Musings

FunJungle Tales from Stuart Gibbs

Join FunJungle’s resident zoo sleuth, Teddy Fitzroy, as he solves mysteries and strives to protect the animals at the zoo with these funny and suspenseful novels in the bestselling FunJungle series from author Stuart Gibbs.

When Teddy Fitzroy moved into FunJungle, the nation’s largest zoo with his scientist parents, he expected things to be kind of quiet. There’d be the occasional elephant stampedes and water balloon fights with the chimpanzees, of course, but when Henry the Hippo dies from not-so-natural causes, Teddy suspects foul play. And that was just the beginning. He begins to realize that the zoo is far more exciting than he thought it was, and soon the mysteries at FunJungle are piling up…

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs Poached by Stuart Gibbs Big Game by Stuart Gibbs

Panda-monium by Stuart Gibbs Lion Down by Stuart Gibbs Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs Bear Bottom by Stuart Gibbs

If you enjoy the books in this series, you’ll also enjoy The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach.

The Wolf Keepers by Elise Broach

Summer Reading Scavenger Hunt!

Go on a safari and search for animals in the windows of local businesses for our Summer Reading Program Scavenger Hunt! Just pick up a recording sheet during our open hours to get started at the Dillsboro or Aurora Public Libraries. There will be a different scavenger hunt in Aurora and in Dillsboro, so make sure to pick up the correct recording sheet at the correct library! Prefer a night safari or an early morning hunt? You can start your scavenger hunt at any time of day on or after June 1st.

Images of animals will be posted in the windows of several local businesses for you to find along with a QR code that links you to books about the animal you found! Once finished, return the completed recording sheet back to the library to get the password into Beanstack to get your badge! Not using Beanstack? You can receive a sticker for your hard work once your recording sheet is turned in. Please hunt safely and responsibly!

Ready to get hunting? The scavenger hunt kicks off on June 1st and ends July 24th.

The Aurora Public Library District would like to thank participating local businesses for their support and cooperation for our scavenger hunt!

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!

 

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.

Money Smart Week

MOney Smart Week April 10-17, 2021

Created by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 2002, Money Smart Week® is a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances. In 2021, all programs will be held virtually. There will be one short webinar offered FREE to the public each day. The presenters would like you to register ahead of time.

You can register here for any or all of the virtual programs.

Saturday, April 10, 2021 @ 11:00 a.m. ET 

“Talking Cents”

How do you talk to your children, aging parents, or life partner about money? It can be challenging to know where to start and what topics to bring up. Join us to discover some easy strategies and simple tools you can use to start these important conversations in a fun and comfortable manner. During this presentation, The University of Chicago Financial Education Initiative will provide tips for starting the often-challenging conversation about money with friends or family.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 @ 11:00 a.m. ET 

“Savings: A Little Can Make a Big Difference”

Have you heard that saving three months’ living expenses is necessary to cover emergency expenses? Many financial education programs equate this amount with adequate emergency savings. While this guidance may work for some people, it isn’t a realistic goal for many. Learn how and why a much smaller amount of savings can help keep your rent/mortgage protected and utilities on and just how little you might need to save per paycheck to reach these realizable goals. As a bonus, achieving these recommended amounts will allow you to be more financially satisfied and less likely to have to resort to high cost borrowing options like pawn shops or payday loans. During this presentation, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation will review how even a very modest savings cushion can be associated with major life improvements.

Monday, April 12, 2021 @ 1:00 p.m. ET 

“Bank On It: Finding Safe + Affordable Bank Accounts”

Wary of opening a bank account due to hidden fees and charges? Worried that you need every dollar that you earn, and want to avoid being charged due to a minimum balance requirement? All valid concerns given that many bank account terms contain long, confusing language on fees and high minimum balance requirements. You might have considered skipping a bank to avoid this confusion in managing your money. But – did you know that unbanked families are estimated to spend over $40,000 in their lifetimes on financial fees? Join us to learn how to find accounts that remove the risk of overdraft, low balance charges and other high fees so that you can manage your money to spend on what you choose. During this presentation, the Economic Awareness Council will review the many ways in which selecting a high-quality, safe and affordable bank account can improve your life.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 @ 1:30 p.m. ET

“Understanding the Basics of Federal Student Loans”

Calling all borrowers, students and parents to join us in learning how U.S. Federal Student Aid (FSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Education, can help you – and how the division has adjusted their offerings to consider the impacts of Covid-19 on borrowers. Get a basic overview on federal student loan programs and learn tips to utilize federal student programs to help pay for education beyond high school. Learn how to create a FSA ID, and how to use new and redeveloped tools from the FSA. Gain insights on loan servicers, private student loans, debt relief scam prevention, monitoring your credit and default prevention. During this presentation, The U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid will share their core mission of ensuring that all eligible Americans benefit from federal financial assistance – including grants, loans and work-study programs – for education beyond high school.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021 2:00 p.m. ET 

“Tax-Related Fraud + Identity Theft “

Identity theft and tax scams have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. Find out what to do if you are an identity theft victim. Learn how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can help. Discover how to protect your records and stay aware of Covid-19 tax scams and phishing schemes. During this presentation, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will share information on how to recognize signs that your identity has been stolen for tax-related issues.

Thursday, April 15, 2021 @ 2:00 p.m. ET

“Managing Personal Finances During Covid-19”

Learn suggestions for managing your money in a time of crisis. Topics covered include budgeting, emergency savings and managing debt. While some factors affecting financial security are beyond individual control, financial know-how can help all of us better manage our finances – especially during the sudden and drastic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. During this presentation, The Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) will aim to share the financial knowledge individuals need to fully participate in the economy and build secure futures.

Friday, April 16, 2021 @ 1:00 p.m. ET 

“Housing Protections + Resources”

The session will help people understand where to turn if they are having trouble making rent payments. Homeowners will learn how they are protected under federal law from foreclosure and can temporarily pause or reduce their mortgage payments if they’re struggling financially. During this presentation, The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will highlight resources that can help homeowners and renters during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Saturday, April 17, 2021 @ 11:30 a.m. ET

“Tips for Managing Money Ups and Downs”

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a financial blow to many U.S. individuals and families. Join this session to learn how to do your best with what you have available. Learn budgeting tips and tricks to help you plan ahead and meet your monthly financial obligations. During this presentation, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension will focus on easy steps you can take to get control of your money even when it doesn’t seem like enough.