Molly Hagan is a 40 year old mother with a 6 year old son and a husband–soon to be ex-husband, who dumped her for a younger woman. He has lost his job and has fallen behind in his child support payments, forcing Molly to look for work after being a stay-at-home Mom for several years. Feeling insecure about her abilities, her age, her skills and her body, Megan takes a job offered by a friend as a copy writer, designing the menu and name for a new bakery near the New York Public Library. The owners want a tie in with books, and Molly uses her ability to create puns as a source for the name of the bakery–Vanity Fare. Molly is a wonderfully written character and we see her change and grow through the book, becoming more confident in who she is and what she wants out of life. Molly’s circle of friends and supporters are likeable characters and are well-drawn. There is romance and humor, and the names for the baked goods at the bakery–”Tart of Darkness”, “Of Mousse and Men” for example, are tied to literary references. This is a delightful story, filled with fun, descriptions of wonderful desserts and starring a woman who struggles to turn into the person she aspires to be.
Manhattan Public Library
What are the ten best Western films of all time? Well, that depends on who you ask. You can find many lists of top Western films on the Web, but Classic Western Films no two lists will include the same films. Gayot.com, Reelz.com, Amctv.com, IGN.com, the American Film Institute, the Internet Movie Database, Rotten Tomatoes, and many other websites have their own opinions on which are the best Westerns. Since there doesn’t seem to be any consensus among the experts, I’ve come up with my own list of favorite Westerns. My own top ten, in no particular order, are:
“The Magnificent Seven,” 1960, directed by John Sturges. In this western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai,” seven American gunmen take on the job of defending a Mexican village against marauding bandits. Elmer Bernstein composed the film’s iconic theme music, later used in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes. The film stars Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Eli Wallach to name a few.
“The Searchers,” 1956, directed by John Ford. Based on the novel by Alan Le May, the film stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his niece (Natalie Wood), who has been abducted by Comanches. Major themes running through the film are the issues of racism and genocide towards Native Americans.
“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969, directed by George Roy Hill. Loosely based on actual events, the film tells the story of outlaws Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman), and the Henry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” 1966, directed by Sergio Leone. One of the “Spaghetti Westerns,” filmed in Italy and Spain, the plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold: Blondie, The Good (Clint Eastwood); Angel Eyes, The Bad (Lee Van Cleef); and Tuco, The Ugly (Eli Wallach). Ennio Morricone composed the recognizable and haunting film score.
“The Oxbow Incident,” 1943, directed by William Wellman, and starring Henry Fonda. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, the film explores the theme of mob justice and vigilante law as two drifters are drawn into a lynch mob to find and hang three men presumed to be rustlers and the killers of a local man.
“Shane,” 1953, directed by George Stevens. Based on the novel by Jack Shaefer, with a screenplay by Western author A.B. Guthrie, the film tells the story of Shane, a drifter and reluctant gunslinger. Shane (Alan Ladd) stumbles into an isolated valley in Wyoming and becomes embroiled in a land conflict between a homesteader and a ruthless cattle boss.
“True Grit,” 2010, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. A remake of another classic Western from 1969, “True Grit” directed by Henry Hathaway, and based on the novel by Charles Portis. Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross hires Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne in the original; Jeff Bridges in the remake) to bring her father’s murderer to justice.
“Unforgiven,”1992, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. A dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and the myth of the Old West. The film tells the story of William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had hung up his guns and turned to farming.
“Little Big Man,” 1970, directed by Arthur Penn, and based on the novel by Thomas Berger. At age 121, Jack Crabb (played by Dustin Hoffman) recounts the story of his life, including capture by the Cheyennes and participation in the Little Bighorn fight against George Armstrong Custer.
And last but not least, “Blazing Saddles,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks, because it’s always fun to spoof the things you love. The campfire scene alone qualifies this film as “classic.” This film satirizes the racism obscured by myth-making Hollywood accounts of the American West, with the hero being a black sheriff in an all-white town.
All of my top ten appear on one or more lists of best Westerns. Most of these titles are available in DVD format at Manhattan Public Library.
Murder, conspiracies, infidelity and scandals start this 6-part mini-series off to a fast-pace. Superbly acted with an intelligent story line filled with suspense and an unpredictable plot, this BBC production of State of Play is television at it’s best. Stephen Collins is a Member of Parliament whose researcher for his energy committee is killed on her way to her job. A young man is shot at around the same time, dismissed as a drug killing by the police. Are these events connected? Soon it becomes public that the MP was having an affair, and reporters Cal McCaffrey and Della Smith begin an investigation, which reveals that Sonia’s death was not an accident. A web of lies unfolds and it remains the job of the investigative reporters to uncover the truth. Twists and turns in the plot will keep you guessing until the end and the ensemble of excellent British actors make the story lines believable–a must-see thriller!
What does a perfect life look like? Libby, Justin and their beautiful teenage daughter, a gorgeous townhouse in Boston, a multmillion dollar construction business–What more could one want? But, after 16 years, their marriage is falling apart. On a “date” to discuss their personal problems, Justin and Libby arrive home, find the door open, the alarm off –and three menacing men waiting for them. Just as they hear their daughter scream, a touch of a taser changes their lives.Waking from a drug-induced sleep, all three are caged in a small cell in a now-abandoned prison built by non-other than Justin himself. The dark secrets they each harbor threaten everything they hold dear. Tessa Leone, a private investigator and Wyatt Foster, the local sheriff along with the FBI are trying to recover the kidnapped family alive. Why were all three taken? Why are there no calls, no ransom notes? Their lives hang in the balance in Touch and Go.
Julie Kibler has written a debut novel that won my heart. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the south during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods as years later now ninty year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelles secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by Julie Kibler!
Something just didn’t add up as I read this story, I knew there was a mystery lurking in the background, but I wasn’t sure what it was or why. Secrets were behind every turn. Willa Jackson had just moved back to Walls of Water, North Carolina. Her grandmother, Georgie Jackson, was in the nursing home there and seemed to be worried about peaches.
Paxton Osgood, now lived in The Blueridge Madam mansion, which at one time had belonged to the Jackson family. Paxton’s grandmother, Agatha Osgood, was Georgie’s best friend. Paxton decided to have a grand party to celebrate the social woman’s group that Agatha and Georgie had started years ago. Willa wasn’t interested in the event to honor both grandmothers, but when the peach tree was taken out and a skeleton was found, the secrets come out. Then we find out about the traveling salesman, Tucker Devlin, who had worked his charms on the town when Agatha and Georgie were young women. By the end of the book, both Willa and Paxton fall in love, secrets are unraveled, and everyone lives happily ever after.
The Joys of Gift Books
By Marcia Allen
Technical Services & Collections Manager
Manhattan Public Library
Throughout the year, Manhattan Public Library is the recipient of a great many gifts. Often, donors will designate a determined amount to be spent and allow staff to make selections. Other times, the donors have specific titles in mind and provide lists of materials they wish to be purchased. Either way, staff members at the library are happy to accept those new materials, and gift plates are added to inside covers of books to indicate the donor or nature of the gift.
I bring this up because the library has recently received a lovely gift that arrived at the perfect time of year. Town and Country Garden Club has once again presented a very generous gift which allowed for the purchase of ten beautiful gardening books that many folks throughout the area will truly enjoy. If you are one of the many novice or accomplished gardeners dying to get back outside to dig and to plant, you’ll want to peruse the following:
“American Horticultural Society of Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers” edited by Christopher Brickell is an exquisite sourcebook. This is an updated classic produced by Dorling Kindersley that offers design plans, hundreds of photographs of varieties, and detailed advice on care and planting. In fact, I don’t think there’s much in the gardening world that is not included in these 744 pages. You might want to consult this excellent reference before even getting started!
“Gardening Projects for Kids” by Jenny Hendy is a parent’s delight. This kid-friendly book has just the right layout and interest to get children outside and enthused about their own plantings and arrangement. None of the tasks are labor-intensive, and all are lovely to view. Some even encourage the building of simple little walls and color-coordinated designs. There’s enough here to alleviate summer’s boredom and offer kids projects to please.
“Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie” by Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa is a reprint of an older book, with a fresh, new layout and full-page color photographs of each plant. Common and Latin names are included, and the origins of those names are explained. And you’ll be surprised at all the unique uses that Native American and pioneer folks found for these plants. This is a perfect companion for a long walk in the country.
“Seed to Seed” by Suzanne Ashworth is a vegetable-grower’s delight. This handy book encourages the thrifty practice of saving seeds for next year’s planting. Ashworth’s book offers detailed information about 160 different vegetables, along with instructions on collecting, storing and planting. All of the detailed steps have been tested and refined by the author and a wide network of experienced gardeners.
“Fresh Flower Arranging” by Mark Welford and Stephen Wicks goes far beyond simply gathering a handful of flowers and placing them in a favorite vase. The authors open the book with basic guidelines for the best containers, explain the accepted theory of flower colors, and discuss the shaping involved in an arrangement. From there, they devote chapters to numbered sets of directions and breathtakingly gorgeous photos of completed arrangements. It may sound odd, but one striking arrangement is an arresting mix of dahlias, sedum, broccoli florets and spring onions!
“Designing and Creating a Cottager Garden” by Gail Harland is a gardener’s dream. Besides the expected layout design and construction tips, the book offers different seasonal views of well-planned growing spaces that offer year-long beauty. In addition, the suggested plant varieties are grouped by tendencies to climb, cluster, or adorn borders of a growing space. And the plant directory at the back of the book is stellar.
“Flowers” by Carolyne Roehm is a tribute to the beauty of flowers. Missing from this book are the guidelines and suggestions of so many other gardening books. This one is just plain pretty. Full-page photographs of incredible flowers and the accompanying text by professional photographer Roehm make this a volume that transfixes the eye. Nature’s colors at their best.
This is not a complete listing of Town and Country Garden Club’s latest generous gift,
but it gives readers an idea of excellent new resources for those who must be planting. For these gardening books and hundreds of others in the library’s collections, come by and check us out. Your garden awaits.
C. J. Box’s complex and likeable character Joe Pickett returns in this latest novel by Box, Breaking Point. Pickett is a Wyoming Game warden, responsible for a huge area in the state, a job which regularly takes him away from his family and places him in danger often, but is a job that he loves as well. In this latest addition to the series, Pickett becomes involved in a dispute between a landowner and the EPA, which escalates into a manhunt, wild fire and government interference in local responsibilities. Box has written another fast-paced thriller, with perfect character development and a sense of place and community in and around the small town of Saddlestring, Wyoming. Joe Pickett is a character we come to care about in this series–an honest family man trying to do a responsible and fair job for his family, for his community and as a game warden and often finding himself in the middle of situations that he neither wants to be involved in or that he has created. Start this award-winning mystery series at the beginning with Open Season.
Manhattan had the privilege of a visit by Kent Haruf in 2006 for our first One Book/ One Community Read. His novel Plainsong was a finalist for the National Book Award and was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie in 2004. Many in Manhattan delighted in meeting the author and reveled in his engaging talks. Fast forward to this year and find Kent’s newest novel destined for a prestigious award. Benediction is set once again on the eastern high plains of Colorado in the small town of Holt. Dad Lewis has just been given the death sentence of a cancer diagnosis. His daughter comes home to help her mother, Mary, care for him, but his distant son is no longer a part of their lives. The secondary characters in the story all have issues and lives that are familiar to all of us. I found his latest book to be captivating and poignant as it drew me into a story that came so close to my personal experiences with my mother’s recent death. We all can feel the pathos of loss as none of us escape life’s sad transitions. Read Benediction also for the love shown to a small girl being raised by her grandmother and the hilarious skinny dipping scene.
In a compelling memoir, Bouton, a former senior editor of the New York Times, chronicles her twenty-two year struggle with hearing loss. It started when she had difficulty hearing what her colleagues were saying and it was getting worse. She became profoundly deaf in one ear, and the other had a severe loss. She says hearing loss follows the traditional stages of grief: denial, anger, depression and finally a grudging acceptance. She speaks with doctors, audiologists and a variety of people struggling to cope with hearing loss. She concludes on an encouraging note about ongoing research for a biological cure. Shouting Won’t Help is a deeply felt look at a widespread and misunderstood phenomenon. At present, some 50 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss.
For those of you lucky enough to get a few days off from work or school, Spring Break is a great time to relax with a stack of books or have a movie marathon. Why not celebrate your inner nerd by focusing on techie books or movies?
There are many great techie books out there, but here are a few of my recent favorites:
“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
It is the year 2044, and the world is a pretty bleak place. Like many others, Wade Watts prefers to spend the majority of his time in the virtual reality world of OASIS, rather than his poverty-stricken real world. For years, Wade and countless others have been searching OASIS for hidden clues that will lead to the billions of dollars amassed by the late OASIS creator, James Halliday. To find the clues, Wade has immersed himself in the life of Halliday, including his obsession with 80’s pop culture. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, suddenly the whole world is watching him, and Wade realizes that some will stop at nothing ,including murder, to be the first to find Halliday’s fortune. If you grew up in the 80’s, this book is particularly enjoyable, since it is filled with references to video games, movies, TV, and music from the 80’s.
“Robopocalypse” by Daniel Wilson
Set in the near-future, this chilling read recounts the history of a massive war between machines and humans. Dr. Wasserman has created an artificial intelligence named Archos who finds a way to kill off his creator and begin his plan to destroy humankind from the earth. Archos slowly takes control of machines all over the world, including toys, factory equipment, domestic service robots, cars, and military equipment. Few humans notice until it is too late. By then, Archos has launched a full-scale coordinated attack all over the world. Millions are killed instantly, and human annihilation seems likely. Be aware that reading this could lead to significant paranoia!
“Epic” by Conor Kostick
Welcome to a planet where violence has been banned and disputes are settled in the fantasy computing game, Epic. Status and wealth are also dependent upon winning in the gaming world. Things seem to be running along smoothly, until Erik’s dad is unfairly punished by the Central Allocations committee that rules the entire planet. Erik and his friends embark on a quest to bring an end to Epic, but must face dangers within Epic and in the real world. This book is great for middle school grades and older, so after you read it yourself, share it with your teens.
If you need a break from reading, check out some movies. Revisit one of these classic techie movies:
In a future world, Sam Lowry, a bureaucrat, tries to correct an administrative error and inadvertently becomes entangled in a revolution.
Deckard is a blade runner, a cop who tracks down replicants (human clones) and terminates them. He comes out of retirement to track down four replicants who have escaped from an off-world colony and returned to earth.
A cyborg is sent from the future to find and kill Sarah Connor, whose son will grow up to lead humanity in a war against machines.
“2001: A Space Odyssey”
Humans find a mysterious artifact buried on the moon, and with the intelligent computer HAL 9000, set off on a quest to Jupiter to try to find the source of the artifact.
Or, try a newer techie movie like one of these:
“The Social Network”
This is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard student at the time, created Facebook and became the youngest billionaire in history.
“Star Trek” (2009)
Newly commissioned James T. Kirk and his crew of the USS Enterprise head to Vulcan when an emergency arises. Watch this before “Star Trek Into Darkness” comes out in theaters in May.
At the end of the nineteenth century in London, two famous rival magicians battle it out to be the greatest, which results in tragic consequences.
All of these techie books and movies can be found at Manhattan Public Library. Be sure to check out the techie books display in the young adult area for other great techie reads.
The Summer Olympics seem in the distant past, but we haven’t forgotten the amazing, star gymnast Gabby Douglas who won the gold along with all our hearts. She has co-authored an autobiography about her rise to the pinnacle of Olympic history which is enjoyable and inspiring. Particularly recommended for young adults as encouragement to keep on pursueing their dreams, Gabby tells her story of sacrifice with little negativity. She shares her families history of struggle when they lived in their car and had nothing, the endless practice,the sacrifice of her sisters who gave up their own loves of ballroom dancing and ice skating, and the neglect of her father- her biggest hurt. She gives credit to her families faith in God and their love as the biggest factors in her successful rise to stardom.
For all Austen enthusiasts Syrie James has written a novel in the essence and style of Jane. It begins with a contemporary story of American librarian, Samantha McDonough, discovering a hidden letter written by Jane Austen in the back of a book of poetry while vacationing in London She gains enough insight from the letter to begin to believe that Jane has written and lost another manuscript while visiting friends at Greenbrier in Devonshire. Pursuing this exciting possibility, Samantha meets handsome owner of Greenbrier, Anthony Whtaker and begins the search within his home. Now the story within the story begins when the manuscript is found and the two begin reading it to each other. We walk the streets of Bath with Austen characters in a story with all the atmosphere, romance and charm found in a Jane Austen novel.
If you are a dog lover or are amazed by the abilities of our canine friends, you will enjoy the stories and descriptions of working dogs in this fascinating book, Dogs of Courage. Not just wonderful companions and pets, dogs are taking on jobs that make our lives easier, safer and are even saving lives. From police dogs that make it safer for officers to track suspects and provide a positive link to the community to search and rescue and FEMA dogs, who search for lost or injured people and climb through earthquake and other disaster debris to locate survivors, dogs are willing to work hard for their human handlers. Arson dogs can discern the scent a flammable liquid to one part per trillion and can locate the source of an arson based fire faster than any human. Search and rescue dogs can often follow a scent up to 10 days after a person has passed through an area. Avalanche rescue dogs can locate a survivor buried in snow up to 35 feet deep, and can locate them in a fraction of the time required by rescuers, even with avalanche beacons. Dogs are being taught to identify tissue samples that contain cancer cells, can warn owners of impending seizures, help children improve their reading and can provide stability and reassurance for a veteran with PTSD. They help biologists locate endangered animals and plants and can locate seals and other animals under arctic ice. The uses for and abilities of dogs are amazing and our canine friends are most worthy of our admiration.
Living in the information age has made most of us want to know more. “An Uncommon History of Common Things” by Bethanne Patrick and John Thompson is packed with tons of little known facts concerning all areas of life. With the World Wide Web, we have information available to us with just a click. But, I still enjoy sitting down with a book to find tidbits of information to stir up my curiosity, and this book does just that. For instance, you may be interested in knowing that one of the first uses for Velcro was by NASA, as a nose-scratcher inside helmets. Discovering that our everyday Saran wrap came about when a scientist was trying to develop a hard plastic car cover is another interesting story. As the title suggests, some of the most common things in our lives have the most unusual stories.
What is more common in our lives than food? We consume it every single day. Corn Flakes, for instance, did not start out to be the first dried cereal; it was discovered by mistake when William Kellogg was trying to make bread dough. Then there is the story of how Swanson and Sons came up with the TV dinner in 1953, all because they overestimated the amount of turkey they would sell for Thanksgiving that year. And what was that “runcible spoon” in Edward Lear’s famous poem “The Owl and the Pussycat”? Just maybe it was a spork, a utensil that was half spoon, half fork. We may have the foot soldiers of Persia’s Darius the Great to thank for giving us pizza. It is recorded that the foot soldiers baked dough on their shields and added available toppings while in the field. It seems that man’s mistakes and measures of necessity have led to many great dietary treasures.
Customs and symbols have been and always will be a part of our lives. Putting your hand in front of your mouth when you yawn is a polite gesture. But the custom may have begun because it was once believed that one’s soul could slip out, or evil spirits could slip in, while you were yawning. You can discover why storks were chosen as the bearers of babies or how bones can bring about one’s wish. As a child, I remember competing with my cousins to find out who was the lucky one to wish upon the bone from the Thanksgiving turkey. Yet, it was prior to 400 B.C. when the first wish was whispered over a bird’s clavicle. Now that tattoos are such a popular form of body art, it is interesting to learn that they were discovered on the body of a man who had been frozen for more than 5,000 years. It has been amazing to discover the history behind our reasons and ways of doing things.
With computer games and downloadable games so readily available, we are never in want of leisure fun. Many of us remember spending hours playing board games with friends and family. The first-known board games, found in the Babylonian tombs of Ur, dated from 3000 B.C. These gaming boards are thought to be the forerunners of today’s backgammon. It seems our game of checkers was first played in ancient Egypt around 1400 B.C. A Hindustan game called chaturanga, played during the sixth century A.D. or earlier, is our counterpart to chess. While these games may become obsolete with technological changes, the history behind them is fascinating.
I have found that the invention and production of common everyday objects really do have uncommon stories. If you like history or enjoy trivia, you will find this book informational and entertaining. It may even change the way you look at the world and the people who live here!