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Hellboy in Hell, Vols. 1 & 2

posted by: January 23, 2017 - 7:00am

Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 1Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 2In the more than 20 years that Hellboy has been engaged in supernatural pulp adventures, he’s been everywhere from Mexico to Romania and crossed paths with countless fantastic figures from history and myth. Though Hellboy made himself comfortable all over the globe throughout his life, there was only one logical place for him to end his journey: home. Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola is a somber and surreal swan song that finally forces Hellboy to face the infernal heritage he spent his life rejecting.

 

Creator Mignola announced in 2015 that Hellboy in Hell would be his final art duty on a comic before an extended break to focus on traditional watercolor painting, and this series truly reads like a fond farewell to a beloved friend. Minimalist compositions present the majestic architecture and unholy denizens of the underworld in a way that invoke melancholy rather than horror. Fans of Mignola will recognize returning motifs throughout the glorious hellscapes he illustrates here, and new readers can look forward to being introduced to his unique style with a story that showcases him at the top of his game. Longtime collaborator Dave Stewart provides most of the book’s color, bathing each page in dismal limited palettes that perfectly compliment the gloomy tone of the story.

 

This is the sendoff Hellboy deserves. The unmistakable artwork and understated writing that readers have come to expect from Mike Mignola are here, presented in perhaps their most moving use since Hellboy’s origin. Whet your appetite with Hellboy: The First 20 Years and then settle in for a quiet evening navigating the depths with Hell’s lost son himself. Full disclosure: I cried a little.


 
 

Dear Amy

posted by: January 2, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Dear AmyIn Helen Callaghan’s electrifying debut novel Dear Amy, a young teacher battles a faceless enemy to save an abducted student’s life. Margot Lewis teaches in an exclusive private high school in Cambridge, England. She has discovered a talent for reaching her students, and they often turn to her for advice. It’s a natural step for Margot to become an advice columnist for the local newspaper under the pseudonym Dear Amy. One day, Margot receives a letter that shakes her down to the depths of her soul. Dear Amy: I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man. I don’t know where I am. Please help me. It's signed by a young girl who went missing 20 years before.  

 

It is a desperate plea that Margot cannot ignore. The letter may be a hoax, but if it’s not, it could be the missing girl’s only chance at survival. When a student from Margot’s class goes missing, Margot knows she cannot stand idly by. Facing the possibility of being accused as a fraud, she takes the letter to the police, where it is authenticated as written by the missing girl. The police renew their investigation, and refer the case to criminologist Martin Forrester of Cambridge University. Together, Martin and Margot descend into the mind of a serial felon. Echoes from Margot’s past resonate into her present. Margot must conquer her own demons in order to defeat this new enemy.

 

Powerful, lyrical and taut with suspense, this literary thriller will seize you from the first page to the last. Helen Callaghan has woven a compelling tale of obsession and evil that takes her characters to the limits of their endurance. Laced with references to the classics, readers of Tana French, Peter Robinson and Gillian Flynn will appreciate the prose as well as the plot.


 
 

2017 Reading Challenge

posted by: December 23, 2016 - 4:14pm

2017 Reading ChallengeIn partnership with WBAL TV 11

 

Book lovers: Are you up for a challenge? Book clubs: Want topics for which books to discuss next? Baltimore County Public Library and WBAL-TV 11 have just the thing for you — the 2017 Baltimore County Public Library Reading Challenge.

 

The challenge, which is a yearlong list of topics from which readers choose a book to read each month, is designed as a fun way for our customers to explore a variety of genres and encourage a lifelong love of reading. It includes a variety of themes that range from important (February’s “Read a book honoring Black History Month”), nostalgic (June’s “Re-read a book from your childhood”), fun (July’s “Read a book you faked reading in high school"), provocative (September’s “Read a book that was banned at some point") and more.

 

Participants are encouraged to take a photograph of themselves holding the book (or just the book for those who are camera-shy) they’ve chosen for a particular month along with the hashtag #Bwellread on Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. Two photographs will be randomly chosen on the last business day of each month and winners will receive $25 Amazon gift cards.


 
 

All the Little Liars

posted by: December 22, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for All the Little LiarsLibrarian and amateur sleuth Aurora Teagarden returns in Charlaine Harris’ latest mystery All the Little Liars. This should be one of the happiest times in Aurora’s life — she and her husband Robin Crusoe are expecting their first child. However, they have taken in Aurora’s 15-year-old brother, Phillip, while Aurora’s father and stepmother deal with their tempestuous marriage. Phillip discovered his father in a compromising position and foolishly hitchhiked across country to Aurora’s house, desperate to find some peace and stability. He has made a remarkably good adjustment to small town life, making new friends and joining in activities. Until one night, Phillip disappears with three of his friends. Another friend is found dead at their last known location.

 

Desperate to find her brother, Aurora sifts through the mess his parents have made of their family life. Is the kidnapping related to her father’s gambling? Or to his mother’s commune life? Could the neighborhood bullies be involved? Held responsible for Phillip’s disappearance by his parents, Aurora frantically takes some pretty desperate action. The police and FBI are constrained by the law, but Aurora and Robin have no such restrictions. They trace the four friends’ last known contacts and discover a malicious campaign of persecution and manipulation that shakes their faith to the core. Parenting in the digital age is a daunting task, and Aurora and Robin are just beginning to find out what it means to raise a child.

 

Charlaine Harris masterfully negotiates the minefield of blended families, bullying and the role of parents in their children’s moral development. She is the Anthony Award-winning author of the popular Sookie Stackhouse series, which became the basis for HBO’s True Blood. The Aurora Teagarden mysteries are now featured in a new series of mystery movies, which can be seen on the Hallmark Channel.


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The Fall Guy

posted by: December 15, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover Art for The Fall GuyJames Lasdun’s new novel The Fall Guy is a deliciously taut psychological thriller. As the story opens, three friends are on their way to spend a peaceful summer in the country, but readers soon realize there is something malevolent lurking beneath the trio’s careful manners.

 

Matthew, an unemployed chef, jumps at the chance to stay with his cousin Charlie, a wealthy banker, at his idyllic retreat in the mountains of New York. It will be a chance to get away from the city and figure out what’s next for him. It’s also an opportunity to spend the summer with Charlie’s wife Chloe, who he admits he is very fond of. His fondness actually seems a little more like infatuation, but not even Charlie seems to mind that Matthew covets his wife. After all, Chloe is perfect. Who wouldn’t idolize her a little bit?

 

As the days blaze on, and the characters spend more time with one another over elaborately prepared dinners and too much wine, the smooth veneers start to crack. The real jealousies and tensions show through. Secrets from the cousins’ past are brought to light that make readers wonder if they understood these characters at all or have any clue what they are actually doing this summer. Is Matthew just a nice guy trying to figure his life out after all? Is Charlie spending his days working on a new business deal in the city? Does Chloe know about Matthew’s mild obsession with her, or is she being secretive for another reason altogether? And, ultimately, how long can this go on before it boils over?

 

Lasdun weaves in the clues so deftly they are hard to recognize until chapters later. The writing is clever and quietly unnerving. Lasdun creates a unique kind of suspense which sets him apart from contemporaries.

 

Fans of smart, suspenseful stories like The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith are sure to love this book.


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Fall and Winter Book Buzz

posted by: December 14, 2016 - 7:00am

BCPL Book BuzzLooking for the next good book to read or a perfect holiday gift? BCPL librarians shared some of their most anticipated books coming out this fall and winter with customers at Book Buzz sessions around the county.  It’s always hard to pick, but the librarians did come up with these favorites, already popular with so many readers.

 

Two iconic leaders are featured in our nonfiction picks. Candice Millard offers a fascinating account of Winston Churchill’s experiences during the Boer War in Hero of the Empire and Julia Baird uses the journals of Queen Victoria to shed light on the monarch in Victoria: The Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire.

 

Among the many exciting fiction titles released this fall and winter are this diverse group. The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding explores contemporary middle-aged relationships, telling the story from three perspectives — a husband, a wife and the “one who got away.” Thriller fans will devour Holly Brown’s This Is Not Over, a story of two women caught in an escalating game of cat and mouse using hidden secrets in a psychological battle that leads to an explosive ending. Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth is a beautifully written novel that crosses generations and looks at the random events that have the biggest impact on our lives. Another family story that explores how one decision can shape lives is The Mothers, an unforgettable debut novel by Brit Bennett, my favorite of this season.


 
 

Truly Madly Guilty

posted by: December 5, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Truly Madly GuiltyWhat could possibly go wrong at an ordinary neighborhood barbecue? In Liane Moriarty’s latest novel Truly Madly Guilty, we meet three families left reeling after a horrible occurrence at a friendly backyard get-together.

 

Set in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, Truly Madly Guilty follows thirtysomething Clementine, a freelance cellist preparing to audition with the Sydney orchestra; Erika, Clementine’s very organized and slightly OCD childhood friend; and Tiffany, Erika’s sultry next door neighbor who has a secret past.

 

 
Clementine is married to Sam and has two young daughters, Holly and Ruby. Clementine and Sam once had a loving and communicative relationship, but now they barely speak to each other. They both feel guilty and blame each other for what happened at the barbecue. Erika, who plans everything, is the child of a hoarder and lives a structured and organized life with her socially anxious husband Oliver. Erika accidently became intoxicated during the barbecue, leading her to question her recollections of what happened that night. Meanwhile, the hosts of the unfortunate barbecue are fun-loving and carefree couple Vid and Tiffany. Though they have seemingly moved on from what took place in their backyard that day, their 10-year-old daughter Dakota has been acting strangely lately, showing symptoms of depression.

 

Told through interwoven narratives, Moriarty flips back and forth between the present-day barbecue and the day of the tragedy. The story gradually builds to what actually happened, keeping readers guessing until the heart wrenching reveal. Truly Madly Guilty encompasses elements of both mystery and suspense, but is ultimately an examination of adult friendships, the fragility of marriages and the way feelings of guilt can overtake our lives.

 


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Fight Club 2

posted by: December 1, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Fight Club 2You always wanted a sequel, and here it is. Dark, weird, confusing and fascinating are all words to describe this head-bending follow up. What Chuck Palahniuk began in Fight Club, he brings full circle in Fight Club 2, and he does so with panache.

 

The book starts several years into the future. The Narrator is now married to Marla, and they have a child. But things are not as joyful as they seem. There are worms in the apple, and things start to fall apart quickly. Palahniuk’s prose is seductive and grand; he posits ideas and immediately pivots to shred them. How powerful is an idea; can it survive the thinker? Can it pass from one generation to the next? These are the sorts of questions that Fight Club 2 demands we answer, all while it assails us with an ideology of violent revolution that’s intended to free our souls from this corporate purgatory we inhabit. Certainly, this book makes clear above anything else that Tyler Durden’s nihilistic philosophy is as juvenile as it is empty.

 

In the end, the questions will linger longer than the answers, and the reader may be left wondering if anything was really answered at all. But for diehard Palahniuk and Fight Club fans, this is a must read regardless. All you can do is strap in and enjoy one more wild ride. If you enjoyed this and you haven’t read the original, you absolutely should pick it up and give it a read.

 

If you’re a graphic novel fan, you should also consider Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, another tale of violent revolution. For something a little less violent, Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor tells the story of a young man whose story goes from mundane to mystical and poses a lot of similar questions about our lives and what they mean. Fans of the original book should consider Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, which similarly examines the sort of corporate prisons we build and what they do to us, or Charles Heller’s Catch-22, which take a little more roundabout route to examining man’s inhumanity to man and the effects of that violence on the soul.


 
 

A Gentleman in Moscow

posted by: November 23, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover Art for A Gentleman in MoscowFans of Amor Towles first novel, Rules of Civility, have patiently waited for another work, and A Gentleman in Moscow is worth the long wait. Yet again, this gifted writer breathes life into a lavish era long since passed. He introduces a cast of characters that are sure to charm readers, none more so than Count Alexander Rostov.

 

The story opens shortly after the Russian Revolution. The Count is being tried for writing a popular counter-revolutionary poem, but thanks to some high-ranking friends in the party, his life is spared. Instead, he is declared a “Former Person” — given a life sentence of house arrest. This is interesting, since the Count resides at Moscow’s Hotel Metropol, one of the city’s most elegant hotels, just steps away from the Kremlin. Though he must give up his stately suite and take up residence in a tiny room on the top floor, he is not a man defined by rooms.

 

From inside his beloved hotel, he observes the upheaval that sweeps through Russia in the years after the revolution. Over the next three decades, the country he loves disappears and is replaced by something unrecognizable.

 

Despite these changes in society, he never loses sight of who he is. His bygone code of ethics is in large part what makes him so delightful as a character. While this may sound stuffy, Towles infuses the characters, including the Metropol itself, with too much effervescent charm to ever be considered tedious.

 

A rich cast of intriguing characters pass through the hotel, some of them becoming part of the Count’s life in the most unexpected ways. Despite his imprisonment, his life is no less full than it may have been if he were a gentleman of leisure living freely abroad. In fact, his imprisonment may arguably take him on a more emotionally rewarding journey.

 

Towles somehow keeps life inside the hotel from ever becoming monotonous for readers. This could be in large part because of the humor provided by the stories narrator, balanced perfectly with moments of insight that will leave readers mulling the words over long after they finish the book. Towles also weaves in history, literature, ballet, architecture, and not least of all the importance of food and wine pairing without ever seeming pedantic.

 

This work will appeal to fans of Russian classics as well as readers who enjoy the sly wit and charm of Jane Austen or Edith Wharton.


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Romeo and/or Juliet

posted by: November 21, 2016 - 7:00am

Cover art for Romeo and/or JulietSay “Shakespearean tragedy” and everyone who has attended a high school English class can tell you how the play will end — with blood everywhere and a high body count. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could take control of a character’s destiny and alter his or her fate? What if you could be Romeo and/or Juliet in a way that didn’t end in the lovers' suicides?

 

Enter from stage right: Ryan North, with his retooling of Romeo and Juliet in the style of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. That’s right, Choose Your Own Adventure, with all the multiple endings (over 100 in all, some still ending in death — this is a Choose Your Own Adventure model after all) that implies. Readers initially can play as Juliet or Romeo, choosing to follow the original story to its bitter end. Or they can pick a different path to see where that could lead — marrying other people, leading a life of piracy, owning a body building gym, operating giant robots, even crashing the plots of other Shakespeare plays.

 

There are plenty of Easter eggs for Shakespeare fans; North populates the book with references and character cameos from Shakespeare’s other works. If you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, though, don’t worry: You don’t have to understand the references to appreciate North’s wacky sense of humor. He’s also enlisted a whole battalion of illustrators to better visualize the end you choose, also to great comedic effect. This isn’t North’s first time around doing this, either; his first Kickstarter novel To Be or Not to Be, or Hamlet as told as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, was the second-most funded publishing project on Kickstarter as of 2013.

 

If you’re looking for a good laugh or want to play with a play, Romeo and/or Juliet is an excellent choice, spinning a familiar tale of woe into something infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. Fans of the book may also enjoy Kate Beaton’s Hark, a Vagrant! or Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.


 
 

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