Did You Know?

Did you know that the Main Library has four adult book discussion groups? Three are held at 301 York Street and one is held off-site.

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The Mayor’s Book Club meets at the Main Library on the third Wednesday of the month, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. Brown-bag lunches are welcome.

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Do you like reading Mysteries? Do enjoy discussing what you’ve read but can’t find anyone to discuss them with? Then come to the Mystery Book Discussion Group at the Main Library where we discuss a different mystery every month.

We meet on the third Tuesday of the month from 2:00 – 3:00 pm in the Boardroom on the second floor of the North Building.

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Did you love comics as a kid and do you still? Or are you new to the magic of graphic literature?

No matter when you started, the Graphic Novel Discussion Group is the place for you!

The Group meets at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month from 7 – 8 pm.

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Last but not least, our newest book discussion group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at the Falls City Taproom from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

Fiction Books Written By Scientists

In 2019 two scientists wrote novels. Even more interesting is the fact that they were written by women scientists. While scientists are known for collecting data and writing informative and research-based papers, it isn’t often that you find one that takes that data and uses it to speak so powerfully about the human condition. Both stories are a fascinating look at the way human nature emulates the nature of our environment through the lives of insects and birds. Both books beg the question of our humanity and our connection to the micro-relationships of the natural world.

It is noteworthy that while experts in their field, these women authors are not defined by only their expertise but use their knowledge to cross literary genres. They each move from the often cold and clinical scientific realm to a prose that sometimes lacks scientific authentication to create a unique voice. Merging scientific fact with fiction creates a refreshing genuine voice for the reader that speaks a truth about our basic instincts.   

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Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens takes place in a cove on the North Carolina coast. It is a study of the nature of humans and isolation as well as a stunning look at the ecosystem of a marsh.

Kya Clark, often known as Marsh Girl, has lived in the swamp all her life alone and often lonely until a murder in the swamp brings the eyes of the whole community. When Chase Andrews is found dead, people start questioning Kya’s connection and whether this wild beautiful girl is to blame. Even Kya knows that she has been changed by the seclusion and remoteness of the swamp.

 “She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

— Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

Owens explores the dynamics of families and relationships through Kya and the marsh. Kya’s family has abandoned her one by one. Her mother is the hardest and most unexplained loss. Kya spends many years mourning this loss and trying to understand it. The reader will feel Kya’s desperation and determination in her wary attempts to connect and be part of a human relationship; experiencing hurt and returning time and time again back to the comfort of the marsh.

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

–Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

This isn’t just a haunting tale of love and murder but a story of our natural instincts and how we become not just human but how that humanity informs our ideas of right and wrong. It explores the notions of survival versus life and living. Kya has few teachers in this and yet there are those that look beyond the wild to see her heart. Kya’s teacher is the marsh and Owen uses her knowledge to show us how both science and art create the most complete and beautiful picture.

“Her collections matured, categorized methodically by order, genus, and species; by age according to bone wear; by size in millimeters of feathers; or by the fragile hues of greens. The science and art entwined in each other’s strengths; the colors, the light, the species, the life; weaving a masterpiece of knowledge and beauty that filled every corner of her shack. Her world, She grew with them–the trunk of the vine–alone, but holding all the wonders together.”

–Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

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Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah is set in rural Illinois and makes comparisons about nesting birds and the relationships between an ornithologist, a recluse egg salesman and a young mysterious girl. 

Joanna Teale spends long and tiring days studying the nesting birds of rural Illinois. She works herself weary so as not to dwell on the recent death of her mother from cancer. She has little time for anything else and thus finds herself in a sticky situation when a young girl, Ursa, appears at her cabin claiming to be an alien who has come to earth to study humans. Joanna enlists the help of her neighbor and recluse, Gabriel Nash. Together they fall in love with this strange little girl while trying to find out where she came from and how to help her.

Vanderah uses nesting birds and their habits to help explore the dynamics of Joanna’s grief and Gabriel’s anxiety. Both characters are afraid of leaving the protective nests they have built for themselves. It is only when Ursa, a girl with her own mysterious past, makes them choose comfort or a chance of something bigger than themselves. Like Owens, Vanderah emphasizes the connection to the natural world.

“Maybe it has something to do with how they can turn their backs on the comforts of society for long periods of time. But it’s not just that they can forgo society, it’s more like they need to. For people like that, the natural world is vital, a spiritual experience.”

— Glendy Vanderah, Where the Forest Meets the Stars

Ursa speaks of coming from the stars and viewing the earth as a being, not of the earth. It is interesting how Vanderah uses this analogy to speak to issues of grief, anxiety, and trauma that both her characters and we, as human beings, face,

Ursa hiding in the stars, Jo and Gabriel separating themselves from human contact; each character creating a way to be in the world but not of it. They are all viewing life and their natural surroundings like scientists, disconnected. It is only when they are forced together that they themselves become part of the living.

Like Owens, Vanderah speaks to the connection of our natural world and the art we make. In her book, she writes, “Art is supposed to represent how you see the world, not exactly copy it,” inspiring us all to find the beauty and our place in the complex weaving of nature and life itself.

– Review by Catherine, Main Library

Randall Munroe at the Library

WRandall Munroe is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer:
Complicated Stuff in Simple Words
, the science question-and-answer blog What If, and the popular
web-comic xkcd.

A former NASA roboticist, he left the agency in 2006 to draw comics on the internet full-time.

His new book, How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems (available in
September) is billed as “the world’s most entertaining and useless self-help guide.”

Date: Wednesday, September 18, 7 PM

This program is free, but tickets are requested. Click here to order.

The Little Shop of Found Things

Have you ever looked at an old house, an ancient tree, or a piece of antique jewelry, and wished it could share what it has seen through the years? As a young child, Xanthe found that when sometimes she touched an old piece, she would become aware of its history.

Xanthe and her severely arthritic mother, Flora, had recently purchased an old antique shop. One day while adding stock, Xanthe came across a silver chatelaine (a set of short chains attached to a woman’s belt, used for carrying keys or other items) that spoke to her very powerfully. It not only had a story attached but the vengeful spirit of Margaret Merton. Margaret would stop at nothing, even murder, to get Xanthe to do her bidding. 

So begins Xanthe’s mysterious adventure of time travel, injustice, and a romance that will span the centuries.

In 1605, a servant girl named Alice was accused of being a thief and had been hanged. Using the silver chatelaine, Margaret sends Xanthe back in time so she can rescue Alice. While in the past, Xanthe also meets a grave young architect, Samuel Appleby, to whom she is strongly attracted, who helps her in her mission. By saving Alice from the hangman’s noose, Xanthe knew she was already risking the future but what choice did she have? Margaret’s spirit was in control and Xanthe would be trapped in the past if she didn’t prevent Alice from dying. Xanthe needs to return to her own time, knowing Flora might die without her help.

Xanthe is a quirky outspoken young woman whose vintage clothing, Doc Martens, compassion for others, witty sense of humor make her quite a character. The kind of person you’d want to travel back in time with on this adventure. Flora, her mother is a loving, smart woman who does not let her ailments and arthritic pain stop her from working and becoming a part of their new situation in Marlborough. Samuel is a renaissance man, who surprisingly overcomes his caution to befriend Xanthe who’s fighting for justice in an unjust time.

There are other characters who come to life with a few swipes of author Paula Brackston‘s pen. They will live on after the last page ends. Brackston shares stories that bridge the centuries, mysteries, one mother’s love for her daughter beyond the grave, injustices of the times, and a daughter’s commitment to her mother.

The second installment of the series, The Secrets of the Chocolate
House
, is due to hit the streets on October 22, 2019.

Available Formats: Book & Ebook

Review by Micah, St Matthews

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon

Comics, horror, noir crime, sword and sorcery, and YA lit are all brought to the fore in Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands. This collection of short essays riffs on the gamut of genre fiction, finding interesting ways to defend genre fiction and to connect it to “high” literature. Chabon brings his own insights on writing – a process often obscured by one’s experiences as a reader – as he alchemically unites diverse and disparate topics from Norse epics to Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!  Not just dry literary theory here, no sir. 

In the essay from which the book derives its name, Chabon regales readers with a childhood tale of his family’s move to an unfinished subdivision. Rather than the typical narrative of being stifled by suburban newness and sterility, Chabon imparts a feeling of awe at such open opportunity. It is an awe that motivates him to fill a sketchy map of the subdivision with wonders, as if drawing out secrets from the air. Readers are able to vicariously feel that rush of power inherent in the creative process, one which leaves you in its afterglow wondering how you have gotten from start to finish.

Filling in the map is – to the author – part of a more general aesthetic of writing from the vantage point of exile. As he sees it, both Jews and lovers of genre fiction are vibrant communities often excluded from the mainstream of society and literature respectively. It is this position of exile which tethers Chabon to his Jewish roots and to genre fiction as a collective whole.

Other pieces are, in some ways, meditations on loss of youth and its closely-associated sense of adventure. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is characterized in such a manner. The only criticism in this laudatory essay is that the heroine of the trilogy, Lyra Belacqua, becomes a much flatter, less interesting character as she moves from unbounded agency to dutiful fulfillment of destiny. In essence, Chabon views Pullman as much greater at exploring the map of his richly developed tale than in reaching the story’s destination.

Maps and Legends is for fans of genre fiction, particularly those who do not mind blending and blurring of genre’s boundaries, or of writing about writing. 

Formats Available: Book

Review by Tony, Main Library

AnimeCon 16 is coming!

AnimeCon, LFLP’s annual celebration of all things anime and manga, descends on the Main Library this Friday, August 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.!

Teens ages 12-19 are invited to join us for a fun-filled day of anime, cosplay, manga, and Asian culture as we close out Teen Summer Reading. They can enjoy tea the Japanese way along with a screening of Yuri on Ice, learn about the art of Shibori, compete in the 16th annual Ramen Noodle Eating Contest, dance, enjoy some K-Pop, make stuff, and hit the ice on our indoor ice rink! We’ll end the day with a costume contest with prizes!

Registration for this event is requested. 

Register online at http://www.lfpl.org/tickets/animecon-registration.asp 

Outlander series by Diana Galbadon

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I’m pretty sure that the majority of America knows about the TV show, Outlander. Most people have been introduced to Jamie and Claire through Starz hit show, including me, an avid reader who must read the book before watching adaptations. However, that wasn’t the case with Outlander. I was three episodes in before I discovered that this awesome TV show was a book, and not just one book but an eight-book series! So I stopped watching and picked up the first book from my library.

I was hooked from the very beginning. Claire visits Craigh na Dun, a stone circle near Inverness, with her husband Frank.  She ends up falling through the stones to 18th Century Scotland, arriving on the eve of what would become known as the Rising of 45, the last of the Jacobite rebellions. This set up gave my adult self what my childhood history nerd self could only dream about, traveling back in time to witness first hand a historical event. And it is set during one of my favorite periods of history, the Scottish Highlands before 1745.

The Clans system, still intact, plays a strong role in the storyline and how the characters interact with each other. Claire, a modern woman, is definitely not prepared for the past. Soon after arrival, she is rescued from Black Jack Randall (her husband Frank’s ancestor) by a ragtag group of Highlanders led by Jamie Frasier. Jamie Fraser is pretty much a man of the 18th Century. He’s used to the mild and submissive women of his time, not one as strong-willed and slightly foul-mouthed as Claire.

These two seem the least likely to fall in love. Love, at first sight, it is not; Claire can’t stand his old fashioned views and he calls her “Sassenach,” meaning “outlander” or “outsider” as an insult. Eventually, this turns to a term of endearment. The two become part of a hasty marriage to protect Claire from the English, but it’s not a happily ever after. Claire gets sent back through the stones and the couple ends up being separated by over two centuries.

While Outlander is the love story of Jamie and Claire it is also a family saga of survival. Both Claire and Jamie survive a war and terrible times but still manage to find each other again, as well as expand their family through blood, marriage, and adoption. Outlander was Jamie and Claire’s love story while Dragonfly in Amber is the story of war and how they became separated. The follow-up installment, Voyager, is the story of how they find each other again. Drums of Autumn, my favorite book in the series, is the story of their family, blood or otherwise.

The series has something for everyone – history, time-travel, romance, and adventure – which is what made the series so enjoyable for me. When I read historical fiction I don’t mind romance but I don’t want it to take over the story. I want the history of the time to play a role as well as a nice balance. Gabaldon does that well you can tell that she does her research on the period  before sitting down to write. Each book is filled with rich historical detail that translates well to the screen.

If you’ve read the books and enjoyed them I would recommend watching the show. Keep in mind the show is an adaption of the books, so scenes may differ. If you’ve only seen the show and are experiencing Outlander withdrawal (a.k.a. Droughtlander), I would highly recommend reading the books. The library has copies of the first eight books as well as the DVDs of the first three series.

Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Bunch of random and awesome nonfiction I read one rainy weekend…

The Book of Extraordinary Deaths: True Accounts of Ill-Fated Lives by Cecilia Ruiz

First off, this is one of those quirky, dark but humorous books that isn’t for everyone.  Fortunately, I like dark and quirky.  I like it a lot actually.  If you go in for bizarrely ironic tales of untimely demise this is the book for you.  For example, a dude tripped over his own 4-5 foot-long beard while attempting to escape from a fire.  A cactus crushed another guy to death.  A French undertaker died when a pile of coffins fell on top of him.  I mean you can’t make this stuff up.  It’s short and sweet, yet lovely and clever. Each character comes to life within the telling of their peculiar ends and the accompanying beautiful illustrations.

In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light by Jeanne Damas

I went to Paris alone for the first time about 5 years ago and the city still lingers in me.  I was terrified as I had never traveled alone or been overseas but I loved every second!  It was exhilarating and exciting and extraordinary! ALL THE E WORDS! 

However, I can only dream of being as chic and nonchalant as the women in this book.  It’s an elegant little book with 20 profiles of inspiring women living in Paris.  Included are fabulous recommendations for the best red lipsticks, the best places in Paris to be kissed, best florists, best vintage clothes shops and more.  I got a real kick at imagining myself back in the city of light and imagining I can pull off the sophistication and smartness Parisian women seem to possess.

Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil: the creation – the inspiration – the fascination by Jen Darcy

I’m not a Disney fanatic…but I am what I’d call a huge Disney fan.  I adore the Disney villains.  Possibly more than the heroes sometimes. Maleficent being my favorite villain of all time.  Although, I think she’s a tad misunderstood.  They should’ve just invited her to the party. 

In this eye-catching coffee table book each villain is outlined in detail and includes information on the animators, directors and the voice actors who brought the character to life.  My favorite part being a catalog of all the rides at the various Disney parks that include villains, such as the Alice in Wonderland Maze and the Haunted Mansion Holiday.  It made me want to start saving for a trip to Disney ASAP.

— Review by Heather, St. Matthews

In the Rearview: The Road Back to Jack

Editor’s Note: The following review contains a quote from Jack Kerouac that may be offensive to some. However, it is used by the reviewer to capture a certain point of view from a certain place and time, not for shock value.

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” ― Jack KerouacOn the Road

JACK KEROUAC published his most famous book in 1957. He had been working on it off and on for a few years, when he sat down and typed it all out in 3 weeks in 1951 on a 120-foot-long scroll. It would take him over 6 years to find a publisher. When he did find a publisher, they cut it, changed it, and cleaned it up for the Puritanical society of 1950’s America. On September 5, 1957, The New York Times published a glowing review and Kerouac became famous overnight.  Jack was a shy man and serious writer, and couldn’t handle the pressures of fame and drank himself to death in 12 years.

In 2007, this uncut version was published as it looked when Jack typed it out. No paragraphs or spaces between lines. I started reading this when it came out, but the print threw me off and I only made it through about 30 pages. How can a person who worships Kerouac as the greatest American Writer since Wolfe wait almost a decade to read this?  So now, with GLASSES and a will to move…FAST THIS TIME (the words Jack used to describe how he was going to tell his new novel.), I read this as fast as possible to get the feel of how Jack spewed it out onto paper.

I first read ON THE ROAD in my late 20’s around the same age as Jack was when he wrote it. It became my bible. So, I re-read it several times and through the years every year or two to get different perspectives as I age. Most people that I know who read it, have no desire to read it again. It is considered, much like Thomas Wolfe’s books (Jack’s favorite writer) to be a book for the youth. It is a book of youthful promise and WILD adventure that is sometimes criminal. But the way Jack tells it, it all seems to make sense. So, I’m almost 55, what am I doing reading this book now?

VISIONS AND GIRLS…and more?

“Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.”

When my Great Aunt read OTR about 10 years ago, in her late 70’s, she gave me the one-line review, “it’s nothing but a lot of cross-country drinking, drugging, and screwing.”  On the surface yes. Isn’t that want most guys in their early twenties are seeking? But, Jack’s ramblings have a deeper aim. He knows he is a writer and for him that is a religious duty.

The Scroll version has vulgar language and uses the names of the actual persons instead of a pseudonym. Some of the Characters would go on to become very famous, such as Allen Ginsberg, Williams S. Burroughs, and Alfred Kinsey. Also, this version has a lot about homosexuals that 1950’s America was not ready for, even though Kinsey’s report in 1948 told us that over 1/3 of males had had at least one sexual experience with another male. That stuff, along with anything sexual, was supposed to stay in the closet or at least behind closed doors. Jack and his gang blow those doors off of their hinges.

But The Scroll is a purer text than the cleaned up version. It is what you tell your friend directly, but not the whole world. But because Jack had felt that God wanted him to “Go moan for man,” he is tell us all. The most controversial section of OTR wasn’t in the Scroll at all:

“At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night. I stopped at a little shack where a man sold hot red chili in paper containers; I bought some and ate it, strolling in the dark mysterious streets. I wished I were a Denver Mexican, or even a poor overworked Jap, anything but what I was so drearily, a “white man” disillusioned. All my life I’d had white ambitions.”

And this sums up what Jack is. He is looking for something on the road. Neal’s father? Religious Enlightenment? Girls? It is all there. And being a young, White, healthy male in 1950’s America it was his pearl to find.

But those fun kicks come with a weary price. And in this book you will find Joy and Sadness are but one taste.

MODERN LIBRARY rated On the Road as #55 in its 100 Best Novels. I would rate the Scroll even higher and as great as anything written at that time. It is a book (even more so than OTR) that preaches and practices NON-CONFORMITY, and as I age the more I get outside of society. It is also a book that preaches poverty for art’s sake or adventure’s sake. For better or for worse, this book in both versions, has had the most influence upon my life. I am not disillusioned and have no white ambitions at all.

Reviewed by Tom, Main Library