British Mysteries from Book to Screen

Today’s post comes to us from our Deputy Director Deb, who loves a good mystery!

Many devoted mystery readers began with Agatha Christie’s classic golden age mysteries featuring Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot. I certainly did! These distinctly British offerings are a perfect gateway into the world of mysteries. And like so many other British mysteries, they have been made into marvelous television series, which you can watch using the library’s new streaming video service, Acorn TV. Or you can download the books in e-book or e-audio from the library’s website.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are both well represented on Acorn TV and in our e-book and e-audiobook collections. Consider reading or listening to Murder on the Orient Express, The ABC Murders or The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Check out Acorn TV and watch Marple, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime, The Agatha Christie Hour and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Also try Christie’s classic locked-room mystery, And Then There Were None, considered to be the world’s best-selling mystery, available in e-book and e-audio and on Acorn.

The Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton features a middle-aged woman who sells her London PR firm and moves to the country (the Cotswolds, to be precise), where, in true amateur detective fashion, she encounters—and solves– murders galore! Try the first book in the series, Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, available in both audio and ebook. Or read any of the others—like so many long-running mystery series, it isn’t necessary to read them in order. Then watch Agatha Raisin on Acorn, a top pick for fans of cozy British mysteries.

One of my favorite village cozy series, also by M.C. Beaton, features the unambitious and charming policeman Hamish Macbeth who patrols the village of Lochdubh in the Scottish Highlands. I have listened to all of them on audio. The reader, Graeme Malcolm, imbues the audiobooks with such charm and personality that I’m betting you, too, will be hooked! We have more than a dozen titles available on e-audio, including Death of an Honest Man and  Death of a Gossip. Then check out Hamish Macbeth on Acorn.

The Phryne Fisher series by Kerry Greenwood, featuring a glamorous private detective in 1920s Melbourne, is actually Australian, but close enough to fit in with our British theme. The supremely independent Miss Fisher has class, sass and the means to pull it all off! Try Cocaine Blues, the first in the series, or The Spotted Dog. The clothes alone make the series worth watching Miss Fisher on Acorn!

Ann Cleeves’ series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is considerably darker than the other series in this post. DCI Stanhope is a solitary, obsessed, caustic, brilliant investigator near the end of her career working in northern England. Try listening to the first in the series, The Crow Trap, or read The Seagull. And be sure to watch Vera on Acorn TV.

Set in Ireland, the long-running Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen has been thrilling readers (and now TV fans) for years. Taylor is a classic ex-cop turned seedy private eye prowling the underbelly of Galway. Try e-book or e-audio  Galway Girl or e-audio Purgatory and check out Jack Taylor on Acorn.

Groovin’ with Pete the Cat

Children’s books are notoriously hard to get published. Everyone has an idea for a children’s book, and almost all of them will never see a contract. More than 21,000 children’s titles are published every year in the US, by a number of publishers, which is only a dent in the number of actual submissions. Scholastic, the one who haunts school kids with that monthly flier, publishes just 600 books a year, from board books through High School. So when a children’s book is self-published, sells 7,000 copies in its first ten months and is then signed on by major publisher Harper Collins, you know there’s something really good there. And in this case, the really good is Pete the Cat .

If you haven’t read him, Pete the Cat is a groovy large-eyed, laid-back blue/black cat who lives with his mom and dad and his tuxedo-patterned brother Bob. He has a host of friends (Grumpy Toad, Gus the Platypus, Callie, Squirrel, etc) and he loves bananas and surfing. His stories are mostly easy-readers that play to the 2-7 year old crowd, but he is infinitely more interesting than that. Pete is the kind of story you want your child to like, because you want to read more of his stories.

Pete is the creation of James Dean, whose early illustrations wound up as musically or rhythmically-oriented stories by storyteller/musician Eric Litwin. Litwin wrote four of Pete’s adventures (Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons, Rockin in my School Shoes, I Love My White Shoes, and Pete the Cat Saves Christmas). I have to admit, these early volumes are my favorites, and I cannot help but read Pete stories as if he’s a surfer dude. Groovy, man. While Litwin and Dean split in 2011, Dean and his wife Kimberly have written more than 60 Pete adventures, with more on the way. Pete’s adventures range from curing hiccups (Mom knows best!) to sleepover friends who won’t sleep, to shopping in the grocery store and scuba diving.

The actual Pete the Cat

Being an artist was not Dean’s plan. His father was an artist, and he didn’t relish  reliving the struggle. While being an electrical engineer paid bills, art crept into his life more and more, until he began to pursue art full-time. When he adopted a tiny black kitten he named Pete, Pete’s antics crept into his artwork , and a legend was born.

Dean’s success is an author’s dream – self-published, picked up by a real publisher just two years later, a runaway success (more than 7 million copies sold), merchandise deals, and now a TV series on Amazon Prime, with voices by no one less than jazz singers Jason Mraz and Diana Krall (which totally fits, because Pete gives off that groovy chill of a cool jazz cat). They say self-publishing doesn’t pay, but Dean is one of those handful of lucky authors who won that lottery.

While I find some of the titles to be uneven and lacking the lyrical qualities of the bigger titles such as Groovy Buttons, Pete remains one of my current favorite preschool titles, stories you don’t mind reading over and over again, with subtle morals (family, keeping your cool, how to be a friend, sharing, learning, etc) that won’t make you roll your eyes with saccharine. Rock on, Pete!

Cheshire Library has more than thirty Pete titles!  Here are some of them:

Pete the Cat: Rockin in My School Shoes
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons 
Pete at the Beach
Pete’s Big Lunch
Pete the Cat: Scuba Cat
Pete the Cat: Snow Daze
A Pet for Pete
Pete the Cat and his Magic Sunglasses
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
Pete the Cat and the Bedtime Blues
Pete the Cat Goes Camping
Pete the Cat and the Perfect Pizza Party
Pete the Cat and the New Guy

7 Full-Cast Audiobooks that are like theater for your ears

Did you know that June is Audiobook Month? There’s no denying the increasing popularity of audiobooks. And within the format, there are many different styles of narration to be had. To use a food analogy,  while the author creates the original recipe, the narrator is responsible for presenting the finished meal in the most appetizing way possible. Most often, a single narrator takes on the task of bringing a story to life, but occasionally a story lends itself to a more theatrical telling, and that’s when a full cast narration can be so much fun.

Full cast recordings can often take on the feel of an old-fashioned radio show, and the best ones are like listening to a Broadway play. If you’re missing the experience of attending the theater,  try one of these full-cast audiobooks that are almost as good as a trip to the theater.  They’re available for Cheshire Library cardholders from RBdigital.

1. The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, starting with The Golden Compass. The author, himself an excellent narrator, anchors these stories, with a full cast assuming all the speaking roles. It’s outstanding, and the full cast makes it easy to distinguish between the many characters that populate this series.

2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. The original American full dramatization as broadcast on National Public Radio, this really is the recording of a radio show. Bilbo Baggins, a gentle hobbit who loves the comforts of home, reluctantly joins a company of dwarves on a journey to recover plundered gold from a fierce dragon.

3. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.  The author acts as narrator, with an all-star supporting cast. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, David Sedaris, Susan Sarandon, Bill Hader, and 160 more cast members breath life into the  story of President Lincoln spending a night of mourning at the crypt of his eleven-year-old son.

4. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Gallant. This sci-fi/thriller/fantasy/historical/mystery about a  shadowy government agency–the Department of Diachronic Operations – and the discovery that magic was once real and could be again, comes alive with a “magical’ cast of narrators.

5. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. Fans of the true-crime genre will devour this fictional tale that explores the events and characters surrounding by the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley. The cast of characters are vividly portrayed by a terrific group of narrators.

6. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This audiobook chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional rock band in the 1970s, and boasts an impressive cast of narrators, including Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, and Judy Greer, among others.

7. Sandry’s Book by Tamora Pierce. Narrated by the author and fleshed out by a talented cast of character actors, the first book in Pierce’s wonderful Circle of Magic series introduces the listener to four young misfits with a talent for magic, and is a treat for all ages.

 

Anti-Racism : A Reading List

Right now, many are wondering how to come to a better understanding of racism (particularly against Black Americans) in our culture and what they can do to support anti-racist initiatives. With something so deeply ingrained in our society that some don’t even recognize it, education is a good starting point. There are hundreds of books on the subject, many available at your local library. We’ve put together a “primer” of titles available at Cheshire Library that many consider essential reading on the subject:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.  Examines the sensitive, hyper-charged racial landscape in current America, discussing the issues of privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Combines ethics, history, law, and science with a personal narrative to describe how to move beyond the awareness of racism and contribute to making society just and equitable.

The Fire Next Time  by James Baldwin. The powerful evocation of a childhood in Harlem that helped to galvanize the early days of the civil rights movement examines the deep consequences of racial injustice to both the individual and the body politic

Just Mercy  by Bryan Stevenson. The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama explains why justice and mercy must go hand-in-hand through the story of Walter McMillian, a man condemned to death row for a murder he didn’t commit. 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

The Condemnation of Blackness : Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad. Chronicles the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, and reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Argues that the War on Drugs and policies that deny convicted felons equal access to employment, housing, education, and public benefits create a permanent under caste based largely on race.

White Fragility : Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Anti-racist educator DiAngelo illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility, how these actions protect racial inequality, and presents strategies for engaging more constructively in these conversations.

I’m Still Here : Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. An eye-opening account of growing up Black, Christian, and female in middle-class white America.

Me and White Supremacy : Combat racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by  Layla F. Saad. The host of the “Good Ancestor” podcast presents an updated and expanded edition of the Instagram challenge that launched a cultural movement about taking responsibility for first-person racism to stop unconsciously inflicting pain on others.

 

Check out Sync Audiobooks for Teens – Now available through Cheshire Public Library

Sync Audiobooks are now available through the Cheshire Public Library for young adults and teens! SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Returning April 30th and continuing 13 weeks until July 29,  SYNC gives participants two thematically paired audiobooks for free each week.   You can download these titles through Sora, the student reading app available through Overdrive, available on multiple different platforms, including Android, Apple, and tablets.

This is a great opportunity to keep teens reading during the summer, and to encourage a lifelong love of reading! Different free audiobooks are available every week, so if you’re not interested in what’s available for one week, just wait a week and try again. For the week of May 21st, there’s a mix of genres available to download. First up is Sister’s Matsumoto by Philip Kan Gotanda. Described as “Three Japanese-American sisters return to their California farm in 1945, after years in an internment camp. But the once prosperous family finds it’s not easy to pick up the pieces of their former lives.”  It’s a great title for those who are interested in historical fiction, and stories with strong female characters.

Next up is Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork, a mystery of criminal intrigue with  characters who are drawn up into a web of lies. The book description: “Four months ago… Sara Zapata’s best friend disappeared, kidnapped by the web of criminals who terrorize Juarez. Four hours ago… Sara received a death threat – and, with it, a clue to the place where her friend is locked away. Four weeks ago… Emiliano Zapata fell in love with Perla Rubi, who will never be his so long as he’s poor. Four minutes ago… Emiliano got the chance to make more money than he ever dreamed – just by joining the web. In the next four days, Sara and Emiliano will each face impossible choices, between life and justice, friends and family, truth and love.”

This is just a taste of the books that Sync offers, and if you’re not interested in any of these, just wait another week! This program will be going until July 29th, for a total of 26 titles. Each week has a different mood, one week mysteries, the next romance, so there’s plenty for everyone. Below is the full calendar of titles, so you can see what’s coming up next.

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If you’re worried about school ending and summer slide, this is a great way to combat the fear of learning ending when the school year ends. Encouraging a consistent love of reading and learning is a great way to keep your teens reading and discussing books throughout the summer months.

Need help downloading?  Our Librarians are working remotely to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We are still available by email or phone Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm to answer your questions, help you download digital materials, or resolve issues with your library account.