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Novelties: “The Magician’s Land,” by Lev Grossman

Writing about youth and coming of age can be a tricky proposition. While some of today’s most visible young adult fiction seems to be dominated by certain cosmetic themes (vampires and werewolves come to mind), more deeply-running concepts are also present, such as the struggle to build an identity, cope with significant personal transformation, or resist an oppressive social order. When such themes are presented well, the resulting story can appeal to adults as well as young adults, though it’s important to remember that the two genres are separate for a reason. Evaluating one by the criteria of the other can lead to the undervaluing of a potentially important work.

This month’s Novelties looks at three titles described as “adult books for young adults,” which already puts us on shaky critical ground. Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land, recently a New York Times Best Seller, is the final volume in the popular trilogy that began with The Magicians in 2009. Grossman’s books—unapologetically influenced by C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series—have been notable in that they bring serious grit and young-adult angst to the table, painting what might be a fairly accurate picture of what typical adolescents would do with access to nearly limitless power. By the events of The Magician’s Land protagonist Quentin Coldwater has been through a lot, first discovering, fumbling with, and mastering his magical abilities, then traveling to, ruling, and being banished from a fantastical world whose destiny seems intimately tied to that of Earth. In this final act Quentin struggles to learn more about the nature of the two worlds and how he might use an obscure and powerful spell to usher in a new utopia, all while coping with painful elements of his past which have resurfaced and made matters far more complicated.
From here we move to C. Robert Cargill’s debut novel Dreams and Shadows, which follows its main characters Ewan Thatcher and Colby Stevens from their youth into their early adulthoods. Cargill creates a world split in two, with both Ewan and Colby spending time as children in the mystical Limestone Kingdom—Ewan because he was kidnapped and taken there as an infant and Colby due to a chance encounter with a djinn who granted his wish to see the supernatural. The Limestone Kingdom is home to fairies, changelings, and gods pulled from many different cultures and societies, and when the two boys ultimately leave it and return to comparatively mundane existences in Austin, Texas, we begin to see the ways in which the worlds interact with one another. Cargill shows great skill at world-building—even though some readers find his embrace of so many different mythical traditions to be overwhelming—and the relationship that he develops between Ewan and Colby is deep and powerful. While the book has its detractors, it was generally well-received—Cargill has even produced a sequel, Queen of the Dark Things, which was released in May of 2014.
We wrap up this month with another debut novel: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. Donohue writes about Henry Day, who is stolen from his family at age seven and replaced with a changeling. The narrative then alternates between the point of view of Henry—who is given the new name of Aniday—and that of the imposter child, both of whom must struggle to adapt to their new roles. Aniday learns to live among the ageless beings in the forest (themselves also stolen children) as the memories of his old life gradually fade, while the new Henry attempts to adjust to living among humans in a world that is just as alien to him as the forest is to Aniday. What results is a stirring exploration of memory, identity, and the loss of childhood which Donohue confronts with a reserved and melancholy tone. Fantastical elements are certainly present, but are portioned out with a restraint and subtlety that pushes the book more closely into the category of magical realism than pure fantasy. An emotionally moving work with a haunting atmospheric quality, many readers have reported not being able to put The Stolen Child down until the very end.

You can borrow The Magician’s Land, Dreams and Shadows, and The Stolen Child at E.P. Foster Library, and several other Ventura County Library branches have copies as well. If you’re looking for something from a different genre or want to find read-alikes for a specific title, you can visit NoveList Plus through our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. Regardless of what you’re after, if the title you want isn’t on the shelf at your local branch you can request a copy in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.


Evoked by Ronald Martin.

Ask Us about Borrowing a Kindle DX!

Have you come across a title recently that you wanted to read but that wasn’t part of the Ventura County Library’s collection? While our Interlibrary Loan system is a wonderful way to get books from libraries throughout the country, E.P. Foster Library would like to offer our customers an additional option.

Starting on September 2, 2014, customers looking for titles the library does not own will be able to submit a request for the Foster branch to purchase the title in eBook format through Amazon. For titles that meet our criteria, the customer can then borrow a Kindle DX eReader from the library with the title pre-loaded and ready to read. In most situations, it will be possible to have the device ready to lend on the same day!

Currently, E.P. Foster Library has SIX Kindle DX eReaders to loan. Each will circulate for three weeks at a time, and library customers over the age of 18 with a valid Ventura County Library card will have access to these devices after signing a short borrower agreement.

This exciting new program has plenty of room to grow, and we welcome our customers’ feedback going forward! Anyone who is interested can view a sample borrower agreement online or contact E.P. Foster Library at (805) 648-2716 for additional information about the library’s eReader lending policy.

FOL Book Discussion @ Foster: "Blue Diary"

The San Buenaventura Friends of the Library will be hosting their monthly book discussion next week on Saturday, September 6, at 10 a.m.

This month's title is Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman, and the discussion is open to the public. The FOL book club reads a variety of fiction and non-fiction titles, and is always looking for new members!

This free event will be held in E.P. Foster Library's Topping Room. We hope to see you there!

Agriculture in Ventura County

One of Ventura County’s most popular—and profitable—crops is strawberries. You can see the fields in their tidy rows, covered in plastic, any time you travel a short distance from downtown Ventura.

As we get ready to celebrate the unofficial end of summer on Labor Day, let us acknowledge all those workers we rarely see who have such an impact on our lives.

Ventura has a long agricultural history, and E.P. Foster Library has some titles on the subject that you might find interesting.

 

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

College Planning @ Foster

On Wednesday, September 3, special guest speaker Linda Kapala will be visiting E.P. Foster Library for a discussion on planning for college.

At this free event you will learn how to choose the right college, finance a college education, fill out applications, and much, much more!

The talk begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by if you'd like to learn more about continuing your education!

The Plant Lover's Guide to Dahlias, by Andy Vernon

This summer I ventured to try something different on my tiny patio container garden and decided to go with a small species of dahlia. To my surprise they have taken off and even eluded the voracious snails for which dahlia leaves seem a gourmet treat.

I have always admired these beautiful plants since I saw an amazing display of HUGE ones in Kew Gardens outside of London many years ago. So I was especially pleased when I saw that Andy Vernon's book was part of a series produced "in association with Kew Royal Botanic Gardens."

Vernon admits from the start that he is "not an exhibition or professional grower" but proudly professes himself to be a dahlia lover. "I think it's important we get this right from the start. I don't just like dahlias. I LOVE THEM." He is also delighted that after years of being looked down upon by "the gardening good-taste brigade a resurgence of interest in these dazzling blooms is well underway."

The book opens with three chapters on everything you might want to know about dahlias and more (I was interested to find out they originated in Central and South America and that there are 36 species).

There are also, of course, tips on selecting and growing, and some curious bits of dahlia trivia (dahlia tubers have had a somewhat disappointing side career as an edible vegetable, and the species is a type of daisy).

But for me the glory of this volume is an illustrated chapter on "200 Varieties for the Garden." This is prepared for by the preceding chapter, which lists both the forms and species. The former include (among others) single, peony, cactus, and water lily, and the latter a lot of big names you can check out for yourself…

Or, just enjoy the glorious color photographs.

 

Ross Care

DAHLIAS; Kew Gardens, London; Photograph by Ross Care from a Kodachrome Transparency


David's Dish: Tuna Chowder

We seem to be getting some terrific new cookbooks here at E.P. Foster library, and one that really stood out to me was Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community around a Pot of Soup, by Maggie Stuckey. I love soup and truly believe if one can make homemade soup and homemade bread one can survive just splendidly. The funny thing is I was craving tuna casserole when I checked out this book, and low and behold I stumbled upon a tuna chowder recipe. Yes, a tuna chowder recipe. Being an open-minded soul I proceeded to make my first tuna chowder. I have made clam chowder and corn chowder, but this was my first experience making tuna chowder.
Milk, cream, and cheese were called for in this recipe, so I knew this would be a terrifically rich soup. Time was of the essence, so I prepared the soup swiftly, and instead of making the bread I purchased a wonderful baguette at my favorite little corner bakery. I did feel a twinge of guilt about not making my own bread, but my social duties beckoned and I knew I could not disappoint my associates. When the soup finished simmering and the baguette was sliced and buttered I ladled the deliciously rich and creamy tuna chowder into my bowl. This chowder does not disappoint; it was scrumptious! I know the idea of a tuna chowder sounds a bit strange, but it will win your guests over on soup night.

 

*****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!

3D Printing @ the Ventura County Library

A small engineering company, LaunchPoint Technologies in Goleta, developing hybrid technology for aircraft with NASA used the Ventura County Library's 3D printer. They printed a part for preliminary fit testing of an 8-horsepower, 12-pound heavy fuel generator for airborne applications. The library's easy access to a 3D printer and willingness to help a LaunchPoint employee encouraged the success of their project.
Keep following our blog to learn more about the resources available at the Ventura County Library's makerspace. We've got big plans, and we would love for you to be a part of them!

"The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel," by Michael Scott

Sophie and Josh Newman are ordinary fifteen-year-olds (twins), spending their summer vacation working part-time jobs and living with family in San Francisco while their parents go off to oversee an archeological dig. Suddenly their dreams of saving up enough money to buy a car at sixteen are shattered when a strange man named Dr. John D. enters the used book shop where Josh works, owned by a Nick Fleming (Nicholas Flamel). Chaos and magic spills out into the streets, alerting Sophie, who works at a small coffee shop across the way, and also Nicholas’ wife Perry (actually Perenelle). The strange man desperately wants a book, the Codex—or Book of Abraham the Mage—and in the confusion rips it from the hands of Josh, leaving behind two of the last pages in the boy’s hands. Together the teens and Nicholas flee the store, forced to leave behind the powerful sorceress Perenelle to hold back the nefarious John D. Nicholas then reveals his identity to the teens, telling them that he and Perenelle are actually over 500 years old, kept alive by mixing a magical potion of immortality found within the Codex, kept financially comfortable by using the Philosophers Stone formula also found within to transform copper and lead into gold and coal into diamonds.

What follows is an adventure of intrigue and magic, where one exciting turn leads to another. Sophie and Josh manage to stay just ahead of Dr. John D. while Nicholas Flamel attempts to find a way to release their latent powers. Beneath it all, there is a millennia-long war between ancient, powerful, and terrible beings called the Elders and known by humans as the many gods and heroes of myth and lore. Dr. John D. serves a particularly malicious group known as the Dark Elders, who want to use the Codex to return themselves to prominence and dominate the earth once more.

Michael Scott mixes factual characters from history, magic, a variety of ancient myths, and locations on continents around the world into the adventures of his teen heroes. This first book, The Alchemyst, is especially exciting because all of the locations are in California, eventually even leading the characters to Ojai, a location that many Ventura County residents know quite well. I loved this book and any readers familiar with young-adult series like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan, and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson saga will love to discover this exciting series here at E.P. Foster Library, or any of our other library locations in either audio or text format (I especially enjoyed the reading by actor Denis O’Hare).

 

Alan Martin, Your Friendly Reader

Overdue Fines to Change

Effective September 1st, 2014

Library fines for overdue items will be increasing

from 20 cents per day to 25 cents per day per item.

The maximum overdue fine will remain $6.00 per item.

Aquí aviso en español 

 
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