Wednesday, July 23, 2014

For Your Viewing Pleasure....

Dog days of summer are upon us, not to mention incredibly bad weather!  The rains pour down each afternoon, with lightning and crazy wind!!

Sometimes it seems as if it might just be better to sit tight in the house, and wait for things to improve.  If you’re looking for an indoor pastime, or something entertaining to bring down to the beach or lake house with you, here’s an idea -

MCPL has begun purchasing popular television series on DVD.  These are fairly recent additions to our collection, although we have had PBS series like Upstairs, DownstairsI, Claudius, and Poirot mysteries for years.

Now we have added popular HBO, Showtime and Netflix series, which can be borrowed from your local branch.  Most of them are packaged as a full season of 4 to 6 DVDs in the container, so you need to plan on some serious TV watching to get them all in during the one week borrowing period. Some of our hot titles are:

orange is the new black
Orange is the New Black is an original series developed by Netflix for straight to web broadcasting.  Based on the memoir by Piper Kerman about her year in a women’s prison, the series is a mix of black humor and drama. The show follows Piper’s story when a crime she committed in her youthful past sends her to a women's prison.  There she trades her comfortable New York lifestyle for one of unexpected camaraderie and conflict in an eccentric group of fellow inmates.   A dozen Emmy Award nominations went to this acclaimed comedy drama series including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Lead Actress for star Taylor Schilling.

BorgiasBorgias from Showtime is a lush, beautifully filmed and well-acted adaptation of the story of the Renaissance Pope Alexander and his family.  Starring Jeremy Irons as the Borgia pope, the three season series follows the family from the day Rodrigo Borgia maneuvers his way into the papacy, through the many intrigues, wars, marriages, and sexual escapades of his family.  Violent and explicit, this is not family fare, but if you love historical costume dramas (and the costumes are spectacular!), you’ll love this one.

House of Cards is another Netflix original series, this time a political drama (a subject dear to the hearts of all Washingtonians).  Adapted from the BBC production of the same name, which is also available through MCPL, this series is set in present-day Washington, D.C.   House of Cards is the story of the cunning and vindictive Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th congressional district and House majority whip.  After being passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, Frank , along with this equally manipulative wife, Claire, initiates an elaborate plan to seek vengeance on those he feels have wronged him.  Fun fact -  House of Cards is filmed in Maryland, and has even used the Maryland House of Delegates chamber in Annapolis as a set.

AMC wrapped up the critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad last year,
breaking bad
 but you can immerse yourself in the dark, dark world of Walter White by borrowing the 5 seasons from MCPL.   Walter, a high school chemistry teacher, falls into the world of big time meth production and dealing as a way to provide for his family after a Stage III lung cancer diagnosis.  The show has been praised as one of the best television series of all time, and Bryan Cranston, starring as Walter, has been lauded by people as varied as George R R Martin and Sir Anthony Hopkins.  At times funny, at times heartrending  and at times horrifying , the show is violent, brutal and totally engrossing.

For a lighter theme than the previous titles, try the BBC series Call the Midwife.   A moving, intimate, funny, and true-to-life look at the colorful stories of midwifery and families in East London in the '50s, Call the Midwife follows young Jenny Lee as she begins her service at Nonnatus House, a nursing convent that provides medical care to  people  in the deprived Poplar district of London.  The show’s  characters are the nuns and the young nurses who provide service, as well as the eccentric residents of the district.  The show was praised for its sharp blend of prime-time period charm and hard-hitting social commentary, especially concerning women’s issues in the 1950s.

Other televisions series available through MCPL include titles such as Game of Thrones, Dexter, Weeds, Orphan Black, Walking Dead, and more.  Check with your local library for help locating and borrowing series that you are interested in seeing.  Happy viewing and don't forget the popcorn!.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Are We There, Yet?

Remember long car rides with Connect 4, I Spy, Punch Buggy, then "I'm bored," "I'm hungry," and "I have to go to the bathroom"? These days parents seem have it easy with their children entertaining themselves with games and movies on tablets.  I think they are missing something, though.  What they are missing is the pleasure of listening to a good book together.

Audiobooks have existed for many years, but now with downloadable electronic offerings, our selection is much larger and the quality even better.  Better because the market is big enough that even big name actors are getting involved.  Last year, Meryl Streep recorded an excellent reading of Colm Toibin's The Testment of Mary.  

I also read somewhere that this new demand for good readers is providing steadier income for some starving actors as well. Now that is reason enough for me to listen to more books.  I'm getting off the subject here. Anyway, as a longtime audiobook listener, I have cherished sharing good books with my family during long car trips.  Here are some of our favorites over the years:

Not sure how to download a digital sound file (e-audiobook) from MCPL website? Find out how.

For young children (and teens & adults)

The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread, by Kate DiCamillo
Available as CD book or as Digital sound file, 3 hr, 31 min.

Ramona the Pest and other Ramona titles, by Bevery Cleary
Available as CD book, 2 hr, 22 min.

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
Available as CD book, 2 hr, 30 min.

Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone and other Harry Potter titles, by J K Rowling
Available as CD book or as Digital sound file, 8 hr.


 For teens & adults

The Adventures of Robin Hood by E. Charles Vivian
Available as Digital sound file, 3 hr, 30 min.

A Walk in The Woods, by Bill Bryson
Available as CD book or as Digital sound file, 10 hr, 30 min.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Available as CD book or as Digital sound file, 7 hr, 45 min.

                                                                                                            Megumi L.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books

Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books, Beach Books

It is officially summer. Many are still obsessed with the World Cup, others with vacations, staycations, the hot weather, swimming, but all, hopefully, who are reading this blog want to know what’s hot on the library shelves.

Here are some tips to take to the beach or just outside to your lawn chair:

Cover image for The husband's secret / Liane Moriarty.The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.  Chick lit of the highest caliber, it's about three women and the secret that haunts the entire book. It’s a page turner and I literally gasped when I found out what the secret was and who it involved. Takes place in Australia but it could be anywhere. If it doesn't become a movie, then I will be very surprised. Put a reserve on this title now while the queue is short!

Cover image for The Rosie project / Graeme Simsion.The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.  Ok, this one is also chick lit and also takes place in Australia. (Is there a pattern developing?) A college professor with definite social problems, whose personality lies somewhere on the autism spectrum, decides it is time to take a wife. He makes a list of characteristics he wants for a mate and develops a questionnaire. Of course (who could have predicted) he falls for the woman who has none of the qualities he wants. Perfect for fans of Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory.  I could actually picture him as I read the book. This one will definitely become a movie as apparently it was written with the big screen in mind. It’s a quick light read as you’re lounging in the sun.

Cover image for Sycamore row / John Grisham.Do I have to mention the newest John Grisham? Well yes I do. I stopped reading them for a while but since Sycamore Row is a sort of sequel to A Time To Kill, which was, in my opinion, his best book, I thought I would take a chance. It follows attorney Jake Brigance, three years after the big trial. His house was burned by the KKK and he and his family is living in a too small apartment waiting for the insurance company to come through with the promised money for a new home. He needs money and he needs clients. And one pops into his lap by way of a handwritten will, written days before the gentleman in question hanged himself. He leaves almost all of his fortune to his African American maid and none to his family. Everyone has “lawyered” up and the fun is about to begin. A movie? Probably…I can picture Matthew McConaughey as I read this.

Cover image for The snow queen / Michael Cunningham.And now for something completely different: Michael Cunningham’s exquisite new novel The Snow Queen. Full disclosure—I haven’t finished it but I am enthralled by the prose. Barrett is love struck, dropped by his latest boyfriend and walking through Central Park when he is caught in a celestial something. He doesn't know what it is but describes it as God winking at him. No one sees it and he muses to himself on its significance. He lives with his brother Tyler and a friend, Beth, who is suffering from cancer. Cunningham writes with stunning liquidity shifting from character to character without pausing. Set in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, he brings the apartment and Brooklyn alive. Read this when you have time to ponder. But read it. Here's an interview with Cunningham!

Cover image for Habits of the house / Fay Weldon.
Back to chick lit and for those who are missing Downton Abbey: Fay Weldon, whose tongue lays firmly in her cheek has written a wonderful trilogy, Habits of the House (the series title and first in the trilogy) which begins in late 1899 and follows the fortunes and lack thereof of the Dilberne family, complete with the Earl and Countess and their two grown children. There are money problems, matches to be made and mistresses to be dealt with as the world is charging into the 20th century. This Upstairs Downstairs read-alike (Weldon wrote the first episode of Upstairs Downstairs) is a hoot to read and to listen to.

For more exciting suggestions for the summer, check out our Readers'  Cafe.

And for even more recommendations: New York Public Library's Adult Summer Reading

Enjoy, keep cool. and have a wonderful summer!

Lisa N.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Summer Getaways

View toward the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville, VA
Summer is finally here! I kicked off my summer with a great little vacation at a bed & breakfast on a horse farm. It was the perfect place for relaxing and getting a big dose of Mother Nature. I was just outside of Staunton, VA which is a picturesque little town and perfect for a lazy day of browsing the shops, finding a fantastic milkshake and having dinner at one of the many good places to eat. What originally drew me to the area was the AmericanShakespeare Center, where I saw their production of Macbeth. (It was fantastic! I’m already plotting my return to see the other summer plays.) The Blackfriars Playhouse and the production itself are designed to recreate original staging conditions of Shakespeare’s time. You can even opt to sit on the Gallant’s Stools that line the edge of the stage…which definitely leads to a more interactive theater experience than what we generally know today. I also spent a day hiking in the beautiful St. Mary’s Wilderness area. Many travelers to this area visit the popular Crabtree Falls but my St. Mary’s hike wore me out too much to do both hikes on the same day. (When your last two miles out of six go back up a steep mountain trail to return to your car on a hot, muggy afternoon, any extra effort is definitely out of the question.)

Scenes from along my hike in St. Mary's Wilderness, VA
How did I discover such a great little place? Travel guidebooks! I started my planning knowing that I wanted to stay in the radius of a three to four hour drive and to avoid the crowded beaches. I browsed in the 917’s for travel guidebooks on the Mid-Atlantic region to get some ideas. I also glanced through issues of Washingtonian (your local branch should have a subscription) devoted to day trips. There are so many places that look interesting! We are lucky to live in an area so rich with things to do and see. I even started making a list so that I wouldn’t forget some of them when I need local travel inspiration in the future.

Some things can keep you pretty close to home. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall is a multi-day celebration of worldwide cultural heritage. There are free performances and exhibitions over the course of two weeks (with a break for July 4th celebrations). Brave the crowds to join the Independence Day celebrations happening along the mall and stay for the spectacular display of fireworks.

Happy exploring!
Tina R.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

World Cup Football - Or Should I Say Soccer?

soccer ball and goal

My favorite memory of the FIFA World Cup is from 1966 when England hosted the event and beat West Germany in the final to win their first and only World Cup title.  My family and friends were watching on our tiny black and white TV. When the match ended one of my friends jumped up and cried “Let’s pretend we’re really there!” She made us all stand huddled together cheering as though we were in the stadium with all the other delirious England fans.  I had never shown much interest in football, as soccer is called in England, but even I got caught up in the exuberant celebration.  My father and little brothers were ecstatic.  When I first came to the U.S. nobody played soccer and the World Cup went entirely unnoticed.  I could never get interested in the strange sports of the New World.  American football seemed so nonsensical after the “football” I was used to. “You mean they can pick up the ball and run with it? Isn't that cheating?” But times have changed.  My own children played youth soccer, now my grandsons do, and the World Cup, if not quite as big a deal as the Super Bowl, is still a major event with plenty of American fans. 

Whether you yourself are a soccer fan, or just surrounded by fans among your family and friends, here are a few books to give you some interesting background on the world’s most popular sport (with an estimated 3.5 billion fans worldwide):

book cover of Pele
In case you are wondering what all the fuss is about, soccer’s most famous player tells you why you should care about “the beautiful game.”

Soccer for Dummies by Michael Lewis
A publication of the United States Soccer Federation.  This is the place to start if you want to appear knowledgeable when watching the World Cup surrounded by die-hard soccer fans.

This history emphasizes the political, social, and cultural context of the game around the world.

Many cultures claim soccer as their own. This book explores how the Spanish tradition became predominant.
book cover of La Roja

You can’t get very far reading about soccer before finding that it has a magnetic attraction for cultural theorists and philosophers. This writer argues that “soccer is a perfect window into the crosscurrents of today’s world.”

Not interested in reading about soccer but enjoy a good thriller? Here's one set on the eve of the World Cup in Brazil. A star player’s mother is kidnapped. Is Brazil’s bitter rival Argentina trying to gain an advantage? Chief Inspector Silva races to solve the crime before the final match. This book reflects how seriously soccer is taken in Latin America. In 1969 a disputed soccer game even sparked a war between El Salvador and Honduras.

Now you are an armchair expert, you can follow all things soccer at the Soccer Blog, through this year’s World Cup and beyond. For a list of perfect places in the local area to watch World Cup matches with fans from all over the world, check out this guide from The Washington Post. Happy viewing, and in the interest of good sportsmanship, may the best team win!

Rita T.