Monday, October 30, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Opera Talk presents...
As an aging king descends into madness, his bloodthirsty daughter begins a reign of terror, leaving a defenseless populace to battle for freedom from their oppressors. A monumental opera that made Verdi a national hero, Nabucco boasts a bold score that goes straight to the heart. This program is for opera amateurs and opera buffs alike! An entertaining and educational multimedia presentation will be given by a member of the LA Opera's Community Engagement Program.

Online and at all branches:

Today (October 30th) is the deadline for the Teen Read Month short story contest.

All entries for "Stranger in a Strange Land" should be emailed to OR printed out and turned in at a reference desk by 5:00 p.m. Need more information? Go here.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

This program is open to all - no sign-ups or laptop required.

In this session, we will cover:
  • What, exactly, does SEO mean, and what are the common terms used?
  • What, exactly, does accessibility mean, and who does it impact?
  • Why do these go hand-in-hand?
  • Common accessibility tools that users use to interact with websites and how to design/plan for them.
  • Simple coding techniques to assist with SEO and accessibility. 
  • Simple user interface and design techniques to assist with SEO and accessibility.
  • How to test your site for accessibility.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is not as magical as you are often led to believe. There are simple, practical steps you can take without being a technical wizard, and these steps will be more potent than anything you can buy. They have the added bonus of enhancing your site’s accessibility.

Accessibility is about considering the people who may come to your site, and providing an inclusive platform no matter your users’ physical, situational, or technical abilities.

Rain Breaw Michaels will lead this workshop, the last in this series. She has been building websites since 1998. She has taught HTML, CSS, web accessibility, and Drupal in colleges and workshops.

Buena Vista Branch (storytime room), 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Beka Cooper: Terrier,
by Tamora Pierce.

This club is for enrolled teens only; to be added to the waiting list, please 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 and Wednesdays runs from September 12 to November 15, 2017, and is 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)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

National Cat Day

Since every dog had its day a few weeks back, it's only right that we also celebrate the cat on National Cat Day! Felis catus has been around, hanging with humans, for at least 4,000 years! (Some people say maybe as long as 10,000.) Cats are extremely adaptable, and are found on all continents (including Antarctica), although they are not a native species on several continents. Although they have been around for all those centuries, the indoor cat wasn't possible until about 60 years ago, when spaying and neutering, kitty litter, and high-protein specialized catfood were all invented and implemented. Most cats still prefer to roam outside sometimes, if they are allowed.

You can help out the cats in the same way you did the dogs, by adopting one (owning a cat improves mental health, and relieves stress, anxiety, and depression!) or volunteering at the shelter to make our feline friends more comfortable and less scared while they wait for a home.

You can also read about them. Here are some classic fiction suggestions:

The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat
, by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer   
Foudini tells the story of his life: of being rescued from a damp city basement and welcomed into the home of the couple he calls Warm and Pest, where he eventually befriends "his" dog, Sam; of his adventures at Cold House in the city and Mouse House in the country; and of his education of Grace, the new cat to his household.  

The Fur Person, by May Sarton     
May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance. After several years of roaming, Tom has grown tired of his vagabond lifestyle, and concludes that there might be some appeal in giving up the freedom of street life for a loving home with just the right companion.

The Guest Cat, by Takashi Hiraide   
A husband and wife whose marriage has become increasingly silent are brought together by the appearance of Chibi, a neighborhood cat, who makes a bridge between them, even though neither of them particularly likes cats. Only 140 pages, but subtle, layered, and poetic. A bestseller in France and winner of Japan's Kiyama Shohei Literary Award.

The Meowmorphosis, by Coleridge Cook   
Gregor Samsa wakes up as a man-sized adorable kitten, a mind-bending version of Franz Kafka's already surreal story in which this traveling salesman must find a way to escape from his parasitic family.

Of Cats and Men: Stories, by Nina de Gramont     
There are cats in each of these 10 short stories, but they are there to teach the protagonist, in each case a woman, something about her relationships with men. The cats are portrayed accurately according to their natural, instinctive behaviors, contrasted with the awkward development and eventual self-realization of the humans.

And of course, if you are a both a lover of mysteries and a cat aficionado, there are several series that provide both:

The Midnight Louie series, by Carole Nelson Douglas, the beloved "Cat Who" series by Lilian Jackson Braun, and the Mrs. Murphy mysteries by Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown (yes, the cat gets a writing credit).

Or if you prefer nonfiction, here are a few good ones:

The Good, the Bad, and the Furry, and
Close Encounters of the Furred Kind, by Tom Cox
These two books (we only own #2 at BPL for some reason) are the charming and funny accounts of a man (and his girlfriend) and his cats--The Bear, Shipley, Ralph, George, and Roscoe--living together in a cottage in Devon, England.

A Street Cat Named Bob, by James Bowen
James, a street musician in London who is recovering from heroin addiction, meets Bob, an injured stray orange tomcat. James nurses Bob back to health, and Bob becomes his best friend, going along with him as James plays on the streets and attracting attention (and more donations) as he sits beside James's guitar case. A happy ending!

Dewey, by Vicki Myron
In which a frostbitten ginger kitten, abandoned in a library book drop, transforms a small library, saves a town, and becomes world famous. Meet Dewey Readmore Books, the library cat!

Editor's note: Please don't leave kittens in the book drop!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

In Memoriam; Richard Wilbur, 1921-2017

A few weeks ago, America lost one of its great poets: Richard Wilbur died at age 96 in Belmont, Massachusetts. He was twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, and was a United States Poet Laureate. Wilbur was known for his mastery of traditional poetic forms. He wrote meticulous and urbane poetry. When Daniel Boorstin chose him to be Poet Laureate, he said Wilbur “is a poet for all of us, whose words brim with wit and paradox.” Here are a few of my favorites. The library owns a fine collection of Wilbur's poems, Richard Wilbur: Collected Poems 1943-2004.

The Beautiful Changes

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.

Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.

The Writer

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.


Piecemeal the summer dies;
At the field's edge a daisy lives alone;
A last shawl of burning lies
On a gray field-stone.

All cries are thin and terse;
The field has droned the summer's final mass;
A cricket like a dwindled hearse
Crawls from the dry grass.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What we're reading: Robin Sloan

I just finished reading Sourdough, the new book by Robin Sloan. He first wrote
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which received an Alex Award in 2013. That book had something for everyone (of a bookish nature): Weird old bookstore in San Francisco, millennial code-writers and Google hipsters, an ancient secret society, nerds that made good but still remembered their gamer roots, mysteries in need of solving, typography trivia, a little romance…all put together in a smart story with quick pacing and a satisfying conclusion. I wasn't surprised that it was given the Alex, which is an award that goes to 10 adult books per year that also have teen appeal. This book is similarly quirky, and features a protagonist with whom many--especially, perhaps, millennials--will identify.

Lois Clary, recently out of college, is headhunted from a steady but boring job in the midwest to be a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company. While initially thrilled to be hired to work at this glamorous, forward-thinking company by the Bay, once she gets into the routine there, she is overworked, underappreciated, and exhausted, and is subsisting on junk food and "slurry" (a space-age nutritional gel) in her expensive and featureless little box of an apartment. Then she finds a flyer for a takeout place that sells incredible spicy soup and sourdough bread that is the perfect combination of crusty and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but after having their wares delivered almost every night for months, she is dismayed to hear that the two brothers who run it have to leave the country because of visa issues. But then the brothers leave with her their sourdough starter, beginning a new chapter in Lois's life, as she learns how to feed the starter and how to bake bread, and the whole experience changes her perspective on everything. It's liberally seasoned with events that are magical realism verging on science fiction, and it's funny.

I loved the picture Sloan painted of this smart young woman who has been educated to deal in technology but who is ultimately sustained by something as basic as bread. I really enjoyed the parallel story of the brothers' people and culture through the vehicle of the elder bro Beo's emails. The setting, in the funky San Francisco cuisine scene, was plausible enough that I expect to find the Marrow Market if I go to Alameda someday, but the fantastic, slightly bizarre nature of it all makes the book special.

Favorite quote (this falls in the book right after she is head-hunted by the robotics firm and is talking to the Human Resources person at the company):

“She explained that a software sieve had scanned my résumé and flagged it as promising, and that she agreed with the computer’s assessment. Here’s a thing I believe about people my age: we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted.”
I think I enjoyed this book even more than Sloan's first. Check it out! And if you get the yen, after reading it, to bake some sourdough of your own, try Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What We're Reading: CRISPR and Gene Editing

A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolutionby Jennifer Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg

If you are interested in the future of life on Earth and in particular the likely course of development of our own species, there are two major technological currents that will drive that development in the not too distant future--and perhaps at some point converge. One of these is our growing ability to shape the evolution of our own species’ biology (and that of all life forms on earth) and the other is the ascendant power of artificial intelligence, which many believe will one day surpass human intelligence and indeed “replace” us as the dominant and controlling force on the planet. A Crack in Creation is a book about our growing control over the make-up and evolution of life itself.

During the summer, we had Ben Mezrich at the library to talk about his recent book, Woolly: The True Story of the Quest to Revive One of History’s Most Iconic Extinct Creatures. What is key to that project, at least the one at Harvard with George Church and his lab, is the relatively new gene-editing tool commonly known by its acronym, CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). You don’t need to know exactly what that means: The important thing to understand is that this is the cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known. Which, as Ben Mezrich pointed out when he was here, is both the good thing and the bad thing about CRISPR. Just about anyone can use it to alter genetic coding in a species. This newfound facility comes at a time when we have not had a cultural discussion about the use of this biotechnology and when our laws and legal system have not anticipated its advent. And we are discussing here not only the ability to alter the genes in the somatic cells of living organisms, but also to alter the genetic coding of germ and reproductive cells; in other words, the ability to make genetic alterations inheritable!

Jennifer Doudna in her lab.
The first part of this book is about how CRISPR was developed. Jennifer A. Doudna was one of the scientists involved. CRISPR was developed from discoveries made about the workings of the immune system of bacteria. The author surveys earlier gene-editing technologies, and explains their deficiencies. Readers will get an idea of how researchers and labs
workand sometimes collaborateas well as a sense of some of the competition and the huge financial stakes attached to innovative discoveries like this.

The second part of the book is an exploration of the ethical and potential legal issues that come with this newfound power to, in effect, manage not only the course of human evolution but that of all life forms on Earth. Like any new technology's augmented powers, it has the potential for good or for abuse. The dangers may come from acting without fully understanding the complexity of how a particular gene works in the body thus producing unintended and even fatal consequences; of creating alterations in species, or wholly new organisms, that create environmental problems and threaten whole ecosystems; of tooling living organisms as weapons of war; and of creating so-called “designer” babies for the sake of aesthetic traits or of producing offspring with real advantages, be they physiological or mental.

And of course, new technologies are not deployed in a vacuum; they are applied in the context of social, political, and economic divides. If you are rich, do you get to give birth to a more advantaged human being, do you get access to gene therapies for combating diseases and promoting life extension, while poor people do without? There is the prospect that, in a world of genetic engineering, economic inequalities will give rise to genetic castes; one part of our species will develop into an enhanced and more advantaged model of Homo sapiens. 

Experiments are currently underway to genetically develop and propagate mosquitoes
that willl not be able to carry malaria.

Doudna is concerned that fears and ignorance about the technology, or a pessimism about our ability to apply new technologies in ways that are not invidious, will cause us to create roadblocks that make it hard to pursue the enormous good that can come from gene editing. For instance, there are more than 7,000 human genetic diseases caused by a defined, single-gene mutation that might be cured by gene editing. In fact, just last week a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee endorsed the first gene therapy for an inherited disorder—a rare condition that causes a progressive form of blindness that usually starts in childhood. The trial results have been very promising. 

The CRISPR technology has potential use as well for developing biological tools that will help study and perhaps deliver cures to areas of the body besieged by diseases that do not have a strictly genetic origin. It may help us grow replacement organs, and be important in other biotechnologies that will help extend human life. And it gives us the ability to develop foods that are more disease-resistant and more nutritious and can combat hunger in the worldcrops that can also grow in the rapidly changing environment caused by climate change. 

In New England, mice are the primary 
reservoir for Lyme disease that infects 
humans through ticks. Scientists are 
trying to replace the mouse population 
with a genetically engineered species of 
mouse that will not be able to carry the 
disease, and thus break the cycle of
Doudna recognizes that how CRISPR gets used in the future, for good or for ill, depends on people understanding the technology and its implications, on our coming to a consensus as a society about what we value about human life and the life of other species on our planet, and on how we proceed in developing this new-found ability in ways that are consistent with those values. This is the only way we exercise control, because as with all scientific discoveries, you cannot put the genie back in the bottle. They force us to consider if human nature can successfully manage our species’ newfound knowledge and power. But that’s a story as old as the Garden of Eden. Some say the results so far have been mixed, while others are more hopeful.

If you are interested in pursuing this further, you can watch Jennifer Doudna in a TED talk.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Le Petit Cinema presents
A romantic comedy directed by Michael Showalter and written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. It follows an interracial couple dealing with their cultural differences, and is loosely based on the real-life romance between Nanjiani and Gordon. The film was one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2017, as well as one of the highest-grossing independent films of 2017.
120 minutes / Rated R

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

With pencil in hand, you will learn how the great artists, from Da Vinci to Disney, discovered methods for bringing life into their drawings. This class is great for beginners and advanced artists alike who are looking to infuse their drawings with motion and life. Reservations are required for this free class. Call 818-238-5580 to sign up.

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.


Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Family Night presents...
Be mesmerized as bewitching tricks and illusions are conjured up with a little hocus pocus. Acclaimed magician Jay Leslie uses his rapid-fire magic to spellbind the audience in this participatory magic and comedy show. Join us for a fun, Halloween-themed program.

Buena Vista Branch, 4:00 p.m.

Drop by the Storytime Room at the Buena Vista Branch Library and join us for a frighteningly cute Halloween craft using paint chips!


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 and Wednesdays runs from September 12 to November 15, 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)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What we're reading: Toujours Paris!

With my obsession for Paris, it was inevitable that I would get around to these two books by Nina George. I read them in reverse order, having found The Little French Bistro on the new books shelf one night on my way out the door and, remembering that a librarian friend had given a good review to the first book, checked it out for my weekend read.

I have to say that both of these books took me by surprise. I have been reading Jenny Colgan's sweet, rather formulaic books with similar titles (Meet Me At the Cupcake Café, Little Beach Street Bakery, etc.) and I guess I was subconsciously expecting something along those lines. And although they do share something in common (making choices, changing your life, regeneration), George's books are in a different category of fiction.

In The Little French Bistro (alias The Little Breton Bistro in Europe--apparently the publishing industry refuses to believe that Americans are aware of the subtleties of the French landscape), the despair of the protagonist feels palpable and completely realistic. Marianne is on a trip to Paris with her husband of 40 years. Suddenly, in the middle of dinner with their tour group, she realizes that she's done. She walks quietly out of the restaurant and onto the Pont Neuf bridge spanning the river Seine. She doesn't contemplate much, because her choice seems simple and filled with clarity, as that final decision often does to suicides: This is the end. She takes off her shoes, and her coat, and her wedding ring, thinking that perhaps some homeless person will find and benefit from them, and climbs up on the parapet.

Unfortunately for Marianne, the homeless person in question doesn't avail himself of her possessions; instead, he saves her from drowning. Far from being grateful, she is immersed in despair, especially in light of her husband's reaction (that she has caused him a lot of trouble and embarrassment by her actions). When she realizes that she will be subjected to therapy and then sent home to Germany with Lothar, back to the loveless and tedious life she can no longer bear, she escapes the hospital, taking with her only a brightly colored tile she picked up from the nurse's station, depicting a seaside town in Brittany called Kerdruc. Acting almost as if in a dream, she decides she will journey to Kerdruc, where she will end things once and for all in that beautiful setting. But when she arrives, life events ensue that tentatively begin to take Marianne in a different direction.

The thing I particularly liked about this book is that it didn't make Marianne's segue away from suicide too easy; the fact that she still got up every morning for weeks after her arrival and hiked out to the coast to ask, Is this the day that I do it? (kill myself) felt genuine--she didn't immediately get over it and get on with her life, despite outward appearances.

I absolutely loved both the descriptions of the surroundings and the offbeat and interesting people who populated the bistro and the town. The fact that Marianne happened to be skilled in providing things that some of them particularly needed in that moment gave a new twist to Marianne's life choices: She arrived feeling completely useless, but the things that she had done joylessly as a wife or had chosen as a temporary though dreary escape from being a wife suddenly came into their own and became positive talents.

I also, being of a certain age myself, took hope from this story of a woman who, at age 61, was able, however haltingly and with multiple back steps, to pivot off her destructive course and gradually become a different person. Although my choices have been more self- and life-affirming, we all have blind spots where we neglect the best about ourselves or refuse to rise to a challenge or believe we deserve a good thing. Marianne was an excellent example of when to start paying attention!

The Little Paris Bookshop shares similar themes, in that the protagonist, Jean Perdu, is likewise being challenged to choose life. When we first meet him, his existence seems intriguing (or at least it did to me, as a bibliophile): Perdu is the owner and operator of an unusual bookshop, housed in a floating barge on the river Seine. He lives in an apartment building with a bunch of quirky characters, and makes his way down to the barge each day to act as a "literary apothecary," prescribing books to his patrons according to their specific needs and secret desires. But while he is adept at ferreting out the reading requirements of his customers, his own heart is numb. The loss of the most significant relationship in his life at a young age crushed him, and it takes the advent of a new person into his life, combined with an unexpected message from the past, to jar him out of his unhappy yet complacent current existence and put him on the path to recovery.

When I say that these were a different category of fiction, I'm mainly speaking to the universal yet specific profundity of their messages about life, love, and endurance. Both protagonists were simultaneously ridiculous and inspiring, each in their own way. But the language used, and the descriptions and scene-setting that George employed were likewise so beguiling. I found myself copying down clever quotes from both books, a thing I do rarely when reading, but some of these were irresistibly memorable.

I look forward to reading anything else that Nina George writes!

I noticed that NoveList was smarter than I was; it didn't assume that a read-alike would be another book set in Paris, nor was it fooled (by the inclusion of the word "little" in the title) into thinking this was a particular type of book. Instead, taking into consideration content, writing style, and characterization, it referred readers to, among others, the books of Joanne Harris--Blackberry Wine, Chocolat, and Five Quarters of the Orange. After reading George's novels, I would agree--they are a similar melding of serious life stories with lyrical whimsy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

This week at the library...

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Opera Talk presents...
This program is for opera amateurs and opera buffs alike! An entertaining and educational multimedia presentation will be given by a member of the LA Opera's Community Engagement Program. This week they will discuss Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, which features a veiled priestess with a hidden past. She is pursued by two lifelong friends and romantic rivals. The complicated triangle pushes forbidden love into a final struggle for life and death, until a nearly forgotten secret saves the day.

Central Library, 12:00 noon

The club meets the third Tuesday of each month. Please email library staff at for additional information. This month the club has read and will discuss The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Oldby Hendrik Groen. Bring your lunch and join the discussion!

Central Library, 6:30 p.m.

Who says coloring is only for kids? Join us for our Adult Coloring Club! We provide the colored pencils, crayons, and coloring pages, or you can bring your own. Coloring offers a fun and unique way to unwind and express creativity.

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

The club meets the third Tuesday of each month in the Storytime Room at the Buena Vista Branch Library. Please email library staff at for additional information. The club has read and will discuss Farthing, by Jo Walton, an alternate history mystery.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Not your mother's book club, Genre-X is for Millennials and Gen-Xers to hang out, drink coffee, and read short, interesting books. The club meets the third Thursday of each month, upstairs at the Central Library. (Look for the signs!) This month, the club has read and will discuss Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn.

Central Library, 2:00 p.m.

Friday Matinee presents...
A young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), who made his sensational debut in Captain America: Civil War, begins to navigate his newfound identity as the web-slinging super hero. Thrilled by his experience with the Avengers, Peter returns home, where he lives with his Aunt May, under the watchful eye of his new mentor, Tony Stark. Peter tries to fall back into his normal daily routine – distracted by thoughts of proving himself to be more than just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man – but when the Vulture emerges as a new villain, everything that Peter holds most important will be threatened.
133 minutes / Rated PG-13.

Northwest Branch
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. The club meets once each month during the school year, to read and talk about some great books.

Buena Vista Branch
1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Support your local author! This is your chance to find a new author. Stop by the showcase to meet and greet 50 local writers. Enter your name in our drawing and you might win an Amazon Kindle Fire 7 or a $25 Amazon gift card. Door prizes provided by the Friends of the Burbank Public Library.


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 and Wednesdays runs from September 12 to November 15, 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, Saturday, 10:15 a.m.

For Preschoolers and their families.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What we're reading: The latest Longmire

The Western Star, by Craig Johnson, is #13 in the Walt Longmire saga. It's been interesting to know Longmire only through Johnson's books for the first seven or eight, and then to begin to experience his stories visually and get used to the characters as seen through casting directors' eyes. I don't have major issues with the casting of the TV show, although it did take me a while to see Katee Sackhoff as Vic Moretti instead of as Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica)! Also, in the books, Henry Standing Bear is a large, somewhat menacing presence, while Lou Diamond Phillips has a rather smaller silhouette; but what he lacks in stature he makes up for in dignity, and he captures the character well. 

But enough about the show--back to the written series. This book was the first to be a true flashback to Walt's past; he's newly returned from a stint in Vietnam, and has signed on as deputy sheriff under Lucius Connally (still in his prime and running Absaroka County with an iron fist in a velvet glove), without precisely knowing either what that means to him or whether he can wholeheartedly get behind this job. He's about to accompany Lucius on the annual Wyoming Sheriff's Association junket, riding on the excursion train known as the Western Star, which runs the length of Wyoming. Walt is the only deputy on board with 24 sheriffs, but when foul play occurs, he may be the only one with enough detachment to detect exactly what's going on.

This was well done. It flashed back and forth from the past in which a murder was committed (and Walt ultimately caught the killer), to the present day, when the criminal, who was convicted for multiple life sentences, is now being considered for compassionate release, due to health issues. Naturally, Walt, tough guy that he is, is on the side of leaving the killer in jail, since life means life; but there are some other people who feel it would be politically beneficial to let the person out.

I enjoyed seeing a glimpse of the young Walt Longmire, and getting to experience firsthand his relationship with his brand-new wife, Martha, who is already dead (after 30 years of marriage to Walt) in the contemporary novels.

As a sort of non sequitur, the interesting thing to me personally is that this is the second mystery I have read within a two-week time period in which the reader goes the whole book without knowing who the criminal is, despite the fact that he/she figures prominently in multiple scenes. Is this a new trend in mystery writing?

There was a bit too much with the fond nicknames substituted for the person's actual name (it's amusing when you refer to your daughter as "the finest legal mind of our time" once or twice, but when you call her that on nearly every occasion she is mentioned, it gets to be cloying). Other than that small cavill, the only other criticism I have is a woe universal to series readers: "Really? You're going to leave us with that cliffhanger? REALLY?"

Write faster, Craig Johnson!

Editor's note: If you are interested in watching the TV series as well, BPL owns seasons 1-5 of Longmire on DVD. They do diverge from the stories in the books, which bothers some people and makes others happy, since they get double Longmire--one in book form and another on-screen.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

This week at the library...

Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.

Twilight Cinema presents...
A down-on-his-luck Captain Jack Sparrow feels the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar, escape from the Devil's Triangle. Jack's only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it, he must forge an uneasy alliance with a brilliant and beautiful astronomer and a headstrong young man in the British navy.
129 minutes / PG-13

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

The club has read and will discuss Masterminds, by Gordon Korman. Serenity, New Mexico, has the best standard of living in the country, with zero unemployment and total peace and prosperity. Honesty, harmony, and contentment are a way of life. But 13-year-old Eli and his friends start to notice odd things: When they try to leave town, they get sick; their Internet is remarkably sanitized compared to outside sites they accidentally come across; and some kids are considered special, while others are less so. After they discover the truth about why Serenity is so peaceful, they must face the fact that their lives have been ruled by a gigantic lie.

This club is for registered teens only, and is full. To be put on the waiting list, contact

Central Library, 5:30 p.m.


Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

"Content is King" is a common expression among designers and marketers. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your website is if the content doesn’t get your message across. Writing for the web is different from print, email, or other delivery mechanisms, and in this session Rain Breaw Michaels will cover how to write for the web, and some of the technical tools you will need to optimize your content including:
  • How to think about content strategy
  • How users read online
  • How to use the tools to focus your content in a way that will get the most out of users’ time
  • Typical things that users will unconsciously ignore
  • How to find and focus your tone, voice, and message
This program is open to all--no sign-ups or laptop required.

Rain Breaw Michaels has been building websites since 1998. She has taught HTML, CSS, web accessibility, and Drupal in colleges and workshops.

Northwest Branch, 4:00 p.m.

A DIY program for Crafty Kids in grades 1-8. The workshop is full, and so is the waiting list. If you are signed up but are unable to attend, please call Arsine at 818 238-5641 immediately, so that people on the wait list may be admitted.

Buena Vista Branch, 12:00 noon to 4 p.m.

Disney Double Feature:
Meet the next generation of villains: Previously imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost, the kids of Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar and Cruella De Vil are being sent to idyllic Auradon to attend prep school alongside the children of beloved Disney heroes. But their focus is to execute a plan that helps their evil parents achieve "world domination" once again!

Will Maleficent's daughter and the other rebel teens follow in their rotten parents' footsteps or will they choose to embrace their innate goodness and save the kingdom? Runtime 111 minutes. Rated G.

DESCENDANTS 2 screens at 2:00 p.m.

The Villain Kids are back in a high-stakes adventure that's bigger, bolder and badder than before! When the pressure to be royally perfect becomes too much for Mal, she flees Auradon and returns to her roots on the Isle of the Lost. Hoping to retrieve her, Evie and the rest of the gang sneak onto the Isle. But Mal's former archenemy Uma, daughter of Ursula, has seized power. And together with her pirate crew, Uma prepares to unleash havok on the VKs and Auradon! Runtime 111 minutes. Rated G.


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)

Saturday, October 07, 2017

What we're reading: Connelly's new character

People who are hooked on the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly have been wondering for a while now what would happen when Harry just plain got too old to be a part of any police force in any way, shape or form. After all, he has already retired twice and gone back twice, and then in the last book (The Wrong Side of Goodbye), he became a private investigator, but also started volunteering at a little police station out in the San Fernando Valley, working cold cases for them.

There has been much speculation about where Connelly would go next; after all, he has introduced several characters in the past few Bosch books who seem qualified to inherit the Bosch mantle. Personally, I was pulling for "Lucky" Lucy Soto, Harry's up-and-coming young Latina partner from The Burning Room, a few books back. I also wondered, since in that same book Harry's daughter Maddie expresses determination to become a cop, whether Connelly would bring Maddie in tangentially and then let her take over the franchise, so to speak.

But it looks like Connelly has made his decision, and it was to invent a whole new character: Renée Ballard. She is a young detective who seems to share Bosch's bad luck with authority; in Renée's case, her lieutenant from the homicide squad sexually harassed her, and when she filed a complaint but no one in her unit would back her up, he took revenge by transferring her to The Late Show, which is what the detectives all call the night shift. While Renée's partner, Jenkins, is happy that they don't have to follow through on any of the cases they collect during the wee hours, Renée is frustrated by the lack of continuity, and manages, whenever she can, to finesse it so she gets to participate a little longer in whatever it is. That, of course, turns into some trouble for her, when she gets in over her head without sufficient back-up.   

I wasn't sure, in the beginning of this book, that I would take to Renée in the same way that I enjoy Bosch. The beginning of this book was a little ponderous, and I feared Connelly had lost his touch; but both the book and the characterization picked up nicely somewhere in the middle, and remained compelling until the end. I'm not sure what it was--at the start, it felt like too much police procedural jargon without the personal touch to back it up. But by the end of the book, I felt like Renée Ballard was nicely established, and since the tagline on the cover reads "introducing Detective Renée Ballard," and since Goodreads lists this book as "Ballard #1," it seems she will stick around for awhile.

The most interesting thing about Renée is that she is technically homeless; her permanent address is her grandmother's place, up in Ventura, but she spends most days (remember that she works the night shift) sleeping in a tent on Venice Beach, accompanied by her rescued dog and watched over by an amorous lifeguard. She keeps clothes in her van and at work, showers and changes in the women's locker room, and generally lives a nomadic life divided between police work and surfing. This author definitely likes his loners.

Connelly isn't complete finished with Bosch, however; he has a new book in that series coming out later this year, and as it happens, "Lucky" Lucy is a character again. So it looks like he's going to wean us from Bosch gradually by alternating his detectives and their series.

Editor's note: We own The Late Show as a book, a large-print book, an audio book, an e-book, and an e-audio book! You will probably be on hold no matter which you choose, but with so many options, your wait will hopefully be short...