Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

The Mere Wife is a retelling of Beowulf and a social critique of contemporary society. Gated community residents label anyone who live outside their boundaries "monsters".

Dana and her ancestors have actually lived on the mountain long before it was turned into a high-end suburb. 

After fighting in an unnamed war, Dana returns to a cave and an abandoned railroad station. After nearly dying overseas, she awakes to find herself six months pregnant.  

When he is born, Gren draws startled reactions. He is described as having fur and claws.

Wishing to protect him, Dana chooses to isolate him from the world. Gren accepts isolation, at first, and then grows weary of it.

Like Frankenstein's monster, Gren yearns for what he cannot have--Herot Hall. For him, it all comes down to a piano and the boy who plays it, Dilly. They represent the outside world, the world that Dana has forbidden him to inhabit.

The reader can easily identify with Gren's desire
. The friendship and love between Gren and Dylan is breathtaking. The duality of gGren, his inability to fit in either world is beautifully captured.

The unique narration and magic realism are startling beautiful. 
The saint that follows Dana and who is known as "sorrow" is brilliantly rendered.

Without giving too much away, the ending is perfectly orchestrated. Dana destroys what has wrecked her life and her origins. S
he is a devoted mother and survivalist who also exacts monstrous revenge. 

The novel which is about fierce motherhood, hearth and home will give book clubs must discuss.

Friday, November 2, 2018

I am, I am, I am by Maggie O'Farrell

This new memoir is by novelist Maggie O'Farrell who lived through some horrifying experiences--seventeen brushes with death. Some are more chilling than others, like the time she met and almost succumbed to a serial killer.

Other times were less dramatic like the time that she jumped off a harbor wall into the sea from a cliff. 

Being Irish, she was cognizant of the cliffs and raging seas, yet her desire to experience wildness got the better of her. Worst still, a bout with encephalitis during childhood left her with limited spatial awareness. When she dropped herself into the sea at night, she was unable to tell which way was up and which was down.

When O'Farrell is close to death, the miraculous often happens. 

O'Farrell writes about being aware that she is about to die (at age 8) from encephalitis, her near drowning in Africa, and a tropical disease she acquired while visiting China, as well as many other instances she came close to dying.

Instead of feeling unlucky, O'Farrell feels incredibly lucky that she has traveled and has escaped many horrifying situations. 

In the last few chapters, she writes poignantly of her own child and her recovery from a severe allergic reaction.

A cleverly written book, this memoir also gives readers a deeper understanding and appreciation for life. 


Considering a Career Change?

Many employees are working but not inspired by what they do. Here are some websites and books that can help you explore new career options:

mySkills, my Future from the Department of Labor can help you get started. Enter a job you are currently doing and the website will retrieve similar jobs, their pay, and the necessary training.

myNextMove.org can help you browse careers. For example, what does a "technical director" do? What training is necessary? You can also browse by industry or use the o*net profiler. 

Use the computers on the 2nd floor or find books on career development like these:

Waters, Adam. Confident Digital Content: Master the Fundamentals of Online Video, Design, Writing and Social Media to Supercharge Your Career.

Willyerd, Karie. Stretch: How to Future-Proof Yourself For To-Morrow's Workplace.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Dewey Decibel Podcast's Halloween episode

The podcast, Dewey Decimal has a fantastic episode (episode #31) about the haunted library in Peoria, IL. 

Listen to the podcast and decide for yourself--supernatural events or urban legend? 

Multiple library directors have met untimely ends. Some say the land that library is built upon is cursed land.

Some staff members claim to have heard unusual experiences while working at the library--falling books, temperature changes, lights coming on and off on their own. One maintenance worker saw an entity enter an elevator.

The current director considers the ghost stories "local lore."

The podcast also features Mary Roach, who wrote Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and John B. Kachuba, Ghosthunting Illinois.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Perfect for Halloween, The City of Ghosts is the story of Cass who nearly drowned. Ever since, she has the ability to pull back the Veil between the living and the dead. Things are already spooky but they are about to get a lot spookier in this middle grade novel. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

Though its hard to believe, in the not too distant past women could be placed in insane asylums by their husbands or families if they refused to conform to norms. 

Women could be sent to psychiatric institutes indefinitely if a family member said a woman was not behaving as she should. 

The novel begins by Iris learning she has a great Aunt she never knew about, Esme, who has been in a mental institution for sixty years.  

Since Cauldstone is closing, the institution looks to Esme's nearest relative to take her great Aunt into her home.

The central mystery that propels the narrative is how and why did Esme become confined. Esme who has an excellent memory searches her past for clues--when did her life go disastrously wrong? Did it go wrong on New Year's eve in the 1930's when she danced with an attractive boy? Or did her problems begin much earlier when the family lived abroad?

Iris, who owns her own vintage clothing shop, has her own share of problems. She has a complicated love life. She nearly does not take Esme into her home. Yet there's something compelling about Esme.

Esme, who is immensely likeable for her openness and intelligence, recognizes Iris' home as her family's old home.   

Deciphering clues as a detective would do, Esme learns the reason she was imprisoned along with new secrets that Kitty, her older sister, has been keeping.

O'Farrell takes a subject which could have been depressing and infuses with humor and telling details. The blazer, the photo of Iris's father, the green wool blanket, the photo of two women--one standing and one seated--are all vital clues.

The ending comes as a surprise but well-justified in this well-plotted, psychological novel. Kathy Hepinstall's Blue Assylum explores similar themes but is set in the Civil War South.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen

Readers who likes eccentric characters and strange twists of fate will love Harry's Trees. 

Oriana and Amanda live near the woods in the Endless Mountains area of Pennsylvania. Life is ordinary until Amanda's perfect husband and Oriana's perfect father dies. 

 Dean dies sprawled out like a snow angel in a snowy field. His buddy, Ronnie, is convinced there are feather impressions in the snow. He believes Dean has become some sort of  winged creature--a red-tailed hawk--who can interact with the townspeople after his death. 

But its more than feathers that take on a larger significance. The lottery ticket Harry bought is piece of bad magic, an unlucky talisman.

Amanda Jeffers, Oriana's mother, doesn't believe in miracles, fairy tales, or magic but nonetheless she shelters Harry. She lets him rent out her tree house because they are in the same club--both having survived a year after a spouse's death.

Amanda thinks Harry is safe--that he is a "bland, levelheaded bureaucrat who understood rules." Little does she know that Harry is the opposite of what she thinks.

Harry is just like the "grum" in the story Oriana loves from Olive Perkins' library. He is the catalyst that will change everyone perspective; this is, if his brother, Wolf, doesn't catch up with him first.

Wolf is appropriately named because he is greedy and destructive--the villain of Harry's childhood. His greed is the opposite of Harry's altruism. 

Wolf is drawn to the only other character who is extremely voracious--Stu Gipner. Will Wolf and Stu bring destruction to the fairy tale world Harry and Oriana have constructed? Will Amanda, who is jaded and practical, believe in the fairy tale? Will Harry, who has always taken the safe road, be willing to take a risk?

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