Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baker Street Revisited...again and again and again

Christmas Day brings a new Sherlock Holmes movie to theaters everywhere. Starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson it has the atmosphere of Conan Doyle’s Victorian London coupled with the enhancement of modern movie action technology. As readers know, however, movie-makers are not the only ones still fascinated by the enigmatic character of Sherlock Holmes.

It seems that every author who admired (or even read?) the works of Arthur Conan Doyle decided to try his or her hand at a Sherlock Holmes story. Some are written about Holmes himself or Holmes and Watson, closely following the path set down by Conan Doyle.

Two interesting examples of this type are The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr and The Revenge of the Hound by Michael Hardwick. Other authors introduce Holmes to characters that did not appear in the original works, such as Jack the Ripper (Dust and Shadow by Lindsay Faye) or Sigmund Freud (The Seven Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer). Mitch Cullin offers his vision of how Holmes might react to the losses of frail old age in A Slight Trick of the Mind.

Some authors have quite successfully developed a series around a minor character from Arthur Conan Doyle’s work (the Irene Adler series by Carol Nelson Douglas) or created a new character that fits quite comfortably into Holmes’ world (the Mary Russell series by Laurie King).
Sometimes an author creates stories involving Arthur Conan Doyle which emphasize his character traits and interests (The List of 7 by Mark Frost) or attempt to explain how the characters of Holmes and Watson came about (The Patient’s Eyes by David Pirie). In Holmes on the Range, Steve Hockensmith describes how the Holmes stories influence two cowboy-detectives in the Old West. I n another novel, The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson, it is Holmes’ famous address that initiates the action of the story.

There are numerous anthologies of Holmes short stories, such as The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (Marvin Kaye, ed.) and The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Greenberg and Waugh, eds.)

Young readers have not been forgotten by writers such as Shane Peacock with the Boy Sherlock Holmes series or Nancy Springer who gives us the adventures of Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft.

While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, such efforts can range from very good to just plain silly. However, as Arthur Conan Doyle himself discovered, you just can’t kill off Sherlock Holmes. I hope he also realized that some ideas deserve a very, very long life. Long live Holmes and Watson!

Next time you stop by the Warrenton Library, check out the display of Sherlock Holmes related titles. You're sure to find a good read for your holiday.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Give the gift of reading

In my family I have become known as the "book aunt" because I often give books as gifts at baby showers, birthday parties and, of course, Christmas. I love giving books as gifts, not just because I'm a librarian and I whole heartedly believe in the power of great books in our lives, but because I can remember very fondly how much I loved getting books as gifts myself as a child.

I am part of a large family with several siblings much older than I. Once those siblings were out of the house and married they often provided me with books and magazines as Christmas and birthday gifts. I passed down to my own daughters the copies of Heidi, The Five Little Peppers, Black Beauty and Hans Brinker that one sister gave me as a set one year. I still have many of the Golden Books that I received as a child from aunts and uncles. And I must admit that as a teen, I absconded from another sister her copy of Madame Bovary that she received from the same elder sister in the set of classics. (I returned it to her several years ago so her set of classics is once again complete.)

I have always loved magazine subscriptions and give and get them as gifts each year. My first subscription was National Wildlife Magazine. Oh the excitement each month when that glossy cover appeared in the mailbox!

Probably the book that I poured over most thoroughly was a large sized, annotated edition of Swiss Family Robinson. I have always loved trivia and tid bits of information to accompany text. This book filled many hours for me as I read the classic tale and soaked up the definitions, illustrations and other information found in the margins.

If you need help finding books and magazines to give to the special people in your life, our librarians have prepared some quick pick lists to help you select books for children, teens or adults. Or talk to our librarians in person. They are always happy to help you find just the right book for giving a gift that can last a lifetime.

By the way, if you purchase your books, or any items for that matter, from Amazon.com through the library's Wowbrary account, a portion of the sales are contributed to the library at no extra cost to you. So consider giving a gift to a loved one and to the library at the same time.

Happy Holidays.
Dawn @ Warrenton

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If you haven't read Romeo and Juliet lately ...

Many of us have read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, most likely when we were teenagers in high school. Have you considered reading that play again today? Give it a try and you will be amazed at how different the play seems to you at 30 or at 60.

You will find several copies of Romeo and Juliet at the library. If you have trouble understanding the language in the play, you might try reading it with a friend and taking parts, or listening to it on CD. Your family and friends might enjoy watching the play together on DVD.

If you want to know more about the social and political situation at the time Shakespeare was writing or about the impact of his work on western literature you might want to read Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, or listen to the lecture series Shakespeare, the Word and the Action.

Then ... be sure to go see a Shakespeare play whenever it is presented locally. In Virginia and D.C. there are some good choices for enjoying Shakespeare on stage. Shakespeare at the Ruins. The Folger Theatre. The Shakespeare Theatre.

If you enjoy reading Shakespeare and would like to talk about what you have read with other people in your community, consider joining the Great Books reading and discussion group. For more information about this group and the current reading schedule please contact Jeanne Day (540) 347-8750, ext. 6.

Jeanne @ Warrenton

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Native Americans in literature

November marks Native American Heritage month – a time to celebrate the rich tapestry of Native American culture and influence.

A few years back, my family visited the National Museum of the American Indian in DC. The museum is wonderful (being of Native American descent, my father pored over all things Cherokee), and the museum restaurant, which serves authentic Native American fare, delights the senses.

For the adventuresome cook, you may want to try Spirit of the Harvest by Martin Jacobs and Beverly Cox with over 150 authentic Native American dishes.

If you are short on time, as many of us are, short stories are an excellent way to enjoy literature in manageable “snippets.” The Singing Spirit edited by Bernd Peyer is a collection of early short stories by Native Americans. The Portable North American Indian Reader edited by Frederick Turner offers a sampling of Native American myths, tales and poetry.

Though Dee Brown is not of Native American descent, he wrote prolifically about the Native Americans. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, his most famous work, is an essential history of the Native Americans of the American West. Note that Brown was a librarian to boot!

Another worthwhile nonfiction selection is On the Rez by Ian Frazier. It is a hard-hitting read centered around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It’s funny in some places, inspirational in others, and heartbreaking in still other places, especially the section about the high school girls’ basketball tournament.

For those who prefer fiction, Louise Erdrich’s classic Love Medicine is a multi-generational saga that takes place on a Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. If you are looking for something a little different but reminiscent of old favorites, she also has a children’s trilogy that includes The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, and The Porcupine Year. It takes place around the same time as the Little House books, and the series has been likened to a Native American version of Little House on the Prairie.

Nightwing by Martin Cruz Smith is a good thriller. The story features a young Native American as the investigator, who, returning to his reservation, must determine if there is a connection between the death of a telephone lineman, a Hopi Medicine man, and apparent attacks by vampire bats. Smith is also the author of the Arkady Renko series, the first novel of which is Gorky Park.

Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, won the Young Reader’s Division of the National Book Award with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a coming of age story about Junior, a reservation teen in contemporary America. In the face of anger and resentment from his friends and family, underdog Junior pursues a better education off “the rez” at an all-white high school in a neighboring town where he falls in love, finds friendship, and becomes a basketball legend. Full of contrasts, (and not for the squeamish) this book is unabashedly realistic; by turns violent and hopeful, raunchy and poetic, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny.

Storytelling is central to the Native American way of life as it is used to entertain, teach lessons and preserve history. Our Stories Remember by Joseph Bruchac explores American Indian history, culture, and values through storytelling.

While the library offers folktales from numerous tribes, I am particularly drawn to the Cherokee tales. My great-grandmother was full Cherokee and my great-grandfather was half Cherokee. The First Strawberries, also by Bruchac, discusses the Cherokee folk legend of why strawberries were created. Told in a picture book format, the lush illustrations are just lovely, as is the touching story. We always had a strawberry patch growing up at my grandparents’ house.

Natalie@ Bealeton

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good time to revisit scary stories

I will admit, Halloween is not my favorite holiday. However, it is a good time to revisit all those scary stories I read many years ago. Below are some of my favorite scary, and, perhaps thought-provoking stories.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote some of the scariest short stories I’ve ever read. My personal favorite is The Cask of Amontillado, in which a man is buried alive behind a brick wall. This one is not for the claustrophobic! Another good Poe story is The Pit and the Pendulum, a story about a man imprisoned and tortured during the Spanish Inquisition.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, best known for his haunting novels such as The Scarlet Letter, also wrote many short stories. Two of his most disturbing stories are The Minister’s Black Veil and Earth’s Holocaust.

Another scary short story is Stephen King’s Battleground, found in the Night Shift anthology. It tells the story of Renshaw, a professional hit man who is attacked and killed by an army of toy soldiers.

Susan Beth Pfeffer’s books Life As We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone are frightening in a different way. From the points of view of two very different teenagers, one in Pennsylvania and one in New York City, the books tell of an asteroid hitting the moon and the devastation this causes on earth.

Finally, my all-time favorite ghost story is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It may not be very scary, but it always makes me think and reflect on what is important in life. I hope you enjoy these selections, and Happy Halloween!

Vicky @ Warrenton

Monday, October 19, 2009

Getting into the Halloween spirit

Halloween has always been my daughter’s favorite holiday. She seems to love the spooky, magical, be-something-that-you’re-not atmosphere. Many of us, however, might need a little help to get into the spirit of the season. Below are some reading suggestions for getting into the Halloween spirit.

If traditional mysteries are your cup of tea, try Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie or Skinwalkers by Tony Hillerman. For something out of the ordinary consider Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore or The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.

Deborah Grabien’s Haunted Ballad series combines an interesting ensemble of characters with English traditional music and haunted historic buildings in London and the English countryside. The first title in this series is The Weaver and the Factory Maid.

For a new telling of the Dracula story, try The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (also available on CD, in large print, and in Spanish). Leslie Klinger’s New Annotated Dracula provides lots of interesting information about Bram Stoker and the continuing fascination with his literary creation.

Finally, this is the best time of the year to re-read the American classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving in multiple formats. From the headless horseman to Hercule Poirot, reading can add to the enjoyment of the season. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mystery series writers

Some authors write books in a series, some write stand-alones, some write both. Some write more than one series and some prolific authors write multiple series and stand-alones in more than one genre.

Some authors have been writing their series for a long time (Marcia Muller began the Sharon McCone series with Edwin of the Iron Shoes in 1977), and some not so long (Louise Penny began the Three Pines series with Still Life in 2005).

Anyone who is the fan of a long-running series has entered into a special relationship with the author and at least one of the characters in the books. In some cases we come to know more about the lives of a series character than we know about some members of our own family. Our relationship with the author is one of expectation and anticipation. Usually, they never seem to write fast enough, with the possible exception of J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts.

In celebration of this year’s Mystery Series Week, Oct. 4-10, members of the Warrenton Library Mystery Book Club invite you to try one of their favorite mystery/thriller series.

Here are the top 10 favorites, by author, series name or character and first title in the series.

  1. Nevada Barr (Anna Pigeon) Track of the Cat

  2. M C Beaton (Hamish MacBeth) Death of a Gossip

  3. Lee Child (Jack Reacher) Killing Floor

  4. Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch) Black Echo

  5. Deborah Crombie (Kincaid and James) A Share in Death

  6. Diane Mott Davidson (Goldy culinary series) Catering to Nobody

  7. Elizabeth George (Lynley and Havers) A Great Deliverance

  8. Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone) A is for Alibi

  9. Martha Grimes (Richard Jury) The Man with a Load of Mischief

  10. Anne Perry (William Monk) Face of a Stranger

The Mystery Book Club always welcomes new members. We meet at noon the third Thursday of each month at the John Barton Payne Building.

Maryellen @ Warrenton

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plan your fall reading

I dont' know about you, but I don't get as much reading done in the summer as I'd like. It seems like summers are always packed with outdoor activities to enjoy, gardening to do, picnics and parties to attend, and of course a stay-cation to get some things done around the house.

So now that things are winding down, I have a few really good books to share. They have no particular connection to one another except that they are all by female authors.

The first is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. This is Morton's second novel and I've been telling everyone I know about it. The plot moves at a good pace -- fast enough to keep you interested but slow enough to develop the characters. Plus the story takes place in three different time frames, so you really have to pay attention to where you are in the characters' lives. It's the story of a family history lost and rediscovered.

Having enjoyed Kate Morton's book so much, I just started her other novel, The House at Riverton, which was actually her first novel. It is promising to be just as enjoyable as The Forgotten Garden.

After reading The Forgotten Garden I read The Book of Bright Ideas by Sandra Kring. While I wasn't crazy about the way this book ended ... it has a pretty typical type of ending ... the characters in the story made it well worth the read. I don't want to give away the story, but 9-year-olds Winnalee and Button and their family members are great fun getting to know.

After that I dove into The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, the story juxtaposes the lives of middle and upper middle class white women and the black maids who take care of the white families. Important to the story are the changes in society as they reflect the changes in the lives of two maids, Minnie and Aibilene, and one young, privileged white woman, Skeeter.

Finally, I just finished The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory. For any fan of historical fiction, Gregory is a real treat. In this, the first installment of a new series about the Plantagenets, Gregory focuses on the ambitious Elizabeth Woodville, who marries Edward IV, and the mysterious disappearance of her two sons and heirs to the throne. After her book The Other Boleyn Girl (also a good read) was made into a movie, we've seen an increase in the popularity of her books.

Happy fall reading. Dawn S. @ Warrenton

Mary Cassatt's Woman Reading (oil on canvas,32-1/4x23-1/2 inches) is exhibited at the JoslynArt Museum in Omaha, Nebraska.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Go 'fishing' at the library

A wise patron once told me, "coming in to the library is kinda like fishing ... once in a while, you need to try different spots."

Read historical fiction? Like Steve Berry's The Romanov Prophecy? If so, visit the children's area of the library and pick up the biography Anastasia. In addition to the text you'll enjoy the pictures of everything just described.

(The children's section is a great area that many adults never explore. There everything is in condensed form with the added bonus of lots and lots of pictures. So, if you are a visual person, like I am, you'll love it there - all the facts without all the adult verbosity.)

I recommend The Wayward Muse, which is about the life of William Morris and the start of the Arts and Crafts movement in Great Britain. Then go to the nonfiction section and the oversized shelves, too, and pick through to your heart's content the books of Morris' designs and the photo books of his homes in England, his wallpaper and fabric designs - everything described in The Wayward Muse.

Check out Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright and his coming to the forefront in the world of architecture, then go, again to the nonfiction section, to see books of his buildings. And don't forget to check on related DVDs.

It's like one giant string all around the library where everything is connected ... and, sometimes, you are lead to "fish in another spot."

Happy fishing! Kathryn @ Warrenton

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Southern belles rejoice!

This summer brings new books from two of my favorite southern authors: Pat Conroy and Rebecca Wells.

Pat Conroy's South of Broad just arrived at the library. From what I have heard, you'll want to keep the tissues handy. He wrote Beach Music (one of my all time favorites) and Prince of Tides. The library has this newest title in book form and on CD. There is also an excellent article about Conroy and the city of Charleston in the August Southern Living, one of the many periodicals the library carries.

Rebecca Wells new title is The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder. (If that is not a southern name, I don't know what is.) Wells is also the author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, available at the library in book and on CD.

So reserve your titles now so you don't have a long wait for these. In the mean time, search for other southern novels under keyword "Women Southern States Fiction." Or you might consider choosing something by Cassandra King (Pat Conroy's wife), or my all time favorite author, Kaye Gibbons (Charms for the Easy Life and Ellen Foster).

Enjoy your southern summer reading.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When you can't travel, read about traveling

Sometimes when I can't get away, I soothe the travel bug by reading about traveling, or about exotic places, or simply something that puts my head in a different "space."

I read travel guides when I'm planning a trip, and the library has tons of them, but when I don't have a trip planned, I choose another kind of book to escape into - books about places I'd like to go to, or, books about a places I know I'm never going to go to because I'm not brave enough.

Some of the titles below are nonfiction, but many are fiction. These aren't listed by call number or genre - they are just books I enjoyed. These are not the latest titles to come out either - many have been around for awhile. Not all, but some of these, are slightly irreverent. Finally, be aware that I have a high tolerance for fudging the truth when it comes to entertainment - I'm one of those people "who never lets the truth get in the way of a good story." (There is a theatrical term for this type of audience acceptance, but I can't remember what it is called - someone remind me please.)

First some oldies: You may know about Mutant Message Down Under, an interesting spiritual journey as well as a fascinating take on Aborigines in Austrailia. Be prepared, just for fun, to accept the author's reality on this one if you haven't read it.

You may have read the popular Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (quite different than the movie) and Peter Mayles' A Good Year. If you like this ilk, check out Mayles' Hotel Pastis, a fun novel about opening a hotel in Provence (some day I'm going to try a pastis, a anise-flavored liqueur popular in France) or try Mayes' Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style from the Heart of Italy if you love beautiful interiors. If you like these titles, you might also like A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance by Marlene de Blasi. It's very romantic - I loved it.

I love books that combine travel (travel in this case is going away from where you usually are) with romance, self-actualization or spiritual growth. A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson is such a book, and it has two other elements I like: nature and the sea.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India & Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert is another such book, but it's more adventurous. (Did I mention I like adventure, armchair or otherwise?) I went to India a couple of years ago, so Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald was a fun read too, although the language, especially in the beginning of the book, may put some people off.

I'm getting long-winded so, except for an occasional aside, I'll just say the following titles are books I've read and enjoyed. While not all are travel books per se, they come under the category of "places I'm not," so they interested or changed me somehow.

My Kind of Place: Travel Stories From a Woman Who's Been Everywhere by Susan Orlean (but I really liked The Orchid Thief better, not a travel story but a true story/adventure about a fascinating character. This was also made into a movie that was very different from the book.)

Educating Alice by Alice Steinbach

The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh

In Beauty May She Walk: Hiking the Appalachian Trail at 60 by Leslie Mass (I'm currently reading this.)

A Woman Alone: Travel Tales from Around the Globe a collection of stories of intrepid women traveling solo. I really loved this book and it's a good way to get a sampling of some wonderful women journalists. The library doesn't own this one, I bought it in an airport, but if you want to buy it at Amazon.com, use this link and the library will get a small donation at no extra cost to you. In fact, you can bookmark this link and use it for anything you buy from Amazon.
Finally, here are some titles on my "To Read" list (would love feedback on any of these):

Life of Pi: A Novel by Yann Martel

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If you like Jane Austen ...

Jane Austen is one of the most beloved authors of all time. Her mixture of romance and wit has enchanted readers over the past 200 years.

Amanda Grange has created five novels based on Jane Austen’s most popular works. They are in the form of diaries written from the male hero’s perspective. Many sequels and spinoffs have been written over the years; however, this series remains gloriously true to the original stories.

If you love Jane Austen’s books, you will love this series!

Click on the Amanda Grange titles below (on left) and/or the corresponding Jane Austen titles (on right) to check availability or to place a hold:

Monday, July 13, 2009

If you like Harry Potter...

With the next installment in the Harry Potter series coming to movie theaters this week, like a host of others, I decided to re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince so that when I view the movie, I'll be up on all the details...even those they leave out of the movie. I must say that I enjoyed the book just as much this go round as I did the other 2 (or is it 3?) times that I have read it.
Whether you are young or just young at heart, the Harry Potter series is entertaining, well written, and has the classic good vs. evil plot line that many of us find so appealing. But once you have read and re-read the Potter series, what next?

Fortunately, the Library has a great list of Harry Potter read-alikes that includes books for readers of all ages. If you like books in series check out Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Baron, Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce or His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. And of course, if you haven't read Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings series or C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, this might be just the perfect read (or re-read) for you at the moment.

Happy Reading.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Motorcycling in Virginia

I have to admit, three years ago when my husband decided to buy a motorcycle, I was not an enthusiastic supporter of the idea. However, over the course of time, as I’ve gained more experience as the passenger on the back of his Harley, I’ve grown beyond being terrified, or nervous or even bored to enjoying the scenery that passes by and the breeze that keeps you cool even on hot summer days.

Our favorite rides are at low speeds along many of the beautiful country roads that can be found throughout Virginia. We particularly love riding Skyline Drive, where the speed limit is 35 miles an hour, the curves gentle, and the flora and fauna spectacular virtually any time of the year.

For more information about motorcycling in Virginia and West Virginia check out Motorcycle Adventures in the Central Appalachians for great rides in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia Highlands. This book by Hawk Hagebak provides detailed information for riding in specific areas, including the distance, time it will take and great places to stop along the way to sight see or have a meal.

Other books available at the library with good information about roadways and scenic places are
Blue Ridge Roadways: A Field Guide to Cultural Sites by M. Anna Farielle
The Shenandoah Valley Book: A Complete Guide by Joan Leotta
Off the Beaten Path: Virginia by Judy Colbert

Other materials on Motorcycling Safety and the History of Motorcycles are also available at the Fauquier County Public Library.

Have a safe ride. Dawn @ Warrenton