By: Maggie Riney
Think of the strongest person you know. What characteristics does he or she possess? Do they face adversity without doubt? Do they stand alongside the oppressed when the world seemingly turned its back? Do they stand firm in their beliefs? Holocaust survivor and author Fred Gross contains all of these qualities and many more.
In his moving memoir, One Step Ahead of Hitler: A Jewish Child’s Journey through France, Gross recants his family’s chilling tale of fleeing Nazi Germany’s invasion into Belgium. We are lucky enough to have him speak at the Daviess County Public Library on February 2nd at 6:00 PM.
If one would like further information Holocaust survivors, below are several downloadable resources.
New York Time’s bestselling author Leon Leyson tells his heart wrenching account of being forced to relocate from Poland to the Krakow ghetto in The Boy on the Wooden Box. In his story he experiences immensurable horror and, thankfully, meets a smart and clever man by the name of Oskar Schindler who saves his life.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom follows an incredibly influential heroine of the Resistance. Beginning as a Dutch watchmaker, Boom and her family risk their lives helping rescue Jews from capture. For their bravery they were punished in one the Nazi death camps, themselves.
In the film As Seen Through These Eyes, see the artwork that Holocaust survivors created during their time in the Concentration Camps and after. Narrated by Maya Angelou, these brave souls fought against the Third Reich using their memory and pencil to paper.
All of the above titles, as well as hundreds of others, are available on the Hoopla App using your library card information.
Please take this tremendous opportunity to come and listen to Fred Gross on February 2nd and 6:00 PM.
Our “Best Of 2016” series will be a bit different than most. Rather than having the staff write about things released this year, we’ve elected to allow anything they’ve listened to/played/read/watched this year that they’ve enjoyed. Favorite programs we’ve hosted also might make lists as well. Our second installment comes to us from Taryn Norris of our Public Services.
The two reviews listed below are just a couple children’s books (one picture book and one juvenile/middle grades fiction) that were my two favorites this year. To include the highest circulating and most popular titles from 2016, see the list below.
• A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Sam Winston
For book lovers of all ages, Jeffers creates a beautifully creative picture book illustrated with books and lines from books. Two children discover all the wonder in the “mountains of make-believe” and “the forests of fairy tales” as they journey through a landscape of words. This book can be read simply for its story or the discovery of lines from classic works such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Great Expectations, and The Swiss Family Robinson.
• The Search for WondLa written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
A tale of self-discovery in the vein of The Wizard of Oz, The Search for WondLa follows a young girl, Eva Nine, and wise alien, Rovender Kitt, as they search for Eva’s family. DiTerlizzi intricately weaves together the landscape and creatures of the planet Orbona with his many details and unexpected action. Sci-fi/fantasy fans will fall in love with this series! Be sure to have book #2 (A Hero for WondLa) on hand as soon as you finish this one!
Here are some of the highest circulating (most popular) children’s books of 2016.
If you’re looking for…
• Hilariously true struggles and misadventures of middle school, try the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
• Time traveling child adventurers, try the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne
• Pre-teens who turn out to be gods, try The Trials of Apollo series (Greek gods) or Magnus Chase and the gods of Asgard series (Norse gods) by Rick Riordan
• Fun, family stories about everyday life and valuable lessons, try the Berenstain Bears books by Jan and Stan Berenstain
• Picture books for girly girls who love dress-up and princesses, try the Fancy Nancy books by Jane O’Connor
Our “Best Of 2016” series will be a bit different than most. Rather than having the staff write about things released this year, we’ve elected to allow anything they’ve listened to/played/read/watched this year that they’ve enjoyed. Favorite programs we’ve hosted also might make lists as well. Our second installment comes to us from Kevin Clark of our Reference Department.
• Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
We are a product of our choices. Every time you make a choice a new version of you is created. And another version of you exists somewhere who made the opposite choice. This is the core idea of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. Jason Dessen is a family man and physics professor at a middling Chicago college, and by his own admission he’s essentially happy where he is. But after a startling abduction and drugging he finds himself in a world he doesn’t recognize. No longer married to his wife, his son nowhere to be found, surrounded by people whom he doesn’t recognize but who clearly know him. What’s happened? The story of Dark Matter begins, and it dynamically spirals down the rabbit hole of string theory. Jason must discover, first what’s happened to him, second how to get back to the life he knows, and finally how to move forward knowing what he now knows. From page one Crouch infuses this story with urgency and momentum that carries the reader though an exciting and mind bending adventure with the highest stakes. Crouch does a great job of explaining some pretty heady scientific concepts in a way that clarifies without bogging the story down with too much hard science. He’s also created an interesting and rounded character in Jason Dessen who we can see ourselves in and root for. Dark Matter is an epic adventure tale on the scale (perhaps larger) of The Odyssey that science fiction fans will enjoy. It’ll leave you wondering where you’d be had your choices been different.
• Nod by Adrian Barnes
Without sleep the human mind will lapse into psychosis within six days. After four weeks the body begins to shut down. What if the people of the world suddenly lost the ability to sleep? What if everyone were slowly losing their minds except a lucky few who could still sleep? What would the world become? That’s Adrian Barnes’ Nod. Paul and Tanya live in Vancouver when the sleeplessness inexplicably hits. An uncomfortable curiosity quickly turns to distressing panic when it’s realized not only are most people not sleeping, but what might happen if it continues. Paul is one of the lucky few still able to sleep. At night he dreams of a euphoric bright light, while during the day he watches Tanya slowly disintegrate into a grotesque version of her former self. As the larger world spins out of control Paul must figure out how to navigate this new world while keeping himself and those he cares for safe. This engrossing tale written in vibrant prose is a short list nominee for the Arthur C. Clark award. It’s a quick and entertaining read that just might keep you up at night.
• Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
Speculative Fiction novel Underground Airlines is not quite a masterpiece, but it definitely kept me thinking for a while after reading. The world of Underground Airlines is not like our own. In this world there was no Emancipation Proclamation and slavery was never completely abolished. The states still employing slavery are known as the Hard Four and they are places hard to reconcile with our modern thinking. The larger world is, at times seemingly no different than our own, while at other times startlingly foreign. Protagonist, Victor, is a young black US Marshall tasked with tracking down and returning runaway slaves. While pursuing a man named Jackdaw Victor’s feelings for his job become increasingly complicated as his past begins to mingle with his present. Ben Winters has created a story that is engaging and exciting, and through the use of Victor’s struggle to square himself with his job and his world actually makes a commentary on our current world. This book may be a bit of a challenge for some readers, but those who see it through will undoubtedly get something out of it.
• The Fireman by Joe Hill
Joe Hill may use a different name, but he has no qualms embracing his dear old dad Stephen King’s legacy. In The Fireman Hill simultaneously maintains that legacy while completely standing on his own as a great fiction writer. In The Fireman Hill imagines a world ravaged by a plague called Dragonscale. The infected are traced with black and gold markings along their skin and distress and anxiety eventually cause them to burst into flames. Harper is a nurse during the onset of the Dragonscale outbreak and quickly finds herself not only infected, but also pregnant. Her fight to keep herself and her unborn child safe takes her to some terrifying and also surprising places. Harper soon learns that what she thought was a death sentence may actually be a great strength. I cannot say much more without spoiling the reveals that Hill sprinkles throughout the story. Hill is a master of defying expectations and changes the trajectory of the story multiple times with dizzying and exciting effect. Stephen King fans may also notice a few references that create connective tissue between the works of father and son. I was constantly surprised by this book and I highly recommend it.
Our “Best Of 2016” series will be a bit different than most. Rather than having the staff write about things released this year, we’ve elected to allow anything they’ve listened to/played/read/watched this year that they’ve enjoyed. Favorite programs we’ve hosted also might make lists as well. Our first installment comes to us from Christina Clary, an Associate Library Specialist in our Kentucky Room.
This has been a pretty rough year. Like most people, I am more than ready for it to be over. Unfortunately, this year’s awfulness has even seeped over into my reading list. New releases from my favorite authors ended up being major letdowns, and there just wasn’t anything for me that jumped out as amazing. Nothing was truly bad, but not a lot was great. Maybe I just didn’t read the right books this year? I don’t know. In honor of the theme of this year, which apparently is “Everything is Awful!,” I will be listing my most disappointing books of the year. Never fear optimists! I will then follow up with the books that I actually liked in hope of a better new year. I will probably be writing another post after I read more books released this year. I have a whole stack of them that I am hoping will make up for the disappointing ones.
P.S. I’m not including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in this list. I’m pretending it never happened.
• Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran
I love Michelle Moran. She is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I will read anything she publishes. Sadly, that includes this book about the infamous WWI spy Mata Hari. This book wasn’t necessarily bad, it just seemed so far removed from any of Moran’s other writings. The book just kind of started, and jumped around from there. I wonder if there was some sort of editing issue that happened, as it felt like a bunch of stuff was cut out and Moran never had the chance to tidy it and make it flow better. While I own all of Moran’s other books, I probably will not be adding this one to my collection. If you want to check out this author, I recommend starting out with Cleopatra’s Daughter. It was my first Moran book.
• A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander
Tasha, may I call you that? I feel like I can call you by your first name, as we’ve been through 10 books and several short stories together by now. Tasha, did someone force you to write this book? Was it your publisher? Did you invest your money in a Ponzi scheme and lost it all and now you have to keep writing books to make more money? Because this book was boring, unnecessary, and bleh. It’s okay if you don’t want to write any more Lady Emily mysteries. You can end it. I mean, you’re at the point where you’re rehashing plotlines (is Emily’s first husband actually still alive?) and the characters aren’t evolving (move on Duke Jeremy!). You had a good run. Quit while you’re ahead. Don’t be a Charlaine Harris and drag this out to a completely unsatisfying conclusion that everyone abhors. Just move on if that’s what you want.
• Bohemian Gospel by Dana Chamblee Carpenter
This book was good until it got weird, and then it got bad. Real bad. Like, stare at the book after I read the last page wondering what just happened bad. This had so much potential. You don’t find many historical fiction novels about medieval Bohemia. I had such high hopes for this book. And it started out so well. A girl named Mouse with a mysterious past that lives at an abbey and has strange powers, heals the conveniently super-hot teenage king, and joins his entourage. The book gets weirder as it delves more into her oddities, which are revealed to be of supernatural origin that may or may not be from the devil. I had no idea this book had supernatural stuff in it, as it’s not mentioned at all in any of the book descriptions. And then it takes over the historical part of the story, and just gets weirder, but still in a kind of good way. She falls in love with the king and saves him from his crazy father, etc. The usual stuff you would expect from this type of book. And then she runs into woods. And it. Gets. Crazy. That’s the only way I can describe what happens. And then, as if the crazy wasn’t weird enough already, something happens that is just like “whaaaaaattt.” And then it ends. Clearly, Carpenter was setting up for a sequel. Or at least I would hope so, because that was a terrible ending otherwise. And just weird. Have I mentioned that this book was weird, and not in a good way?
• Spark Joy by Marie Kondo
Was anyone else extremely distracted the entire time they read Marie Kondo’s books by her obvious mental issues that were manifesting as a child in her extreme obsession for tidiness? Or do you think she was just exaggerating that part to sell her persona? I hope so. Because I’m pretty sure that’s not normal. I don’t really have much else to say about her books. Why are they so popular? Does anyone else imagine that she lives in a super white and clean house where everything is clean and white and sterile and there’s nothing in it? Or do you think she secretly has a hoarder house? I bet it’s a hoarder house.
The Good – Note: These were not necessarily published in 2016
• Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
I took a chance on this book, as it is sci-fi, a genre I usually tend to avoid. But the premise sounded interesting, and the format was different, so I gave it a shot. It’s all told in the framing of interviews and journal entries, so it has a World War Z vibe to it. A young girl stumbles across a giant metal hand, and grows up to be the scientist studying it. As more pieces are found, it’s become clear that it’s supposed to be assembled together in a human like form that serves as a weapon. How did these pieces get here, and how does the weapon work? Are there others out there, and are they coming from us? Will they be super angry when they see how awful humanity is and punish us? The book only hints at the answers, as this is meant to be the first in a trilogy, because everything has to be a trilogy now days.
• The Tearling Series by Erika Johansen
Speaking of trilogies, I’m cheating with this, as it is not just one book. But I couldn’t really just pick one. The series follows Kelsea Raleigh, a girl who on her 19th birthday leaves her home in exile to take up the mantle of Queen of the Tearling. The books are dystopian. As in, the Tearling was founded as a utopia but then fell apart. So, actually dystopian. There are mysteries, and twists and turns and action and actual character development. Kelsea is genuinely concerned with doing what’s best for her people, even if she messes up occasionally, and learns from her mistakes. Plus, there’s time travel that’s actually interesting, as we learn what lead to the original settlers leaving their home and founding the Tear. Some of the reveals of the main mysteries were a bit of a letdown (after all the fuss that was made about who her father might be, that’s who it was?). And I still don’t know how I feel about the ending. It was not what was expected. If you need a new trilogy, and you like kickass heroines, read this one.
• The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This year needed a fun book, and this one fit the bill. Also, I may or may not be secretly obsessed with Kate Middleton and her hair. The book is unabashedly fan fiction of the relationship between Middleton and Prince William. American tomboy Bex falls in love with Nick, who just so happens to be in line for the British throne. Hijinks ensue, especially with the ginger-playboy-younger brother (sound familiar?) Was this book perfect? It was written by people who mainly write a blog, so no it was not. But it was addictive and fun and sometimes I just want to read books that aren’t necessarily the best written but are still enjoyable. Even if the characters act really awful and make stupid decisions. A guilty pleasure, you might call it, although I don’t feel any shame about loving this one. Also, see aforementioned obsession with Kate Middleton. And her hair. It’s just so perfect ALL THE TIME.
• The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown
This year may have been bad, but at least I didn’t have to resort to cannibalism to avoid death by starvation. Many of you may know Brown from his book The Boys on the Boat, which I also read this year, and absolutely loved. That book is pretty well known though, so I will focus on his other book about the doomed Donner party. This was a topic that I have heard a lot about, but never really knew of the details. Well I got them, every last gory detail. Those poor people were doomed from the very beginning, when they started out on the trail too late in the season. When you mix that with bad leadership, tense relationships, and shortcuts that weren’t actually shortcuts, they never had much of a chance to make it. What made this book so great was Brown’s descriptions and attention to detail, which made me feel like I was there. I definitely was wrapped in many blankets while reading this.
By: Maggie Riney
Ah, the holidays. The holidays are a time of generosity, a time of family, and a time to avoid sitting by Aunt Bertha because “No, I’m not dating anyone,” and, “Yes, I did hear that cousin Allie is engaged to a nice investment banker.”
While in between sips (who am I kidding, GLASSES) of your mom’s boxed wine and Uncle Kenny’s heated political debate with Great-Aunt Muriel that climate change does, in fact, exist, you may want get away. You may want to hide underneath your childhood twin bed and have a good laugh. And that, my fellow conflict-avoidance friends, I can help you with.
The best way to endure the craziness one’s family brings during the holidays is to find a household that is much more hectic than yours. The uproarious Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs is guaranteed to make your kin seem as calm as the untouched Brussels sprouts casserole created by next-door neighbor Nancy. Inside you’ll find a dysfunctional psychiatrist, a self-taught veterinarian, and a delicious amount of mommy issues. You will only want to put this down if you are certain there is a new batch of Sister Schubert rolls coming from the oven.
If you are looking for a film to bring a smile to your face after being forced to sit at the kid’s table for the twenty-fifth consecutive year, perhaps try the movie Wild Oats. The perfect Jessica Lange and Shirley MacLaine show that desire and adventures come at every age, and perhaps that growing up is a lifelong process. (Take that Grandma Harriet for saying “When I was your age…”.)
Finally, is it time for Aunt Vivian to pull out her iPhone 3G to show pictures of her annual vacation to Sheboygan? Maybe you will need a little more time in your hideout (along with two slices of pumpkin pie and whatever is left in Grandpa Carl’s hip flask). For this, I suggest the amazingly witty show Shameless. You can relish in the fact that within the one hour it takes to watch your purse wasn’t stolen, you didn’t meet someone with a secret identity, and you didn’t walk in on an affair, and that is just the first episode.
While you cannot pick the family you are born into, you can pick your downloads (and just how much “cheer” you put in your eggnog). All of the content above, as well as hundreds of books, graphic novels, audiobooks, music, movies, and television shows are available for free on the Hoopla app with your library card information. Perhaps your hiding place will become a home for hibernating all winter long, or at least during the holiday season.