Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seven Classic Horror Books for Penny Dreadful Fans

Looking for the perfect book to curl up with this Halloween? Fans of television’s Penny Dreadful, a Victorian gothic mashup, appreciate just how spooky a classic horror story can be. If you’ve already read the major gothic thrillers – from Dracula and Frankenstein on to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - no worries. We have lots of other unnerving suggestions for Halloween night. You might be surprised to see how many great horror films and shows were inspired by books. So wait for your neighborhood goblins and ghouls to retire, turn the lights down low and immerse yourself in a classic tale of horror and fright.

Shirley’ Jackson’s 1959 modern classic explores the subtle, yet terrifying powers unleashed when an unlikely team of investigators attempts to document the existence of paranormal forces in The Haunting of Hill House.

In Susan Hill’s Victorian-style thriller, a young solicitor is sent to settle a client’s affairs at an eerie and isolated manor, where he is haunted by the spectral apparition of The Woman in Black.

The inspiration for the hit podcast and book Welcome to Night Vale, H. P. Lovecraft upended the horror genre with his unsettling blend of sci fi and the supernatural.

Jay Anson’s 1977 nonfiction account of the ordeals the Lutz family experienced moving into a home in Long Island was the inspiration for the classic film the Amityville Horror.

When a young couple moves into an antiquated New York apartment building, the pregnant wife soon begins to wonder about their neighbors’ uncanny behavior in Ira Levin’s novel Rosemary’s Baby.

The reader must decide the truth of a tale of a governess's attempt to battle the evil forces threatening her charges in Henry James’ novella, The Turn of the Screw.

Leslie S. Klinger has gathered together short stories, including one of the very first vampire tales, by horror greats like Sheridan Le Fanu and M. R. James in the anthology In the shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: classic tales of horror, 1816-1914.
-Rebecca Wolff, Centreville Regional Library

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Graphic Novel Memoirs for Adults

While sometimes disparaged as “comic books,” memoirs in graphic novel form can be literary and sophisticated and even rise to the level of classics, as is the case with Art Spiegelman’s spellbinding Maus. After a few pages of adjustment to the format, one easily becomes captivated by the visuals that contribute to the mood and details of the storyline. Below are some popular titles grouped by theme.

[Adult memoirs and biographies in graphic novel format are shelved alphabetically by the subject’s name in your library’s biography section.]

Health and Illness


Epileptic, David B.
This unique, artistic memoir reveals how the author sought refuge in his imaginative drawings as a way of coping with his brother’s frightening epilepsy.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me, Ellen Forney
Forney writes of her struggle as an artist with mental illness, drawing inspiration from famous artists of the past who also had mood disorders.

Cancer Vixen: A True Story , Marisa Marchetto
About to marry for the first time at age 43, Marchetto found a lump in her breast that spurred a survival journey bolstered by love and humor.

Stitches: A Memoir, David Small
Drawing helped this award-winning illustrator through a difficult boyhood with his depressed mother and busy physician father, especially after childhood cancer took his voice.

Politics and History

Persepolis, Persepolis 2, Chicken with Plums, and Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi
Growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and her years as a young adult in Europe have given comic artist Satrapi a wealth of material for her gripping work.

Maus I and Maus II, Art Spiegelman
Spiegelman creates an unforgettable account of his Jewish father’s survival in Nazi-occupied Europe, depicting Germans as cats and Jews as mice.

Growing Up and Coming-of-Age

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic and Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, Alison Bechdel
Bechdel paints a modern, gothic tale of coming of age within her family’s funeral home business and the realization she’s the lesbian daughter of a gay father.

An Age of License, Displacement, and French Milk, Lucy Knisley
Knisley’s cartoonish travelogues express the musings and angst of a twenty-something explorer.

Blankets, Craig Thompson
Coming of age in a fundamentalist Christian household, Thompson’s struggles with romance and faith unfold against the backdrop of a quilt made by his girlfriend and the snowy Midwestern landscape.

--Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Get Your Vote On

Election Day is approaching quickly and librarians across the county are busy answering questions ranging from “Where do I mail my absentee ballot?” to “How does the electoral college work anyway?” As county residents gear up to cast their votes Tuesday, November 8, we want to make sure you have the resources and information you need. So get ready, get the facts and get your vote on!

And for that Electoral College 101? The answer to almost every question you could think of is available on the National Archives and Records Administration US Electoral College FAQ page.

Where, When and How to Vote

Fairfax County Office of Elections has all the important dates and information county residents need to make sure they are ready on Election Day.

Residents of other counties in Virginia can use the handy Virginia Voter Information webpage from the Virginia Department of Elections to locate information for their county.

The Resources for Voters page from the United States Election Assistance Commission and the Voting and Elections page on the website have a plethora of resources on voting information nationwide, including voter guides and resources for military and overseas voters.

Where To Get Your Facts Checked 
Votesmart’s mission is “to provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials" and does not accept donations from special interest groups or organizations and corporations that are politically active. You can view a variety of information, ranging from voting records and issue positions to campaign funding.

GovTrack.US identifies itself as a completely independent entity, receiving no outside funding, whose mission is “to track the United States Congress and help Americans understand what is going on in their national legislature.” You can view the voting records and bills sponsored by elected officials, as well as track bills through the legislative process.

Politifact, operated by the Tampa Bay Times and other media affiliates, researches “statements from members of Congress, the President and presidential candidates, Cabinet secretaries and lobbyists and then rates them for accuracy.” It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. is a “nonpartisan, nonprofit, consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It's a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

Looking for voting information with a local slant? The Voter’s Guide of the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area has both national and local election information, including a non-partisan Voters' Guide for the 2016 Presidential Elections and a personalized voter ballot tool.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

If You Like Girl on the Train

First there was Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Then came Paula Hawkins’s Girl on the Train, which many readers will be re-experiencing in theaters this month. There are many factors that contribute to the gripping success of stories like these - an intriguing plot, beautifully crafted sentences, good marketing. One of the factors that make these particular titles successful is their author’s narrative choices in writing them. They are suspenseful stories made even more suspenseful by an unreliable narrator. Readers don’t know who or what to believe about what has happened – or even what is happening – at any given point in the story. Many of the novels listed below tell stories that are driven by that same narrative decision and will have you attempting to piece together a story that eludes you with each page turn, as you hope to discover what is true before you reach that last, blank page.

The Pocket Wife – Susan Crawford - The Pocket Wife is probably the most similar book to Girl on the Train on this list. Dana was drinking the day her neighbor was murdered – and she was probably the last person to have seen her. Add to this uncertainty, her mental instability as she struggles with bipolar disorder and lacks trust in the choices she may have made that day. It doesn’t help that she suspects her husband may be cheating on her, nor do the questions of the detective who has voluntarily taken on her case, for reasons of his own…

Before I Go to Sleep – S.J. Watson - At age 57, Christine has experienced much in her life; the only problem is that she can’t remember most of it, after a tragic accident leaves her long-term memories largely inaccessible, and her short-term memories in existence for only as long as she is awake. Luckily, she has a husband, Ben, of over 20 years, taking care of her day after day in spite of the difficulties her memory loss presents. But why is she seeing a doctor who has counseled her to keep her visits a secret from that same husband? And why has she written not to trust Ben in the journal that she keeps as part of her treatment?

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey - “Elizabeth is missing,” Maude will tell anyone who will listen - she is sure of it. The problem in this novel is that Maude is an elderly woman with dementia, frustrated because no one believes her though she knows that her friend has mysteriously disappeared, just as her sister, Sukie, did years ago when she was young. Throughout the book, her sister’s unsolved disappearance weighs heavily on her mind as she investigates the disappearance of Elizabeth. If only she could hold on to snatches of memories long enough to fit all of the pieces together or just get someone to believe her…

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart - If the title is to be believed, you should begin reading this novel with the understanding that you’re probably being lied to. It’s been a while since Cadence has joined her family on their private island over the summer, and she has a feeling that something terrible happened the last time she was here. But she doesn’t remember, though she is told that she has been told, and her family has stopped trying to tell her. Can she finally face the truth amid the island’s familiarity as it triggers her memories from that summer?

Ninth Life of Louis Drax – Liz Jensen - Young Louis Drax has not had a very easy life: he has had more accidents and near-misses with death than his mother cares to count. Most people believe him to be disturbed and he knows it – and sometimes embraces it. Then, one day, while on what was supposed to be a nice family picnic, Louis Drax has a particularly bad accident – one his mother doesn’t believe was really an accident. And the only two people who can tell what really happened that day are Louis, who miraculously survives but is comatose, and his father, who is missing. If either of them are able or willing to tell the truth by the last page…

Have other recommendations for others who love Girl on the Train? 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