Adam Newman’s destiny has been predetermined as far back as he can remember in Francesca Segal’s debut novel, The Innocents.

In his close knit Jewish community of North London, Adam has known everyone since birth, including Rachel Gilbert, to whom he is now engaged.  Adam and Rachel have been a couple since their were 16 years old and their wedding is fast approaching.  The couple has a seemingly perfect life – Adam has been embraced by Rachel’s family, especially her father, who has become a father figure to Adam after he lost his own father at a young age.

Their life is moving ahead rapidly when Rachel’s cousin, Ellie, surprisingly appears in town and everything Adam has every known is thrown into upheveval.  As his attraction to Ellie is growing, he is torn between the life that has been scripted for him and a life that he never could have imagined with a person he has not seen for years. This love triangle is coupled with another scandal that could tear his new family apart.

Segal takes her inspiration from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, but spins a story that is fresh and modern.  I am eagerly waiting for Segal’s next novel.

 

Thank goodness authors and actors and artists keep using Jane Austen as a muse to keep us Janeites busy. Here is a list of a few recent Austen-related items I’ve enjoyed:

From Prada or Nada: I have been a fan of actress Camilla Belle since her Disney Channel days, so I checked out this movie for some fun and silliness. My first shock was that despite the girly title and DVD image, this film has more drama than comedy. Then my second shock came at the end of the movie when I realized I had been watching a pretty direct retelling of Sense and Sensibility! (The girls are even named Nora and Mary–I was so embarrassed it took me so long to register the plot.) The movie follows two sisters as they deal with their father’s death and moving from his wealthy home to live with their Mexican Grandmother and extended family in a poor neighborhood in East LA. The film did a fantastic job of keeping true to Austen’s story while also staying accurate to today’s society and the lives of Mexican-Americans.

Austenland by Shannon Hale: Although I tend to love films that do an Austen retelling, I am always hesitant of books that attempt the same. The exception to the rule is those self-aware books where a modern Janeite finds herself living as an Austenian Heroine in her own life. In Austenland, Jane Hayes has been given a trip to stay at Pembrook Park, one of England’s Regency Era resorts that caters to those with Jane Austen fantasies. Although at first she is hesitant to play along with the staff and actors, Jane eventually convinces herself that she will never let go of her Mr. Darcy obsession unless she fully allows herself to participate in the romantic experience. Unfortunately, her love life just gets more complicated as she begins to confuse reality and Austen fantasy. Shannon Hale just wrote a companion book called Midnight in Austenland that sets a murder mystery in Pembrook Park.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: This popular youtube series is one of my favorite new things! As you may have gathered from this post (and my other Jane Austen posts), I love Jane Austen with a modern twist, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries add a twist that I have never seen before: they are telling the story of Pride and Prejudice in real-time! Yup, Jane started her web diaries back in April when she first found out that a young doctor, Bing Lee, bought the mansion near her parents’ home and her mother was becoming insane about it. Her and her bf, Charlotte, (along with occasional help from her sisters, Jane and Lydia, and Bing’s sister, Caroline) produce two videos a week that are usually about 3-5 minutes each. Right now, Lizzie and Jane are staying over with Bing while their mother is remodeling their home (in case they have to sell it). The actors are fantastic, the scripts are fresh, and the whole shebang is produced by youtube superstars Bernie Su and Hank Green. You can catch up on the videos directly from the LBD youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/LizzieBennet/ or find out more about the whole project at: http://www.lizziebennet.com/

Who says summer road trips have to be boring? Load up the family and hit the open road: the trip will fly by when you bring an audiobook from DPL! Unlike your child’s Nintendo DS or iPod Touch, audiobooks don’t require charging and they will entertain more than one person at a time, including the driver.

These recorded books are winners for the entire family:

Harry Potter series, read for you by Jim Dale: The whole family is sure to love the expertly performed Harry Potter series. Jim Dale’s narration is absolutely perfect; even if you’ve already read the novels, you’ll find something new to love in the recordings. If your children are a bit younger, there are admirable recordings of the Magic Tree House series. For the kids who’ve already read (or aren’t interested in) HP, try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson.

 

Bring a box of tissues along with the kids’ classic Bridge to Terabithia, warmly brought to life by narrator Tom Stechschulte. The poignant story of Jess and Leslie has been a favorite since Katherine Paterson penned it in the ’70s. For kids 10+.

Recordings of Suzanne Collins’ runaway hits The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay will be a hit with everyone: mature themes and violence probably make this too grown up for the littlest ones, but don’t let the YA label fool you – adults adore the series too. For kids 12+.

In Nerd Girls: The Rise of the Dorkasaurus, 8th grader Maureen risks life and limb – ok, she risks embarrassing herself in front of the whole school – to stand up to the popular girls who bully her. A funny, relatable story about friendship and the perils of middle school. For kids 12+.

Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series makes for a charming listening experience – Judy’s misadventures show kids how to handle things when their grand plans don’t work out, and narrator Kate Forbes captures her spunky spirit. Just Grace, about another spirited grade schooler, is a fun choice for the kids who’ve already enjoyed Judy Moody. For kids 8+.

All kinds of great books for kids are available from DPL, from classics like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harriet the Spy to popular new hits like The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Warriors series. Princesses, Sports, Dragons, Animals – whatever your child is interested in, we have an audiobook for it!

*Age recommendations reflect the guidelines printed by the publisher, not DPL’s opinion. Always take your child’s unique level of maturity and experience into account when helping him or her choose books to read.

Good luck finding a copy of the sudden phenomenon known as Fifty Shades of Grey, a scintillating romance novel – the first in a trilogy – that’s stirred up a whirlwind of conversation lately. The novel started its life as an online-only Twilight fan fiction story; once it picked up some enthusiastic readers and momentum, Ms. James modified her main characters’ names, professions, and paranormal status and Fifty Shades was born. Since then, it’s found a major publisher and a movie deal in addition to a spot on the national scene. Find your reason for not reading this sexy novel below and read on for your next great read!

 

  • I like ‘romantica’ (romance novels with very erotic scenes), and I’ve already read (or I’m impatiently waiting for) this trilogy. What should I read next? If you’re a fan of the genre, try books by any of these authors, who mix plenty of sensual action into their happily-ever-afters: Shayla Black, Colette Gale, Kresley Cole, Zane, Janice Maynard, J.R. Ward, and Lora Leigh.
  • This book was too racy for me! For a gentler read with contemporary setting and a happily ever after, try any of these writers who focus on lighter romance: Lisa Kleypas, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, and Rachel Gibson.
  • I’m so sick of Twilight and all its spin offs – whatever is the opposite of that is what I want to read. Try out these realistic, literary, thought-provoking novels for a reading experience just as compelling as the-vampire-book-that-must-not-be-named but minus all the bloodsucking, romantic quivering, and hype: Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell; The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach; Arcadia by Lauren Groff; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt; Swamplandia! by Karen Russell; Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. Nary a vampire in sight!
  • I want to read romance or erotica, but I’m embarrassed to let people see me with them. Don’t sweat it, a lot of us are in the same boat, and DPL has some awesome solutions! For the ultimate in anonymity, check out our WILBOR database of ebooks you can check out for free. You don’t have to own a smartphone, Nook, Kindle, or iPad – WILBOR offers tons of audiobooks that can be played from an mp3 player, and ebooks can frequently be read on your computer without transferring to an e-reader. Explore WILBOR’s help page or call the Reference desk if you need assistance. Also, don’t forget that all three branches have self-checkout counters, so you can pick out your favorites and none of the staff need to be any the wiser! Or take matters into your own hands with a Do-It-Yourself or inexpensive book cover. If anyone asks, just shrug and say, “oh, I’m finally trying to finish Middlemarch – the darn thing is just so long!” No one wants to talk about Middlemarch, so you’re free to read your salacious paperbacks in peace.

Demand for the library’s copies of The Hunger Games has skyrocketed since the movie came out.  Don’t worry, we can put you on the reserve list, but you might have a little bit of a wait ahead of you before your copy comes in.  So while you wait, here are a few similar titles you might want to try:

If you like plenty of action and powerful female characters:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

If you’re looking for fast-paced stories about survival:

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Gone by Michael Grant

If you’re interested in a dystopian world with a government gone bad:

1984 by George Orwell

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

If you want something with a bit of romance:

Matched by Ally Condie

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

If you’re looking for some cool sci-fi:

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

As someone who loves to read mysteries and is always on the hunt for another series to start, I stumbled upon the Bailey Weggins mystery series by Kate White and just finished If Looks Could Kill, the first book in the series.  Bailey Weggins is a freelance writer of crime and human interest stories for the monthly fashion and lifestyle magazine Gloss.  Early one Sunday morning Bailey is roused out of bed by her boss and the editor of Gloss, Cat Jones, who can’t get her live-in nanny, Heidi, to answer the door of her basement suite.  Bailey springs to action to help her boss figure out where Heidi has gone – and it isn’t far – when Bailey discovers the nanny dead in her suite.  Cat pleads with Bailey to use her sleuthing skills to try and figure out why Heidi was murdered.  Bailey, who puts her investigative skills right to the test, dives into the case.

The mystery heats up when it is determined that Heidi died from eating poisonous chocolate truffles that were an intended  hostess gift for Cat.  Who was the intended victim – Cat or Heidi?  Bailey uncovers evidence that points to someone trying to poison the editors of high profile magazines and she puts her life at risk with her unofficial investigation.

If Looks Could Kill is a light (as far as mysteries are concerned) and easy read that effortlessly blends fashion, vibrant New York City life and murder.

On February 7, 1964 the Beatles arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport to thousands of screaming fans. It was awesome. Or so I’ve heard.

Luckily, for those of us who were too young to experience Beatlemania first-hand (and have yet to be invited by a certain Time Lord to accompany him in his TARDIS), the Beatles continue to be hot topics for books and film. Here are a couple of recent items that celebrate two people who didn’t live to see Beatlemania and yet had a distinct effect on the Beatles becoming The Beatles: original bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe, and John Lennon’s mother, Julia.

Baby's in Black Baby’s in black : the story of Astrid Kirchherr & Stuart Sutcliffe by Arne Bellstorf tells the epic love story between Stuart and Astrid during the era of the Beatles early Hamburg gigs. Although the names were all familiar to me, as was the tragic ending, I knew very little about Astrid and Stu’s life together nor Stuart’s passion for painting. The heavy, stark drawings by Bellstroff manage to evoke and complement both the mod existentialist world of Astrid and the moody rock & roll environment of the Beatles and Stu.

Nowhere BoyNowhere Boy, a film directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, takes place before John Lennon formed the Beatles, before Stuart met Astrid and before John had even met Stuart. Nowhere Boy takes place in the mid 1950’s when John Lennon was in his early teens and struggling to maintain relationships with both his strict and caring guardian, his Aunt Mimi, and his musically-talented, free-spirited mother, Julia, who had just recently reappeared in his life. This story also ends sadly, but there is some fun along the way as we get to see John form his first group, The Quarrymen, and invite Paul McCartney and then George Harrison to join him. Actor Aaron Johnson (the star of two of my favorite films, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Kick-Ass) is absolutely amazing as a cheeky & insecure young John Lennon.

And, just to throw in a book with happier vibes, here is one of my all-time favorite Beatles-related books:

Postcards from the Boys by Ringo Starr showcases some of the cards Ringo has received from John, Paul, and George (and their families) from the 1960’s to now. Each card is shown both front and back and includes a bit of commentary from Ringo. No other way to describe this book, but absolutely DELIGHTFUL.

Though first published in 1996, A Game of Thrones and its four sequels (collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire) have become a phenomenon in library hold queues of late thanks to HBO’s serial adaptation (season 2 premieres on April 1) and the summer ’11 release of the bestselling A Dance With Dragons. If you’re interested in the series but were turned off by the verbose visuals and relentless attention to detail, you are not alone. Try these titles for an alternative jaunt into gritty, political, and subtly-fantastical realms.

If you are intrigued by the era of Martin’s inspiration, England’s Wars of the Roses, try The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, or any of her rich historical novels set in a similar time period, including The Red Queen (a direct sequel), The Other Boleyn Girl, and The Other Queen. For a factual (but nonetheless exciting) version of the story, try Alison Weir’s The Wars of the Roses.

Part of the appeal of Martin’s work is the very small part that magic and fantasy play in the narrative. If you appreciate that ratio, consider The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, in which a modern woman is embroiled in the continuing high-stakes mystery of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula). Another tale of subtle magic is Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, which explores the lives a Southern family with a unique talent for growing (and using) magical plants in a successful catering business.

If the gripping political drama of a royal family pulls you in, but the fantasy elements are off putting, you’ll love Bernard Cornwell, whose Arthur books (beginning with The Winter King) make the mythic saga fresh, exciting, and utterly believable.

If you enjoy gritty fantasy but not a lot of length, consider The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch or The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Both are #1 in their respective serials, but can be enjoyed individually. Additionally, they each still come in very far below the page count Martin sets. In hardcover, A Song of Ice and Fire numbers 4,223 pages in total – a truly intimidating figure. By contrast, Abercrombie’s entire trilogy numbers only 1,810, and Lynch’s tale wraps up in a snappy 752.

With the winter 2011 release of the penultimate fourth film, this franchise is enjoying yet another surge in popularity. Whatever your reason for bypassing this phenomenally popular quartet of books, these suggestions will point you in the right direction!

If you loved Meyer’s style (quick-reading prose for young adults with paranormal elements and pervasive-yet-tame romance) and want to read something similar, you should try

  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. In this tale, Sam is a werewolf who must return to his lupine life when the temperature drops (rather than when the moon waxes). Grace, his human lover and best friend, must find a way to deal with this intrusion of the supernatural on her typical teen life. Like Twilight, this is the first in a series.
  • Josephine Angelini’s debut novel Starcrossed spins a similarly romantic, exciting tale full of unusual and fantastic elements; in this novel, shy Helen Hamilton discovers that she has an extraordinary part to play in the modern continuation of the Greek myth of Helen of Troy. (first in a planned trilogy)
  • Marked by P.C. Cast, the first entry of a vampire series for teens that takes place in a world where vampires have always existed and train together at an elite school known as the House of Night. Zoey Redbird, a 16 year old fledgeling vampire, negotiates her new life at the school in this multi-volume series.

If you adore vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal oddities but were left cold by Meyer’s teen-focused love story, try these titles for a steamier scare:

If your interest in vampires and supernatural forces hasn’t abated but you crave a more challenging text with a literary feel, try…

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Irish author Tana French’s debut mystery, In The Woods.  French thrusts the reader into a dual storyline – one past and one present – both inextricably linked by one man, Inspector Rob Ryan of the Dublin Murder Squad.  Twenty years before, Rob and his two young school chums made headlines when all three disappeared and Rob was later found alone exiting the woods without any recollection of what had happened to his friends –  the case has remained unsolved. 

In the current case, Rob and his partner Cassie Maddox are assigned to a case involving the murder of a young ballet dancer, Katy Develin – a crime that was committed in the exact same spot as Detective Ryan’s incident twenty years prior (he changed his name from Adam Ryan due to the publicity of his case).  Katy’s family begins to exhibit odd and baffling behavior and it peaks the interest of the detectives.  Ryan and Maddox realize that someone close to the victim may be involved – but which family member knows more about Katy’s murder than they are admitting?  

I am a big fan of mysteries and the ending of In The Woods was a shocker- I highly recommend it.