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Spotlight on Horror Novels to Read This October: Part 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, October is finally upon us! That means it’s time for crisp autumn weather, pumpkin spiced everything, and all sorts of ghouls and goblins traveling from house to house to keep us scared and entertained. So, before everyone starts getting ready for the winter holidays on November 1st (sorry Thanksgiving), I'll tell you about five horror themed novels that you can read this October. Today, we have 3, but check back on the 27th for 2 more! The Fireman by Joe Hill firemanJoe Hill's newest novel tackles familiar themes of the post-apocalyptic genre, such as war ravaged civilizations, dystopian societies trying to rebuild after a catastrophic event, and, simply: the end of the world. Harper Grayson is a nurse from New England who makes it her sole priority to help treat and comfort everyone she can who has become ravaged with what is commonly referred to as Dragonscale: a mysterious new disease that has begun to spread across the globe. While no one is able to determine its origin or how it is transmitted, the only thing people know is that there’s no fate worse than catching it. Anyone who becomes afflicted with the disease may burst into flames at any moment, endangering anyone unlucky enough to be nearby. The Fireman is a novel full of dread and comic relief. While there is plenty to be scared of in this world, there is also much to love, laugh at, and find joy in. Joe Hill creates memorable characters that we care about and want to see survive, putting them through terrible situation after situation. Every horrifying conflict that arises feels natural and all too realistic, highlighting both the good, the bad, and the in between of humanity itself. The fear that Joe Hill instills within the humans of this world and how they choose to react to it is where the true horror lives. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski houseofleavesHouse of Leaves is a novel by Mark Z. Danielewski about a documentary directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalist Will Navidson about his family’s house. After moving into their new home, the Navidson family discovers rooms that weren’t originally there when they moved in and doorways leading to dark hallways that stretch on for impossible lengths. This is the center of focus for the horror story, as the Navidson family attempts to investigate and document their journeys into these very dark, dangerous, and ever changing hallways. House of Leaves is perhaps the most interesting and unique book I've ever read. The pages and the words seem to twist and turn in impossible ways, much like the endless rooms and hallways in the Navidsons' home. Simply flipping through the pages and scanning how the words are laid out on the pages is a remarkable experience in and of itself and the way the book is written helps the reader to dive into the madness and experience what the characters are going through. At first glance, this book seems to be made up of the ramblings of a mad man. Interestingly enough, that's exactly what it is. My suggestion is to find a copy and flip through it yourself. If your eyes are drawn to and intrigued by the layout of the pages, you may want to take this book home and let it consume you. By the end, you may find that your sanity has slipped to some degree, but that's okay. After all, we all go a little mad sometimes. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore dirtyjobA Dirty Job follows Charlie Asher, a new father and even newer widower. Charlie is forced to now raise his newborn daughter by himself while also continuing to run and operate his second hand resale shop with only two employees: a high school goth and a retired cop. Because of the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death, Charlie has found himself to become one of the Grim Reaper’s little helpers. Charlie is now one of many in New York City that is responsible for collecting the souls of the recently departed and selling them to prospective new owners through their resale shops in order to stop an ancient evil from awakening and devouring the planet. While this isn’t a straight horror story, the horror theme is present throughout and integral to the plot. For those that love horror stories, this is a great book to laugh with rather than be scared of. There aren’t many horror stories like that and even fewer that do it well. I laughed out loud while reading A Dirty Job more than I ever have with another book; it even caused me to stop reading because I needed a break to laugh about a good joke. And this book is just as heartwarming as it is funny. Many moments had me near tears and I genuinely cared for the characters that Christopher Moore wrote. Every character had their own unique voice and brought a level of depth and creativity to the story that many authors would find difficult to emulate.

Spotlight: A. S. King

IMG_2660Did you know author A.S. King is coming to the library this fall? Her upcoming visit on Tuesday, November 10th has inspired me to complete the A.S. King Book Challenge (i.e. read all her books). After flying through Ask the Passengers, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Everybody Sees the Ants, and Reality Boy, I can safely say that I haven’t been reading these books – I’ve been devouring them! With perfectly integrated magical realism and bomb resolutions, they are just that darn good. Realistic in well-developed characters and tone, King deploys a bit of magical realism in the majority of her books that helps convey characters’ emotions and plot points in a unique manner. In Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Glory discovers information about her family and members of the cult that live next door from getting glimpses into their futures after drinking a petrified bat. The other books include appearances from Socrates' ghost and an army of anthropomorphic, sassy ants. These bizarre devices help build well-defined characters and settings in such a seamless manner that the reader may forget that Socrates’ ghost and sassy ants are not a common occurrence in our world. The magical realism will invest you into her characters' wellbeing to the point that you’ll dread parting ways with your new fictional friends. Luckily, King is also a master at perfectly satisfying resolutions. While other authors may rely on a Hollywood blockbuster finale that explodes in the reader’s face, King’s endings seem to glide to a slow stop for a perfect landing. Astrid, from Ask the Passengers, and Lucky, from Everybody Sees the Ants, both struggle with an underlying life challenge. Astrid wants her family and community to give her the opportunity to discover and accept her sexuality. Lucky wants protection from a bully who humiliates him in some of the most egregious and nauseating scenes I’ve ever read in a YA book. Both books’ endings diverge from the assumed happy ending conclusions, and yet both end with such optimistic notes that I can now say I’ve experienced the ever allusive tears of joy. Magical realism and perfect resolutions are just the icing on the cake in King’s books. When you come to the library and head to the Ks in the teen fiction section, beware that just one King book will leave you craving for more. So grab an IPPL basket and a few tissues from the Ask Us desk, and cancel your weekend plans so that you too can complete the A.S. King Book Challenge!

Spotlight: Spotlight: Turn of the Century Vienna: Freud, Pastry, and Murder

Spotlight: Turn of the Century Vienna: Freud, Pastry, and Murder Two current mystery series use 1900 era Vienna as their setting. Frank Tallis’s Liebermann Papers series follows psychiatrist Max Liebermann as he assists his friend Detective Oscar Rheinhardt as he investigates murder. These murders usually involve serial killers and require Liebermann’s insight into pathological behavior. Occasionally a visit to Liebermann’s mentor, Dr. Freud, is required. Somehow indulging in a great many nicely described pastries is required to solve any crime. The first volume in the series is A Death in Vienna. J. Sydney Jones's Viennese Mysteries feature lawyer Karl Werthen who investigates alongside real-life criminologist Hanns Gross. These cases involve historical persons such as artist Gustav Klimt and composer Gustav Mahler. Again, meals are lovingly described; this time tending more towards sauerkraut and sausages (although, I am happy to say, pastries do regularly make an appearance). The first volume in the series is The Empty Mirror.

Spotlight: Man’s Best Friend

Spotlight: Man’s Best Friend Waiting for Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean (2011)? Try one of these classic stories about man’s best friend. Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (2003) is the classic story of a beloved collie, sold by his impoverished family, who makes his way back home to his boy. Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1981) is another story of loyalty. Buck the dog is rescued from a brutal existence as a Yukon sledge dog by John Thornton, to whom he becomes devoted. The Incredible Journey (1996) is another story, this time two dogs and a cat, that make their way over hundreds of miles of Canadian wilderness to find a home. Roger Caras’ Treasury of Great Dog Stories (1987) brings together stories by such well known authors as Mark Twain and Stephen Crane.

Spotlight: The Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Spotlight: The Spellmans by Lisa Lutz Lisa Lutz created a delightfully zany family in the Spellmans. Follow their hilarious antics in the quartet: The Spellman Files, Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, and The Spellmans Strike Again. Although the Spellmans own a PI firm, the dysfunctional family spends more time spying on each other. Narrator Isabel “Izzy” Spellman is the 20-something middle daughter who never starts a story at the beginning. Following her train of thought is half the fun. The supporting cast, from the other Spellmans to the octogenarian lawyer and 40ish police detective, contributes to the entertaining atmosphere. While the final book seemed to wrap up the series, it appears the Spellmans will be making another appearance in 2012. If you like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, try The Spellman Files. And for other books like these, check out our booklist.

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne In Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, siblings Jack and Annie travel in a tree house. An enchantress from Camelot, Morgan, cast a spell on the tree house. Jack and Annie travel to places in time, space, and fantasy. They are fun books – I can’t stop reading them! Start with Dinosaurs before Dark and The Knight at Dawn. Visit the author's website and learn more about the series.

Spotlight: Graham Greene

Spotlight: Graham Greene Graham Greene was one of the most important and popular English writers of the mid-twentieth century and his works are defined by that century. The Blitz (The End of the Affair - 1951), the Vietnam issues (The Quiet American - 1955), and British colonialism (The Heart of the Matter - 1948) —all these things are fading fast from living memory but are the basis for his very engaging stories. There is in his writing a lasting relevance; he reported on the human condition and drew searing insights into it. His novels are still to be enjoyed as are the movies that were produced based on many of them. Listen to NPR's Scott Simon reflect on Greene's books, learn more about the author from the website Greeneland: the world of Graham Greene and explore the New York Times topics on Graham Greene.

Spotlight: Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine

Spotlight: Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine Ruth Rendell, who also writes under the name Barbara Vine, is an English bestselling mystery and psychological crime writer. Her Ruth Rendell novels are about police detective Chief Inspector Wexford, guardian of fictional south of England town, Kingsmarkham or about individual psychological suspense thrillers, with no detective and no recurring characters. She specializes in examining the inner darkness of her characters, whether they are ordinary or alarmingly aberrant. Try Murder Being Once Done, a Chief Inspector Wexford title, for a taste of this fine series. Writing as Barbara Vine, she crafts psychological crime novels (such as A Dark Adapted Eye) which explore the minds of people who commit murder, often through obsession or social inadequacy. The Vine books maintain the theme of relationships between families by delving back into the past, which set them apart from the Rendell work. Under either name, her novels are complex in character development and precise in sense of place. Always suspenseful and viscerally compelling, I highly recommend them. Check back next month to read Sally’s review of The Minotaur by Barbara Vine.