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Quirky Characters, a Charming Setting and Topical Issues: Louise Penny’s A Better Man

4 May

A Better Man
Take a small rural Canadian village. A bistro serving almond croissants and café au lait. A quirky cast of core characters, with a few new faces mixed in each new book of the series.

Mix in some current topical issues, in this case the effects of environmental change, social media reality and the how impressions can be shaped there by anonymity, doctored videos and the viral nature of opinions. Add other dark aspects of life, like violence against women.

What you get is a somewhat cozy mystery with enough rough reality mixed in that you won’t gag from the sweetness.

It’s a formula that is repeated throughout this now 15 book long series. Armand Gamache, an officer of the Surete du Quebec lives with his extended family in the (fictional) village of Three Pines in Quebec. He deals with various crimes (a rather shocking amount, for such a backwater) as well as issues within the Surete du Quebec. He carries the baggage of decisions he has made in his career in each new book. In this one, he is looking into the disappearance of a woman known to have been abused by her husband. He is helped by his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and other Surete agents that have appeared in previous books in the series.

I hesitate to make the suggestion, because it is a rather substantial reading commitment, but it really is best to read the series in order. There is enough explanation of the backstories of the major plot developments to get you through each book as a stand-alone, but your enjoyment will be deeper for seeing characters develop over time. Penny doesn’t pull any punches. She is not afraid to write main characters out of the script or involve plot twists that will shock you.

A list of the series in order from the first to the most recent is: Still Life, A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book, different title), The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title), The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses, Kingdom of the Blind, and A Better Man.  You can find them as ebooks and/or digital audiobooks to checkout from eLibraryNJ, eBCCLS, and Hoopla.

If you require s bit more convincing, take a look at Louise Penny’s web site, which features reviews and more describing the books in detail.

What I enjoy about the series is the morality of Armand Gamache and the plotting that keeps each book both familiar and surprising. And the food! The characters frequently indulge in food and drink at the bistro or at get-togethers at the villagers’ homes that sound awesome.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

Celebrate Poetry Month!: Poetry by David Elliott and Patricia Hruby Powell

15 Apr

April is poetry month! This month, the Hoboken Public Library Young Adult Department challenges you to become more aware and develop an appreciation of poetry. Poetry does not always rhyme and is not just a couple of verses to put on a greeting card. What better way to celebrate poetry month than to check out poetry through the Hoboken Public Library? We have a variety of digital resources including Hoopla, eBCCLS, and eLibraryNJ. Through these online digital resources, you can access these fiction books that are written in verse. Whether it is an adaptation of Greek mythology or the telling of a true love story that changed the country, these books are bound to attract many readers. 

Bull by David Elliott
Any true fans of Greek mythology will love David Elliott’s adaption of the Greek myth of the Minotaur. A Minotaur is a half-human and half-bull creature. Asterion is a Minotaur, whose story started before he was born. His birth was evidence of the revenge and betrayal of King Minos. The mastermind behind everything is Poseidon, the god of the sea, because King Minos angered him. So, instead of directly taking out his revenge on the king, he instead inflicted it on his wife, Queen Pasiphae. He did this by sending a bull to seduce the queen and therefore produce Asterion, the minotaur. Asterion understandably grows up estranged from his family but is still able to build a bond with his sister, Ariadne. The book captures this Greek story through verse and freestyle rap. The reader gets to take in the story through the voices of seven characters that play out throughout the book. The reader gets to see whether the bond between a brother and sister is strong enough to fight fate.  This title is available from eBCCLS as an ebook and  digital audiobook, eLibraryNJ as an ebook, and Hoopla as an ebook.

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell
Loving Vs Virginia
Come and see how love conquered all and even changed a country in this historical verse fiction. Patricia Hruby Powell introduces Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving separately and together through her use of free verse. According to the law at this time, Mildred is considered “colored,” and Richard is considered “white” because of their skin tone. At this time, it is legal to keep people of different skin colors from loving or marrying each other. But this brave couple did just that through a legal loophole. They traveled from Virginia to Washington D.C. to get legally married. Trouble would not have been in the equation of their marriage, if they stayed in Washington D.C., but they went right back home to Virginia. Once they settled into married life, Richard and a pregnant Mildred were ripped apart and put in jail! Powell balances the external influences of Brown v.s Board of Education and the civil rights movement on the Lovings’ fight to live their lives as a married couple in the state they grew up in.  You can borrow Loving Vs. Virginia as an ebook or digital audiobook from Hoopla.

If you missed it, check out our blog post from last week with inspiration to write your own poetry.

Have a fiction book in verse to recommend?  Share it in our comments!

Written by:
Elbie Love
Young Adult Library Associate

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