Thursday, September 25, 2014
The iconic figure of Sherlock Holmes has proven the inspiration for fictional detectives that run the gamut from Hercule Poirot to Temperance "Bones" Brennan, from Lt. Columbo to Richard Castle. And yet the inspiration for fictional detectives can come from all sorts of places -- even from the history books themselves.
In this book list, we offer a selection of murder mysteries that all feature a real-life historical figure as their story's star. While fictional, these novels offer a peek into what life would've been like in a variety of times -- and with a variety of very unique people. Here are historical figures like you've never seen them before. Read on and enjoy!
Philosopher, scientist ... and now, detective. In Margaret Doody's Aristotle Detective, the young student Stephanos narrates the tale of his teacher solving crimes, using deductive reasoning on par with Sherlock Holmes. The twist, of course, is that Stephanos is a student in 332 BCE Athens, and his teacher is none other than Aristotle himself. Yet this is no dry-and-dusty take on history: Doody seamlessly weaves disguises, escapes, and midnight attacks in with well-researched details of 4th century BCE Athens -- home and politics, citizenship and the legal system, the treatment of men and women, and more. The result is a story as historically informing as it is immensely entertaining.
Click here to request Aristotle Detective
-- William Shakespeare
The era: Elizabethan England. Symington Smythe (who doesn't care for his name) has been trained by his uncle as an ostler, but his real passion lies in a far different direction: the theatre. When, much to his father's disgust, Symington makes for London to realize his dreams, he does so quite on his own. That is, until he encounters one William Shakespeare, a young man also on his way to a life in the theatre. While meeting up with Shakespeare puts Symington on the path towards conspiracy, mistaken identity, arranged marriages, and murder, there's no denying it's an exciting way to jumpstart an artistic career.
Click here to request A Mystery of Errors
-- Jane Austen
Jane Austen couldn't be happier to be visiting her newly-married friend, Isobel Payne, Countess of Scargrave. But then, tragedy strikes, as Isobel's husband (many years her senior) falls victim to a strange and swift-moving illness. Isobel is heartsick, but her problems are only beginning, as she soon receives a message accusing her of adultery with her husband's nephew -- and of murdering her husband the Earl. Terrified, Isobel turns to Jane for help, and so it is up to the young author to uncover the clues and peel back the mystery before Isobel is disgraced ... and before Jane herself makes an enemy.
Click here to request Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt begins her (fictional) amateur sleuthing quite without meaning to; a young woman who works for Roosevelt is accused of murdering her boyfriend. Convinced that her employee is innocent, Roosevelt takes it upon herself to prove it -- even if that means stepping on the toes of several government officials, including the Congressman whose son was the murdered man. There's jewel thefts, gambling, and false identities to contend with, but through it all, Roosevelt -- like her real-life incarnation -- remains steadfast and determined to see justice done.
The Eleanor Roosevelt mystery series deserves special mention for being the work of a perhaps-unlikely author: Roosevelt's own real-life son, Elliott Roosevelt. (Though whether or not he had ghost writers helping him out has been a topic of debate.)
Click here to request Murder and the First Lady
-- Edgar Allan Poe
"Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow." So said Sherlock Holmes, in a line in which author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle poked gentle fun at Holmes's literary predecessor: C. Auguste Dupin, the deducting detective of Edgar Allan Poe's trio of mystery tales. The truth remains that it is Poe, not Conan Doyle, who wrote the first Western modern detective story -- a debt which Conan Doyle himself acknowledged on multiple occasions, with obvious admiration for Poe. It makes Poe a natural fit as the star of a mystery novel, even if we remember the author far better for his tales of horror.
In this young adult read, we hear the tale of Edmund, whose mother is gone and whose sister has just vanished. Alone in the dark streets of nineteenth-century Providence, Rhode Island, Edmund has no one to turn to for help -- save a dark and shadowy stranger who introduces himself only as "Dupin." It seems this man needs Edmund's help as much as Edmund needs his, as the two of them work together to solve the mystery surrounding them.
Click here to request The Man Who Was Poe
-- Post by Ms. B
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
While there is no disputing that there have been quality television shows on in every decade since the medium of television began. It's also true that there has been a lot of really bad shows too. According to most critics the Golden Age of Television was the 1950s. From shows such as The Kraft Television Theatre and Playhouse 90 to The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents to the numerous variety shows, there was no lack of quality shows to entertain the American public at the time.
Now, in the second decade of a new century, many are saying we are experiencing a new Golden Age. It's hard to dispute this. Shows such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones and American Horror Story lead this new age. Most critics look to HBO's The Sopranos as the turning point to well-written, thought provoking, quality shows that hadn't been seen on television in many years.
The Sopranos changed the landscape of TV by being that water cooler show that everyone was talking about. With the release of season one on DVD in 2008 many more people were able to take part in that conversation. Later, services like DVRs, Netflix and Hulu Plus, gave viewers a way to watch this and many other shows.
But not every show is available on Netflix and not everybody wants to buy a whole season or more of a show on DVD. That's where the library can help out! We have many of the most talked about new shows available. Check out the list below. And be sure to check the blog often for other lists of award winning television shows.
Jake Peralta is a Brooklyn detective with a gift for closing cases and little respect for authority. When no-nonsense commanding officer Raymond Holt joins the 99th precinct with something to prove, the two go head-to-head.
Orange Is The New Black - Season One
Brooklynite Piper Chapman's wild past comes back to haunt her and results in her arrest and detention in a federal penitentiary. To pay her debt to society, Piper trades her comfortable New York life for an orange prison jumpsuit and finds unexpected conflict and camaraderie amidst an eccentric group of inmates.
Orphan Black - Seasons One and Two
Sarah is on the run from a bad relationship when a lookalike stranger commits suicide right in front of her. Sarah sees a solution to all her problems by assuming the dead woman's identity and clearing out her bank account. Instead, she stumbles into a thriller mystery, and uncovers an earth-shattering secret: she is a clone. She learns there are more like her, genetically identical individuals, nurtured in wildly different circumstances, and someone is trying to kill them off, one by one.
True Detective - Season One
In 2012, Louisiana State Police Detectives Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are brought in to revisit a homicide case they worked in 1995. As the inquiry unfolds in present day through separate interrogations, the two former detectives narrate the story of their investigation, reopening unhealed wounds, and drawing into question their supposed solving of a bizarre ritualistic murder in 1995.
The Good Wife - Seasons One through Five
Follows a politician's wife who pursues her own career as a defense attorney after her husband is sent to jail on charges of political corruption. Alicia Florrick not only deals with her career but also with keeping her family together as she provides a stable home for her two children.
--Post by Tracy
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
The September Library Reads list is out and here are a few of the picks. To see the full list, click here.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes:
And Other Lessons from
by Caitlin Doughty
“Part memoir, part exposé of the death industry, and part instruction manual for aspiring morticians. First-time author Doughty has written an attention-grabbing book that is sure to start some provocative discussions. Fans of Mary Roach’s Stiff and anyone who enjoys an honest, well-written autobiography will appreciate this quirky story.”
Patty Falconer, Hampstead Public Library, Hampstead, NH
Station Eleven: A Novel
by Emily St. John Mandel
“An actor playing King Lear dies onstage just before a cataclysmic event changes the future of everyone on Earth. What will be valued and what will be discarded? Will art have a place in a world that has lost so much? What will make life worth living? These are just some of the issues explored in this beautifully written dystopian novel. Recommended for fans of David Mitchell, John Scalzi and Kate Atkinson.”
Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC
The Distance: A Thriller
by Helen Giltrow
“Imagine a modern-day Robin Hood who deals not in money, but identity. Karla, the protagonist of The Distance, is a tech guru with a conscience, and the security of several nations dependent on her. This nuanced book kept me on the edge of my seat. I cannot wait until the next one comes out.”
Cathy Scheib, Indianapolis Public Library, Indianapolis, IN
The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
“You can almost bet that a situation with long-term guests–paying or not–is not going to turn out well. This novel by Waters, who many know from her earlier books Tipping the Velvet and The Little Stranger, will keep you turning the page to see just how tense things can get, and how far fear and passion can push someone.”
Elizabeth Angelastro, Manlius Library, Manlius, NY
Season of Storms
by Susanna Kearsley
“Once again, Kearsley introduces you to a cast of characters who will quickly hold a special place in your heart. Celia and Alex mirror lovers from decades past, sharing similar secrets and passions. Flashbacks are woven seamlessly into the storyline, and the strong family component is handled beautifully, with surprising twists and turns.”
Marianne Colton, Lockport Public Library, Lockport, NY
--Post by Tracy
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
School's back in session! With the first day of school just behind us, students of all ages are settling down into new schools, new grades, and new worlds of fresh challenges. (And maybe just a little wistful daydreaming of the next summer vacation.)
So if you know a student who might need some help getting back into the school spirit, try one of these recommended reads about the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of school life.
-- I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
Though they have their own animated TV show now, Lola and older brother Charlie got their start as characters in Lauren Child's immensely popular Charlie and Lola picture book series. Seven-year-old Charlie is a very kind older brother who occasionally finds it challenging when he's asked to mind his precocious and imaginative four-year-old little sister -- especially when Soren Lorenson, Lola's best imaginary friend, is around.
When Mum and Dad decide that Lola is big enough to start school, Lola's not so sure it's a good idea. "I probably do not have time to go to school," she informs Charlie. "I am too extremely busy doing important things at home."
But Charlie is quick to point out all the important things Lola needs to learn how to do (like writing letters to Santa Claus, reading secret messages on the fridge, or learning how to count out the correct number of snacks in case of surprise elephant attacks). Persuaded at last, Lola decides to give school a go, and discovers it just might be fun after all. (Even if Soren Lorenson is a bit nervous.)
For Elementary School Students:
-- Wayside School series by Louis Sachar
Wayside School was designed to be a normal elementary school -- a one-story building with thirty classrooms inside. But the builder got it a little wrong, and accidentally constructed a thirty-story building with one classroom on each floor. (He said he was very sorry.)
So perhaps it's to be expected that Wayside School is a school where strange things tend to happen. Where students are sometimes actually rats, math problems are made up of words instead of numbers, and there is no 19th floor.
The series kicks off with thirty stories about the class on their thirtieth floor -- and their new teacher, Mrs. Jewls (their former teacher got turned into an apple). These clever, funny, and zany little tales are the perfect read for students of all ages.
For Middle-School Students:
-- Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm
The premise of this book rests in the idea that the things around us have a story to tell. And in this book, it makes for a compelling argument. Cards, notes, school reports, diary entries, receipts, mail, invitations, report cards, and more are all used to tell the story of a year in the life of Ginny Davis. She's kicking off her first year of middle school with a list of goals that include a starring role in her dance school's production of The Nutcracker, rekindling her friendship with former chum Mary Catherine Kelly, keeping her older brother Henry in line ... and getting her mother to marry Bob so that Ginny can have a proper stepdad at last. But, as Ginny is quick to discover, such plans rarely go as expected.
Told with English class essays, text messages, shopping receipts, teacher notes, cards from her Grandpa, and Ginny's own notes and pictures, the story of Ginny's ups and downs of her first middle school year is told in a wholly unique style.
-- It's the First Day of School ... Forever! by R.L. Stine
Phil Connors of Groundhog Day got off easy. Artie has a much bigger problem: he's stuck repeating the first day of sixth grade.
Artie starts off the morning by falling out of bed and smacking his head -- not a good way to kick off your first day of school. The day only goes downhill from there: his little brother gets glue in Artie's hair, Artie's dog jumps up on the new school principal, and Artie manages to make enemies with Brick the Bully. At least tomorrow will have to be better ... until Artie wakes up and discovers he's trapped, reliving the first (and worst) day of school. What's a new sixth-grader to do?
This humorous (and horrifying) read is a perfect fit between premise and writer: author R.L. Stine has long been known as the master of horror for the middle school set. His popular Goosebumps series is full of creepily fun titles like The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, It Came From Beneath the Sink! and The Cuckoo Clock of Doom. Stine is always careful to find a balance between the screams and the laughs in his quirky midde-school novellas, and it pays off in spades in this fun and freaky read.
For High School Students:
-- Freaks and Geeks [DVD]
Though short-lived (the show ran for only eighteen episodes), Freaks and Geeks has become an undeniable cult classic. It was created by Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids and The Heat, and produced by Judd Apatow, who directed Knocked Up and This is Forty.
Set in the early 80s, the show was timeless in its representation of the high school hierarchy. "Mathlete" Lindsay Weir is struggling to break out of the expectations put on her by herself and others, and so befriends the "freaks" -- the misfit slackers who are on the fringes of the William McKinley High School social scene. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Sam, hangs out with his fellow "geeks" as he and his friends work hard to fit in.
The show played with the humor of teenage stereotypes, but was always aware of the pain involved in finding yourself and your place in the world ... and in high school. It makes for a relatable story that should appeal to high school students everywhere -- and those who remember those school days.
-- Post by Ms. B
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Although I am a lifelong fan of mystery stories (with, as you'll recall, a particular love of Sherlock Holmes), I am quite picky when it comes to the type of mysteries I like to read. I insist, of course, on a cracking-good story -- but it's just as important to me that the characters be well-written and engaging. If I'm not interested in the characters, it won't matter how good a puzzle the plot may be.
So finding the Phryne Fisher series has been pretty terrific.
The books are set in the Roaring Twenties -- and, indeed, part of the pleasure of reading them is the amount of research of the period that author Kerry Greenwood has undertaken. Our heroine, Phyrne Fisher, is an aristocrat with an unusual past: she was born into poverty in Melbourne, Australia. Her father had a far-removed relative of nobility, but it wasn't until several of the gentlemen between her father and the title died off that Phyrne's father was able to inherit. Phryne now finds herself with an official title ("the Honourable Phyrne Fisher"), a vast fortune, and a life of opportunities available to her.
After spending some years in London, she returns to Australia at the request of one of her fellow aristocrats, who have hired her to track down their daughter and rescue her from her husband (who they believe may be poisoning her). The case is recounted in the first book in the series, Cocaine Blues, which contains not only a crackling good puzzle with lots of twists and turns, but also introduces the reader to Phryne and her new family. Because, as it turns out, a life in Australia suits Phryne after all.
Phyrne has been described by her author as a female take on James Bond; her skills range from solving mysteries to flying planes. She's poised and eminently stylish, and has a zeal for adventure that befits an unofficial P.I. But she is also possessed of an incredibly huge heart, and she quickly fills her large Australian house with a new family: Dot, her official maid and unofficial "Dr. Watson," who Phryne rescued from a life on the streets; and her two adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, who she rescues from orphaned poverty and slavery. She also has a romantic interest or three, although Phryne has no intention of settling down ...
It's precisely her mixture of independence and kindness, of stubbornness and compassion, that makes Phryne such a rich and engaging character. It also makes her quite a lot of fun to read about, making the Phryne Fisher series one that any mystery fan may want to take out for a spin.
She also has a tendency to drive too fast. Like, really too fast. Don't try this at home.
1. Cocaine Blues
2. Flying Too High
3. Murder on the Ballarat Train
4. Death at Victoria Dock
5. The Green Mill Murder
6. Blood and Circuses
7. Ruddy Gore
8. Urn Burial
9. Raisins and Almonds
10. Death Before Wicket
11. Away with the Fairies
12. Murder in Montparnasse
13. The Castlemaine Murders
14. Queen of the Flowers
15. Death by Water
16. Murder in the Dark
17. Murder on a Midsummer Night
18. Dead Man's Chest
19. Unnatural Habits
20. Murder and Mendelssohn
- A Question of Death [short story collection]
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Series One [DVD]
- Series One on Blu-ray
- Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries: Series Two [DVD]
"He sounds like he might bear more investigation," said Dot.
"Did he fancy her?" asked Ruth. "It might be a tale of forbidden love."
"I swear, Ruth, one day I am going to make a little bonfire of all the romance novels in the world," said Phryne without rancour. "Actually, it would have to be a very big bonfire. Perhaps I could rent a volcano and drop them in from the air. Honestly."
-- from Unnatural Habits
-- Post by Ms. B
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I don't think I ever before realized what a huge fan I am of Robin Williams. It shouldn't surprise me: I grew up on his movies, and he was the first actor I can ever remember being pleased to see onscreen. I knew I liked his comedy; what I didn't realize until this week was how much of an impact his art has really had on me. His comedy was as brilliant as it was full of hope, reminding us (or, at least, reminding me) what a powerful force laughter can be. Despite his own internal struggles, his presence made the world a bit more bright.
Williams's fans didn't know him (though, like all great comedians, he made you feel like you did). We'll miss him all the same. In honor of his humorous, heartwarming, and unforgettable career, we present a (highly subjective) list of five of his most memorable onscreen roles:
-- An Alien
For a lot of fans, he'll always be Mork. First premiering on ABC in 1978, Mork & Mindy was a four-season sitcom following the adventures of the alien Mork (from Ork), and his human pal Mindy.
An unlikely spin-off from Happy Days, the series was Williams's first major acting role and owed much of its success to Williams's improv abilities. (The writers eventually began leaving gaps in the script where Williams could start improvising.) It was wildly popular upon its debut, earning the number-three slot in the ratings only behind Laverne & Shirley and Three's Company.
While subsequent seasons saw a decline (due, most likely, to a change in direction and an altered time slot), the show remains a staple in television pop culture. It also cemented Williams as a major comedic player, launching a Hollywood career that would last over three and a half decades.
- Request Mork & Mindy: The Complete First Season from the Catalog
-- A Doctor
It's often difficult to know exactly what category to put Williams's films into. Is Good Morning, Vietnam a comedy or a drama? How about the cult classic The Fisher King? Williams excelled at finding a balance between comedy and pathos in nearly all of his roles, seamlessly blending together humor and heart in the characters he portrayed.
Perhaps this can be best be seen in the 1998 film Patch Adams. Starring Williams in the title role, the movie was loosely based on the real-life story of Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams. After spending some time in a mental hospital being treated for depression, Adams discovers that humor goes a long way towards helping his fellow patients. Upon release, he starts work towards a new career path, enrolling as the oldest first-year med student at the Medical College of Virginia -- with the goal of becoming a doctor who uses medicine and humor to heal his patients.
While perhaps leaning a bit too severely towards pathos in several scenes, the film nonetheless stays committed to a story about the importance of laughter in our lives.
- Request Patch Adams from the Catalog
-- A Cartoon
Robin Williams had a talent with voices. Despite lending his voice to several animated characters over the years, nowhere are his vocal talents more evident than in Disney's 1992 classic Aladdin.
Williams voiced the Genie, the wise-cracking, wish-granting inhabitant of the magic lamp discovered by the title character. The hilarious, memorable performance that Williams delivered is made all the more impressive by the fact that all but a handful of his lines were ad-libs.
His vocal talents allowed the Genie to be as skilled at improv and impersonations as the actor behind him. (Genie's celebrity impersonations throughout the film include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed Sullivan, Groucho Marx, Robert De Niro, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jack Nicholson.) The result was a character that, while animated, is unmistakably and undeniably Williams.
- Request Aladdin from the Catalog
-- A Pirate
Steven Spielberg's 1991 film Hook had its share of critics. A sequel of sorts to J.M. Barrie's classic tale of Peter Pan, Hook asks the question of what would happen if Peter Pan, the Boy Who Never Grew Up, did just that. Having left Neverland, the Lost Boys, and his childhood memories behind, "Peter Banning" is now a hard-hitting lawyer and married father of two kids -- just about as far from being Peter Pan as someone could ever be. At least until Captain Hook (played by the fantastic Dustin Hoffman) returns and kidnaps Peter's two children, Jack and Maggie. Now Peter has no choice but to return to a life he left behind -- although he's going to need a lot of help, and just a little bit of faith.
The movie received heavy criticism for being saccharine and too plot-heavy. Those who grew up with the film, however, remember it as a fun and fantastical adventure romp, with a Peter Pan who had a sense of humor even before he found his way back to Neverland. (His battle of wits with Lost Boy Rufio, which Williams ad-libbed much of, brings a smile to my face to this day.)
-- A Dad
Last September, CBS debuted The Crazy Ones, a single-camera comedy created by David E. Kelley (of The Practice and Ally McBeal fame). The show starred Williams as Simon Roberts, an advertising executive who oversaw his own ad agency. His business partner? Sydney Williams, his daughter (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar).
Divorced and estranged from Sydney's mom, Simon did his best to be a part of Sydney's childhood but missed out on more than a few important moments. The show focused on Simon's efforts to strengthen his relationship with Sydney -- and Sydney's willingness to connect back. The show had a delightfully comedic supporting cast, but the story never lost its focus on Simon and his daughter, and their sometimes-crazy, sometimes-hilarious, but always-poignant relationship.
- Click here for more about The Crazy Ones
Other Robin Williams performances from the Catalog (click to request)
-- Good Morning, Vietnam
-- Dead Poets Society
-- The Fisher King
-- Moscow on the Hudson
-- Mrs. Doubtfire
-- What Dreams May Come
-- Good Will Hunting
-- Robin Williams: Live on Broadway [stand-up]
-- Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction [stand-up CD/DVD]
From actor Christopher Reeve's memoir, Still Me:
"As the day of the operation drew closer, it became more and more painful and frightening to contemplate. ... At an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately. ... it was Robin Williams. For the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay."
"Comedy is acting out optimism."
-- Robin Williams
-- Robin Williams
-- Post by Ms. B
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Here are a few of the picks from this month's Library Reads list. Enjoy!
Click here to see the full list.
by Chelsea Cain
“Kick Lannigan survived being kidnapped as a child. Now, at twenty-one, determined never to be a victim again, she has reinvented herself. Martial arts and weapons handling are just a few of the skills she has learned over the years. Kick catches the attention of John Bishop, a mystery man with access to unlimited funds, and together they go after a cabal of child pornographers. A read-in-one-sitting, edge-of-your-seat thriller.”
Elizabeth Kanouse, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ
Lucky Us: A Novel
by Amy Bloom
“Is a family the people you are born to, or the people who you find along the way? That’s what Bloom explores in this novel set in pre- and post-WWII Ohio, Los Angeles, New York and Germany. The story follows resourceful Eva, who was abandoned by her mother at an early age, and her sister Iris, an aspiring actress who tries to find love at a time when her kind of love must be secretive. Every character is beautifully drawn, warm, and believable.”
Kathryn Hassert, Henrietta Hankin Branch Library, Chester Springs, PA
by John Scalzi
“There’s been a good run of fantasy and science fiction books this year. Joining the list of great fantastical reads is John Scalzi’s Lock In. Scalzi is best known for his military SF (especially the Old Man’s War series), so his latest is a change of pace. A blending of SF and police procedural that hits every note just right.”
Jane Jorgenson, Madison Public Library, Madison, WI
Big Little Lies
by Liane Moriarty
“A horrible act of violence occurs at the Pirriwee Public School’s trivia night fundraiser for parents, but what happened and who was involved? The novel begins six months before that fateful evening and lets us in on the lives of single mother Jane, twice-married Madeline, and Celeste, who secretly suffers from domestic abuse. Big Little Lies is another page-turning read from Moriarty that had me gasping with surprise at the end.”
Lora Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL
The Story Hour: A Novel
by Thrity Umrigar
“Another beautifully written novel by Thrity Umrigar. A relationship develops between Maggie, a psychologist, and Lakshmi, a troubled Indian woman. As their stories develop, it is hard to figure out which woman does more to impact the other’s life. Highly recommended.”
Ellen Firer, Merrick Library, Merrick, NY
--Post by Tracy