Sunday, June 26, 2016

This week at the library...

This week's summer reading programs for children...

For ages five and under.

MONDAY: Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.
WEDNESDAY: Northwest Branch, 10:00 a.m.
THURSDAY: Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Children five and under enjoy stories, songs, crafts, and films.

TUESDAY: Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.
WEDNESDAY: Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.
THURSDAY: Central Library, 10:00 a.m.
FRIDAY: Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

READ FOR THE WIN! Summer Reading Club for Grades 1-6

TUESDAY: Northwest Branch, 6:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: Central Library, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.
THURSDAY: Northwest Branch, 10:00 a.m., and
        Buena Vista Branch, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

How do YOU prepare for emergencies? We're not talking about a zombie apocalypse here - think earthquakes, power outages, etc. Join us as Jeff Edelstein, president of SOS Survival Products, Inc., covers some of the basics you need to know before, during, and after a disaster. You'll learn which emergency supplies are critical and how to create an emergency plan. Attendees will also be eligible for a few opportunity drawings.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Book Café is a gathering place where teens can hang out with their friends, share what they're reading, and have coffee house treats. It's part of "Game On!" the summer reading program for teens. Teens, bring whatever you're reading with you, as well as your bookmark from your swag bag!

There will be four sessions of Book Café this summer: June 15 & 29, and July 6 & 13. If you attend three of the four sessions, you get a free book! Prize drawings for books at all sessions.

This week features MARY McCOY, author of the YA noir murder mystery Dead to Me. This program is for teens in grades 7-12 ONLY.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

105 minutes / Rated PG-13

This movie is part of  GAME ON!, the summer reading program for teens. There will be refreshments and prizes! For teens in grades 7-12 ONLY.

Buena Vista Branch, 11:00 a.m.

Saturday Family Films presents...
105 minutes / rated PG

When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.

Friday, June 24, 2016

What you're reading: People's choice!

Some random choices from the book reviews posted by participants in Summer Reading Club for Grownups!


The Heart of a Woman, by Maya Angelou
Reviewed by "BronteFan"

My first Maya Angelou book, found it at a used book store. Wow! Wow! Wow! What a fascinating woman she was! There is so much to say but it all pales in comparison to reading her written word. She writes about raising her son as a single mother. Her meeting with Billie Holiday was sooooo cool! She wrote about her work with Martin Luther King, Jr., and her writing with the Harlem Writers Guild. I was interested in how she described her life at that time. She always seemed like such a powerful woman to me, yet when she writes of her life, she seemed to be pushed by forces (people, events, situations) more powerful than her. I don't know if the people were just pushy or she was passive, allowing things to unfold as they would. I look forward to reading another of her books to see how her voice evolves.

Editor's note: This is actually volume 4 of Maya Angelou's autobiography. The previous three books (in order) are: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, and Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas. It's followed by two more books: All God's Children Need Travelin' Shoes, and A Song Flung Up to Heaven. (Her fascinating life gave her a lot to say!)

One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Reviewed by "rliz"

"Good things don't wait until you're ready. Sometimes they come right before, when you're almost there." Emma and Jesse were high school sweethearts who lived an adventurous and happy life. In their 20s they married, and fully expected to be together forever. But fate intervenes when a year into their marriage Jesse is lost at sea from a helicopter crash and presumed dead by everyone. Three years later and Emma has moved on; her life is completely different. She lives on the east coast instead of in Los Angeles, a career as a travel writer has changed into one of a bookstore owner. And Emma is engaged to Sam, an old family friend and is blissfully happy in a way she never expected to be ever again. Then Emma gets a call and finds out Jesse survived. Thus brings on the question: Do we only have one true love?

"You can't be loyal to two people. You can't yearn for two dreams." Taylor Jenkins Reid never pulls her punches. I always approach her books with trepidation because so far every single one I have read by her has made me cry, and this book was no exception. About 25% in, I already had tears in my eyes. Despite its being essentially a love triangle, I really enjoyed this book. The characters are relatable and tangible. It makes you wonder how you yourself would react if you were in a similar situation to Emma's, or to one of her guys'. This book was more than a love triangle, though; it was about Emma's own journey and her self discovery of the person she wanted to be. The one thing I would have liked better from this book was a balance between the two men. We got to read more about one man and his effect on Emma and the other a little bit less. I would have liked to see more of Emma's story with the other guy, as I feel it would have provided more insight into their relationship. Thought-provoking and charming, One True Loves is memorable experience and a delight to sink one's teeth into. A poignant book about the meaning of a soulmate and whether we are destined in life to have more than one. "When you love someone, it seeps out of everything you do, it bleeds into everything you say, it becomes so ever present and ubiquitous that eventually it becomes ordinary to hear, no matter how extraordinary it is to feel."

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library doesn't own this book, but does own another by this author, called Maybe In Another Life. Maybe you'd like that one...

Jackaby, by William Ritter
Reviewed by "CoyoteGrin"

Jackaby is about Abigail Rook, young woman who arrives in New England in 1892, and promptly takes a job as Mr. Jackaby's assistant. Mr. Jackaby is a private investigator who happens to have the gift of noticing the supernatural. Miss Rook, by contrast, happens to have the gift of noticing the ordinary, so together they work to solve a spate of serial murders that take place in their town and the surrounding areas.

Jackaby is an enjoyable read, and a fast one. The characters are likeable, if not wholly original, and the plot is entertaining.

Editor's note: Jackaby is a young adult novel, although completely enjoyable by adults (I liked it too!) and is the first in a series. The second book, Beastly Bones, is also available at BPL.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Harari
Reviewed by "popes"

Step aside, Mr. Van Loon, and all the other explicators of our "glorious" species. For those of us who graduated with degrees in the social sciences but who have no time to go back to school to consider some of the new thinking about our species history, or for those who simply enjoy a good nonfiction read that gently, often humorously, nudges you to reconsider a few long-held notions about you and your fellows, this book is for you! You needn't agree with all of Mr. Harari's ideas, but you will enjoy thinking about them in this fast-paced journey though our species' history. Remember, the unexamined life is not worth living. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What we're reading: Hieronymus Bosch

No, not the painter, the fictional homicide detective in Michael Connelly's long-running series!

The new Harry Bosch novel (#20) is called The Crossing, and the title is significant in several ways, all of which facilitate the story. In the last Bosch novel, Harry was about to be pushed out of the LAPD by his captain, who wasn't a fan and found a way to get rid of him, so he took preemptive measures by retiring first, but then turned around and hired his lawyer half-brother, Mickey Haller, to sue the department. He is, therefore, already a bit persona non grata with his former colleagues, and now things are about to get worse.

His brother, Mickey (the Lincoln Lawyer), wants Harry to "cross the aisle," so to speak, and work for the defense by assisting Mickey to prove that his client is not guilty of a horrific murder of which he is accused. Harry knows that anyone on the force who works for the defense will draw ire, disgust, and disavowment from his fellow officers, so he initially turns Mickey down flat--working for the defense would go against every one of his basic principles. But his curiosity about the case leads him to look into it just a little bit, and he finds himself agreeing that there's something hinky about it.

This is where the second meaning of the title comes into play, as Harry looks for the "crossing point," that time and place where the path of the victim crosses the path of the murderer. In Mickey's client's case, Harry can't find one, which is odd. The oddity sucks Harry further into the investigation until he finally has to admit that he's fully on board with helping Mickey--but only because he knows that if Haller's client didn't do it, then someone else did. Harry's not okay with that person still being out on the street.

There is yet a third meaning for crossing, but to explain it would be a major spoiler, so I won't go into it. But it's a great story made even better by the nuances of Connelly's thinking, his plotting, his language, great action scenes, and the finessing of the meaning of the title! A solid, intriguing offering in the history of this series.

Editor's note: This one is popular and hard to find, even though we have five copies at BPL; but we also offer it as an e-book and an audio book, as well as in large print format.

Monday, June 20, 2016

This week at the library...

Children five and under enjoy stories, songs, crafts, and films.

TUESDAY: Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.
WEDNESDAY: Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.
THURSDAY: Central Library, 10:00 a.m.
FRIDAY: Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

READ FOR THE WIN! Summer Reading Club for Grades 1-6

TUESDAY: Northwest Branch, 6:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY: Central Library, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.
THURSDAY: Northwest Branch, 10:00 a.m., and
        Buena Vista Branch, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.

Central Library, 12:00 noon

The club will discuss The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender. Bring a lunch and join us!

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club will discuss After I'm Gone,by Laura Lippman.
All are welcome.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Come learn the basics of home brewing with Thomas Galvin from Eagle Rock Home Brewing Supply. He will go over the fundamentals of beer construction, and you will discover how different grains, hops, and yeast interplay to create beer you can brew at home. (No, we're not serving alcohol at the event!)

Central Library 6:30 p.m.


Northwest Library, 6:30 p.m.

BMX STUNT SHOW by StuntMasters!
This program is part of “Game On,” the summer reading program for teens, but everyone is welcome to attend! Prize drawings for registered teens in grades 7-12.

Central Library, 3:00 p.m.

A variety of crafty challenges and opportunities from which to choose!
Materials provided—get ready to play! For teens in grades 7-12 only.

Buena Vista Branch, 11:00 a.m.

Saturday Family Films presents...
A struggling songwriter named Dave Seville finds success when he comes across a trio of singing chipmunks: mischievous leader Alvin, brainy Simon, and chubby, impressionable Theodore.
92 minutes / rated PG

Saturday, June 18, 2016

What we're reading: Magical fantasy

Last year, Daryl M. wrote a great review for our teen blog of A Darker Shade of Magic, an alternate-worlds fantasy by author V. E. Schwab. (Schwab divides her writing into books by Victoria Schwab, which are intended specifically for a teen audience, and books by V. E. Schwab, which are intended for adults but are fine for older teens.) If you don't know this author or this series, read Daryl's review and let him persuade you to try the first; and also consider reading what is, in my opinion, her best book, Vicious. (My review of that book is here.)

The second book in Schwab's "Shades of Magic" series, A Gathering of Shadows, was published in late February, and I was finally able to check it out last week.

It's been four months since the events that took place in the first book, and for some those four months have been quite eventful. Lila Bard, who always wanted to buy, borrow, or steal her own ship (despite the fact that she doesn't know how to sail), has not yet quite achieved her own captaincy, but has found a place on a crew and has departed the Red London docks in search of adventure, which, knowing Lila, she will certainly find. Kell and Rhy, now tied together by one life force, are becoming increasingly restless at their forced inactivity--particularly Kell, who has had to give up his smuggling activities in the other Londons and stay in the Arnesian capitol in Red London, in order not to put himself or Rhy in jeopardy.

But for all the players (and some delightfully complex and slightly weird new ones), the primary focus is the upcoming Essen Tasch, or Element Games, an international competition of magic being hosted this year by the Arnesians, designed to maintain a healthy relationship devoid of war between their country and two others. Rhy is in charge of designing the games and the venue, while Kell and Lila eventually play their own complicated (and surprising) roles. Meanwhile, as the book's synopsis mysteriously says, "A shadow that was gone in the night will reappear at morning." Something sinister is in the works...

Don't you love it when the sequel completely fulfills the promise of the first book, which you already loved?

This series has great characters, both from the previous book (Kell, Delilah, Rhy) and from the current one (most notably the pirate Alucard Emery!). Lila is still one of the best heroines out there--smart, fierce, and funny.

Schwab's language is beautiful, with detailed and evocative descriptions, and the dialogue is sharp and snappy, with wonderfully snarky repartee. The world-building and spectacle continue. Things are happening behind the scenes that set us up for the next book. And hey, you can't go wrong with pirates, nor with a magical tournament! This book was definitely worth the wait!

Editor's note: Burbank Public Library owns the first book in hardcover, audio, and e-book. The second book we have only as hardcover.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What we're reading: YA series for bibliophiles!

Periodically, I blog here about young adult books or series that may have adult appeal, and the new series that begins with Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine, is one such.

To any bibliophile, the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria was a tragedy of epic proportions. The loss of the ancient world's single greatest archive of knowledge, the idea that so many "great works of brilliant geniuses" (Orosius) didn't survive, causes anything from a wince to a fit of weeping by those lovers of antiquity who can only imagine what they might have missed by this loss. In this series, Caine rewrites literary history by allowing the Library at Alexandria to survive, and then postulates what might have happened next.

By the present day (the book actually takes place a decade into our future, although it's a weirdly old-fashioned and steam-punky rendition), the Library and its staff have gained immense political power and influence, akin to that of the Catholic Church and a world government rolled into one. The Great Library is a looming presence in every major city, and has complete power over the dissemination of information. Through the use of alchemy, literally any literary work can be delivered to a "blank" book for any citizen to read...but the individual ownership or possession of "real" books is strictly forbidden.

The primary protagonist of the book is Jess Brightwell, whose family has for centuries been involved in the black market trade for illegal books. Jess, however, is neither qualified for nor interested in following the family trade, so his father decides that, since he's a bright boy, the best thing he can do for the family is to become a librarian! This begins his association with a motley group of other teenagers, all vying for a place in the hierarchy of the most powerful organization on earth. But what they discover is that the Great Library isn't as benign and well-intentioned as they've been brought up to believe...

I picked this up to read because of the little gold plate on the cover that said "THE GREAT LIBRARY." I wanted to include five newish books in a painting for the cover of the teen summer reading log, and since Rachel Caine is a popular author, I chose this as one of them. I hadn't read it when I painted it, but I liked the cover because of the color scheme, and the reference to a library. So I had it sitting at home after I finished my illustration, and decided, Might as well read it. I'd never read anything by Rachel Caine before, because, well, most of her other books involve vampires (so over it), and I had no idea what to expect.

I thought this book was brilliant. The alternate history, the scene-setting, the imagery, the concepts, the characters, the action, all fully on. Every time I had to stop reading, I couldn't wait to pick it up again.

Fortunately, it's not too long until the sequel, Paper and Fire, comes out (July). I will be the first adult on the holds list--you can be the second!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What We're Reading: The Nature of Modern Warfare

All the Ways We Kill and Die: An Elegy
for a Fallen Comrade, and the Hunt for
His Killer, by Brian Castner

Brian Castner is the author of The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows, one of the finest memoirs to come out of the war in Iraq (reviewed previously for this blog in 2012). Castner is a former EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) officer and combat veteran. He later worked as a military contractor, training soldiers in ordnance disposal prior to their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Long Walk was an intensely personal and moving account of Castner’s experience as commander of an EOD unit in Iraq. It also explored the post-deployment psychological toll that this experience had on Castner and how it affected his personal relationships and his family life.

It would be an injustice to describe The Long Walk as only a personal story. It was also meant to be, as such stories are, representative of the experiences of many other soldiers, something that characterized the nature of the war itself. All the Ways We Kill and Die, however, while also seeking to explore the experience of the modern soldier and the nature of contemporary warfare, takes a wider view. It employs the investigative tools and narrative structures of journalism. Castner uses the targeting of his friend in Afghanistan as a way to make us understand what he sees as the fundamentally defining characteristic of modern warfare in places like Iraq and Afghanistan:
“Everyone thinks war is dehumanizing, but they’re wrong. War is personal, deeply personal. Every soldier at some point realizes, ‘They’re trying to kill me.’ But in modern war, rather than kill any person, we kill that person. That particular person, but not another. War has always been personal, but now it is individual, specific to the associated alias and photo and fingerprint and DNA sample and dossier. The point is this: some people are worth killing more than others.”

As part of the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, U.S. and
NATO allies compiled biometric dossiers on the population, chiefly
fingerprints and, as seen here, iris scan records.
All the Ways We Kill and Die is a look at how that idea is expressed in military strategy and tactics. Castner’s story is framed around the search to find and kill one person worth killing more than others, the shadowy figure that he calls “The Engineer.” The Engineer is not the bomber who implants and detonates the bomb, the person who mixes the explosives, or even the person who assembles the IED (Improvised Explosive Device). He is the one with the engineering skills to design a device of ever increasing lethality, and the one who has the skills to redesign the device to defeat technologies that might detect it. He is the one who makes the device an effective tool of warfare and killing.

Castner imagines him as a single peripatetic individual, travelling from group to group dispensing the circuit boards he has designed, the essential hardware and schematic, instructing on the assembly and deployment of the device. If there is more than one person, if “The Engineer” is indeed a group of individuals, Castner believes that because of the skill level involved, that group constitutes a small club, one that is ultimately responsible for a tremendous number of casualties. This person(s) is the target most worth identifying and killing. How you attempt to identify, locate, and kill this person is what All the Ways We Kill and Die is about; it unfolds for us the landscape of modern warfare.

We learn about the job of EOD teams in the field, analyzing diffused and exploded devices, conducting the forensic investigation of the scene for finger print or DNA evidence, and signature physical evidence that might link the device to other devices with a common maker or place of assembly; the intelligence databases into which all this information goes and how those databases are used (or fail to be useful); the massive biometrics project that seeks to create a database of names and unique physical identifiers for the entire domestic population in a troubled area; the way surveillance equipment is used, including predator drones; and the role of military contractors and special forces units in tracking down, capturing, and killing individual “targets.” We are shown in one amazing sequence how a drone in Afghanistan, vital to a complex operation on the ground, is flown by a remote pilot at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

  Air Force pilots flying drones flying over Afghanistan from a remote location.
Many drones operating in Afghanistan were flown from Nellis Air Force base in Nevada.

An MQ-1 Predator drone
Woven throughout this operational narrative are the personal stories of contractors and soldiers engaged in the fight. The strategic and tactical nature of this kind of war comes with a new set of cognitive challenges, psychological damage, and kinds of physical injuries--most notably the many amputations and long physical rehabilitation that result from IED trauma. In the book’s perhaps most chilling moment, we are presented with the evidence that the enemy too is targeting individual soldiers, that this is an individual war on both sides. At the site of an IED that was exploded beneath an American convoy, investigators discover, just off the road, the remote trigger site. There is a drawing on stone, a rough petroglyph that shows a line of the various vehicles typically found in the convoy. The drawing marks as the specific object for destruction the JERRV, the vehicle used to safely transport EOD operators, supplies, and equipment, including remotely controlled robots. It is the vehicle Castner’s friend was riding in when he died.

In Afghanistan the Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams traveled in this
heavily armored vehicle, a JERRV (Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle.
This vehicle and its EOD team became the particular target of enemy bombers.

The nature of modern war has become a struggle in which we seek to kill a named enemy combatant. Is this something new? Yes, in modern warfare it is. And like the story of those ancient named enemies who sought each other out on the field of battle--Achilles and Hector--there seems something inglorious and troubling about it all, perhaps because it allows no refuge for our distancing and palliative fictions about what wars really are and what we ask of those who fight them.