reading a Facebook post about this man. I tagged this book with “aviation history, biography, non-fiction, and pilots”, and the book led me to read more about World War I, Paris, and the French Foreign Legion.

 

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

 

 

I had loved Yaa Gyasi’s earlier book Homegoing, so I was eager to read Transcendent Kingdom. This one sent me to Google to learn more about the opioid crisis in the southeastern U.S. I tagged this with “addictions, families, and opioids”.

 

 

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

 

 

I always try to find time to read the Newbery Medal book each year. This one was especially appealing to me since I love reading novels based on folklore. It earned the tags “Newbery Medal, folklore, Korean-Americans, families, and loss”. Of course, I had to learn more about the role of tigers in Korean folktales!

 

 

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

 

I have always enjoyed a good spy novel, and I really love historical novels with strong female characters. I had also been waiting impatiently for Kate Quinn to publish a new book! The tags I listed for this book are “codes, England, historical fiction, women’s roles, and World War II.” The book spurred an interest in the Enigma Code, the Bombe code-breaking machine, and all things related to Bletchley Park.

 

 

 

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson

 

I’ve read several Young Adult novels that I loved by M.T. Anderson, so I was interested to see a non-fiction book by him. This had been on my “To Be Read” list for about five years! I loved the intersection of music and the attempts to maintain the spirit of the Russian people during World War II. I tagged it with “composers, music, non-fiction, Soviet Union, Russia, and World War II” and I followed up with some research on the composer and the siege of Leningrad.

 

 

 

The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry

 

I grew up eating both muscadines and scuppernongs, so this book caught my attention right away. It was a great southern story with family secrets, and I’m filing away the recipe I found online for muscadine jelly. My tags were “Georgia, families, family secrets, and southern fiction”.

 

 

 

 

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson

 

Here’s another light and easy read, perfect for those who believe in second chances and the power of friendship. I tagged this novel with “canals, England, friendship, and second chances.” Afterwards, I spent time looking at pictures of narrowboats and at maps of British canals.

 

 

 

 

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

 

I love reading novels told in verse. They’re usually a fast read, and the format keeps even sad topics from becoming too overwhelming. This Young Adult book was about “classical dance, disabilities, and India”. I wanted to learn more about classical Indian dance and its connection to spirituality.

 

 

 

 

 

I picked this book up in a bookstore in my hometown and was surprised to learn about all the political corruption in a neighboring county during my high school years. My tags were ” civil rights, Georgia, non-fiction, political corruption, and racism”, but I could have also listed just about any vice. Unfortunately my searching on the internet  verified that everything the author said was true.

 

 

 

 

 

I received this Kindle book free with my Prime subscription. Translated from Spanish, it gave me more insight into the hardships faced by civilians on Germany’s Eastern front in World War II. I tagged the book with “Germany, historical fiction, World War II, Poland, Prussia, refugees, and Russia” and the first thing I needed to look up was the difference in Prussia and Poland.

 

Bleak Books with Olivia: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Have you ever read a book all the way through just to close it for the last time and say “wow, that was bleak”? Well, I’m here to make the case for those dark, dreary, haunting, and disturbing reads that keep you up at night long after you put them down. Welcome to Bleak Books with Olivia, your resident creepy book lover at the Aurora Public Library District.

I think it’s about time for a return to the classics, don’t you? The Picture of Dorian Gray has been on my want-to-read list for months. When discussing dastardly books, this one in particular always seems to come up in conversation at some point. Maybe it’s the cast full of unlikable characters, or maybe it’s the descent into all-out hedonism that drags our title character down into the depths of pure evil. Or maybe, it’s just a good, old-fashioned hate-read (I cast my vote for the latter). Either way, this book is the one to reach for when you just want a downright sickening read.

I must preface this review by saying that I actually enjoyed this book, and found it an easy read. All the parts were there to keep me flipping the pages well into the wee hours of the morning: drama, intrigue, a couple deaths, and, of course, art (I’m an art historian, so I was sold on that front!) but there was just something that really rubbed me the wrong way… in the best way.

Dorian Gray is a remarkably beautiful young man approaching adulthood when he is taken by a painter, Basil Hallward, to be his muse. At the studio, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a brilliant, conniving older man with a taste for the hedonistic, despite Victorian society conventions. Lord Henry convinces Dorian that aging will ruin his beauty and render him useless and irrelevant in the near future and Dorian begins to panic, making a foolish wish to transfer all of his blemishes, wrinkles, and marks of indulgence to a portrait Basil recently made of him. The wish works, and once Dorian discovers he will not age any longer, his lust for life grows to disastrous proportions that comes with a body count.

This book, as I mentioned before, became not just a hate-read, but an full-on loathe-read. Almost every character in the book is male, and often they gather around and discuss modern life, which always seems to involve several quips about how women are useless for anything other than being a beautiful wife. Dorian himself also becomes a reason to hate this book with all his pompous self-adoration and his complete foolishness throughout the entire novel. Wilde tried to make me sympathize with Dorian, who was led astray at an innocent young age by an arguably predatory older man, but it’s incredibly difficult to feel bad for a boy who knows of his wrongdoings, continues to do them, and even leaves a body count in his wake. Maybe Dorian Gray’s portrait preserves his atrocious attitude from boyhood well into his older years along with his good looks.

Although this description may have thrown you off, I encourage you to read it anyway! This book gives an honest depiction of how obsession with youth and beauty will do nothing but eat you alive. As I said before, it truly is a “loathe-read”, but you will at least finish the book with the satisfaction of knowing you certainly aren’t the only one that hates Dorian Gray.

Thank you for joining me on this dissection of one of my favorite Bleak Books. I hope to see you again sometime soon! Please take a look in the Adult Fiction section at the Aurora and Dillsboro Public Libraries for my favorite Bleak Books (including this one!) If you meet me in the library and have any Bleak Books suggestions, please let me know! I’m always looking for a new book to disrupt my life for a couple of weeks.

Wives – Fictional and Real

I’m not very fond of the trend of creating a book title based on the profession of the main character’s spouse. However, that’s not enough to keep me from reading a good book. Here are a selection of books from the Aurora Public Library District collection based on the theme “________’s Wife.” I’ve grouped the books into totally fictional characters, novels based on a historical women, and a couple of actual biographies.

I love biographical fiction, so I’ll begin with those books. The Engineer’s Wife is the story of Emily Warren Roebling who married into the engineering family that designed both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati. Emily worked closely with her husband on the Brooklyn Bridge and carried on engineering duties when her husband was injured during the construction.

The Engineer's Wife by Tracey Emerson Wood The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin The Emancipator's Wife by Barbara Hambly

Anne Morrow Lindbergh is, of course, The Aviator’s Wife, written by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin has also written biographical fiction about Lewis Carroll, Babe Paley, and Mrs. Tom Thumb. Mary Todd Lincoln was a controversial figure in her day. You can read about her in The Emancipator’s Wife as well as several books by Jennifer Chiaverini.

The Clergyman's Wife by Molly Greeley  The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

For all you Jane Austen fans, The Clergyman’s Wife is about Elizabeth Bennett’s friend Charlotte who marries the unbearable Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke are both well-known as writers of Christian fiction, so if you enjoy biblical fiction, you should check out The Centurion’s Wife.

The Salaryman's Wife by Sujata Massey  The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani  The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope

The Salaryman’s Wife is set in Japan and is the first book in a mystery series. Adriana Trigiani and Joanna Trollope are both popular writers of domestic fiction.

If your reading tastes run more to actual biographies, try The Zookeeper’s Wife, set during World War II or Shakespeare’s Wife about Anne Hathaway.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer

To find more “wife” books, just type the word “wife” into the catalog search box and then use the collection filters on the left side of the page to choose Adult Fiction or Adult Biography.

Meet Flavia de Luce

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, but are looking for something with a different twist, with a bit of quirkiness, you really need to meet Flavia de Luce, the heroine of a long-running series of books by Alan Bradley. The hook is that the detective is a precocious 11-year old girl with an expert knowledge of chemistry, especially poisons. Set in a post-World War II English village, Flavia lives with her father and a pair of irritating sisters in their ancestral home. Call her inquisitive, or even nosy, but Flavia’s knowledge of her neighbors’ eccentricities comes in handy as dead bodies keep turning up. The books are best read in order, so start with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley

I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley