Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5 Picks from July Library Reads

There are a lot of great books on the July Library Reads list. Here are just a few. Just click on a title to request a copy!

Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel
by J. Ryan Stradal

“This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, Kitchens of the Great Midwest will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale.”

Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ

by Paula McLain

“I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended.”

Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC

by Susan Mallery

“As always, Ms. Mallery has given us a fantastic read. As soon as I pick up her titles, I can’t put them down until I have finished them. They are feel-good, heartwarming —
I need more synonyms. I love seeing all the previous characters, the friendships and families that have formed since Chasing Perfect came out five years ago. Thanks, Ms. Mallery, for another amazing read.”

Jenelle Klavenga, Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, IA

by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Hannah Martin has just moved back to LA after ending a relationship. Her best friend, Gabby, takes her out to a bar on her first night home. Enter Ethan, the One Who Got Away, and suddenly, Hannah has to decide if she’ll leave with Ethan or Gabby. We follow Hannah after choosing both options, alternating chapters to explore the consequences of each. A must for anyone who loves a hankie with their books!”

Tracy Babiasz, Chapel Hill Public Library, Chapel Hill, NC

by Leanne Brown

“Wow! This is a great looking book. Great for beginners with its details about ingredients and kitchen tools. Best of all, each recipe is made from ingredients that most everyone has; there were only two ingredients in the whole book that I don’t own. This book is just what my doctor ordered, literally. I am a basic cook and like simple and tasty. This book is OUTSTANDING!”

Nancy Chalk, Charlton Public Library, Charlton, MA

--Post by Tracy

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Throwback Thursday: "Life Finds a Way"

In celebration of the release of Jurassic World, please enjoy this "Throwback Thursday" post on the Jurassic Park trilogy. 

Originally posted April 11, 2013.

At movie theaters today, most hit films make a third of their total gross on their opening weekend. Films rarely stay in theaters for more than two months -- and even then, only the biggest blockbusters make it that long. But twenty years ago, a movie came along that not only broke the opening weekend records ($50 million in three days, unheard of in 1993), it nearly doubled that opening the following weekend. And after that record two-week showing, the movie stayed in theaters for over a year. (It was still being shown on 100 movie screens in October 1994, when the film was released on VHS.) It was one of the last movies to ever gain that much play in theaters for so sustained a period.

And what's more, it did it without a single big-name star and without an already-established franchise.

I've gotten some raised eyebrows when I've referred to Jurassic Park as the "Star Wars" of my generation. In a world where Star Wars fans will line up for days ahead of time for movie tickets and write down "Jedi" on census forms as their official religion -- can Jurassic Park fans really compare?

Allow me to make my case.

Jurassic Park stars Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, a paleontologist (a scientist who studies pre-historic life). He and paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are on a dig in the Badlands of Montana, thrilled with their fresh findings but concerned about the future of their research once their funding runs out. Enter eccentric billionaire John Hammond (Sir Richard Attenborough), who mysteriously promises to fund a three-year dig if Grant and Sattler accompany Hammond to his new theme park and offer their opinions on attractions "so astounding, they'll drive kids out of their minds."

It's a crazy offer, but Grant and Sattler aren't about to refuse. Joined by mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and fussy lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero), the group travels to a small island off the coast of Costa Rica to see Hammond's flashy new attractions.

The attractions, as it turns out, are genetically engineered dinosaurs, created by scientists who have extracted dino DNA from ancient preserved mosquitos. (No, this would never actually work -- but c'mon, it's a movie.) A previous accident that had occurred with one such "attraction" led Hammond to track down a handful of experts to experience the island for themselves and vouch for the park's safety.

But electrified fences and tranquilizer darts only go so far, and it's not long before disgruntled-employee sabotage leads to the dinosaurs escaping their cages and wrecking havoc on the humans around them. Hammond, Malcolm, and Sattler must find a way to restore working computer systems to the park, while Dr. Grant promptly finds himself lost amidst a cadre of loose dinos -- with Hammond's two young grandkids at his side. (The lawyer winds up eaten.) The ensuing film is an action-adventure story like few others.

A Jurassic Park scientist extracts DNA from a preserved mosquito

To understand the impact that Jurassic Park had on the film industry, you have to delve deeper into what the franchise really accomplished. When it premiered in 1993, Jurassic Park broke new ground in the world of special effects. Although Terminator 2: Judgment Day had already used computer generated imagery (or "CGI") to great effect two years previously, Jurassic Park was held up as proof positive that a new era of movie-making had arrived. Here, now, was CGI being used to create the appearance of living, breathing dinosaurs. There was a bit of a meta effect going on with Jurassic Park: just as movie character John Hammond had found scientists capable of recreating 65 million year old animals from rebuilt DNA, so had director Steven Spielberg found artists capable of recreating those same animals -- but out of computer programs and pixels. The result of the latter was a new world of visuals that was like nothing the movie-going public had ever seen before.

To say it succeeded audience expectations is to put it far too mildly. These days, movie trailers cram in shots of the film's most impressive special effect sequences, in an effort to entice audiences into the theaters. But the trailers for Jurassic Park had not made fully apparent what audiences could expect to see, saving all of the best effects shots for the movie itself. The resulting anticipation to see what the movie had to offer was a huge reason why so many people -- myself included -- went to see the film ... and our anticipation was definitely rewarded.

A computer-generated T-rex eating a Gallimimus (don't worry, the Gallimimus is CGI too)

The irony, of course, is that so many of Jurassic Park's greatest shots weren't CGI at all. Many of the most memorable sequences -- the T-rex attacking two stalled Jeeps (with passengers still inside them), or a pair of Velociraptors stalking the kids in the Visitor Center kitchen -- were achieved with real, physical models, not CGI effects. Most of the shots of the T-rex, for instance, were not computerized but were instead filmed with puppets and robot pieces designed by special/visual effects wizards Stan Winston and Phil Tippett. From building a full-size T-rex robot (weighing in at 9,000 pounds) to creating raptor suits for actors to wear, the practical effects gave the film a more "real," physical feel to it than CGI shots alone could have created.

One of the T-rex "robots"

But to be clear, it's not all about the special effects. One other reason that the Jurassic Park franchise has remained such a steadfast favorite for so many fans was the messages behind the movies. It was one of the first big-budget, visual effects bonanzas I ever saw that nonetheless had something to say. The movie had a strong, clear message -- coming through from Michael Crichton's original novel (Crichton also co-wrote the screenplay) -- about the importance of showing respect, care, and perhaps a little caution within the world of scientific advancements. "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could," snaps Ian Malcolm to an unrepentant John Hammond, "They didn't stop to think if they should." While the film is in no way anti-science, it does caution its audience against the temptation to misuse knowledge that's been untempered by humility or discipline.

It's hardly all doom-and-gloom, however. The film's other message -- and it's a strong one -- is the unstoppable force of life. Despite everyone's best attempts to keep the animals of Jurassic Park caged and controlled, the effort is a futile one. Even before the dinosaurs escape, they're forcing their way around the barriers the scientists try to impose: trying to hunt despite being fed, trying to escape despite the fences, and -- most surprising of all, since all the animals were genetically engineered to be female -- building nests and breeding. "Life cannot be contained," Ian Malcolm explains. "Life breaks free, expands to new territories -- painfully, maybe even dangerously. But ... life finds a way."

The movie makes clear that its lessons go beyond the boundaries of the story's fiction. Jurassic Park was released during a time when paleontology was making tremendous breakthroughs in the discipline's understanding of the ancient animals of some 100 million years ago. Originally viewed as sluggish, cold-blooded, and somewhat stupid ancestors of today's reptiles, fresh evidence led scientists to revise their theories. A new understanding was born: dinosaurs were much quicker and more limber than previously thought to be, and many of them had been quite intelligent. What's more, many dinosaurs -- with their particular bone structures and skeletal shape -- are actually closer relatives of today's birds than they are to reptiles.

The dinosaurs may have died out (precisely why is still unknown, although the most agreed-upon theory is a catastrophic meteorite), but their genes live on in their avian cousins. Life finds a way.

I was ten years old when Jurassic Park hit theaters, and I can still remember the twin thrills of fear and excitement that shot through me when I first saw the T-rex break through her fencing and start the adventure. The movie took care to set up its story before launching into the thrills, and it was approaching the first-hour mark when the fences went down and the action began. It was a roller-coaster ride of a movie, unlike anything my ten-year-old, dinosaur-loving self had ever seen before. It's the best time I've ever had at a theater.

I watched the movie over and over as a kid. (I can still quote plenty of the lines verbatim.) I eagerly awaited the arrival of the two sequels, and Michael Crichton's original novel (on which the film was based) was the first "grown-up novel" I ever read.

Last weekend saw the release of a new 3-D version of the movie, hitting theaters in celebration of Jurassic Park's 20th anniversary. The timing, for me, is strangely fitting: it's right around my thirtieth birthday. What better time to return to theaters and become a kid again?

-- Request Jurassic Park on DVD
-- Request Jurassic Park on Blu-ray

-- Request The Lost World: Jurassic Park on DVD
-- Request The Lost World: Jurassic Park on Blu-ray

-- Request Jurassic Park III on DVD
-- Request Jurassic Park III on Blu-ray

-- Request the novel Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
-- Request the novel The Lost World by Michael Crichton

-- Post by Ms. B

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Summer Reading 2015

Summer Reading 2015 @ Monroeville Public Library!

Monday, June 8 kicks off our Summer Reading Programs here at MPL -- for kids, teens, and adults alike. Read on to find out more about our programs for you and your family this summertime season!

For Kids:

Discover that Every Hero Has a Story with this year's summer reading theme! Children who have not yet started first grade can sign up for the Read To Me Club, where parents keep a list of at least 20 books that they share with their child. Older students can participate in the Summer Reading Club, where the goal is to read at least 10 books throughout the summer. There will be activities for all ages, contests, and prizes.

Check out all of our Children's Programs at MPL's website!

For Teens:

Unmask your inner superhero with this year's annual Teen Summer Reading (TSR) program!  TSR is open to all students finishing grades 5-12. Read all summer to earn tickets for our TSR raffle drawings -- and be sure to attend one of our great summer events, which include gaming programs, a mini comic-con, robotic crafts, book clubs, science spectaculars, a stargazing party, and a great wrap-up with our annual End-of-Summer party. There are special weekly drawings for extra prizes, and every teen who reads at least 5 books or writes 3 book reviews will win a special gift card. Stop by the Welcome Desk to get your book tickets and program packet starting this Monday!

Check out all of our Teen Programs at MPL's Facebook Events Page!

For Adults:

Escape the Ordinary with our Adult Summer Reading Program! Join us for great prizes -- including the grand prize, a Kindle Fire HD awarded August 10th!  Other prizes will also be given away on June 22, July 6, July 20, and August 3, so be sure to turn in your raffle tickets often. ALL entries will be eligible for the Grand Prize.

No minimum reading requirements!  Open to adults 18 years and older.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

5 Picks from the June Library Reads list

Here are a few of the June choices from librarians around the country. Click on title name to request a copy today!

Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel
by Laura Dave

“Take your time and savor the family dynamics. Enjoy the romantic twists in this tale of a career-minded young woman circling back to her roots at a California winery. The appeal is broader than that of a romance since it delves into the complexities of various relationships — parent to parent, parents and children, even winery and owner. This is an excellent summer read!”

Joan Hipp, Florham Park Public Library, Florham Park, NJ

by Annie Barrows

“It is 1938 in a rural West Virginia town and a young woman arrives to write the town’s history. Layla doesn’t really know what to expect from the town, and the town doesn’t know what to make of her. This is the heart of the South, the soul of small towns, where everyone looks out for you and knows your history. Sweet story tailor-made for fans of Billie Letts, Fannie Flagg, Pat Conroy and Harper Lee.”

Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

by Erica Swyler

“A roller coaster of a read! This is the story of a librarian from a splintered family with a tragic past who is gifted a mysterious book that leads him to dive deep into his family’s history, all while his present life seems to be falling to pieces around him. If you loved Morgenstern’s The Night Circus or Kostova’s The Historian, this is a book for you.”

Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA

by Judy Blume

“The obvious ‘unlikely events’ of Judy Blume’s latest — the three plane crashes afflicting Elizabeth, NJ in one horrifying winter — set the framework for everyday unlikely events around love, family, friendship, relating all that can go so wrong, and so right, with all three. Readers will enjoy the period detail and relatable characters that feature in this hybrid domestic/disaster tale.”

Becky Bowen, Kenton County Public Library, Independence, KY

by Paul Doiron

“When two women go missing while hiking a difficult part of the Appalachian Trail, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch helps in trying to determine where the women were last seen. Mike then discovers there is no shortage of people whose behaviors make them suspicious. With a puzzle that keeps the reader guessing, and a main character that you can’t help but empathize with, The Precipice is another home run for Doiron.”

Lora Bruggeman, Indian Prairie Public Library, Darien, IL

--Post by Tracy

Thursday, April 30, 2015

5 picks from the May Library Reads list

Here are a few good reading recommendations from librarians across the country!

by Naomi Novik

“A young girl is unexpectedly uprooted from her family and becomes involved in a centuries-old battle with The Wood, a malevolent entity which destroys anyone it touches. Fast-paced, with magic, mystery and romance, Novik’s stand-alone novel is a fairy tale for adults.”

Lucy Lockley, St. Charles City-County Library, St. Peters, MO

by Kate Atkinson

“In A God in Ruins, we become reacquainted with Teddy Todd, the beloved little brother of Ursula from Atkinson’s last book. As with Life After Life, this novel skims back and forth in time, and we see the last half of the 20th century through Ted’s eyes and the eyes of his loved ones. At times funny and at others heartbreaking, Atkinson revels in the beauty and horror of life in all its messiness.”

Jennifer Dayton, Darien Library, Darien, CT

by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

“The Knockoff is a digital-age mash-up of old-school movies The Women and All About Eve, set in the Devil Wears Prada world of a high fashion magazine. I absolutely loved this fresh, charming, addictive and ultimately heroic story of 40-something cancer survivor Imogen’s quest to rescue and rebuild her career, despite the machinations of a younger tech-wiz rival.”

Janet Schneider, Bryant Library, Roslyn, NY

by Neal Stephenson

“Stephenson’s back in fine form with this hard science fiction masterpiece, combining the detail of Cryptonomicon with the fast-paced action of Reamde. Fans of Anathem will appreciate Stephenson’s speculation about the possibilities of human evolution. This book is a great follow-up for readers who enjoyed the science of Weir’s The Martian. I heartily recommend Seveneves to SF readers.”

Keith Hayes, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC

by Kent Haruf

“Beautiful, elegant and poignant, this novel is a distilled experience of Haruf’s writing. The story of how two elders attempt to poke at the loneliness and isolation that surrounds them will stick with me for a long time to come. I’m amazed at how Haruf says so much with such spare prose. He will be missed.”

Alison Kastner, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

--Post by Tracy

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

4 Book Club Recommendations

We have several different book discussion groups here at Monroeville Public Library. I've been the leader of one of those groups for quite a few years and have read a lot of different types of books. Some have been really good and some not so good. Here are four that my group has read over the last two years that were enjoyed by all.

This well researched book tells the true story of the thousands of women (and men) who worked at a top secret facility in Kentucky during World War Two. An entire town was created to house all of the people who were performing jobs that they had no idea how it was contributing to the war effort. Young women came from all over the United States not having any idea where they were going or how long they would be there. It wasn't until the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima that they realized what they had been apart of. Denise Kiernan introduces the reader to many different women doing many different types of jobs. This was a definite hit with our book group.

Harold Fry is a reserved, retired Englishman who has just found out that an old friend of his is dying. He decides to send her a letter, but on his walk to the post office he somehow ends up on a pilgrimage to visit this friend who is in a nursing home almost 500 hundred miles to the north. As he walks, Harold examines his marriage, his career and the mistakes he has made throughout his life. Along the way he becomes a bit of a cult figure with an entourage following him. We all found this to be a sweet and heart warming book.

The subtitle for this book really sets the stage for this fascinating story. David Grann, staff reporter for The New Yorker, follows in the footsteps of Percy Fawcett. Fawcett was a British explorer who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925. He was in search of El Dorado or, as he called it, The Lost City of Z. Many men have gone in search of El Dorado and to find out what happened to Fawcett's expedition but they either never returned themselves or didn't learn anything new. But what made this middle-aged city boy take on this adventure? Read the book for yourself to find out!

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Like many of Louise Erdrich's books, this one tells a story of Native Americans in North Dakota struggling with their past and their present. This time the story is centered around the mystery of the murder of a family in 1911. A lynch mob is formed to find the killers. Three Indian men are hanged for the murder, while young Mooshum Milk is not. As the years pass the families of both groups, the hanged and the posse, develop complex relationships with one another. While there are parts of the book that feel like they don't quite belong, Erdrich weaves an intricate tale of how the actions of a few so long ago, affected so many. 

--Post by Tracy

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

5 picks from March Library Reads

Here are five of the picks from April's Library Reads. Enjoy!

by Sara Gruen

“Set in Loch Ness, right in the middle of WWII, a foolish group of rich Americans arrive in search of the famous monster. Narrator Maddie must make sense of the circumstances that have brought her to this wild locale. Only then can she discover the strength she needs to make her own decisions. Enjoy a delightfully intriguing cast of characters and the engaging style of storytelling that has made Gruen so popular.”

Paulette Brooks, Elm Grove Public Library, Elm Grove, WI

by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

“This delightful spin on the story of Prince William and Kate Middleton is the perfect beachy, weekend read for anyone who loves love stories with a healthy dose of humor. Here, Will and Kate are replaced by Nick and Bex–he’s the heir to the British throne, she’s the American who effortlessly steals his heart. Can they weather many obstacles to find their Happily Ever After? Part fairy tale, part cautionary tale, the novel is pure fun from start to finish.”

Donna Matturri, Pickerington Public Library, Pickerington, OH

by Brendan Duffy

“Eager to get out of the big city, Ben and Caroline Tierney purchase a large, old house upstate hoping to renovate it into a hotel. However, their house, called The Crofts, has a dark, mysterious past, and terrifying secrets begin to threaten the family. This wonderfully eerie and atmospheric debut novel is a great recommendation for fans of Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers and McMahon’s The Winter People.”

Sara Kennedy, Delaware County District Library, Delaware, OH

by Marisa de los Santos

“Taisy hasn’t seen her father since he dumped her family and started another one 17 years ago. An unexpected invitation to write his biography returns her to her hometown, and gives her a rare chance to knit together a broken web of relationships. Like all de los Santos’ books, The Precious One features smart, funny characters who form an unconventional family. It’s luminous and heartwarming, without an ounce of sap.”

Heather Bistyga, Anderson County Library, Anderson, SC

by Greg Iles

“Based on a real series of unsolved murders from the civil rights era in Louisiana, and the crusading journalist who uncovered the story, Iles’ novel shines a bright light of truth upon one of America’s darkest secrets. Iles’ compelling writing makes this complex tale of good versus evil a must-read for those who love thrillers, and those who want to learn a little bit of American history not normally taught in school.”

Ellen Jennings, Cook Memorial Public Library, Libertyville, IL

--Post by Tracy