Bleak Books with Olivia: The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

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.

Ah, finally, a return to my comfort zone: a dark academia murder mystery. After finishing Michaelides’s first novel, The Silent Patient, I was ravenous for more. Here in Bleak Books world, we love a good, shocking, knock-you-off-your-feet psychological thriller, and boy did Michaelides deliver. Then, after that book left a void in my life, I read the description for his next release: another psychological thrill ride with a crazy twist ending, but this time, with a dash of dark academia, the genre that’s taking the literary world by storm right now. So of course I put my name on the waiting list and read it as fast as possible as soon as I got it. Now, it’s time to reflect on the madness that is The Maidens. Let us begin, shall we?

Amazon.com: The Maidens: 9781250304452: Michaelides, Alex: Books

Mariana Andros is a group therapist living alone in London, grieving the sudden loss of her husband. Her niece, Zoe, calls her from school at Cambridge one evening in distress. There’s been a murder and Zoe’s best friend is the victim. Mariana comes to comfort Zoe, whom she raised as one of her own after her parents were tragically killed in a car accident, but she ends up staying to investigate the strange murder after she comes across an odd and seemingly sinister group of students led by the charismatic Classics professor, Edward Fosca. These girls call themselves the Maidens and have dedicated their lives to Fosca, whose strange and enigmatic presence combined with his talent for lecturing has drawn the interest of many students and faculty alike. Mariana finds herself drawn into the intertwined lives of these young women as one by one, they are picked off by the killer. Mariana knows in her heart it must be Fosca, but the truth is never all that it seems.

Set against the old, vine-covered academic setting of Cambridge University, this gripping story will shock you to your core. I was enthralled from start to finish, so invested in Fosca’s life that I felt I was a Maiden myself at times. Throughout the book, personal letters written by the killer themselves are sprinkled in, creating a three-dimensional image of a murderer before we ever meet them. The end is something you will NEVER see coming, I guarantee it. I would recommend reading The Silent Patient first, just because!

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 on the New Books shelf at the Aurora Public Library. 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: The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

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.

Psychological thrillers have been at the top of all international book charts for years, it seems. They really are the full package: dark premise, morally ambiguous characters, and the quintessential twist ending that everyone never saw coming. Although they may have become the comfort genre for some (including me), it’s always nice to get thrown a curveball now and then. Leave it to real-life experimental psychologist and author Nancy Tucker to do just that.

The First Day of Spring follows Chrissie, or Julia, depending on her age, as she navigates life and tries to grow past the abuse and neglect she encountered as a child and the dastardly results that it caused. Chrissie is poor, hungry, and unloved, and she lashes out to get any sort of attention from adults and children alike. Then, one day, her rage starts to leave behind a body count. The murder makes her feel more important and powerful than she ever has, but she soon finds out that she has crossed a line that will impact her life forever. Julia was released five years ago from Haverleigh, the home she was put in as the murderous Chrissie when she was just nine years old, and she has a daughter of her own now. Julia attempts to fumble her way through motherhood with nothing to reference. Her mother was abusive and neglectful and her father came and went, depending on where he could get booze for a cheap cost. One day, Julia picks up the phone and on the other end, someone asks breathlessly, “Chrissie?” Julia panics, fearing the worst: the papers have found out her past yet again and her daughter will be taken from her because of her recently broken arm that Julia blames herself for. She does the only thing she can think of doing: she takes Molly away, back to her hometown to see her mother one last time. There, she learns to forgive herself for her past as she realizes her circumstances formed the monster she feared, no her own mind.

This painful, heartbreaking, and hopeful tale about motherhood and mistakes definitely took me by surprise. I was expecting a disturbing tale about the twisted mind of a killer child, but instead I found myself fiercely defensive of Chrissie AND Julia as they navigate life bravely on their own. This one isn’t our typical bleak book, as it may make you love a previously unlovable character, but like I said before, it’s always nice to get thrown a curveball now and then. This book will remind you of one crucial truth about life: you must forgive yourself first before you forgive others.

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 on the New Books shelf at the Aurora Public Library. 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.

Tails and Tales: Endangered Animals

Our library’s Tales and Tails Summer Reading Program is all about reading about the animals around us! While animals are a lot of fun to read about, some of them need some extra help. Animals that are endangered are close to becoming gone forever unless we do what we can to help them recover.

 

Vaquitas surface for air.

 

One of the most endangered animals in the world is the vaquita. These are small, marine mammals, related to dolphins, and they are classified as critically endangered. It is estimated that there are less than 10 of them left in the world, and they are still declining. This is because of fishing in the Gulf of California where they get tangled in illegal gillnets and are unable to surface for air.

 

A green kakapo.

 

Another critically endangered animal is the kakapo. These are nocturnal, green parrots found solely in New Zealand. These cute birds are flightless and live in the ground. This unfortunately put them in danger when new and invasive predators were brought to New Zealand. Unable to fly and escape these predators, they are at a severe disadvantage and have trouble surviving on their own.

 

A rhino mother and baby.

 

There are currently five existing species of rhino. However, three out of the five are classified as critically endangered and the other two are classified as near threatened and least concerned. They are constantly poached for their horns and need protection from further poaching if we want them to continue living alongside us.

To find out more about endangered animals, check out some of these books from the Aurora Public Library or Dillsboro Public Library, and join in on our summer reading program!

Endangered Animals by Pierre de Hugo

Endangered Animals by Pierre de Hugo

Endangered Animals by Lynn M. Stone

Endangered Animals by Lynn M. Stone

Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink by Jane Goodall

Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink by Jane Goodall

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!

Tails and Tales is Now Open!

Our Summer Reading Program Tails & Tales is kicking off on June 1st and will run through July 24th. We invite you to stop by the Aurora Public Library or the Dillsboro Public Library and get started with our Summer Reading Challenge. Folks of all ages can participate by reading and completing activities throughout the next 2 months. You can earn badges and prizes all along the way. We have also rolled out a new way to participate through Beanstack. You can sign up your entire family and track your reading on a home computer or mobile device. We also have a  traditional paper log available if that’s how you want to participate.

We are beginning to offer some in-person programs at the library. These programs usually require advance registration and may have limited attendance to allow us to still provide social distancing. Call the library or talk to any librarian to see what is available for your age group.

One program everyone can participate in is our Animal Scavenger Hunt. Grab your tracking sheet at one of the library buildings and try to locate the animals posted in local businesses around town. There there are versions for both Aurora and Dillsboro, so choose your location, or do both!

Have a great Summer!

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.

Become a Citizen Scientist for Earth Day!

Have you heard the term “Citizen Scientist”? A citizen scientist is an ordinary person, just like you, who observes, or measures, or identifies and who sends the information to actual scientists doing research around the world. Become a citizen scientist and help support your community for Earth Day by taking part in our tree-planting program! It’s simple and easy to do!

Children ages 3-8 can pick up a coloring sheet from the Citizen Science displays at the Dillsboro or Aurora Public Libraries and color a beautiful Earth Day scene. Once finished, write your name in the space provided and email a picture of your finished coloring sheet to hello@BlueDotKidsPress.com AND stephanie@eapld.org by April 26th and One Tree Planted will plant a tree for you! Children ages 9 and up can take a photo of a tree in your neighborhood an upload the picture to the free Tree Snap App. Email your photo to hello@BlueDotKidsPress.com AND stephanie@eapld.org by April 26th and One Tree Planted will plant a tree for you!

Pick up a book on our Citizen Science displays to read about trees and Earth Day to gain some Citizen Scientist skills! You can also scan the QR codes on the display to learn about more citizen science opportunities.

 

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.