Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Austen/Bronte Bonnet Battles

Literature lovers have debated the respective merits of Jane Austen’s novels versus those of the Bronte sisters with fever-pitch fervor over the years. If you look at the fiction shelves of any library today, you’ll find many copies of the original works of all four authors. When it comes to spin-offs, however, Jane Austen wins hands-down. These novels range from stories like Jo Baker's Longbourn, which examines life below stairs at the Bennet home, to Stephanie Barron’s mystery series featuring Jane as an amateur lady detective.

It isn’t as if there haven’t been notable books inspired by the Brontes. Jean Rhys’ novel, The Wide Sargasso Sea, is acclaimed for her post-colonial, feminist interpretation of Edward Rochester’s first marriage to the madwoman in the attic. In general, however, fewer authors seem to be willing to take on adding new works to the stark, passionate worlds of the Bronte sisters. I suppose it’s hard to imagine Jane Eyre solving mysteries or any of the Bronte sisters settling servants’ quarrels in lives of leisure. So, it was exciting this year to see no less than four new works, all inspired by the Brontes. These novels are fun, fictional - and as varied as the Bronte sisters themselves.

The governess in Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele: A Confession doesn’t rage against the villains in her life – she murders them. Her charmingly gutsy orphan, inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s denunciations of critics who found the character Jane Eyre too independent, is determined not to be bound by hypocritical societal mores. Jane’s return to her childhood home at Highgate Hall opens up new avenues of intrigue, adventure and romance. Chris Columbus' 1492 Pictures has already picked up the movie rights to this darkly humorous tribute.

Author Tracy Chevalier challenged 20 of her female colleagues to use Jane Eyre’s most famous line as a springboard for original short stories. Reader, I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre, edited and introduced by Chevalier, includes more loosely-based contemporary interpretations as well as stories set in 19th century England. You’ll see some very well-known names in the list of contributing authors, including Audrey Niffenegger, Tessa Hadley, Jane Gardam,  and Emma Donoghue.


Samantha Whipple finds herself unable to escape the notoriety that comes with being the last surviving descendent of the Bronte family in Catherin Lowell’s debut novel, The Madwoman Upstairs. Her studies at Oxford’s Old College are complicated by rumors that she has inherited a secret stash of Bronte artifacts. Lowell packs in intrigue, humor, romance and a fair amount of literary analysis into this homage to Anne, the least well-known of the Bronte sisters.

Alison Case lets the long-suffering housekeeper of the original novel tell her side of the story in her debut novel, Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights. Nelly Dean spent her childhood as a companion to Hindley and Catherine but must take on the role of a servant soon after the wild orphan Heathcliff arrives. Despite personal betrayals and tragedy, Nelly remains witness to the emotional storms of the Earnshaw family.

-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Don't Let the Kids Have All the Fun!

You know what the end of school means? The summer reading programs at your local public library! This year, don't let the kids have all the fun. Many branches of Fairfax County Public Library also host summer reading programs for adults. Click here for a list of participating locations. Themes vary by branch, whether you "Book at Adventure" at Centreville or "Go for the Gold" at Lorton or "Celebrate Summer with Book Bingo" in Kingstowne. There will be prizes for all who turn in reading logs, but the real reward is plowing through your to-read list.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

9 Business Books for Your Summer To Read List

Summer may be a time for beach reading, but it can also be a time to catch up on important books that you’ve been meaning to read all year. For those who like to tackle heavier topics, these nine books about business and leadership are sure bets to provide worthy summer reading. In addition to books, Fairfax County Public Library has many business resources available to investors and small businesses. Click here for access to Morningstar, Value Line Research Center and many more online resources – free with your library card!"superforecasting"&srchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^Words or phrase&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=GENERAL&search_entries1=GENERAL&search_type1=SUBJECT&special_proc1=Words or phrase&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

The Wall Street Journal called this "The most important book on decision making since Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.""rise of the robots"&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=SERIES&search_entries1=TI&search_type1=TITLE&special_proc1=Title&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

What will the work force of the future look like? And more importantly what implications will this have for inequality and the consumer economy? business : women men work family /?bind_name=TITLE&library=ALL&user_id=WEBSERVER

The follow up to Slaughter's 2012 Atlantic article which went viral "Why Women Can't Have It All."{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER
You may be familiar with Cuddy because of her popular TED Talk about "power poses." Here is the Harvard Business School professor's latest research on performing at your best under pressure."how music got free"&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=SERIES&search_entries1=TI&search_type1=TITLE&special_proc1=Title&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER
A fast-paced read about how an entire industry was upended. Reviewers have compared Witt's writing style to that of Michael Lewis and Lawrence Wright."rising strong"&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=SERIES&search_entries1=TI&search_type1=TITLE&special_proc1=Title&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER
Learning from failure and making yourself vulnerable teaches us more about ourselves than our success, from the author of Daring Greatly."creativity inc"&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=SERIES&search_entries1=TI&search_type1=TITLE&special_proc1=Title&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER
“Just might be the best business book ever written." - Forbes. High praise for this book by Ed Catmull, one of the cofounders of Pixar Animation Studios."courage to act"&srchfield1=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper1=&thesaurus1=SERIES&search_entries1=TI&search_type1=TITLE&special_proc1=Title&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER
Former Federal Reserve chairman Bernake saw the Great Recession from a vantage few others did. Here is his explanation of how government policy makers worked to prevent an even worse financial disaster.{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER
Frankopan's sweeping history argues the global marketplace isn't a new phenomenon but has its roots in antiquity. To better understand our  Western economic situation, we should start by looking eastward.

--Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

If You Like...Harry Potter

Many of our readers have undoubtedly heard about the release of a new Harry Potter book next month on July 31 – the script of a stageplay called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, premiering in London this summer. Then there is the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie currently in production and set to premiere in November, along with a release of Rowling’s screenplay. The magic of Harry Potter is clearly still at large in our world today, a fact that makes many of the readers who grew up with the boy wizard and his friends thrilled and excited for both of these upcoming events. It can be difficult to find books that live up to the magic of Rowling’s series, but we have managed to scrounge up a few suggestions, if you’re tired of rereading the series (never!) or might like to branch out into other great fantasy stories:

The Lightning Catcher, Anne Cameron [JFIC CAM]
One of the great draws of the Harry Potter series is undoubtedly its main characters and his  relationships and interactions. The Lightning Catcher features a very similar trio of friends named Angus, Dougal and Indigo, who bond over their time spent as apprentices at the Perilous Exploratorium for Weather and Vicious Storms, studying dangerous weather and how to use their special abilities to protect the world from it – as well as those who would misuse that special knowledge and power…

A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin [JFIC LEG]
This novel was around long before Harry Potter began enthralling readers and is well worth a read. Ged, also known as Duny or Sparrowhawk, distinguishes himself among his siblings – no easy feat – with his aptitude for magic. I suspect he would have been sorted into Slytherin were he a Harry Potter character, because from an early age, he shows great strength and an ambition to learn as much as he can, enjoying the power for power’s sake. After he saves his village from attack using his magic, he is sent off to learn more still, first from a mentor, whose valuable lessons he can’t quite seem to master, then at the school on Roke, where his magical skill flourishes and his desire for power and greatness deepens. So begins his struggle to become the greatest sorcerer Earthsea has ever known and his battles with darkness and evil -- both within himself and around Earthsea.

Midnight for Charlie Bone, Jenny Nimmo [JFIC NIM]
Jenny Nimmo’s Charlie Bone series came out in the early 2000s, around the same time as the Harry Potter books and features another boy who abruptly shows an aptitude for magic, much to his grandmother’s relief and both his and his mother’s dismay. When Charlie starts hearing voices coming from photographs, he also stumbles upon the mysterious disappearance of a girl, now his age, from many years ago – a disappearance that may be connected to his new school, Bloor’s Academy. Charlie faces evil both within his own family and out in a world much wider than he had known before.

Legacies, Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill [YSF LAC]

Spirit White has led a relatively normal life so far – or as normal a life as she could, having been named Spirit and growing up with hippy parents. She is aware of stories like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings though she doesn’t, for even a second, believe that those stories could be even the slightest bit real – that is, until she finds herself suddenly orphaned and shipped off to Oakhurst Academy – an orphanage in Montana doubling as a school for magicians. Even there, though, her powers remain dormant despite her admittance and all of the classes and training she takes, focused on protecting herself from the evils that threaten her outside Oakhurst’s walls. But for all of its claims of protection and its Big-Brother-ish levels of knowledge about its inhabitants, Oakhurst hardly feels like a safe place itself…

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, Obert Skye [YSF SKY]
Like Harry, Leven Thumps has grown up in the care of a relative - who would really rather not have taken him in if anyone had cared to ask – complete with less than desirable sleeping arrangements and no real friends at school. But fate has marked him in ways Leven could not even begin to imagine and he soon finds himself on a journey to save Foo, the place where dreams and imagination live, from the evil Sabine and his shadows with the help of some rather unusual friends.

Have other recommendations for others who love Harry Potter? Don’t forget to leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

From the Pen Of...Amor Towles

Editor's Note: Amor Towles debut novel, The Rules of Civility, hit the New York Times bestseller list at No. 16. Want to know when his latest book, A Gentleman in Moscow, will be available through the library? Sign up for the Wowbrary newsletter to find out when this title, along with all the other newest books and movies the library has on order, is available to place on hold.

Before beginning Rules of Civility, you may want to pour yourself a dry martini heaped with olives, put Cole Porter on the gramophone, slip into something filmy and settle down on your chaise for a nostalgic romp through New York City in the late 1930s.

Katey Kontent is a girl on a mission. Katey is the daughter of Russian immigrants, now alone in the world. She begins her story as part of a secretarial pool at Quiggin & Hale, under the watchful eye of Miss Markham. But nighttime is a different story for Katey and her adventurous roommate, Eve, (a girl from one of the I states who was “bred with just the right amount of fresh air, roughhousing, and ignorance…looking like starlight with limbs”). The two of them set out on New Year’s Eve with three dollars in their pockets to take them through drinks and a 15-cent bacon and eggs breakfast at 3 a.m.. They end up meeting Tinker – a wealthy socialite – who promptly changes the trajectory of their modest lives. In the weeks to follow, the trio cavorts through the city, until a traffic accident halts their antics and Eve is left injured, scarred, but not chastened, leaving Katey and Tinker pick up the pieces of their lives.

As Katey threads her way through relationships, jobs and eventual marriage, the novel caroms from shopping trips to Bendel’s, to parties in luxurious mansions on Oyster Bay, to the French Rivera, to Adirondack camps, to dives in back alleys, to the Marx brother movies, to the glitter of Conde Nast – always sipping the rarefied champagne air of rich pre-war society. With shades of Gatsby and Holly Golighty, the landscape is peopled with characters like Anne the mysterious “godmother” of Tinker who appears at the edges of every activity directing it all with a steel-magnolia essence; Tinker who is always striving; Wallace, a wealthy socialite who stutters, possesses a magnificent gun collection and a listening heart; good-hearted Dickey, the ultimate playboy; Eve, lately of Hollywood who prefers life on the “other side of the windshield” and, of course, Katey, the moral center around whom these lives swirl. Chance encounters and surprises pop up around many a boulevard and “that’s how quickly New York City comes about – like a weather vane – or the head of a cobra. Time tells which.”

The novel dances with rapier dialogue, humor, intelligence and charm. It is a love song, a melting ice cream cone as well as an electric bolt of wisdom. And over it all reigns George Washington’s Rules of Civility a slim volume of 110 directives, aspiring the wandering Tinker as he tracks down life.

And it is a treat for us all who with Mr. George Washington’s Rule #110 - “Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library