Friday, April 21, 2017

Books beloved by readers

Are you a person who enjoys reading about reading? Who loves it when a book has an author as its character, is set in a bookstore or a library, or involves you in some magical aspect of reading? If so, here is an eclectic annotated list for you. Some appear in the teen section, some in sci fi, some in general adult fiction, but all are great reads for readers:

Recently reviewed on this blog: The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan

The Telling, by Ursula K. LeGuin
The planet Aka used to be a backward, rural, but culturally rich world. But once it came into contact with the Hainish civilization, abrupt changes were made by its ruling faction to transform it into a technologically advanced model society. Sutty, an official observer from Earth, has been dispatched to see if the disconnect has been too great. She learns of a group of outcasts living in the back country who still believe in the old ways and practice a lost religion called the Telling, and seeks them out, at some personal risk to both herself and them, to discover what this society is missing. (Science fiction)

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
This is the story of foster child Liesel Meminger, who is living just outside of Munich during World War II. Liesel steals books (thus the name) and--once she learns to read--shares them with her stepfather and also with the Jewish man hiding in their basement. The novel is narrated by Death. The language, the imagery, the story, the unusual point of view are all stellar. I'm not sure why this was pigeon-holed as a teen book, because it's a universally appealing story. (YA section)

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Satterfield
Biographer Margaret Lea lives above her father’s antiquarian bookshop. One day she receives a letter from one of Britain's premier novelists. Vida Winter is gravely ill, and wants to tell her life story before it's too late, and she has selected Margaret to do so. Margaret is puzzled and intrigued (she has never met the author, nor has she read her novels), and agrees to meet with her. Winter finally shares the dark family secrets she has long kept hidden, and Margaret becomes immersed in her story, which is a true gothic tale complete with a madwoman hidden in the attic, illegitimate children, and some ghosts. (Adult fiction)

The Book of Lost Things, by John Connelly   
David's mother has died, and the 12-year-old has only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him, leading him through a magical gateway to a series of familiar, yet slightly skewed versions of classic fairy tales and aiding him to come to terms with his loss and his new life. (Adult fiction and YA section)

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, falls in love with a book, only to discover that someone is systematically destroying all other works by this author. A combination of detective story, fantasy, and gothic horror. (Adult fiction)

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
In an alternate-history version of London in 1985, Special Operative Thursday Next is tasked by the Special Operations Network with preventing the kidnapping of literary characters from books. When Jane Eyre disappears from the pages of the book by that name, Thursday is determined to prevent the trauma experienced by its fond readers. (If you like this one, there are many more in the series.) (Adult mystery)

Inkheart (plus sequels Inkspell, Inkdeath),
by Cornelia Funke
Meggie's father, who repairs and binds books for a living, has an unusual gift that became a curse in their lives: He can "read" characters out of books. But when he is reading a book to young Meggie, some characters escape into their world and her mother gets sucked into the story! Now it's time for Mo and Meggie to change the course of that story, send the book's evil ruler back into his book and maybe retrieve the person dear to them both.... (Children's room)

Not as directly reader-related, but with twisted versions of fairy tales interspersed throughout its exciting contents is Cornelia Funke's "Mirrorworld" series that starts with the book Reckless. Again, this series was billed and sold as a series for children and teens, but it's really a powerful and sophisticated fantasy about an alternate world that will appeal to all ages. There are three books, and more to come, according to Cornelia! (YA section)

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
The historical saga of how a book--the Sarajevo Haggadah--came to be, and its storied history down through five centuries, written from the point of view of a curmudgeonly rare book conservator. Inspired by a true story, and beautifully written. (Adult fiction)

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan  
Clay Jannon, a website designer who has lost his job as a result of the dot-com disaster, finds part-time employment on the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore. But soon the strange goings-on at the store have Clay and his friends speculating about how the place stays in business; there are plenty of customers, but none of them ever seems to buy anything, and Clay is forbidden from opening any of the dusty manuscripts they periodically arrive to peruse. But when he gets bored and curious... (Adult fiction)

Ink and Bone, by Rachel Caine  
An alternate world, in which the Great Library at Alexandria never burned down. Centuries later, having achieved a status not unlike the Vatican in contemporary life, the Great Library and its rulers control the flow of knowledge to the masses. Paradoxically, although anyone can order up any of the greatest works of history from the library (via alchemy), personal ownership of books is forbidden. Jess Brightwell's family are black market book dealers, but Jess decides he wants to play it straight by entering the service of the Library. Or does he? My review is here. The sequel is Paper and Fire (review here), and the third book in the trilogy, Ash and Quill, is due out in July. (YA section)

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin
Fikry, the owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) is in a bad way: His beloved wife has just died, sales are dismal, and someone has just stolen his rare edition of an Edgar Allen Poe poem. But then an unexpected discovery--an important "package" abandoned in his bookstore--changes his perspective on everything. (Adult fiction)

Denver homicide detective Cliff Janeway seeks a new career as a rare book dealer, but his stubborn need to solve an old murder keeps things lively. There are five books in the Cliff Janeway series by John Dunning; the first one is Booked to Die. (Adult mystery)  

There are probably dozens more books about books, reading, and writing; when I discover them, I'll share!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Author Event: Exoplanets!

Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System,
by Michael Summers and James Trefil.

On Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Buena Vista Branch, Michael Summers will discuss his new book, Exoplanets, co-written with James Trevil, his colleague at George Mason University. This book is about the major discoveries of exoplanets (planets outside of our own solar system) during the last 10 years, discoveries that have caused us to change some of our most important assumptions about the universe. The new planets reviewed in Exoplanets are a sampling of the various types (more than 2000!) found by the Kepler space telescope since the launch of that satellite in 2009. The important thing to note about the Kepler satellite is that it is focused directly on only a single pencil-thin slice of our galaxy, so the discoveries made to date give us some idea of the vast number of planets in the universe.

Ice worlds may be one of the most common
types of planets in our galaxy. We have at least
six examples in our solar system: the moon
Europa, seen here, may have biological
significance. Its subsurface ocean is heated
by internal tidal dissipation due to gravitational
interactions with Jupiter and Io, and may have
hydrothermal vents and other similarities
to Earth’s deep-ocean regions.
A primary interest of astronomers monitoring the Kepler discoveries is identifying which of these planets are located around their stars in areas called CHZ (continuously habitable zones) and have the conditions to support life as we know it here on Earth. These are the so-called “Goldilocks” planets, after the eponymously named story, places that are neither too hot nor too cold, but just right for life to flourish. Perhaps the most astonishing thing revealed by these discoveries, however, is that--much like the discovery of dark matter and dark energy in the universe--it appears that most of the planets in the galaxy are not, as we had assumed from the model of our own solar system, star-centric. They have been dubbed “rogue planets,” planets wandering through space rather than orbiting a star. The work of Kepler is being supple-mented by that of other space satellites. Some readers may recall that in February of this year NASA announced a major new discovery by its Spitzer infrared telescope of additional earth-like planets orbiting the “ultra-cool dwarf star,” TRAPPIST 1.

Exoplanets come in a wide range of masses, compositions, temperatures,
densities, and distances from their central star. There is a continuous
spectrum of masses, from planets the size of Mercury to thosemore than
10 times the mass of Jupiter. They can be as hot as metal or
as profoundly cold as interstellar space.
Exoplanets is a popular work of science, one intended to bring lay readers up to date on significant new discoveries about the universe, and the implications of those discoveries. An outstanding work of popular science does several things: It explains scientific concepts clearly, often by use of analogies to more commonly understood phenomena; it does so while presenting a logical and concise overview of its subject;
it explains what we have come to know, or think we know, and why and how we think we know it; and, last but not least, it points out what we do not know and directs us to the important things we need to know.

That last point is critical in the lasting impression a book like this will have for us, and in fact integral to its purpose, for what is attractive to us are the mysteries yet to be uncovered, our anticipation--and our speculation--about what the answers might be. It is the thing that we find stimulating and expansive in a book like this, as it engages our imagination and makes the world a larger, more complex, and seemingly boundless place. This book does all of those things superbly, and Jim Trefil’s long experience and deft hand as a popular science writer is apparent here. And of course, the subject of a book of popular science has a lot to do with how engaging we find the book, and what could be more engaging than a book that addresses a subject that causes us to speculate broadly on the working of the universe, the origins and nature of life, and our place in the whole thing?

Most stars have planets--in fact, observations suggest that on average each star
has at least four.  This estimate is derived by extrapolating the frequency of exo-
planets that we have observed around stars other than our Sun.  Furthermore,
research suggests that most planets are not even bound to stars. 

This is a small jewel of a book, and it has many facets. You are presented with a wealth of intriguing ideas as you are ushered back and forth between speculative worlds and across eons of time. But this is not science fiction, it is a combination of fact and informed speculation, and it is all the more powerful for that. Perhaps each reader will find something that particularly strikes them.

A student from the Burbank High School astronomy club will give a short introduction. The Sidewalk Astronomers will be on hand with telescopes that are popular with amateur astronomers, should you want to take your interest to the next level. Books will be available at a special price for those who attend, and the author will sign copies. Proof of attendance will be provided for students who are attending for extra credit. It promises to be a fascinating and fun evening!

Monday, April 17, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Le Petit Cinema presents...
Natalie Portman stars in a portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady. Jackie takes us directly into the world of Jacqueline Kennedy during the days immediately following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a portrait of the First Lady as she fights through grief and trauma to console her children and define her husband's historic legacy. 1 hour 40 minutes / Rated R

Central Library, 12:00 noon

The club has read and will discuss Daughters of the Samurai, by Janice P. Nimura. In 1871, five young girls were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: Learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened men to lead Japan.
Buena Vista Branch, 4:00 p.m.

Family Films presents...
Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala, puts on the world's greatest singing competition to save his crumbling theater, which features Rosita, an overworked and underappreciated mother of 25 piglets desperate to unleash her inner diva; Ash, a punk rock porcupine with a beautiful voice behind her prickly exterior; and Johnny, a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family's felonies. 1 hour 48 minutes / Rated PG

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

We provide the colored pencils, crayons, and coloring pages, or you can bring your own! Stop in, sit down, unwind, get creative, and HAVE FUN!

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss James Patterson's 1st to Die, the first book in his Women's Murder Club series. A killer is murdering recently married couples, and police detective Lindsay is stumped. Off duty, she forms a murder club comprising three of her friends: an assistant district attorney, a newspaper reporter, and a coroner. The four women use everything at their disposal to figure out who the killer is before he can strike again.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

See detailed write-up, above

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Not your mother's book club...

The club has read and will discuss Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. It's the unforgettable story of the Binewskis, a circus-geek family whose matriarch and patriarch have bred their own exhibit of human oddities (with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes). Their offspring include Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan...Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins...albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious—and dangerous—asset.


A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.

Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler
Storytime at Buena Vista Branch.

Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Buena Vista Branch, 12:00 noon


Who: Any child who has difficulty sitting through a traditional storytime.

What: This is a small inclusive program of stories, songs, and activities that provides freedom to children with special needs, within a structured space.

Pre-registration is required: Limited to 10 children. (A small group is what makes Sensory Storytime engaging for the participants.)
Please call 818-238-5630.

Central Library, 4:00 p.m.


For kids in grades 2-5. Registration is required for this FREE program. Call 818-238-5610 to sign up.


At Gross Science, we will learn how the digestive system works.
  • Learn some facts!
  • Make some fakes!
  • Dress for a mess.
  • We'll make some fake poop.


BABY STORYTIME is cancelled this Thursday. See you next week!
Thursday @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch

This is a read-aloud program for children in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade.

Sign-ups are required. Parents may sign up their child at the Buena Vista Branch Children's Library or by calling 818-238-5630. This program is full; sign-ups will begin again in the Fall.

This Thursday @ 4:30 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Northwest Library, 6:30 p.m.

Join us for a bilingual storytime with stories, songs and rhymes in English and Spanish. There will be a short video at the end of the program.

Vengan para una hora de cuentos bilingüe con cuentos, canciones y rimas en inglés y español. Habrá un video corto al final del programa.

Central Library, 10:15 a.m.

A program for preschoolers and their families. Join us for a fun introduction to movement, coordination, rhythm, and dance! We'll be dancing using shaker eggs & scarves, and listening to music.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Library closed for holiday

The Buena Vista Branch will be CLOSED on SUNDAY for the Easter holiday. Join us on Monday during our regularly scheduled hours.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What we're reading: New Harry Bosch

I have been on a streak of reading new books in long-running series and not being thrilled by the latest entry, but I am happy to say that streak has now ended! Last week, I picked up the new one in Michael Connelly's Detective Harry Bosch series, and was pleased to discover that it was every bit as solid and engaging a job as Connelly reliably produces.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye is #21 in the Harry Bosch series. In the last book, Harry's boss in the LAPD finally finds a way to get rid of Harry, but Harry isn't having it; so he retires before they can dump him, and then turns around and sues the department. You can imagine that this makes Harry persona non grata with all his old contacts; then he compounds the offense by "crossing the aisle" to work with the defense for the first time in his career.

As this book opens, Harry has settled into being a private detective, but is still trying to keep other options open, and this results in Harry working on two cases at once. In the private sector, he has just been contacted by an elderly billionaire from South Pasadena, who wants to send him on a hunt for an heir. It seems that in his youth, Whitney Vance fell in love with a girl and got her pregnant, but then the girl mysteriously disappeared, and he doesn't even know whether she had the baby. He does know that anyone who shows up to make a claim on his vast fortune is going to be beset by the corporate guys who expect all the money to stay with his company (and under their control), so Vance swears Harry to absolute secrecy and makes Harry promise to report only to him. But just the fact that a meeting took place with a private investigator makes his associates take notice, and soon Harry is feeling that frisson on the back of his neck that says someone is taking too great an interest in him and his business.

The other case is something that falls in Harry's lap because he's working part-time, albeit unpaid, for the tiny San Fernando Police Department (they like to call themselves the SFPD just to confuse people). In later years, Harry's specialty has been resurrecting and solving cold cases, and he inherits one that initially looked cold but is actually ongoing, as Harry discovers when he connects the similarities between a bunch of previously isolated rape cases and realizes he has a serial rapist on the loose.

The paths Harry takes to solve both of these mysteries are convoluted, fascinating, and in some cases risky, and I found it all intriguing. The procedural parts were first-rate, and Harry finds some new and innovative ways to get things done, as a partial outsider. Bravo from me. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Connelly!

Burbank Public Library offers this as a hardcover and also as an audio book.

Monday, April 10, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Opera Talk presents...
A multimedia presentation and discussion of the opera The Tales of Hoffmann, led by our own host Larry Verdugo from LA Opera’s Community Engagement Program.

The Tales of Hoffmann is an opéra fantastique by Jacques Offenbach. The French libretto was written by Jules Barbier, based on three short stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, who is the protagonist of the story. It was Offenbach’s final work, as he died a year before the premiere.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This club is for enrolled teens only; to be placed on the list, please email

Central Library, 5:30 p.m.


Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The Sound of Strings presents...
Judith Aller is an American-born virtuoso violinist who grew up in the midst of Hollywood’s classical music golden era. Ms. Aller started taking lessons on the violin at seven, and as a teenager, she began her studies with Jascha Heifetz. After three years with Heifetz, Aller relocated to Finland, touring Europe in recital as a soloist and as concertmaster and assistant conductor.

After moving her family back to America, she performed with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and played hundreds of dates for motion pictures, television, and commercial recordings. Many of Aller’s live recordings can be heard on her YouTube channel and her website,

Manon Robertshaw has toured Europe and North America as a soloist, orchestral, and chamber musician, including a performance with Musique Sur La Mer Orchestra at the Tribute Concert in Honor of the Wedding of HRH Prince William & Miss Catherine Middleton. Ms. Robertshaw teaches and performs as both a soloist and chamber ensemble player at Loyola Marymount University, University of California at Riverside, and others.

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Friday Matinees presents...
Based on the book Find Your Way Home, by Saroo Brierley with Larry Buttrose, the film stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, and Nicole Kidman.

Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train that takes him across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
120 minutes / Rated PG-13

Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

Stop in between 10 am and noon to build and create. Thousands of LEGOs are available for you to use. For children ages 2-14 and their families. Children under 9 must be accompanied by an adult.


Look for special displays! At the Central Library, check out a "staff pick." At both Central Library and Buena Vista, look for "A Good Pick-up Line." The books are wrapped so you can't tell what they are...but their opening lines are on the cover to give you a hint.


A story and song program for children ages one and two, accompanied by an adult.

Tuesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Fridays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 11:00 a.m., Buena Vista Branch
Registration is required to attend Toddler
Storytime at Buena Vista Branch.

Stories and songs for children age three and up,
accompanied by an adult.

Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m., Northwest Branch
Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m., Central Library
Fridays @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

A fun introduction to the rhythm of music, dance, and communication.
This Tuesday @ 1:00 p.m., Buena Vista Branch

Friday, April 07, 2017

What we're reading: Graphic novel memoir

Reviewed by Laura M., Reference Librarian

I picked up the graphic novel Over Easy, by Mimi Pond, after reading a promising review of its forthcoming sequel: The Customer is Always Wrong. Described as a “semi-memoir,” Over Easy is about a twenty-something young woman and her time waitressing in Oakland in the late 1970s-early '80s. I often think I could write a book about all the interesting characters I meet at work, and Pond actually did it. I suppose it’s called a “semi-memoir” because it’s just as much about the wild employees working at the restaurant as it is about the author, Madge, who has to drop out of art school when her financial aid falls through and winds up working at the diner she frequented as a student.

Madge is somewhat of an innocent when she enters the soap opera going on between the cooks, waitresses, and managers. Their world is one of early mornings, late afternoons at the bar, drug-addled nights, and constant partner swapping. I enjoyed seeing Madge dipping her toe into this world, yet remaining true to herself. The first time she is invited out to a local dive bar by her manager, she approaches the outing as an anthropologist might, and tries her best to fit in with her surroundings. She is a keen observer and documents the drama with almost no judgement.

So much of this book just clicked for me. The story is episodic and particularly well-suited to the graphic novel genre. I really enjoyed seeing the characters as Madge drew them, and since there were so many of them, their pictures helped me keep track of who was who. The artwork is simple yet evocative, done entirely in black, white, and blue. I was completely drawn in by the hundreds of mini dramas, and was left wanting more. So I’m glad that The Customer is Always Wrong comes out soon!