October 13, 2023 - Friday the 13th

The publication date for this column is Friday, the 13th. This is the second Friday, the 13th of the year. This day is considered unlucky for many reasons, some rooted in religion. Judas Iscariot was the 13th person at the Last Supper. Then there is a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party in Valhalla. The trickster god Loki, who was not invited, arrived as the 13th guest, and arranged for Höðr to shoot Balder with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. And of course there is the dawn raid on Friday, October 13, 1307, where scores of French Templars were simultaneously arrested by agents of King Philip. All the Order of the Knight’s Templar’s lands were confiscated and those captured were tortured and put to death.  Historically, Friday the 13th isn’t a good day to attend a dinner with 12 other people or to have annoyed a king. Interestingly, a mathematical analysis of 400 years of calendars by Brown (1933), showed that the thirteenth of the month is slightly more likely to be on a Friday than on any other day.  Probably the safest way to spend this unlucky day is in a safe place (possibly at home), staying away from ladders, black cats (unless you share your domicile with one, and even do, you are probably aware that one of their missions in life is to trip you up), and sharp objects. A safe activity is, undoubtedly, sitting still and reading. You might want to venture out, very cautiously, to the library and consider checking out some of these new titles which recently arrived at the library. I would suggest a book with fewer than 300 pages in case you doze off while reading and it falls on you. More than 300 pages might pack a big of a wallop. Safe reading and enjoy! 

New Non-Fiction

“Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life” by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sharing his toolkit for a meaningful life, along with personal stories, and life-changing successes and life-threatening failures alike, the Austrian-born bodybuilder, actor, businessman, philanthropist and politician shows us how to put these tools to work, in service of whatever fulfilling future we can dream up for ourselves.

“Hitchcock’s Blondes: The Unforgettable Women Behind the Legendary Director’s Dark Obsession” by Laurence Leamer. Offering an intimate journey into the lives of eight legendary actresses whose stories help chart the course of the enigmatic director’s career, this mesmerizing account takes a modern look at both the enduring art created by a man obsessed—and the private toll that fixation took on the women in his orbit. Illustrations.

“Making It So: A Memoir” by Patrick Stewart. The distinguished stage and screen actor whose illustrious career spans six decades and who has captivated audiences around the world presents his long-awaited memoir in which he recounts his journey thus far, from his humble beginnings in Yorkshire, England, to the very heights of Hollywood.

“On Great Fields: The Life and Unlikely Heroism of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain” by Ronald C. White. Illuminating one of the most admired but least known figures of our nation’s bloodiest conflict, an award-winning historian presents this definitive biography of the trained minister and professor who found his way to the battlefield, becoming known as one of the North’s greatest heroes. 

New Fiction

“Long Past Dues, No.2 (The Unorthodox Chronicles)” by James J. Butcher. An Auditor, enforcing laws about magic for Boston’s Department of Unorthodox Affairs, Grimsby, determined to prove his worth, attempts to discover the origins of a strange, unfinished ritual with the help of Leslie Mayflower, the temporarily unretired Huntsman, and stop it from being completed.

“The Night House” by Jo Nesbo. When he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in the remote, insular town of Ballantyne, 14-yearold Richard Elauved, when he is suspected in the disappearances of two classmates, must prove his innocence and preserve his sanity as he grapples with the dark magic that is possessing the town.

“Princess of Dune (Dune)” by Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson. Irulan, Princess Royal, now of marriageable age, witnesses the machinations of the many factions vying for power, and is determined to become much more than a pawn, while Chani, trained in the Fremen mystical ways, soon learns the harsh cost of Fremen dreams and obligations under the oppressive Harkonnen occupation.

“Starling House” by Alix Harrow. In a modern gothic fantasy novel, Opal is a lot of things--orphan, high school dropout, full-time cynic and part-time cashier--but above all, she's a determined to find a better life for her younger brother Jasper.

“Distant Sons” by Tim Johnston. Two young working men forge a friendship despite secrets in their past, and their actions ignite the passions and violence of a small Wisconsin town still haunted by the unsolved disappearance of three boys in the 1970s.

“A Haunting on the Hill” by Elizabeth Hand. Holly Sherwin has been a struggling playwright for years, but now, after receiving a grant to develop her play, she may finally be close to her big break.

“Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop” by Jenny Colgan. In this sequel to the instant 
“New York Times” bestseller “The Christmas Bookshop”, an American production company decides that McCredie’s is the perfect location to film a very cheesy Christmas movie and Carmen, the bookshop’s manager, uses this unexpected windfall to fend off a buyout offer from an obnoxious millionaire.

“The Twelve Dogs of Christmas” by Susan Wigss. Arriving in Avalon, New York, to drop rescue puppies off at their forever homes, Brenda Malloy is trapped in the town by a blinding snowstorm, an escaped mutt and a life-saving encounter with a single dad and paramedic who restores her faith in Christmas—and love.

“What We Kept to Ourselves” by Nancy Jooyoun Kim. A family searches for answers following the disappearance of their mother.

“The Burnout” by Sophie Kinsella. Retreating to the British seaside resort she loved as a child, burned out professional Sasha meets Finn, who’s just as stressed a she is, and forced together by curious messages addressed to them, talk about everything, including the simmering attraction between them.