In celebration of Thanksgiving, Wake County Public Libraries will be closed Thursday, November 27 and Friday, November 28, re-opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 29. We wish all of you a safe, happy and tasty holiday!
Who doesn’t feel even a tiny bit nostalgic when seeing the endless running of “The Christmas Story” on cable TV? Come on, admit it: you do. Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a delightful Christmas tale by veteran storyteller Wally Lamb (and resident of my hometown in Connecticut!); a racier, edgier, more irreverent 1960’s version of the classic Red Rider BB Gun tale, The Christmas Story (which by the way was based on a book by Jean Shepherd.) Wishin’ and Hopin’ is a short novel sure to get you in the holiday spirit.
It’s 1964 in fictional Three Rivers, Connecticut, and 10-year-old Felix Funicello (yes, related to ANNETTE) is in the fifth grade at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School, in love with his teacher and the new mysterious Russian transfer student Zhenya Kabakova. Lamb describes the novel; “It’s 1964 and ten-year-old Felix is sure of a few things: the birds and the bees are puzzling, television is magical, and this is one Christmas he’ll never forget.” That about sums it up, with the addition of a Christmas pageant at school that spins off into crazy land. This is a hilarious coming of age story set at Christmas; baby boomers especially will find this a romp of a read, full of cultural references from the 60’s that are sure to strike pangs of nostalgia for an earlier time.
The movie will air on the Lifetime Network, on December 6. It is narrated by Chevy Chase, and stars Molly Ringwald, Annabella Sciorra, Cheri Oteri, and Meat Loaf (as the Monsignor!).
One thing that helps make my long commute bearable is a great audio book, and Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper certainly qualifies! I know the author best as the writer of the fantasy series, The Dark is Rising, but I think this historical fiction title is her best yet.
Ghost Hawk starts with the story of Little Hawk, an 11-year-old Pokanoket Indian boy being sent off to spend three months in the winter wilderness with only a knife, a tomahawk, and a bow and arrows. If he survives and returns to his tribe, he will be a man. Little Hawk battles starvation, bitter weather, and wild animals in his struggles to survive on his own. But when he finally returns home to find his village decimated by disease, Little Hawk faces his greatest trial yet.
In an attempt to ensure their survival, the diminished tribal villages negotiate a troubled relationship with the Pilgrim settlers. During a chance meeting between Little Hawk and John Wakeley, a Pilgrim boy from Plymouth, tragedy strikes, and the boys are bound together in a mysterious way. Through this connection, John begins to understand the pain of the Native Americans’ plight and assumes the guilt of their cruel treatment by European settlers.
As tensions between the settlers and the natives escalate, John’s sympathies put him in increasing danger, and he must decide whether to do what is safe, or to do what is right.
Ghost Hawk is filled with adventure, mystery, danger, and even has a little romance. The book is wholly engrossing– I could not wait to get back in my car to continue listening to it! Cooper’s writing is exquisite and her historical facts are accurate. Many of the major historical figures of the time appear in the story, helping create an air of authenticity.
The author reads a timeline of Native American history and talks a little about her sources at the end of the audio book. So, if, like me, you hate for a great book to end, Cooper gives you some great ideas for where to look next.
In the year 2083, Anya Balanchine is unlike most of her peers. She is heiress to the Balanchine Chocolate Company. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately for Anya, it makes her a mafya Princess, a criminal. Chocolate and caffeine are illegal substances in the United States, much like alcohol was in early 20th Century America. As hard as that is, her life is complicated even more by the fact that she is the primary caregiver in the family. On paper it’s her bedridden grandmother, but in reality Anya takes care of her grandmother, her younger sister Natty, and older brother Leo who suffered a traumatic brain injury after the assassination that killed her mother. Her father was murdered later while Anya and Natty watched from under a desk.
Anya still has all the typical teenage stuff to worry about. She has a boyfriend Gable who turns out to be a frog rather than a prince, and just wants to use Anya for her connection to the illicit chocolate. Things come to a tipping point when Anya meets the new boy Win, and he also seems to like her. The catch: Win is the son of the assistant District Attorney for NYC and, well, Anya is the daughter of a crime boss. Neither Anya’s family nor Win’s parents approve of the two of them dating.
As Anya’s life takes unexpected twists and turns, she must decide who she wants to be when she becomes a legal adult. Can Anya live her life on her own terms, or will familial pressure draw her down a path she cannot foresee?
This compelling read is the first in the Anya Balanchine trilogy. Zevin writes a coming of age trilogy where there are no easy solutions.
Teenager Jeremy Johnson Johnson (yes, his middle and last names are both Johnson) lives in the offbeat town of Never Better, which can only be located by those searching for it (but if you find it once, you’ll never lose your way when you try to return). He and his father run the Two Book Bookstore, which stocks just two books. And Jeremy’s best friend is the ghost of Jacob Grimm. This quirky setting is the backdrop for one of the most unique books I’ve read in a while – part ghost story, part dark fairy tale. Like many fairy tales, the good characters are truly good, the villains are shockingly evil, and the magic is unexplained but ever present.
Jacob doesn’t know why he has a duty to look after Jeremy, but he knows he does. He knows that he must find and protect Jeremy from a mysterious figure known only as the Finder of Occasions. Jeremy is the only one who can hear Jacob, and Jacob has become his constant companion as he struggles to cope with his mother having left the family and his father sinking into depression as a result. Jeremy is focused on his schoolwork, his one man lawn business, and planning for a better future – until the day he and the daring, beautiful Ginger Boultinghouse meet and she takes an interest in him. Much to his surprise, he and Ginger become fast friends. But soon, an innocent enough prank goes wrong and the town turns on Jeremy. Soon, Jeremy is at risk of losing the bookstore and his home. As Ginger tries to help Jeremy figure out a way out of his dilemma, they start to uncover dark secrets about Never Better: the town has had a mysterious string of disappearances of children and teens, and they may be in danger of something far worse than being shunned by the townspeople.
Jacob continues to fret about the danger Jeremy is in from the Finder of Occasions as more and more ominous signs appear – but the truth about the missing children is darker than anyone in Never Better suspects. As things start getting more twisted, the story gets more and more gripping. McNeal writes the kind of fairy tale that grabs you and won’t let your imagination go – and the kind of story that makes you want to leave the light on if you read it late at night!
Mrs. Pollifax (Emily) was recovering from a torture situation which occurred in Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha. Emily and her husband had planned a vacation in Thailand. But, at the last minute Bishop from the CIA came to their home with a small request. Would they detour a little and go to Chiang Mai? All they have to do was very simple, they had to find Ruamsak and exchange a solid gold Buddha votive tablet for his important info on an Asian coup. Emily agreed to do this small job for CIA while on her vacation.
But when she went in the hut to meet Ruamsak, she found him dead with a big knife in his belly! On top of that she could not find her husband Cyrus with her. She runs out of the hut to see Cyrus being kidnapped by some strange men. Now she has to trust a self-appointed guide named Bonchoo and travel with him in the Thailand countryside to rescue her husband. Two strange men on motorcycle were following them and they tried to kill Bonchoo twice. They had to abandon Bonchoo’s truck and travel on foot in the forest. In the forest they meet Mr. Monarjay, a Buddhist holy man who helps them to find her husband. She meets teak smugglers, generals with warlord attitudes and secret shun encampments. She almost gets killed trying to get out of a dangerous forest. This is a cozy mystery to enjoy.
Bloom owner, Cara Kryzik is a talented florist slowly making a name for herself with Savannah’s elite. Bloom is doing steady business and she has a great reputation in Savannah for being creative and cutting edge.
Cara and her assistant, Bert are making great progress on the arrangements and other decor for the Fanning wedding, the most high profile wedding she has secured and everything must go accordingly. In spite of a major obstacle, Cara’s ability to pull off The Fanning wedding opened many doors for her, and lands her the biggest wedding of her career. Brooke Trappnell has requested that Cara not only do the floral arrangements for her wedding, but also serve as the wedding planner. Obtaining the contract for the Trappnell-Strayhorn wedding will put her in a position to take care of some urgent financial obligations. Cara is busy at work trying to get everything in place for the wedding but she still finds time to pursue a courtship with Jack Finnerty, a handsome contractor that she keeps bumping into at weddings.
As Cara starts working out the details for the Trappnell-Strayhorn wedding, life starts to spiral out of control. Her assistant starts pulling no shows, a new florist in town is trying to sabotage her reputation, her romance with Jack fizzles, and her bride may be coming down with a case of cold feet.
Save the Date has just the right dose of suspense, wit, romance and southern charm. In her usual fashion, Mary Kay Andrews paints a colorful story and introduces you to a great cast of characters.
Dismas Hardy has acquired a new client, Hal Chase. Hal is a prison guard in the Sheriff’s department in San Francisco county. Hal’s wife Katie has disappeared , leaving their two small children alone in their house. A couple of spots of blood have been found and foul play is suspected. Since the first person people think of as the murderer is the husband, Hal decides to be pro-active and get himself a lawyer. And so starts John Lescroart’s latest book, The Keeper.
In order to find out as much as possible, Dis decides to hire his old pal retired homicide detective, Abe Glitsky to find out what he can about the lives of the Chase family. At the same time a scandal may be ready to arise out of some mysterious prisoner deaths at the county jail where Hal Chase works. Wes Ferrell , the county DA and another friend of Hardy is about to open another ‘can of worms.’
The two stories may intervene as Chase is one of the guards at the county jail. Lescroart will keep you guessing with his latest page turner. I confess to being a big fan of Lescroart and this is one of his best.
“What if the catalyst or the key to understanding creation lay somewhere in the immense mind of the whale? Suppose if God came back from wherever it is he’s been and asked us smilingly if we’d figured it out yet. Suppose he wanted to know if it had finally occurred to us to ask the whale. And then he sort of looked around and he said, ‘By the way, where are the whales?'”
As Cormac McCarthy points out, the whales have a great deal to teach Homo sapiens. The Bible describes poetically how “the great creatures of the sea” were created before humankind (Genesis 1:20-23), and science makes the same claim: while Homo sapiens has been around for perhaps 200,000 years, the whales have roamed the oceans for tens of millions of years. The wisdom bestowed upon the whales by time is thus immense and studies of whales and other creatures have helped improve the life of human beings. When we annihilate a species, we destroy future discoveries – keys to longer life spans, cures for diseases, spectacular engineering feats – and the destruction of a species is the destruction of a resource that cannot be quantified.
So, “‘where are the whales?'” Some of them are already gone forever, others are on the brink of extinction, and many are threatened. The ruthless whale hunting took an extreme toll on their numbers, but whaling is no longer the major threat to whales. Instead, other dangers have emerged. How the documented warming of the oceans will affect whale populations is yet unknown. What is beyond a doubt is that marine traffic is a serious and constant danger, as is the pollution of the oceans – not the least noise pollution.
For marine life drowns in man-made noise, and studies indicate that sonar used by navies to track submarines can result in mass strandings of whales. Sonar also drives whales away from areas that are important to their survival, and it has been documented that these mammals abandon feeding for extended periods when sonar is in use.
War of the Whales, a deeply moving true story by Joshua Horwitz, describes the whales’ historic and current circumstances and how environmental law attorney Joel Reynolds takes the U.S. Navy to court to expose the Navy sonar program and reduce ocean noise pollution. While Reynolds is involved in this enormous challenge, marine biologist Ken Balcomb witnesses an atypical mass stranding of whales. Balcomb investigates the disaster and his hard evidence leads him to join Reynolds: the stage is set for a clash between an intrusive man-made world and the need to protect life in the ocean.
As the case travels through the U.S. legal system, Reynolds knows that a conservation battle never truly can be won: “the environment is never saved. It always needs saving. So do the whales.”
This book is one of those truly gorgeous craft books that are fun to browse through. Best of all, these realistic-looking flowers are easy to make—all you need is crepe paper, scissors, florist’s tape, and floral wire. I used yellow crepe paper streamers from the drugstore, but you can go to a craft store and get a rainbow of colors and different thicknesses of paper. The nice thing about crepe paper is that it stretches, so you can use this propensity to your advantage in shaping the petals—for example, forming the cup-shaped bottom of a tulip petal. Thuss then adds whimsical centers, like pom-poms or buttons, or just twist bits of crepe paper to form realistic-looking stamens.
The book is organized into five chapters: Flowers, Materials, Skills, How-Tos, and Templates. The first chapter is filled with lush photographs of 75 different projects that make you eager to get started. The instructional pages are also illustrated with photographs and easy-to-follow text. For example, there is a page called “Anatomy of a Paper Flower” which helps you understand the terminology, and another very helpful page called “Building a Basic Flower in Layers—An Overview.”
Because of these easy-to-use features, I could jump around and attempt the projects that interested me. They are coded by difficulty level, so I went for the easiest and was very pleased by the results. I stuck a couple of them in a display at the library where I work, and several people asked me how I made them. I was delighted to tell them it only took about ten minutes, and to recommend this book!