Fun at Foster's blog
In 1989, John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was released. Though it initially had a modest showing, the novel ultimately became a best-seller, even being made into a feature film in 1996. Twenty-four years later we have Sycamore Row (2013), Grisham’s latest offering, which reunites readers with the time, place, and familiar characters from his incredible debut.
|A master of the legal thriller, Grisham is also returning to the subject of race relations in Sycamore Row. Jake Brigance is a Mississippi lawyer facing an interesting case. An elderly and extremely wealthy man has hanged himself after penning an alternate will that cuts off his immediate family and leaves the bulk of his estate to his African-American housekeeper. Brigance has been chosen to ensure that the will is faithfully executed—largely due to the reputation he earned in A Time to Kill—which proves difficult once the deceased’s next-of-kin learn they have been passed-over. In working the case he partners with several familiar faces, including Lucien Wilbanks and Harry Rex Vonner from A Time to Kill. Sycamore Row’s place on the New York Times Best Seller List testifies to Grisham’s ability to write complex legal fiction in a way that is engaging and leaves the reader ready for more.|
|If you can’t get your hands on Sycamore Row right away, consider looking into The Reversal (2010), by Michael Connelly. Being a NoveList Plus read-alike for Grisham’s latest, the two have a lot in common: they are both legal thrillers, they both have fast-paced, suspenseful storylines, and they both revisit a recurring character from their author’s extended universe. Mickey Haller is a defense attorney, first introduced to readers in The Lincoln Lawyer (2005). In The Reversal, however, Haller is called upon to join the prosecution for a case involving a man whose conviction for killing a young girl has been recently overturned. Haller agrees to work on the retrial along with his ex-wife and half-brother, both characters fans of Connelly will be familiar with—Haller’s half-brother Harry Bosch is actually the subject of his own series of books by Connelly. Like Grisham, Connelly manages to write courtroom scenes in a way that turns even routine procedures into page-turning scenes.|
|Rounding out this legal suspense trio is I Heard That Song Before (2007), by Mary Higgins Clark. When she was a child, Kay Lansing—the daughter of a gardener who worked on an estate owned by the Carrington family—overheard a suspicious exchange involving desperation and blackmail. Now 28 years old, Kay returns to the estate to ask a favor of its present owner, Peter Carrington, and finds herself falling in love with him. But Peter has a shady past, having been suspected of involvement with the death of a teenage girl years before, not to mention the death of his pregnant wife some time later. As the accusations unfold, Kay struggles with the faith she has in her husband on the one hand and a gnawing sense of doubt on the other. Ultimately, she learns that finding the truth might mean putting herself in significant danger. While Clark’s formula may feel familiar to her avid fans, it will most likely keep you guessing until the very end.|
Sycamore Row, The Reversal, and I Heard That Song Before are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. You can also access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request a copy either in-person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.
Woven together by Ronald Martin.
The California Young Reader Medal program encourages recreational reading of popular literature among the young people of our state. Since its inception in 1974, millions of California children have nominated, read, and voted for the winners of the California Young Reader Medal.
Books are nominated for the medal in four categories: Primary (K-2), Intermediate (3-6), Middle School/Junior High (6-9), and Young Adult (9-12). Students may read and vote for books in any and all categories, but they must read all the books nominated in a category to be eligible to vote.
This is a student program and books can only be nominated and voted upon by students. Students read the nominated books from July through March, vote for their favorite, and submit the results to the CYRM committee. All CYRM ballots are due by April 1 of each year.
The Ventura County Reading Association (VCRA), an affiliate of the California Reading Association (CRA) and the International Reading Association (IRA), is a professional organization of teachers, student teachers, administrators, librarians, instructional assistants, parents, and others committed to literacy efforts in Ventura County. Each year, VCRA members work to promote literacy through a variety of dynamic events and educational activities.
Participating in a contest is always exciting! In California, children have the chance each year to nominate, read, and vote for books to win the California Young Reader Medal (CYRM). You can have your children participate in the CYRM voting! Find out more at www.californiayoungreadermedal.org. The website provides the titles of the 2013-14 CYRM nominees, ballot information, and nomination forms. All CYRM ballots submitted for 2013-14 must be postmarked by April 1.
Even better, bring your children to the CYRM event at E.P. Foster Library in Ventura to hear and vote for the five books nominated in the Primary category. This special event will take place on Wednesday, March 26 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Come in and vote for these nominees:
- Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, 2010)
- Stars, by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2011)
- Children Make Terrible Pets, by Peter Brown (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010)
- Press Here, by Herve Tullet (Chronicle Books, 2011)
- Bats at the Ballgame, by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011)
Can’t wait to see you there!
The talk will explore how women were able to gain experience with organizing protests and crafting effective antiwar rhetoric that would later serve to form the foundation of the Women's Movement.
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Topping Room. We hope to see you there!
On a recent weekend I was in San Francisco to do a presentation at the Disney Family Museum and, after months of drought, it rained all weekend. Still, it was atmospheric and there is one landmark that retains its glamour and grandeur in all winds and weathers: the Golden Gate Bridge.
Though that weekend I was not able to get close to it, there is a magnificent view of bridge and bay from the second level of the museum (which is in the Presidio), a thrilling panorama to which I kept returning each day.
And every time I marveled at how such a superstructure was constructed in the first place. When I was back in Ventura, in one of the coincidences that sometimes mysteriously happen, I came across a fascinating documentary among E.P. Foster’s varied collection of DVDs. The “American Moments” disc, The Golden Gate Bridge, covers the raising of the structure from the initial planning stages (and there were many) through construction and opening day.
The 30-minute DVD features a brief introduction which leads into the main section, a vintage (and mostly unrestored) film which condenses the years of labor on one of the most challenging construction projects of the 20th century into about 25 minutes.
The film was produced by Bethlehem Steel, who supplied most of the steel for the bridge, and I was amazed to discover that much of it was produced in Steelton, Pennsylvania, a steel town a little south of Harrisburg, where I grew up (I remember seeing the frightening slag heaps at night, like waves of glowing lava, in the steel mills of Harrisburg).
|The steel mills of Harrisburg, PA, late 1940s. View from the State St. bridge, steel corporation sign in the background. The Steelton steel mills which produced steel for the Golden Gate were south of Harrisburg. KODACHROME photo by Ross J. Care.|
The Steelton steel was then shipped through the Panama Canal to SF where construction slowly began.
Inch by inch the two huge towers were raised and work on the suspensions and roadway began. Dizzying shots of men on girders, towers, and suspension cables alternated with views down into the turbulent waters of the bay.
The grainy, sometimes fuzzy black-and-white archival footage is also a vivid reminder of the early days of cinema itself, and has a ghostly “You Are There” quality. It’s in stark contrast to the sleek, iconic lines of the finally realized project, a still-Golden Gate that retains its sense of wonder to this day, even when partially shrouded in fog.
-Text and recent photos by Ross B. Care
The library recently received a large shipment of graphic novel titles for the adult collection, many of which I had the good fortune to read.
One of these titles was Fables Encyclopedia. Fans of this series by Bill Willingham will enjoy this look at all the characters that live in the Fables universe. Each listing tells you where that character appears in the series, the original source material they come from, and a comparison of the two. Throughout the book are insights from Willingham himself and Mark Buckingham, the artist.
I loved reading this book, not just because I’m a fan of the series, but because of the many different sources Willingham gets his material from. He pulls characters from European folk tales, the well-known Grimm’s fairy tales, nursery rhymes, even the Jungle Book and Oz stories. Some characters are his original creations, but they fit so well with the other, more well-known ones, you don’t even notice the difference.
If you’re concerned the encyclopedia will reveal too much before you’ve actually read the series, don’t worry. It gives just enough information without revealing too many of the details. Now, to be fair, I haven’t yet read the entire series, so there were some entries that did give a hint of things to come, but I don’t think it will ruin my enjoyment of the series. Even the brief synopses of all the volumes at the end of the book didn’t spoil anything for me.
I only wish I could have the book with me while I read the series, if anything, just to see where these characters come from. I have to give credit to Bill Willingham. He really does his homework and knows his stuff. There are characters from folk tales I’ve never even heard of before. This book is worth checking out for introducing new readers to the series, and discovering the original stories they came from.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Originally a draft created as part of National Novel Writing Month, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants was published in 2006, and has since been quite well-received. The novel’s setting is a traveling circus during the Great Depression, and it is essentially a love story steeped in rich historical detail. Gruen manages to make the Depression a significant presence in the novel, more a character in its own right than a mere backdrop. As a result the reader truly gets a sense of the oppressive, constant dread driving the actions of the working men and women of the period, and from the start we see how drastically economic forces can shape a person’s destiny.
The story is told in flashback by Jacob Jankowski, presently 93 years old and living a life all but estranged from a family that no longer has much time for him. He spends his empty, unfulfilling days in a nursing home, in danger of never having anything to look forward to again—until the circus comes to town. Its presence invigorates Jacob, and he begins to recount his life as a young man who, waylaid by tragedy, took his chances hopping a circus train during one of the darkest periods of American history.
Gruen uses Jacob’s experiences to showcase an incredible juxtaposition of the wondrous spectacle put on by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and the often horrifying circumstances in which the laborers and performers—both human and animal—live. The Depression has fostered desperation and madness, encouraging opportunists who have managed to succeed only on the backs of those less fortunate, exploiting them when possible and discarding them otherwise. In the midst of all this, Jacob finds beauty—in the circus, the menagerie, and the animal trainer’s wife, Marlena. The development of this love triangle is the meat of the plot; at its heart,Water for Elephants is a very conventional—almost to the point of being predictable—romance that is elevated primarily by the care and detail put into its setting.
One might imagine that such a vibrant and compelling world would make the novel ripe for adaptation to film. However, the screen version of Water for Elephants—released in 2011—received mixed reviews. Of chief concern to many was the fact that Jacob and Marlena, played by Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, had little chemistry on screen. This led to their romance having a very told-not-shown feel, particularly when viewed alongside the passionate performance given by Christoph Waltz, who plays Marlena’s husband. Unfortunately, the film plays up the love triangle at the expense of many of the supporting elements that made the book feel unique. What results is a relatively shallow and not-entirely-convincing love story. Despite this shortcoming, the film does a fair job of visually representing the shoddy grandeur of the Most Spectacular Show on Earth; as is true with the novel, the richness of the setting ends up being the film’s saving grace.
Water for Elephants is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library in both book and audiobook form. The film is also available through the library; if it is not on the shelf at your local branch, you can request for it to be delivered to the branch of your choosing. In addition, you can borrow a digital copy of the novel from the Ventura County Library through OverDrive. OverDrive eBooks are available to download to a wide variety of devices, and will automatically be returned at the conclusion of your loan period. If you need assistance with setting up your device and account to borrow eBooks, check out the OverDrive help page, which links to a number of useful, device-specific articles and videos, or stop by the library.
Brought to life by Ronald Martin.
The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia, made my foodie imagination run wild, filled with exotic recipes and interesting insights on ingredients used in Persian cooking. I was excited about delving into uncharted territory, the culinary delights of Persia, only to discover my once dodgy oven is now a completely non-functioning oven. The top burners don’t work either.
Big dilemma: do I make a Persian salad or sour plum pickles? I think not. But I did see a recipe for a date shake. I haven't had a date shake in quite a while, since my brief summer stay in Indio, California. The memory of the delicious date shake on that hot summer day came flooding back to me; the kebabs and other delicacies will have to wait till the oven is replaced.
The date shake recipe is your average milkshake recipe, except with yogurt. One powerful lesson learned was “don’t freeze bananas with the peel on,” unless you have a hammer handy. The “Dish” is in need of a tall, cool beverage, not a construction tool! I stuffed the ingredients into the blender and let it do its thing. Result: sweet, heavenly date shake!
Check-out the book at Foster Library, or put it on hold—we will send it to you.
If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Faceboook page and I’ll get cooking!
All skill levels are welcome to come by the Topping Room and strum, sing, and learn more about this amazing instrument. Don’t own a ukulele? Ask about borrowing one from the library!
The first session will be on Monday, March 10, from 7 to 10 p.m. Stay for as little or as much time as you’d like.
I know I’m dating myself, but when I was a young girl I used to watch The Bionic Woman with Lindsay Wagner. I’m not talking reruns, either, I mean when it originally aired. As a kid growing up in the seventies, Jamie Summers was a role model for me and other young girls. She showed us that we could be strong, independent, and more than just a pretty face.
Now, Jamie Summers is back and re-imagined for a new generation of young women, with the new release of The Bionic Woman, Volume 1: Mission Control. Jamie Summers seems tailor-made for this modern era of computers and cell phones. Along with her bionic arm, legs, and hearing, she also has the ability to change her appearance and access the internet without ever using an actual computer. The first half of the story deals with bionic parts being stolen from their living recipients and the black market that sells them to the wealthy. The second half involves female robot clones being used as soldiers and slaves, their blossoming sentience, and their fight for independence.
While there is some similarity to the Jamie Summers I grew up with, this current incarnation is definitely different. Her relationship with Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man, for those who remember) is over; she has no memory of her previous life, and there are so many people trying to steal her technology that she neither has a real home nor a social life. In spite of that, Jamie is tough and determined. She does get roughed up a lot, but she proves to be a tough contender, and kicks some major butt. She still shows that a woman can be just as strong and capable as a man, and is as much of a role model today as she was when I was a little girl.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Stop by Foster to check out this exciting new community resource!