Friday, September 29, 2017

What we're reading: The best mystery series?

Previous reviews on this blog will let you know just how much I love Louise Penny's series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec that began in 2005 with
Still Life. I love the setting—the tiny secret village of Three Pines, somewhere in the woods near Montreal, where an eclectic group of residents meets at the local bistro for hot and potent drinks accompanied by brioche dripping in butter, and where an inexplicably large number of "incidents" take place. I love the people—Reine-Marie, Gamache's wife; Myrna, the bookstore owner; Clara, the painter; Gabri and Olivier, who run the bistro and the B&B; and of course, Ruth, the curmudgeonly old poet.  I love the sidekicks—Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and Isabel Lacoste. But the heart of the books is the dauntingly perceptive, subtle, complex, yet simultaneously simple and open Gamache. His character is torn by doubts, yet his resolve is unwavering. He dissects and evaluates and combines bits of information that no one else would even regard, but when he acts, it is direct and to the point. He is both endearing and terrifying.

In Penny's new book, Glass Houses, #13 in the series, Armand Gamache continues to have unplumbed depths, and this book takes us all the way down. There is a cobrador, a menacing figure standing on the village green of Three Pines, there to call someone to account for their sins. There is a murder, there is a trial; but although all these things have to do with the story, none of them is at the heart of it. The heart of the story is Gamache's all-out, last-ditch play to reclaim both the Sûreté and Québec itself from the darkness. To do it, he has to let things play out beyond anywhere he's been before, at the risk of seeming complacent, incompetent, or even corrupt. It's a painful process, for him but especially for Inspectors Beauvoir and Lacoste, who are with him, as always, but without the inner fortitude and conviction that Gamache musters in the face of evil. Gamache is taking the Sûreté to the court of conscience, which may be antithetical to what goes on in the courts of law.

In some ways this is a frustrating book to read, because there are multiple stories and two timelines represented, and they switch back and forth without warning, many times on the same page. But Penny manages to clue you to when/where you are, with, of all mundane tricks, the weather—one part of the story takes place during the stifling heat of summer, while the other is in the waning year, in dank, chilly, depressing November. So that helps. And despite the frustration, you read on, because you have to know: For whose deeds is the cobrador standing on the green? Who died, and who is the killer? (This is perhaps the hardest element to stand throughout the book, that even during the course of lengthy court scenes, you never know who is sitting at the defendant's table!) Who is using Three Pines, of all places, to hide their dastardly business? And how (keep reading, keep reading!) will it all end?

I loved it. As usual.

Please note that this is not a series from which you can choose a book in the middle (or at the end) and have a clue what's happening. You must start from the beginning. This may deter some people, but it shouldn't; if you are a lover of complex, labyrinthine mysteries with strong characters and great back story, you will enjoy every moment from book #1 to book #13 (although I personally think #1 is the weakest and they get better with each volume, so keep reading!). It's one of those series that makes you wish you could erase it from your memory so you could experience it again, fresh.

But don't let my opinion influence you unduly: Glass Houses has been out for three weeks, and is #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DACA Renewal

Do you know someone eligible to renew their DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)? Mission Asset Fund is providing 2,000 scholarships so they can pay the $495 application fee and apply to the Department of Homeland Security by the October 5 deadline. They will need to provide an EAD card (work permit) with an expiration date on or before March 5.

If someone needs a scholarship, the deadline to apply for that (in order to get it to Homeland Security by October 5) is tomorrow, Friday, September 29. Go here to find out more.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Banned Books Week


Do you know what Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey, and Ulysses, by James Joyce, have in common? Both of them have been BANNED.

What does that mean? It means that someone, somewhere in the world, decided that other people shouldn't be "subjected to" the material covered in one of these books. Maybe they thought it was too controversial, too sexual, too graphic, too political, too radical, or it somehow disagreed with their personal core values. So they petitioned to have it taken off a library shelf in a school or public library, or to have it removed from a reading list for their children. That's what's called a "challenge." If someone in authority at that school or library, or someone in local government agreed with them, then that book might actually have been removed. That's called "banned."

The thing is, if there is a book to which someone objects, they have every right to refuse to read it; to restrict their children from reading it; and to tell everyone they know that they think it's an objectionable book. What they don't have the right to do is to decide, for someone else, what that person should be allowed to read. We can all make those decisions for ourselves, and for our own children. In this country (and in many others), freedom of expression is protected, and should be.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information, and the harms of censorship. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers — in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those that some may consider unorthodox or unpopular.

If you would like to read one of those books, at right is an infographic created by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with just some of the titles included in challenged and banned lists.

You can also check out our displays at Burbank Public Library to get an idea of which of your beloved books was considered too incendiary to touch. The next step from banning may be burning...the text of Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, is still relevant today and, ironically, this book that is a story about the banning and burning of books has itself been challenged, expurgated, or banned.  

Inspection pronounces Buena Vista Clear

We are pleased to announce that the Buena Vista Library has undergone a complete inspection by specially trained dogs and is confirmed to be free of bed bugs.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Le Petit Cinema presents...
With London emptied of its men (all fighting at the Front), Catrin Cole is hired by the British Ministry of Information as a "slop" scriptwriter charged with bringing "a woman’s touch" to morale-boosting propaganda films. Her natural flair quickly gets her noticed by dashing movie producer Buckley, whose path would never have crossed hers in peacetime. As bombs are dropping all around them, Catrin, Buckley and a colorful crew work furiously to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation. 117 minutes / Rated R

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle. 

The accident season has been part of 17-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items--but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear. But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

This club is for enrolled teens only, and is full. To be placed on the waiting list, please email

Central Library, 6:30


Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Author event:
in conversation with KEN NOLAN
Author Mark Bowden, who wrote the 1999 bestseller (and finalist for the National Book Award) Black Hawk Down, is back with a new book: Huế 1968 is one of the most heavily researched and reported accounts of combat in the Vietnam War, and one of the first to tell the story of an engagement in that war from both sides. Played out over 24 days and ultimately costing 10,000 lives, when the Battle of Huế ended, the American debate was never again about winning, only about how to leave.

Mr. Bowden will be interviewed by screenwriter and producer Ken Nolan, who wrote the screenplay for Black Hawk Down. Please join us for this memorable conversation.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Teens in grades 6-12 can practice their writing, drawing, and storytelling skills in this workshop. The workshop is FULL, but a few names are being taken for a waiting list. You will be contacted on Friday if you are able to attend. This workshop is for teens only. Email


BABY STORYTIME (under 12 months):
Northwest Branch: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.

Registration is required. Please call 818 238-5640 to sign up. Fall Session begins September 14 and ends on November 16, 2017. Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months.

Buena Vista Branch:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Central Library: Fridays @ 10:00 a.m.

Registration is required for the Buena Vista Branch Toddler Storytime.  The Fall Session for Tuesdays runs from September 12 to November 14, 2017, and is now full(Please consider attending at the Central Library on Friday mornings at 10 a.m.)

Northwest Branch: Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Central Library: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Buena Vista Branch: Fridays @ 1:00 p.m. (Rhythm & Reading)

Central Library, this Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Bring your favorite stuffed toy and enjoy stories, songs, a short movie, and refreshments.

Բերեք ձեր սիրած փափուկ խաղալիքը ևվայելեք պատմություններ, երգեր, կարՃամետրաժ ֆիլմ և զովացուցիչ հյութեր

Friday, September 22, 2017

What we're reading: Same neighborhood, different planet

The Tortilla Curtain
by T.C. Boyle

Reviewed by Larry Urish, library monitor

Every time I read a novel by T.C. Boyle, I’m reminded of “Everybody Hurts,” the sadly soulful 1992 hit by Georgia rockers R.E.M.
Boyle always manages to remind us that every single inhabitant of that cosmic blue marble in space is, one way or another, hurting. Whether his “social canvas” is a society of counter-culture idealists (Drop City), friends and colleagues of celebrated sex researchers Masters and Johnson (The Inner Circle), or self-important back-stabbing scientists inhabiting what is essentially a giant terrarium (The Terranauts), Boyle crafts rich, compelling, darkly humorous stories that ultimately point to all manner of human suffering.

Which brings us to Boyle’s 1995 work,
The Tortilla Curtain, a novel that applies more now than it did 22 years ago, given today’s political climate regarding the U.S./Mexico border. It’s a disturbing tale of two couples who reside in the same neighborhood – but live in completely different worlds. As the reader quickly learns, their differences are nothing short of stunning.   

Liberals Delany and Kyra Mossbacher
(along with Jordan, Kyra’s son from a previous marriage) enjoy a comfortable upper middle class life in a Topanga Canyon community.
The couple’s “First-World" pain (a trendy term of late) includes such annoyances as homeowner association dues, snail-speed L.A. traffic, and overly opinionated neighbors. At the other end of the spectrum, Cándido and América Rincón (and their unborn child) live in squalor, barely scratching out a living from day to day in an undeveloped canyon not five minutes from the Mossbachers' McMansion. It’s not what the Rincóns had imagined before slipping across the border from Mexico earlier that year.

The Tortilla Curtain begins when Delany accidently hits Cándido with his Acura as the latter is heading across Topanga Canyon after a fruitless search for a day-laborer job. As the story unfolds, readers learn about the stark differences between the Mossbachers and the Rincóns: Kyra is miffed over the latest real estate deal that fell through, while 17-year-old América washes clothes in Topanga Creek and keeps a wood fire burning. Delaney struggles with his newsletter articles about the local ecosystem, while the now-injured Cándido limps up the steep canyon to beg with others for work. One could argue that the novel actually consists of four stories, each from a different character’s perspective. Boyle taps into his spectacular talent to seamlessly weave these separate experiences together in a masterful fashion. In doing so, he shows the reader what life must be like for decent, hard-working people who enter this country to make better lives for themselves. And we learn how, though life may be far more comfortable for others, their far less obvious pain is just as real. After all, everybody hurts.

More than two decades after it was first published, The Tortilla Curtain remains an important novel to add to any reading list.

Try anything by Boyle. If you prefer to try him in smaller doses to start, check out his short story collections. They pack the same punch in far fewer words.

Editor's note: If you are searching our catalog by author, look under "Boyle, T. Coraghessan" to find this author.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Opera Talk presents...
Tonight's multimedia presentation and discussion of the opera Carmen will be led by Larry Verdugo from LA Opera’s Community Engagement Program. Opera Talks are informative and entertaining, geared to opera amateurs and opera buffs alike.

Nobody—not even a lover—can tame Carmen, who bursts into life on the stage with an intoxicating whirl of thrilling choreography, vivid orchestrations and heart-stopping drama. Bizet’s unforgettable score is an endless parade of one great melody after the other, from the languid allure of Carmen’s sensual songs to the macho boasts of the dashing bullfighter.

Central Library, 12:00 noon

The club has read and will discuss The Wangs vs. The World, by Jade Chen. Bring your lunch and join in! Questions? Call Naomi at 818 238-5620.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

This class will be on PERSPECTIVE. We will cover the basics of drawing objects in a realistic space on a two-dimensional surface. It will include one, two, and three point perspective and explain how these are used in art today. All are welcome, and supplies are provided, but you must sign up! Call 818 238-5580.

The class is taught by Noah Fontana, who works as a story artist, animator, illustrator, and visual development artist.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Death at Victoria Dock (A Phryne Fisher Mystery), by Kerry Greenwood. Questions? Call Naomi at 818 238-5620.

Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Burbank Public Library and Universal Studios present an outdoor screening of SING, an animated comedy about finding the music that lives inside all of us. Bring a blanket or a beach chair and join us!

Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala, puts on the world's greatest singing competition to save his crumbling theater; competing are 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.

108 minutes / rated PG

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

(not your mother's book club)

Genre-X is a book club for Millennials and Gen-Xers to hang out, drink coffee, and read short, interesting books. This month: The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud. 

David Smith is giving his life for his art―literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn't making it any easier!

Northwest Library, 4:00 p.m.

Sign up for the book club exclusively for 4th and 5th grade students! Call 818-238-5640 to be added to the list. We meet once each month during the school year and read and talk about some great books.


Storytime plays an important role in promoting early literacy and the love of books, learning, and exploring the world. Storytime programs expose children and their parents and caregivers to books, simple songs, finger plays, rhymes, and crafts.

BABY STORYTIME (under 12 months):
Northwest Branch: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.

Registration is required. Please call 818 238-5640 to sign up. Fall Session begins September 14 and ends on November 16, 2017. Songs, stories, and rhymes for children under 12 months.

Buena Vista Branch:
Tuesdays and Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Central Library: Fridays @ 10:00 a.m.

Registration is required for the Buena Vista Branch Toddler Storytime.  The Fall Session for Tuesdays runs from September 12 to November 14, 2017, and is now full. (Please consider attending at the Central Library on Friday mornings at 10 a.m.)

Northwest Branch: Wednesdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Central Library: Thursdays @ 10:00 a.m.
Buena Vista Branch: Fridays @ 1:00 p.m. (Rhythm & Reading)

Northwest Branch, this Thursday, 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, this Saturday, 10:15 a.m.

Join us for a fun introduction to movement, coordination, rhythm, and dance, using shaker eggs and scarves and listening to music.