Bleak Books with Olivia: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

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.

So, you’ve just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (or maybe you’ve seen the movie instead, I don’t judge!) and you’re on the hunt for another gripping thrill ride full of mystery, intrigue, and tons of dark academia themes. Why not reach for another Tartt novel? This sprawling narrative about a young man’s desire to just be something other than ordinary takes our main character, Richard, to dizzying highs and deep, deep valleys of low points as he tags along with quite possibly the most interesting people on campus: the tight-knit group of Classics students at Hampden College and their enigmatic professor, Julian Morrow.

The beginning of The Secret History shoves us face-first into the drama of it all: one of the Classics students has been murdered, and it was a group effort between the rest of the Classics Clan, as I like to call them. Now, you may be saying “Whoa! Spoiler Alert!” but this is all made clear in the exposition of the novel, just a few pages in, and even can be read on the jacket. The big mystery of the novel is why a group of friends this close would murder one of their own in cold blood? What does he know? Donna Tartt promises we are bound to find out.

The reveal is beyond jarring. While the beginning of the novel is slow and steady, introducing each member of the Classics Clan to Richard in painstaking detail, the moment we know why our dear friend Bunny is going to be murdered, we’re sent into a tailspin. We are taken alongside Richard as he makes the journey from average college student to an accomplice to murder, and Donna Tartt makes this transition so smoothly that you don’t even think to balk at this change in demeanor. The seduction to the mysterious, intriguing, and dangerous lives of Richard’s friends makes him blind to their true natures. Only after Bunny is gone do we see the group unravel. The act tears them apart in very unique ways, as the act of murder would to any sane person. And only then does Richard realize he has never truly known these people and never will.

What is so remarkable about this book to me is how I realized slowly that I am Richard. I too am just along for the ride, so in love with these interesting students that I can’t see they have manipulated me as well. I hate to admit it, but as the book came to a close, I still found each character so intriguing that I had forgiven them for their crimes and still wanted to sit down for a cup of coffee with them in the Hampden library. How twisted is that? Now, that is good writing.

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 on the second floor of the Aurora Public Library 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.

 

Bleak Books with Olivia: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. “Why would anyone read something that makes you feel so unsettled after you finish it? Where is the happy ending? Who would want to read that?” I get it. Books can be an escape from everyday life. They can act as a retreat. But isn’t there something that’s just so inviting about reading a book where all the characters are horrible people who keep doing the wrong thing over and over again and the book always ends in a jarring way that sets you off-kilter for weeks? No? Well, let me play devil’s advocate.

So let’s begin with the classic that started it all and the book that got me REALLY into dark reads: Wuthering Heights. This review will be spoiler-free!

So, you’re wandering through the stacks on the second floor of the Aurora Public Library and pick up this book, thinking “I need a nice romance. It’s set in late 18th century England in the stunning moors of Yorkshire, and I love period dramas! Why not?” Not quite. Wuthering Heights is a narrative, not about love, but about obsession and revenge at the hands of a ruthless, heartless man. Heathcliff, an orphan boy living on the streets in Yorkshire, is taken by a family out on the moors and turns out to be their worst nightmare.

Cathy, the only daughter of this family, spends almost all her waking moments with Heathcliff. All this time spent together can only lead to one thing: a childhood crush. But, as it always is with Olivia’s Bleak Books, wrong place, wrong time. No matter how many times Cathy and Heathcliff link up throughout their lives, there is always something in the way. Husbands, wives, children, money, vengeful drunken brothers, ghosts, property ownership, the rich kid across the moors… you name it, Heathcliff and Cathy probably dealt with it. Heathcliff goes absolutely bonkers over the edge with his obsession over Cathy and his revenge on the family who took him in. One would argue (me, I would definitely argue) that spite is the only thing that keeps Heathcliff going. The book ends in a devastatingly haunting fashion, complete with misty graveyards and ghosts and no real happy ending whatsoever… well, maybe a little bit, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

Overall, my favorite thing that will keep bringing me back to this novel for years to come is how it feels very much my own. It is cold, dark, and mysterious. All the characters have fatal flaws, and I would despise to meet them all, but oh, how I wish I could visit the moors and peek into a day in the life of Heathcliff. So, five stars to the 18th-century version of Days of Our Lives. It’s got all the drama, intrigue, violence, and shock of a modern-day soap opera, and I just ate it up.

Thank you for joining me on this dissection of one of my favorite Bleak Books. I hope to see you again sometime soon! Pleaser take a look in the Adult Fiction section on the second floor of the Aurora Public Library for a display of my favorite Bleak Books (including this one!) Discussions over many of them will be soon to follow. 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.

Comic Book Craze

While comic books aren’t quite as popular as they were in the 40s, they are still loved by an ever loyal fan-base. With Marvel making movies based on their superheroes every year and DC following behind, comic books are slowly making a more popular comeback. The evolution of comic book illustrations and characters have grown to be more gender inclusive and LGBT aware. Just like everything in our world, comic books are evolving to fit our ever-changing world. The Aurora Public Library District has a section called “graphic novels” which includes many popular comic books and heroes. We have some comic books about the most popular heroes and some who may be new to you!

Stop by and check out the comics in our teen ‘graphic novel’ area!

Want to read one that we don’t have? You have two options: if the comic is older than 6 months, you can inter-library loan it (borrow it from another library in Indiana for free) or if the title is new than 6 months you can ask to place it as a collection request (a database of titles that we consider to buy for patrons).

Census Application Help Sessions

Looking for a temporary job? Want to earn some extra income? Well, look no further!

The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting thousands of people for temporary jobs across the country. The results of the 2020 Census will  help determine each state’s representation in Congress, as well as how funds are spent for schools, hospitals, library’s, roads, and so much more!

Job Qualifications:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a valid Social Security number.
  • Be a U.S. Citizen.
  • Have a valid email address.
  • Complete an application and answer assessment questions.
  • Be registered in the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption.
  • Pass a Census-performed criminal background check.
  • Commit to complete training.
  • Be available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends.

Most census jobs require employees to:

  • Have access to a vehicle and a valid driver’s license.
  • Have access to a computer with internet and an email account (to complete training).

If you currently have a job, your current job must be compatible with Census Bureau employment and must not create any conflicts of interest. They will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

2020 Census jobs provide:

  • $15+ per hour
  • Flexible hours
  • Weekly pay
  • Paid training

For more information attend one of two of our Census Application Help Sessions:

Monday, October 28: 10am-1pm: APL Downstairs (Computer Area)

or

Saturday, November 2: 9am-12pm: APL Downstairs (Computer Area)

Census personnel will be on site to answer any and all questions. There will be 3 computers set aside for these help sessions.

This and That 90’s Sitcom Trivia

The Aurora Branch is hosting a Trivia game celebrating the beloved 90s sitcoms from Friends to the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air! Teens and adults are invited to this throwback trivia night. There will be ReFreshments served along with prizes for 1st and 2nd place winners.

When: Thursday, September 19th.

Where: Upstairs at the Aurora Public Library

When: 6pm

 

Helen Hoang: The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test

 

A couple weeks ago, I sat down and read the summary for The Kiss Quotient. written by Helen Hoang. I was curious and interested, because I’d never read a romance novel where one of the main characters was diagnosed with a disorder. So I thought, let’s take a chance; I bought the book, and started reading it.

I was not let down!

I loved the book! I loved the main character Stella, and I loved her love interest Michael! I enjoyed reading about a character who was on the spectrum and how, even with being on the spectrum, she gets her guy! I completely understood all the hype about this book.

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan.

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic.

I really loved the characters and everything about Stella. I loved how Helen didn’t shove Stella’s ‘disorder’ in our face, but let us learn slowly that she had Asperger’s. I enjoyed reading about Stella’s life and understanding more about Asperger’s Syndrome and how it affects Stella’s everyday life. It was amazing to read a different type of romance instead of our normal everyday “run of the mill” romance. I was especially happy to read more about Asian culture! She incorporated the perfect amount of education and entertainment to even out the playing field.

Helen Hoang’s journey with this book is just as beautiful as the story.  She wanted to write a gender-swapped Pretty Woman, but couldn’t figure out why a successful, beautiful woman would hire an escort. So when her daughter’s preschool teacher informed her that she thought her daughter was on the spectrum, Helen started doing research. So she thought, “That’s an interesting reason to hire an escort.”

From there, she started researching autism solely for her book and ran into the difference between men and women on the spectrum; women have learned to mask their autism and to copy peers. While she was reading, she started to think about the things she does. “I tap my teeth, but I tap them because no one can see. Because if you move your fingers or you move your body or you rock in your chair, then people will see, and that’s no good, it has to be secret … and that put me on this journey where I started to explore, could I be on the spectrum?.” 

While Helen learned more about her new character Stella, she learned more about herself, and then the diagnosis came, and her first novel was born.

Helen has released book two in The Kiss Quotient Series,  The Bride Testand was inspired by a website that stated autistic people were heartless and that they couldn’t experience injustice. So her new character Khai was born. She wanted to display that just because autistic people don’t operate on the same wavelength as everyone else and don’t show their emotions as much as others, doesn’t mean they don’t have those emotions. She was also inspired by her own mother’s story of being a Vietnamese refugee. Helen decided to base her heroine, Esme Tran, on her mother’s story and the inner strength she needed to create a new life for herself.

Book three in the series is expected to be published next year!

This is definitely a book that will stay with you for awhile and make you come back and think about it months after finishing! She’s officially been tagged as one of my new favorite authors!

I want to believe that I can be a main character, I can be a leading character in my life, that I can have a happily ever after, that I can find true love, and I can get married, and conquer, and be happy.

-Helen Hoang on why she has characters on the spectrum

Eloisa James: The Wildes of Lindow Castle

Who is Eloisa James?

Eloisa James is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a mother and a wife. When Eloisa isn’t writing novels, she is a Shakespeare professor.

What does Eloisa James write?

Eloisa James writes historical romances. Occasionally, you can find some Shakespearean themes within her stories.

Why is she different than other historical romance authors?

Eloisa James uses her own experiences as a mother in her stories. From a miscarriage to her own daughter’s problems as an infant, she connects each of her stories to herself in some unique way.

What’s The Wildes of Lindow Castle?

The Wildes of Lindow Castle is a series Eloisa James has began in 2017. The series follows the large family of the Duke of Lindow and is set in a castle. Think of Modern Family with a little of Downton Abbey mixed in. The stories are all set in the Georgian time period; yes, that means big wigs and poofy skirts! This also marks the beginning of the celebrity culture due to the printing press.

Where can I read them?

Print books by Eloisa James can be found in the Large Print collection or the Adult Fiction area under “J” for James. There are even more choices in our digital library.

 

Gena Showalter

 

In today’s literary world, so many authors are venturing out and doing different genres and doing both young adult and adult books. Authors from Nick Hornby (About a Boy and Slam) to Meg Cabot (Princess Diaries and Overbite) to Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy and Georgina Kincaid). More and more authors are venturing out of their comfort zones and tackling a new category, whether they originally wrote young adult and are now writing adult or vice versa.

Gena Showalter first came known to the literary world with a contemporary romance duology called Imperia. She eventually went on to write a widely known and loved series called Lords of the Underworld. This popular series has 15 books, 3 novellas, one spin off series, and two upcoming publications!

She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with over thirty books in paranormal and contemporary romances. She also has 4 finished YA series and just released the first in a new YA series called The Forest of Good and Evil

Her first foray into the YA world was with her series, IntertwinedThis series follows sixteen year old, Aden Stone, who has four human souls within him. All four souls have a unique power such as time travel, raising the dead, possessing another human, or telling the future. Her second YA series, The White Rabbit Chronicles, a unique retelling of Alice in Wonderland, has taken her readers to a whole new world and created a loyal fan-base from the YA community. My personal favorite of her books is her YA series, Everlife, is a unique story like one you’ve never read before about what happens after your First Death!

 

Made by Me! Crafternoon at Dillsboro Library

I know the weather is sweltering right now, but it is NOT too early to start thinking about Christmas. I truly enjoy making gifts for people, especially those that appreciate handmade gifts. My list is long, so it is never too early to get started with the process of discovering cute ideas and getting them completed in plenty of time for the holidays.

When I first saw the hand-stitched felt pouch, I began to think of all the possibilities. Could it be a coin purse? Business card holder? Earring holder for travel? What if I learned the technique and then decided to change the shape and size? The possibilities are unlimited!

Adults and teens are invited to join me at the Dillsboro Library for a “crafternoon” on Tuesday, August 20, from 4-5:30. We will make a rounded felt pouch to learn the technique, plus embellish it with buttons and other fun things to make your pouch unique. You will also get ideas for using the technique to make other useful and fun holders. These will be great for gift-giving, without emptying your wallet.

To register, stop by or call the Dillsboro Public Library at 812-954-4151.

Quick Reads

I thought I knew what being busy meant, but then I had a baby in December, and life is definitely not the same! Maybe you like to read but you don’t like the commitment of a series or a 400-page book. Or maybe you are too busy to pay complete attention to a book for too long. Since I’m trying to get back into the groove of reading regularly again (besides fantasizing about what sleep used to be like), I thought that I would compile a list of quick reads to get started.

The majority of these books have 200 pages or less and all are designed to keep your attention from the very beginning. You could also try reading plays or poetry to pad your reading belt or to try something new.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry

Night by Elie Wiesel

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Many of these books are considered Young Adult. If this is a genre you have never read before, you’re definitely missing out! I’m kind of a slow reader anyway, but Young Adult fiction tends to move quickly and has language that is easy to follow. The next time you’re here, browse the Teen section of the library or ask a staff member to help you find your next great read.

Do you have your own suggestions of quick, attention-hogging reads? I’d love to hear them!

Happy Reading!