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More than just a Mystery

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Love a good mystery? Looking for a new author to read?  Since May is Mystery Month, you’re in luck!

First off, I need to tell you about a great database we subscribe to: Books & Authors. B&A offers new ways to explore books, authors, genres and topics. This database makes exploration of genre fiction and essential non-fiction fun! You can also look through lists created by libraries under Expert Picks & Librarian Lists to find new mystery genres to read. One of the best Books+and+Authorsfeatures is looking up a book you just enjoyed and finding a list of similar books and finding new authors to read. And you can access this list at home, before you come to the library, or go on READS.

There are another two great websites to consider when looking for new authors. You might already know about Good Reads for looking up reviews.  But did you know they have genre lists?  You can browse through page after page of books, read the blurbs and make your lists.  The second site we use often is Fantastic Fiction.  This is a great website that gives you series information either with an author search or a title search about British and American authors.

If you’re looking for new mystery books, try Stop, You’re Killing Me. It’s a great website for mystery lovers.  You can look for new mysteries by job (archaeologist, pathologist, farmer, antique dealer), by location or country, by historical time periods, by awards and by read-alikes.  It’s almost a one-stop shopping/reading center!Mystery

Most people choose what mysteries to read based on the New York Times Book List or word of mouth. But there are many genres of mysteries and many places to find more titles to read. There are police procedurals, thrillers, legal thrillers, historical mysteries, gothic mysteries, paranormal mysteries, cozy mysteries, mysteries set in foreign countries and in futuristic settings.

Cozy mysteries can be addictive. These are usually a series about amateur sleuths and you don’t want to miss one.  Some of the popular authors are Agatha Christie, Susan Wittig Albert, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and many more.

Gothic mysteries are usually set in a dark, spooky mansion or castle, with suspicious sounds and people. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and Wuthering Heights may have been some of the first Gothic novels, but they certainly weren’t the last.  Mary Stewart, Phillis A Whitney, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels and V. C. Andrews are preeminent in this genre.  Diane Setterfield, M. J. Rose, John Harwood, Kristen Callahan are more contemporary authors of this genre.

If you get tired of mysteries in a current setting, try a historical mystery. There are so many series set in the middle ages.  One of the best featured Father Cadfael, soldier and man of the world who became a monk.  Most of the mysteries take place in the monastery or on the grounds.  Another good series features Marcus Didius Falco, and is set in ancient Rome.  One of the most popular was written by Arian Franklin, who unfortunately passed away several years ago.  Her detective was a woman physician who lived under Henry II of England’s rule.

cadfael-composite

John Grisham made the legal thriller a genre. Everyone was pleased when he wrote a sequel to A Time to Kill. Other authors in this genre are Scott Turow and John Ellsworth and John Lescroart.  And we can’t leave out Earl Stanley Gardner, who started it all with Perry Mason.  He is credited with influencing many people to become lawyers.

International mysteries, which are set in foreign countries, are fun to read. You learn about other countries, how the police and justice system work and they are absorbing.  Just about every country in the world has had at last one mystery set in it.  The Scandinavian countries are very popular locations now, what with The Girl Who and Wallander series.  Jo Nesbo is very popular, and Icelandic and Finnish stories are in the running as well.  One of the continued favorites read is Donna Leon, which features Commissario Brunetti in Venice. And Louise Penny must be mentioned here again since her series takes place in the Toronto area.

One good example of a paranormal mystery series is the character of Aunt Dimity, a ghost who assists in solving mysteries. Barbara Hambly has a series with a physician in Victorian England seeking the assistance of a vampire.  Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake would fit here, too; she’s a vampire slayer.  Patricia Briggs has quite a following with her series featuring Mercy Thompson; Simon R. Green has his Tales of the Nightside. Charles Stross, Dan Simmons and Nora Roberts write mysteries with a more science fiction edge.

GreenSR-Nightside-UK2-BlogPolice procedurals are mysteries are solved by police as they go about their daily duties, working with clues, putting them together, solving the crime and catching the bad guys. The detective novel is similar, but the crime solver has a few more liberties, and we learn more about their lives and sometimes loves and if you have an amateur detective, those are often considered cozy mysteries.  .  Louise Penny was won many awards for her police procedurals.  They are also excellent to listen to.  Other authors to consider are Carol O’Connor, Ed McBain, Michael Connelly, and Bill Pronzini.

Psychological suspense thrillers are the ones you can’t put down and keep you up at night. Remember Gone Girl?  That was Gillian Flynn, who is a master of this genre.  There are other authors too; S J Watson, Paula Hawkins (The Girl on the Train), Iris Johansen, Lisa Gardner, Jonathan Kellerman, Patricia Highsmith, Henry James, Dennis Lehane, Tana French, Mary Kubica and many, many more.


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400 years of Shakespeare

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

ShakespeareFour hundred years ago, Shakespeare died on April 23. His impact on the world is uncountable. The world is ready to celebrate Shakespeare! The United Kingdom kicked it off in January with Shakespeare400. So many things are happening throughout the whole year! To find out what is happening throughout the world, check out Shakespeare Anniversary; they’re keeping a list of happenings worldwide, covering the whole year.

Recent (re)discoveries of the First Folios:

On 11 July 2008, a folio was recovered that had been stolen from Durham University, England, in 1998, after it was submitted for valuation at Folger Shakespeare Library, The folio’s value was estimated at up to £15 million. The book, once the property of the Bishop of Durham, was returned to the library, but it had been mutilated and was missing its cover and title page. The folio was returned to public display on 19 June 2010 after its twelve-year absence.

In November 2014, a previously unknown First Folio was found in a public library in Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais in France, where it had lain for 200 years. Confirmation of its authenticity came from Eric Rasmussen, of the University of Nevada, Reno, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Shakespeare. The only other known copy of a First Folio in France is in the National Library in Paris.

In April 2016 a new discovery was announced, a First Folio having been found in Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, Scotland. It was authenticated by Professor Emma Smith of Oxford University. The Folio originally belonged to Isaac Reed.

First_Folio_VA

The First Folio (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

The Folger Shakespeare Library is sending some of their precious First Folios touring around the country to celebrate Shakespeare’s life and work.  Researchers believe that 750 or fewer copies of the First Folio were printed; 233 survive today, 82 of which are in the Folger collection. After Shakespeare dies, two of his friends published this book in 1623 (folio refers to the large size of paper, which was usually saved for more important documents like theology, history, and royal proclamations.) in 1623. These first Folios are books containing 36 Shakespeare plays. Some of these plays had not been published before, anywhere. Without this book, some of his plays would have been lost, possible forever. More locally, The Wonder of Will, from the Folger Shakespeare Library, has a list of where the First Folios will be in the United States. In Tennessee, a first Folio will be on view at The Parthenon from, Nov 10 2016 – Jan 8, 2017.

Since everybody knows about Shakespeare’s plays and some about his sonnets, I thought I would share some less known information about the Bard of Avon:

  • By tradition, it is generally supposed that Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, which is Saint George’s Day, the national day of England, and the same date as Shakespeare’s death in 1616 at the age of 52.
  • Even though we know a great deal about Shakespeare, there is no evidence for what he did between 1585 and 1592, when he moved to London and began his writing career. Thus, there is no record of how his career began or how quickly he became famous.
  • Hodge's_conjectural_Globe_reconstructionIn Shakespeare’s time, theaters had no curtain and used little or no scenery. Playwrights described the setting within the text of the performance.
  • Shakespeare’s works contain first-ever recordings of over 2,000 new English words, including critical, frugal, excellent, barefaced, assassination, and countless.  The British journalist Bernard Levin put all the words into a handy list which you can find online.
  • The full inventory of Shakespeare’s possessions, which would have listed his books and other historically important information, was probably sent to London and was probably destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.
  • In his will, Shakespeare left his wife the second-best bed. Ann Cook, Professor Emerita at Vanderbilt in English, whose specialty is Shakespeare explains this. The second best bed was the one they had used. The best bed was always reserved for guests.
  • Shakespeare is popular world-wide. According to Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare changed the World, Any night you could go to see a Shakespeare performance in any major city in the world and most of the minor ones, on every continent. By the 19th century, he was the most popular playwright in India and Japan.
  • And yes, in 1890, Eugene Schieffelin, a New York pharmaceutical manager, imported 60 starlings into the United States. He wanted to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare into the United States. The other birds he brought over did not have such a huge impact on the country. Starlings surely did! (also from How Shakespeare changed the World)
  • 41DzW0op8lL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Oddly enough, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (author of the famous classic The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha) died on April 22, 1616. In Barcelona this date is St. Jordi’s Day (St. George) and is celebrated throughout Catalonia. The legend goes that there was a dragon terrorizing the country but St. George came to the rescue and slew it. A rose tree rose up from the blood of the dragon. From that time on, men give women and women give men books. It’s one of the biggest days of sales for booksellers in Spain!
    • Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles tells of this legend.

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National Poetry Month: Poems for All

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Most people encounter poems as a child first and poetry books for kids are fun and often silly. Kids love being read to and many poems are made to be read aloud.   It’s when we grow up and forced to study specific poems and poetry that we lose interest. That’s why April has become “poetry month,” to encourage everyone to find their enjoyment of poetry again. And poetry really is for everyone. Or rather, there is at least one poem out there for each person that will touch them in some way. You just have to find it.

In order to help people find their enjoyment of poetry again, I hope to introduce you to a few good or unusual poetry books. Of course, if you just want to browse through our poetry books, in our Nonfiction section, which includes poetry, our library organize by the Dewey Decimal System, where American poetry is usually found in the 811s and British poetry is usually found in the 821s.

9781846143847To refesh your memory about fun children’s poems, have a look at these:

  • Falling up: poems and drawings by Shel Silverstein (J 811.6 SIL )
  • A bad case of the giggles: kids’ favorite funny poems (J 811.08089282 BAD)
  • Where the sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
  • A light in the attic by Shel Silverstein (J 811.54 SIL)
  • I’ve lost my hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky (J 811.54 PRE)
  • My dog ate my homework! a collection of funny poems (J 811.54 LAN)
  • Stopping by woods on a snowy evening by Robert Frost (J 811.52 FRO)
  • Dirt on my shirt: selected poems (J E Fox)
  • For laughing out loud: an anthology of poems to tickle your funny bone (J 808.81 FOR)
  • Pizza, pigs, and poetry: how to write a poem (J 811.54 PRE)

87efc575c9f06a5f5a26a61dc2f5b9c8Want to get back to poetry or rediscovery your love for it? Try these books:

  • How to read a poem: and fall in love with poetry (808.1 HIR)
  • How to haiku: a writer’s guide to haiku and related forms (808.1 ROS)
  • Essential pleasures: a new anthology of poems to read aloud (808.81 ESS)

Most all adults have read Beowulf, one of the oldest extant English poems. Seamus Heaney won awards and rave reviews for his new translation of this epic poem (829.3 BEO). If Beowulf is too long, maybe you should try this book of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poems with a mouthful title, Ten Old English Poems Put into Modern English Alliterative Verse (821.1 MAL).

If you really want to get adventurous, try listening to the Iliad or The Odyssey. It’s easier to listen to, somehow. Perhaps because it was recited for centuries!? And maybe try The Aeneid for the same reason. Virgil wanted to write a great Roman epic and he definitely succeeded.

  • The Iliad by Homer (883.01 HOM)
  • The Odyssey by Homer (883 HOM)
  • The Aeneid by Virgil (873.01 VIR)

41U-yc-HaiL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_For something completely different, try reading haiku, or maybe writing them. They are short and usually describe a nature scene. There is a definite pattern for haiku: the first line has five syllables, the second line had seven syllables and the third line has five syllables. The best things about haiku are they are short and they don’t have to rhyme!

  • Haiku landscapes: in sun, wind, rain and snow (808.1 ADD)
  • Haiku love (895.6104108 HAI)
  • Haiku: an anthology of Japanese poems (895.6104108 HAI)

And for a different kind of haiku, try these:

  • Haiku for the single girl (811.6 GRI)
  • Redneck haiku: Bubba-sized with more than 150 new haiku! (811.6 WIT)

If you are feeling patriotic or want to celebrate patriotic holidays, this is the book for you:

  • A patriot’s handbook : songs, poems, stories, and speeches celebrating the land we love / selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy (810.8 KEN)

22557366For poems written from another culture’s point of view, check out these books. Hah, check out these books!!! A little library humor for you.

  • The Southern poetry anthology, Volume VI, Tennessee (811.50809768 SOU)
  • Angles of ascent: a Norton anthology of contemporary African American poetry (811.09 ANG)
  • Voices of the rainbow: contemporary poetry by Native Americans (811.54080897 VOI)
  • S O S: poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka (811.54 BAR)
  • Reflections: poems of dreams and betrayals by Adebayo Oyebade (811 OYE)
  • No enemies, no hatred: selected essays and poems by Liu Xiaobo (895.1452 LIU)

For those trying to say something romantic, nothing is as good as a poem. Here are a few books to get inspiration from (or to copy and give your beloved, showing how much you care.)9780142437704

  • Rumi : the book of love : poems of ecstasy and longing, translations and commentary by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
  • The essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks (891.5511 RUM)
  • Art & love: an illustrated anthology of love poetry (808.81 ART)
  • Ten poems to open your heart by Roger Housden (811.6 HOU)
  • Sonnets from the Portuguese and other love poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (821.8 BRO)
  • Twenty love poems and a song of despair by Pablo Neruda (861 NER)
  • Love poems and sonnets of William Shakespeare (822.33 SHA)
  • If there is something to desire: one hundred poems by Vera Pavlova; translated from the Russian by Steven Seymour (891.715 PAV)

51ZUnfDU-jL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_For those who want to explore military themes, and get a real feeling of battle and the letdown of safety after, here are some from older wars and present conflicts.

  • “Words for the hour”: a new anthology of American Civil War poetry (811.0080358 WOR)
  • Some desperate glory: the First World War the poets knew by Max Egremont (821.912 EGR)
  • Poets of World War I: Rupert Brooke & Siegfried Sassoon (YA 821 POE)
  • Visions of war, dreams of peace: writings of women in the Vietnam War (811.54080358 VIS)
  • Lines in long array: a Civil War commemoration: poems and photographs, past and present (811.008 LIN)
  • Here, bullet by Brian Turner (811.6 TUR)

In case you think poetry is just a “girl thing”, here are a few books for men:

  • Poems that make grown men cry: 100 men on the words that move them (821.008 POE)
  • The Bar-D roundup a compilation of classic and contemporary poetry from CowboyPoetry.com (CD 811.54 08 BAR)
  • Lessons from a desperado poet: how to find your way when you don’t have a map, how to win the game (811.54 BLA)
  • Poetry for guys– who thought they hated poetry (811.008 POE)

51S1pZ2ZoQL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_A few offerings of humorous poems for grown-ups

  • O, what a luxury: verses lyrical, vulgar, pathetic & profound by Garrison Keillor (811.6 KEI)
  • Ogden Nash’s zoo (811.52 NAS)
  • How did I get to be 40: & other atrocities and other poems by Judith Viorst (811.54 VIO)
  • I’m too young to be seventy: and other delusions by Judith Viorst (811 VIO)

Other poetry books to consider that are recent and don’t really fit a category:

  • It’s probably nothing, or, How I learned to stop worrying and love my implants by Micki Myers (811.6 MYE)
  • Words for empty and words for full by Bob Hicok (811.54 HIC)
  • Horoscopes for the dead: poems by Billy Collins (811.54 COL)
    • Mr. Collins was a US Poet Laureate – a big deal!
  • Firecracker red by Stellasue Lee (808.810082 LEE)
    • Ms. Lee is a local poet

This book is in a category all by itself – and funny!

  • I could pee on this: and other poems by cats by Francesco Marciuliano (811.6 MAR)

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It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird: Harper Lee 1926-2016

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

harper-lee_0Harper Lee passed away at the age of 89 last month. She was a literary giant and wrote one of the most famous and beloved novels of the twentieth century: To Kill a Mockingbird. It was only last year that her second book, a predecessor of To Kill a Mockingbird, was published. This book, Go Set a Watchman, was as divisive as her first book was beloved. Many thought that Go Set a Watchman was published without her say-so, and that Ms. Lee was taken advantage of. And the views on race relations and the language used shocked many readers.

The book is so beloved that, according to Variety, Aaron Sorkin will be writing the script for a new Broadway play, adapting To Kill a Mockingbird for the 2017-2018 season. There is precedent: In 1990, a stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel debuted in Monroeville, where it’s performed each May by local actors. The performances take an almost reverential approach, with audiences taking part in order to ritually enact scenes of segregation and justice denied.

Truman Capote

Truman Capote

So why do we love To Kill A Mockingbird so much? Firstly, it’s one of the few books that kids in high school actually like to read. Consider the reading lists, it is a relatively shorter and easier to read book. And even though it’s themes are overt and plentiful, it doesn’t feel like Harper Lee was beating you over the head with themes (I’m looking at you Mr Dickens and your paid by the word description of how the wine and the street represented the Revolution).  Also, it is one of the few books that made the transition to film well. We all picture Gregory Peck when we think of Atticus Finch, and he was the epitome of the thoughtful, kind father we all wished we had. And we all related to Scout, who was an adventuresome tomboy learning about the world at his knee. And finally, as we all now know, the neighbor Dill was based off of a young Truman Capote.

During the years immediately following the novel’s publication, Harper Lee enjoyed the attention its popularity garnered her, granting interviews, visiting schools, and attending events honoring the book. In 1961, her book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.   The popularity snowballed and she began to turn down interviews sometime in 1964; she said the questions were monotonous. She also thought the attention was bordering on invasive and would take away the impact of the book. She was also quite shy all her life. Several times Lee said, once in a phone interview with Oprah, that the character in the book she most identified with is Boo Radley.

Only one year after its publication To Kill a Mockingbird had been translated into ten languages. Through the years, it has been translated into more than 40 languages. The novel has never been out of print in hardcover or paperback. A 1991 survey by the Book of the Month Club and the Library of Congress Center for the Book found that To Kill a Mockingbird was rated behind only the Bible in books that are “most often cited as making a difference”. It is considered by some to be the Great American Novel.48bbe6e4f83767fb9933a723e8f1196d

People celebrated across the United States in 2010 when To Kill a Mockingbird turned 50. A book was even published in honor of the 50th anniversary–Scout, Atticus, & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird. It was full of famous readers writing to Harper Lee telling her how much they loved her book. The 2010 documentary film in the PBS American Masters series Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the background of the book and the film as well as their impact on readers and viewers.

And to have the second book Go Set a Watchman published in 2015 was a final gift to all of her fans. It was also a surprise, since so many readers had idolized Atticus, to see racist words pop up and find out that Calpurnia had retired. Many book groups are still discussing Lee’s new book. It is a nice legacy for her to leave us. Thank you Harper Lee for your magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird and your surprising postscript novel Go Set a Watchman. The world was better for your presence and your writing gifts.

harper-lee-book-covers-mockingbird-watchman-570x425

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Armada by Ernest Cline

ZZ48DF98ECBy Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Armada is Ernest Cline’s second book. Those of us who loved Ready Player One may be slightly disappointed.   We were expecting lightning in a jar again.

Zack loves video games; he really got into them trying to get to know his deceased father. His mother told him about a box of his things in the attic and he had been exploring his father’s notebooks and games. So, when he saw a space ship that looked exactly like one from the video game Armada outside his school window, you would understand why he thought he was hallucinating. He wasn’t. A larger spaceship lands in the schoolyard, and his friend and boss calls him to get in. Just him. While on route to an underground bunker, he learns that his world and everyone else’s is about to drastically change. The aliens are real, Armada, the game that swept the world, was a training program to help fight off the aliens and Earth is under attack. Because he has a high score in Armada (in the top 10!), he is automatically an officer. He is assigned to the dark side of the Moon, to a forward base for the earth forces, to fight off the alien attacks. But is it possible all is not what it seems? Could his father possibly still be alive? Can Earth be saved??

This book will remind you of Ender’s Game, but not so serious and shocking, and the movie The Last Starfighter. While it does seem formulaic in parts, there is room for a sequel. Perhaps, like in other science fiction series, the first book sets up the story and the story continues where it left off.

The Almost End of Amy Tan’s Writing

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Amy_TanAmy Tan was born on February 19, 1952 in Oakland, California. Happy 64th, Amy! We’re all very glad that you are recovering from your harrowing bout of illness from Lyme Disease. Yes, Amy Tan, the famous author, contracted Lyme Disease. Unfortunately, it was misdiagnosed for years and she had thought her writing career was over. And what a career she has had!

She is most famous for her novels about Chinese families, especially The Joy Luck Club.

  • In The Joy Luck Club, four Chinese-American daughters learn the history and back story of their mothers in this novel. The mothers, who meet up regularly to play Mah Jong, called themselves the Joy Luck Club. It was a major best seller and book club favorite.
  • In The Kitchen God’s Wife, two best friends have kept each other’s secrets. Now that one of them is deathly ill, the other believes it is her duty to tell her secrets to her friend’s daughter. But the friend gets better – now what?
  • In The Hundred Secret Senses, Olivia meets her much older half-sister for the first time. It is like meeting someone from another world. And really it was another world. Kwan grew up in China, Olivia in America.
  • In The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Ruth Young’s mother LuLing is slowing succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Before she loses herself completely, she gives Ruth some of her writings, which reveal a very different side of her mother.
  • In Saving Fish from Drowning, Bibi Chen has planned a picaresque journey of the senses on the Burma Road. After she dies unexpectedly, she watches her tour group veer off the path into the unknown.
  • In The Opposite of Fate, which is a series of essays Tan writes about her works. Some have likened it to a long conversation with Ms. Tan.
  • The Valley of Amazement, Tan’s last novel, is the story of three women, connected at times with love and then by hate and by the painting The Valley of Amazement.
  • sagwathechinesesiamesecat1She also wrote the children’s book Sagwa, the Chinese Cat (illustrated by Gretchen Schields), which was published in 1994. A mother cat tells her kittens the story of their ancestry. The family descended from Sagwa, who was famous for changing the way Siamese cats look forever. After she fell into the ink pot, and changed the wording of a harsh rule with her footprints, it was decreed by the wise magistrate (foolish until Sagwa’s assistance) that henceforth all Chinese cats should have dark faces, ears and paws.  Sagwa was also made into an animated children’s television series in 2001. It was very popular on PBS Kids and often reruns. It aired for one season only, and cancelled in 2003.

And to think, her writing career was almost halted in its tracks because of her undiagnosed Lyme Disease.  Her story is like so many of those suffering with this mysterious, debilitating and hard to diagnose disease. In 1999 she first began showing the symptoms. Symptoms which nearly debilitated her: anxiety, numbness, vision problems, brain lesions, hallucinations. She found she was having trouble reading, couldn’t remember what was on the page after she read it. She was having trouble writing and speaking – both of which are incredibly important for authors.  She went from doctor to doctor, took test after test. She took steroids, then Prozac (which gave her nightmares), until, finally, one doctor ordered an ELISA test (which was used to screen for Lyme Disease). She read up on this disease and every symptom fit, however, some physicians still expressed doubt she had it, since she lives in San Francisco. What they didn’t consider is that she does have a house in New York state, and she does take walks in the woods there. She found a Lyme Disease specialist in San Francisco who finally diagnosed her. Once she began taking anti-biotics, her symptoms began to ease, but she will have to take these pills for life. Tan co-founded LymeAid 4 Kids, which helps uninsured children pay for treatment.

Here are some extra fun facts about Amy Tan you may not know:001ec979096310675fba14

  • She found out later on that her mother had been married before in China, and had left behind three daughters, and the memory of her mother’s suicide. Amy got to meet her step-sisters finally.
  • Her older brother and her father both died of brain tumors within six months of each other.
  • In college, she had a double major of English and Linguistics. She continued in schooling and got her Master’s in Linguistics then started on her doctorate.
  • She worked in the field of helping children with developmental disabilities.
  • She was one of the founding members of the band the Rock Bottom Remainders, along with Dave Barry, Stephen King, Matt Groenig, Barbara Kingslover and Roy Blount, Jr. The Remainders’ first performance was in 1992 at the American Booksellers Association convention in Anaheim, California. They also played at the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1995.   They gave their last concert on June 23, 2012, at the annual conference of the American Library Association also in Anaheim, where they played their first concert. Even though the band is no longer playing gigs, they are fondly remembered by authors, teachers and librarians everywhere. Plus there’s always Youtube…
  • She wrote the libretto for the opera composed by Stewart Wallace based on her book The Bonesetter’s Daughter.
  • She was a free-lance business writer for several years before she started writing fiction at the age of 33.

 


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Edgar Alan Poe’s The Raven

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Paul_Gustave_Dore_Raven14Edgar Allan Poe finished his popular and unique poem The Raven in January 1845. Set on a cold December night, it makes perfect sense that it was released in January. It made him famous, but not what he also craved to be, rich.

Poe chose a raven as the central symbol in the story because he wanted a “non-reasoning” creature capable of speech. He decided on a raven, which he considered “equally capable of speech” as a parrot, because it matched the intended tone of the poem. Poe said the raven is meant to symbolize “Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance”. He was also inspired by Grip, the raven in Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty by Charles Dickens.

Poe really knows how to create a mood, to make his reader feel the shadows, the creepy noises in the room, the croak of the bird. This is a poem that pulls you into a moment. Like anything that scares you in a fun way, this is all about making you feel like you are experiencing the story while you read it. It’s spooky and a little spine-tingling, like a good horror movie. It’s fun to read – it’s meant to be read out loud. Try it and see how satisfying these lines are when they roll off the tongue. He’s trying to make his poem as musical, hypnotic, and captivating as possible. All of this complicated rhyme and rhythm aims at drawing you more completely into the world of the poem.

It’s interesting to think that people have been excited (and scared) by stories like this for hundreds of years. Folks in the 19th century read Poe for the same reasons we read Stephen King: that creepy thrill in reading about scary things happening to other people. When you read a story about someone slowly losing his mind, you might be horrified, but it’s also pretty hard to put it down.

And now a little about Poe the man:

Edgar_Allan_Poe_2He was born to traveling actors in Boston on January 19, 1809. By the age of three both of his parents had died, and he was taken in by the wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and his family in Richmond, Virginia. Mr. Allan tried to raise him in his own image as a businessman and a Virginia gentleman, but Poe had dreams of being a writer like his childhood hero, Lord Byron. By the age of thirteen, Poe had compiled enough poetry to publish a book.

In 1826 Poe attended the University of Virginia, where he excelled in his classes while accumulating considerable debt. To teach him frugality, he was sent to college with less than a third of the money he needed, so he soon took up gambling to raise money to pay his expenses. By the end of his first term Poe was so desperately poor that he burned his furniture to keep warm. Angry and humiliated by his poverty, he returned to Richmond to visit the home of his fiancée, only to discover she was engaged to another man. Heartbroken, he left Richmond, vowing to become a great poet and to find adventure. He published his first book Tamerlane by age eighteen and then he enlisted in the United States Army. Two years later he heard that Mrs. Allan, the only mother he had ever known, was dying of tuberculosis, who was hoping to see him before she died. By the time Poe returned to Richmond she had died and had already been buried. He and Allan briefly reconciled, and Allan helped him gain an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Before going to West Point, Poe published another volume of poetry. While there he found out that Allan had remarried without telling him or even inviting him to the ceremony. He threatened to get himself expelled from the academy. His wish came true; after only eight months at West Point he was thrown out, but he soon published another book.

Virginia Clemm

Virginia Clemm

Broke and alone, Poe turned to Baltimore, hoping to find relatives in the city to stay with. His aunt, Maria Clemm, became a new mother to him and welcomed him into her home.  Her daughter Virginia first acted as a courier to carry letters to his lady loves but soon became the object of his desire.  He started publishing his short stories; one won a contest sponsored by the Saturday Visiter. This allowed him to publish more stories and eventually gain an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. He had found a home as a magazine writer.  In 1836, when he was twenty-seven, he married Virginia (she was 13!). After six plus years of marriage, his beloved wife died of tuberculosis. (1847) No wonder he wrote of dark and depressing things. His life was depressing. And all his life he was a true, starving artist.

He kept trying to find a better paying job, moving to Philadelphia and to New York, but it wasn’t until he published The Raven that he began to be a household name. Unfortunately, he only lived another two years after his wife died, dying from mysterious causes (still unknown, even to this day) at the age of forty-nine in Baltimore. Oddly enough, after his death he finally became more famous because of author Rufus Griswold. Poe strongly criticized his works, so upon Poe’s death Griswold struck back, but it backfired. It only made Poe more popular.

Interesting facts:

  • Obsessed with cats, Edgar often wrote with a cat on his shoulder.
  • Edgar’s one and only novel Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket was about a boat capsizing and the crew members drawing straws for who would be eaten; they drew straws and ate Richard Parker. The book bombed. Even though Poe said it was a true story, in his time most of the critics didn’t believe him. They were right to think so because at the time Poe’s book wasn’t true, but just 5 years later a similar wreck happened with the same lead character name Richard Parker, but no cannibalism. Then in 1884 there was another shipwreck where there was cannibalism, and the one who was eaten was indeed Richard Parker. (And don’t forget the Tiger in The Life of Pi was named Richard Parker. Concidence?)
  • The Mystery Writers of America have named their award Edgar, after the great E. A. Poe.the-edgars-banner
  • He introduced the first recorded literary detective in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” The detective character would lead to become the prototypical detective we know today
  • He was early adopter of the genre of Science Fiction. In 1844, he published “The Balloon” in Sun Newspaper. He described a lighter than air balloon that transversed the Atlantic Ocean in three days. The accounts were so believable that the newspaper had to retract the story two days later. However untrue the story was, the Sun newspaper made a lot of money off of newspapers, and they did not give Poe a cent. From then on, Poe hated the Sun newspaper.
  • “The Raven” was a personal challenge Edgar imposed upon himself. He wanted to write 100 line poem, enough for one sitting. He ended up with 108 lines, which apparently was good enough for Poe.
  • Edgar changed the writing and publishing world. Before Poe, writing was a noble profession where not many were able to make a living off of solely writing. Edgar insisted that writing would be his career, and he made major strides to find an audience for his entertaining articles, which would become the initial spark of the magazine industry. He even was given $1,500 the last week of his life to start a magazine. However, in his life he was plagued by international copycats where he had no protection that we have now with international copyrights. In many ways, he paved the way for writers to be compensated enough to have a career.

 


Sources:poeboy

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

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By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Kelsea had never known her mother Queen Elyssa, but she knew that when she turned 19 she’d have to leave the only home she’d ever known to become Queen of Tearling. The Queens Guards came for her stealthily, since several parties wanted her dead before she took the throne. Kelsea’s trip to New London was arduous but eye-opening, not to mention the guards who never looked at her. She kept a mental log of all she saw wrong on her trip to the capital. How would she ever fix anything? Where could she possibly start?

She learned about the Red Queen in Mortmesne and the treaty that called for 250 people of Tearling to be sent there each month for who knew what, children included. Tearling had started a lottery to choose those to be sent. And she learned that her mother was nothing like what she imagined her to be. Can she become a strong queen for Tearling? She can do no more than try.

This book, The Queen of the Tearling, has been talked about for months. It was one of the books to read, according to so many review journals and word of mouth. If you like fantasy adventure, you’ll like this book. If you liked Fire by Kristin Cashore, you’ll like this book. (But I think it’s better…) When I saw it on a shelf in my library, I checked it out. I devoured it in two days. Now I have to wait for the sequel. Because there has to be a sequel! There has to be!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

Hugo-NotreDame_titre_webOn January 15, 1831, Victor Hugo finished one of his famous novels— Notre Dame de Paris. It had taken him only four months, after missing many deadlines set by his publishers. This was his first novel; it was a hit in Paris and France from the very beginning. Hugo had already gained fame because of his poems (he was granted many gifts and a 3000 franc annual pension from King Louis XVIII.) He lived during turbulent times. When he was two, Napoleon became Emperor of France. During his eighteenth year, the Bourbon dynasty was restored and Napoleon overthrown. It is no wonder that The Hunchback of Notre Dame was set in turbulent times. And it also explains the French reaction to the work. The French had all lived through Napoleon and the struggles, not to mention the French Revolution that had occurred within living memory.

Notre Dame de Paris was a huge hit for him—even a sensation. The English translator for Hugo retitled the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame because at the time of its publication in English, Gothic novels were popular. Thus all the confusion! Hugo titled it as he did because the main character really is the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, not Quasimodo or Esmerelda. Hugo wanted to bring attention to the condition of the famous cathedral—it was badly in need of repairs. It was attracting thousands of tourists who had read the popular novel. The book also inspired a renewed appreciation for pre-Renaissance buildings, which thereafter began to be actively preserved.

All his adult life, he passionately advocated for an end to the death penalty. He is credited with convincing the British government to spare the lives of six Irish people convicted of terrorist activities, and is also considered in the removal of the death penalty from the constitutions of Geneva, Portugal and Colombia. His archives show that he wrote a letter asking the USA, for the sake of their own reputation in the future, to spare John Brown’s life, but the letter arrived after Brown was executed. What would have happened if the letter had arrived before??

When Napoleon III came to power, Hugo declared him an enemy of the state and moved abroad. He spent fifteen years in exile in Brussels, then Channel Islands. Jersey expelled him soon after arrival, but Guernsey was welcoming. His home in exile is a museum now.

When he returned to Paris in 1870, he was touted as a national hero. He suffered a small stroke, his two sons died and his daughter was committed to an insane asylum, all in a short time period. His wife had died several years earlier; his devoted mistress died two years before him. The whole nation of France celebrated his eightieth birthday. Paris had one of the largest parades ever to celebrate it. For nearly six hours people marched past his window! He was recovering from a small stoke and was not able to leave his bed, but he was propped up so he could watch. He was also given a traditional gift that was only given to kings. Paris even renamed a street after him. Most of the large towns and cities have streets named after victor Hugo. When Hugo died at age 83 from pneumonia, his coffin was laid under the Arc de Triomphe for an all-night vigil. Nearly 2 million people marched in his funeral. He was buried with all honors in a crypt with Alexandre Dumas and Emile Zola.

img_44442On to the novel: On January 6, 1482, during the Feast of Fools, a huge crowd is milling around the Cathedral of Notre Dame, taking part in the celebrations. There is a maypole, a mystery play and a bonfire. Esmerelda, a Gypsy, singing and swaying, catches the eyes of several men: Captain (of the guards) Phoebus, Grigoire, Archdeacon Claude Frollo and Quasimodo. Frollo orders Quasimodo to kidnap Esmerelda, but he is caught by the guards, flogged and put in stocks. Esmerelda gives him water, gaining his undying love. Later, after Esmerelda is charged with Phoebus’ attempted murder, Quasimodo saves her from death by taking her to the sanctuary of the cathedral. But the sanctuary doesn’t last long. She is retaken, and hanged. Frollo laughs during the hanging so Quasimodo throws him off the cathedral. Quasimodo finds Esmerelda’s body in the graveyard and stays there until he dies of starvation.

Hugo introduced the concept of the novel as Epic Theatre in Notre Dame de Paris. This was a giant epic about the history of a whole people, with the figure of the great cathedral as witness and silent protagonist. It was the first novel to have beggars as protagonists. It was also the first work of fiction to encompass the whole of life, from the King of France to Paris sewer rats, in a manner later co-opted by many others authors, including Charles Dickens. The popularity of the book in France also kick started the historical preservation movement in Paris and the rest of the nation and strongly encouraged Gothic revival architecture. Ultimately it led to major renovations at Notre-Dame in the 19th century; much of the cathedral’s present appearance is a result of this renovation. Read the rest of this entry

New Year’s and the Ball Drop

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

We all know that many thousands of people gather in Times Square in New York City each year on December 31 and millions watch and celebrate at home. But why? Why December 31? And when did the ball drop in New York City become the American celebration it is?

Gregory_XIIIWe have to go way back in history to find out why January 1 is the beginning of the year, at least to most of us. The Jewish calendar and the Chinese calendar don’t begin on January 1. Neither does the Islamic calendar. In ancient times, the new year started for most civilizations after the Spring Equinox. It wasn’t until the time of Julius Caesar that our modern calendar was established. The calendar had gotten badly out of sync with the sun. That’s what happens when the year is only 10 months long. Julius Caesar added two months to the calendar (July and August, for Julius and Augusts, respectively.) He also established January 1 as the beginning of the year. Most European countries used the Julian calendar until it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar in 1582, which we still use today. That caused a great deal of unrest and problems, but that is another story.

Pope Gregory XIII, who invented the Gregorian calendar, also kept January 1 as the beginning of the year. Throughout history, January 1 was celebrated riotously, sometimes to excess. So much excess that these celebrations were banned after the Protestant Revolution. It took a while for fun and joy to return. Most people probably had a quiet celebration at home. Make you wonder how Scrooge would have celebrated the New Year.

New York was a happening town in the 19th century, bustling with life and many, many people. Around the beginning of the century, people began getting together to celebrate and welcome in the New Year. It didn’t take long to organize special events. People began to gather at times Square to celebrate New Year’s in 1904. It didn’t take long for the most famous celebration in the United States to start. The first ball drop was in 1907. But it was nothing like we see now. It was made of iron and wood, covered in 25 watt light bulbs—it weighed 700 hundred pounds! Made by a young immigrant metalworker named Jacob Starr; Mr. Starr formed the company that for most of the 1900s provided the ball for each new year celebration. And lest we think the lighted glasses and blinking light hats revelers wear are new, people wore battery-powered glasses in 1908!

Times_Square_ballIn 1920, the ball’s weight was reduced to only 400 pounds. That ball was in use up until 1955, when an aluminum ball was introduced, weighing much less. In 1980, red lights were added and a green lit stem, making the ball look like an apple—for the New York: The Big Apple campaign. In 1988, the white lights returned; in 1998, the last aluminum ball was lowered. But for the year 2000 celebration, everything changed. That’s when Waterford Crystal and Phillips Lighting created a new, snazzier and jazzier ball! In 2007, the 100th anniversary of the ball dropping, LED lights were added to the aluminum and crystal ball. There are now 2,688 triangles on the ball, with over 30,000 LED lights make the ball more spectacular and programmable. The lights are more like programmed Christmas lights you see now. As an added bonus, and a year-round tourist attraction, the ball stays in full public view at Times Square. It weighs over 10,000 pounds (that’s five tons!) and is twelve feet in diameter. It is lowered slowly (you wouldn’t want a 5 ton object to move fast) down a 77 foot tall poll at one minute to midnight on December 31. The whole crowd counts down the last ten seconds, then the horns and screams echo throughout the city, chaos ensues and a new year begins.

Across the United States a range of cities and towns hold their own versions of the ball drop. A variety of objects are lowered or raised during the last minute of the year. The objects are usually linked to an aspect of local history or industry. Examples of objects ‘dropped’ or raised in this way include a variety of live and modeled domestic and wild animals, fruit, vegetables and more…

  • Screen-Shot-2012-12-29-at-7.23.49-AMIn Key West, Florida, a very large conch is dropped
  • Miami drops “Big Orange”
  • Atlanta drops a peach – not surprising
  • In Indianapolis, they started dropping an Indy race car recently
  • Westover, NC drops a three-foot tall wooden flea
  • In Cincinnati, a flying pig is flown (not dropped)
  • Bethlehem, PA drops a 100 pound lighted Peep (the company headquarters are there…)
  • Memphis drops a guitar, Nashville used to, but now it’s a musical note
  • Plymouth, WI drops a huge cheese wedge, and why not?
  • Boise, ID drops a huge potato
  • Raleigh, NC drops a giant acorn made of brass—it weighs 900 pounds
  • And for a bit of fun, Stroudsburg, PA drops ping pong balls!

Read the rest of this entry

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