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.

A Boy and His Skunk

A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

 

 

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises — some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter. But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

 

 

 

After reading A Boy Called Bat, you’ll want to dive right into the next two books in the series.

Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold    Bat and the End of Everything by Elana K. Arnold

For more “unusual pet” stories, give these books a try! Rascal and The Tarantula in My Purse are juvenile biographies (J 912), and Flora & Ulysses and Pax are juvenile novels found in the juvenile fiction of the library.

Rascal by Sterling North The Tarantula in My Purse by Jean Craighead George Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Join One of Our Book Groups

If you like to read a variety of books, and if you like to discuss the books you read, you should consider joining one of the Aurora Public Library District’s book groups. There is an evening group that meets at Carnegie Hall in Moores Hill on the first Monday of each month (second Monday, if the first Monday is a holiday). There are also afternoon groups that meet at the Aurora Public Library on the fourth Thursday and at the Dillsboro Public Library on the fourth Friday each month. The Aurora and Dillsboro groups are led by Ron Nicholson of Ivy Tech. All three groups meet monthly in January through October, and the Library provides the books a month in advance. Call the Library at 812-926-0646 to sign up for any of these groups!

Here are some of the upcoming selections for 2020. You can view past selections at: https://eapld.org/programs/.

      For the Moores Hill Group                            For the Aurora and Dillsboro Groups

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell                         The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce                          All Adults Here by Emma Straub

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger                        Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

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!

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!

 

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!

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.