Where Fiction May Lead

parchementoleavesI recently had the opportunity to facilitate a group discussion of A Parchment of Leaves by the great Kentucky author, Silas House. While I enjoyed the book tremendously, there was another aspect of this novel that I came across during my research in preparation for the book discussion that I found equally wonderful: the poetry of Kentuckian James Still.

You see, it is a poem by Mr. Still from which Mr. House derives the title of this book. The poem, entitled I Was Born Humble, is a truly awe-inspiring contemplation, in my mind, of life in general, life not necessarily rooted in the place of Kentucky.

The following is the full text:

I was born humble. At the foot of mountains
My face was set upon the immensity of earth
And stone; and upon oaks full-bodied and old.
There is so much writ upon the parchment of leaves,
So much of beauty blown upon the winds,
I can but fold my hands and sink my knees
In the leaf-pages. Under the mute trees
I have cried with this scattering of knowledge,
Beneath the flight of birds shaken with this waste
Of wings.
I was born humble. My heart grieves
Beneath this wealth of wisdom perished with the leaves.

My reaction is the same each and every time I read or recite these lines: an overwhelming sense of both joy and sorrow. But isn’t life, after all, both joy and sorrow?

It is here that I must admit that I oftentimes find poetry somewhat inaccessible. While I admire and am familiar with the household names in this genre, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, and Robert Frost, it is when I branch out to lesser-known poets that I find myself a bit befuddled.

This, I hope and believe, will no longer be the case, as I find a renewed interest in such structured musings and now possess the resolve to venture further. Hitherto, I have always turned to fiction to better understand history, tragedy and triumph, the human condition, etc., but it seems to me now that there is an additional literary vehicle available to me by which I can come to a better understanding of the world. They say that a thing is better late than never, an expression that I take solace in on this new, and somewhat belated, journey into the realm of that most objective of aesthetic art – poetry.

Two collections of Mr. Still’s poems that I would recommend, in addition to A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House, are:

Formats Available:  Book (Regular and Large Type), Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and Furies is a dazzling novel, its people and prose are alive from page one. At once intimate and sweeping, this is the story of a marriage of parallel myths.”  – Jess Walters, author of Beautiful Ruins

I enjoy literary fiction, I do. I admire writers who play with language and skillfully take ordinary circumstances and create extraordinary, enviable moments where the reader is lost in the novel’s world. Lauren Groff has written such a novel. Her third novel, Fates and Furies, examines a marriage of a dynamic couple as they navigate their way through the peaks and valleys of their relationship, and it is magical.

Fates and Furies is a dazzling novel, its people and prose are alive from page one. At once intimate and sweeping, this is the story of a marriage of parallel myths.”  – Jess Walters, author of Beautiful Ruins

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It is a sweeping epic, a true bildungsroman where the life of its golden hero, Lancelot (Lotto) Satterwaite is laid bare in illustrious detail. His story, his viewpoint, his rose-colored perspective is glorified in “Fates,” and “Furies” illuminates his enigmatic, reserved wife, Matilde (or Aurelie as she is known in childhood). Their relationship is the definition of opposites attract – he is charming, gregarious, and demonstrative where she is quiet, aloof, and damaged. Their personal histories effect and color how they exist and interact with each other; the past is a burden that weighs heavily on their bond.

“Between his skin and hers, there was the smallest of spaces; barely enough for air, for this slick of sweat now chilling.  Even still, a third person, their marriage slid in.” – p. 5

As Jess Walters, observes, ”this is a story of parallel myths.” Lotto sees their marriage as blissful, perfect, and  without hardship despite the years of living on one meal a day or wearing the same  clothes until they turn to rags, because  Matilde  fosters the illusion by borrowing money from his sister without his knowledge. Matilde is resourceful where Lotto expects everything to work out because life has always catered to him. The duality of marriage is exposed through what they hide, what they choose to share, and what they purposefully ignore.

Lotto was born into luxury, love and support in a family that is eccentric and wealthy thanks to his father’s bottled water company, Hamlin Springs. Matilde’s idyllic life in France is shaken by an accident where she is blamed and abandoned to be raised by strangers.  When they meet the attraction is so immediate and intense that they marry within two weeks. Lotto’s friends are envious but skeptical of their fast coupling, yet somehow they make sense together. Both are beautiful, ambitious, intelligent people who are naïve to the challenges of marriage.

This disparity, the dichotomy in their backgrounds, is what makes the novel so captivating.  The reader follows them through twenty-six years of their life together.  Through feast and famine, illness, happiness and sorrow, their love, their lust, and their deep passion for one another never diminishes.

 Formats Available: Audiobook, Paperback, eBook

Reviewed by Carolyn, Crescent Hill Branch

Indie Author Day 2016

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Saturday, October 8, 2–4 p.m. at the Main Library

The Indie Author Day initiative is working with libraries across North America to bring together all of our local writing communities for the biggest celebration and collaboration of indie authors in the world!

Join us at the Main Library for a digital gathering of writers, agents, and industry leaders at this first annual event, and spend some time meeting and networking with members of the local writing community.

Please call (502) 574-1611 to register.

Following the seminar, learn to create and format professional quality versions of your book in a free workshop using a new online library resource called Pressbooks.

Whether you are a writing pro or a beginner, you can write, edit, and design digital and print copies of your book with ease using FREE resources and services offered by the Library. When you’re finished, share your book digitally with libraries across Kentucky.

September is Roald Dahl Month

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The United States held special meaning in Roald Dahl‘s life.  He lived in Washington, D.C., as a spy in the 1940s, where met his first wife, Patricia Neal.  He also wrote two of his most popular children’s books, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while living in the U.S.

This year, for the first time ever, Roald Dahl Month will take place all across the U.S.  Restaurants, zoos, gardens, bookstores, and libraries are inventing Dahlicious Delights, holding Buckswashling Nature programs, hosting parties during Wondercrump Weekend, among other celebrations.

You can celebrate Roald Dahl Month with these titles available though LFPL.

A Tale of Typhoid Mary

hellgate2Step back in time to the early 20th century when typhoid fever ran rampant through the streets of one of the most populous cities in America, New York City.  Mary Mallon had come to America as a fourteen year old girl from Ireland with hopes of finding a position as a housekeeper. It took a bit of doing but Mary worked hard and it wouldn’t be too many years before she became an accomplished cook, much sought after by well to do families. She was content, this move had been a good one.

But what Mary didn’t know was that she would shortly become infamous for something more than cooking. Mary was a carrier of the deadly disease typhoid. Without knowing it she would pass the disease on to others, children and adults alike, some whom would never recover. She would be hunted down, separated from friends, stopped from doing the only job she for which she was equipped and given a name that would follow her the rest of her life. Mary Mallon was Typhoid Mary.

After the authorities, finally caught up with Mary they imprisoned her on North Brother Island. Hell Gate was a place of indescribable misery and horror for the sick, the dying and the condemned. Where, Mary would live her final days in denial of the charges against her.

Now travel to the present and meet Karalee Soper, granddaughter of George A. Soper.  Soper was Mary’s accuser and jailer, the man who consigned Mary to her life sentence on Hell Gate.  Karalee along with a group of friends, known as the Sewer Rats, were studying public health. Seeking a bit of fun, they set sail on a short boat trip searching out abandoned building taking pictures and exploring wreckage. Hell Gate Island had once housed a tuberculosis hospital, now all that is left is ruins and building covered in vines and trees.

Shortly after their arrival, they discover the boat they used to land on the island was severely damaged, soon to sink into the murky depths a.  Now stuck on the island with few food rations, the clothes on their back, Karalee’s new Nikon 35mm camera, and few other tools. Not wanting to be marooned on this eerie island with its over grown dilapidated ruins, they went in search of a means to get back home. Gilligan’s Island it ain’t!staircase

As the night closed in with no way off the island, Karalee sees what appears to be an apparition coming toward them.  As the figure gets closer Karalee realizes it isn’t a specter but a real live, living, breathing person. But, who is it? Surely Mary Mallon was dead after all these years and who could live among the ruins with its smell of death and decay.

Step on to Hell Gate Island and into a tale of horror with enough twists and turns to keep the reader jumping at every little sound, as one by one the Sewer Rats begin disappearing. Will anyone survive The Prisoner of Hell Gate?

This is Dana I. Wolff’s debut novel.

Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow

fatalfeverWho was Typhoid Mary? Was she a villain or victim?  Were her assessors after fame or just doing their job?  Or was Mary just the scapegoat for officials who waited too long to clean up their cities?

Typhoid fever at first caused headaches and fatigue, then by a high fever, stomach pain, chills, and a red rash. One out of three people who contracted typhoid died. And as the deadly disease broke out in New York cities, thousands died.

George Soper’s job as a sanitation engineer made him an expert on germs that caused disease. Now it was his job to stop this contagious disease from spreading.  He found the filthy living conditions in cities, with their open sewers, contaminated water, dead animals in the streets and horse manure  were spreading disease and death. Soper came to show the city officials how to clean up their streets but he found more.

He found a cook named Mary Mallon.  She was a young teen when she crossed the ocean to America from Ireland. She learned her trade as a cook the hard way, working as scullery maid, until she mastered the knowledge to become a cook to the very rich.  She also was believed to be a carrier of millions of typhoid germs.

Hell Gate was an island in New York’s East River originally set up to quarantine smallpox victims.  By the turn of the century, a hospital there held anyone  who needed to be isolated and forgotten.  Mary was imprisoned on Hell Gate, released, and later returned to quarantine when found to have return to her original occupation.

Mary died in captivity at the age of 69.  She never offered her side of the story. All that is known of Mary’s beliefs were that she never saw herself to be sick or to be the source of the various outbreaks of typhoid left in her wake.

 

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Hell Gate Hospital today.

A tale straight out of the history books – laced with original photos, documents, illustrations and cartoons from newspapers and magazines – yet it reads like a murder mystery. This is a good read but would equally make a good source for a school report.

You be the judge.  Pick up Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow.

Note: The illustrated cartoon demonstrating how flies spread the disease was drawn by illustrator Vernon Grant who would later draw Kellogg’s Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Format Available: Book

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab ’s A Darker Shade of Magic had been on my to-read shelf for quite some time, but imagesmy current graphic novel obsession has prevented me from picking it up. Just this past weekend, I decided I was ready for some adult science fiction again, so I picked up the first in her trilogy of three books. I was instantly hooked after the first couple chapters and finished it in a couple of nights.

A Darker Shade of Magic takes place in London, but it’s not the London that you or I are familiar with. Think if your world had three parallel levels that were stacked on top of each other and were only accessible by a few select people in the world. This is the London of A Darker Shade of Magic. We immediately meet Kell, who is our main character, and find out that he is one of very few called the Antari. He was born with magic in his blood, and this allows him to access the other Londons. He refers to them by color: his London is the Red London which is full of magic, the Grey London is a place like our own world where magic is scarce, and the White London is a world that has been ravaged by war. Kell is often called on by his king to deliver messages from world to world, but he may have a side job or two as well while visiting the other Londons.

Schwab takes her time in developing a plot, but this doesn’t cause the novel to drag at all. In the meantime, she is creating a beautiful world (or worlds in this case) and making sure that all of her characters are intriguing as well. The reader truly can visualize the world that Kell lives in and the worlds that he travels too before the action even gets started.

Almost halfway through the book, we begin to get into our plot which introduces our other main character, Lila. Lila is a pickpocket in Grey London, but quickly finds herself thrown into a parallel world battle for a stone that may allow an Antari to access a London that no longer is accessible. We also meet Holland at this point who is another Antari, but he is employed by the monarchy of White London. Kell and Lila embark on a journey that will take them through many worlds and many close calls as they try and keep the stone out of the hold of the evil king and queen of White London.

This book is a wild roller coaster ride and I’m looking forward to where the next two books lead. The next book, A Gathering of Shadows is already available and the last book will be out next February. If you like your science fiction with only small amounts of fantasy mixed in, I highly recommend this as your next book!

Formats Available:  Book, Audiobook, E-book

Reviewed by Sara, Okolona Branch

Wicked Plants, Wicked Bugs

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocitieswickedplantssm

To be honest, I don’t do very well with adult nonfiction.  I just can’t seem to get as engrossed with it as I do fiction.  However, I am hooked on Amy Stewart’s books.  Her books are strange and wonderful and riveting.

Wicked Plants is a fascinating collection of nature’s most dangerous and toxic plants.  Mother Nature does not play y’all.  I am pretty much allergic to everything on Earth so this just confirmed my healthy fear of plants.

Bet you didn’t know most common house plants are surprisingly noxious.  That peace lily in your house could cause nausea and skin irritation and the ficus tree can incite severe allergic reactions.  Kudzu has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in the United States and even battle tanks couldn’t penetrate their rampant growth on a military base in Virginia.  Oleander, mandrake, killer algae and the stinging tree of Australia were a few of my favorite chapters as well.  The nightshade family is a very interesting genus.   I did not know tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant belong in the nightshade family along with belladonna and the poisonous jimsonweed.  Crazy sauce!

The illustrated etchings of the plants by Briony Morrow-Cribbs are an enchanting and lovely addition. If you love gardening, camping, being outdoors or you’re just like me and are captivated by the plant kingdom’s criminal element check out Amy Stewart.  She also has a book called The Drunken Botanist  I plan on starting soon.  Or keep going with Wicked Bugs!

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Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects

Now this one freaked me out.  You may be aware but humans are seriously outnumbered.  It is estimated that there are ten quintillion insects alive on the planet right now.  I didn’t even know quintillion was a word.  If insects decided to take over we would not stand a chance.

As much as they freak me out I can’t stand to squish a bug, I always feel so guilty.  They are pretty amazing creatures.  Except silverfish….I can’t stand silverfish.  ICK.

Amy Stewart explores the creepy crawly world of devilish and destructive bugs.  Bookworms were of particular interest to me as I am a librarian.  But the bullet ant (causes excruciating pain), the rat flea (did you know flea vomit is the true culprit in a plague epidemic?), Japanese beetles (deeply feared and loathed in the eastern U.S.) and the death watch beetle (Edgar Allan Poe refers to this one in his story “The Tell-Tale Heart”) were particularly intriguing.

Don’t get me started on the bed bug chapter…I just can’t…

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Also, it’s quite remarkable how many insects there are where the female eats the male after or during mating. The insect world is a bizarre and fantastical place to read about and Amy Stewart does a wonderful job in exploring their dark side.

Formats Available: Book, e-Book, Downloadable Audiobook, Playaway

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

A Study in Charlotte

studyncharlotteA Study in Charlotte is a retelling of Sherlock Holmes but with a twist. The two main characters who are teenagers are descendants (great-great- great children to be exact) of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Both Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson find themselves at the same Connecticut boarding school. The novel’s storyline has the premise that John Watson not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that wrote the Sherlock novels. Charlotte’s family is pretty much still famous as well as rich, while Jamie’s family has pretty much drifted into obscurity.

When a murder happens at their school that leaves both Jamie and Charlotte as prime suspects it’s up to Charlotte to clear their names and fast. The female Sherlock Holmes was surprisingly enjoyable twist. As a Sherlock Holmes purist I didn’t think that I would enjoy it. Charlotte Holmes still has the same quirks that Sherlock has that we know and love.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro brings Sherlock to a new generation of readers, as well as quite possibly introducing teenage girls to the detective genre. A Study in Charlotte shows teenage girls that they can be detectives as well as be interested in science. That they can be anything they put their minds to. Charlotte isn’t always the most likeable character but she does have her moments. The book ends with the loose ends tied up, but does leave the ending opened for a squeal.

Formats Available: Book

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Waiting for The Walking Dead

So you love The Walking Dead but it’s killing you that you have to wait until October for the new season, right?  Well, I’ve come across two really great graphic novel series that you may enjoy while you wait.

The first series, written by Robert Kirkman, is called Outcast. This series is focused on a man named Kyle Barnes who sees demons.  For a recent review by a fellow staff member, click here.

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These installments (currently the library has three volumes) fascinate me because the main threat comes from within people rather than from something external like the zombie apocalypse. Outcast is a complete contrast to The Walking Dead series but also shows that Kirkman is a great writer of horror graphics.

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The second series is Postal by Matt Hawkins. The main character, Mark Shiffron, lives in a town where not everything is quite as it seems. His mother, Mayor Shiffron wants Mark, a postal worker, to provide her with transcripts of all of the mail that enters the town. Seems legit, right? Mark, on the other hand, has Asperger’s and sees thing in a way that others don’t. Is this a good or bad thing?

I really recommend both series. Drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch