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.

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

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.

No Fear Shakespeare

Have you ever wanted to give Shakespeare a try, but soon realized you couldn’t understand anything on the page? Is your English teacher making you read Macbeth, but you’re unsure what you’re reading? Are you tired of missing the entire Shakespeare category on Jeopardy? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then No Fear Shakespeare is for you! No Fear Shakespeare gives you the complete Shakespearean text on the left-hand side with an easy to understand translation on the right! APLD has fifteen Shakespeare plays in this format, as well as a book dedicated solely to his sonnets. The days of not understanding Shakespeare are in the past with No Fear Shakespeare! Get ready to impress your friends with all your Shakespearean knowledge! Check out the examples below of the titles we have available at the library! Click on a book cover to learn more!

 

Hamlet

Original Text

To be or not to be? That is the question-
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep-
No more- and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to- ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream.

 

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all? Dying, sleeping—that’s all dying is—a sleep that ends all the heartache and shocks that life on earth gives us—that’s an achievement to wish for. To die, to sleep—to sleep, maybe to dream.

 

Macbeth

Original Text

Out, damned spot! Out, I say!—One, two.
Why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky!—
Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard?
What need we fear who knows it, when
none can call our power to account?—Yet
who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him.

 

 

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

Come out, damned spot! Out, I command you! One, two. OK, it’s time to do it now.—Hell is murky!—Nonsense, my lord, nonsense! You are a soldier, and yet you are afraid? Why should we be scared, when no one can lay the guilt upon us?—But who would have thought the old man would have had so much blood in him?

 

King Lear

Original Text

Turn all her mother’s pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel—
That she may feel
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.—Away, away!

 

 

 

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

Let it be a wicked child who mocks the mother who cares for it. Make my daughter feel—make her feel how an ungrateful child hurts worse than a snakebite.—Now let’s leave. Go!

 

Julius Caesar

Original Text

Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar—what should be in that “Caesar”?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name.
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well.

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

Men can be masters of their fate. It is not destiny’s fault, but our own faults, that we’re slaves. “Brutus” and “Caesar.” What’s so special about “Caesar”? Why should that name be proclaimed more than yours? Write them together—yours is just as good a name. Pronounce them—it is just as nice to say.

 

Romeo and Juliet

Original Text

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

But wait, what’s that light in the window over there? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Rise up, beautiful sun, and kill the jealous moon . The moon is already sick and pale with grief because you, Juliet, her maid, are more beautiful than she.

 

Midsummer Night’s Dream

Original Text

Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

 

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

Love can make worthless things beautiful. When we’re in love, we don’t see with our eyes but with our minds. That’s why paintings of Cupid, the god of love, always show him as blind.

 

Much Ado About Nothing

Original Text

He that hath a beard
is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than
a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and
he that is less than a man, I am not for him. Therefore I will
even take sixpence in earnest of the bearherd, and lead his
apes into hell.

 

No Fear Shakespeare Translation

If he has a beard, he’s more than a boy; if he doesn’t have a beard, he’s less than a man. If he’s more than a boy, he’s not the one for me, and if he’s less than a man, I’m not the one for him. They say that women who die unmarried are destined to lead the apes to hell, and I suppose that’ll be my fate as well.

 

Check out our other No Fear Shakespeare titles!

                      


                     


                    

It’s National Limerick Day!

Did you know that May 12th is National Limerick Day? A limerick is a type of poetry, usually humorous and frequently rude, that uses anapestic meter and follows an AABBA rhyming scheme. To help give you a better understanding of how they work, here’s a limerick about limericks.

Gershon Legman, who compiled the largest and most scholarly anthology of limericks, held that the true limerick as a folk form is always obscene. He described the clean limerick as a “periodic fad and object of magazine contests, rarely rising above mediocrity.” However, Edward Lear, who was widely considered the father of limericks, wrote numerous comical, nonsensical, clean limericks that are extremely popular and well known. Here is one of his most well known limericks, “There was an Old Man with a Beard.”

Here’s another limerick to help you celebrate National Limerick Day!

Maine author Bette Stevens has a terrific double limerick about Monarch butterflies on her blog.

 

This blog also has a nice link to a page by Kenn Nesbitt on how to write a limerick.

 

 

 

 

 

All these fun limericks inspired me to write my own about the library! However, I quickly realized “library” is hard to rhyme. So please enjoy my limerick about not being able to rhyme library.

Espionage Thrillers

There’s just nothing like a great spy novel to get your heart racing and the pages turning! Of course, the espionage genre is filled with unforgettable classics by authors like John Le Carre, Graham Greene, Frederick Forsyth and Robert Ludlum.  However, the authors writing spy novels today can hold their own with even the best of these well-known novelists. Check out these titles, all written in the last ten years. There’s a lot of variety in the settings, including World War I, World War II, the Cold War, and post 9/11. I hope you will find at least one new author to love.

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer  Mission to Paris by Alan Furst  The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cummings

Moscow Sting by Ales Dryden  The Night Agent by Matthew Quirk  An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews  Red Star Falling by Brian Freemantle  Dragonfly by Leila Meacham

The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry  Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews  The Ways of the World by Robert Goddard

Young Philby by Robert Littell  Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon  The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Let us know which spy is your favorite!

“Most spies were amateurs: frustrated revolutionaries of the left or right, people who wanted the imaginary glamour of espionage, greedy men or lovesick women or blackmail victims. The few professionals were very dangerous indeed; they were not merciful men.”
Ken Follett, Eye of the Needle

The City of Light

Are you ready for some adventure? Just sit back and get comfortable, because these books will whisk you away to the City of Light! Of course, the library has many books set in Paris. This is just a small selection to get you started; you can choose the one that seems the most interesting to you.

A Garden in Paris by Stephanie Grace Whitson  The House I Loved by Tatiana De Rosnay  The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Good Thief's Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan  The Bones of Paris by Laurie R. King The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Paris was the Place by Susan Conley  The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell  The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

While you’re in the library, pick up one of our Paris-themed DVDs to set the stage.

Gigi DVD An American in Paris DVD Hugo DVD Midnight in Paris DVD

To learn more about the sights and neighborhoods of Paris, check out our newest Fodor’s guide or the non-fiction book Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

Fodor's Paris 2020  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter

“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.
Nothing is more sublime.”
Victor Hugo

Into “The Pit” with Poe

Do you love creepy stories? Do mysteries make your heart race, especially when mixed with a bit of paranoia? Edgar Allen Poe may be just the author you’ve been looking for! Poe is one of America’s best-loved authors and, of course, is perfect for Halloween.

Join us on Tuesday evening, October 22nd for selected readings from Poe’s short stories and poems. The program will begin at 7 pm at the Aurora Public Library and will be led by Ron Nicholson of Ivy Tech. We’ll also get to hear some about the latest theories of Poe’s mysterious death. After the program, you’ll want to check out our books related to all things Poe, including poetry, short stories and modern retellings.

Deep into that darkness peering,

long I stood there, wondering, fearing,

doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. (from “The Raven”)

 The Pit and the Pendulum graphic adaptation Edgar Allen Poe by Aaron Frisch The Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe by Jeff Burlingame Masque of the Red Death retelling Steampunk Poe

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