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TEEN Summer Reading @ Shreve Memorial Library

Teen Summer Reading Program 2013 officially begins on June First, but online registration is already open. To register, choose the appropriate program on the Summer Reading registration page. Once you are registered, you may log your book titles and authors. When you reach your initial goal of two books you may receive a prize as well as a certificate of achievement, redeemable online or at your primary library branch. For every ten books you read after you meet your goal, you will be eligible for even better prizes. Keep checking our website because there will be special grand prizes announced for the top teen readers this summer!

It’s not all about reading this summer. There will be super fun special programs for ages 11-18 check our events calendar for more info.


Book Review: Over the River and into the Trees

acrosstheriverI’ve been putting off writing this post for long enough. The idea of writing it bores me about as much as reading the book did. I gave Across the River and into the Trees two stars on Goodreads, not because it’s a bad novel, per se, but because it’s a bad novel for Hemingway. It’s also his last completed novel, which was a bit of a draw for me. (He committed suicide before completing another novel, and his tone sounds kind of like he'd already lost interest in life.) And for that, it’s almost what one would expect – in hindsight, at least.

It’s about a 51-year-old retiring America colonel in Italy. He’s hopelessly in love with a 19-year-old contessa who won’t marry him (or do any of the things that go along with marriage with him). During the week, he works, but on the weekends he travels back to Venice, stays in a hotel, and spends his time with the girl. They eat in restaurants and float around in gondolas (in which there’s a gross kind-of sex scene in the vein of the stumpy one in To Have and Have Not). And that’s about it. There’s also the not-so-shocking almost twisty ending.


That said, it’s exactly what I’d expect from a depressed, aging Hemingway with one foot in the mental grave. It’s sad. The whole thing is sad – but in a boring way. The first fifty pages was just his trip to Venice for the weekend. I almost put it down at that point because it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. Just military talk. He hadn’t even mentioned the contessa yet. The only thing that kept me reading at that point was the description on Goodreads. I’m not sorry I did, but, well, meh.

The only Hemingway novel I don’t like is The Old Man and the Sea, and the more Hemingway I read, the less sense that makes to me. It’s not like I actively dislike this one, either. I’m not interested enough in it to dislike it. Which is why I felt like I should go ahead and write this review: Across the River and into the Trees will be one of those novels I forget with a month.


Overdrive's Big Library Read

Welcome to the pilot version of Big Library Read! This is an opportunity to unite readers – and loyal library supporters – all over the world around a single eBook. Together with Sourcebooks, the leading independent publisher, OverDrive and your library are providing a compelling novel for all to read – with a valid library card, of course.

This pilot runs from May 15–June 1, 2013, and during that time the Big Library Read will be available to enjoy on all major devices, including Kindle® (US only) and iPad®, as well as in the browser via OverDrive Read.


National Train Day @ Shreve Memorial Library !

It’s National Train Day and the Shreve Memorial Library's Main Branch has planned a locomotive adventure! Scott Gerardy of Dirtfoot  and Kern Courtney will perform train songs by Woody Guthrie and various others  in the Eaves room at 10:00 a.m.  Following this sing along concert will be crafting, train stories with Dr. Spaghetti, and refreshments. This is a family focused, all ages event.


This event is occuring in conjunction with Downtown's Railroad Past tour courtesy of the DDA.


Book Review: The Bell

bellI’m not sure why I picked up Iris Murdoch‘s The Bell, especially since her first novel, Under the Net, which has been on my list for months, was sitting right on my coffee table. I really have no idea. I’m definitely a fan, though: I first hear of her from the movie Iris, which is about her life. She seemed like an interesting character. I stumbled upon her again, at some point, and bought and read an old library copy of The Unicorn, but that was a long time ago (before I started writing this blog!). I really liked The Unicorn, by the way.

Anyway, I somehow started reading The Bell (which I also own but don’t know how or why), and I was instantly hooked. It’s just so good. It was one of those of which I enjoy every single page – which is why I guess I finished it so quickly.

It’s about a lay religious community that lives next to a comment. Dora Greenfield, who had left her husband, Paul, decides to return to him, but he is researching old documents at the convent, so they stay with the community for a time. It’s tense, as I’m sure you can imagine. Many years before, the convent had lost its bell, and a new one is about to be installed, and Things Happen because of that, too. The community’s leader, Michael, has his own problems: he’s gay, in an Anglican religious community, probably in the 1950s, and his former student with whom he had had a relationship has come to live there. That’s tense, too, to say the least. And there are other characters with their own issues, which interweave with these two primary ones. It’s a mess.

I think I liked The Bell so much because I identified with a lot of the characters. Their actions and motivations seemed not necessarily right, but reasonable, to me, under the difficult circumstances. Or at least I understood why they did what they did. Murdoch weaves together the story and creates such full characters and setting that I was engrossed. Murdoch is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Bonus: Here’s the trailer for Iris!


Music Recommendation: Robert Johnson

“At first the music almost repelled me, it was so intense, and this man made no attempt to sugarcoat what he was trying to say, or play. It was hard-core, more than anything I had ever heard. After a few listenings I realized that, on some level, I had found the master, and that following this man's example would be my life work.” ― Eric Clapton

Robert Johnson – “The King of the Delta Blues” – was born 102 years ago today. Johnson’s legacy and influence still reverberate throughout popular music. Your library offers a few opportunities to explore the music of Robert Johnson. I recommend you check out the following titles:

Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers includes many of Johnson’s classic recordings from the 1930’s.

Eric Clapton’s Me and Mr. Johnson serves as a full-length tribute to the blues master.

Big Head Blues Club released a great Robert Johnson tribute album in 2011 entitled 100 Years of Robert Johnson . This album was recorded by the band Big Head Todd & The Monsters along with legends B.B. King, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite, and Honeyboy Edwards.

Bob Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased, 1989-2006 includes a fitting solo-acoustic version of Johnson’s “32-20 Blues”.

Cream’s The Very Best of Cream has an excellent cover version of Johnson’s “Crossroads”. 


Book Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes

somethingwickedI’ve gone back and forth on whether to give Something Wicked This Way Comes four or five stars on Goodreads. Not that it’s a really important decision. What made me think so much about it is how corny it is, especially at the end, though that corniness is part of its charm, why it’s so good. Which is why I decided on five stars.

Anyway. I first read this book when I was 14, or so, the same age as the protagonists. I had just moved to New Orleans and just started high school, and I was right in the middle of that awkward teenager phase. I totally understood this book from the Will and Jim’s perspective. I’m so glad I read it then so I could come back as an adult to read it again. It’s told from a nostalgic point of view, by an adult. Now I understand that end, too, and I like it all the more.

It’s about two young teenagers, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, and Will’s dad, Charles. Will is content to let his life go on as it is, as it should, but Jim can’t wait to grow up and hit twenty. Charles, who is fifty, would like to be younger so he can relate better to his son. Everyone in town wants something he or she isn’t supposed to have. Then a carnival appears overnight, late in the year for one. And it’s not an ordinary carnival: something’s off. Jim and Will visit one night and stick around afterward. They get into trouble when they see a carousel that’s somehow magic. Mr. Dark and Mr. Cooger, the carnival’s owners, seem to be after them, and strange things start happening all over town.

So I’ve already said that I like this book, and I think I’m lucky to have read it twice like I did. It really is good: just keep in mind that it’s supposed to be a little corny. Isn’t most nostalgia somehow corny? If you’ve read it before and it’s been a few years, pick it up again. If you know a teenager, suggest this one, as it’s really worth reading. And it’s a nice, fast read, which I needed after A Game of Thrones and before the inevitable A Clash of Kings. Next, I think I’ll relive another chunk of my childhood with The Catcher in the Rye.


Music Recommendation: GRRR! by The Rolling Stones

I know it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

The Rolling Stones, arguably the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all time, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. To commemorate this occasion they released GRRR! in November 2012.

My dad was a huge fan of The Rolling Stones. He still talks about listening to them and Jimi Hendrix on his transistor radio in Plain Dealing, LA back in the 1960’s. He was lucky enough to see The Stones when they played the Hirsch Youth Center in 1965. Man, I wish I could have been there with him!     

GRRR! contains 40 of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs of all time. My personal favorites include “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Honky Tonk Women”, and “Beast of Burden”. If you are like me, sometimes you need that cheesy/gritty type of music that The Stones are simply the best at. I cannot listen to the opening chords of “Tumbling Dice” without wondering how Keith Richards is capable of making a guitar sound like melting butter. These songs are that good!

GRRR! was released in numerous formats. You can check out the two-disc version from Shreve Memorial Library.

You might also enjoy these selections:


Book Review: A Game of Thrones

gameofthronesWell, that took forever. Three weeks, give or take a couple days. I could have done it faster (my friends who’ve read it say they sped right through it), but I just couldn’t read more than 25 or 30 pages of A Game of Thrones at a time. That’s not to say it’s bad – I thoroughly enjoyed it - it’s just long. Really, really long. I know, I know. Some of my favorite books are long. It’s just that when I’m trying to make it to 50 in a year, something that takes three weeks to finish messes with my schedule.

ANYWAY. You probably know all about A Game of Thrones whether from the books or the HBO series. Everyone else seems to, which is why I broke down and took it off of my tl;dr list, where it had rested comfortably for a year, or so.

The plot is so convoluted that I’m not really going to try to summarize this one. In general, it’s about warring lords wanting to claim a kingdom. They even say “game of thrones” several times in the book. It’s like a big chess game. What’s fun, though, is that it’s not always predictable. You become comfortable with a character, and zing! he or she is dead. Also: there are about ten thousand characters, and I don’t think that’s much of an overstatement. I’m really surprised I didn’t spend half my time confused about what was going on. I have to give George R.R. Martin credit for that because it’s a feat. Oh. And don’t expect this book to do anything but make you want to read the rest of them. The end is not really an end – it’s a big ol' cliffhanger. I just want to read the next book, and I know that I don’t have time right now, and that’s frustrating. I’m tempted to read a bunch of graphic novels to catch up, then dive back into the series, but I’m holding off.

So here’s the point: It’s good and epic, but don’t get sucked into it if you don’t want to finish it.

I haven’t seen the TV series, but someone told me that if I’m going to watch and read it, I should watch it first because I’ll be mad if I read it first. Okay, I have seen the first hour, or so, of the series, but I didn’t have the patience for it, and I’m not planning on watching the rest anytime soon. The books, though, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away from because I just can’t help myself.


It's National Poem in Your Pocket Day!

pocketpoemThat's right! Today's the day to print out your favorite poem, stick it in your pocket, and pull it out to show everyone! has a webpage devoted to it with a handy-dandy tool to print out a pocket poem of your own!

I figured I'd share one of my very favorite short poems. It's called "Oread," by H.D.:

Whirl up, sea--
whirl your pointed pines,
splash your great pines
on our rocks,
hurl your green over us,
cover us with your pools of fir.

If you like this one, you can find lots more by H.D., including my favorite, "Eurydice," at the Poetry Foundation. You can also read other people's favorite short poems by searching #pocketpoem on Twitter.


Music Review: The Beast in Its Tracks by Josh Ritter

 Artist: Josh Ritter

 Title: The Beast in Its Tracks

Pytheas Recordings, March 2013

“I can’t pretend that all is well.  It’s like I’m haunted by a ghost.  There are times I cannot speak your name for the catching in my throat.  There are things I will not sing for the sting of sour notes.”  - Josh Ritter, "New Lover" 

The Beast in Its Tracks serves as singer-songwriter Josh Ritter’s response to his divorce from musician, Dawn Landes.  Ritter displays humor, anger, and warmth as he honestly processes his experiences and emotions through song. The result is an extremely intimate and rewarding album.

I was first introduced to Josh Ritter’s music by checking out one of his CDs from the library. Luckily, Shreve Memorial Library now offers three opportunities to explore the music of Josh Ritter. The Beast in Its Tracks and 2010’s So Runs the World Away are available for checkout. My favorite tracks from these albums include “New Lover” and “Joy to You Baby” from The Beast in Its Tracks and “The Curse” (possibly the greatest love song between an archaeologist and a mummy that you will ever hear) from So Runs the World Away. You can also download 2007’s The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter from SML’s new music service – Freegal.

Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band will be performing in Baton Rouge on Sunday, June 30th and New Orleans on Monday, July 1st.    


The Makers Fair!

makersfairThe Texas Avenue Makers Fair returns on Saturday, April 27th! The Texas Avenue Makers Fair is a non-traditional arts and crafts fair. Find it at the corner of Common St. and Texas Ave. in Downtown Shreveport. The hours are 10 a.m. to - 4 p.m.

There will be nearly 200 vendors selling various items including delicious food! Admission is free and open to the public.
 Bring your appetite! The Some Like It Hot food truck and the River City Seafood food truck will be there as well as yummies from Ki Mexico, Kern Has Coffee, and more!!!

 And you can visit the Friends of Shreve Memorial Library booth!


Book Review: Eric

ericEric was exactly what I needed after the torture that was Kafka‘s Amerika. A Terry Pratchett novel is always funny and enjoyable – and in this case, a relief. I had no idea where to go after Amerika. I wanted to take a break from books. I knew that if I did that, though, my goal of reading 50 this year would crumble. And there was the next Discworld novel waiting patiently on my Kindle. Eric is the 9th of 40 (so far), and it’s (also so far) my favorite. I loved Eric. I even had a Neverending Story-style lunch in my office to finish it. PB&J and the works! Oh, it was so good.

It’s the third Rincewind novel, meaning that it stars a mischievous wizard of that name. After the last one, he ended up in the realm of the demons, and he wanted to get back to the (more) real world of Ankh-Morpork. Turns out, though, that his ticket in is a demon circle opened by a 13-year-old kid named Eric, who has Faustian dreams. He is convinced that Rincewind is a demon and, if Eric signs his soul over, that supposed demon will grant him three wishes: live forever, meet the most beautiful woman in the world, rule the world. Except when Rincewind snaps his fingers, it works, and they visit the Mayans, the Trojan War, and Dante’s version of Hell. And it’s so much fun!

I can always rely on Discworld novel for a chuckle or twelve, and Eric certainly didn’t disappoint. This is an especially short one, too, so I finished it within 24 hours, which is an exception for me. One good thing about the Discworld novels is that you don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way through: though they’re all interconnected, you can pick any one of them up and enjoy it. If you haven’t read any of them yet, I’d say Eric is a good starting place.

Check it out!


Book Review: Amerika

amerikaI haven’t hated a novel so much in a long time. Amerika is quite possibly the most frustrating novel I’ve ever read – even more than Kafka‘s other novels. It’s considered one of his three principal novels - The Trial, The Castle, and this one (The Metamorphosis evidently doesn’t count because it’s a novella) – and it’s not even finished. I bet I can tell you why, too: Kafka knew it sucks, and he knew the plot couldn’t go anywhere worthwhile. It would just have to be an endless loop, so he gave up. Which is kind of what his novels are, anyway. They’re certainly frustrating. I’m beginning to wonder why I like the other two (and The Metamorphosis) so much. Maybe it depends on my mood. But I hated this one almost from the beginning. I’m not even sure why I finished it.

And what made it worse: I was done when I realized that it’s unfinished. I dislike unfinished novels, and I rarely read them. Not only am I predisposed to dislike it on that basis, but it just isn't any good. MEH.

It’s about Karl Rossman, who is sent to America by his parents because he got a girl pregnant, and they don’t want to have to pay. And Karl trusts everyone, even if they’re obviously out to get him, so he ends up in trouble pretty quickly. He takes the side of one of the ship’s employees who thinks he’s being treated unfairly even though he (Karl) has just met the employee. As things go south, a businessman asks Karl to repeat his name then claims to be his long-lost American uncle, there to rescue him. Thus ensues lots of creepiness, and trusting ol’ Karl gets into trouble again, though he doesn’t mean to, and his uncle is entirely unreasonable. I really don’t understand the situation. It’s a ridiculous situation that only Kafka could pull off, and this time he does it badly. Then Karl ends up on his own and works in a hotel for a while, then becomes a kind of slave, and then on and on and on.

I seriously wanted to throw this book across the room when I finished it. I hated it that much. The last book I hated that much was Chinua Achebe‘s Things Fall Apart, but I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that because he just died. Except I did.

ANYWAY, Amerika is, as I said, Kafka’s first novel. And it’s not good. And I almost wish I hadn’t bothered to finish reading it just to find out that even Kafka couldn’t finish it. On to greener pastures.

Check it out if you're curious.


Book Review: Kafka on the Shore

kafkaontheshoreI’ve been meaning to write this post for about a week, now, but I keep putting it off. I think the lesson I’ve learned here is not to read a Murakami book twice because I won’t like it as much. The only other one I’ve read twice is Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which had previously been my favorite novel. Until that second reading, after which it was replaced by Kafka on the Shore. Well, I’m in the same position now, and all of this is rethinking my devotion to Murakami. It’s not that it’s a bad novel, or anything. I just didn’t like it as much. I certainly understood more of it this time around, even though it had been a few years since I’d read it, and maybe that’s why I didn’t like it so much. Or maybe not. I’m just a bit confused.

Kafka on the Shore is about a kid named Kafka Tamura (he changed his first name) who runs away from home, partially because he doesn’t get along with his father, a famous sculptor, who prophesied that Kafka would kill his father and sleep with his mother and his sister. Kafka ends up in another town at a private library. Then things start to get weird in a way only Murakami could think up. There’s also an older man named Nakata. When he was young, something mysterious happened to him and his classmates, and all of them recovered except him. He seems a bit autistic, and he can talk to cats. He gets aid from the state and supplements his income by finding people’s cats. On the trail of one of these cats, he finds himself in an empty lot where one had been last seen. A big dog appears and guides him to the house of a man who calls himself Johnnie Walker who does terrible things to cats to collect their souls to make a flute. (Yep, that’s the plot.) Nakata kills him, and it turns out later that Kafka’s father had been murdered, but apparently under different circumstances. And then more Murakami-ish things happen, some of them involving fish falling from the sky.

Yeah, it’s a strange novel – as are all of them. Most of Murakami’s work is magical realism, kind of like Gabriel Garcia Marquez‘s One Hundred Years of Solitude. That’s one of the reasons I like him so much. He’s certainly one of the best living authors (and so is Marquez, though he quit writing). I’ve read every one of Murakami’s novels published in English, even the hard-to-find ones like Pinball, 1973. I didn’t especially like A Wild Sheep Chase or After Dark, and I’m still considering giving them a second read because I should like them. And there’s 1Q84, which plain ol’ disappointed me. All of the others, though, I really like. Even the two I’ve read twice – it’s just that I don’t like them quite as much as I did the first time I read them.

If you haven’t read any Murakami, pick up one of his books at the library. I read somewhere that Norwegian Wood is his most accessible because it’s the most realistic, and I can agree with that. There’s also the movie coming out sometime soon. My first Murakami was Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I was browsing the shelves at the Urbana Free Library in Illinois and thought the title was too interesting to pass up. I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably his best, and as much as I loved it, I don’t think I’ll read it again anytime soon because I don’t want to be disappointed on the second go-round.


Family's what you make it

I have two recommendations this time, and they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Yes, that’s right; they’re completely unrelated outside my desire to share them. Or are they?

I do like exploring BBC’s offerings. A wonderful staff member at Broadmoor suggested this one.*  Land Girls is a drama set in World War II England; men are off fighting the war, and women, of course, want to help. Stuck at home, so to speak, English women join the Women’s Land Army, in which they would find themselves leaving their homes and families to work in new situations. Some of the women come from the upper class and are shipped away; others are simply trying to find a way to help while their husbands are off at war. In Land Girls, we get to know four young women with various backgrounds who find themselves on a country estate; we see how the war not so far away affects them and those who must show their national pride by producing food for the rest of the country. We watch as these young women mature, love, and lose. There is a hint of romanticism, found in most historical pieces, but none of the women are presented as saints. While some of the characters we meet border on caricatures, they are all real humans.  

 So,that’s the first one; what’s the second one? It’s so far left of field it’s not even a BBC show, and it’s even set in the US! That’s right; I do watch shows that don’t even have English characters as regulars!

 When I was a school kid, so many many many years ago, I got caught up in the show Hey Dude. The show follows the often times ridiculous exploits of the staff on the Bar None dude ranch. The show almost made me want to go out to the desert and ride horses; who wouldn’t want to be in a barrel race one day, take a long ride into the scenic desert another, and then enjoy a pie eating contest and barn dance the next? Of course, the show has many flaws, but it is often light hearted and enjoyable, even though the cheese factor is quite high. I usually watched this during the summer, so one step outside quickly reminded me why I had no desire to be in the heat. Yet, I so wanted to meet these teens who had built a life and family on a ranch in a world almost as distant to a Louisiana girl as World War II England would be.

 So, how are these two related? They explore families created by location, not by blood. While the situations and tones are vastly different, the connections formed are interestingly similar because they are indeed families and friendships created and strengthened by the imagined solitude of the location. There is a distance from the norm in both cases that allows the women in Land Girls and the teens in Hey Dude to bond as well as grow beyond the expectations of class and gender. Now, do I think these two shows are on the same level? Not exactly. One has a better production value and writing, but the other provides amusement for teens and tweens, even before the word existed.   Both are enjoyable, and both are worth recommendation. At least as far as I’m concerned.

 Start with the women as they begin work for the Women’s Land Army with the first series of Land Girls, or get to know the staff at Bar None with the first season of Hey Dude.

 *Ask the staff for viewing suggestions at any branch. They’re actually quite helpful with this.


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