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A Nose for Mystery and Murder: The Essence of Malice, The Sniffer, The Emperor of Scent, The Secret of Chanel No. 5, and Perfume: The Story of a Murder

16 May

Break out the blood hounds this week, the library picks blog is tracking works with the scent of mystery.

The Essence of Malice
by Ashley Weaver

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The Essence of Malice is Ashley Weaver’s fourth book in her Amory Ames Mystery series starring a wealthy British Amateur detective who solves crimes in Europe in the 1930’s.  In The Essence of Malice, Amory tries to unravel a mystery when something smells suspicious in the death of a famous Parisian perfumer and learns that all is not what it seems amongst his family, who are struggling over the control of his perfume empire.  I especially enjoyed the twist ending.  Amory’s husband is a bit of a cad and this, like the other novels, deals with the suspicions and strife that occasionally pop up in their relationship; although this made me mildly dislike Miles, I found it refreshing to see a less than perfect spouse since so often in cozy mysteries the detective’s partner is a paragon of virtue. You can also check out the earlier books in the series Murder at the Brightwell, Death Wears a Mask, and A Most Novel Revenge.  The fifth book in the series, An Act of Villainy will be available September 4 and revolves around a mystery at a theater.

The Sniffer – Season 1
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The Sniffer is a Russian mystery series that Hoboken Library Resident Card Holders can stream from Hoopla.  “The Sniffer” is both blessed and cursed with an extraordinary sense of smell which helps him solve mystery and thwart crimes, but also plagues him in his private life.  If like me, you enjoyed Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the brilliant, but irritable protagonist in the series House, than The Sniffer’s prickly detective should appeal.  There are eight episodes in season one so it is perfect for a long rainy weekend binge.

The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses
by Chandler Burr
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The Emperor of Scent is about a scientist, Dr. Luca Turin, who sought to unravel the mystery of what allows us to smell.  Dr. Turin believes that it isn’t the shape of molecules that allows us to smell, but the way the molecules vibrate that allow us to distinguish odors, but he is thwarted in pursuit to publish and promote his theory.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
by Patrick Süskind
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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a historical fantasy novel which was originally published in German as Das Parfum.  The book follows a boy that though born without a scent himself, can perfectly smell the world around him.  This leads him on a quest for the perfect scent, which results in an obsession that leads to murder in order to distill the most pristine of odors.  You can also checkout the film adaptation from BCCLS libraries.

The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World’s Most Famous Perfume
by Tilar J. Mazzeo
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Everyone has their favorite scents; I love Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Aunt Caroline’s Joy Mojo, which never fails to brighten my day.  Tilar J. Mazzeo unbottles the mystery of one of the most beloved fragrances of so many in The Secret of Chanel No. 5.  The work moves from Coco Chanel’s success as a fashion icon, through the years to the scents increasing acclaim, and continued popularity even today when shelves are packed with celebrity endorsed perfumes.  It is available in print, but Hoboken Library Patron can check it out right now as an ebook or digital audiobook from Hoopla!

Written by: Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

Six Books I’ve Read So Far for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

21 Feb

There are 24 tasks in the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and as of this writing I have finished 6! I have written before about taking on past Read Harder Challenges, and haven’t finished one yet. For 2017 I read 13 of 24 books, the best I’ve done so far. My approach this year is to aggressively tackle the challenges early on as life happens, which can impede my reading. So far the cold winter has inspired me to stay indoors and read lots of books.

These are the six completed tasks and the corresponding books.

The Task: A children’s classic published before 1980.

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Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

I chose Julie of the Wolves as one I can read with my nieces to discuss–I’m still waiting for their thoughts! The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Julie who is escaping an unstable home situation. Her goal is to travel from Alaska to San Francisco and live with her pen pal. In the frozen tundra she struggles to survive by observing wolves and eventually becoming part of the pack by mimicking their behaviors. I appreciated how deeply passionate Jean Craighead George was about this book: the story grew from a rejected proposal for a magazine article she wrote about wolves and the Alaskan tundra. 

The Task: A celebrity memoir.

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Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

This task was pretty easy to accomplish as I lead the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books, and have read plenty of celebrity memoirs as part of the group and on my own time. I picked Year of Yes for the January 2018 discussion as the premise was how Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Shondaland, changed after she committed to saying yes to opportunities that scared her, a good theme to start off a new year. The book was fun to read and has a positive message about making the most of our lives. 

The Task: A book of social science.

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Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The premise of Option B is how Sheryl Sandberg coped after her husband’s sudden death in 2015. Adam Grant provides solid research about grief and resilience that are masterfully woven into Sheryl’s story (this is why I consider Option B social science) and those of others who have faced tragedy. This book has incredibly sad moments–Sheryl’s retelling of finding her husband unconscious, and having to tell her children that their father died are heartbreaking–but is ultimately hopeful and encourages people to not retreat from life’s hard moments. From this book came the Option B organization.

The Task: A one-sitting book.

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The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz

At first I was stymied by this task. But then I found The Four Agreements in my TBR (to-be-read) pile. This book clocks in at 138 pages, and I blew through it while at my dad’s bedside as he waited to go in for a recent surgery. Ruiz uses Toltec wisdom to frame the four agreements around which people should live their lives to be happy. This is a good book to buy and refer to when needed–in particular for the reminder that other people’s behavior is not about you.

The Task: A book of true crime.

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Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History by Maureen Orth

I planned to read Vulgar Favors, the source text for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, last summer but didn’t get around to it until January. While a lot isn’t known about Andrew Cunanan’s motives (he committed suicide before authorities could capture him) this heavily reported book includes stories from Andrew’s friends, as well as authorities from multiple jurisdictions that pursued him during his 1997 murder spree. What stands out in this book was how misunderstood gay communities were by police in the 1990s, which negatively impacted the investigation into Cunanan’s crimes.

The Task: A romance novel by or about a person of color.

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Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

I considered describing Hate to Want You by using like 10 fire emoji–it’s that steamy. Author Alisha Rai and her heroine Livvy Kane are women of color, so this book doubly completes the task. The book blogs I read highly praised this title. In addition to the sexy stuff, this book has a compelling story about a long-running family feud. I am now obsessed with Rai’s work and will soon read the next book in the Forbidden Hearts series Wrong to Need You, which features Livvy’s twin brother Jackson and her sister-in-law Sadia. Note: If you prefer your romance novels chaste then this series is not for you.

I feel quite accomplished being one-fourth of the way through the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Hopefully I can maintain this momentum! I will update you when I finish another six books.

Are you following any reading challenges? Tell me in the comments!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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