I hate to tell Charles Dickens, but one of his contemporaries is a rival for my literary heart. “The Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins has been collecting dust on my “to read” list for years. When I discovered the book is one of J.K. Rowling’s favorites, it moved up the list, but didn’t make it to the top until a few weeks ago. Then, wowza! I stayed up late several nights in a row, reading “just a few more pages.”
“The Woman in White” is a story of mysterious characters and devious plots, assumed identities and international intrigue, family scandals and thwarted love. We see the full range of human character – greed, devotion, manipulation, love, hate, duty, evasion of duty, cheating, honesty – as different parts of the story are related by various characters involved.
Walter Hartright has no idea the turns his life will take after he accepts a position as drawing teacher for the Fairlie family. He has two pupils, Marian and Laura, who are half-sisters. The head of the estate is Laura’s uncle, who provides much of the humor in the book. He suffers from nerves, poor thing, and can’t tolerate sunlight, conversation, decision-making or servants who fail to mind-read. Before Hartright reaches the Fairlie home, he encounters and assists a strange young woman in white during a late-night walk. As it turns out, she has some connection to the family who has employed him. And some mysterious, less-than-desirable connection to Laura’s fiancé, Sir Percival Glyde. (Even his name sounds oily and corrupt.) Assisted by his friend Count Fosco, who is Laura’s uncle by marriage, it’s obvious early on that Glyde is up to something nefarious. But what could it be?
I feel it is my duty, dear reader, to warn you that there is a fainting couch and it is swooned upon. You will also encounter some gender stereotyping typical of the mid-19th century. However, the plot and strong characterizations (Marian, in particular, is an intelligent and active female character) make these deficiencies forgivable. A bonus for me, as a Harry Potter fan, was discovering where J.K. Rowling found inspiration for a certain trademark of a cohort of villains.
Are you intrigued enough to want your very own copy of “The Woman in White?” Fill out the following form, including the answer to this trivia question for a chance to win:
Wilkie Collins’ book “The Moonstone” involves the theft of a jewel. What type of jewel is it?
One winner will be selected at random from among correct entries.
The post Classics For Everyone, and a Book Giveaway: Wilkie Collins appeared first on DBRL Next.
SYNC, a service of AudioFile Magazine, offers free young adult and classic audiobook downloads during the summer months. Through this program, you can download two free audiobook titles each week from May 15 through August 20.
This summer’s lineup includes “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein, “Warp: The Reluctant Assassin” by Eoin Colfer and “I’d Tell You I Love You, but Then I’d Have to Kill You” by Ally Carter. The classics available for download include works by H.G. Wells, Agatha Christie, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
These audiobooks download directly to your computer through Overdrive Media Console. After you’ve downloaded the audiobook to your computer, you can then transfer it to your MP3 player, iPod or other Apple device.
If you download free audiobooks through the library, then you may already be familiar with Overdrive Media Console. If not, you can review these instructions to help you get started. The best part is that all audiobooks downloaded through SYNC are yours to keep forever and ever.
Originally published at Free Audiobook Downloads from SYNC.
My wife and I have found parenting small children to be one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. While our children are little, we see it as a way to relive our own childhoods in some ways: watching the old Muppet Movies again, flying kites, enjoying Fruit Loops guilt-free, playing board games that involve colorful shiny plastic objects and lots of rudimentary counting.
Along with the fun it can get difficult. And dirty. And tiring. And also incredibly funny. The moments of laughter spent with our own daughters account for some of the most hilarious times in my life so far. Much of it is unintentional – just moments of pure joy wrapped in semi-ridiculous situations. In celebration of Mother’s Day, let’s take a look at some of the more recent humorous parenting and mothering titles out there. (Think Gen-X’s answer to Erma Bombeck – a little more irony, a few more swear words.)
How about “Parenting Illustrated with Crappy Pictures,” a book of cartoons by Amber Dusick. Amber’s experiences are universal – toddlers who create constant chaos and havoc, misuse common phrases (and swear words, with the expected results), treat the cats badly and display affection and sweetness with sincere deliveries of flowers, pronounced “fowlers.” The sleeplessness and chaos that come with parenting young children are fleshed out in (very poorly) drawn cartoons, but the humor is very real. Why cry when you can laugh? My favorite chapter, “The Good Stuff,” includes this classic two year-old knock knock joke: “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Cookie. Cookie Who? BIG COOKIE!!”
“Don’t Lick the Minivan, and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say to My Kids” by blogger and humorist Leanne Shirtliffe examines raising baby twins in the international city of Bangkok, Thailand and returning to the suburbs of Canada, where absurdities continue, such as a barbie funeral. Anecdotes from the Shirtliffe family’s time in Bangkok are profoundly funny: “As we left the village . . . our driver navigated around an accident, likely caused by our screaming child – and he maneuvered around other developing world obstacles, like a family of five on a motorbike and a 1960s truck filled with jingling propane bottles.” The book is also spiced with sidebars that include advice such as “Parenting Tip: When you’re arguing with your spouse over parenting issues, imitate a cartoon character to defuse the situation.”
Julia Sweeney is best known for her stint on Saturday Night Live, but she is also an author, speaker and mother, having adopted a Chinese child, Mulan. In her new book “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother,” she recounts the adoption process, all the while balancing her career. “It took so long to assemble my lovely family. I did it all a bit backward: first a delightful daughter, then a beloved husband.”
Sweeney eventually ends up in Wilmette, Illinois (near the college town of Evanston, IL) which she describes as “like living in Logan, Utah, six blocks from Berkeley, California.” Coming from California was a change, she writes. “The entire city of Wilmette is set up to accommodate families. While I appreciate this, it can be mind-numbing. Also, I should add that I live in a city of blond ponytails; one might describe it as a sea of blond ponytails.” However, she does find her own domestic bliss in her new circumstances: “Thinking through this whole family experience has made me feel less attached to places and things, and more invested in experiencing being with people I love.”
Lastly, although only available in audiobook format, let us not forget Garrison Keillor’s wonderful tribute to the mothers of the world: “Motherhood.” Prairie Home Companion is, above all else, a true celebration of family and community. Listen to the cast from the show present humorous skits that showcase the joys, travails, and delightful moments encapsulated in being a Mom.
Please see these books (and many more!) for a humorous explorations of what it means to be a parent and most especially a Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms out there!
Somewhere along our educational paths, some of us became convinced that poetry, by definition, must be hard, esoteric, incomprehensible. Others believe poetry is boring, the word conjuring up memories of a too-warm classroom and a lecture about syllables and iambic pentameter. If you believe you are not a poetry person, in honor of the last few days of National Poetry Month, I’m going to attempt to convince you otherwise.
Exhibit A: Billy Collins
Collins’ poetry is conversational, approachable and often gently humorous. He writes about love, loss, growing older, teenagers, camp lanyards, his kitchen and a whole host of other everyday topics, using elegant phrasing, surprising images and even wit to make what is common seem new.
Exhibit B: Mary Oliver
Oliver’s most recent collection of poems is all about the dogs she has owned. The verses in “Dog Songs” are unashamedly celebratory, as is much of her work. Nature is often the subject of her writing, and while not overtly religious, there is a quality of thanksgiving in her poems, an open wonder at the world and gratitude for her place in it.
Exhibit C: Sharon Olds
There is a sharpness to Olds, and even a harshness at times, like she is shining a bright spotlight on her subjects. She writes fearlessly about death, sexuality, brutality and makes even the hardest truths beautiful through words and images.
What other poets would you recommend to reluctant poetry readers?
The days are getting warmer and longer, and summer reading is on the horizon! Here is the monthly list from LibraryReads, highlighting forthcoming titles librarians across the country recommend, including family dramas, suspense, literary fiction, and a memoir. Get ready to pack your beach bag with some great new books.
“We Were Liars“
by E. Lockhart
“This brilliant and heartbreaking novel tells the story of a prestigious family living on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts. Full of love, lies, secrets, no shortage of family dysfunction and a shocking twist that you won’t see coming. Though this book is written for teens, it shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone looking for a fantastic read.”
- Susan Balla, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield, CT
“All the Light We Cannot See“
by Anthony Doerr
“Set during World War II Europe, this novel is sobering without being sentimental. The tension builds as the alternating, parallel stories of Werner and Marie-Laure unfold, and their paths cross. I highly recommend this beautiful and compelling story.”
- Kelly Currie, Delphi Public Library, Delphi, IN
“The Bees: A Novel“
by Laline Paull
“This book is set entirely in a beehive, but the novel and its characters are so beautifully rendered that it could have been set anywhere. Societal codes and social mores combine with the ancient behavior rituals of bees, bringing forth a remarkable story that is sure to be a book club favorite.”
- Ilene Lefkowitz, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ
Here is the rest of the list, with links to the library’s catalog so you can place holds on these on-order books!
- “Delicious!” by Ruth Reichl
- “The Forgotten Seamstress” by Liz Trenow
- “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman
- “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
- “Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage” by Molly Wizenberg
- “Sixth Grave on the Edge” by Darynda Jones
- “The Blessings” by Elise Juska
With our new digital service, Hoopla, you can watch videos or listen to music and audiobooks with your computer or mobile device for free. Hoopla allows us to add music, movies and TV to our digital oﬀerings for the ﬁrst time. Plus, you’ll never have to wait on any item through Hoopla because more than one person can access the same movie, album or audiobook at the same time.
Download the free Hoopla mobile app on your Android or iOS device to begin enjoying thousands of titles from major ﬁlm studios, recording companies and publishers. Hoopla items can also stream to your computer through your Web browser.
- You will be allowed to borrow 10 titles each month.
- Movies & TV shows lend for 72 hours.
- Music lends for 7 days.
- Audiobooks lend for 21 days.
- Content begins streaming immediately. You can also download most titles to devices for oﬄine viewing or listening.
- Once you borrow a title on one device it is automatically available via all devices with the Hoopla app or, on your computer, through your browser (Internet Explorer 8+, Firefox 12+, Safari 5+, Chrome 19+).
- View or listen to the borrowed content as often as you want during the check-out period.
To use this free service, you need to have a current Daniel Boone Regional Library card. Don’t have one? Learn more at www.dbrl.org/librarycard.
Originally published at Stream Free Music, Movies & Books From Your Library.
The most important thing I can tell you about Flann O’Brien is: you should not read the introduction to “The Complete Novels” until after you’ve read the complete novels. Perhaps the introducer believed he was writing an afterword, or perhaps he believes he lives in a surreal utopia where everyone has read Flann O’Brien. Regardless, he drops spoilers like race cars during a bolt shortage, including a huge one that will change the way you read “The Third Policeman.” Fortunately, I long ago developed a suspicion of introductions and always save them for last, so it was with a self-satisfied smirk, wagged finger of admonishment and chest-puffed entreaty of “don’t be a monster that spoils stuff” that I greeted the introducer’s ghastly act of revealing the end of the “The Third Policeman,” where the reader should discover for themselves that [spoiler removed by editor].
Flann O’Brien, much like Batman or a rapper, has more than one name. His realest name is Brian O’Nolan, and, in addition to Flann, he also wrote as Myles na gCopaleen, which I presume is the result of several typos and an urge to be the most inscrutable superhero ever. Unlike my previous recommendations whose recommending came at least partially in the service of bribing them to be my friends, any relationship with O’Brien would be awkward and one-sided as the man died on April Fools’ Day in 1966. (Which, if one has to die, must be the best day to do so. Think of the incredulous responses when his friends and loved ones were notified!)
“The Third Policeman” begins with the narrator confessing to murder. From there it is a whirlwind consisting of a plot to obtain the deceased’s fortune; asides concerning the ludicrous theories of the philosopher de Selby (whom the narrator is obsessed with and had been planning to write a book on), such as his belief that night is an illusion caused by an accretion of black gases, that the earth is sausage-shaped and that with a large enough series of mirrors one is capable of seeing into the past; and absurd policemen whose fixations on bicycles, high-fallutin’ rhetoric and incomprehensible mathematics provide much of the fuel for this spectacular comedy.
There’s also some spectacular horror. In addition to murder, there is a conversation with a ghost, a journey into a surreal landscape where a police station looks two-dimensional, as if “it was painted on the sky,” an alliance with an army of one-legged men, some incomprehensible mathematics and a bicycle painted a color that drives anyone who sees it mad. There’s a chest of drawers so flawless that the only thing the policeman found worthy of putting in it was a smaller replica, which presented the same problem, which meant it must contain a smaller replica and so on until there’s a chest so small it can’t be spotted with a magnifying glass. This is a rare book that is creepy, hilarious and uncanny within the same sentence. Also, the ending is neat.
It turns out that our predictions for the 2014 Gateway and Truman award winners were spot-on. Veronica Roth is the recipient of this year’s Gateway Readers Award for her book, “Divergent.” In a future Chicago, Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomoly who does not fit into any one group. Runners-up for the Gateway Award were “Anna Dressed in Blood” by Kendare Blake and “Ashfall” by Mike Mullin.
Congratulations also goes to Marie Lu who is this year’s Truman Readers Award recipient for her book, “Legend.” In the dark future where North America has split into two warring nations, teenagers Day, a famous criminal, and June, a brilliant soldier hired to capture him, discover that they have a common enemy. Richard Paul Evans was the second place award winner for “Michael Vey: the Prisoner of Cell 25,” while Wendelin Van Draanen received the third place honor for “The Running Dream.”
Originally published at 2014 Gateway & Truman Award Winners Announced.
April elections aren’t just about school boards and city councils. Each year the Daniel Boone Regional Library asks area readers to help choose that year’s One Read book. One Read is a community-wide reading program that invites adults in Mid-Missouri to read the same book over the summer and then attend programs based on that book during the month of September.
Between now and May 2, cast your vote for either “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain or “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel Brown.
Learn more about these titles and cast your vote at oneread.org!