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Reader Review: Star Island

June 23, 2015

Editor’s note: The following review is by a library patron and contributed as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!

Book cover for Star Island by Carl HiaasenStar Island” is about the underbelly of showbiz, the paparazzo and big money land investments that contribute to destroying the natural environment of Florida, to speak in general terms. Hiaasen’s hero who appears in many of his books (Skink or Captain or former Governor of Florida – showing himself in his normal ragged, dirty trench coat, braided beard, bald head), tries to right the wrongs of society as well as continue with his mission of saving the Everglades and Florida’s natural habitat. The twisted, intriguing story is based around a young singer who can’t carry a tune and her exciting life as an addict in habitual need of upscale recovery centers. I liked the intricate weavings of the various characters’ lives and the extensive epilogue at the end.

Three words that describe this book: Celebrities, intricate, energy

You might want to pick this book up if: you enjoy a very good story, books about a chivalrous knight dressed up as a giant body guard with a weed whacker in place of one of his hands, and a swamp monster type homeless looking man. Carl Hiaasen, my current favorite author, weaves a really good, complicated, satirical story with amazing insight into the workings or the not-so-well workings of society, government and human nature, especially in Florida.


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June 22, 2015

Book cover for The Dark Knight ReturnsThe superhero. The origin story, the nemesis, the team up, the world-saving, etc. Oh, and the reboot. Never forget the reboot. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. The superhero is an enduring trope that has permeated pop-culture. Inevitably, writers and artists started creating comics that critique, satirize and subvert the idea of the superhero. What might have started as efforts to tell a new story in a well-worn genre morphed into creative examinations of the concept of the superhero. Despite any high-minded genre dissections, the basic thrill of superhero stories is in these titles. These creators work in the genre because they ultimately love it, warts and all.

In 1986 two series premiered which are now touchstones for the re-imagining of the superhero story: Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller tells the story of a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne who must return from retirement (spoiler alert!) as Batman. Gotham has turned into a bit of a dystopian nightmare in the 10 years since Batman retired. Batman is not so nice and not very stable. His reemergence brings some of his arch rivals out of retirement as well, which adds to the chaos in Gotham. In addition to being a different take on an iconic character, “The Dark Knight Returns” satirizes the media and political atmosphere of the 1980s.

Cover for The Watchmen graphic novelWatchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons also offers a critique of the 1980s, specifically the Cold War hysteria of the time. It examines political themes buried in comics, such as the line between vigilantism and fascism, and what a government might really do with superpowered beings. Moore’s original idea started as a murder mystery involving characters from Charlton Comics, which DC Comics had just purchased. Although Moore was persuaded to create original characters for the story, it maintained it’s very meta take on comics, what Gibbons referred to as “a comic about comics.”

An unfortunate trend followed the success of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. Many comics appeared that tried to replicate their success with darker, more violent superhero stories, but they lacked the substance that made those comics lasting works. However, some darker comics followed whose quality is comparable.

The series Marshal Law by Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill first appeared in October 1987, when the final issue of Watchmen was published. It’s a darkly satirical story where the superheros are misguided government experiments and shell-shocked war vets wreaking havoc in a crumbling San Francisco, now called “San Futuro.” Marshal Law is a legally sanctioned superhero hunter (“I’m a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. Haven’t found any yet,” is his tag line). He’s trying to round up all the rogue heroes to make the city safer. From superheros.

Cover for the graphic novel The BoysThe Boys by Garth Ennis also deals with out-of-control superheros with a dark, satirical tone. In this case the superheros are an amoral and entitled variety that play a public role as “heroes” while in reality show a complete disregard for others. The Boys are a CIA-backed group who have lost loved ones, or otherwise had their lives ruined, by the negligence and misbehavior of superheroes. They are given injections of the same compound that creates superheroes and tasked with holding the “‘supes” accountable. They do so with a vengeance.

The series Irredeemable and Incorruptible by Mark Waid tell two sides to the same story. Irredeemable is the story of Plutonian, a god-like superhero from another world (like Superman) who loses it. He lays waste to much of the world, and the survivors live in terror of him. The story traces the cause of his meltdown, while also following the uphill battle surviving superheros have in their attempt to stop the most powerful being on Earth.

Incorruptible follows super villain Max Damage after Plutonian’s meltdown. The horror inflicted by Plutonian and the state the world is in give Max a crisis of conscience. The series follows him as he tries to change his ways and do right in this broken world.

Cover of the graphic novel Death RayDaniel ClowesThe Death Ray examines the “with great power comes great responsibility” line from Spider-Man, asking “what might a misfit teenager really do if he had superpowers?” Andy is growing up in 1970s Chicago and suffering at the hands of bullies. He discovers that smoking cigarettes gives him super strength. Naturally, he arms himself with a ray gun and looks for revenge. Andy is neither good nor evil but a realistic portrait of a mixed-up kid given some unrealistic abilities. The story is told with the mix of melancholy, humor and cynicism that has made Clowes one of the most critically acclaimed cartoonists of our time.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2015 List

June 19, 2015

Library Reads LogoCan we all just agree to take the month of July off to sit around in our hammocks sipping iced tea and reading until our eyeballs break? The LibraryReads list highlighting books publishing next month (and inspiring librarians across the country to entertain similar fantasies) includes not only the expected breezy romances but also a new historical fiction from Paula McClain (“The Paris Wife“) and a confident debut that will delight foodies with an appetite for character-driven novels. Bon appétit!

Book cover for Kitchens of the Great MidwestKitchens of the Great Midwest” by J. Ryan Stradal
“This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, ‘Kitchens of the Great Midwest’ will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale.” – Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ

Book cover for Circling the SunCircling the Sun” by Paula McLain
“I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended.” – Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC

Book cover for Kiss MeKiss Me” by Susan Mallery
“As always, Ms. Mallery has given us a fantastic read. As soon as I pick up her titles, I can’t put them down until I have finished them. They are feel-good, heartwarming — I need more synonyms. I love seeing all the previous characters, the friendships and families that have formed since ‘Chasing Perfect’ came out five years ago. Thanks, Ms. Mallery, for another amazing read.” – Jenelle Klavenga, Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, IA

Here is the rest of the July list with links to the library’s catalog. Place your holds now!

Second Chance Summer” by Jill Shalvis
Speaking in Bones” by Kathy Reichs
Those Girls” by Chevy Stevens
Maybe in Another Life” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Crooked Heart” by Lissa Evans
Love Lies Beneath” by Ellen Hopkins
Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day” by Leanne Brown

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First 2015 Adult Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

June 19, 2015

TrophyCongratulations to Kerri G., a Columbia Public Library patron, for winning our first Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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Reader Review: The Tusk That Did The Damage

June 18, 2015

Editor’s note: The following review is by a library patron and contributed as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!

tusk that did the damageThe Tusk That Did The Damage” follows the story of three characters: The Gravedigger (an elephant who buries his victims he kills), Manu (the brother of a poacher who goes to jail) and a documentary film team recording the wildlife conservation organization in the area. I felt this book had three very good stories, but may have been better if it focused on developing one story. The three stories didn’t connect very well except for Manu and the Gravedigger.

Three words that describe this book: emotional, scattered, slow-starting.

You might want to pick this book up if: you are interested in a story that depicts poaching and efforts to prevent poaching or are just a fan of elephants!


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Of Cosplay and Cons

June 17, 2015

Book cover for Cosplay WorldStart planning your cosplay outfit now. This summer, each DBRL building will offer a Cosplay Costume Con for all ages – July 22 in Columbia, July 30 in Fulton and August 4 in Ashland. Prizes will be awarded in different age categories.

Cosplay? Con? If you’re scratching your head, let me explain. You know how children love to dress up as characters from their favorite shows, books and comics? Some people believe you’re never too old to join in the fun. You can find folks of all ages cosplaying anyone from Darth Vader to Hello Kitty at comics and science fiction conventions (cons) around the world.

Want to know more? On July 14, the Columbia Public Library will host comic creator Skip Harvey. He will enlighten the befuddled and entertain aficionados with a program for adults and teens: “Comics, Pop Culture and Comic-Con.”

For a deeper look at the culture of cosplay, check out “Cosplay World” by Brian Ashcraft. The book contains plenty of interesting information but is more a celebration than an encyclopedia. It’s filled with photos of cosplayers from a multitude of countries, along with many personal vignettes.

To see some live action footage, take a look at “Comic Con, Episode IV, a Fan’s Hope.” This film, produced by documentarian extraordinaire Morgan Spurlock, follows attendees of San Diego Comic-Con 2010 and includes interviews with some of the big names on the scene: Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Ellen Page and more.

Readers who are con devotees, particularly those in the Star Trek fandom, will likely be delighted by Kevin David Anderson’s novel “Night of the Living Trekkies.” The setting is a Star Trek convention in Houston. The plot complication is a fast-moving virus that turns people into zombies. Star Trek in-jokes abound.

Book cover for The Improbable Theory of Ana & ZakThe Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak,” a young adult novel by Brian Katcher, makes good use of the con venue for a romantic comedy/worlds collide tale. Ana is a goal-oriented workaholic, afraid of failing her parents’ high expectations. Zak is a gamer and sci-fi fan whose career plans boil down to something with computers or whatever. They find themselves thrown together on a quiz bowl team and then joining forces to find Ana’s younger brother who, after hearing Zak’s stories of Washingcon, has run off to experience the comics and science fiction mayhem for himself. Through the night-long search, the two teens encounter much zaniness and come to find some common ground.

For those con veterans looking for the next event, as well as newbies who have been enticed by my persuasive words to give the con scene a whirl, the International Costumers Guild provides a list of conventions spanning the globe.

Locally, a couple of events are coming up in Mid-Missouri, in addition to the ones hosted by DBRL. Cosplacon will take place in Jefferson City June 18-21. DoDeca-Con is scheduled for Columbia Sept. 11-13.

Happy cosplaying!

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Reader Review: Euphoria

June 16, 2015

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first review by a library patron we are posting as part of this year’s Adult Summer Reading program. Want to submit reviews of your own? Sign up and get started today!

euphoriaEuphoria” is about three anthropologists exploring parts of New Guinea and their relationships within the group and with the tribes they meet. It is a fiction novel but loosely based on a period of Margaret Mead‘s life. I liked the writing and characters of the novel. It was fairly short (less than 300 pages) but still completes the story, develops the characters and leaves the reader wanting more. It makes the reader think about anthropology work when it first started and the toll it takes on both sides (the anthropologist and the tribe).

Three words that describe this book: Descriptive, hooking, thought-provoking.

You might want to pick this book up if: You like Barbara Kingsolver and her many novels.


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The Gentleman Recommends: Will Chancellor

June 15, 2015

Book cover for A Brave Man Seven Storeys TallI was excited to read “A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall” because the story of a brave giant is almost certain to be exciting. To my brief disappointment, the title isn’t literal. But my disappointment was curtailed because the story is riveting. We begin with water polo star Owen Burr, his days infused by one of four colors (obviously: peridot, gamboge, ultramarine and carmine) that correspond to the general feel of the day, and of course, a Greek god. Owen is to participate in the Olympics until a savage blow from from a decidely ungentlemanly opponent obliterates one of his peepers. While most people, after losing an eye, turn to a life of pillaging on the high seas, Owen’s plan is slightly less ambitious. Eyepatch donned, Owen bravely abandons college, steals his father’s prized copy of “The Odyssey” and leaves his goodbye on a post-it note. He journeys to Berlin to become an artist and discover which half of his life would be wasted.

Once there, he meets one tremendous scoundrel, several lesser scoundrels and some people that aren’t scoundrels. When the tremendous scoundrel, a famous artist whose work is often exploitative and disgusting, offers to collaborate with Owen, some dreadful things occur. I haven’t been this outraged by the actions taken against a character since watching any Game of Thrones episode. But Owen has no swords or dragons or lofty titles, only a dashing eye patch and a desire to create.

Meanwhile, Owen’s father, a professor at a fancy college, is distraught about his son. He begins searching for him and finds saying radical things leads to notoriety which might lead to Owen finally responding to an email or perhaps sending a telegram. Joseph Burr’s search leads him to Athens, where he makes a speech about Scarface and philosophy and whatnot. Someone rushes the stage and hands the professor a Molotov. Joseph is trying to spare the crowd a good burning when he lofts the explosive at the Parthenon. Alas, his toss isn’t widely viewed as the good deed it was. Fear of imprisonment ushers him out of Greece and onward on his trek to find his son.

Owen is also on the run now, having done a very bad thing to a man who very much deserved it. I’ll cease the plot talk here, as much of a delight as it is — I’ve already spoiled more than I consider gentlemanly, but sometimes an honorable man wants to write about a professor throwing Molotovs at the Parthenon.

Will Chancellor is a gifted writer, and there is a bounty of delightful sentences in store for anyone who takes this recommendation. Here are some words from the writer John Warner, who did a superior job of recommending this novel.

“…What I loved about the novel is the kitchen-sink quality of its ideas and obsessions. At one point or another Chancellor touches on: Plato’s allegory of the cave; remote-controlled boats; postmodern performance art; postmodern political theory;…Icelandic myth; the inevitable upselling of camping gear; campus politics; and the particular genius of Hungarian water polo.

…I fell in love with the book because it is one of a handful of books I will read in a given year that remind of the potential of literature to mine our obsessions and share them with others…A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is the most “alive” book I’ve read this year. I don’t delude myself as to the size of this megaphone, but I hope someone’s listening.”

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New DVD List: A Hard Day’s Night & More

June 10, 2015

a hard days nightHere is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction recently added to the library collection.

a hard days nightA Hard Day’s Night
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Playing last year at Ragtag, and earlier this year at the Missouri Theatre, this remastered 1964 film captures all the fun, excitement and unforgettable music of John, Paul, George and Ringo at the height of Beatlemania. The Beatles perform their songs and look for adventure, all while avoiding hordes of screaming fans. Packed with all-time Beatles favorites.

orange is the new black s2Orange is the New Black
Season 2
Website / Reviews
The second season of “Orange Is the New Black” begins with Piper facing the consequences of her actions. Elsewhere, Red feels isolated, while Taystee shows off her business skills. Later, Morello gets her heart broken, Larry makes changes to his life and Piper starts a prison newsletter.

the thin blue lineThe Thin Blue Line
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Director Errol Morris’s 1988 documentary is given a special re-release through the Criterion Collection. The film examines the roadside murder of a Dallas police officer and the subsequent arrest and conviction of drifter Randall Adams, who was given a death sentence despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence.

jewel in the crown dvdThe Jewel in the Crown
Trailer / Website / Awards
Adapted for television in 1984 from the four novels by Paul Scott, “The Raj Quartet,” the sweeping fourteen-part remastered adaptation is the story of the men and women of both ruling and ruled classes of WWII India, trying amidst the turmoil to come to terms with the drastic changes taking place around them, knowing that their lives will never be the same again.

call the midwife s4Call the Midwife
Season 4
Website / Reviews
Now nearing the 1960s, the community enters a new time of social change, while stories of birth, life and death continue to touch your heart. Will live-wire Nurse Trixie marry her young curate? What new project calls for a heart as big as Chummy’s?

broadchurch s2Broadchurch
Season 2
Website / Reviews
The hit mystery drama series, set in a Dorset coastal town, returns starring David Tennant as DI Alec Hardy and Olivia Colman as DS Ellie Miller. Series 2 of the complex crime drama finds the community of Broadchurch attempting to rebuild itself following the shocking events of Series 1.

Other notable releases:
Food Chains
Website / Reviews
Falling SkiesSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3Website / Reviews
A Path Appears
Website / Reviews
Curb your EnthusiasmSeason 1Website / Reviews
Walking the Camino
Website / Reviews
West WingSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3Website / Reviews
Before You Know ItWebsite / Reviews
The Dick Van Dyke ShowSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5Website
Gates of HeavenWebsite / Reviews
Bates MotelSeason 1, Season 2Website / Reviews
Vernon, FloridaWebsite / Reviews
FrasierSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3Website
FringeSeason 1Website / Reviews
Ballet 422Website / Reviews
Star Trek: Deep Space NineSeason 1Website
JustifiedSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3Website / Reviews
GleeSeason 1, Season 2, Season 3Website / Reviews

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Ask the Author: An Interview With J.B. Winter

June 8, 2015

Miss Mizzou avatarIt’s the mid-part of the 20th century. A beauty contest at Mizzou inspires a protest consisting of 300-700 students. The entire town of Columbia is in upheaval over the possibility of renaming Columbia’s Providence Road and a blonde woman in a trench coat replacing Daniel Boone himself on MU’s parking permits. All of these events took place because of a mysterious cartoon woman. That woman is Miss Mizzou, a fictional character in Milton Caniff’s famous comic strip “Steve Canyon.” Local author and artist J.B. Winter did some investigation into our local history to create his book “Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics.” He was nice enough to answer a few questions for DBRL Next before his talk at the Columbia Public Library on June 15.

DBRL: This is a really interesting story that, at least in the past few decades, hadn’t gotten much attention prior to the publishing of your book. How did you discover Miss Mizzou and Milton Caniff’s connection with Columbia?

JBW: I came across the character on a blog post and started researching from there. Cartoonist Milton Caniff was a big name in his day, so I wanted to see why he would have created a character related to Columbia. I had no idea I had come across such a unique and interesting character.

DBRL: Miss Mizzou is a college-aged woman who spends time with students at the university, though she herself is not a student, but a server at a local restaurant. How much do you think the University of Missouri and the town of Columbia actually inspired this character?

JBW: If Caniff had not taken a liking to how the word “Mizzou” sounded, I doubt he would have created the character. Once Caniff had the character name, he created a back-story to the character that was rooted in his memory of his short visit to Columbia. You can see evidence of this by the various references to Columbia landmarks in the strip. However, he repeatedly denied basing the character off any waitress he met in Columbia.

1952 photo of Milton Caniff & Bek Stiner – courtesy of Gabrielle AdelmanI think Caniff was fascinated by the Midwest in general, and that worked its way into the character. He was from the small town of Hillsboro, Ohio, and he’d often throw characters who had small town backgrounds into his comics. It added a lot of realistic background texture that played off of the more fantastical elements in the strip.

DBRL: Do you think a character like Miss Mizzou would be as popular, or cause as much controversy, if she were created today (perhaps in a different incarnation, such as in web comic or as a television character)?

JBW: The specific character traits of Miss Mizzou probably wouldn’t resonate as much with a modern audience as they did back in the 1950s. I think the character had some heavy ties to Marilyn Monroe’s popularity and that Monroe archetype is probably a little too dated at this point to get as much notice.

The idea of some modern character catching on in small town America seems possible–many small towns today are still eager for opportunities at national recognition. However, modern media as a whole (television, comics, movies, etc.) seem to devalue characters with ties to real small towns, and I think this was a central part of Miss Mizzou’s popularity.

The whole promotional aspect of Miss Mizzou emphasized that bond citizens had with their local newspaper. Caniff would occasionally give a nod to a city where the newspaper directly bought his strip; it was just a good public relations move for everyone involved. The cash flow in the modern media landscape doesn’t work like it used to, and as a result, I think that emphasis on specific small town locales gets written out of most stories in favor of larger cities or nameless small towns.

So in short, while it’s possible that some character could gain popularity and/or cause controversy in a small town like Miss Mizzou did, I don’t think it would happen very easily given the modern media landscape.

DBRL: In addition to writing this book, you also create your own comics. Would you care to tell us a little about your comic art?

JBW: I tend to do experimental comics. Sometimes I play around with conventions of the form, illustrating with unique constraints in mind. Other times I have drawn some regular comics, but have done them on a unique canvas like a sidewalk or tortillas. To me it’s all about pushing the boundaries of comics.

I’m probably most known for my 50 state comic. For that project, I used contributions from 50 artists from 50 different states in a collaborative jam comic that featured my character Izzy the Mouse. The idea was that Izzy toured America and in each of the 50 panels Izzy visited a different state. The results were published as a mini-comic when I was done.

DBRL: Have you read any good books lately that you’d like to recommend to our readers?

JBW: If you’d like to learn more about Milton Caniff, I’d highly recommend the current “Steve Canyon” reprints currently coming out from IDW & Library of American Comics. You can start out with Miss Mizzou’s first adventure in “Steve Canyon: 1951-1952,” or read the latest volume, “Steve Canyon: 1955-1956.” Caniff has never been reprinted with such care and attention to detail.

There were a lot of great graphic novels released last year, but one of my favorites I’d recommend is “Seconds” by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It’s his first book after the highly successful “Scott Pilgrim” series, and it really shows an organic growth in style and approach from his last effort. It has all the elements I like to see in a story: good relateable characters, fantastical situations, experimental storytelling, etc.

J.B. Winter will be speaking at the Columbia Public Library on Monday, June 15th at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room. More information about Miss Mizzou can be found on Winter’s website.

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Three Common Scams and How to Avoid Them

June 5, 2015

Have you ever gotten one of those, “You’ve won a cruise!” phone calls? An email from a distant family member asking you to wire money? You aren’t alone. The Federal Trade Commission says that fraudsters generally target consumers of all ages – but they know that older people are likely to have bigger nest eggs, which makes them attractive. And, the consumer protection agency says, when older people lose money to a scam – regardless of whether it involves prizes and lotteries, impostors or identity theft – it’s usually more difficult for them to recoup their losses, making the consequences even more devastating.

With their new “Pass It On” campaign, the FTC is sharing tips and tools for protecting yourself from these commons scams.

1. “You’ve Won” Scams
You get a call, card or email that you’ve won a prize (like a cruise) but you can’t claim that prize until you pay a fee, taxes or customs duty. They ask for a credit card or bank account information. What should you do?

If you have to pay, it’s no prize! Keep your money and information to yourself. Never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it. And never wire money to anyone who asks you to.

2. Charity Fraud
Someone contacts you asking for a donation to their charity, and the organization sounds real and their cause worthwhile. How can you tell what is legitimate and what’s a scam? Scammers want your money quickly and often pressure you to give right away. They might ask you for cash or to wire money, and they often refuse to send you more information about the charity or tell you how the money will be used.

Here’s what you can do. Take your time. Tell callers to send you information by mail. Then do your research online or at the library. Is this a real organization? Is your donation tax deductible? How will the money be used? Rule out anyone who wants you to send cash or wire money. Chances are, it’s a scam.

3. Health Care Scams
You see an ad on TV, telling you about a new law that requires you to get a new health care card. Maybe you get a call offering you big discounts on health insurance. Or maybe someone says they’re from the government, and she needs your Medicare number to issue you a new card. The caller may even ask for your Social Security number or other personal information. Stop!

Before you share your information, call Medicare (1-800-MEDICARE), do some research and check with someone you trust.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP or online at ftc.gov/complaint. For more information about these and other common scams, visit ftc.gov/PassItOn.

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Friday is National Doughnut Day

June 3, 2015

Book cover for The Donut BookMy older brother used to have an early-morning paper route. Sometimes, on his way home, he’d stop by the only doughnut shop in our small town and buy two glazed doughnuts, still warm from the fryer, and give one to me. These days I have access to an array of specialty and boutique doughnut shops, but my favorites still tend to be simple – glazed rings, cinnamon sugar twists and iced cake doughnuts. Whether you like your doughnuts traditional or topped with bacon, this Friday you have reason to indulge in a fried treat – it’s National Doughnut Day!

Learn about the history of doughnuts and their annual celebration in “The Donut Book: The Whole Story in Words, Pictures and Outrageous Tales” by Sally Levitt Steinberg. The Salvation Army is credited with originating Doughnut Day. Their workers made and delivered doughnuts to the soldiers in the trenches in France during World War I, and during the Great Depression they celebrated the first National Doughnut Day, selling the treats as a way to raise funds and promote awareness of the organization’s activities.

Book cover for Donuts by Elinor KlivansSteinberg’s book has a few recipes sprinkled throughout its pages, but if you want nothing but recipes to make at home, try “Donuts” by Elinor Klivans. The opening chapter walks the doughnut novice through the basic process. The remaining pages provide a variety of recipes (with drool-worthy photographs) starting with traditional – glazed, jelly-filled – and finishing up with more trendy versions including flavors-of-the-moment like salted caramel and – of course – bacon.

For more unconventional doughnuts, check out “Glazed, Filled, Sugared, and Dipped: Easy Doughnut Recipes to Fry or Bake at Home” by Stephen Collucci, the pastry chef at Colicchio & Sons in New York City. His book includes cake and yeast-raised doughnuts as well as recipes for beignets, churros, bomboloni, glazes, fillings and sauces.

Doughnuts not a part of your diet? You can still celebrate by reading Jessica Beck’s cozy Donut Shop Mysteries, starting with “Killer Crullers.”

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Summer Reading 2015 Book Giveaway!

June 1, 2015

Summer Reading logoWhy should kids have all the fun? DBRL Next is home of the library’s Adult Summer Reading program. This year’s theme is the same for all ages: “Every Hero Has a Story.” We’ll explore and celebrate heroes in fiction and real-life, including unsung heroes and everyday heroes in our communities.

Registration is open, so sign up online, submit book reviews (the best of which will be posted right here for all to read) and learn about a range of events, from adult-only book discussions to programs on superhero science and Civil War soldiers.

Book cover for On My Own Two Feet by Amy PurdyIn honor of Summer Reading’s launch we are giving away two copies of Amy Purdy’s memoir, “On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life.” When Purdy was just 19, she contracted bacterial meningitis and was given less than a 2 percent chance of survival. What she believes to be a glimpse of the afterlife became the defining experience that put Purdy’s life on a new trajectory after her legs had to be amputated. She wouldn’t just beat meningitis and walk again; she would go on to create a life filled with bold adventures and big dreams, including competing in the Paralympic Games and on Dancing With the Stars. Enter to win a copy of this inspiring story of Purdy’s heroic journey.

Click here and enter to win!

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Super Summer Program Preview

May 29, 2015

This year’s Summer Reading program is all about heroes, both those that wear capes and those that are heroic everyday, from parents to paramedics, soldiers to scientists. Here’s a preview of just some of the programs coming in June. Mark your calendars!

Book cover for The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt KidFirst Wednesday Book Discussion – Fulton
Wednesday, June 3 › Noon-1 p.m.
Callaway County Public Library
In keeping with Summer Reading’s hero theme, bring your lunch and join us for a discussion of “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson. The author shares his memories of growing up in the 1950s, including his rich fantasy life as a superhero.

Finding Helen: Diary of a WWI Battlefield Nurse
Thursday, June 11 › 7-8:15 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Finding Helen: The Letters, Photographs and Diary of a WWI Battlefield Nurse” brings to life the story of a diminutive American Red Cross nurse named Helen Bulovsky who served along the Flanders front during World War I. Helen sent home letters, photos, poems and a diary, “Behind the Trenches,” describing the 18 months she spent in France and Belgium. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing.

Book cover for Life During Wartime by Rudi KellerMid-Missouri’s Unsung Civil War Heroes & Villains
Tuesday, June 16 › 7-8:15 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
During the five years he has spent researching and writing his newspaper column “Life During Wartime,” journalist Rudi Keller has discovered many individuals whose stories have been forgotten or are remembered only as part of family lore. Hear about the unsung heroes and obscure villains he uncovered during his research into the daily lives of soldiers and civilians during the Civil War. Volumes one and two of “Life During Wartime” will be available for purchase and signing.

Center Aisle Cinema: “Superheroes”
Wednesday, June 17 › 6:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
We kick off our summer film series with the HBO documentary “Superheroes,” directed by Michael Barnett. Follow the zany escapades of Real Life Superheroes (RLSH), a national phenomenon of hundreds of real men and women who patrol city streets with the goal of deterring crime, and, if necessary, taking the law into their own hands. Adults and teens.

Visit our online program calendar to see all upcoming Adult Summer Reading programs!

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Humble Beginnings: Docs About Elementary Schools

May 27, 2015

to be and to have

The education of kids is an important part of our society as well as others. Check out these documentaries aimed towards an adult audience that highlight various elementary schools here in our own backyard as well as halfway around the world.

to be and to haveTo Be and To Have“ (2002)

In a small rural school in France, Georges Lopez is a remarkably devoted teacher responsible for nurturing a dozen children ages 3-11 in all their school subjects and life’s lessons. Mr. Lopez shows patience and respect for the children as we follow their story through a single school year.

eco schoolhouseEco School House“ (2010)

This documentary shows how Grant Elementary School in Columbia, Missouri worked hand-in-hand with the community and a renowned architect to build a more environmentally friendly satellite classroom. The administration also created a new curriculum around environmentalism.

i am a promiseI am a Promise“ (1993)

The Stanton Elementary School in North Philadelphia exists in an inner-city neighborhood where 90% of the students live below the poverty line. This award-winning documentary follows principle principal Deanna Burney as she sets about changing the atmosphere of the school.

a touch of greatnessA Touch of Greatness“ (2004)

This film focuses on Albert Cullum, an elementary school teacher in Rye, New York. Championing an unorthodox educational philosophy, Cullum regularly taught his elementary school children literary masterpieces, most notably the works of Shakespeare, Sophocles and Shaw.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The June 2015 List

May 22, 2015

Let the summer reading begin! Some readers turn to lighter fare in June, wanting books with breezy plots they can finish in a long afternoon, fast-paced thrillers that make miles of travel fly by or fantasy novels into which they can escape. Others use hard-earned vacation time (I’m waving at you, teachers!) to dive into hefty works of literary fiction or narrative nonfiction. Whatever reading mood summer inspires, we’ve got a hot-off-the-presses recommendation for you from LibraryReads. Here are the top 10 titles publishing in June that librarians across the country love and recommend.

Book cover for Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura DaveEight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave

“Take your time and savor the family dynamics. Enjoy the romantic twists in this tale of a career-minded young woman circling back to her roots at a California winery. The appeal is broader than that of a romance since it delves into the complexities of various relationships — parent to parent, parents and children, even winery and owner. This is an excellent summer read!”
– Joan Hipp, Florham Park Public Library, Florham Park, NJ

Book cover for The Truth According to Us by Annie BarrowsThe Truth According to Us” by Annie Barrows

“It is 1938 in a rural West Virginia town and a young woman arrives to write the town’s history. Layla doesn’t really know what to expect from the town, and the town doesn’t know what to make of her. This is the heart of the South, the soul of small towns, where everyone looks out for you and knows your history. A sweet story tailor-made for fans of Billie Letts, Fannie Flagg, Pat Conroy and Harper Lee.”
– Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, TX

Book cover for The Book of Speculation by Erika SwylerThe Book of Speculation” by Erica Swyler

“A roller coaster of a read! This is the story of a librarian from a splintered family with a tragic past who is gifted a mysterious book that leads him to dive deep into his family’s history, all while his present life seems to be falling to pieces around him. If you loved Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’ or Kostova’s ‘The Historian,’ this is a book for you.”
– Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, GA

Book cover for The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina GeorgeThe Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George

“Quirky and delightful, Nina George’s book focuses on Jean Perdu, owner of the Literary Apothecary, a floating bookshop. When a new tenant in his apartment building sets in motion events that force Jean to re-evaluate his past, he finds himself floating off down the rivers of France in search of lost love, new love and friends he didn’t know he needed.”
– Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, NY

And here’s the rest of June’s best with links to the library’s catalog so you can place your holds on these forthcoming books.

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Suspense in a Small Town: Karin Slaughter’s Grant County Series

May 20, 2015

Book cover for Triptych by Karin SlaughterAs a regular reader of the thriller genre, I was excited to finally give Karin Slaughter a try. I was familiar with her name — her novels are often bestsellers that fly off the shelves. I was immediately drawn to her strong writing. Slaughter’s style is dark and gritty. She’s not afraid to expose the dark side of her characters (even those that you’re rooting for)! Although many crime novels are set in more urban areas, Slaughter takes readers into small, Southern towns, where horrific crimes are bubbling just under the surface. And when they explode into visibility, it becomes clear that even idyllic small towns are not safe from the darker side of human nature.

Her most recent series (starting with the twist-filled thriller, “Triptych“) features Will Trent, a special agent for the Georgia Bureau of investigation. I learned that some of the characters who show up in the Will Trent stories were first featured in her “Grant County” series. I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order (gotta avoid spoilers!), so I set out to read the earlier series first.

The “Grant County” series features Dr. Sara Linton, town pediatrician and coroner, as well as her ex-husband (and chief-of-police) Jeffrey Tolliver. Sara and Jeffrey’s troubled relationship plays out over six books as they work together to solve several horrific crimes.Book cover for Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter The series also includes troubled officer Lena Adams. Lena is Jeffrey’s protogé, and the vicious murder of her twin sister Sybil opens this series in “Blindsighted.”  In the next two novels — “Kisscut” and “A Faint, Cold Fear” — the trio find themselves drawn into cases involving a family’s dark secrets and a series of suicides at the local college. A personal favorite of mine from the series is “Indelible,” which features an incredibly tense hostage situation. This book also provides a glimpse into the early days of Sara and Jeffrey’s relationship, as well as their involvement in the possible cover-up of a crime. In “Faithless,” Sara and Jeffrey look into a murder that may be connected to a local religious cult, while Lena struggles to maintain a grip on both her personal and professional lives. And, in “Beyond Reach,” the series’ final book, Sara and Jeffrey journey to Lena’s hometown after she is accused of murder, leading to repercussions none of them could have imagined.

Slaughter knows how to write a taut thriller, but she truly excels in developing complex characters and exploring their even more complex relationships. I found myself pulled into not only the story of how Sarah, Jeffrey and Lena solved the crimes, but also the drama in their ever-evolving relationships. The “Grant County” series is truly an engaging saga, with each novel building on the events of the previous one. And lucky for us readers, Slaughter gets better with each book.

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The Gentleman Recommends: Tania James

May 18, 2015

Book cover for The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania JamesIt can be great fun to read about villains, whether it’s because they command an army of monkeys (Wicked Witch), or they’re a great cook (Hannibal Lector) or they make you feel better about your own ethical shortcomings (Martha Stewart). But when you often read about such indisputably inhuman monsters, it’s good to be reminded that not everybody that does bad things is evil, and sometimes they are elephants. “The Tusk That Did The Damage” reminds us of this. In this sad and lovely and sometimes scary little novel, the elephant known as “The Gravedigger” witnessed the murder of his mother and the removal of her tail, and, after an often horrific existence marked by cruelty, isolation and a stint in the entertainment industry, begins murdering people and covering their corpses with leaves. Hence his catchy nickname.

The Tusk That Did The Damage” rotates among three perspectives: the aforementioned homicidal elephant, a young woman working on a documentary about a veterinarian running a rescue center for elephants and the younger brother of a young elephant poacher. While each narrative is worthy of my esteemed recommendation, getting inside the head of a mad elephant is the highlight for me, and I’d gladly read any excised material should the publisher wish to reward me for the sales boost I’m currently providing.

Tania James has given us a novel that raises a lot of questions, like: Why is the world set up so that the poverty stricken often have little choice but to step outside the law if they want their children to have cool stuff like plentiful food and maybe a toy? Why are humans so quick to kill things because pretty stuff is attached to their victims? And why can’t mosquitoes carry around little sacks of ivory so we don’t have people murdering intelligent creatures so they can make really pretty pianos? (You would be like, “Ouch, it hurts to slap a sack of ivory,” but then you’d be like, “It’s cool though cause I’ll just run this conveniently packaged ivory down to my local ivorysmith and he’ll turn it into a fancy trinket and give me some folding cash and maybe I’ll buy a little ivory glove from him so it doesn’t hurt to kill mosquitoes.”) Maybe you’ll get to thinking about the poacher’s brother’s insight that his community is “neither poor enough nor princely enough to appear on Western screens.” I’m grateful to see it on Western pages.

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What to Read While You Wait for At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

May 15, 2015

Book cover for At the Water's Edge by Sara GruenSara Gruen’s latest bestseller is “At the Water’s Edge.” After humiliating themselves and their families in the states, three spoiled, rich Americans — Maddie, her husband Hank and his best friend Ellis — arrive in Loch Ness during the middle of World War II in search of the famed monster. While Hank and Ellis spend their days drinking and hunting Nessy, Maddie is left alone to get a job, do chores and bond with the town folk who teach her the culture of the area. As the days turn into weeks, Maddie is transformed from “brat” into an independent young woman able to look at the truth about herself, her marriage and her family. If you find yourself waiting to read about Maddie, you might enjoy one of these other stories about personal change.

Book cover for I Still Dream About You by Fannie FlaggI Still Dream About You” by Fannie Flagg

From the outside, it looks like Maggie has it all. As a 60-something former Miss Alabama, beautiful, charming and a real estate agent at a local firm, Maggie thinks her life is a failure. This sure wasn’t the life she dreamed about as a child. Struggling with disappointment and ready to commit suicide, Maggie postpones her “date with doom” when she lets a friend talk her into going out for a one-night-only entertainment event. As she tries to reschedule her “date,” business and life further interrupt her plans. Maggie lands the listing of a historical mansion (beating out Babs, a rival realtor), finds a kilted skeleton in the attic, campaigns for the first black mayor and is involved in an auto accident, leading her to surprising discoveries and lessons in friendship.

Book cover for Skeletons at the Feast by Chris BohjalianSkeletons at the Feast” by Chris Bohjalian

This novel is based on a true life diary of a desperate escape from Germany during the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich. As the Russian army advances, the Nazis increase their violence on women and children to try to maintain the illusion of control. Anna, a Prussian aristocrat, her lover Callum, a Scottish POW, and Uri, a secret-filled escapee from an Auschwitz-bound train all journey across the iced-over Vistula River as the Reich falls. Tension is high between the lovers and this stranger as they flee from the war-ravaged cities.

Book cover for Flight Behavior by Barbara KingsolverFlight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia is an unsophisticated, chain smoking, restless young mother, stuck on a sheep farm in rural Tennessee. She got married  at 17 instead of going to college, and now she feels unhappy and stuck, about to begin an affair with a telephone lineman to bring her back to life.  On her way to said fling, she is waylaid by a magnificent sight, a “lake of fire” created by millions of monarch butterflies in the pasture owned by her in-laws. This amazing phenomenon is a disruption of the butterflies’ normal migratory route. As scientists, media and tourists converge on this impoverished area of the country, Dellarobia is awakened to the realities of her poverty-stricken life. She is given the opportunity to work alongside the scientists, expanding her horizons. Now, she is faced with the choice of keeping the status quo or perhaps finding personal fulfillment.

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New DVD List: Boyhood & More

May 13, 2015

boyhoodHere is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction recently added to the library collection.

Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014 and garnering an Oscar nomination for best picture, this film follows a boy named Mason who ages from 6 to 18 years old on screen. The film was shot intermittently over a 12-year period from May 2002 to October 2013, showing the growth of Mason and his older sister, Samantha, to adulthood.

Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this film by Robert Greene (“Kati with an i“) follows actress Brandy Burre who gave up her career to start a family. When she decides to reclaim her life as an actor, the domestic world she’s carefully created crumbles around her. It’s a film about starring in the movie of your life.

nick caveNick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this film follows a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon, Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit.

happy valleyHappy Valley
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2014, this film by Amir Bar-Lev (“My Kid Could Paint That”) investigates the Penn State child molestation scandal, in which Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of several accounts of child sexual abuse and head coach Joe Paterno and university administration were implicated in a coverup.

my winnipegMy Winnipeg
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Director Guy Maddin’s 2007 “docu-fantasia” is given a special re-release through the Criterion Collection. A work of memory and imagination focusing on the Canadian city of Winnipeg, Maddin’s film burrows into what the filmmaker calls “the heart of the heart” of the continent, conjuring a city populated by sleepwalkers and hockey aficionados.

Other notable releases:
Hannibal” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
Boss” – Season 1, Season 2Website / Reviews
Suits” – Season 1Website / Reviews
Babylon 5” – Season 1 – Website
Musketeers” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
Witches of East End” – Season 1Website / Reviews
The Sopranos” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5 – Website / Review

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