Fun at Foster's blog
When a popular book is first released it can be difficult to get your hands on a copy right away. The request lists for new best-sellers start growing early on, and can lead to weeks of waiting even when your local library has multiple copies to lend. Why not spend those weeks with yet another good book? If you know where to look, you can even find something that will whet your appetite for when that best-seller finds its way to you.
“Novelties” will provide reader’s advisory for those of you who are interested in new and popular fiction and non-fiction. The recommendations found here were obtained by using NoveList Plus, an online reader’s advisory resource that you can access through the Ventura County Library. If you have questions about using NoveList Plus or any of the other resources in our eLibrary, feel free to stop by and ask us about them!
This month we will look at The Goldfinch, the most recent work by Donna Tartt. Currently on top of the New York Times Best Seller List, the novel follows Theo Decker in the aftermath of a tragedy that robs him of his mother and leaves him in possession of a painting that he clings to as a reminder of her. From here Theo is thrust into a bleak reality where he is forced to grow up too quickly and take care of himself when no one else will. The book is about Theo’s struggle for survival, for physical and psychological well-being in a dreary, corrupt world, and about the uplifting and transformative power of art. Though it weighs in at over 700 pages, The Goldfinch is compellingly written; many readers have said they weren’t able to put it down!
|Among NoveList’s read-alikes for The Goldfinch is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. Like Tartt’s novel, this is a coming-of-age story, although in this case the main character is a young woman named Victoria. Like Theo, she has had a difficult childhood, having been abandoned by her parents and raised in a succession of foster homes. But while Theo is forced into the world by a traumatizing loss, Victoria is more a victim of neglect and indifference—she simply ages out of the system having no ties to friends or family. The Language of Flowers is about her gradually building a life for herself while learning to connect with others through shared passions and work toward healthy and lasting relationships.|
Another of The Goldfinch’s read-alikes is The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. The novel follows Laurel Estabrook, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress resulting from an attack that occurred several years prior. Rather than focusing on just her case, however, Bohjalian has his protagonist delve into the life of another damaged soul—a mentally ill, alcoholic homeless man whose passing leaves Laurel with a box of photographs that point to a life that wasn’t always so harsh. By investigating this man and his mysterious connection to her past, Laurel works through her own trauma. Like the two novels above, The Double Bind deals heavily with the psychology of individuals who have been damaged in some way, and the difficulties they must face to find out what it means for them to be whole again.
The Goldfinch, The Language of Flowers, and The Double Bind are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. You can 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.
Prepared and presented by Ronald Martin.
Have you ever taken a picture of the moon only to have it turn out as a big white blob? Did you ever wonder why that happens? I used to ask myself the same question until I found out that when you take pictures of the moon, you need to keep in mind that the moon is the brightest object in the sky.
|A long exposure doesn’t capture the detail in the moon because it is then over-exposed. You need to meter for the brightness of the moon so that you don’t end up with an overexposed white blob. While you do need a telephoto or a zoom lens (or a camera with a built-in zoom) to capture detail, you don’t need a telescope or super expensive equipment to get a decent image.|
The photographs presented here were shot with a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) and a 70-300mm lens at 300mm mounted on a tripod.
If you want to improve your photography, no matter what the subject, Foster Library has many excellent photography books to help you reach your goal.
Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez
When you go to see a movie, what was originally in the script doesn’t always end up on the screen. To keep a film within a reasonable viewing time, some cuts need to be made. Do you ever wonder about those missing parts of the story? Do you think it would make a difference to the way the story is told?
Well, in the case of Django Unchained, those missing parts are missing no more. Based on Quentin Tarantino’s original, uncut screenplay, this graphic novel tells the story of a slave who seeks to find his wife and bring vengeance upon those who took her. With the help of a German bounty hunter, Django learns to play a dangerous charade that takes him all the way to the doors of a southern plantation known as Candyland, run by a ruthless and twisted “gentleman” named Calvin Candie.
Django Unchained, the graphic novel, is every bit as violent as the movie it’s based on. It takes place two years before the Civil War, when slavery was in full swing, and slaves were ruled by the cruel hands of their masters. While I did enjoy the graphic novel, be warned: it is violent, and the N-word is used profusely. It is a product of that time (and it is Quentin Tarantino’s story, after all), but the language may be uncomfortable for some. What made it worth reading was Django’s determined search to find his wife, as well as his friendship/partnership with the bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz. At first, Schultz merely needs Django’s assistance in tracking down a bounty, but the two men form a friendship of sorts as Schultz teaches Django the ways of a bounty hunter. More importantly, he treats him as an equal.
If you’re a fan of the Tarantino film, this book will give you an expanded view of the story, one that is worth reading.
-Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Most people with even a passing interest in science fiction will have heard of Isaac Asimov, a writer responsible for hundreds of books and who created a compellingly intricate fictional universe in which he explores complex cultural issues and delves into the mystery of what it means to be human. He accomplishes the latter primarily through his treatment of robots and artificial intelligence, using synthetic life forms as an effective foil for organic ones. An effective example of this dynamic is The Positronic Man, a 1992 novel co-written by Asimov and Robert Silverberg and based on a 1976 novella by Asimov titled The Bicentennial Man. The 1999 film Bicentennial Man, starring Robin Williams, is based on both of these works, and all three deal heavily with the theme of emergent humanity.
The Positronic Man is Andrew Martin, who begins his existence as a standard model of household robot, designed to perform various service tasks for the family to which he is assigned. However, it quickly becomes apparent to Andrew’s owners that he is something more than a robot of the sort that exists in Asimov’s universe. He displays a spark of creativity and potential for distinctly non-robotic thinking, traits which excite some of the humans around him and deeply trouble others. As the novel progresses, Andrew himself gains an understanding of his unique nature—and along with it a motivation to forge his own destiny free of the restrictions, both social and technological, which govern his fellow machines. His adoption of the name Andrew (derived from his serial number, NDR-113) ends up having been the first of many increasingly significant steps he takes along the continuum linking robot and human.
The novel presents Andrew’s situation, with all of its paradoxes and intricacies, in a precise and almost technical manner. As a result, it reads almost like an essay on the definition of humanity, with various characters arguing whether or not a machine can truly be said to be alive. Every stumbling block Andrew encounters, from attempting to gain legal recognition of his freedom to wearing clothes for the first time, addresses a small piece of the puzzle that is sentience. Many readers have felt that this leaves the novel feeling coldly clinical in its approach, lacking an emotional punch that one would think would be central to a work dealing with our shared humanity.
Enter Robin Williams, who plays Andrew in Bicentennial Man. The movie addresses the same issues as the book, but the approach is substantially different. While many of the climactic conflicts in the book take place in courtrooms, those in the movie are at weddings and in deathbed conversations. The emotional elements are pushed to the foreground, arguably at the expense of some of the more complex philosophical issues. The performances of the film’s actors, particularly Sam Neill and Oliver Platt, give a somewhat different answer to the question of what makes us human than was found in the book. Unfortunately, many moviegoers found that the film went too far in this direction; Bicentennial Man had a somewhat cool reception, and is generally regarded as having failed to meet the potential of its source material. Nonetheless, it is a heartwarming story in its own right, and worth viewing if for no other reason than to contrast it with Asimov’s version.
The Positronic Man is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, as is Bicentennial Man. Please note that both of the previous links will connect you to our new catalog, which has many exciting new search features that can help you find whatever materials you are looking for. If you would like assistance with navigating the new catalog, feel free to call or stop by the library, and remember that you can still access the classic catalog and use it to search the Ventura County Library’s holdings.
Carefully assembled by Ronald Martin.
Americans spend over sixty billion dollars annually on their pets. The average household spends about $500 a year on pets that range from cats, dogs, and rabbits to exotic birds and reptiles.
With all the time, money, and love we lavish on our pets, it’s important to know how to care for them. Foster Library has many books on cats, dogs, and pets in general to assist you in choosing the best pets for your family and to help you learn how to care for them after you bring them into your home.
Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez
Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake, tells the story of an Indian couple who, joined in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together as new immigrants in America. Their journey begins steeped in the alienation and culture shock that the two encounter as they settle in and begin building a home and family. The novel is ultimately a multigenerational saga, devoting itself first to the young couple, then to their experiences as young parents, their relationship with their American-born children who become teenagers immersed in contemporary culture, and finally the lives of those children as they grow into adulthood themselves.
Lahiri manages to create an engaging narrative which explores the nature of identity both in terms of the ways our cultures shape us and the impact of our names themselves on who we will eventually become. She also captures the ever-present sense of separateness felt by many immigrants with respect to their new countries and children with respect to parents who seem to be from another world—because, in many ways, they are. Her second-generational protagonist, Gogol (arguably the novel’s main character—Lahiri is herself the child of immigrant parents), struggles to build an identity that distances himself from his parents’ world despite having no guarantees of acceptance from the one he is growing up in.
The Namesake, originally published in 2003, was made into a film that was released in 2006. On the one hand, it seemed like a given that Lahiri’s follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies would receive this treatment, although, as one reviewer pointed out, the book has a pace to it which seems too meandering for the screen (in his words, “Not enough happens. Hardly anything happens”). Additionally, the breadth and complexity of both the themes and characters make a conversion to film a risky proposition. Nonetheless, the film, starring Kal Penn as Gogol and Irrfan Khan and Tabu as his parents, was a critical and commercial success, keeping close to the events of the book and bringing many of its most poignant scenes to life faithfully and with striking, even heart-wrenching emotionality. It must be said, however, that there is a sense of brevity about the film that, particularly when compared with the novel, might leave one feeling it ought to have been several hours longer.
The book The Namesake is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, as is Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories. The film is also available through the Ventura County Library system; if it is not at your local branch, you can use the “Request Item” option to have it sent to the branch of your choice. The book review mentioned above, originally published in The Kenyon Review, is available through Literature Resource Center, which can be accessed remotely by Ventura County library card holders through our eLibrary.
Thoughtfully prepared by Ronald Martin.
Freegal is our music database. You can download 3 free songs a week and you get to keep them! Do I need to repeat that? 3 free songs a week. And they are good songs! I use several apps to discover new music and I'm always pumped when I find something FREE on Freegal. I just wanted to share what I have been listening to lately courtesy of Ventura County Libraries.
1. Josh Ritter - I like his style. Simple, clear and to the point. I really like the song "Wait for love (You know you will)." He has such a nice voice and his lyrics, while sappy at times, are really sweet.
2. Passion Pit - "Sleepyhead" isn't my typical style, but I dig it. I listen to it while I workout and it just makes me feel like I can conquer the world. Ok, maybe that's extreme but it's a fun listen.
3. The Civil Wars - "Poison and Wine" is deep, beautiful and soothing. I just want to listen with a big glass of wine while reading a book in front of a fire. If you don't know The Civil Wars, you should. They aren't making music anymore, but what they did make is good!
Freegal does have a Droid app and an Apple app. It's so easy: download the app, find the library and type in your library card number. No passwords or log-ins! Let there be rejoicing in the streets of Ventura.
What about you? What have you found on Freegal?
The Governor of California has recently declared a state of drought emergency for the state. Locally, Lake Casitas shows sad evidence of the extended lack of rain.
The first image was taken in April of 2006. The second image was taken this past Saturday, January 19, 2014. You can see the stark difference between the two images. As residents of Ventura, we all need to do our part to conserve water while we are in this emergency. Foster Library can help with materials on water conservation as well as books about native plants.
Resident Photographer Aleta Rodriguez
Two Dudes, One Pan: Maximum Flavor from a Minimalist Kitchen, by Jon Shook, is a great cookbook for those of us that are trying to get the most out of the kitchenware we already own. I made two of the recipes from the book, a chicken dish and a pasta dish, both very tasty and uncomplicated to prepare. The great thing is they both were prepared with just one pan and required very little clean-up. The book provides information for those on a limited budget and short on time to make high-quality food that’s delicious. To be honest, I’ll probably purchase this book for myself. Great job Dudes!
Check out the book at Foster Library, or put a hold on it - 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 Facebook page and I’ll get cooking.