Fun at Foster's blog

TAG's Teen Gift Drive 2014

Are you looking for a way to give more this holiday season? Consider contributing to our TAG group's Teen Gift Drive!

Gift donations received by December 19, 2014, will be distributed to teens from low-income homes, foster homes, or who are facing other hardships, such as homelessness.

Donations can be dropped off at the Avenue, E.P. Foster, and Saticoy branches. For more information, contact the library at (805) 648-2716 or (805) 647-5736 and ask for Jane Middleton or Star Soto.

Laser-Cut Holiday Decorations @ Foster

On Tuesday, December 2, there will be a demonstration of the Ventura County Library's laser cutter and engraver at E.P. Foster Library!

At this event we will use the laser to cut out holiday ornaments so that you all can see what this technology is capable of. Come prepared with any questions you may have about materials or projects you have in mind.

It all starts at 5 p.m. in the Topping Room. Come see what's going on with the Ventura County Library's makerspace!

Over the River and through the Woods, SoCal Style

This week many of us are preparing to celebrate a uniquely American holiday: Thanksgiving. Many of us will stay home and make the traditional turkey with stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Others have adapted alternative menus to suit their own dietary preferences, and may not serve turkey or stuffing.
For all those who celebrate the holiday at home, there are probably just as many who travel to celebrate with their families. The day before Thanksgiving has become one of the busiest travel days of the year, and there are those of us who travel on Thanksgiving Day itself—although our mode of transportation is very different from that of our forefathers. In Southern California, we often don’t even have cold weather at this time of year. We would need to travel to higher elevations to encounter conditions that would allow a horse-drawn sleigh.
While we generally try to focus on the positive aspects of the holiday, it can be easy to get drawn into the chaotic Black Friday madness. At times like that, it might be helpful to remind ourselves about those less fortunate than us and to show kindness to others as part of our celebration. Contribute to your local food bank, donate to a charity, or give time to a cause close to your heart. Give something of yourself and you may find that you have a great deal more for which to be grateful.

Foster Library has books about Thanksgiving and generosity that you may find interesting and informative, as well as holiday cookbooks to help you plan the perfect meal.

 

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez (roast turkey photo provided by Amber Rodriguez)

Genuine Talent

In his prime period, circa The Sixth Sense (1999) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), young Haley Joel Osment seemed something like the Meryl Streep of child actors—that is, possessed of the ability to inhabit a role with an intensity and realism that was almost uncanny.

After Secondhand Lions (2003), however, he was mostly seen (or heard) in a variety of TV series and voice-overs for animated films and video games. But following the Spielberg epic, A.I., he also had an unusual and highly dramatic role in a little-known WWII drama, Edges of the Lord (2001).

Edges of the Lord: Willem DaFoe & Children

Edges was shot in Poland and co-starred Willem Dafoe (as a Catholic priest) and a mostly European cast. It apparently never received an American distribution until it was released on DVD around 2003.

Osment plays a 12-year-old Polish-Jewish boy who is sent to the country to elude the Nazis by living with a Roman Catholic family. At first he experiences the expected tension as an outsider among the other village children, but he is eventually accepted. Much of the film explores the impact of the war (and religious influences) from the perspective of this varied group of youngsters.

This unusual take on WWII is further enhanced by the contrast between the beautiful country setting and the horrific intrusion of German soldiers, with nightmarish scenes of concentration camp trains passing by the village at night.

Strangely enough, in perusing various reviews and comments on the Internet Movie Database I found that European critics mostly dismissed the film while American viewers, many fans of Osment, loved it. Personally, I found it an extremely powerful work with amazing performances from Osment and an ensemble of other young actors.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence: Jude Law, Haley Joel Osment, and Teddy in Rouge City

I was also mainly interested in Edges because of Osment, whom I found amazing in Artificial Intelligence, the only Steven Spielberg film which I find truly fascinating. In it Osment plays a prototype robot child who is accepted and then rejected by a human married couple. The film, which was originally a Stanley Kubrick project, is also a variation on the story of Pinocchio (with a robotic teddy bear filling in for Jiminy Cricket) as the abandoned David (Osment) goes on his quest to become a “real boy.”

Though I also find it problematic on several levels, A.I. has some of the most fantastic (and fantastically disturbing) imagery I’ve ever experienced in a contemporary film. Unforgettable, state-of-the-art CGI effects include a journey to Rouge City, the film’s perverse Pleasure Island, and a climax in an inundated New York City.

Haley at his most intense: A.I.

But still, what one comes away with from A.I. is the remarkable performance of Osment, quite an accomplishment given the glitz, dazzle, and (melo)drama of much of the film.

A more mature Haley Joel has just made of comeback of sorts in the comedy Sex Ed (2014). Though it seems a somewhat-desperate attempt to move into “regular guy” mode from his previous hyper-intense roles, this unique actor already has several incredible films under his belt, and I wish him the best.

Haley Joel Osment today: Sex Ed

His major films (including Edges of the Lord) are available on DVD through the Ventura County Library. A.I. is in a special edition two-disc set with lots of extra features.

 

Ross Care

David's Dish: Homemade Tortillas

I’ve been wanting to make tortillas for quite some time. After dining at a friend’s house and tasting their homemade tortillas, I knew I would prepare tortillas in my own kitchen in the near future.

By chance I stumbled upon a children’s book, Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up, by Mollie Katzen. Luckily enough it contained a recipe for tortillas, so tortillas would be made. Mollie Katzen has authored some amazing cookbooks; she has been a favorite of mine for years.

Flour, water, and salt was all the recipe called for. "What, no manteca?" I was quite puzzled about the simplicity of the recipe, but Mollie had never steered me wrong in the past. 

The directions were accompanied by lovely illustrations that would be quite appealing for even the youngest chefs—with adult supervision, of course. In no time I was dropping the tortillas into the frying pan, watching them bubble, and sliding them onto my tortilla towel.

I added cheese to one in the pan, let it melt, and slid it onto a plate. With a dab of salsa and some green chili, it became a delicious snack, not unlike what Señor Coyote tasted in The Runaway Tortilla, by Eric A. Kimmel. Make tortillas, not war; give a children’s book a try; and don’t trust a coyote.

 

***** David’s Dish

 

Check out the book at Foster Library, or put it on hold—we will send it to you. If there are any cookbooks in Foster Library’s collection that you would like me to try out, please leave the title on our Facebook page and I’ll get cooking!

Novelties: “Personal,” by Lee Child

Though some of the greatest works of literature are one-of-a-kind, there is something to be said for titles that are more serial in nature. Sometimes all you want to do as a reader is return to the same great characters time and time again, to see them in a new setting, making new friends (and enemies), and overcoming new challenges. While the occasional trilogy is common enough, some authors really go for broke, and their most well-known creations can persist across decades. This month, Novelties will focus on the latest installment of one of these popular long-running franchises: Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.

Personal (2014) is the 19th of Child’s books to feature Jack Reacher, a former member of the US Army’s military police. Reacher is a drifter who travels the country taking on odd-jobs and dangerous tasks, occasionally with the goal of helping someone in need and sometimes by virtue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s a big man who excels at hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship and brings a cold, calculating mentality to bear when threatened. In 2012 Child’s earlier novel One Shot (2005) was adapted into the film Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise, bringing this popular character to the big screen. In Personal, Reacher is approached when a talented sniper attempts to take out the president of France (ultimately failing to do so). Because the two have a history dating back to Reacher’s days as an MP, he and novice CIA agent Casey Nice must locate the would-be assassin and bring him in. Their search takes them through the US and France and finally to London, where they must spar with members of the criminal underworld while each deals with the ghosts of their respective pasts. Though Personal is regarded as a strong link in the series, readers unfamiliar with Reacher are advised to start with one of Child’s earlier volumes.
Andrew Gross published Personal read-alike The Dark Tide in 2008, kicking off a series featuring Connecticut detective Ty Hauck. Gross has a history of collaborating with fiction icon James Patterson; The Dark Tide is his second novel written on his own, following 2007’s The Blue Zone, and many believe it represents a significant improvement in his craft. Hauck becomes involved in the plot while investigating a tenuous connection between a hit-and-run case and a bombing in Grand Central Station that shreds a train and claims hedge fund manager Charles Friedman as one of its victims. This brings Hauck into contact with Karen Friedman, the late Charles’ widow, who finds herself harassed by men digging into her deceased husband’s affairs. As Karen learns more about Charles’ shady business practices she and Hauck begin to develop a personal relationship that only strengthens their need to protect each other as nefarious forces close in. Though some readers found the romance angle distracting, others have praised Gross for pulling off such a mix of compelling sentimentality and fast-paced action, and while the plot includes twists that might be a bit predictable, The Dark Tide has been generally well-received.
Our third title is Plum Island (1997) by Nelson DeMille. This book introduces us to John Corey, a homicide detective with the New York City Police Department, as he convalesces after being wounded in the line of duty. Recovering in his uncle’s house in Southold, a township in Long Island, he is called upon by a friend who works in local law enforcement to consult on a double murder that has rocked the quiet community. But Corey soon finds that what looks like a simple—if disturbing—crime is actually far more complicated, involving the offshore research lab Plum Island, where the victims worked. It seems that there may be a connection between the killings and the volatile compounds being studied at Plum Island—or, even more outlandishly, the rumored existence of buried treasure dating back to the ancient history of the region. The resulting plot is an interesting mix of crime drama, medical mystery, and pirate lore that by all accounts succeeds at being just as amazing as it sounds. In addition, DeMille’s wisecracking, witty, and sarcastic Corey keeps the reader engaged with brilliantly delivered bits of comic dialogue and wry commentary.

You can borrow a copy of Personal, The Dark Tide, and Plum Island at E.P. Foster Library, as well as at several of our other branches. For more read-alikes or to search for something from a different genre, check out NoveList Plus in the Reading Suggestions section of our eLibrary. If you’re looking for a title that isn’t on the shelf at your branch, you can make a request for a copy in person, over the phone, or online through the Ventura County Library catalog.

 

Pursued by Ronald Martin.

Final Ukulele Class of the Year @ Foster

Have you heard about E.P. Foster Library's ukulele lending program? Well on Saturday, November 22, the library will host its final beginner ukulele class for the year!

This class is open to all ages and skill levels. You can bring your own ukulele or one that you've borrowed from the library. Come learn the basics of playing this fun instrument!

It all starts at 11 a.m. in the Topping Room. Whether you can make it by or not, remember that our ukulele jam sessions will continue every second and fourth Monday of the month. We hope to see you there!

Jade’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Minute: “Dark Currents,” Part One of the “Agent of Hel” Series, by Jacqueline Carey

Do you ever want to just read a light, entertaining novel without analyzing the content and doing the whole “draw conclusions for real life” thing? I know I do sometimes, and I found exactly that kind of novel recently.

If you’re familiar with Ms. Carey’s previous works, the Kushiel’s Legacy series, you know that it is dark, bleak, beautiful, sexy, intelligent... did I mention dark and bleak? (FYI, keep your eyes open for a future Kushiel’s blog post from yours truly.) Her newest fare, the Agent of Hel series, is mostly the opposite. It’s well-written and intelligent, and so light it feels like a soufflé for your brain.

It opens in the town of Pemkowet, a mid-western town that boasts a unique tourist attraction: it sits over an opening to the underworld. The underworld is populated with all sorts of fae creatures—fairies, werewolves, vampires, you name it—all presided over by Hel, the Norse goddess of death. Daisy Johnson is Hel’s liaison to the town, mainly because she is half-human, half-demon.

Daisy works closely with the Pemkowet police department, ensuring the fae world doesn’t interfere too heavily with the normal world. The novel follows Daisy through fights with vampires, her crush on werewolf-on-the-down-low cop Cody, and other everyday things we can all relate to—just with a supernatural twist.

Carey paints a vivid world, one that you or I might be happy to live in, inhabited with lively characters we could call friends. It’s a fun journey that I was happy to partake in, and I look forward to more adventures with Daisy and her town.

You can request a copy of Dark Currents online, over the phone, or by dropping in at the library. For more sci-fi and fantasy titles, check out E.P. Foster Library's Adult Science Fiction section on the first floor.

 

Yours Truly

Ethics, Culture, and Biotechnology @ Foster

Our series of seminars on ethics, culture, and biotechnology continues on Sunday, November 16, with a fresh talk at E.P. Foster Library.

This free event is titled "Our Innate Cognitive Biases," and will deal with the psychological perspectives shaping public opinions of biotechnology.

It all starts at 3 p.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by to learn more about this interesting topic, and stay tuned for more talks from this series in December!

"The House of the Scorpion," by Nancy Farmer

Matteo Alacrán is not like other children. He lives in Aztlán, a country carved from the southern United States and northern Mexico and ruled by drug lords. Aztlán itself is divided into several smaller territories, and Matt lives in the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful one, controlled by “El Patrón” and the “House of the Scorpion” for over a century. But amidst all this power and wealth, Matt lives in hiding with Celia, an old cook from the big house, never going outside of her home and never daring to let himself be seen through the window. However, times begin to change, and once he is older the rules and systems by which he has lived as a child fall apart.

People hate and fear him. He learns that to them he is less than a dog. They consider him an affront to their very humanity and by law he should be rendered a mindless vegetable, kept around only for spare parts. Celia loves him, but his only true protector is El Patrón, a man renowned for ruthlessness and cruelty.

El Patrón loves no one but himself, and for that reason he loves Matt toofor Matt is his clone, a younger version of himself. Through Matt, he can explore how life might have been, encouraging Matt in school, in the arts, and in music, delighted in how he grows and fiercely protective. But El Patrón is oldvery oldand the protection that he has granted Matt all his life withers along with his condition.

Matt must fend for himself, finding few friends and many enemies.

The House of the Scorpion is the winner of multiple awards, including the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and was a Michael L. Printz honor book and a Newberry Honor recipient. It is available on our shelves at E.P. Foster Library and at several other branches, and is even available as an audio disk. I recommend this book for any lovers of science and speculative fiction, young or old, and thoroughly enjoyed it myself.


Alan Martin, Your Friendly Reader

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