A Foray into Gothic Fiction

Book cover image for RebeccaReading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier in 7th grade was a formative moment for me: I learned the vocabulary word sepulchre; I was deliciously creeped out. It wasn’t until this year, though, that I realized Rebecca was part of a larger type of fiction that I really, consistently enjoy: Gothic fiction. The good news for readers like me – those who love creepy old mansions, sinister family secrets and the sense that something is not quite right – is that there are a steady crop of titles to keep us busy. This year I’ve read two titles that I’d like to suggest you snuggle up with on a cold and dreary night.

Book cover image for The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
Young Hal is struggling to get by, working as a tarot card reader at Brighton Pier and in debt to a ruthless loan shark. She receives a notice that her grandmother has died and left her a bequest in the will – except Hal’s grandparents are long dead, so it must be a mistake. She travels to the family estate anyway, hoping to employ the same cold reading skills she uses in her work to con her way into a little inheritance. Instead, she finds herself in over her head in another family’s twisted history of secrets. Hal is a great character to root for, struggling with grief over her mother’s death and the daily realities of being poor and alone, and the Westaways are a fascinating, unhappy, secretive family. Add in the hulking gothic mansion and a sinister housekeeper, and I was hooked. Atmospheric and genuinely surprising.

Book cover image for The Silent CompanionsThe Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
In 1860s England, Elsie, pregnant and recently widowed, travels to the crumbling country estate of her husband’s family. Kept company by only a few servants and her husband’s maiden cousin, Elsie discovers a realistic life-size wooden figure in the attic garret. As the figure and others like it begin popping up around the house, seemingly moving around on their own, grisly deaths begin to occur. Where did these silent companions come from? Is Elsie going crazy? Or is something more sinister at play? This book is deeply, consistently creepy, with a suspenseful tone that made me want to read it with all the lights on. A great take on the Gothic ghost story.

Two more titles that I haven’t read yet, but am excited to crack into, are The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton and Melmoth by Sarah Perry. And then I need to finally pick up Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House.

~ posted by Andrea G.

Library Reads: New books for November!

November’s Library Reads list includes a bumper crop of titles selected by librarians – ten outstanding reads, plus four more authors inducted into the Library Reads Hall of Fame, honored for having more than three titles nominated over the history of Library Reads!

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Nigerian nurse Korede puts up with so much from her sister Ayoola (the serial killer). Braithwaite tells a dark, lively, and funny story of how begrudgingly cleaning up after someone else’s deadly habits is just one of those things one does for family. For fans of satirical humor. ~Lisa Hoffman, Bloomfield Public Library, Bloomfield NJ

The Adults by Caroline Hulse
Divorced couple Claire and Matt devise a terrific idea for Christmas: spend it at Happy Forest Holiday Park with their new partners and their seven-year-old daughter Scarlett (and her imaginary friend). Hilarious and heartrending, this debut novel asks the age-old question: ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ ~ Todd Krueger, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco
Alma is a cross-dressing, bisexual, half-Mexican, badass woman who goes undercover in this historical fiction story set in 1887 Washington state. She lives life on the edge with gusto and nerve. An enjoyable ride for readers who like a fast-paced story and don’t mind graphic content. ~ Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cuyahoga, OH

The Colors of All the Cattle: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith
Each new book in this series unwraps another layer of the lives of the minor characters. Along with solving the requisite mystery, Precious delves into local politics and comes to rely more on her family and friends for their input. A charming addition to this heartwarming series. ~ Fran Hegarty, Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, Danvers, MA

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
A modern take on the classic Disney tale of Mulan, this fantasy-adventure story features Mehr, a governor’s daughter who wants to make a name for herself and is passionate about saving the lives of those in her kingdom. Mehr’s unique magical powers make her a target and give the classic storyline a new twist. ~ Megan Marong, Lackawanna Public Library, Lackawanna, NY

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month: Stories by N.K. Jemisin
This first short story collection from the most celebrated speculative fiction author of our time features her signature blend of sharply observed, provocative tales of magic steeped in realism and social commentary. Both SFF fans and adventurous readers of genre-blending literary fiction such as Station Eleven and The Underground Railroad will find much to admire. ~ Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL

The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim
A sweeping, historical, family saga in which two sisters are separated during the Korean War. One is raised in the United States and the other in South Korea. For fans of Pachinko.
~ Cat Ng, Palm Beach County Library System, Wellington, FL

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Enter the disturbing world of high stakes publishing and meet an author so twisted and unscrupulous you will beg for justice. For readers who like an unlikeable character and sardonic tone. ~ Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

Newcomer by Keigo Higashino
Newly transferred Tokyo Police Detective Kaga is assigned a baffling murder. The story is told almost entirely through the perspective of people he interviews, gradually revealing the puzzling who, how, and why in this mystery. For fans of Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and Columbo as well as lovers of international crime novels. ~ Julie Graham, Yakima Valley Libraries, Yakima, WA

Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh
Love defies societal expectations in this historical romance set in the Regency period. For fans of Tessa Dare and Amelia Grey. ~ Kathy Setter, Indianhead Federated Library System, Eau Claire, WI

Hall of Fame authors:

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
Gamache tries to understand why someone connected to a mysterious will is killed, while he and Beauvoir race against time to stop a deadly shipment of drugs from hitting the streets. Penny digs deep into her familiar characters in what may be her most personal book. ~ David Singleton, Charlotte Mecklenberg Public Library, Charlotte, NC

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg
An equally delightful follow-up to The Story of Arthur Truluv. A heartwarming tale of life in a small town with an ensemble cast of likeable characters. ~ Claudia Silk, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Can ten days at a special health resort change you forever? Can you lose weight, gain inner peace, become a better you? Nine people are thrown together at a remote health resort, with intriguing developments. ~ Jennifer Ohzourk, St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis, MO

Past Tense: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
Another home run from Child. While visiting his father’s birthplace in New Hampshire, Reacher can’t help but intervene when a member of a local gang attempts to assault a waitress. He soon uncovers more suspicious happenings in the town. Fast-paced, great plot, and compelling characters. ~ Laura Scott, Park Ridge Public Library, Park Ridge, IL

The Homeless Mathematician

When I was growing up, an unusual houseguest would show up at our door every few years. With steeply-arched eyebrows, a mile-wide grin, gigantic ears that looked like they could flap in the wind, and a wild tousle of white hair, he seemed to my 8-year-old self to resemble nothing less than an oversized hamster or rabbit. In a distinctive, nasal-whiney voice he would utter words in some unintelligible language that nevertheless seemed related to English. He called me and my brother “epsilons” and spoke of a mysterious food called “pea-napple-uppsheed-did-doven-tosh.” After a couple of weeks, he would disappear as suddenly as he had shown up.

Only years later, as an adult, did I learn that this man was one of the most famous mathematicians in the world: Paul Erdős. Born in Hungary, he published over 1,500 mathematical papers, many of them groundbreaking proofs that nobody else could solve. Even more remarkably, he was homeless: for most of his life he had no permanent address, and all his possessions fit in a suitcase. Traveling the world constantly, he stayed with mathematicians for a few weeks at a time while he collaborated on solving problems and writing articles. My father was also a mathematician, and that’s why Erdős would visit us. So renowned and prolific was Erdős that mathematicians are now assigned an “Erdős number” based on whether they co-authored a paper with him. Kind of like “six degrees of separation” for mathematics, people who wrote an article with him (such as my father) are designated with an Erdős number of one, while those who wrote an article with one of his co-authors get the number two, and so on.

The unusual-sounding words Erdős spoke to us were part of a private vocabulary that he invented, an amalgam of Hungarian, English, and mathematical terms: “epsilon” (a Greek letter used to represent a small mathematical quantity) was Erdős’ word for “child”. And “pea-napple-uppsheed-did-doven-tosh” was his rendering of “pineapple upside-down cake”. I learned much more about this fascinating man—and you can too!—by reading two excellent biographies from The Seattle Public Library: The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdős and the Search for Mathematical Truth and My Brain Is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdős. The library also has a wonderful documentary available through our Kanopy streaming service: N Is A Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdős. There’s even a children’s book about him: The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős. How I wish I could have read that book when I was a child and this unusual, charming man would show up on our doorstep!

Although the type of homelessness that Paul Erdős experienced is quite different from that currently affecting many people in Seattle (and other cities around the country), Erdős’ life serves as an important reminder: Homelessness takes many forms, there are many different life stories behind houseless individuals, and you might be surprised to learn who in your life is insecurely-housed.

~posted by Chris


November Literary Holidays

November marks twelve months of literary holidays! So to finish it off, here are three November literary holidays.

The entire month is Picture Book Month, an international initiative to support literacy and encourage the use of picture books. There are blogs dedicated to championing the importance of picture books throughout the month. So in honor of picture books, here are some recommendations for you.

  • Blue Frog by Dianne de la Casas is a fun book of a native Central American legend. How the gods first shared chocolate with humans.
  • A Different Pond by Bao Phi is gorgeous book about a boy who fishes with his father, with context that goes so much deeper. It’s worth sharing with your children.
  • Juna’s Jar by Jane Bahk follows Juna whose friend, Hector, has moved away and she starts to put items in her special kimchi jar to try to find Hector.

Blue Frog A Different Pond Juna's Jar Continue reading “November Literary Holidays”

Rick Riordan Presents

In early 2017, acclaimed author Rick Riordan, of Percy Jackson fame, announced he would be leading an imprint from Disney, with the goal of publishing “great books by middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage.”

He had been constantly asked by fans of Percy Jackson or the Kane Chronicles, “Will you ever write about Hindu mythology? What about Native American? What about Chinese?” Riordan could have easily written books about those topics, but instead decided to use his privilege to lift up the voices of those he could have just as easily overshadowed. Rick Riordan Presents leverages his position and experience to help put a spotlight on writers “who are actually from those cultures and know the mythologies better than I do. Let them tell their own stories, and I would do whatever I could to help those books find a wide audience.”

Thus far, two books have been released:

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah lives with her archaeologist mom at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture in Atlanta. She hangs out in Spider-Man pjs, dreams of spending more time with her always-traveling mom, and really wants to impress her private school classmates. After lighting a supposedly cursed lamp in the museum, Aru frees an ancient demon whose job is to awaken the God of Destruction. People start freezing in place, and things don’t look great for Aru. Clearly in over her head, Aru must locate the other reincarnations of the legendary Pandava brothers, journey into the Kingdom of Death (& Costco), acquire some magical weapons, and eventually save the world! Continue reading “Rick Riordan Presents”