The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

What would you do if you knew who was behind a violent crime yet no one believed you? Alex Michaelides discusses this topic in his latest novel, The Maidens.

Mariana knows the truth, but she can’t understand why no one believes her. She knows that Edward Fosca is a murderer. It’s so obvious to her that he’s behind this string of horrible events, but the problem is that Edward Fosca is untouchable. A beloved Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University who is handsome and adored by staff and students, Fosca is shielded by his politeness, mystique, and charisma. Mariana just knows he did it.

Flashback to when Mariana first saw Fosca. After being called to Cambridge University by her niece Zoe, Mariana finds herself overwhelmed. One of Zoe’s friends has been found brutally murdered in Cambridge. As a group therapist, Mariana places herself in the middle of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens to figure out what happened. After all, the murdered girl was a member of The Maidens. As she starts exploring, Mariana realizes that Edward Fosca is the man in charge of the group. His relationship with The Maidens concerns her. He seems to have complete control over his students who worship him.

The more Mariana dives into this mystery, the more she suspects that behind the beauty of the Cambridge campus and its intricate traditions something incredibly more sinister lurks. She believes that Edward Fosca is to blame for everything even though he has an alibi. Marina quickly spirals out of control when another body is found in Cambridge. With her credibility at stake and her relationships floundering, Mariana must stop the killer at any cost.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Circe’ on February 17

Looking for a book club? Join Book Club @ Night. We’re back and reading adult fiction! On Wednesday, February 17th at 6:30pm, Book Club @ Night will be meeting virtually to discuss Circe by Madeline Miller. Books are available at our Eastern Avenue location for patrons to borrow for this book club. Registration is not required. This program is meeting virtually using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what Circe is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child – not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power – the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Book Club @ Night – ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller
Wed, Feb 17, 2021 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM (CST)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/498392021

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3122

Access Code: 498-392-021

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/498392021

Great Podcasts: Storytelling

To be honest, I’m notoriously fickle when it comes to podcasts. I can’t seem to remember to listen to them, because I just haven’t figured out how to work them into my everyday routine. But I know it’s a great medium with a lot of die-hard fans, so I keep trying, and there are a few I really like, even if I’m nowhere near caught up on any of them. The Adventure Zone, which you might remember my recommending in an earlier post, is a big one. Two other podcasts, which I’ll share with you today, both revolve around history, sharing little-known facts and crafting interesting narratives out of them. Quick disclaimer: I’ve only listened to bits of these, so I can’t vouch for all the content they contain. You may know lots more about podcasts than I do – and if you do, please share your tips and recommendations in the comments! These podcasts are available on their own websites, as well as Spotify, iTunes, and other podcast platforms.

The Myths and Legends Podcast

This podcast is about what it sounds like: each episode, the host tells a different story from the realms of myths and legends. Some of the stories he shares are little-known myths from countries around the world, and sometimes he shares the original myth behind a now-famous story like Aladdin or Mulan. He tells the story in a conversational and engaging way, with modern asides, and each episode also features a profile of a different mythical creature, which may or may not be drawn from that episode’s main story. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they’re gruesome or tragic, but for me they’re always intriguing, entertaining, and I always learn something new. If you like myths, legends, fairy tales, fantasy, or Disney, you may like this podcast.

The British History Podcast

Again, the name is fairly self-explanatory. The host takes on the massive job of telling the story of Britain’s history — from the beginning. The VERY beginning. Starting from its most ancient roots, he tells the story of the individuals, groups, and events that drove British history forward. Like the Myths and Legends podcast, the stories are explained in modern terms and delivered in a straightforward, conversational style. I really like the way he makes historical people relatable, fascinating, and sympathetic, bridging the huge gap of centuries between them and us. If you’re an Anglophile like me, or just a history buff, this may be a good podcast for you.

Cannabis : The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown

I recently saw a local news story in which Illinois state senator Toi Hutchinson said that the legalization of cannabis in her state came as a result of the differing sides “hashing it out” to come to agreement. I don’t know whether or not the pun was intended, but as a librarian interested in languages, I appreciated it.

Soon after, I spotted the graphic novel Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America on display at the library and figured it would be a good way to better educate myself on the topic right at our doorstep. I was not disappointed. This graphic novel has four pages of sources cited at the end! It is equal parts interesting and informative.

It starts with what is known about early humans’ use of cannabis sativa from biology and mythology. It outlines how the plant has been cultivated for its various uses across the world (think: textiles & oils too). It traces the etymology of the many different words we use for it: hash, Mary Jane, reefer, weed, to name just a few. I learned that the word marijuana is believed to be derived from slang usage in Mexico near Catholic missionaries, where the priests condemned its use. Locals would tell the priest they were just spending time with Maria Juana!

The graphic novel delves into the “Reefer Madness” era during which commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger worked to criminalize its use by making false, racist claims about its use and users. It discusses how cannabis has been regulated through legislation and how its reputation has been manipulated. The graphic novel concludes with present-day uses and a bibliography listing sixty sources readers can seek out for further learning on the subject.

I highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading Box Brown’s other titles, including Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman and Tetris: The Games People Play.

You can also learn more on this topic from Illinois Policy, an independent organization that seeks to educate and engage Illinois citizens.

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I love any story that has to do with mythology. I am more familiar with Greek mythology though, so when I stumbled upon Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, I decided to give it a go. After all, Norse mythology deals with Thor, Odin, Loki, Freya, and many other Norse gods. If you’ve watched any Marvel Avengers movie, then you’re familiar with Thor and Loki. I wanted to read this book to see how close Marvel followed the Norse mythology(laughable, yes, but nevertheless I was curious). Add in giants, dwarves, ogres, and multiple other fantastical beasts and I knew I would enjoy it.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman spins the fantastical realms of the primeval Norse myths into a novel. Gaiman begins by describing the origins of the nine worlds and ends with Ragnarok, the time when the gods will die and a new world will take over. In between the beginning and decimation of all, Gaiman weaves stories of the different giants, dwarves, and deities who inhabit the nine worlds. This book was a fascinating read and Gaiman stays true to the actual Norse myths. Remember that this is a work of fiction, however, and he did recreate the characters a little bit to make it more interesting. Nevertheless, this book was a thoroughly engaging read. If you have the option to listen to it, I recommend you do because Neil Gaiman actually narrates it himself! Worth it.

Gaiman is a masterful storyteller whose lyrical thoroughness is out in full force as he breathes new life into these long-ago myths. Thor, Loki, and Odin seem to jump off the page as they fight to keep order throughout all nine worlds. Everyone manages to get into a little bit of trouble (I mean, Loki is a trickster God after all…), so you know things are going to get crazy. Each story told adds in multiple elements and different layers to the gods’ lives. I really enjoyed this book and hope you do as well!


This book is also available in the following formats:

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

 American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a twisted fantasy tale of gods come to life in modern-day America. There is a battle soon to rage between the ancient gods and the gods of today. The historic gods of European tales were brought to North America and other countries around the world in the minds of the people who believed in them. They grew stronger in those new places every time someone talked about them or thought of them. The old gods are coming up against a struggle now. The new gods (gods of media, television, Internet, etc) feel like the old gods have reached their limit. The old gods feel like they’re being usurped by gods that will vanish from the public’s minds in a few years, an idea that infuriates them. Spiritual warfare runs rampant through this book as readers discover that gods walk among us, hidden as humans or animals. These ancient divinities may struggle against the new trends and fads, but their struggle for survival is necessary in this new supernatural climate.

Thrown into this conflict, our antihero rises. He is a convict named Shadow, a man who has feelings that the world is going change drastically. Through Shadow, readers witness the behind-the-scenes relationship between the gods and humans. Humans and their faith play a very large part in this book with Shadow and the gods constantly struggling in this massive religious upheaval. Shadow soon finds himself thrust into the middle of this skirmish between the ancients: Odin, Anansi, Those, Loki One-Eye, etc, and the contemporary deities: geek-boy god Internet, the goddess Media, etc. It’s a fascinating journey as Shadow takes a job as a kind of bodyguard for Mr. Wednesday, a human representation of the Norse god Grimnir, as they travel across the country trying to recruit more gods to actively fight on their side. The magical and the mundane are, for the most part, evenly balanced throughout this book, a fact that I greatly appreciated since it helped me better understand what was happening.

I listened to this book through OverDrive and greatly enjoyed it because the author actually read the prologue! Getting to hear authors speak is one of my favorite things because you really get to hear their viewpoint and how their cadence influences the writing of the book. His discussion of the creation of this book was also invaluable knowledge. I greatly enjoyed this book.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

TheWickedAndDivine_vol1-1Every ninety years, the gods return, merging into chosen young humans. They are loved and they are hated. In two years, they will be dead. What happens in between can inspire the entire world to greatness, or destroy it completely.

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act* opens in the last moment of the 1923 Recurrence. Only four gods remain and at the count of four, they are gone. Left behind is an old, nearly ancient woman. “Once again, we return” she says, weeping.

The next act opens ninety years later, January 2014 in Britain. Laura, a fan of the Pantheon, as the 12 gods are called, is attending a performance by Amaterasu. After passing out in ecstasy (a normal side effect of attending any of the gods’ performances) she is invited to a private audience by another of the Pantheon, Lucifer (although you can all her Luci). But the audience ends abruptly – sniper fire from a neighboring building smashes the windows, and Luci the obviously target. She survives, but the snipers do not, and Luci is arrested for the murder of the two men.

Laura becomes one of Luci’s most ardent supporters, and, in a world where the gods of the Pantheon are treated as pop stars, she also gains the ultimate position within the fandom, although she learns it is not as glamorous or as safe as she once thought. She loves and envies the gods, but pities their short lives. As her life becomes more and more enveloped within the Pantheon, she meets and forms friendships with the others gods, learns of their personal struggles, politics, philosophy and who they were before they discovered they were reincarnated gods. In the following two volumes, Fandemonium and Commercial Suicide , the tension within the Pantheon and without grows, more gods are discovered and some die. One year into the Recurrence, and all is not well with the Pantheon. It nearly seems that there is a demon among them (though not the obvious one), and we may all be headed to apocalypse.

The Wicked + The Divine is as much a commentary on modern celebrities and fandoms as it is on youthful feelings of immortality and power. The mythology in the series is thick and intriguing**, and the art simple yet striking, all posing the question, what would you trade to be loved by all?


* As in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus

** I highly recommending consulting the fan-made wiki The Wiki + The Divine after reading the series. But not before – too many spoilers!