Fun at Foster's blog
Really Wild Animals is an excellent nature series from the always reliable National Geographic catalog. I picked up one video tape in the series at a local thrift shop and was impressed enough to track down several others in the Ventura County Library collections.
Though geared for young people, the beautifully-photographed and fast-paced footage will easily appeal to adults as well.
Everyone should be entertained by Spin, a jovial animated globe/planet Earth, who introduces and narrates each episode. Voiced by versatile British actor/comic Dudley Moore, Spin provides an energetic verbal flow of puns, wise-cracks, and, of course, information in a rapid-fire stream that both informs and entertains. This is definitely not one of those talking head (talking globe?) documentaries.
More information is provided by contemporary-styled songs which back up the animal footage.
Each episode explores a different natural environment. The library collection has nine volumes, including Polar Prowl and Deep Sea Dive. I especially enjoyed Totally Tropical Rain Forest and Wonders Down Under. The DVD versions also include bonus episodes and a few extras.
Online user reviews are mostly positive, and someone noted that "the DVDs are informative without being explicit. No zebras being eaten here!" Which is fine with me, though the concept of predator and prey and environmental threats are touched upon as well.
I see these DVDs as great for inspiring an early love and respect for the variety and wonder of the natural world and its amazing creatures. After all, more explicit reality will kick in soon enough.
In 1989, Tom Clancy brought back Jack Ryan, the hero of his earlier novel Patriot Games (1987), for a 700-page tome exploring the American war on drugs. Clear and Present Danger is a true doorstop of a book, featuring a large and potentially confusing cast of characters operating across continents in service of a mission about which few are in possession of all the details. The 1994 film version—starring Harrison Ford, Willem Dafoe, and Joaquim de Almeida—greatly simplifies the cast and plot while still managing to deliver a powerful and compelling story that covers much of the same thematic ground as its source material.
|Mustering up the will to crack open Clear and Present Danger can be tough, especially if you aren’t used to novels of this size, but Clancy does a good job of starting strong with a series of compelling events that pull you into the plot immediately. What is less apparent from the start is how the various characters and settings are ultimately going to tie together, but the slow reveal there is, after all, part of the appeal of the genre. Our introduction to the novel’s plot is the brutal murder of a family aboard their boat by two drug runners, an event which leads to the revelation that the boat owner was involved with laundering large sums of money for a Colombian drug cartel. The President of the United States decides on a course of action—motivated in no small part by the upcoming election—which is designed to curb the flow of illegal drugs into the country and involves a good deal of clandestine action abroad. When the cartel begins pushing back, things begin to unravel, and Jack Ryan is faced with the task of uncovering exactly what is going on and finding a way to minimize the damage as powerful political entities threaten to sweep the operation under the rug.|
|The film version of Clear and Present Danger, directed by Phillip Noyce, is a pretty typical example of what tends to happen when a book is adapted for the screen: characters disappear or are merged, certain scenes and subplots are eliminated, and the story as a whole is somewhat simplified. However, the film is also an example of how these types of changes do not necessarily harm the final product. Noyce’s version did not suffer as a result of its adaptation; the film was well-received, managing to adequately capture the essence of Clancy’s original while accommodating the fundamental differences between the two formats. Harrison Ford gives a strong performance as Jack Ryan, shifting seamlessly between scenes of intrigue and action and ably supported by such talents as James Earl Jones and Raymond Cruz, in addition to Dafoe and de Almeida. And while simplified, the story holds its own as an entity independent of the book, and can be fully appreciated by audiences who are wholly unfamiliar with the original—something which cannot always be said of lazier adaptations. Simply put, Clear and Present Danger is not only good by the standards of adaptations, it is good by the standards of movies in general.|
Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library in both book and audiobook (cassette) format, or you can download the eBook to your device through OverDrive. The film is also available at Foster as part of our first-floor DVD collection. If the version you are interested in is not on the shelf at your local branch, you can request for a copy to be delivered to your home branch in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.
Deployed by Ronald Martin.
Book reports and book reviews are similar. Book reports tend to be a little more descriptive: what is this book about, who are the characters, what are the plots, what is the conclusion? Book reviews are usually more persuasive: why should or shouldn't a reader read this book? Both offer a combination of summary and commentary.
For book reviews you want to provide basic information about the book, and a sense of what your experience reading the book was. You should include:
Analysis and Evaluation
Try to get the main theme of the book across in the beginning of your review so your reader knows right away if they want to read the book.
Next, analyze or critique the book. You can write about your own opinions, but be sure to explain and give examples. Don't try to summarize each chapter or every angle. Choose the main idea/ideas or characters that are most significant and interesting to you.
Some questions you might want to consider (you do not need to use all of these):
- Did the author achieve his or her purpose?
- Is the writing effective, powerful, difficult, beautiful?
- What are the strengths or weaknesses of the book?
- What is your overall response to the book? Did you find it interesting, moving, dull?
- Would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?
- You may want to say what impression the book left you with, or emphasize what you want your reader to know about it.
- While you're writing, try thinking of your reader as a friend to whom you're telling a story.
Book reviews of children’s and young adult books by their readers are always welcomed and encouraged by library staff. Look for book review forms in many new books or ask our staff on the children’s floor for one. We do ask that the book you review is age-appropriate (would your teacher accept this book for a book report?) and that it be a new book (from our new book shelves with a pink dot on it). To thank each reviewer for their input we will present them with a Hershey’s candy bar. Only one book review per week, per reviewer please.
These book reviews help the library staff and your fellow readers as well. Happy reading!
This event has been postponed because of excessive heat - please watch for a rescheduled date!
On May 14, E.P. Foster Library will be hosting local author Jeffrey Wayne Maulhardt. Mr. Maulhardt is known for his volumes on local Ventura County history, and will be discussing some of his recent works at this free event. You can check out his website for more information on his career and other writings.
This talk has been postponed!
Attendees will learn about the history of the art of spinning and weaving. The talk will be followed by a demonstration of techniques.
It all starts at 2 p.m. in the Topping Room. If you’re looking for a fun weekend event, come on by!
This coming Monday, May 5, Dr. Cheryl Lambing will be giving a free talk at E.P. Foster Library.
“Fit to a T” is a bone health and osteoporosis education program for men and women of all ages. Learn about your “T-score” and what it means for your overall health and wellness.
The event is open to the public, and begins at 5 p.m. in the Topping Room. We hope to see you there!
While it may be tempting to dismiss science fiction writing as somehow less relevant than other fiction due to its often speculative nature—dealing as it does with undiscovered worlds, unknown cultures, or fantastical technologies—the fact of the matter is that some of the best social commentary can be found in your library’s sci-fi section. Going beyond the reality that we know gives us a chance to imagine how we would think and act in scenarios that would test us in ways we are unlikely to encounter normally, and the results of those tests tell us a lot about who we really are, both individually and as a society.
|In The Martian (2014), Andy Weir tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut who is part of a manned mission to Mars that is forced to terminate its stay early due to hazardous conditions on the red planet. In the course of their evacuation during a severe dust storm, Watney’s suit is compromised, causing him to be left behind when all available information points to his already being dead. He recovers from his ordeal to find that the rest of the crew has left the planet and that he has no way of contacting them or Earth to request a rescue—perhaps a moot point since any rescue attempt would arrive too late to save him from starvation in any case. What unfolds is a story of survival, of Watney versus the Martian elements armed with only those supplies left behind by the crew and a wry sense of humor that keeps him going in the face of certain death. Written as a series of journal entries, this fast-paced novel manages to communicate the urgency driving Watney’s predicament in a way that demonstrates his intellect and competence while maintaining a high level of suspense.|
|Our next novel is also set on Mars, but not the desolate, unexplored Mars of the near future. Instead, Moving Mars (1993) shows us a planet long ago colonized by Earth and currently struggling to determine its destiny. Casseia Majumdar is a young Martian woman whose development is central to the story, as is the larger evolution of the Martian colony as a political entity. In the years since the planet was first colonized, Mars has become home to second- and third-generation Martians who wish to advocate for autonomy from an Earth that is increasingly hostile to Martian interests. This political drama is exacerbated by certain technological breakthroughs that threaten to fundamentally change the relationship between the two planets. Author Greg Bear creates a world rich with backstory and character development, and slowly—perhaps too slowly for some readers—brings the narrative to a boil. Winner of the 1994 Nebula Award, Moving Mars is epic in scale and a good selection for fans of hard science fiction.|
|The second read-alike for this month is The Dog Stars (2012), by Peter Heller. Like The Martian, The Dog Stars is a story about isolation and survival; however, Heller’s novel takes place not on Mars but on a plague-ravaged Earth. Set after not one but two superbugs wipe out the bulk of the population, the story is told by Hig, a former contractor and pilot living in an abandoned airport with his dog and a fellow survivor named Bangley. With Hig providing airborne surveillance and Bangley bringing tactical knowledge and firepower, the two have carved out a reasonably secure niche while remaining emotionally distanced from each other. When a traumatic event causes Hig to question his commitment to their day-by-day existence, he heads off in search of something he cannot name—meaning, redemption, or perhaps just something new. Heller uses his apocalypse to empty out the world so that he can examine the ways in which we might fill it again, and the result is an uplifting, if bittersweet, tale.|
The Martian, Moving Mars, and The Dog Stars are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. In addition, The Martian and The Dog Stars can be borrowed as eBooks through OverDrive. You can also access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request that a copy be sent to the branch of your choice in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.
Launched by Ronald Martin.
I’m sure many readers can relate to the joys and struggles of raising a teenage daughter, but imagine how challenging that would be if you were Darth Vader and your daughter was Princess Leia. Yes, Jeffrey Brown is back, with his take on life as a dad in the Star Wars universe in Vader’s Little Princess. Readers will recognize familiar scenes, characters, and even dialogue as Vader struggles to raise his daughter from her precocious youth to her rebellious teen years.
Throughout the book, readers will sympathize with Vader (yes, you read that right) as he makes sure his little princess brushes her teeth, does her chores, and dresses properly (no slave-girl outfits allowed). He may be one of the most powerful Sith lords in the universe, but he’s also just a dad. Granted, most dads don’t have to deal with their daughters crashing their Imperial shuttle or blowing up the Death Star, but they can relate to a dad whose daughter is dating, talking on the phone (or in this case, a hologram) with her friends, and rebelling against her elders.
These one-page vignettes are funny, endearing, and very familiar to anyone who is raising, or has raised, a teenage girl, and you don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to appreciate that.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Join us at E.P. Foster Library on Sunday, April 27, for “The Sweetest Sounds: The Music of Richard Rodgers,” a guest lecture by OLLI presenter Bruce Collins.
The lecture will include original cast recordings of some of Rodgers’ classics, together with the stories behind their creations.
The event is from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Topping Room. We look forward to seeing you there!
Of the two “end of the world” comedies released last year, This Is the End is set in L.A. and features the current Hollywood comedy brat pack, while The World’s End is set in a small British garden town and features a slightly more mature—but no less manic—guy group.
The World’s End is the latest film from director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nicholas Frost, who produced such bizarre classics as Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007). These films often also feature a kind of stock company of fellow actors, and as a staunch Anglophile I thought it would be interesting to see what other films from the group’s members are in the Ventura County Library collections (as are both The World’s End and This Is the End).
One of the most amusing Pegg/Frost comedies is Paul (2011), which is about two aging British fanboys who attend a science fiction convention in L.A. and end up having a bizarre close encounter of their own on a road trip to find Area 51.
Pegg, also a screenwriter, is a regular in the recent Star Trek and Mission Impossible films, and does a lot of animation voice work, as does Frost.
Probably the most well-known other guy is the Hobbit himself, Martin Freeman. He has the lead in The Good Night (2007), a film about a relationship-impaired musician who can only be with his dream love in dreams. The ironic conclusion gives new meaning to all those song lyrics about dreaming forever.
Freeman is also Watson in the recent Sherlock TV series, and stars in the new FX series Fargo, which premieres April 15.
One of the more prolific members of this group is Irish actor/writer/director Paddy Considine, best known for The Bourne Ultimatum (2007).
Surprisingly, considering his comic turns in the Pegg/Frost films, Considine has been involved with some of the most serious (and seriously depressing) recent films. Pu-239 (2006) is an HBO drama about a worker caught in a deadly accident in a Russian nuclear plant who steals a stash of weapons-grade plutonium in a botched attempt to sell it to provide for his wife and child when he is written off by the plant managers.
In director Jim Sherman’s In America (2002), Considine is the father of a poor Irish family who emigrates to America, ending up in an impoverished apartment in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. The film won three Academy Awards and features amazing performances by the two young actresses who portray the family’s daughters.
Considine is also in a remake of French director Claude Chabrol’s Hitchcockian thriller, The Cry of the Owl (2009), based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Considine also wrote and directed Tyrannosaur (2011), which unfortunately is not in the Ventura collections. Perhaps that’s just as well, as reviews have cited it as—though excellently done—one of the most disturbing films about male rage ever made.
It’s interesting how a mainstream feature such as the well-publicized The World’s End can lead you to explore your friendly local library’s film vaults to discover a variety of lesser-known but interesting, off-beat (and free!) film discoveries.