Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What we're reading: Prequel

I eagerly anticipated Before Green Gables, by Budge Wilson, and then I got busy around the time it came out and forgot all about it, so when I recently came across it on the shelves, I was so happy. I loved the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maude Montgomery passionately as a child, and reread them all so many times that I know them front to back, especially the first two or three. But after having read this prequel, I'm not sure why it was written, aside from the desire to mark the 100-year anniversary of Anne.

I say that because in the case of people writing sequels or prequels or side stories (especially to other people's books), there needs to be a reason to do so--another perspective, a part of the story not told, a continuation that the author was unable or unwilling to pursue. For instance, The Wide Sargasso Sea tells the events of Jane Eyre from the mad wife's point of view. The Wind Done Gone tells the story of Gone With the Wind from the slaves' perspective, while Alexandra Ripley entertainingly continues Scarlet's story from the point at which GWTW ends (and though some critics panned it, I found it both engaging and entertaining) in Scarlet.

This book conscientiously and painstakingly searches out every mention made in the entire set of Green Gables books of Anne Shirley's past, and then attempts to faithfully recreate it--with almost no new information and, sadly, little flair. There were a very few characters here who were undocumented in the series, but even they seemed self-consciously positioned to explain every tiny detail of how Anne got to Prince Edward Island. The book seemed like an exercise in expanding something that could have stayed as it was--the shorthanded versions of events prior to Anne's adoption by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert penned by Montgomery were perfectly adequate, if that was the only reason to write this prequel, and in reading it, I discovered no other.

There were, as well, a few historical anomalies that would not have been included in Lucy Maud Montgomery's series (for instance, the discovery that breastfeeding gives immunity against disease was made well after the events of this series--and a person of this era would never have commented on that fact anyway! it would have been considered far too indelicate), and I felt the writing style, despite Wilson's attempts to make it similar, was too contemporary. There were some departures from "canon," too--for instance, Wilson makes a point of Anne's being able to cook a meal for a family of eight at age six, but in the first AofGG books, when the Sunday School picnic is in the offing, Anne is worried about the necessity of bringing a picnic basket, and says to Marilla, "I don't know how to cook." Hmmm.

It bothered me that the voice of Anne Shirley was similar throughout this volume to that of the main books--but those begin when she is 11 years old, and we first hear her voice in this book when she is little more than a toddler. Not enough allowance was made for the age difference; even an extremely bright and articulate child would not be using language at age three or four the way this book portrays Anne as doing. If the book were written as first-person reminiscence--Anne looking back and remembering--it could have worked, but it's not--it's written as an uneasy mix of first and third person that I found jarring.

Also, although this has been marketed as a YA book and Burbank Public Library stocks it in both the children's and young adult sections, I'm thinking that only adults on a nostalgia kick will read it.

So--not horrible, and for die-hard fans of Anne, perhaps still something they will want to read...but I stand by my disappointment. I am also surprised, because the author, Budge Wilson, has written 33 other books, many of which have won some rather prestigious awards.

Apparently the Japanese decided to capitalize on Wilson's publication of this 100th-anniversary tribute to the Anne of Green Gables franchise, and did something some might actually enjoy more--they made an anime out of it! It's called Kon'nichiwa Anneand there she is, in all her carrot-topped glory.

Monday, July 28, 2014

This week at the library...

Summer Reading Club is over for this year, except for Novel Destinations, which still has a few more events, so this entry will be a little smaller for a couple of weeks while we library staff catch up on all the things that were put on hold while we celebrated summer and reading with our community's children! Then we head into the school year, the fall, the holidays…the round of the library year.

Here are this week's events…

Buena Vista branch, 7:00 p.m.

Novel Destinations presents…

A blank travel journal can become the most treasured souvenir of your trip. You can fill it with emotional snapshots--from expectations to first impressions to surprising discoveries. When you pick it up years later, this journal transports you back years and across miles.

Become inspired with travel writer Susan Van Allen, who has written about Italian travel for many media outlets, including National Public Radio, Town & Country, Student Traveler, Tastes of Italia, and Chicago Daily Herald. Her work is featured in several Travelers Tales anthologies (including Best Travel Writing 2009), and on CNN.com. Van Allen has also written Letters from Italy and 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

This is the summer meeting of the three teen book clubs, to get acquainted with new members and select the book we will discuss in September in each club. This meeting is for book club members only. Please note that the 10-12 Book Club is full, but we are accepting names for the waiting list. If your teen wishes to join either the 8+9 or 6+7 Book Clubs, please contact teen librarians Melissa Elliott and Anarda Williams, at burbank.teens@gmail.com, before Wednesday if possible, so that your teen can be included at this meeting. There are still a few places available in those two clubs.

Buena Vista branch, 2:00 p.m.--

playing in the Storytime room…


Rated PG / 94 minutes

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What We’re Reading: Urban Fantasy

In last year’s Dreams and Shadows, author C. Robert Cargill introduced readers to Colby Stephens, a precocious eight-year-old living outside Austin, Texas. When Colby meets Yashar, a djinn, in the woods near his house, he is granted a wish--anything he wants! When Colby makes his wish, Yashar hesitates. He knows that if he grants this wish, nothing good can come of it. And the granting of Colby’s wish sets in motion a series of events that will have ramifications no one could have predicted. Dreams and Shadows chronicles those events, which continue in Cargill’s new novel, Queen of the Dark Things.

As the book opens, it has been six months since the cataclysmic events at the end of Dreams and Shadows that rocked the supernatural community in and surrounding Austin. Colby is still struggling to recover. As he attempts to pick up the pieces of his life, regain a lost sense of balance and deal with his losses, he begins to realize how much these events, and his actions, have changed things, and also how much attention they have focused directly upon him. Especially from a former friend who blames Colby for her current circumstances, and whose bitterness and anger have been building for more than a decade. She is the Queen of the Dark Things, and she is coming for Colby to exact her revenge.

With this new book, Cargill expands and deepens the characters and world created for Dreams and Shadows. While the earlier novel took place entirely in and around Austin, Queen of the Dark Things has a more global scope. Major plot developments occur in Australia, South America, Russia and other exotic locations (both contemporary and ancient). As a result, the mythologies and belief systems of these locales are woven into the plot as well.

Cargill emphasizes the need to understand the choices we make and why we are choosing the path or action we take. As in the first book, issues of how we define right and wrong (which are often dependent upon our particular perspectives) are explored, as well as our expectations about and reactions to how events play out. While Queen of the Dark Things is urban fantasy, the book is ultimately about two young children who, even after years of searching as they move into young adulthood, are still looking for their place in the world and exploring the choices and roads they will make and take to reach their destinations.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What we're reading: Rowling

I stopped by the bookstore the other day to pick up some gift cards for summer reading prizes, and couldn't resist--I bought The Silkworm. I knew that if I waited to check out a copy from the library, it would be a long wait behind other eager patrons, so I reasoned that I'd buy it, read it, and then just donate my copy so others would have a shorter waiting period! I don't know if I can give it up just yet, though, because...

After my debacle with The Casual Vacancy (yes, I know some people thought it was brilliant, but I disliked it and swore that if this was the aftermath to the Potter legacy then I was done!), I was really hesitant to try another, but private investigator Cormoran Strike completely won me over in The Cuckoo's Calling (reviewed here).  I really liked book one, waited with great anticipation for this one, and...

"Robert Galbraith" pulls off another great mystery! I finished it and almost immediately wanted to read it again. The dynamic between Cormoran Strike and girl Friday Robin continues to grow and change, while their individual relationships shift; the missing person case morphs into something more deadly (and strange); the setting in the world of publishing was intriguing (and revealing); and I didn't guess the solution until the author gave it away. A really satisfying continuation, and...

I hear there are going to be five more books--goodie!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Brown Bag Book Club is now reading...

The Brown Bag Book Club has selected Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, as their August book. This is timely, in that this award-winning bestseller will be a major motion picture, due to be released on December 25.

A second book by the author of Seabiscuit (2001) would get noticed, even if it weren't the enthralling and often grim story of Louie Zamperini. An Olympic runner during the 1930s, he flew B-24s during WWII. Taken prisoner by the Japanese, he endured a captivity harsh even by Japanese standards and was a physical and mental wreck at the end of the war. He was saved by the influence of Billy Graham, who inspired him to turn his life around, and afterward devoted himself to evangelical speeches and founding boys' camps. Still alive at 93, Zamperini now works with those Japanese individuals and groups who accept responsibility for Japanese mistreatment of POWs and wish to see Japan and the United States reconciled. He submitted to 75 interviews with the author as well as contributing a large mass of personal records. Fortunately, the author's skills are as polished as ever and, like its predecessor, this book has an impossible-to-put-down quality that one commonly associates with good thrillers.
--Green, Roland Copyright 2010 Booklist. Copyright © American Library Association.

As alway, the Brown Bag Book Club meets on the third Tuesday of the month--August 19th--at the Central Library, at 12 noon. Given the upcoming movie and the recent death of Louie Zamperini, a lively and interesting discussion should ensue. Plus, the library is air conditioned, which in August will make the Brown Bag Book Club the coolest place to be!

Burbank Public Library also owns Unbroken in audio CD and eBook formats.

In putting this post together, I found an article that gives quite the insight into the author. You can also visit her on her Facebook page.

What We’re Reading: Paranormal Police Procedural

In London Falling, Detective Inspector James Quill, Undercover Detectives Tony Costain and Kevin Sefton, and Crime Analyst Lisa Ross acquired The Sight, allowing them to see the supernatural occult activities that permeate London but can be seen/felt by only a select few. The Sight allowed them to solve the mysterious rise to power of drug lord Rob Toshack and a related series of serial killings. 

As The Severed Streets opens, Quill and his team are still attempting to adjust to their new abilities. They’re also trying to learn as much as possible about this London, the related sub-culture, and how both function. They are anxious to be involved in another case that will allow them to use their abilities and knowledge. As is commonly said, "Be careful what you wish for…"

Michael Spatley, MP (Member of Parliament), chief secretary to the Treasury, has been brutally murdered in his car during one of the many protests occurring almost nightly in the streets of London. The driver, whose description of what happened sounds impossible, is the primary suspect. The car’s doors were locked, and, for most, the security camera footage gathered during the investigation shows no one entering or leaving. But when Quill and his team review the footage, they see something entering and exiting the car at the time of the murder.  

Then, Sir Geoffrey Staunce, KCBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire), commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is found murdered in a similar manner, in his home with “The Jews are the men who will not be blamed for anything” written in blood on a wall. It is a phrase associated with the murders of Jack the Ripper from more than a century ago.  

Is it possible that the evil behind the original murders attributed to Jack the Ripper is back? And this time s/he/it is killing rich, white men? 

In The Severed Streets, Paul Cornell follows DI Quill and his team as they explore, and struggle to adapt to, the strange London only a few know exist. While London Falling was about their first tentative steps into this new world, The Severed Streets shows the team adapting, developing and becoming more confident in their knowledge and skills. It also follows the personal dynamics as they learn how to work better as a team in spite of the personal demons revealed by The Sight that each of them must face. 

The serial killings in The Severed Streets seem both random and pointless, like the Ripper murders, and yet they also seem to be an indictment of Western culture. Indeed, Cornell uses the rich history of London to tremendous effect, reflecting on the struggles between tradition and progress, development and preservation, and the seemingly endless struggle between government and corporate interests. Particularly effective is an investigation taken on by part of the team at the former BBC TV Centre. Now a mostly unused building that houses small production companies, various businesses and apartments, the site of the former cultural juggernaught nearly overwhelms the augmented senses of the team members with resonances of its earlier significance, and Cornell expertly describes the differences in time and perspective between its heyday and the present. 

The Severed Streets is chilling, thrilling, and thought-provoking. It’s a compelling urban fantasy page-turner that, like London Falling, may be a bit too graphic/intense for some readers. But if you liked London Falling, grab The Severed Streets as quickly as you can!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This week at the library...


Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Family Film Festival presents...

Rated G / 101 minutes


Read to Me, at Buena Vista branch, 10:00 a.m.:
Final Party with Fantastic Patrick

Fizz Boom Read! at the Northwest branch, 6:30 p.m.: FINAL PARTY!


Read to Me, at the Northwest branch, 10:00 a.m.
Final Party with Fantastic Patrick

Fizz Boom Read! at the Central Library,
3:00 or 7:00 p.m.,

Set Forth! New Worlds Await You...
Teen Summer Reading Program presents…

at the Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m., STARRING BURBANK TEENS!

Episodes of Douglas Adams’s satirical radio comedy broadcasts
that led to his international multi-media phenomenon,
translated by our teens into readers' theater!

This is a teen program, but ALL are welcome to attend.
PRIZE DRAWINGS for registered teens!


Fizz Boom Read! at the Northwest branch, 10:00 a.m.: FINAL PARTY!

Fizz Boom Read! at the Buena Vista branch, 3:00 or 7:00 p.m.: FINAL PARTY!

Read to Me, at the Central Library, 7:00 p.m.: Final Party with Fantastic Patrick!


Teen Summer Reading Club

Buena Vista branch, 3:00 p.m.

For grades 6-12 ONLY!

Bring a colored T-shirt (darker colors work better for bleach, lighter colors for painting) that you don’t mind messing up, for our T-shirt Craft!

We will announce the winners of our TRIVIA CONTEST, there will be prize drawings, and we’ll have ice cream!


Buena Vista branch, 2:00 p.m.--
playing in the Storytime room…


Rated G / 75 minutes

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What We’re Reading: Coming of Age

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. This quote from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities has been used to describe many and various situations and circumstances. One place for which this quote can be particularly apt is high school. For some people, the time they spent in grades 9-12 will come to be the happiest in their lives, their “glory days,” and will represent the lifelong pinnacle of their personal achievements. Others will experience the opposite: four years of seemingly endless antagonism and disrespect possibly alternating with utter invisibility. For most, the Dickens quote reflects the wild and unpredictable swings between ecstasy and agony that is the high school experience. In Brutal Youth, debut author Anthony Breznican takes us on a journey through Freshman year in a very troubled Catholic high school in Pennsylvania.

Lorelei Paskal expects this to be a great year. At her old school, Lorelei became an outcast after her mother’s debilitating accident at work. She’s transferring to St. Michael’s for a fresh start with people who don’t know her or her family. As long as she sticks to her meticulously thought-out plan, she knows that this time she will be popular.
Peter Davidek is an average student from an average family, which makes him the perfect target on his first day at St. Michael’s for the ritualized hazing of the incoming underclassmen by both the students and the faculty. It’s all in good, character-building fun, right? It is during this “fun” that Davidek befriends fellow freshman Noah Stein. Stein’s face bears a scar that he will not talk about. And, being in no mood to tolerate the ritualized abuse, Stein does the unthinkable: he fights back. This does not sit well with the upperclassmen, most of the faculty or the parish priest, Father Mercedes, and now both boys will be targeted to receive escalating “pranks” until they conform to St. Michael’s traditions. The question now is, who will break first?
In Brutal Youth, Anthony Breznican allows readers to “attend” the 1991 school year at St. Mike’s along with the incoming freshmen. Readers, as will the students, learn (or remember) how treacherous navigating the hallways of high school can be. There are no heroes or villains in Brutal Youth. All of the characters, faculty, students and family members are all well drawn and complex. Everyone has his or her own agenda, and sometimes the experiences that older adults accumulate can be as crippling as the lack of experience can be for younger adults when determining how best to act in a situation. Breznican also illustrates nicely the development, derailing, and re-forging of fragile new relationships.
One of the most revelatory moments for young people moving into adulthood is the realization that while adults may know and have experienced more than their younger counterparts, they are often still doing the best they can to deal with life’s seemingly endless challenges. Brutal Youth is a nice reminder, or possibly introduction, of this for readers.

Reviewed by Daryl M., reference librarian

A second perspective by EMME, teen librarian:

Daryl coerced me into reading this powerful debut, and I would give this five out of five stars for both the writing and the storytelling, but…the story and characters are in some places so disturbing that I actually hesitate giving it that kind of praise, from sheer discomfort!

This book is Lord of the Flies (but with girls as well as boys), set in a Catholic private school in Pennsylvania. If you are a YA reader, think of it as an adult version (for the amped-up meanness and violence) of The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney, in which the students run rampant, the teachers either turn a blind eye, pick the wrong side because they're not paying attention, or are as mean and cruel as the students, and the so-called "coming of age" factor is at a considerable price for everyone involved.

I didn't so much "enjoy" reading it as remain fascinated and unable to put it down. It's definitely powerful, and in some ways brilliant, but also stark and frightening. Brutal youth, indeed.