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.

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

June Dollar-a-Bag Book Sale

Our Dillsboro branch will be holding its Dollar-A-Bag Book Sale on June 18th & 19th. You’ll find something for everyone on your list – mysteries, thrillers, romance, classics, westerns, travel, crafts, DIY, DVDs, audio books, CDs, children’s books, large print, magazines, cookbooks and much, much more.

The sale takes place in the Dillsboro basement on Friday the 18th from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM and Saturday the 19th from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  New books are added to the collection every week, so shop early and often! Bags will be provided.

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!

Dollar-a-Bag Book Sale

Our Dillsboro branch will be holding its $1-A-Bag Book Sale on May 14th & 15th. You’ll find something for everyone on your list – mysteries, thrillers, romance, classics, westerns, travel, crafts, DIY, DVDs, audio books, CDs, children’s books, large print, magazines, cookbooks and much, much more.

Hours are Friday the 14th from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM and Saturday the 15th from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  Shop early and often. New books are continuously being added to the selection.

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.

Dollar-a-Bag Book Sale

Our Dillsboro branch will be holding it’s $1-A-Bag Book Sale from April 16th-17th. You’ll find something for everyone on your list – mysteries, thrillers, romance, classics, westerns, travel, crafts, DIY, DVD’s, audio books, CD’s, children’s books, large print, magazines, cookbooks and much, much more.

OR, if you’re preparing for spring cleaning, pick up some books about home organization and tidiness! Maybe add some fresh, new titles to your collection!

Hours are Friday the 16th from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM and Saturday the 17th from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  Shop early and often. New books are continuously being added to the selection.

We’re still here!

The Aurora Public Library District is still open normal hours as of November 20th! However, we realize that some of you are taking extra safety precautions with the increased number of COVID cases in our area. Here are some ways we can help you keep up your reading while staying safe.

curbside service

We’re continuing to offer our curbside service to anyone who doesn’t want to enter the Library building. Just call 812-926-0646 and give us your requests for DVDs, books, or magazines. We’ll pack everything into a paper bag and have it waiting for you when you arrive at the Library. This service is available at both Aurora and Dillsboro; just let us know where you will picking up your items. You can also log into your Library account at: https://eapld.org/account/ to request items. When placing your request online, we’ll call you to let you know when everything is gathered together and ready for pickup. It’s that simple!

When you come to the Library to pick up your items, just call us to let us know you are parked outside and we’ll bring the bag of items out to you.

As items are returned to the Library, we quarantine each item for 72 hours before replacing it on the shelf. This is to protect your health and the health of our staff.

Don’t forget that we also offer lots of digital choices (books, audiobooks, movies, and magazines) through the Indiana Digital Download CenterLibby Promotional photoMake sure you sign in before searching for items to see everything that is available. If you are new to digital downloads, we’re happy to talk you through the process for getting your items onto a computer, tablet, phone or other device.

No matter if you’re hunkered down alone, or just taking extra care, we have something for everyone at your house. Just give us a call and let us know how we can help.