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I had been in a historical fiction reading slog when I stumbled on a new magical fantasy novel that transported me to a charmed island full of strange and extraordinary children. T. J. Thune’s new book, The House in the Cerulean Sea was both heartwarming and hopeful – which is something I need in my life after a year like 2020. It portrays Linus Baker, the hardworking everyman, who must visit a faraway orphanage he has never heard of in order to assess their status. Should the orphanage be shut down?  Is Arthur Parnassus a good caretaker?

Even though we are a globalized nation, what we read is fairly English-centric. We prefer to read what is familiar and comfortable. Even when we venture out of our comfort zone, it is more likely to another English-centric genre. This tends to show in what is getting published year-to-year. According to the BBC, only 3% of total publishers output are works that are translated. We have almost no insight into what the world is reading - making us myopic and, possibly, more intolerant. As quoted from Lit Hub, Nigerian poet Ben Okri said, “Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.” If we are willing to expand our vision of the world through imaginative visions of video games and science fiction, we should be willing to open our minds to other cultures too.

If you were lucky enough to come to Hoover's 2016 Southern Voices Festival, you were introduced to a new voice in Fiction writing, one Natalie Baszile. Her book, "Queen Sugar" is not only a pleasure to read, but will soon be coming to the small screen as a 14-episode television series on Oprah Winfrey's OWN channel beginning Tuesday, September 6, 2016. The series, starring Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe and directed by Ava DuVernay, follows two sisters that inherit their father's 800-acre sugarcane farm in Louisiana. Proudly showcasing wonderful African-American actors and directors, this series sounds like a drama worth adding to my to-watch list. If it's half as good as the book, it will be worth my viewing time!

Sunday, August 9th was National Book Lovers Day - but who needs just one day? Personally, I hardly ever stray from fiction. I am usually juggling a book-on-CD for my car, a downloaded e-book for my tablet (which goes everywhere), a hardback for my cozy reading spot, and a downloadable audiobook for my Iphone so I can accomplish more while mopping the kitchen! These suggested titles came from my co-workers but my favorite is currently The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate. Just imagine the families destroyed by the devastation of the Civil War and the Slave Trade? There was one attempt to reconnect souls by advertising "lost friends" (and family) through a newspaper taken by most black churches and houses of worship.

I have limited experience actually visiting New Orleans, Louisiana. My college buddies and I took a road trip during exam week that was very short and very memorable.  Eventually, my husband and I visited the New Orleans Aquarium. Not exactly full of the Mardi Gras spirit! However, in my reading, I've explored Bourbon Street and the street cafes, along with the unique shops and delicious beignets.  I've walked the streets with Ignatius J. Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces.  And I've explored New Orleans through the eyes of Evelyn and her daughter, Jackie, in A Kind of Freedom.

Originally set for release on September 13th, Doubleday set a precedent by shipping 200,000 copies of Colson Whitehead's newest blockbuster to bookstores in secret. One lucky recipient was Oprah Winfrey. Now Mr. Whitehead is getting the "Oprah bump," meaning it was selected as an Oprah pick for September. The Underground Railroad will be Whitehead's eighth and most highly anticipated novel. A recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, Whitehead was also a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for his second novel, John Henry Days (2001). In the current novel, the author imagines that clandestine system of safe houses and secret routes as an actual "underground railroad".

Although crime rates seem to go down during times of low temperatures and snow, we seem to have an influx in the publication of great crime novels. The titles below are ones that are currently on order in our Fiction collection and will be great reads while we are staying warm at home. Our extreme weather this week made sitting at home in front of some kind of heating source and reading a book very attractive.

It was over 104 year ago that Agatha's first mystery novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles was published, beginning a long and enduring career. Her first novel was set in Abney Hall, the home of her older sister Madge. Agatha was enamored by the gorgeous, Gothic monstrosity and it's many halls, passages, secret stairways and more - all the better for a good mystery. Agatha would go on to write over 78 books, briefly halted once when she disappeared and was a presumed missing person while having difficulties in her marriage (she later divorced). Other have tried to imitate, emulate and/or create the ambiance of Christie's novels -- and some have been successful.

I was a late comer to the comfort and pleasure of the Netflix series, Anne with an E. I passed it over for more edgy, adult content. However, with the end of the pandemic in sight and the prospect of the world righting itself, I was in need of something nostalgic and heartwarming. I had loved Anne of Green Gables throughout my childhood and had reread the novel in my adulthood to a renewed appreciation of the classic. When I read the classic, I wanted to be Anne the orphan who finds a loving home and go on adventures. The Netflix series reignited that passion. This plucky orphan is never without her trusty imagination. And while await season four, I decided to read some other comforting and uplifting tales.

Today marks the first day of National Hispanic Heritage Month for 2020.  In light of that, I’ve chosen to highlight novels that are by and about Hispanic/Latinx authors and characters.

The year's loveliest smile, according to William Cullen Bryant is fall.  The changing colors of nature; the emergence of pumpkin-spice everything; decorations for fall festivities rolling right into the holiday season; wonderful sweater weather -- this and more makes this my favorite season.  And new fall book releases!  Peak reading and buying season is very much tied to the weather.  When cooler weather prevails, people want to huddle up with a new book.  Tana French's newest, The Searcher, focuses on a retired Chicago cop who buys a bucolic cottage in Ireland only to land himself in a missing person investigation - and, according to some sources, French is "one of the greatest crime novelists writing today." If it's time trav

Already, it's time for holiday celebrations.  It will be different this year.

When they are toddlers, we call them "fussy". Disgruntled teens are infamous. And adulthood brings it's own traumas. Finally, we have the lovable curmudgeons - still fussy, still disgruntled, with a quite intractable attitude that is deemed antisocial. As I've learned, there is a special day to celebrate those unique, cranky individuals and that day is today! Authors seem to love to create characters that snipe at one another, wreak havoc, and then, miraculously transform into loving, understanding people. Sometimes that happens in real life, but more often their curmudgeonly ways are set in stone! However, when reading fiction, readers love a transformation.

I have been a fan of Gothic literature since I was young and reading required Faulkner for school. I loved the feeling that these woods and broken neighborhoods and desperate people were just like my town growing up in North Alabama. The more I read of Faulkner, the more I sought out similar settings and that unmistakable undertone of menace. After becoming a librarian, I found that there was a new name for this genre: Grit Lit. Gritty and real, authors make the place and people so real on the page that they are both disturbing and real -- sometimes weaving in the supernatural too. I read The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollack when it was first published in 2011.

Thursdays are huge book club days here at the Hoover Library! On the first Thursday of each month, we read a fiction selection voted on by all active members. Tomorrow we will be discussing Jennifer Weiner's Mrs. Everything at 10 am. On the second Thursday, we meet at the same time to discuss another fiction title. Overall, 12 books are chosen for the year and are rotated between the two groups. Virtual meetings on Zoom have become the norm for gathering, discussing and dissecting the author, characters and plot of a given book. I have had many participants tell me that they read the chosen book and would never have selected it for themselves but enjoy getting outside of their comfort zone!