Fun at Foster's blog

Font to Film: "Water for Elephants"

Originally a draft created as part of National Novel Writing Month, Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants was published in 2006, and has since been quite well-received. The novel’s setting is a traveling circus during the Great Depression, and it is essentially a love story steeped in rich historical detail. Gruen manages to make the Depression a significant presence in the novel, more a character in its own right than a mere backdrop. As a result the reader truly gets a sense of the oppressive, constant dread driving the actions of the working men and women of the period, and from the start we see how drastically economic forces can shape a person’s destiny.

The story is told in flashback by Jacob Jankowski, presently 93 years old and living a life all but estranged from a family that no longer has much time for him. He spends his empty, unfulfilling days in a nursing home, in danger of never having anything to look forward to again—until the circus comes to town. Its presence invigorates Jacob, and he begins to recount his life as a young man who, waylaid by tragedy, took his chances hopping a circus train during one of the darkest periods of American history.

Gruen uses Jacob’s experiences to showcase an incredible juxtaposition of the wondrous spectacle put on by the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth and the often horrifying circumstances in which the laborers and performers—both human and animal—live. The Depression has fostered desperation and madness, encouraging opportunists who have managed to succeed only on the backs of those less fortunate, exploiting them when possible and discarding them otherwise. In the midst of all this, Jacob finds beauty—in the circus, the menagerie, and the animal trainer’s wife, Marlena. The development of this love triangle is the meat of the plot; at its heart,Water for Elephants is a very conventional—almost to the point of being predictable—romance that is elevated primarily by the care and detail put into its setting.

One might imagine that such a vibrant and compelling world would make the novel ripe for adaptation to film. However, the screen version of Water for Elephants—released in 2011—received mixed reviews. Of chief concern to many was the fact that Jacob and Marlena, played by Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon, had little chemistry on screen. This led to their romance having a very told-not-shown feel, particularly when viewed alongside the passionate performance given by Christoph Waltz, who plays Marlena’s husband. Unfortunately, the film plays up the love triangle at the expense of many of the supporting elements that made the book feel unique. What results is a relatively shallow and not-entirely-convincing love story. Despite this shortcoming, the film does a fair job of visually representing the shoddy grandeur of the Most Spectacular Show on Earth; as is true with the novel, the richness of the setting ends up being the film’s saving grace.

Water for Elephants is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library in both book and audiobook form. The film is also available through the library; if it is not on the shelf at your local branch, you can request for it to be delivered to the branch of your choosing. In addition, you can borrow a digital copy of the novel from the Ventura County Library through OverDrive. OverDrive eBooks are available to download to a wide variety of devices, and will automatically be returned at the conclusion of your loan period. If you need assistance with setting up your device and account to borrow eBooks, check out the OverDrive help page, which links to a number of useful, device-specific articles and videos, or stop by the library.

 

Brought to life by Ronald Martin.

David's Dish: Date Shake

The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia, made my foodie imagination run wild, filled with exotic recipes and interesting insights on ingredients used in Persian cooking. I was excited about delving into uncharted territory, the culinary delights of Persia, only to discover my once dodgy oven is now a completely non-functioning oven. The top burners don’t work either.

Big dilemma: do I make a Persian salad or sour plum pickles? I think not. But I did see a recipe for a date shake. I haven't had a date shake in quite a while, since my brief summer stay in Indio, California. The memory of the delicious date shake on that hot summer day came flooding back to me; the kebabs and other delicacies will have to wait till the oven is replaced.

The date shake recipe is your average milkshake recipe, except with yogurt. One powerful lesson learned was “don’t freeze bananas with the peel on,” unless you have a hammer handy. The “Dish” is in need of a tall, cool beverage, not a construction tool! I stuffed the ingredients into the blender and let it do its thing. Result: sweet, heavenly date shake!


*****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 Faceboook page and I’ll get cooking!

Ukulele Jam Sessions at Foster!

Come join us at
E.P. Foster Library every second and fourth Monday
for our new
Ukulele Jam Sessions!

All skill levels are welcome to come by the Topping Room and strum, sing, and learn more about this amazing instrument. Don’t own a ukulele? Ask about borrowing one from the library!

The first session will be on Monday, March 10, from 7 to 10 p.m. Stay for as little or as much time as you’d like.
We hope to see you there!

The Bionic Woman, Volume 1: Mission Control

I know I’m dating myself, but when I was a young girl I used to watch The Bionic Woman with Lindsay Wagner. I’m not talking reruns, either, I mean when it originally aired. As a kid growing up in the seventies, Jamie Summers was a role model for me and other young girls. She showed us that we could be strong, independent, and more than just a pretty face.

Now, Jamie Summers is back and re-imagined for a new generation of young women, with the new release of The Bionic Woman, Volume 1: Mission Control. Jamie Summers seems tailor-made for this modern era of computers and cell phones. Along with her bionic arm, legs, and hearing, she also has the ability to change her appearance and access the internet without ever using an actual computer. The first half of the story deals with bionic parts being stolen from their living recipients and the black market that sells them to the wealthy. The second half involves female robot clones being used as soldiers and slaves, their blossoming sentience, and their fight for independence.

While there is some similarity to the Jamie Summers I grew up with, this current incarnation is definitely different. Her relationship with Steve Austin (the Six Million Dollar Man, for those who remember) is over; she has no memory of her previous life, and there are so many people trying to steal her technology that she neither has a real home nor a social life. In spite of that, Jamie is tough and determined. She does get roughed up a lot, but she proves to be a tough contender, and kicks some major butt. She still shows that a woman can be just as strong and capable as a man, and is as much of a role model today as she was when I was a little girl.

 

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

New Veterans Resource Center Opening at Foster Library

Next Friday, E.P. Foster Library will be revealing its new Veterans Resource Center! Join us at 4 p.m. on March 7, 2014, for the grand opening ceremony and light refreshments.

Following the ceremony, the Big Read kickoff event will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the Bell Arts Factory.

Stop by Foster to check out this exciting new community resource!

AND THE WINNERS ARE…

The American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books, video, and audio books for children and young adults—including the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz awards.

2014 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo

 

Four Newbery Honor Books also were named: 

Doll Bones,” written by Holly Black  

The Year of Billy Miller,” written by Kevin Henkes 

One Came Home,” written by Amy Timberlake 

Paperboy,” written by Vince Vawter 

2014 Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca 

 

Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: 

Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker 

Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle 

Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner 

2014 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

Midwinterblood,” written by Marcus Sedgwick

 

Four Printz Honor Books also were named:

Eleanor & Park,” written by Rainbow Rowell 

“Kingdom of Little Wounds,” written by Susann Cokal 

Maggot Moon,” written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch 

Navigating Early,” written by Clare Vanderpool 

This is just a partial list of award winners, for the complete list go to the American Library Association at www.ala.org.

David's Dish: Bread Pudding

Bread pudding—I’ve been itching to make some for ages. If you have the hankering to make bread pudding, there is one cookbook that I must recommend: Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking: 150 Delicious and Simple Recipes Anyone Can Master, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. The cookbook is packed with some of the best recipes for Italian dishes. If I could add just one more Italian cookbook to my personal collection, this would be the one.

Once I saw the pear bread pudding recipe my indecisive mind was made up, pear bread pudding was to be created. I had no trouble rustling up the ingredients, except for the stale bread. We love bread in my household, it rarely gets stale. So, with a late afternoon trip to the supermarket, I secured my stale loaf of bread. Yeah! My plan was to serve the bread pudding on Sunday. It was a rare Saturday night when I wasn’t in demand at some exotic locale, so staying home and making bread pudding seemed to be quite reasonable.

After cracking the eggs, whisking the heavy cream and whatnot, I placed the mixture into a baking dish and slid it into my very dodgy oven. With my oven it is guesswork, if 45 minutes of baking time is called for in the recipe it may take an hour, with lots of sneaking-a-peek through the oven window. The aroma of vanilla, one of the pudding’s ingredients, filled the kitchen—it was lovely. The downside of this lovely aroma was that it attracted my two very hungry nieces. Needless to say, that evening we consumed delicious pear bread pudding topped with whipped cream and a few red raspberries to boot. No bread pudding on Sunday…

*****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 Faceboook page and I’ll get cooking.

Novelties: "The Goldfinch," by Donna Tartt

 

When a popular book is first released it can be difficult to get your hands on a copy right away. The request lists for new best-sellers start growing early on, and can lead to weeks of waiting even when your local library has multiple copies to lend. Why not spend those weeks with yet another good book? If you know where to look, you can even find something that will whet your appetite for when that best-seller finds its way to you.

“Novelties” will provide reader’s advisory for those of you who are interested in new and popular fiction and non-fiction. The recommendations found here were obtained by using NoveList Plus, an online reader’s advisory resource that you can access through the Ventura County Library. If you have questions about using NoveList Plus or any of the other resources in our eLibrary, feel free to stop by and ask us about them!

This month we will look at The Goldfinch, the most recent work by Donna Tartt. Currently on top of the New York Times Best Seller List, the novel follows Theo Decker in the aftermath of a tragedy that robs him of his mother and leaves him in possession of a painting that he clings to as a reminder of her. From here Theo is thrust into a bleak reality where he is forced to grow up too quickly and take care of himself when no one else will. The book is about Theo’s struggle for survival, for physical and psychological well-being in a dreary, corrupt world, and about the uplifting and transformative power of art. Though it weighs in at over 700 pages, The Goldfinch is compellingly written; many readers have said they weren’t able to put it down!

Among NoveList’s read-alikes for The Goldfinch is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. Like Tartt’s novel, this is a coming-of-age story, although in this case the main character is a young woman named Victoria. Like Theo, she has had a difficult childhood, having been abandoned by her parents and raised in a succession of foster homes. But while Theo is forced into the world by a traumatizing loss, Victoria is more a victim of neglect and indifference—she simply ages out of the system having no ties to friends or family. The Language of Flowers is about her gradually building a life for herself while learning to connect with others through shared passions and work toward healthy and lasting relationships.

Another of The Goldfinch’s read-alikes is The Double Bind, by Chris Bohjalian. The novel follows Laurel Estabrook, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress resulting from an attack that occurred several years prior. Rather than focusing on just her case, however, Bohjalian has his protagonist delve into the life of another damaged soul—a mentally ill, alcoholic homeless man whose passing leaves Laurel with a box of photographs that point to a life that wasn’t always so harsh. By investigating this man and his mysterious connection to her past, Laurel works through her own trauma. Like the two novels above, The Double Bind deals heavily with the psychology of individuals who have been damaged in some way, and the difficulties they must face to find out what it means for them to be whole again.

The GoldfinchThe Language of Flowers, and The Double Bind are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. You can 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 a copy either in-person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

Prepared and presented by Ronald Martin.

Moon Shots

 

 

Have you ever taken a picture of the moon only to have it turn out as a big white blob? Did you ever wonder why that happens? I used to ask myself the same question until I found out that when you take pictures of the moon, you need to keep in mind that the moon is the brightest object in the sky.

A long exposure doesn’t capture the detail in the moon because it is then over-exposed. You need to meter for the brightness of the moon so that you don’t end up with an overexposed white blob. While you do need a telephoto or a zoom lens (or a camera with a built-in zoom) to capture detail, you don’t need a telescope or super expensive equipment to get a decent image.

The photographs presented here were shot with a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) and a 70-300mm lens at 300mm mounted on a tripod.

If you want to improve your photography, no matter what the subject, Foster Library has many excellent photography books to help you reach your goal.

 

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

Django Unchained, the Graphic Novel

When you go to see a movie, what was originally in the script doesn’t always end up on the screen. To keep a film within a reasonable viewing time, some cuts need to be made. Do you ever wonder about those missing parts of the story? Do you think it would make a difference to the way the story is told?

Well, in the case of Django Unchained, those missing parts are missing no more. Based on Quentin Tarantino’s original, uncut screenplay, this graphic novel tells the story of a slave who seeks to find his wife and bring vengeance upon those who took her. With the help of a German bounty hunter, Django learns to play a dangerous charade that takes him all the way to the doors of a southern plantation known as Candyland, run by a ruthless and twisted “gentleman” named Calvin Candie.

Django Unchained, the graphic novel, is every bit as violent as the movie it’s based on. It takes place two years before the Civil War, when slavery was in full swing, and slaves were ruled by the cruel hands of their masters. While I did enjoy the graphic novel, be warned: it is violent, and the N-word is used profusely. It is a product of that time (and it is Quentin Tarantino’s story, after all), but the language may be uncomfortable for some. What made it worth reading was Django’s determined search to find his wife, as well as his friendship/partnership with the bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz. At first, Schultz merely needs Django’s assistance in tracking down a bounty, but the two men form a friendship of sorts as Schultz teaches Django the ways of a bounty hunter. More importantly, he treats him as an equal.

If you’re a fan of the Tarantino film, this book will give you an expanded view of the story, one that is worth reading.

 

-Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

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