Tag Archives: mystery

The Girl and the Goal

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So, my Summer Reading goal is to read more “adult” books. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, then you know that I mainly read young adult books. One question that the children’s and teen librarians are asking participants when they sign up for the Summer Reading program is: Why are you signing up for the Summer Reading program? One of the answers is “to challenge myself.” That option stuck out to me. I’d like to think that my goal is challenging myself because I’m broadening my horizons. I’m stepping outside of my reading comfort zone.

The book that helped me to get out of this reading comfort zone is The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. One day I was lucky enough to find a best-seller copy and decided to see what the hype was all about. The book is well worth all of the praise. It helped break down the stereotype that I had about adult books being boring. I realize now that I hadn’t come across the right book to crush this stereotype until now. This book was full of twists and turns. I was shocked when I found out who the killer was.

I won’t give away any spoilers. If you’re looking for a good book this is it. I know it’s hard to find an available copy in our system at the moment, so I would recommend looking on OverDrive for an audio or electronic version. Since it’s hard to get a copy in every medium I’m going to suggest some read alikes. They are The Secret Place by Tana French, The First Prophet by Kay Hooper, and Losing You by Nicci French.

Other titles that helped me towards my summer reading goal are God Help the Child by Toni Morrison and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling. (I can’t wait for her new book to come out in the fall!)

What are your summer reading goals? Let us know in the comments below!

~Kayla

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And the Winners Are…

Thank you for reading along with us during Pride Week! We close out our 5-day series with a brief look at some award-winning books.

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The winners of the 27th annual Lambda Literary Awards were announced on June 1, 2015. The Lammys, as they are affectionately called, honor the best LGBTQIA+ writing in a variety of categories. If you’re new to queer lit and don’t know where to start, why not right at the top?

Here are a few of this year’s award-winners.

Bisexual Nonfiction: Fire Shut Up in my Bones, Charles Blow.

Blow, a dynamic art/op-ed member of The New York Times staff, winds the many threads of his life story around the violation of trust that kept his spirit in chains.

Gay General Fiction: I Loved You More, Tom Spanbauer.

Ben and Hank meet and fall in love in 1980s New York. Years after their affair, Ben falls in love with a woman named Ruth. Their life together is calm and pleasant, until Hank reappears. Whose love will carry the day?

Lesbian Mystery: The Old Deep and Dark, Ellen Hart.

The title refers to an old theatre in downtown Minneapolis two sisters are restoring to its former glory. Unfortunately, there’s a dead body in the basement that’s mucking up the project. Even though she’s hard at work on another case, private investigator Jane Lawless agrees to tackle the problem, and discovers her twin mysteries just might have elements in common.

LGBT Anthology: Understanding and Teaching U.S. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History, Leila J. Rupp & Susan K. Freeman, eds.

Same-sex love and gender fluidity are hardly new concepts in world history. Rupp and Freeman’s textbook collects information and materials teachers can use to incorporate often-neglected queer historical narratives in their classrooms. Also contains essays written by teachers of LGBTQ history describing their experiences.

LGBT Graphic Novels: Second Avenue Caper, Joyce Brabner & Mark Zingarelli. 

Local artist Zingarelli illustrates Brabner’s story about her friend Ray Dobbins, a nurse in New York City. After the government basically turns its back on what was then a frightening new disease, Dobbins and his circle of friends team up to find help for people suffering from AIDS….no matter how risky or dramatic said help might turn out to be.

Transgender Nonfiction: Man Alive, Thomas Page McBee.

In very short chapters that zig-zag through time, Page explores the two traumatic events that shaped his life experiences and questions the mythical elements of manhood.

For a complete list of this year’s winners and finalists, click here. To learn more about queer writing/literature, the Library’s LGBTQ book/film collections, or related programming / community involvement, ask a librarian!

Enjoy Pride Weekend, Pittsburgh, and happy reading.

–Leigh Anne

 

 

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Enter the Secret World of Cirque

Readers tend to have good imaginations.

For example, you may have imagined that there is more to the life of the Library than meets the daylight eye. You have, quite possibly, entertained fantasies of secret rituals and mysterious adventures taking place after the closing chimes have rung and the doors are bolted fast. Perhaps you have daydreamed about the inner worlds of books leaping free of their pages, magicians and their companions (both sweet and sinister) roaming through the stacks, wild and playful, making merry mischief underneath the stars while the city’s mundane citizens sleep.

For one night, and one night only, all of those possibilities will come true. And you can be a part of it! But only if you have a ticket.

Click through to purchase your tickets!

Click through to purchase your tickets!

Experience Cirque

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main (Oakland) 

Friday, October 17 From 7 to 10 pm

This dreamy iteration of our popular after-hours event series ushers you into a world where the lines between reality and fiction blur. Enjoy enchanting performances by Belles Lignes Contortion, The Wreckids, Guy and Zoob, and Mr. A.H. Hastings. Refresh yourself throughout the journey with creative cocktails and sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, or fortify yourself with beer and wine as you face dazzling challenges which include:

  • Glimpses into the future with tarot readings and spirit drawings.
  • Winding your way through a shadowy maze in the Library stacks.
  • Mask making, airbrush tattoos and elegant face art.

Early Bird Ticket Special: $45 per person until October 13
$55 from October 14 until we sell out!
Hors d’oeuvres and three (3) drink tickets included in the ticket price.

Want to bring some of the magic home with you? Our silent auction is your chance to acquire classic card catalogs and other refurbished library furniture, lovingly restored by Team Laminates and Workshop Pgh. Raffle tickets will also be available for other mystical treasures and cunning prizes–visit the auction page for full details.

Great treasure and magical adventures await in the shadowy world of the after-dark Library. Will we see you there?

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–Leigh Anne

Note: After Hours @ the Library supports the day-to-day operations of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. For tax purposes, the fair market value of the refreshments and entertainment for the event is $25. The tax-deductible portion of each ticket is the cost of the ticket, less $25.

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Missing Books, (by accident)

Working at a library can have some major benefits…especially if you are a book person. One of the many benefits that I’ve found is the exposure to books that I normally wouldn’t hear about in my day-to-day. The plus is also that, being surrounded by books and DVDs and CDs, sometimes these things literally just cross your path by pure happenstance.

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The book! From the Author’s website.

 

One such book for me is The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom. This is a mystery, but it doesn’t really fit into the accepted categories for mysteries. It’s by no means hard-boiled, and it’s not exactly cozy. (In full disclosure, I love cozy mysteries and I’ve even written about them on this blog!) Sansom’s book lives somewhere in between. I like that.

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The Author! From the Publisher’s website. (Harper)

 

As the title indicates, the crime is a heist, not a murder, and the unwilling sleuth is a librarian named Israel Armstrong who is charged by his brand new employers, to find some 15,000 missing library books. (Also in full disclosure, I wanted to read this book after reading the description!) So, we have no murder, no cats, and the sleuth is a man…not exactly cozy fodder. Did I mention that it’s set in Northern Ireland and our librarian sleuth arrives from London for the job? That probably sealed the deal for me wanting to look into this book.

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The Author, a dog, and a VW minibus. (culled from a Google image search)

 

I’m glad I did. It’s funny. VERY funny. Very uncomfortably, awkwardly funny (think the first season of the original BBC series The Office).  It’s also well written. It also reads very quickly. I am, what I believe to be, one of the slowest readers on the planet. That said, I tore through this quickly. Again, I think it’s due to Sansom being quite a good writer.

Add to all of this the fact that Sansom has created a cast of interesting, quirky, memorable characters that are a bit more than you’d expect, and you have a winner. Much like other books that fall into the “better than it needs to be” category, Sansom’s writing and characterizations give the reader much more to work with than one might expect. His ability to balance the elements of his fiction are not lost here. It’s a real pleasure to read a piece of so-called genre fiction that is so well crafted. There are plenty of cases where the skill of the writer is not evident in fiction like this, and it’s a fantastic treat to find a case where it is present.

I devoured the first in this series and I am looking forward to getting into the second. Here’s to finding a new writer by total accident, and here’s to finding a new series by the same wonderful accident.

Eric (who is eagerly awaiting the next book in this series, and the next amazing author and book he’s never  even heard of yet)

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Get Cozy

I never read much mystery before working at the Library. That said, working at LBPH, and getting a better sense of specifically cozy mysteries has been quite a learning curve for me. That learning curve has resulted in a real appreciation for mysteries of all stripes.  Yes, of cozy mysteries, too. A cozy mystery generally defined as a mystery that features an amateur sleuth and often focuses on that sleuth’s hobby or profession.  Usually set in small towns, cozy mysteries rarely (if EVER) contain graphic violence, profanity or explicit sex, and favor quickly-paced plots with twist and character development over action.

Not exactly Dashiell Hammett or Stieg Larsson books! Those hardboiled writers tend to be much more graphic and intense. A cozy, by contrast, is a great bit of escape.

Two of my favorite contemporary cozy writers are Miranda James and Ali Brandon.

Both heavily rely on books and cats to tell their stories. As a person who loves books and cats, this is not a difficult leap for me. I’m already a fan of a lot of what these books are about! Add a clever mystery to the mix and I’m in.

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Miranda James (the pen name of Dean James, a librarian himself!) writes the Cat in the Stacks series featuring the widowed, semi-retired librarian Charley Harris and his Maine Coon cat Diesel. In between volunteering at his local public library and working in the special collections library of the fictional Athena College, Charlie and Diesel solve murders that happen around their small town of Athena, Mississippi. The first book in the series, Murder Past Due, is a great start! Other titles in the series include Classified as Murder, File M for Murder, and Out of Circulation.

Ali Brandon (the pen name of Diane A.S. Stuckart) writes the Black Cat Bookshop series featuring Darla Pettistone, a Texas transplant to Brooklyn who inherited her Great Aunt Dee’s bookshop, and feisty black cat named Hamlet. Books in this series so far include Double Booked for Death, and A Novel Way to Die.

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As much as I enjoy both series, I have to say that what the Cat in the Stacks series by James lacks in the technical arena of writing, the books more than make up for it with how fun and engaging they are. By contrast, the Black Cat Bookshop series by Brandon could be said to be more skillfully crafted in some ways, with attention to letting the story unfold more slowly. In addition, Brandon crafts a melody to the sentences in her work. Some of the lightheartedness so common to so-called genre fiction, may be sacrificed, but the writing flows a bit more and the plot certainly doesn’t hurt because of it.

Cozy mysteries run the gamut of sub-sub-sub-genre writing (from gardening, to baking,  to puzzles, to holidays, to holiday gardening [I’m totally serious…these exist!] and on and on…). It’s not ALL cats and libraries or bookshops. That said, generally light-hearted fare that still keeps the reader guessing can be a welcome reprieve in the worlds we navigate.

I love reading Flannery O’Connor, Sandra Cisneros, Cornell West and Eduado Galeanro.  I also love reading the Cat in the Stacks books! I’ve never been convinced that it has to be all one, or the other. Reject those binaries, dear Eleventh Stack reader! Take a departure from your normal fare and get cozy!

Eric (who is eagerly awaiting cool autumn evenings with a cozy mystery, a cup of tea and a cat curled up with him)

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Punny Side Up: Clever Titles, Fun Summer Reads

The only thing better than a good pun is a bad pun, the kind that leaves you doubled over, groaning. When you spot a pun in a book title, it usually means you’re in for a good time, reading-wise. And since it’s summer, why not put aside the ponderous reads for a while and take a chance on something silly? Here are a few titles to try on for size.

apocalypsecowApocalypse Cow, Michael Logan. Everybody takes it on the chin in this snicker-worthy, satirical horror tale about a government experiment gone horribly wrong. The cows of Scotland have turned zombie, and the virus responsible leaps quickly to other animal species. Look out humanity: now you’re the snack! As the country descends into chaos, three extremely unlikely heroes–a teenage math geek, a slaughterhouse worker, and an inept journalist–do their best to save the day. Which pretty much means humanity is doomed, but you’ll have a lot of fun watching the train wreck. Terry Pratchett enjoyed this book enough to give it a prize in 2011, so now that it’s available in the U.S., you should check it out, too; I expect you will find it very moo-ving.

Sleeping With the Entity, Cat Devon. Daniella just wants to open a cupcake shop; is that so wrong? Nick, the head of the local entitybusiness association, doesn’t want Daniella or her cupcakes anywhere near his neighborhood, which actually serves as headquarters for Nick’s vampire clan. Somehow immune to Nick’s mind control techniques, Daniella barrels on ahead with her business plan anyway, which leads to peril for her, exasperation for Nick, and plenty of sexual tension smoldering between them both. Devon’s paranormal romance is as fluffy and luscious as buttercream frosting, and once you’ve savored it, continuing on to The Entity Within will be a piece of cake.

hexHex and the Single Girl, Valerie Frankel. Unlike Devon’s novel, which is slightly silly and mostly steamy, Frankel’s tale of a matchmaking witch is a full-out wacky romp. Emma has used her psychic gifts to hook up countless happy couples, but despairs of ever finding a love of her own. Enter William, a wealthy software developer, who finds Emma utterly fascinating. Too bad Emma’s trying to fix William up with one of her clients…especially since she finds him pretty interesting, too. Replete with bad puns and composed of a cast of colorful New Yorkers (magical and otherwise), this is a screwball romantic comedy that will scramble your brain in egg-actly the way a summer read should.

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth, Tamar Myers. Tart-tongued Magdalena Yoder and her sister Susannah converted their family farm into a crooksbed and breakfast after their parents died. Now the Mennonite siblings, with the help of some of their Amish friends and neighbors, run the PennDutch Inn, a popular stop for folks touring Pennsylvania Dutch territory. The only thing is, there’s a corpse on the bed, and it’s ruining Magdalena’s quilt, and this simply will not do. Add in a shady politician on vacation, a pack of vegetarians who are driving Magdalena’s cook crazy, and enough food descriptions to give George R.R. Martin a run for his money, and you have a nice cozy-folksy mystery–part of a series!–that also contains recipes (the broiled bananas dessert looks particularly ap-peel-ing).

If you haven’t thrown up your hands in despair and moved on to looking at cute cat photos, you are clearly the target audience for more puntastic goodness. Terry Pratchett, Piers Anthony, Diane Mott Davidson, and Donna Andrews are just a few authors who dabble in groan-worthy titles; you’ll find these and other suggestions via this Goodreads list. My personal favorite title at the moment is Giles Smith’s  Midnight in the Garden of Evel Knievel, which I plan to acquire and read despite having less than zero interest in sports (anybody that punny deserves my consideration).

Your turn: does a punny book title send you to the checkout counter, or running for the hills? Have any fun examples you’d care to share?

Leigh Anne

also currently giggling over Polar Bolero

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So Far, So Good!

2013 is half over already? How did that happen? Flipping through my reading notebook in an attempt to answer that question brought the past few months into sharp relief for me. “Oh yes, April, when this, that and that happened, and I was reading XYZ.” In some ways more private than a diary, and yet in other ways more revealing, a reading log can give you a pretty good snapshot of what was going on in your life, as well as make it easier to recall and share titles when you run into somebody who might also enjoy that story you liked.

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Spotted at LetterMidst

In the spirit of Amazon’s “best of 2013 so far” list, here’s my own tally of favorite titles this year, plus a few extra.

rulemurderJanuary: A Rule Against Murder / Louise Penny. The dead of winter is a wonderful time to wend your way through a mystery series, especially when the book you’re currently on is set in the middle of summer! The charming, courtly Inspector Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie are on holiday, but murder finds them anyhow. Although this is the fourth in the series, it works beautifully as a stand-alone because of the “locked-room” quality of the plot (the victim, and all the murder suspects, are guests at the same resort with the Gamaches). It’s also a great introduction to the beautiful Canadian landscapes Penny paints; reading her descriptions makes me want to pack a suitcase and head for the wilds. Try it on for size, and then, if you like it, go back to the beginning with Still Life.

February: Code Name Verity / Elizabeth Wein. Chosen for her excellent command of German–she was reading it at verityUniversity before the war–Verity is a spy for the Allies, despite her tender years. Maddie, whose natural aptitude for flying earned her a spot in the air, is both her best friend and her pilot on a dangerous mission. But when the plane crashes and Verity is taken prisoner by the Gestapo, both the mission and the friendship are put to the ultimate tests of interrogation and torture. War stories don’t normally do much for me, but Wein spins a layered, gripping narrative that kept me up late to finish this book in one gulp. And surprise: it’s for teens, though grown-ups will definitely enjoy it as well.

yogabitchMarch: Yoga Bitch / Suzanne Morrison. This hilarious memoir mostly takes place during Morrison’s extended yoga retreat in Bali, a trip she took because she wanted to be more spiritual and peaceful like her teacher, Indra. Instead of inner peace, however, Morrison found all of the hang-ups and emotional problems she thought she’d left behind in Seattle right there on the mat waiting for her. Oh, and everybody else at the retreat keeps trying to convince her to drink pee (wait, what?). Let go of everything you think you know about yoga and laugh like hell as Morrison Figures It All Out (Sort Of).

April: Life After Life / Kate Atkinson. I know, I know: everybody loves this book and can’t stop talking about it. There are lifeafterlifereasons for that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right book for you. I tend to describe it to people as a mash-up between Downton Abbey and Doctor Who, and if you’re willing to go along with the premise that a person can live the same life over again until she gets it right (whatever that means), then you are going to eat this up like a jar of Nutella. Otherwise, you can move along. I loved this book so much I went out and bought it; it is the most perfect thing I’ve read all year.

messudMay: The Woman Upstairs / Claire Messud. Nora Eldridge is furious, and when you finally find out why, mere pages away from the end of the novel, your jaw will drop. However, to really appreciate the big reveal, you have to wend your way through Nora’s long, tortured story. Over forty and frustrated with her life–she wanted to be an artist and ended up as an art teacher instead–Nora struggles to recapture her lost dreams and not give in to self-pity, but it’s hard. A new friendship with Sirena, a practicing artist, appears at first to be the kind of boost Nora’s been looking for. However, as Nora comes to know Sirena and her family more closely, the green-eyed monster keeps rearing its ugly head. A powerful novel about learning to live for yourself, and not through other people. And the reveal really is worth it, I promise. Wow.

June: The Humanity Project / Jean Thompson. The Great Recession didn’t do anyone any favors, but for the characters in humanityThompson’s small California town, the situation is pretty dire. A man and his son are on the brink of losing their home. A troubled teen who survived a school shooting is meeting her father for the first time. A clinic nurse grows more cynical by the day as the noble ideals she tries to uphold seem like so much baloney in the face of non-stop human suffering. And then, a wealthy widow proposes a project that will change their lives in ways they don’t expect, possibly for the better…depending on how you define better. Readers who like realistic fiction will appreciate the snipped-from-the-headlines, they-could-be-us quality of Thompson’s characters, who quietly learn that the money they crave can fix their surface issues, but not what lies beneath.

Some runners-up worth noting:

The Next Time You See Me / Holly Goddard Jones. A tough-talking, blue-collar broad goes missing, and nobody in town really cares, except her married-into-the-middle-class sister. Also, middle school kids treat each other like crap.

The Dinner / Herman Koch. The most uncomfortable family dinner ever, held at a pricey restaurant in Amsterdam, reveals just how far one set of parents will go to protect their son.

Calling Me Home / Julie Kliber. An elderly woman asks her hairdresser to drive her from Texas to Ohio for a funeral. Warning: the ending is a weeper.

The Fault In Our Stars / John Green. There are not enough tissues in the whole world to wipe away the tears you will shed for two bright, sarcastic teens with cancer who, despite their odds, fall in love anyway. Read it regardless.

Your turn: which books really rocked your world in 2013? Is it too early for you to pick a favorite?

–Leigh Anne

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