Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Julie's Journal : The Lost Girls by Heather Young

I’ve been in a little bit of a reading slump in this new year.  Nothing seems to have grabbed my attention and held it.  However, Friday, I was looking for something to read over the long weekend and I picked up The Lost Girls by Heather Young.  I was attracted by its menacing, dark blue cover, and the fact that it is a multi-generational story.  The Lost Girls is told from two points of view – that of Lucy and her great-niece Justine.  

Justine is a little lost herself.  She lives in San Diego with her two daughters and a boyfriend she picked up after her long-time partner, and father of her children, left without warning.  Her new boyfriend, Patrick, is a control freak and a master manipulator.  Justine, whose childhood was tumultuous, seems to feel that his manipulation is the price she must pay for finally being loved.  The night he stages a robbery to see if he can scare her into thinking something has happened to him scares her, but she probably would have continued justifying his behavior.  The next day, though, she finds out that Aunt Lucy has died and left Justine her house on a remote lake in Minnesota.  Justine packs up her daughters and drives cross country to the house, trying to leave no clues behind her as to where she has gone.  She arrives in the middle of a Minnesota winter and begins to try and rebuild her life. 

Lucy’s story was much more compelling.  Her baby sister, Emily disappeared on the last day of the summer of 1935.  Nothing has been seen of her since.  It is assumed that Emily tried to run away and perished in the deep woods around the lake.  However, Lucy begins her memoir by writing about the beginning of the summer.  From a well-to-do family, Lucy is eleven years old and feels like her older sister and friend, Lilith is slipping away from her.  She hopes that their annual summer at the lake will help them reconnect.  In truth she spends the summer watching as Lilith grows further and further away from her.  She begins to befriend her younger sister, the previously despised Emily, and makes friends with a boy from the lodge at the lake.   She continues describing the long summer, culminating in Emily’s disappearance. 

Ms. Young’s descriptions of the lake were lovely.  Justine and her daughters arrive in the dead of winter, just before Christmas, and the reader can feel the cold seeping through every crack in the dilapidated house.  The lake is frozen so hard that a car can be driven on it, something this Texas girl has a hard time imagining.  Lucy’s story takes place in the summer, and the cookouts, swimming parties, teenagers hanging out, and the heat come alive.  Ms. Young is very adept in setting the atmosphere of her novel and the summer of Lucy’s story contrasted with the winter of Justine’s is very effective.

Published in August of last year, The Lost Girls, is Ms. Young’s first novel.  I hope we see more from her soon.         

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Poet's Perch : Then Laugh by Bertha Adams Backus

Then Laugh

Build for yourself a strong box,
Fashion each part with care;
When it's strong as your hand can make it,
Put all your troubles there;
Hide there all thought of your failures,
And each bitter cup that you quaff;
Lock all your heartaches within it,
Then sit on the lid and laugh.

Tell no one else its contents,
Never its secrets share;
When you've dropped in your care and worry
Keep them forever there;
Hide them from sight so completely
That the world will never dream half;
Fasten the strong box securely - 
Then sit on the lid and laugh.

Bertha Adams Backus

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Chance's Corner: Ding Dong! The Wicked 2016 is Dead!

No year has ever looked better than 2017. It's a year full of hope. It's the light at the end of a very long tunnel called 2016. Sure, it's only a number, but 2016 was such a downright malicious year.

2016 started off with a real bang for me. I found myself being rushed to the ER with a case of kidney stones within the first three weeks of January (and five days before my birthday). Then in March, I had to have oral surgery, which left me with a big black eye. During two months of recovery, I could only eat soup and soft foods, and I couldn't even brush my teeth. Ick!

2016 also seemed to hold a personal grudge against celebrities. It claimed the lives of music legends Prince, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Bobby Vee and George Michael, while also targeting big screen legends such as Alan Rickman, Patty Duke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Gene Wilder. If that wasn't enough, 2016 also took away our TV mom, Florence Henderson, our TV dad, Alan Thicke, our TV grandmother, Doris Roberts, and real-life mother/daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Yes, time marches on, and our idols must get older, but so many were lost that still had so much life to give. Many were just in their 60s and 70s, while up-and-coming stars, Christina Grimmie and Anton Yelchin, were just in their 20s.

The evil of 2016 was felt by many, and as a result, a slew of memes (humorous images) flourished. Here are a few examples:

So, here's to a new year, and hopefully 2017 won't deal any major blows to our health and hearts. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tom's Two Cents : A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Once in a while a rare book comes along that has the gentility of another time, another place. "A Gentleman in Moscow" is that kind of book, although one would not necessarily expect such from its premise: a Russian aristocrat is detained by a Bolshevik Tribunal in the 1920s in Moscow and sentenced to life imprisonment in an empty service room in the elegant Metropol Hotel instead of hard labor in Siberia.  Why?  Because he supposedly wrote a poem in 1905 that favored the seeds of the Russian Revolution, which took place in 1917.  Thus, those who came into power were lenient, though not totally forgiving.

Count Alexander Rostov (remember the Rostovs in "War and Peace"?  Of course you do!), the aristocrat in question, is a gentleman to the very core.  The one percent of the aristocracy that ruled Russia under the Czars taught him everything he needed to know in 19th century Russian society, but nothing that worked in a 20th century Russian police state, masquerading as a state ruled by "the will of the people."  How will he survive?  In fact, how can he?  The fact that he not only does, escaping at one very low point a suicide attempt, but triumphs, over an almost impossible situation, is the substance of this very unusual novel.

I say "unusual" when I could just as well say "unique."  This novel, be it mainstream, has no profanity, no explicit sex, no violence, well, none of the usual things that seem to carry most audiences forward today.  It is not exactly a sentimental story--given the background of its time and place it could not be--but a story told nonetheless in both a sentimental--and at times quite humorous--manner.  Perhaps it is a reminder that certain things, like courtesy, manners and the refined pursuit of cultural goals, never quite leave a civilization, even though they may be shoved to the back burner.  If you can do without a compelling story line or in-depth characters, moving toward a smashing climax (there is a surprise ending), this book could well be for you!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Most Read Titles of 2016 and a Book Challenge

I (Julie) am a bit of a statistics nerd and I've been running reports this morning to find out what titles were read the most in 2016.  I ran a general report, but then I decided to break it down into different areas.  So without further ado, here are our most read titles of 2016.

Adult Fiction:
          The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
          The Bitter Season by Tami Hoag
          Off the Grid by C.J. Box

          Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
          Tyrannosaurus Rex: Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by Helen Frost
          There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback

          Diary of Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney
          Mermaid Tales Series by Debbie Dadley
          Big Nate Series by Lincoln Peirce

          Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
          The Siren by Kiera Cass
          Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

          A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
          Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
          The Sojourner by Marjorie Rawlings

          American Sniper by Chris Kyle
          Troublemaker by Leah Remini
          Once Upon a Time by Randy Taraborrelli


Lisa decided to create a Book Challenge for our library.  It's just for fun - the only prizes are bragging rights.  She's calling it 17 books in 2017.  The categories are below or you can stop by the library and pick up a form with blanks for you to fill in with titles you read.  We'd love to see your recommendations for the different categories.

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Julie's Journal : Book Challenges - Year End Wrap Up

At the end of 2015, I decided to participate in four book challenges for 2016.  I was to read certain books to fulfill different category requirements for each challenge.  Well, I don't mind telling you that I didn't do very well this year.  Oh, I read a lot of books.  141 to be exact, with one more that I plan to finish before the end of the year, but the book challenges are a different story.  (Read my original post about the challenges here.)

I only finished one of the four book challenges in its entirety.  It was the Anne of Green Gables challenge.  I thoroughly enjoyed rereading the entire series and reading a new Anne book, The Blythes are Quoted.  It is filled with Anne's poetry, conversations within her family, and short stories about the people in her community.

As for the other three challenges, the Back to the Classics challenge, the Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge, and the Grown Up Reading Challenge, well what can I say.  I partially completed all of them, reading more than 50% of the categories required.  I found, though, that rather than trying to find books to fit the categories, I tried to fit the books I was already reading into the required slots.  I guess that kind of defeats the purpose of expanding my reading horizons.  

2016 was the third year that I kept an exhaustive spreadsheet of everything I read and the related statistics and the second year I participated in book challenges.  As for 2017, I can't decide what I want to do.  I like the idea of book challenges - meeting requirements and expanding my horizons.  However, I also enjoy the freedom to read whatever I want, without the internal pressure that is telling me I should be reading something else.  I'm pretty sure, though, that whatever 2017 brings, I'll be reading lots of books, both new and old, and enjoying every minute of it!

2016 Book Statistics

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tom's Two Cents : Elmer Kelton's "The Good Old Boys"

It hardly seems coincidental that Texas writer Elmer Kelton's "The Good Old Boys," first published in 1978, was re-issued by TCU Press in a special edition in 1985, the year of first publication of Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning "Lonesome Dove."  Both novels are by Texas writers, Kelton older by ten years than McMurtry, both born and raised in West Texas in the late 19th-early 20th century ranching tradition.  "The Good Old Boys" in its main character, Hewey Calloway, has a kind of Gus McRae prototype, a freedom-loving man of the range, who refuses to be hemmed in by the fences of modern life.

Unlike McMurtry's Gus, Hewey has a family of sorts--a younger brother, two young nephews, and a sharp tongued sister-in-law, Eve, who forces Hewey to face up to the kind of dead-end life he's living.  Then of course there's the single and pretty schoolteacher, Spring Renfro, who loves Hewey for who he is, but at the same time would like him to become someone he isn't.

This is, like "Lonesome Dove," the story of the passing of an era, and the loss not only of a time and place in the history of Texas and the West, but of the old-time, free-wheeling cowboy/cowhand, who did the work he did admirably but in the end was responsible to no one but himself.  It's about freedom at a price.

Kelton is a fine writer, one of the best Texas has produced, and "The Good Old Boys" is one of his best.  Go to San Angelo, Texas, where he spent the last decades of his life,(he was born and raised in Crane) and you will see a statue of him outside the Library, one of the few tributes of its sort that Texas has raised to its literary fathers.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Chance's Corner: Suicide Squad Review

The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has slowly been growing over the years, starting with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now we have Suicide Squad. The squad is actually an elite task force (Task Force X) charged with saving the world from a new surge in "metahumans". The problem is that the task force is comprised of comic book villains AKA the worst heroes ever.

Suicide Squad is an interesting little sidetrack in the DCEU. It's definitely the most radical in terms of style and substance. Stylistically, the editing is really janky. It almost feels like the lens is zipping through a series of comic book panels. As for the substance, it's just action and flair. These characters want to kick butt - not be developed!

The squad's still pretty cool, though. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Deadshot (Will Smith) are the strongest of the group, but the others are memorable in their own little ways - be it Captain Boomerang's (Jai Courtney) humor, Diablo's (Jay Hernandez) hidden talent, or Killer Croc's (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) mere presence. However, the real winner here is actually Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). She's the director of Task Force X, and I'm pretty sure the devil himself wouldn't want to get on her bad side.

The weakest links were The Joker (Jared Leto) and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Admittedly, there wasn't a whole lot of footage of Leto's Joker to judge by, so I can't commit to a love him or hate him stance. He was intriguing to say the least. Cara did the best she could do as the sashaying witch/goddess, but she was given pretty much zilch to work with.

Let's face it, DC is a little late to the game when it comes to the idea of building an entire cinematic universe, so they're experimenting with different little ways to distinguish themselves from the other guys. DC wants to break the mold instead of using the same mold repeatedly, and honestly, DC really does know how to make good superhero movies. In fact, it was Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) that breathed life into the genre. Suicide Squad is just one of their experiments, and while it has faults aplenty, and the story's lacking a clear direction, I still had fun watching it. That's what this film is - mindless fun.
Suicide Squad is coming soon to the Franklin County Library!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Julie's Journal : If I Live to Be 100 by Paul Mobley and Allison Milionis

Lisa put up a few pictures from If I Live to Be 100 by Paul Mobley and Allison Milionis on Facebook a few days ago, but after reading it, I wanted to try and express my thoughts about it.

Paul Mobley is an award-winning photographer.  He is known for portraits of celebrities and everyday Americans.  Also, the author of American Farmer, his black and white pictures capture the soul of his subjects.  Allison Milionis interviewed the subjects and wrote the short biographies that accompany each picture.

If I Live to Be 100 features centenarians from all 50 states.  There is a married couple, a set of twins, a brother-sister pair, a man who maintains his own Facebook page, and a woman who is still working in the store she started with her husband when they were newlyweds.  Several people endured the hardships of segregation in the American South. Others fled Europe ahead of WWII.  Almost all were affected by the Great Depression.

All the subjects have endured loss and hardship of some kind.  Joe Joly has outlived three wives and a son and yet he he says, "If I had to do it all over again it would be the same way.  Some of the things that happened I wish hadn't happened. But I'm happy - happy to be here and happy to have what I have."

All were asked what their secret to longevity is.  The answers were varied - "choose a good partner," "be happy and eat well," "never stop to think about dying," "work hard, play and laugh often, eat healthy (most of the time), keep busy, and be kind to others," and "I forgot to die."  However, about half-way through the book I noticed a theme that Mr. Mobley touches on in his afterward.  All the centenarians were still active and interested in the world around them.  Irving Olsen still experiments with photography techniques.  Lucy Hamm enjoys an active social life as well as a beer and an apple every day.  Clara Anderson plays the piano for residents of her care facility and advocates for improvements to the facility on behalf of her fellow residents.  Margaret Wachs rediscovered swimming at 90 years old and swims twenty laps most days.  Wilson Pierpont bought a BMW as a 100th birthday present to himself.  Margot Lerner took her first selfie at age 107!

I loved reading about these extraordinary individuals.  Their long lives are a window to a time in history that for me only lives in books and movies.  But their present is just as interesting.  They were, without exception, optimistic.  They looked to the past with fondness, but also were enjoying everyday.  Ellis Gusky says, "The best is yet to come."  I think the theme of the book is summed up with this poem, quoted by Anne Scott (born March 26, 1915):

Life is a book in volumes three
The past, the present, and the yet-to-be.
The past is written and laid away,
The present we're writing every day,
And the last and best of volumes three
Is locked from sight - God keeps the key.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Poet's Perch: The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus by Ogden Nash

The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus

In Baltimore there lived a boy.
He wasn't anybody's joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.

In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies' reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked NO ADMITTANCE.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn't any Santa Claus.

Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying 'Boo' at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
'There isn't any Santa Claus!'

Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.

Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
'Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn't any Santa Claus!'
Slunk like a weasel of a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
'There isn't any, no there's not!'

The children wept all Christmas eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez' ribald mocking.

He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp-a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.

What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of 'Don't,' and 'Pretty Please.'
He howled, 'I don't know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!'
'Jabez' replied the angry saint,
'It isn't I, it's you that ain't.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn't any Jabez Dawes!'

Said Jabez then with impudent vim,
'Oh, yes there is, and I am him!
Your magic don't scare me, it doesn't'
And suddenly he found he wasn't!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.

The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.

All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donner and Blitzen licked off his paint.

Ogden Nash

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Chance's Corner: Finding Dory Review

Finding Dory isn't Pixar's first attempt at turning a bumbling sidekick into the main attraction, but where they once failed (Cars 2), they have now succeeded.

Finding Dory covers some of the same territory as Finding Nemo, but this flaw is easy to overlook because Finding Dory is full of charm, genuine laughs, and it's really just a fun, fast-paced romp. 

This time around, our hero, a blue tang with short-term memory loss named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), bounces from point to point inside the Marine Life Institute trying to find her long-lost family. Along the way she meets a slew of new and funny characters such as a septopus named Hank (Ed O'Neill), a beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell), and... Sigourney Weaver??? Dory may find herself in several perilous positions, but she is certainly no damsel in distress. She overcomes all her obstacles by using her knowledge and experience (the bits that she can remember).

Speaking of which, Dory's struggle with short-term memory loss is treated more seriously this time around. Sure, it's still used for comic relief, and it's as funny as ever, but when the reality of its effects on her entire life sink in, it's pure waterworks. Yes, I cried.

Finding Dory is now available at the Franklin County Library!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas in the Library

Today has been all about decorating for Christmas here at Franklin County Library.  Every new employee we hire shows an aptitude for different things.  Our newest employee, Taylor Wafford, seems to be quite the pro at Christmas decorating.  Lisa asked her to make a few ornaments out of the pages of an old book, and she went wild.

I think the tree turned out great!

Come by and see all our decorations!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Movies With Friends : Mr. Church

The Friends of the Franklin County Library will be showing Mr. Church on Thursday, December 1st at 1:30. Reserve your seat now.
"Mr. Church" tells the story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook - Henry Joseph Church. What begins as a six month arrangement instead spans into fifteen years and creates a family bond that lasts forever.
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Britt Robertson, Natascha McElhone

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Chance's Corner: The Shallows Review

Well, it's still warm and humid out there. I could go for a dip at an exotic beach somewhere to cool down, but The Shallows reminds me that it's probably safer to just sit in the air conditioning.

The Shallows is about Nancy (Blake Lively) who goes off to a secret beach that the locals refuse to tell her the name of. Once she gets there she understands why. I mean, the secret beach doesn't have a name that exactly spells out #1 tourist attraction... Great White Gonnagetu Bay.

In all seriousness, The Shallows is one slick shark flick. The premise is simple. Nancy is attacked by a great white shark while surfing and ends up stranded on a piece of rock that will eventually be submerged during high tide. The shore is in sight - just about 200 yards away. She's so close and yet so far away.

Steven Seagull
Nancy spends most of her plight on top of this rock, along with an injured bird called Steven Seagull (seriously). The film could have easily devolved into a boring mess at this point, but it doesn't. The tension carries through, and we're treated to a nice make-shift surgery scene that had my toes curling.

The overall visuals are gorgeous, and they are the main highlight of this film. The secret beach is initially bright and tropical, but it quickly becomes tainted with blood and fear. The vibrant, warm sand becomes cold and grey. The crystal blue water turns murky. Paradise lost.

The Shallows doesn't break any new ground, and Jaws beats it in emotional impact and drama, but it's still a pretty fun movie to watch... and it made me care about the fate of a seagull.
The Shallows is available at the Franklin County Library!