Fun at Foster's blog

Novelties: “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins

When it comes to memory, what is real and what is imagined can be difficult to distinguish, particularly when we find ourselves in times of great stress or emotion. Our minds take what we encounter and build narratives around the facts, narratives which make sense to us or that we find interesting or comforting. This phenomenon can be immensely useful for an author who wants to keep the reader in suspense; the use of an unreliable narrator is one of the best ways to keep an audience guessing—and turning the page. This month Novelties takes a look at three titles which carry the reader along on a bumpy ride full of mysterious disappearances and stunning revelations.

  The Girl on the Train (2015) is Paula Hawkins’ debut novel, and it has already generated enough buzz that many expect it will be adapted into a film in the near future. Her main character is Rachel, an alcoholic who is struggling to keep her life together after losing her marriage and her job. Rachel, in a desperate attempt to experience a type of vicarious bliss, constructs a vivid backstory for a couple she sees during her morning commute, imagining them as a “golden couple” reminiscent of Rachel and her husband prior to their divorce. The couple lives a few doors down from Rachel’s former home, where her husband and his new wife, Anna, are happily raising their new baby. But Rachel’s fantasy is upended when she witnesses the golden woman, Megan, kissing another man. Megan goes missing shortly thereafter, and Hawkins begins to reveal how Megan and Anna, both seemingly living ideal lives, each have their own demons to struggle with. Rachel becomes involved in the ensuing investigation into Megan’s disappearance, with her alcohol-addled narration combining with sections from Anna and Megan’s points of view to form a complex but riveting plot. A rich psychological thriller full of twists and surprises, The Girl on the Train promises to be well worth the read.
Reviews of Hawkins’ novel almost uniformly compare it to our second title, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This 2012 sensation made an incredible splash, so much so that by 2014 it had been released as a feature film starring Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck. Gone Girl likewise deals with a failed marriage from multiple points of view: the somehow both charming and boorish husband Nick and the picture book-perfect wife Amy (who is literally the subject of a series of books, Amazing Amy, written by her parents). Amy’s disappearance shocks their community, but the sympathy directed toward Nick swiftly turns to suspicion as his lack of alibi and evasive answers to police questioning increasingly paint him as a man with something to hide. Present-day narration by Nick alternates with diary entries from Amy that detail the history of their relationship from its charmed beginning to its ugly demise, ending with Amy so scared for her life that she tries to purchase a gun for protection. Flynn reveals the truth behind the crime in a manner which may feel predictable and yet still manages to deliver some serious reveals. Although it wasn’t her first novel, this dark portrait of a twisted marriage put Flynn on the map as a master of multiple perspectives and unreliable narration.
Losing You (2005) by Nicci French (actually married writing duo Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) rounds out this month’s trio. In it we meet Nina Landry, a divorced mother trying to rebuild her life. She has a new boyfriend and a new home, though the speed of life in the remote Sandling Island—far from the bustle of London—gives ample motivation to escape to more exciting locales. That’s exactly what Nina and her family are planning to do when her daughter, Charlie, goes missing after a party. At first the police are slow to act, believing that Charlie’s absence is the result of normal teenage rebellion and assuring Nina that she will turn up soon. As Nina learns that her daughter had been keeping certain secrets from her, her instincts lead her to push the investigation forward, even when it means acting on her own. The case plods on until evidence surfaces suggesting that Charlie may have been the victim of foul play. French manages to artfully convey Nina’s helplessness in the face of unsympathetic authority, as well as the panic and frustration of a mother who knows in her gut that her child is in danger. The narrative is undivided by chapters, which some readers found annoying but many felt contributed to their inability to put the book down until its thrilling conclusion.

The Girl on the Train is available as part of E.P. Foster Library’s New Fiction collection. Flynn’s Gone Girl and French’s Losing You are each available as well in the Fiction section. You can also check out NoveList Plus in the Reading Suggestions section of our eLibrary for more titles like these—or for something completely different! If the title you’re after isn’t on the shelf, check our catalog for additional copies at other branches or place a hold online or by calling the library. 

 

Puzzled out by Ronald Martin.

Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields @ Foster

Coming up on Wednesday, March 18, E.P. Foster Library will host a screening of a documentary about veterans and sustainable agriculture.

Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields looks at how soldiers returning home from combat are able to find opportunities to both rebuild their lives and enrich their communities by providing access to local, organic, healthy foods.

This free film screening is open to the public and begins at 6 p.m. in the Topping Room. For more information, contact the library or visit us on Facebook!

Another Successful Foster Con!

Another year—and another Foster Con—has come and gone. Hopefully you were one of the more than 300 people who attended this special event on Saturday, February 28. Now, I know those numbers don’t come close to those of San Diego Comic Con, or even Central Coast Comic Con here in Ventura, but it’s pretty great for a library! So don’t worry, San Diego, we’re not stealing your thunder.

Former Foster children's librarian Star Soto stopped by to help out with this year's event.
It was great to see her again!

This year’s event saw some fun new things, as well as some returning favorites. Candy sushi was once again a big hit. “What does that have to do with comics,” you ask? Not a darn thing, but hey, who doesn’t love candy? We had a great display of comics, newly arrived and just in time for the big event. We also tried something new this year: instead of art and costume contests, we had workshops on comics and cosplay. Carlos Nieto gave a wonderful workshop on making comics, helping every child that came his way. Mac Beauvais, our cosplayer, shared her experience in the world of cosplay, with costumes and props she made herself. Both shared their unique talents, and were well-received by those who attended.

Celeste, our fabulous airbrush tattoo artist, was back for another year, as was Ralph’s Comic Corner and Seth’s Games and Anime. We had new vendors, including Helen Penpen, author of Ivan the Hamster Knight; the Mandalorian Mercs, a Star Wars cosplay fan club; and Arsenal Comics and Games. The Mandalorian Mercs were a big hit with the kids, and they stopped to take photos with everyone. They were fantastic! Also new this year was True Thomas the Storyteller. Throughout the day, he would give a long, loud call for storytelling, and kids young and old came from everywhere to hear his stories.

We had lots of great speakers and vendors show up this year; thank you to everyone who
contributed to making this year's event a great one!

Goodie bags were once again handed out to the kids. We decided to have a raffle, with a wide range of prizes. I must really thank Tim Heague, with Arsenal Comics and Games, for generously donating some very special prizes. I won’t say what they were, since all of the winners have not yet claimed their prizes and I’d like to keep it a surprise!

For those vendors who participated I’d like to give a big thank-you for making this event such a success. For those who attended, I hope you had a good time. For those who didn’t, there’s always next year!

 

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

J.L. Hauer: Mixed-Media Art @ Foster

Join us on Wednesday, March 11, for a special presentation on mixed-media art at E.P. Foster Library!

Local artist J.L. Hauer will discuss creating art using reclaimed materials. Examples of her work are currently on display in Foster Library’s foyer and have been featured in various galleries throughout the county and beyond.

This free event begins at 6 p.m. in the Topping Room. Call or drop by the library for more information!

Art Tales Writing Contest: Enter by April 1, 2015!

Attention local writers: there's still time to enter the City of Ventura's Art Tales Writing Contest!

Up until April 1, 2015, you can submit your writing for this year's competition. E.P. Foster Library is hosting inspirational artwork that you can view on the first and second floor in order to get your creative gears turning.

Contest rules, past winners, and digital representations of this year's art can be viewed on the city's website, and library staff can direct you to the display areas at Foster. Stop by the library and see if these pieces move you!

Shooting the Unexpected

Digital photography has proven to be a very freeing form of taking pictures. Many people are able to take snapshots with their cell phones, which are almost as good as some cameras. However, there are often things hiding in the images you take with a camera that you may not be able to see in cell phone shots.

Your Resident Photographer has often been surprised and delighted by discovering hidden gems in digital photographs she has taken. Last week, for example, I took a photograph of the crescent moon aligned with Venus. I was not aware—until I started processing the image in Lightroom—that I had also captured Mars, a barely-visible reddish dot between the moon and Venus.

Other photos I’ve taken over the years have also held surprises. An image taken of a deer munching grass along the side of the road shows several killdeer in the grass surrounding the deer; I could not see them when I took the photograph. A picture of a peach shows an ant crawling up the side, looking as though he is trying to conquer the world. And there is the photograph I took of a section of barbed wire at Casitas Pass summit: while the lake is blurred in the background, a drop of water shows a fairly clear, inverted image of the lake.

Sometimes the most memorable images are the unexpected ones. With digital photography, you can experiment without worrying about the cost of film. The next time you are out with your camera, or even your smartphone, try moving beyond the selfie or the snapshot. You may be surprised at what you capture.

If you want to know more, E.P. Foster Library has books about photography in general and digital photography in particular. There are videos available through Access Video on Demand, as well as other electronic resources in our databases where you can find additional information.

 

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

CI Lecture Series @ Foster

The CI Lecture Series continues at E.P. Foster Library! Our next speaker, Dr. Phil Hampton, will be presenting on Wednesday, March 4.

Dr. Hampton will use Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” to explore "handed molecules" and how they relate to the thalidomide tragedy of the late 50s. A hands-on activity and 3D visualization of molecules will be included in this informative talk.

It all starts at 5 p.m. in the Topping Room. We hope to see you there!

Library LAB: Makeshop @ Foster

On Tuesday, March 3, E.P. Foster Library will host another great Makeshop event, this time featuring the return of the toothbrush robots!

Participants will get to make small, vibrating robots using motors, battery clips, and other assorted materials. We made some great designs last time, and had a lot of fun doing it!

This event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of the library. Call or go online for more information!

David's Dish: Miner's Lettuce Pesto

I recently had a hankering to make some pesto. The great thing was that an anonymous fan left a cookbook for me titled Modern Sauces, by Martha Holmberg, on my desk. Synchronicity, I suppose.

I wouldn’t be satisfied just working from the book's “Great Basic Pesto” recipe. This time I decided to put my newfound foraging skills to work and toss in a little Miner's Lettuce to wild it up a bit. But, staying with tradition I used a pestle and mortar for all the crushing and stuff. Unfortunately, there was the usual pine nut dust-up; some like them, some don’t. I stuck to my principles and used pine nuts. As I was enjoying the physicality of using the pestle and mortar to crush the ingredients for the pesto, an anti-pine nut member of the household chanted, "Minor’s let us have no pine nuts." I applauded their sense of prose, but it became annoying after a while.

When the pasta was steaming and the pesto prepared the chanting ceased. Alone at the table I tucked into a large portion of pasta with a massive dollop of pesto. Delicious!

Add some homemade sauces to your meals; they will liven them up considerably. As for the chanting, it has potential as an ukulele song.

 

*****David's Dish

 

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 Facebook page and I’ll get cooking!

Font to Film: “Fahrenheit 451”

The idea of creating a film based on a well-known and well-respected novel must be at once thoroughly tempting and immensely intimidating. Our culture’s most highly-regarded works deal with themes and questions which demand careful consideration; to mishandle these in the course of adaptation would be an insult to a classic that would be difficult for a director to live down. The payoff for a successful execution, however, could secure one’s reputation, and there is value in reimagining our great works in ways that promote further discussion, analysis, and contemplation of the human condition. Over the years many great novels have found new life—and a new audience—in theaters, whether or not the new format fully captured the gravity of the original.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 went through several incarnations before it was published in its final form in 1953. Some of the original ideas and concepts were developed in short stories written as early as 1947, and in 1951 he published The Fireman, a novella he wrote on a rented typewriter in UCLA’s Powell Library. This work was modified and expanded into Fahrenheit 451, a novel set in an unspecified time in the future where reading books has been outlawed and firemen—like protagonist Guy Montag—are charged with burning any that are found. In addition to the obvious anti-censorship overtones, Bradbury includes critiques of mass media culture, complacency, anti-intellectualism, and unchallenged authority. When Montag becomes curious about the content of the books he is tasked with destroying his boss, Captain Beatty, attempts to bring him back into the fold by explaining how books became dangerous and controversial distractions that fell out of favor as the population gradually lost the desire to engage with them. With few advocates willing to stand up in their defense, books were supplanted by more passive forms of entertainment, delivered via wall-sized televisions which became a staple of every home.
The ending of Bradbury’s novel is very dark, but also hopeful; the 1966 film version, directed by François Truffaut and starring Oskar Werner and Julie Christie, keeps the hope but skips many of the heavier elements. Both versions have Montag encounter Clarisse, a free-thinking young woman whose friendship causes him to further question his blind acceptance of the fireman’s role in society. Montag’s distant and superficial relationship with his wife is another common point, as is the tense antagonism he develops toward Captain Beatty, though his partnership with former English professor Faber is absent from the film. Additionally, several major plot elements relating to the ending are different, most notably the fate of Clarisse and the outcome of the imminent war which serves as a backdrop to both the novel and film. The film had its share of detractors, many of whom singled out the lead actors as problematic—Werner because of the stilted delivery of his lines and Christie for a generally bland performance—but Bradbury himself expressed satisfaction with the changes Truffaut made to the ending and many think that the adaptation was generally underrated. All told the film does feel like a reasonable—if somewhat campy—translation of the novel’s themes and overall message.

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library as part of the Young Adult Fiction and Adult Science Fiction collections. A graphic novel adaptation is also available on the first floor of the library, as is a collection of the shorter works by Bradbury which were written prior to the novel and influenced its final form. Truffaut’s film version can be found at Foster in the Adult DVD collection on the first floor. If you’re looking for an edition that isn’t on the shelf, call the library or go online and you can place a hold on the item and have it sent to you at your local Ventura County Library branch.

 

Preserved by Ronald Martin.

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