Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holiday and Christmas Favorites

The Holiday is a time to spend with friends and family.  As we dig out our old decorations and add new ones our homes are transformed into a wonderland of twinkling lights, candy canes, gingerbread, and homemade cookies.  At the library we also bring out our Holiday items and make displays featuring movies, books, cookbooks and CDs.  Here at the Kirtland Public Library we would like to take a moment to talk about some our Holiday favorites.

SilentNight: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub (Chad's Pick)  
Anybody who knows me knows that I am a huge history buff.  I love all types of history, but I’m most interested in World War II and the U.S. Civil War.  The first book of Weintraub’s I read was Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce.  That book revealed to me a little known event from the First World War where British and German troops temporarily laid down their weapons to share a common Christmas celebration: setting up Christmas trees, singing carols, trading food and tobacco, and even playing a game of rugby.
Unfortunately, as the war progressed, these sorts of temporary truces disappeared; discouraged on both sides by the officers.  Weintraub has also written extensively on Christmas during other conflicts.  His books run the gamut from the AmericanRevolution, to the U.S. Civil War, World War I, World War II (and this one), and Korea.
(Jane's Pick)
What’s my favorite Christmas story? That is a very difficult question for me…you see, I have a collection of over 125 Christmas books and it’s hard to pick just one. So what’s my favorite? Is it Christmas on Jane Street by Billy Romp or The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin? Could it be A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote (the edition illustrated by Beth Peck) or Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, or possibly, Wombat Divine by Mem Fox?
After careful consideration I have decided that my favorite Christmas story is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: an Appalachian Story written by Gloria Houston and pictures by Barbara Cooney. This is a wonderful story set at the end of WWI, in a tiny community in the Appalachian Mountains. It’s Ruthie’s family’s turn to provide the Christmas tree for Pine Grove. But Papa has been called to war; Ruthie and her Mama wonder how they will get the tree to town. This is a fictional account of a story that was passed down by the author’s grandmother and the illustrations are lovely. Check it out; it’s sure to become one of your favorites too!
Must see Christmas movies are: Holiday Inn, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and Elf. Remember, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for all to hear!!]

The Family Man (Maria's Pick)

A favorite Christmas movie of mine that I have to watch every year is The Family Man starring Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni. It's a funny modern day take on A Christmas Carol where a single, wealthy Wall Street trader, who's living the high life in New York City, wakes up one Christmas morning in suburban New Jersey. He finds he now has a wife and two kids and has traded in his Ferrari for a minivan. All through the movie he's trying to figure out how to get his old life back and not lose his mind. It's one of my favorites because it's a funny, heartwarming tale of figuring out what's most important in life. It's perfect for people who like second thoughts and second chances. 

My favorite Christmas movie is Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, an animated film from the 1960's. It basically follows the Christmas Carol plot, but adds original music, humor, and the cutest cartoon characters ever. 

Iron Man 3 (Chris' Pick)

Since, for lack of a better word, I am a bit of Scrooge when it comes to this holiday, I wouldn't say I have much of a favorite holiday movie. But, since there is a contingency of people who believe Die Hard is a Christmas movie, Then I contest that Iron Man 3 totally counts as a Christmas movie as well and has been my December tradition since the dvd was released.

Sure, the movie MAY be about Tony Stark coming to grips that after the Avengers incident, the universe is much bigger and scarier place than he thought. While dealing with his demons he also goes toe to toe with terrorist threat, The Mandarin, and business threat Aldrich Killian and his thugs while trying to figure out their dangerous Extremis compound. 

But let's run the checklist: Takes place during holiday time, has numerous Christmas carols throughout the soundtrack, follows a Christmas Carol pattern of facing his past, a present situation, and re-prioritizing his future complete with a small boy working as a Tiny Tim style character, has gift giving, snow, and a revelation at the end which helps Tony with his outlook and making him better for it. In my book this movie totally counts. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thanksgiving and the Presidents

Our celebration of Thanksgiving owes more to our Presidents than it does to the Pilgrims.

By now we know that what the menu for the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 differs from what is found on most of our tables today.  The first Thanksgiving, celebrated among the Puritan Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe would’ve featured venison, shellfish, corn, and other roasted meats.  These would’ve been cooked using Native American spices and cooking methods.  The meal most likely did not have any desserts or other sweets as the Pilgrim’s exhausted their provisions over the previous winter.  Although, cranberries were probably present at both the first Thanksgiving and on our tables today.  The Pilgrims held a second Thanksgiving in 1623 after a long drought ended that threatened that year’s crops.  Days of fasting and thanksgiving became common features of many New England settlements.

The first national proclamation of a day of thanksgiving issued by the Federal Government came in 1789.  George Washington called the day to celebrate the end of the American Revolution and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.  John Adams and James Madison also proclaimed days of thanksgiving during their administrations.  Thomas Jefferson, our third president, felt it was not appropriate to issue proclamations for days of Thanksgiving, because of the separation of church and state.  By 1817 New York became the first of several states to declare an annual day of Thanksgiving, celebrated on different days.  As with many of our holidays the celebrations began as regional or state affairs, only becoming nationally recognized later on.

In 1827 Sarah Joseph Hale, author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” began a 36 year campaign
to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday, expanding the holiday from its traditional home in New England throughout the rest of the country.  During that time she sent dozens of letters to politicians, senators, representatives, leaders, and government officials urging them to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Finally, at the height of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln scheduled Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November.  In a speech written by Secretary of State William Seward, President Lincoln declared that the fourth Thursday in November would be an official U.S. holiday, Thanksgiving Day.  Lincoln also used this opportunity to thank God for recent Union victories in the American Civil War.  This marked the first time since 1815 that an American president had declared a day of thanksgiving.

Annually, Presidents issued Proclamations of Thanksgiving which made the last Thursday of November Thanksgiving Day.  This tradition held until 1939.  That year the last Thursday in November did not occur until the 30th, leaving less than a month until Christmas.  Several retailers approached the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and urged him to move Thanksgiving up by a week to allow for a longer shopping period.  It was hoped that consumers, who shopped after Thanksgiving, would buy more for the Christmas holiday.

This decision caused a great deal of confusion and anger.  FDR’s opponents questioned his disregard for tradition by moving Thanksgiving to another date.  The mayor of Atlantic City pejoratively called the new date “Franksgiving.”  Aside from irritating his opponents the effect of transferring Thanksgiving had a very real impact.

Schools that had vacations and tests set had to revise their schedules.  Then, as now, Thanksgiving was a big day for football games.  Many teams needed to examine and revise their schedules.  To make matters worse many of the country’s governors did not agree with Roosevelt’s decision to change the date of Thanksgiving.  Twenty-three state governors decided to follow Roosevelt’s lead and moved Thanksgiving to November 23.  Twenty-three other disagreed and chose to keep Thanksgiving Day on its traditional date of November 30.  The governors of Texas and Colorado decided to recognize both days as Thanksgiving Day.  These decisions by the state governors split families whose members lived in different states and could not get together to celebrate the holiday due to having different days off.

In 1940 FDR moved Thanksgiving Day again up by one week. Thirty-one states followed suit while 17 continued to follow the traditional date.  In 1941, many people anticipated the new date and celebrated Thanksgiving Day on November 20.  In October 1941, the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution making the last Thursday in November a legal, national holiday.  The Senate agreed, however they amended the resolution to make the fourth Thursday in November a legal holiday, which takes into account years where November has five Thursdays. President Roosevelt agreed and signed the resolution into law on December 26, 1941.  Since then Thanksgiving has always been observed on the fourth Thursday in November.

The library has many good cookbooks to help you find that perfect recipe to make your family meal extra special.

Martha's Classic Thanksgiving (DVD)
The Thanksgiving Table: Recipes and Ideas to Create your Own Holiday Tradition

Their are many great websites out there that feature traditional Thanksgiving recipes, or if you want to try something different, new twists on the originals or something new and exciting.  Check out these following websites:

Better Homes & Gardens Thanksgiving Dinner Menus
Thanksgiving Dinner Menu Ideas and Recipes
Thanksgiving Menus & Recipes from the Food Network 
Thanksgiving Menus for Beginners to Experts  from allrecipes.com or their other page for more Thanksgiving Recipes

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Where are you from?

“Shelf Reflection” is the blog of the Kirtland Public Library.  It’s one way the library staff tries to keep in touch with and reach out to the local community.  Through the blog readers can get recommendations for new books or the staff’s favorite movies.  Since it is the internet our audience isn’t just limited to Kirtland or Ohio or even just the United States.  Our audience is truly global.

An interesting feature that Google Blogger provides is for blog administrators to see where their readership comes from.  When I checked our stats from the last month (Sept. 23 to Oct. 24) I saw some interesting things.  The most remarkable statistic is that 30% percent of our traffic comes from outside of the United States!  Of our foreign visitors Germany had the most (23).  Russia (14), the United Kingdom (6), Netherlands (3), and Ukraine (3) rounded out the top five foreign countries.

When you read our blog, just think you could be looking at the same page as somebody across the street from you or 3,000 miles away!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween and Its Origins

The roots of Halloween stretch back over the centuries.  Today we will examine the origins of the holiday and a few of its most cherished traditions.  Do you have any cherished Halloween traditions?  Share them in the comments section for others to read and enjoy.  Also, visit the library and see some of the Halloween books in our collection the librarians have set out.

The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween) fell around the time corresponding to November 1st on our modern calendars.  This festival marked both the beginning of the Celtic New Year and the beginning of winter.  The Celts believed that during this festival, which lasted approximately three days, the line dividing the spirits of the dead from the living was thinner and more permeable.  At this time ghosts, fairies, and demons walked and mingled with humanity for a short period.

The Celts divided their year into two halves.  A light half (summer) when the earth produced fruits and vegetables and was green, and a dark half (winter), a time when the earth went dormant and lost its greenery.  As with other festivals, Samhain provided a time for feasting, dancing, and other merrymaking.  It was a way to enjoy the waning days of warmth and to prepare for the cold dark days that lay ahead.

As barbarian Europe converted to Christianity, pagan holidays were incorporated into the Christian liturgical calendars and given new Christian meanings.  In the Christian calendar, November 2nd is All Souls’ Day, when the dead are traditionally prayed for.  November 1st was All Saints’ Day or All Hallows Day.  This was the day of the year when all the Saints of the Church were remembered.  October 31st became known as All Hallows Eve, or with the English propensity to shorten and contract everything: Halloween.

Jack O’ Lantern
The history of Jack O’ Lanterns originates with the story of Stingy Jack.  According to legend
Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him.  Jack, unwilling to pay for the drink, convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drink.  Instead of paying for the drink, Jack stuck the coin into his pocket next to a silver cross which prevented the Devil from regaining his original shape.  After forcing the Devil to agree not to harm him for a year or to take his soul after he died Jack left the devil go.

The next year Jack tricked the Devil into climbing the tree to pick a piece of fruit.  While the Devil was in the tree Jack carved a cross into the bark of the tree, preventing the Devil from climbing back down.  Once again Jack was able to extract a promise from the Devil.  This time the Devil agreed not to bother Jack for ten years.

Shortly after the second agreement with the Devil, Jack died.  Jack appeared at the Pearly Gates and God, wary of having such a duplicitous character in heaven, refused him admittance.   The Devil, still upset at being tricked so easily and yet true to his word, would not take Jack into hell. Instead, the Devil gave Jack a burning coal to help him find his way.  Jack put the coal into a carved turnip and has been roaming the earth since.

In Ireland and Scotland people made their own Jack O’ Lanterns by carving scary faces into potatoes and turnips and displaying them on their windowsills.  This was to frighten Stingy Jack and other malevolent spirits away.  In England, large beets were carved.  Immigrants from the British Isles brought these traditions to America, where it was soon discovered that pumpkins, a gourd native to North America, made the perfect Jack O’ Lantern.

Why do we go trick-or-treating and wear costumes?
As mentioned above the ancient Celtic peoples believed that during the festival of Samhain the line between the living and the dead was thinner.  The Celts would take precautions so as not to draw any unwanted attention from wandering ghosts and spirits.  Adults would dress themselves in costumes made of animal skins to frighten away spirits.  Others would fill tables full of goodies in order to satisfy wandering spirits and make them leave the local villagers alone.

By the year 1000 CE poorer members of the local community would visit the homes of the better off during this particular season.  In exchange for pastries, called soul cakes, they promised to pray for the souls of that family’s departed members.  This custom was known as souling, and was later taken up by children demanding food, treats, and ale.  This is reminiscent of the Christmas tradition of “wassailing” where the poor would converge upon the homes of their betters and demand food and drink – think “O give us some figgy pudding,” and “we won’t go until we get some.”

In Scotland and Ireland the young would visit other homes while dressed in different types of costumes.  In exchange for performing a little song or dance or reciting a poem or some other “trick” they would be given a “treat” of fruit, nuts, or some coins.
Irish and Scottish immigrants brought their traditions with them when they arrived in the United States.  This helped to cement the various celebrations associated with Halloween firmly in the states.  In the early 20th century many American youth seemed to take the idea of a “trick” literally and began engaging in vandalism, assaults, and occasionally violence.  In an effort to curb more destructive behaviors, local authorities organized community trick-or-treat programs in the 1930s.  After a hiatus during World War II due to sugar rationing the traditions picked back up and now the newly emerging baby boomers gave a boost to this tradition.

Bobbing for Apples
Although associated with Halloween parties and fall festivals now this game was originally associated with finding love and divination.  Like some of our other Halloween traditions this one originated in the British Isles and made its way to the New World with Scottish and British immigrants.  There are several variations of this game with different rules and superstitions attached to the outcome of the game.

In the first version of the game apples are assigned the name of a potential mate.  Young ladies would then take turns bobbing for apples.  In this game the girl would try to bite the apple.  If it took only one turn to bite the apple they would marry.  A second attempt meant the man would court the girl, but the love would fail.  If it took three tries the relationship was doomed.  Another variation of the game consisted of a race and the first to bite an apple would be the first to marry.  Another related superstition held that if the girl placed the apple she bit under her pillow she would see her future mate in her dreams.

These games are pretty tame compared to another apple-themed game popular in the 1800s.  The game of Snap Apple consisted of an apple stuck to the end of a stick.  A lit candle was affixed to the other end.  The goal of this game was to take a bite of the apple while it was spun around and trying to avoid a face full of candle wax.  Definitely not the type of game one would consider playing at Halloween parties today.

The library has many books and CDs available to help you get into the Halloween spirit.  Here are a few examples of the items we offer:

"It Came From Ohio..." by James Renner
"Haunted Ohio" by Chris Woodyard, we also have volumes II, III, IV, and V
"Ghosthunting Ohio" by John B. Kachuba


"A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness
"Dark Witch" by Nora Roberts


"Hocus Pocus! Halloween Crafts for a Spooktacular Holiday"
"The Pumpkin Carving Book" by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell 

We also have CDs full of spooky sounds and noises!


"Graveyard Terror"
"Halloween: Monster Mix" by Mannheim Steamroller
Martha Stewart Living "Spooky Scary Sounds for Halloween"

If you need help finding something you don't see here or need a spooky recommendation find one of our librarians and they will be glad to help you.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Spooky Movies!

As we inch closer and closer to Halloween the sun starts to go down sooner and the ghouls start to come out earlier. And as is the trend at many libraries around the country this is when horror movies start to rise in checkouts. So the staff here wanted to share with you some of our absolute favorites for the spooky movie season.

The Babadook (Chris' pick)

Amelia lives a strained lifestyle after losing her husband the day she gave birth to her son. He is troubled by imaginary monsters and behavioral outbursts that get him removed from school. One evening he has Amelia read him a haunting children's story book about Mr. Babadook, which ultimately consumes his fear. She denies it's real, but slowly is forced to question that and confront the dark entity from the story as it presses the limits of her sanity.

This film has a rough start because of some exceptional emotional acting from the two main characters, but it's incredible use of silence and darkness pushes the tension in this film so fiercely that I was literally at the edge of my seat for nearly the entirety of the film. To cause legitimate horror without jump scares is a rare feat these days and from one pivotal point a 3rd of the way into the movie, I was completely locked in and glued to the screen. Easily one of the scariest films I've seen in a number of years.

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (Jane's pick)

Ok, so I'm not a big scary movie or book person. In fact I don't read Stephen King novels and I haven't watched a horror movie in years. The last scary book I read on purpose was The Amityville Horror when it was first published.  That said, the very first, and probably last, scary movie I saw was The Ghost and Mr. Chicken which came out in the late 1960s. It’s really more comedy than horror, but at the time I thought it was very scary.

Don Knotts stars. His character works as a typesetter at a small-town newspaper and wants to be a full-fledged reporter. So he takes on the task of spending the night in the town’s haunted house. The situation allows many opportunities for Knotts to react to sight gags with the special brand of eye-popping nervousness that made him a star. This one is suitable for the whole family! Of course, there's a love interest and in the end Knotts solves the mystery of the haunted house and gets the girl!.Oh man, when that cobwebby, creepy organ started playing by itself I about jumped out of my skin! You would too!

The Omen (Chad's pick)

A secret cabal of Satanists strives to protect the Antichrist from being detected and their plans thwarted.  The Antichrist, Damien, is the adopted son of the American Ambassador to Great Britain, Robert Thorn.  At first Thorn refuses to believe his son is anything more than a little boy.  After several strange, ghastly deaths and mounting evidence, Thorn travels to Israel to meet with an expert on the Antichrist.  The tension in the final scenes escalates as the Satanists will do anything it takes to make sure no harm comes to Damien.

This movie is my one consistent go to after all these years.  There are many things about this that still makes it creepy.  Firstly, the soundtrack with its eerie sounding chant music sets the tone throughout.  The rest of the time the music is subdued enough to add a general air of impending horror.  The scene, which occurs within the first fifteen minutes of the movie, with the nanny at the birthday party, still sends shivers up my spine.  If you don’t know which one I’m talking about just watch the movie and you’ll never forget.

Storm of the Century (Gina's pick)

My favorite horror movie is actually a TV mini-series, Storm of the Century. Written by Stephen King, it is set in a small village in his home state of Maine during a major snowstorm. While all the townspeople are frantically scrambling for food and supplies to prepare for the storm, a stranger appears. 

He knows all the darkest secrets of the inhabitants, making them increasingly paranoid, and keeps repeating, "Give me what I want, and I'll go away." The suspense builds as the storm gets more intense and we all try to figure out what he wants, and if he will get it. The conclusion is shocking and quite disturbing.

Psycho (Maria's pick)

I'm not a huge of fan of horror, but I do love good suspense/thriller movies. I've recently become a Hitchcock fan, and I'm recommending the movie Psycho since it's the closest movie of his that could be considered horror. It's about a young secretary who steals $40,000 from her boss and runs away to meet up with her boyfriend. Trying to avoid the police, she travels on back roads and stops for the night at the Bates Motel and meets the polite but odd proprietor, Norman Bates.

I wouldn't say it's my favorite of the Hitchcock's films, but it's definitely the one that sticks with me and will never forget. So if you like a good classic and are in the mood to watch a good psychological thriller, this is perfect for you. And if you've never seen it, this is definitely a movie that everyone should watch at least once in their lifetime.

Arsenic and Old Lace (Patti's pick)

I also am not a big fan of horror films, but an all time favorite of mine is Arsenic and Old Lace. Cary Grant plays a drama critic who falls in love with his next door neighbor, played by Priscilla Lane. 

His eccentric but lovable and also very scary relatives keep him running and thinking everyone is nuts and he might be next. This movie will make you laugh and be memorable for years. This could be called a comedy/thriller also starring Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre. CHARGE!

The Village (Mary's pick)

One of my favorite thriller movies is M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.
This director uses the viewer’s photographic approach, thus enabling increased viewer participation.  As characters played by Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Adrien Brody and Bryce Dallas Howard move forward, the viewer takes on that journey.

The Village is a psychological thriller set in a closed society whereupon the community abides by fixed behavioral rules. To outward appearances this setting is nirvana whereby family life, respect, and kindness prevail.  Soon we realize that all of this has fear as the supreme motivator.  Boundaries are created not only in thinking, but also physical travel. Somewhat like the theme music from Jaws, a bell sounds when there are any transgressions.  Evidence of a cruel “of that we cannot speak” curtails any considerations of breaking the law. As beliefs are questioned, the unexpected backgrounds of all players are revealed in a twisted ending.  The adage of “The end justifying the means,” unfolds the terrifying truth.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The 1920s in Fact and Fiction

“The Roaring Twenties” has captured the imagination of many people.  The decade prior to the Great Depression seems to offer a rich and exciting tapestry of booze, flappers, and jazz.  The reality, however, was much different than what we imagine or even what we see in period photos.  Recently, many non-fiction and fiction books have taken the 1920s as their subject or the setting for their stories. 

The following are a small sample of the books available through the library.  If there is another topic or subject that interests you the librarians will be more than happy to help you choose your next book.

First here are some recent fiction books set during the 1920s:

Libba Bray, The Diviners (2012) YA
Evangeline Mary O’Neill, Evie to all of her friends, has a special power that allows her to see the secrets of people whose personal items she holds.  When she uses this power during a party and reveals the hidden secret of the son of a wealthy and powerful townsperson, Evie is exiled by her parents from her hometown of Zenith, Ohio to live with her Uncle Will in Manhattan.  Along with her pen pal and friend, Mabel, Her Uncle Will, and his assistant and ward Jericho, Evie is drawn into the search for an elusive killer stalking the streets of 1920s New York City. This book is the first of an anticipated triology.  The second book, Lair of Dreams, has recently been released and picks up where the firstbook left off.  

Although marketed for a YA audience this book has plenty for adults to like.  If you enjoy mysteries and supernatural/paranormal thrillers this book will definitely interest you.  Occasionally the 1920s-era slang can be a little much, but fortunately its usage doesn’t derail the storytelling to any serious degree.

It’s the summer of 1925.  Thirteen year-old Emily Stewart discovers she has a unique gift.  Without any noticeable movements she can produce a distinct knocking noise from her ankle.  Along with her twin brother, Michael, they begin to convince neighborhood children that they can speak to the dead.  Soon, news of these “spirit knockings” leaks out to the adults.  From there Emily and Michael discover that this game of theirs gets too close to real grief and family secrets.

These non-fiction books examine different aspects of the 1920s and are sure to include stories to interest readers with many different tastes.

Karen Blumenthal, Tommy: The Gun That Changed America (2015) YA Karen Blumenthal has written an entertaining and fact-filled account of the gun that came to symbolize the 1920s.  Designed by the Auto-Ordnance company to be used in the trenches of Europe during WWI it came too late to see service.  After the war, the gun was marketed to foreign governments and police departments as a way to control striking workers and rioters.  Its high rate of fire along with its compact frame soon drew the attention of criminals, who saw the gun as a way to gain a competitive edge against their underworld rivals.  In response to the murder of an Illinois Assistant State Attorney, and the robbery of a mail truck carrying company payroll money the Federal government, along with state governments, such as New York, began passing the first federal and state laws regulating the carrying and ownership of firearms.
A footnote of interest to local readers will be that the Thompson submachine gun was designed and tested primarily in Cleveland in a two-story house on Euclid Avenue, near Millionaire’s Row.  The book is full of period photos and illustrations, which adds nicely to the text.  Although, designated for Young Adults, readers of any age should find this an interesting read.

Hollywood has never been a stranger to scandals and salacious stories involving its stars. This was particularly true of Hollywood in its infancy. William J. Mann has written a fascinating history of Hollywood centered on the murder of William Desmond Taylor, president of the Motion Picture Directors Association.  This murder had remained unsolved since 1922, until Mann unraveled all of the details and discovered the identity of the murderer.  Besides the glitz and glamor one would expect in a book on Hollywood, the scandals, violence, drugs, and booze of the era are all laid bare for the reader. This book won the 2015 Edgar award for Best Fact Crime Book of the Year.  NPR called it, “one of the best books of the year.” 
Eric Burns, 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar (2015) Many of the same concerns we have today concerned Americans in 1920.  The economy seemed to be faltering, many Americans wanted closed and secured borders, and acts of terrorism were a constant threat.  As Burns believes 1920 not only set the stage for the Roaring Twenties, but also for the remainder of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century.

Burns’ new book, tackles the year 1920 in a piecemeal fashion.  Each chapter discusses separate subjects and could be read individually without the reader losing the main thrust of the argument.  Despite these reservations Burns has put together a readable and interesting look into how one year laid the framework for the rest of the 20th century and beyond.
If one of these books piques your interest, or if you'd like other suggestions, please see one of our helpful and friendly librarians for assistance and other book recommendations.
Good Reading!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Urban Fantasy: Zombies, Wizards, and Pyromancers! Oh My!

As the summer slowly approaches it's end, kids start going back to school, and the days start to be come shorter many people start gearing up for the fall and winter months. Some try to squeeze in their last minute vacations, some people start gearing up for Halloween already, and some are just trying to hang on to that last bit of summer before the temperature drops on us.

Not me. This time of the year means one thing: AMC's The Walking Dead is coming back. And since its fresh in my head, its reminding me that over the past year I have really fallen in love with a new subset of narrative that has really become one of my favorites in recent readings: Urban Fantasy. Urban fantasy is for the most part exactly what it sounds like; The fantastical and unbelievable in the current day modern setting as opposed to High Fantasy where the world and its rules are completely fabricated. In preparation for the return of one of my favorite programs, I wanted share some of the tidbits I've been nibbling on to hold me over.

The Walking Dead: By Robert Kirkman

Well let's just get this one out of the way. This is comic and graphic novel series that started of the flag-bearers of the the zombie boom. Written by Robert Kirkman (who you might remember from my Marvel Zombies review), this series lays the groundwork for what fans of the show will remember. But if you came into this series of comics expecting to see the same story from the show, you will be very much surprised. 

As the show takes liberties to this source material, reading through you will find that the story moves at a much faster pace than its television counterpart, You will find that some of the characters aren't the same the first time around, some of the characters were created specifically for the show, in the comic a number of them develop differently and have very different personalities, and some scenes that I thought were highly memorable sometimes didn't even happen in the comic series. 

Arguably you can consider the zombie genre to be more dystopian than it is urban fantasy, but since you are dealing with monsters I feel it fits here. It is always interesting to me to see how when a book or comic series gets translated to more visual medium like TV or Movies. The Walking Dead is a great example of both of them can sustain life and maintain an interesting level of involvement of each other without feeling like one is doing an injustice to the other. There are two Compendiums of the comic series available and I suggest you give them a read if like me  you are bitten by the zombie bug. 

The Dresden Files: By Jim Butcher

This series... THIS SERIES..  Man. My friend at my local game night started recommending when I explained to them how much I liked Hold Me Closer, Necromancer as one of my first real entries of urban fantasy genre. As explained to me, Harry Dresden is a private eye working in Chicago, but he is also the city's only practicing Wizard (you can find him in the yellow pages). So along those lines, I expected to read murder mysteries with an occasional splash of magic in some of the hairier moments.

What I wasn't expecting was some of the funniest and cleverly written dialog between an incredibly lovable cast of characters spanning through pretty much every single realm of fantasy I can think of. Seriously, this series has everything: Wizards, necromancers, teens who turn into werewolves, evil fairy godmothers, pixies with an uncontrollable affinity for pizza, three different families of vampires, holy knights, fallen angels, archangels, living temple dogs, mobsters, Valkyries, Greek gods, Santa Claus, and one poor diminutive police sergeant just trying to do her job. 

I ate this series up. I think in the span of like 3 months, I read all 15 released volumes of this series, all of the available graphic novels, a series of side stories from compilation books, and even gave a few episodes of the failed TV show a try. Fans of this series tend to be pretty ravenous about it, and it didn't take me long to see why. The first few kind of set the stage but when the main narrative starts to roll, it was next to impossible for me to put this series down. If you are a fan of fantasy in any capacity, this series has a little bit for everyone. 

Firebug: By Lish McBride

This YA novel is what I am currently reading.  It is set in the same universe as the previously mentioned Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Written by Lish McBride, this story focuses around Ava, a young girl who is half Human and half Firebug. This gives her innate ability to control pyrokinetic powers. Quite simply, she is able to form a massive fireball to the tiniest wisp of a flame using only her thoughts.

After losing her mother, Ava finds herself under the control of a vampire named Venus. Venus is a major player of Boston's "magical mafia" called the Coterie, and she has been working Ava as the Coterie's reluctant personal assassin. That is however, until they charge Ava to kill someone incredibly close to her. Ava refuses, effectively signing her own death warrant, and is forced to go on the lam to try to evade capture against a very powerful supernatural organization.

Much like her previous books, a little bit of everything in fantasy comes into play in her series. McBride has always been very good at tongue-in-cheek dialog and has some great moments of tit-for-tat verbal sparring among the characters. I am currently in the early stages of the story but it already seems to be promising what I loved about her previous books and I'm looking forward to pressing on when I get home. 

Many of these titles can be found in our very own Kirtland Library and all of them can be found in the Clevnet catalog. So if you are a fan of fantasy, or perhaps put slightly off by classic fantasy, give the urban fantasy genre a try. It's a very entertaining way to try to fit the fantastical into modern mundanity. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

For most of us, Labor Day signals the unofficial end of summer.  Vacations are finished, the kids are back in school and the cool autumn weather isn’t too far off.  Labor Day is sometimes one of the few remaining days left to fire up the grill and to enjoy one last summer cookout and picnic.  Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Labor Day and what its origins are?

The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City in 1882.  Even with its relatively recent history there is some controversy over who first championed the idea of a labor holiday.  According to the Department of Labor’s website, Peter J. McGuire, general secretary for the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and later a founder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."  Initially, this version of Labor Day’s history went unchallenged until the late 1960s, when a retired machinist claimed a deceased union brother of his, Matthew Maguire, originated the idea of a labor holiday.

Matthew Maguire, then serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union, proposed a
“workingman’s holiday” be celebrated.  The Central Labor Union was made up of members from many different unions as a way to increase their collective strength.  In May 1882 a “monster labor festival” was proposed for September.  Although the first Labor Day parade began haphazardly with a small number of participants, by the time the parade concluded at Wendel’s Elm Park, located at 92nd Street and 9th Avenue in New York City, nearly 10,000 workers had assembled.  The post-parade activities included a picnic, speeches by union officials, and "Lager beer kegs... mounted in every conceivable place."  The festivities of the first Labor Day carried on until 9:00 pm that evening.

Initially Labor Day celebrations were an entirely local affair.  During 1885 and 1886 various cities and municipalities passed ordinances recognizing the holiday. New York, New Jersey and Colorado were among the first states to legally establish the holiday. New York legislators first introduced a bill recognizing Labor Day.  However, Oregon holds the record as being the first state to pass a bill, February 21, 1887.  It wasn’t until 1894 that Senator James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced a bill establishing the first Monday in September as Labor Day, making it a Federal holiday.  The bill was approved on June 28, 1894.

From its origins as a way to commemorate workers and their unions, Labor Day has become a civic holiday.  Besides featuring labor unions, Labor Day parades will also include various civic and fraternal groups, business members and elected officials.  This year, while having one last picnic take a little time to remember all of America’s workers-past and present, male and female who work hard to make this country what it is.

Check out these links from the Department of Labor for more information on Labor Day and its history.

If you would like to learn more about Labor Day and the history of the modern labor movement the library has a wide selection of books.  Here are some of the available titles:

For children and young adults:

Labor Day by Lynn Hamilton

Labor Day by Meredith Dash

General history on the labor movement in America:

"All Labor Has Dignity" by Martin Luther King Jr.

Sweat and Blood: A History of Labor Unions by Gina Skurzynski

Working Americans, 1880-2011 by Scott Derks

Good Girl Work: Factories, Sweatshops and How Women Changed Their Role in the American Workforce by Catherine Gourley