Wednesday, March 30, 2016

William Krueger explains why he visits libraries in out-of-the way places

Why Libraries?

Tomorrow, I’ll drive almost three hundred miles to present a program at a library in Ponca, Nebraska, a town with a population of less than a thousand people. At a recent signing, a guy who’d seen the event calendar on my website asked me, as if I was crazy, “Why would a New York Times bestselling author bother to go to a small burg like that?” The line of people waiting to have books signed was long, so I gave him a quick, rather flip answer: “Because they asked me.”

Really, it’s a question that deserves a more considered response.

These days I do about a hundred book events every year. A very large percentage take place in small libraries in rural communities. Towns with names like Vinton, Black River Falls, Spirit Lake, Eagle Butte, Hallock. Places most of you have never heard of and most generally with populations less than five thousand. Places that take me several hours to reach, often by backroads. Although I have a pretty good following and reputation, it’s not uncommon to discover that some of the folks who are there have never heard of me before. They come because having a real live author at their library is an event as rare as a two-headed calf.

So why spend all this time and energy, which might be channeled instead into writing more books, visiting places that are barely even dots on a map? Part of it is, in fact, the flip answer I gave the guy in the signing line: I do it because I’m invited, and I have a difficult time saying no. Part of it is that I usually ask for an honorarium. It’s a pretty modest amount, all things considered, and I donate every cent of it to the Native community in Minnesota. Part of it is that I can never resist an opportunity to talk about myself. 

But at heart, the reason is that I believe there’s no better mechanism for ensuring a free and democratic society than our public libraries.

Libraries are nothing less than the archives of our culture. These are the places that house the books that guide us to an understanding of who we were and where we came from, help us make sense of who we are now, and maybe point the way to who we might become. When our libraries and librarians are gone, with them goes everything we are as a people.

Free and open access to knowledge is an essential right in a democracy. Keeping our libraries alive and vital is as important to our freedom as anything spelled out in our Constitution.

So I drive thousands of miles every year and hope that in this way, maybe I’m helping the health of libraries, maybe giving back a little of what, over my lifetime, they’ve given me. But I confess, that another reason I go is that an event at a rural library is often accompanied by a potluck supper. And who can resist a good Midwest potluck?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Chantal Reviews: The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

Chantal Reviews: The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter: As a teenager, Jane lost a child in her charge, Lily, and her life has never been the same. After the incident in t he woods, Jane's l...


Sunday, March 27, 2016

The World Before Us, Part 2 (continued)

After making a spectacle of herself by slapping an author she hardly knows, Jane flees to a bed and breakfast near Ingleside. The ghosts know what she's doing:

This, we thought, is how you reinvent yourself. This is how you disappear.

Going off the map and pretending to be someone else, Jane works on her old thesis topic. Instead of just researching the asylum's record taking, she wants to solve the mystery of N., the Victorian girl who disappeared.

While researching the Farrington records and the Whitmore's records, she embarks on an hasty affair with a younger man, a gardener working on the restoration of Ingleside. 

Though this book is ostensibly about missing persons, it's not really a suspenseful thriller; its a thoughtful, lyrical book that explores how trauma in someone's past can paralyze and destroy their present. 

For more books with themes that involve missing children, try Gilly Macmillan's What She Knew, Kate Hamer's The Girl in the Red Coat, or Amanda Eyre Ward's How to be Lost.

For another narrative set in England about ghosts and museums, try Kate Mosse's The Taxidermist's Daughter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter

As a teenager, Jane lost a child in her charge, Lily, and her life has never been the same. After the incident in t he woods, Jane's life is divided into "before" and "after."

In graduate school, Jane is interested in the strange disappearance of a girl from a nearby Victorian lunatic asylum. Strangely, the girl disappears nearly one hundred years before but in the same woods where Lily disappeared. 

The other two escapees from the asylum are found, but the girl, named N. is never found. No records exist for N. which intrigues Jane.

Hunter stretched the boundaries of fiction with her point-of-view choices. Since Jane is an archivist for the Chester Museum, disembodied voices or ghosts are drawn to her. Readers get to hear these voices who remember some faces and incidents from their past but not their names.

Will these voices lead Jane to find out what happened to Lily and N.?

Wherever Jane goes she's an outsider. She does nothing to assert herself until she slaps a man who has affronted her. The man happens to be the father of the Lily, William Eliot.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Become a follower or subscribe to this blog.

Become a follower or subscribe to posts from this blog. Follow by adding your email to the right. Subscribe to posts on the right as well.

I put a lot of thought and time into this blog. I review mostly women's fiction that has a supernatural or gothic bent but I review other genres too.

Happy reading!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler

The novel is a book lover's dream. A bookseller sends Simon a vintage book in the mail. The book, Peabody's Menagerie, has information about Simon's relatives who used to work as circus performers.

Simon comes from a long line of "mermaids," women who are able to hold their breath for a preternaturally long length of time. Simon's grandmother and mother were both "mermaids" who tragically ended their lives.

While Simon's sister, Enola, insists that the women were simply sad, Simon believes something sinister is involved.

After being let go from his library position, Simon becomes obsessed with repairing his childhood home. The home, on the edge of cliff, is in danger of being condemned.

While the contemporary story has its interesting moments, the backstory is much more enthralling. Amos, a feral and mute boy, finds comfort and success in Peabody's traveling circus in eighteenth-century America.

Just as soon as Madame Rhzhkoza claims him as her assistant and son, he falls for Evangeline, a "mermaid," employed by Peabody.  Like Simon she is a "breath holder," who can hold her breath for an inordinate amount of time. 

Simon begins to wonder if the circus's past has effected his family's future. Did Madame Rhzhkoza's curse doom the female members of him family and possibly himself?

If you like this book you may also enjoy Menagerie by Rachel Vincent.