Book Buzz

Bone-Chilling Reads for the Dog Days of Summer

Next Book Buzz - July 25, 2016

Book cover for Winter PeopleThe dog days of summer are upon us. Long stretches of 90 degrees-plus temperatures are the norm. And this being Missouri, it’s not the heat but the humidity that makes it so uncomfortable, right?

Finding a nice place in the shade with a good book is a great way to keep cool. And if that book happens to be set during the dead of winter, that’s even better. Here are some books that will chill you to your core on these hot days!

If a dark and icy-cold New England winter sounds perfect right about now, you should try Jennifer McMahon’s “The Winter People.” Set in a small town in Vermont, the novel recounts the mysterious murder of Sara Harrison Shea outside her home in 1908. A hundred years later, Ruthie, Fawn and their mother move into Sara’s old house. The girls find Sara’s diary hidden under the floor, revealing what may have actually happened to her. This sets into motion a series of horrific events that threaten to destroy their family. McMahon’s writing is spell-binding in this unique approach to the typical ghost story. You won’t want to put this one down!

Book cover for AbominableMount Everest is definitely colder than Missouri right now, making for an awesome book setting. In the 1920s, the world’s tallest peak still had not been summitted. The race to reach the top always ended at best in disappointment and at worst in tragedy, as in the case of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine who disappeared during a climb. In “The Abominable,” Dan Simmons tells the story of a group of adventurers in the late 1920s who set out against nearly impossible odds to reach the top the mountain. Their journey is fraught with difficulties — the cold and snow is expected, but the mysterious person or creature who seems to be pursuing them in the night is not. The book is tense and action-packed, full of nail-biting scenes as the climbers face off against unbelievable terrors. Simmons presents the tale as a “found manuscript,” intricately weaving historical figures and events into a fictional tale that will chill you to the bone.

Book cover for SnowblindOf course, on hot days like we’ve been experiencing, a blizzard doesn’t sound all that bad. Christopher Golden delivers not one, but two blizzards in his terrifying novel  “Snowblind.” Several folks mysteriously die during the worst snowstorm the town of Coventry has seen in years. 12 years later, a new storm is blowing in and the ghosts of those lost seem to be returning. The story is told ensemble-style, which allows readers to fully immerse themselves into the horrors the townsfolk are experiencing, not only from the endless snowfall, but also from the evil the snow has brought with it. This is honestly one of the scariest books I’ve read in a long time.

Happy (and cool) reading!

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Categories: Book Buzz

The Gentleman Recommends: Paul Tremblay

Next Book Buzz - July 18, 2016

Book cover for A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul TremblayIf you’re looking for a grim, unputdownable book to block the blistering and incessant shine of the July sun, look no further. Paul Tremblay’sA Head Full of Ghosts” is the sort of book you read in one sitting (assuming you have sufficient free time, or a willingness/compulsion to prioritize pleasure over obligations, and also that you are not a big ol’ chicken (cause it’s scary)).

A Head Full of Ghosts” is about a young girl that is either possessed by the devil or by mental illness. (Evidence mounts for both possibilities, and when you’re certain you’ve got it all sussed out, you’re probably still going to have your mind changed a couple of times.) Her family, exhausted both mentally and financially, agrees to allow a reality television crew to film the devil’s/mental illness’s exploits. (It’s surprising that there isn’t already a “reality” television show about possessions, but this book gives us a pretty good idea of what one would look like.)

More than a decade after the possession debacle and the short-lived but successful television series, the possessed girl’s younger sister is being interviewed by a hotshot writer for a tell-all bestseller. The younger sister’s story is relayed through this framework and intercut with blog posts from the world’s foremost authority on the reality television show made about the possession. (The identity of the blogger is revealed early on, and makes for one of many moments in the book that’ll make you say, “Veritably! Now that’s some fine crafting of fiction. This novel brings me pleasure, and I am glad that I forsook sleep and a supposedly necessary medical procedure in order to find the time to partake of its literary fruits.”)

Another spectacular thingy that happens: very early in the novel a character’s quirk is revealed, a cute detail, but it couldn’t be anything crucial, right? No. Instead it is a key to the novel’s devastating ending. The sort of ending that makes you want to comfort fictional characters and perhaps attempt to construct life-size replicas of the characters so that you can properly hug them and even forge a relationship with the hat-wearing sack of hay that you’ve drawn a face on, a relationship that progresses to the point where you’re asking it to, with horrific consequences, transport you home from your various necessary medical procedures.

Book cover for Devil's Rock by Paul TremblayIf you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, do not read Tremblay’s newest novel, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.” It is about a child’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock. It is a sad, tricky book that makes you think one thing is happening until it makes you think another thing is happening, until it tells you most of what is really happening.

Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye,” in addition to being a description of British cuisine (haha, I WENT THERE, rimshot, etc.), is a much different novel. A desperate man signs a contract that makes him an indentured servant for an “amusement park” called FARM, which is where people go to see actual plants and animals, as well as people dressed like animals. This novel is frequently funny, as the author always is in interviews, but it also features a scene that manages to be as simultaneously heartbreaking and disgusting as anything I’ve ever read. Read it; share my burden.

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Categories: Book Buzz

Summer Reading Program Preview: Speed Date with a Book

Next Book Buzz - July 11, 2016

Book photoIn search of a galaxy far, far away: I like a book where anything is possible, including travel through deep space and the kinds of technology we can only dream about. A little time travel is also desired.

The game is afoot! I want a book with a problem to solve, preferably one that gets me using my little grey cells. I prefer twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in to keep me guessing.

Looking for my Mr. Darcy! A book will really catch my fancy if it has a nice dusting of romance. Watching two people fall in love is the highlight of my day, especially when it’s opposites attracting!

Do any of these readers sound like you? Have you ever struggled to figure out what to read next or are you curious about trying books that fall outside of what you normally read? Do you enjoy talking with others about books you’ve read? If so, you will want to check out the library’s first ever Speed Date with a Book on Friday, July 15, at 7 p.m. in the Columbia Public Library’s third floor reading room. 

blind date booksThe library is always a good place to find your next favorite read, and this month we want to try a new approach to helping readers find a book they can fall in love with. So, what is a speed date with a book? It’s kind of like normal speed dating, only instead of sharing information about yourself in just a couple of minutes, you get to talk about the books you love with other readers who are looking for something new. Along with the speed dating, we’ll have activities including book charades, a “first impressions” contest (because who hasn’t judged a book by its cover before?) and a chance to go on a blind date with a book. There will also be free book giveaways, door prizes and refreshments. Speed daters who find a book they want to read will have the opportunity to check it out and take the book home to find out if it lives up to expectations.

If you’re on the hunt for for an exciting new read, or just love talking about books with other readers, this is the perfect event for you!

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Categories: Book Buzz

In Memory of Elie Wiesel

Next Book Buzz - July 8, 2016

Book cover for Open Heart by Elie Wiesel“Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.”
~ Elie Wiesel (September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016)

When, in 1990, at the age of 39, I emigrated from the USSR to the United States, I did not know about Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank and other victims — or survivors — of the Holocaust. In fact, I didn’t even know the term “Holocaust.” And not because I was a bad student who failed to learn it in school, but because the anti-Semitic politics of the Third Reich were not covered in our school curriculum and our mass media — not before or during WWII, or afterwards. As a result, the atrocities that were well known in the West were hardly mentioned in the East. There, coverage of WWII was dedicated to the bravery and suffering of Soviet troops and, until 1956, to Stalin’s military genius. So the mass killings of Jews — in Europe and Ukraine — did not qualify.

This is not to say that the Russian population had it easy. The war was devastating for the USSR. Overall, more than 26 million Russian citizens died during the war, not to mention those who came back as invalids and hopeless alcoholics. Still, the fact that the Jews were systematically exterminated was not revealed in Russia (where casual anti -Semitism was the norm) for a very long time. Well, we knew about concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Treblinka and Buchenwald. In fact, there was a popular song written about the latter, which went like this:

People of the world
stand up a moment
Listen, listen
It buzzes from all sides
It can be heard in Buchenwald
ringing off the bells
ringing off the bells
It’s innocent blood reborn and strengthened
In a brazen roar.
Victims are resurrected from the ashes …

Yet again, we were never told that the main goal of a camp like Auschwitz was the implementation of “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Historians estimate that among the people sent to Auschwitz there were at least 1,100,000 Jews from all the countries of occupied Europe, over 140,000 Poles, approximately 20,000 Gypsies from several European countries, over 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war and over 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities.

Book cover for Night by Elie WieselWhen I found myself in Columbia, Missouri, and I had learned enough English to start reading, books about the Holocaust were not high on my list. First, I needed to learn about my adoptive country, its history, culture and customs. So, when one day (I was already working at the reference desk of the Columbia Public Library) a teenage girl came to me and asked about “The Diary of a Young Girl,” I had no idea what that book was about. I just looked it up in the library catalog. And later, when another patron was looking for “Night” by Elie Wiesel, I didn’t know anything about that book either. In fact, I had trouble spelling “Wiesel.”

Time went by, and I learned about the Holocaust, about Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel and others. I saw a collection of victims’ shoes in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (the Nazis confiscated their victims’ belongings and sent valuables back to Germany; the shoes were to be repaired by the camps’ prisoners and reused). And I heard a reading of names of the Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust (1.5 million names in all) in the Yad Vashem Children’s Memorial in Jerusalem, which is housed in an underground cave and lit by candles that, reflected in a system of mirrors, create the impression of millions of little stars. (The complex was built with donations from a family whose two-and-a-half-year-old son was killed in Auschwitz.) And when I read “Night,” I could hardly keep from screaming; for the way I felt, it all could have happened to me, my parents and my daughter.

There are some events so cruel and traumatic that people don’t want to talk about them, even less read about them. In fact, when Wiesel’s “Night” first appeared in print (in Yiddish) in 1954, its publication was hardly noticed. In America, when the book was published in 1960, it wasn’t an overnight success either. Gradually, though, it began attracting more attention, and when, in 2006, Oprah Winfrey presented “Night” to her book club, it became a New York Times bestseller.

Wiesel went on to write many more books and to become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Above all, he remained a voice for Holocaust victims and survivors – the mission he considered the most important in his life.

“If I survived,” Wiesel said in 1981, “It must be for some reason. I must do something with my life…because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person.”

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Categories: Book Buzz
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