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The Dynamics of the Con

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development

Have you ever heard of Ferdinand Waldo Demara? How about William Franklin Miller? Chances are, you are unfamiliar with those names, as was I. It turns out that they rank among the most gifted of con artists. Demara, for example, was posing as Dr. Joseph Cyr, a surgeon on board the HMCS Cayuga during the Korean War, at which time he routinely treated those injured in the conflict and even performed surgeries. The problem was that he not only assumed the identity of a respected medical doctor, but also failed to graduate from high school. Miller, in similar fashion, fabricated his investment strategy expertise in the late 19th century by luring friends to deposit small amounts of cash for a guaranteed 10% return and no risk. In this manner, he built a personal fortune worth over $1 million dollars.

Both men are mentioned briefly in a wonderful new book by Maria Konnikova entitled The Confidence Game. This fascinating look at the con offers both unbelievable stories of those who successfully conned others and a close look at the psychology involved.

Konnikova explains the success of the con artist through what she calls “soft skills.” Con artists are not hardened criminals that take and harm through violence; they are those who appeal to our sense of trust or sympathy. Konnikova points out that the con artist doesn’t force victims to do anything. Instead he allows the victims to work with him, offering up whatever he is willing to take from them. The author faults the human condition of need for story. She says that we all crave narratives and that we want to believe what others tell us, regardless of actual truth.

What makes a good con artist? The author describes the most talented of a cons as those who can read emotions and backgrounds in a heartbeat. They are intelligent and highly perceptive and can sense the desires of victims even when those desires seem to be well hidden. How did Konnikova discover so much about cons? She did the research and even consulted a mind reader who (without knowing her name or occupation) played on her job insecurities and raised issues of self-doubt.

All of this leads to Konnikova’s chapter entitled “The Play.” Here we learn what it is that hooks the heedless mark into the trap. She cites an example of a young woman who fell in love with a brilliant young scientist. The two young people moved in together, but the woman began noticing inconsistencies in her beloved’s stories. He had, for example, very few personal effects and offered her no clues to his past or family. When the young woman finally investigated his esteemed research position, she found he had no such position and no educational background. Because she wanted to be in a relationship, she had long ignored oddities that she would normally have spotted.

Where does the ideal con end? The author suggests that it successfully ends just when the mark is at his most convinced. Perhaps the victim has had some financial success or actually bought an object of genuine worth from the con. The con has extended some success to his victim, and the victim has invested complete trust. If there has been some disappointment in transactions, the victim believes it has been an honest mistake. Konnikova suggests that we have a solid belief that everything is going to turn out well for us, even when we should be discovering serious doubts.

Why are human being so vulnerable to the con? Konnikova says that they promise us a reality that we so want to believe. We want to attain the wealth, the contentment, the togetherness with others that the con offers us. That, she says, is what makes the scam the true “world’s oldest profession.”

This book is riveting. The intricacies of the conning process and the individual accounts of theft are simply eye-opening. Chances are very good that interested readers will recall episodes from their own lives during which they were completely baffled by well-constructed lies. Allow this gifted writer to help you avoid future scams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A New Year at the Library

By Grace Benedick, Youth Services Library Assistant

parents and toddlers at toddler wiggleworms storytime2016 marks the start of our second year in our expanded children’s space at Manhattan Public Library, and we are excited to offer many exciting programs this semester. January has already been a full month with Baby and Toddler Play Dates and Yoga Storytimes to fill the gap between our storytime sessions, and on January 25th our spring storytime session will begin.

If you have a little one 18 months or younger, try out our Baby Rhyme Time Storytime, on Monday mornings from 11 to 11:30 and on Thursday mornings from 9:30 to 10. Baby Rhyme Time is designed for infants and young toddlers with their parents or caregivers. We will sing nursery rhymes and silly songs with interactive actions for parent and baby, read short books together, and play with shakers and music.

Toddlers have three storytime opportunities each week. On Monday and Tuesday mornings we will have Toddler Wiggleworms from 9:30 to 10, and on Wednesday it will be from 11 to 11:30. Toddler Wiggleworms is an active storytime for toddlers, with picture books read by the librarian, choral readers read together by all the parents, lots of action rhymes, and music so your little wiggleworms can get all their wiggles out.

If your child is 3 or older, check out one of our Preschool Story Train storytimes. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings we will have Preschool Story Train from 11 to 11:30, and on Wednesday mornings from 9:30 to 10. This is a lively story and music session very similar to Toddler Wiggleworms but with longer picture books, more complex action songs, and activities with directions to follow.

On Saturday mornings we will have Family Fun Storytime from 11 to 11:30, a storytime with great picture books, action songs, and music for all ages.

We’ll continue to collaborate with Sunset Zoo to bring you Zoofari Tails on the 4th Friday of each month. January’s Zoofari Tails program will be about possums and prairie dogs. We’ll have action songs and read funny picture books, including Janet Steven’s Great Fuzz Frenzy. We are also partnering with Flint Hills Discovery Center this year to host “exhibit preview” programs in the library. The first event is January 30 at 2:00, featuring “How People Make Things” with hands-on activities for kids in grades K-6. Kids can cut, mold, deform and assemble a project to take home.

Our Read with a Dog program will continue on the 2nd and 4th Sunday afternoons each month from 2-4 pm. This popular program allows children to practice their reading skills without pressure while reading aloud to a loveable therapy dog. In February, Read with a Dog will take place on the 14th and the 28th.

Join us in February for special events for older children, starting with Harry Potter Book Night on February 4th.  Celebrate this magical series by completing a scavenger hunt in the Children’s Room between 4 and 7. Children receive a “galleon” for each correct answer which they can exchange for small prizes our sweets shop.  Supplies for making wands and paper Hogwarts pets will also be available. Dress in costume, or come as a muggle!

dorkCelebrate Chinese New Year with us the following day with a party on February 5th from 2-3 pm. Kids in grades K-3 can come learn about the traditional celebrations of the Chinese New Year. We’ll read New Year’s stories, make paper dragons, and do a dragon dance. Then bring your tweens (4th-6th graders) on February 11th for a party featuring the Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. We’ll play games and decorate pens and journals, so kids can keep their own diaries. On February 24th, grades K-6th are invited to come to our Acting Out at the library event. We’ll play theatre games and act out skits in celebration of Shakespeare’s First Folio Exhibition coming to the Beach Museum in February.

Check the library website for more information on upcoming programming and events. If you have any questions regarding children’s and tween programs, please contact the Youth Services Department staff at kidstaff@mhklibrary.org or (785)776-4741 ext. 400.

 

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Delve into the Rich History of the Manhattan Area!

by Linda Henderson, Adult Services Librarian

In 1855, the Hartford, the first little steamboat built specially to travel the Kansas River, beached on a sandbar near the mouth of the Little Blue River.   Little could these new visitors to Kansas imagine their legacy: a rich history of people and unique accomplishments!   First named “New Boston,” “Manhattan” was established after a compromise between two major settling companies.  The Riley County Historical Society, the Riley County Genealogical Society, and Manhattan Public Library maintain reams of history for anyone interested in knowing more about how our city came to be.

Manhattan Public Library makes a point of preserving books about local history.  Winifred Slagg’s Riley County Kansas vividly portrays the early settlers of Riley County.  A local author, Lowell Jack, in his History of Manhattan, Kansas, Riley County and Ft. Riley, offers an excellent timeline starting in 1850.  He recounts personal stories of founders, like Mrs. E.B. Purcell, who persuaded Andrew Carnegie to contribute $10,000 to establish our first library, and Ella Child, women’s suffragist daughter of Seth Child, accompanying her parents to the polls so that they could all vote. Neighbors of the Past, also by Jack, recounts personal histories of interesting historic Manhattanites.

Another local author, Geraldine Baker Walton, wrote 140 Years of Soul: a History of African Americans in Manhattan, Kansas 1865-2005 An excellent review of Manhattan’s local architecture awaits in The Architects & Buildings of Manhattan, Kansas by Dr. Patricia J. O’Brien.  The public library also has many calendars and books full of historical photographs.  Or, on the fantastic side, Ghosts of Fort Riley shares stories and photos about legendary ghosts said to haunt Ft. Riley. The Official State Atlas of Kansas, published in 1887, holds a historic Manhattan city and Riley county map, along with many other Kansas locations, with drawings of many Kansas business buildings and farmsteads.  And, the Manhattan city directories list people and businesses from the 1950s until today.

Google does not know everything yet!  Manhattan Public Library maintains a huge collection of newspapers and local publications on microfilm. The earliest is from 1859 entitled: The Manhattan Express.  Other titles include The Kansas Radical from 1866, The Leonardville Monitor from 1884 on, and the Riley County Chronicle from 1889.  The Seaton family bought the Mercury newspaper in 1915,  and after several title reincarnations, the Seatons adopted the title:  Manhattan Mercury in 1954. Whatever its title, we archive the Mercury from then to now on microfilm – and of course, we keep the paper copies for three months, too!

The microfilm collection provides a wealth of history for Manhattan, Leonardville, Randolph, and the Riley County area.  Thanks to Sy Ekart, who has volunteered hundreds of hours over several years, manually inspecting decades of aging newsprint, we have indexes covering newspapers from the 1850s through the 1940s. Sy is continuing to index more newspapers on microfilm today. The indexes  note obituaries and many other articles in local newspapers.   Accidents, business openings and closings, elections, and so much more; if it happened here, Sy indexed who did what.

Beyond recounting the specifics of Manhattan, older newspapers can entertain!  It is sometimes startling and just plain funny to look at the past.    Familiar and strange things for sale for mere cents, political commentary that could almost have come from today’s op-eds, interesting personal notices – both more and less has changed than we tend to think!  Even browsing your local newspaper from when you graduated from high school can bring back many memories – the news of the time; what bands were playing; the best places to eat and relax.

Manhattan Public Library holds these wonderful indexes in the reference area on 2nd floor, and they are also available at the Riley County Genealogical Society.  Manhattan Public Library’s new microfilm readers let patrons e-mail, print, or save any of these materials for later reading or sharing.  We will be happy to request other Kansas newspapers on microfilm from the Kansas Historical Society at no charge.

Our local history cabinet holds articles and pictures about all sorts of things: local floods, from the massive pre-Manhattan Kansas River flood of 1844 to the floods of 1903, 1951, and 1993; the Tuttle Creek Dam controversy; local biographies; city maps from various times; articles on Kansas City’s George Giles, of the African American Monarchs; writings from anti-slavery settlers; the origins of Manhattan street names; stories about the Old Military Trail, and hundreds of other bits of local history.

Our popular “Tech Tuesdays” classes are starting this Tuesday, January 12 at 2:00 p.m. with “Download E-books and Audiobooks. The following Tuesday, January 19th, also at 2:00, p.m., the session will be on Smartphone Help.  Feel free to call Manhattan Public Library at 785-776-4741, ext. 300 for more information.

Photos courtesy of the Riley County Historical Society

 

 

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Escape Holiday Stress with an Adventurous Book

by Danielle Schapaugh

Because this time of year is extra stressful (plus the weather is getting bleaker and the days ever shorter), it’s the perfect time to escape into a can’t-put-it-down fantastic story.  The books below will whisk you away to other worlds and great adventures, some are gritty and others uplifting, and each one is worth a try.

Pierce Brown’s debut novel, “Red Rising,” will grab you from the first page and take you on a daring, action-packed journey into the future and across planets.  The best part is, it’s also full of heart.  The story begins deep in the mines of Mars with Darrow, the youngest drill specialist or “helldiver” in recent memory.  After a torturous betrayal, his need for vengeance drives him to become a revolutionary with the hope of changing the entire caste system of his society.  Driven to seek social justice by his indestructible love of family, he transforms himself and becomes more than he ever thought he could be.  Like Rocky Balboa, he possesses an inhuman ability to endure, and you will love Darrow soon after the first line, “I would have lived in peace but my enemies brought me war.”

Book two in the Red Rising series, “Golden Son,” does not suffer from the typical sophomore book slump.  I was grateful to be able to pick it up immediately after finishing the first book and am now anxiously awaiting the third installment, “Morning Star,” which is due to be released on January 12.  I recommend Brown’s books to everyone I meet, including my dental hygienist, mail carrier, and all of my coworkers.  Universal Pictures purchased the screen rights for seven figures, so it looks like a new blockbuster is in the works.

Next, for an adventurous tale that is both gritty and poetic, try “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doer.  This is the story of two young people on opposing sides of WWII in occupied France.  Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a young blind woman left alone in a house that is crumbling around her.  As the bombs drop, you follow her journey while she hides, drinks the dusty water from a bathtub, and discovers a last can of food that is miraculously filled with peaches.  Your heart may forget to beat as you turn the pages.

Marie-Laure’s counterpart, Werner Pfennig, is a German orphan who loves fixing things.  When an officer discovers Werner’s uncanny ability to repair radios, he finds himself recruited by the Nazis and plugged into the war machine.  You will long for the war to end but for the book to continue forever.

Finally, in “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” you will find yourself becoming strangely fascinated with the study of moss.  The journey in this book is largely internal, but oh, what an immense and powerful journey it is.  Plain-faced Alma Whittaker moves from infancy to old age and discovers truths about herself which only time can reveal.  The visceral details of 19th century life, the struggles between identity and expectations, and the passion with which Alma approaches her scientific study of mosses will have you immersed in another world and begging for more.

Accepting someone’s book suggestion requires a certain amount of trust.  You wouldn’t trust the opinion of someone you don’t know, but I would like you to think of your local librarians as your “book fortune tellers.”  Librarians are trained to identify the “appeal factors” of a book in order to recommend the right book for the right person.  So, if ever you find yourself in need of a reliable suggestion, a librarian will help assess your preferences and give you a list of books you are sure to love. The next time you’re here, ask a librarian about getting a personalized reading list.  You can also call the library at (785) 477-2735, or email us at refstaff@mhklibrary.org.

 

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New Nonfiction Standouts for Adults

By Marcia Allen, Collection Development, Manhattan Public Library

With summer activities but a memory, and colder weather looming in the near future, it’s time to return to indoor activities.  Fortunately for us, these changes coincide with the release of new fall book titles.  And this season’s releases offer some intriguing topics that just might attract you.  Consider the following:

  • The Witches: Salem 1692 by Stacy Schiff. This lengthy book received a lot of advance attention, primarily because of the tremendous success of Schiff’s 2011 nonfiction bestseller, Cleopatra, as well as her 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning book,   This time, Schiff recounts that shameful period of American history known as the Salem Witch Trials.   She opens the book with a reminder that in the year 1692, nineteen people were hanged in the little town of Salem, after their accusers testified to a series of horrendous deeds they suffered at the hands of those they accused. A list and description of the major characters involved in this tragedy helps us to better understand the nature of this frenzy.  Schiff’s telling is dramatic, and though we know how the story plays out, the book is a worthy reminder about human behavior at its worst.

 

  • Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown. This book is about the Lewis chessmen of the Scottish National Museum and the British Museum which are considered rare treasures indeed, but the book is more of a whole cultural experience.  The 12th century, during which the chessmen were created by the talented Margret the Adroit of Iceland, is displayed in all its colorful history.   Curious readers will discover the extent to which the Vikings controlled the North Atlantic.  They will learn of the hunt for coveted walrus ivory.  They will explore the culture of Norse society.  Each chapter opens with a reference to a particular chess piece, but it soon veers off into tales of contemporary nobility and war, the creation of art, the written tales, and so much more.  There’s a bit of everything in this wonderful tale.

  • Fortunate Son by John Fogarty. This is one of many autobiographies written by entertainers to come out this season, but it’s also one of the better ones.  Well known for his role in Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogarty tells of his early admiration for musicians like Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs, and he recalls the band’s memorable performances, like their arrival at Woodstock.  He shares his naïve dealings with his first agent, and he describes the motivation behind so many of his hit songs, like his intent with “Run through the Jungle.”   He speaks well of his successes, but he also recounts the poor choices that he made, thus we discover the humble storyteller that he is.

 

  • SPQR
    by Mary Beard.  At over 600 pages in length, this history of ancient Rome seems intimidating, but Cambridge professor Beard brings an amazing period back to life.  Her goal?  Of course, she tells the story of the growth of a powerful empire, but she also works to dispel the Roman myths we have all come to accept as truth.  She tells us, for example, that Rome was not some inferior copier of Greek culture; in fact, Rome was a nation of inventive people fascinated with structural engineering.  We learn in these pages more than history ever previously revealed about Roman perception and Roman thinking.  Recent discoveries in literature and in excavation have given us a truer picture of those who lived so many centuries ago.  Think of Beard as a lively guide, displaying for us a lost age.

  • The Art of Grace by Sarah L. Kaufman. What a lovely book!  As author Kaufman says, “Grace is being at ease with the world, even when life tosses wine down your pants.”  Her book is a collection of the characters and the anecdotes which speak to her of the true nature of grace.
    Roger Federer, says the author, exhibits grace in beautiful movement on the court.  Margaret Thatcher exhibited grace for her bearing and her attention to her appearance even when facing the House of Commons.  Ballerina Margot Fonteyn demonstrated grace in her poise and obvious joy in dance.  At the heart of grace is ease, says Kaufman, a talent that one can attain through a practical consideration of her ten helpful points.  A lively look at an admirable characteristic.

With all the readily available new titles that this season offers, we can shift comfortably into the confines of winter.  An armchair adventures awaits.

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Finding Diversity in Reading

by Amber Keck, Youth Services Librarian

The artful act of reading is a beautiful thing to observe.  Different people have different motives and end goals when they participate in reading.  For some, it is done in order to gain knowledge and facts.  For others, reading is a pleasurable activity, meant to allow readers to indulge and escape.  For many, reading is a way to escape AND a way to gain knowledge.  Readers might find themselves engrossed in the story of a person living a life they will never have.  By reading about that character, readers can experience a life different from their own.  Reading diversely allows people to enter into a world that is not their past, present or future reality.  While they may not be able to understand the full experience of the character, they gain a bit of insight into a life.

The summer and fall of 2015 offered many new book releases that can help you diversify your reading.  Here are just a few picks for you to consider.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a journalist and educator, specializing in social, political and cultural issues in America.  His 2008 memoir, The Beautiful Struggle, revisited his childhood, growing up in a poor Baltimore neighborhood with a father determined to raise his son right.  Between the World and Me seeks to help readers understand race culture and the struggles that African-Americans face today and have faced in the past.  This book is written as a letter to his son, as Coates lays bare life as a black man in America.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Plus-sized teenager Willowdean is comfortable in her own body and not afraid to say it.  When she gets a crush on a boy and starts to lose her swagger, she decides to enter a local beauty pageant.  Author Julie Murphy takes the classic bildungsroman to a whole new level with this young adult novel.  With a character comfortable in her own skin, she sends a message to girls of all sizes, to embrace their inner beauty and outer beauty at the same time.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Award-winning author Jenny Lawson is not afraid to tell the truth about how she was raised and how her brain functions in the context of mental illness.  Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, stunned readers with its vulnerability and comfort in the truth of living with depression and anxiety.  In Furiously Happy, Lawson goes even further in an effort to help readers truly accept the “crazy” moments and the “normal” moments, to make them memorable and wonderful.  Lawson writes about mental illness in a fresh way that leaves readers crying and laughing.

Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling is a TV writer, actress and creator of the The Mindy Project, a show in which she also stars.  Her first set of essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, gave readers a glimpse into the life of a young minority woman working in Hollywood.  Why Not Me? is a second set of personal essays, offering even more insight into finding success in television.  Kaling discusses her ongoing relationship with co-writer B.J. Novak, as well as America’s fixation on the weight of actresses.  Kaling’s wit and snark make her essays enjoyable, while her honesty and vulnerability keep her writing accessible.

These titles are just a few among many that can diversify your reading life.  The Manhattan Public Library staff would love to help you find your next great read.  Talk to a staff member today, or request a personalized reading list at the library or online.

 

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The Women Who Made America Stylish

 

by Susan Withee, Adult Services Manager

 The Manhattan community is in for a treat when Linda Przybyszewski, Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, visits Manhattan this Thursday and Friday, October 22-23, to talk about her book “The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish.”  She will speak at Manhattan Public Library, at the Kansas State University College of Human Ecology, and in the Meadowlark Hills Community Room.  Her visit is funded by the Chapman Center for Rural Life and sponsored by the Manhattan Public Library, the KSU History Department, the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design, and the University Archives of Hale Library.

Home Economics as a 20th century academic discipline grew out of the earlier Domestic Science movement.  It applied scientific and economic principles to managing American homes and included research and teaching on nutrition and food safety, family and child development, consumer science, family economics, interior design, clothing and textiles, and more.

The Lost Art of Dress” is the story of a remarkable group of women, pioneers in Home Economics as an academic field, who spearheaded a nationwide movement in the early 20th century toward fashion that was beautiful, economical, and practical.  Nicknamed the Dress Doctors, they included home economists from Kansas State University and they reached out in particular to rural, small-town, and working class women, offering advice on radio shows, at women’s clubs, in magazines, and through 4-H clothing clubs.  Using scientific and artistic principles, they taught American women how to bring stylish fashion into their lives and create affordable clothing for their families.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were times of great change for American women in many arenas of life.  More and more women were being educated at colleges, even heading academic departments.  Lots of working-class and middle-class women were moving into wage work and factory jobs.  There was a movement encouraging young women to exercise for health and wellbeing.  And as women gained the right to vote in various states and then nationally, they were becoming more active in civic and public life.

All of these women needed practical, comfortable, affordable, yet stylish clothing that was easy to keep clean, offered freedom of movement, didn’t compromise safety on the job, and expressed the seriousness of their endeavors.

The social upheaval and economic shortages of the two World Wars and the Great Depression also brought challenges and changes to women’s lives in the 20th century and the Dress Doctors offered practical wisdom and simple principles that enabled ordinary women to weather difficult economic times in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.

Professor Przybyszewski’s book is a well-researched look at the teaching and writings of the Dress Doctors but, happily, it is also witty, entertaining, and delightfully opinionated.  Join us as we welcome her to Manhattan on October 22nd and 23rd and learn about the simple design techniques, artistic principles, practical skills, and enduring wisdom of the Dress Doctors.

Events are free and open to the public:

Thursday, October 22, 7:00 p.m., Manhattan Public Library Auditorium.  Author presentation: “The Wisdom of the Dress Doctors: Dressing for the Modern Age.” Books available for sale and signing at the event.

Friday, October 23, 10:30 a.m., Meadowlark Hills Community Room.  Presentation: “The Wisdom of the Dress Doctors: Dressing for the Modern Age.” Books available for sale and signing at the event.

Friday, October 23, 3:30 p.m., Hoffman Lounge and Room 163, Justin Hall, KSU Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design.  Reception and presentation: “The Role of Home Economics in Fashion Education in the Early 20th Century.”

The Wisdom of the Dress Doctors:

  • Practice the art of dress.  You may be self-conscious because you are far better dressed than the people around you, but maybe you can inspire them.
  • Mark your day by the pleasures of dress. Change in some small way for a dinner out.  Own something comfortable and beautiful to slip on at the end of a hard day’s work.
  • Less is more. So long as you value beauty over novelty, five outfits are all you need for work.  (Or maybe just one!)
  • Dress for the people you love. Yes, the people who love you will forgive those torn gym shorts, but don’t ask them to if you can help it.
  • Balance concealment with revealment.  Flesh exposed all the time has far less effect than flesh revealed on special occasions and for a privileged few.  People who receive privileges should be appropriately grateful.
  • Celebrate girlhood and womanhood, and the difference between them.

 

 

 

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This Season’s Dark and Twisted Mysteries

By Marcia Allen,  Manhattan Public Library Collection Development

I always look forward to the latest that favorite mystery writers have to offer.  Like so many readers, I anticipate what the next story line might promise, and I thoroughly enjoy reading about my longtime favorite characters.  That’s why the latest crop of new tales has really caught me by surprise: my recent picks have revealed some really nasty details.  We’re talking about some exceedingly heinous crimes.

Consider author Lee Child, for example.  Jack Reacher, a perennial favorite at the library, most recently appears in Child’s Make Me, a disturbing story of unbelievable crime.  You know Jack Reacher: the quiet loner who always manages to get involved in protecting underdogs in out-of-the-way locales.  This story opens with his arrival in a tiny hamlet called Mother’s Rest.  Why is Reacher there?  Because the name of the town made him curious.  Thus, Child takes us on a pulse-pounding investigation into suspicious cover ups.  Reacher is aided by private investigator Michelle Chang who also arrives in the town, hoping to locate her missing partner who vaguely resembles Reacher.  Child’s villains are always disgustingly sleazy, and this book has its share of those repugnant criminals.  And their involvement in sordid Internet websites leads Reacher to discoveries he’d rather not have made.  But the real shock is in the nature of the serial crimes that Reacher gradually uncovers.  This is one for the many Jack Reacher fans, as well as those who like some nasty surprises in their crime fiction.  The final chapters of this book will make you cringe in horror.

If that doesn’t appeal, you might try Jonathan Kellerman’s latest mystery, The Murderer’s Daughter.  You know Kellerman: the favorite author of the ever-popular Alex Delaware series?  While Delaware is mentioned in this new book, he is but a peripheral character barely mentioned in past dealings.  The real story is that of Grace Blades, a highly respected psychologist who has a particular flair for helping to heal patients tormented by past violence.  Her expertise is one thing, but the fact that she is actually a sociopath with her own childhood history of violence and loss is what kicks off the story. We learn of Grace’s loss of incredibly bad parents, and we also learn of a compassionate psychologist who takes an interest in the young Grace, as he sees in her the potential for a great future.  When Grace later suspects that a violent child from her past is now a thriving adult killer, she sets off in hopes of righting that wrong.  Recurring flashbacks reveal why Grace is able to plan her movements so coldly, and her lack of remorse makes the story a real shocker.  This is one for those who like a good character study with their mysteries.

And finally, I discovered talented mystery writer, Julia Heaberlin.  Heaberlin’s third mystery, entitled Black-Eyed Susans, is the disturbing story of Tessa Cartwright, the only survivor of a serial killer’s crime spree some twenty years earlier.   Tessa’s memory of the ordeal is vague, but she does recall the field of wildflowers in which she was found.  More recently, she had gone through years of therapy due to that experience and now has a good life as a single mother of a teenage daughter.  But over the years, someone has chosen to plant black-eyed Susans in her yard as a reminder of the crime.  While the convicted killer has spent years on death row, the ongoing flower plantings make Tessa question whether the wrong man was convicted.  This is an unsettling read, perfect for those who like psychological suspense in their crime reading.

As always, we have lots of other mysteries new to the library that just might appeal if the edgy stories I’ve mentioned don’t grab your interest.  If you love mysteries as so many do, you’re bound to find an undiscovered treasure at your library.

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Summer’s the Time for Blockbusters

by John Pecoraro,  Assistant Director

Movie buffs always look forward to summer anticipating the release of major motion pictures.  Summer blockbusters have often been record-breakers in terms of revenue generated for movie studios, but that’s not why the movie-going public loves them. For the chronic movie fanatic, the habitual Netflixer, or the active DVD and Blu-ray borrower, these movies are about pure entertainment.      The term “blockbuster” first made its appearance in the American press during World War 2 in reference to bombs with the power to destroy entire blocks of streets. The term was later applied to successful theater plays, then hit movies, best-selling novels, and computer games.  Movies such as “The Ten Commandments,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “Ben-Hur,” were the blockbusters of their times. In terms of summer blockbusters, however, and the concept of the blockbuster as a film genre, we have to look no further than Steven Spielberg’s 1975 hit “Jaws.” After the success of “Jaws,” Hollywood producers attempted to create similar “event films” with wide commercial appeal. The 1974 novel, “Jaws,” by Peter Benchley, was also a blockbuster, spending 44 weeks on the bestsellers list and selling millions of copies.

The summer blockbuster for 1977 was George Lucas’ “Star Wars” (the title we now know as “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”). The Star Wars saga also reached summer blockbuster status in 1980 with “The Empire Strikes Back,” 1983 with “Return of the Jedi,” 1999 with “The Phantom Menace,” and 2005 with “Revenge of the Sith.”   “The Amityville Horror,” was the hit of 1979. Based on the 1977 book “The Amityville Horror: A True Story,” by Jay Anson, it tells the story of Lutz family and the hauntings they endured in their house in Amityville on Long Island in New York.

Other successful books have made the transition to summer blockbusters. “Jurassic Park,” for example, was the hit of 1993. “Jurassic Park,” by Michael Crichton, was published in 1990, and spawned a series of books and movies. Is the latest installment, “Jurassic World,” the summer blockbuster of 2015? At grossing over a billion dollars worldwide already, it’s a pretty safe bet. Who can forget “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” the summer hit of 1982? Steven Spielberg again. In fact if you look at the list of top grossing films from 1975 to 2014, a third of them can be attributed to Lucas, Spielberg, or both.

It’s not a surprise that summer mega-movies are often of the action-adventure variety. There have, however, been exceptions. “Grease,” a musical, was the summer hit of 1978, while the romantic ghost story, “Ghost,” took those honors in 1990. Family rated movies have also made the summer splash. Disney’s “The Lion King,” made it big in 1994. “Shrek,” another hit based loosely on the book of the same title, by William Steig, was the blockbuster for 2001, followed by “Shrek II,” in 2004. In between, during the summer of 2003 we were watching “Finding Nemo.” While “Toy Story,” and “Toy Story 2,” were popular Pixar films, only “Toy Story 3” made it to top grossing summer movie status in 2010.

Superheroes have been popular with summer audiences. “Batman,” was the top grossing movie of 1989. “Batman Returns” took that honor in 1992, “Batman Forever” in 1995, and “The Dark Knight” in 2008. But the Caped Crusader wasn’t alone. “Spider-Man” made it big in 2002, and “Spider-Man 3” in 2007. The last few years of summer hits have belonged to Marvel comics: “Marvel’s The Avengers” in 2012, “Iron Man 3” in 2013, and “Guardians of the Galaxy” in 2014.

Other films that made the summer blockbuster list include “The Omen” (1976), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Ghostbusters” (1984), “Independence Day” (1996), and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

You can find the complete list of the top grossing summer films from the past forty years at http://parade.com/398513/parade/what-movies-were-summer-blockbusters. Don’t forget that most of these titles are available in DVD and/or Blu-ray at your Manhattan Public Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fall Films Based on Books

by Judi Nechols, Adult Services Librarian

The question always asked about books made into movies is—which was better…book or film? And which should come first—read the book, then watch the film, or watch the film then delve into the written word? Personally, I enjoy reading a book prior to seeing the film adaptation—the film rarely portrays characters, in looks or in actions, in the way that I imagine them as I read. There are several films being released in the next few months that are based on popular books. If you haven’t read them yet, pick up a copy soon—when a film is released, the book usually is in demand at the library! The following films are due to be released this fall, and all are adaptations of books that have been very popular at the Manhattan Public Library.

Paper Towns” is based on a novel by John Green. Released July 24, the film tells the story of Quentin “Q” Jacobsen as he tries to find Margo—a girl he has loved from afar and who has vanished, leaving clues just for him.

“Dark Places” is based on the book by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the blockbuster book and film “Gone Girl”. Libby Day was seven years old when her mother and sisters were murdered—and her brother convicted of the crimes. This film is reported to be filled with suspense, twists and turns—catch it in the theater on August 20.

“A Walk in the Woods” is based on author and humorist Bill Bryson’s story of his journey on the Appalachian Trail. He chronicles the travails of hiking the trail by two inept hikers—himself and his hiking partner–with humor and with details of the animal life, scenery and the various characters they encounter along the way. Robert Redford stars as Bryson in the film, due in theaters on September 2.

The Scorch Trials” is the second installment of the “Maze Runner” series, based on the book series by James Dashner. This dystopian thriller provides plenty of action as 16-year-old Thomas and the rest of the Gladers discover that their escape from the maze is just the beginning of their attempts to survive “the Scorch”. “The Maze Runner” has been a very popular teen series here at the library.

Into Thin Air” Author Jon Krakauer was on assignment to write a magazine article about expeditions on Everest a storm caused the deaths of nine climbers on a horrific day on the mountain in May of 1996. His first-hand account of the heart-wrenching stories of life and death, and of the difficult choices that had to be made by climbers and sherpas is gripping and haunting. The film is titled “Everest”–be prepared for an intense experience, either in watching the film or reading the book!

Brooklyn” is based on the novel by Colm Toibin. It tells the story of Ellis, a young Irish woman who leaves her family behind in order to find work in Brooklyn. She embraces her life in American but must return home when tragedy strikes. The film is said to be both heartbreaking and powerful.

Mockingjay” by Susan Collins is the final installment in the “Hunger Games” and is sure to be a blockbuster film, as the revolution led by Katniss, spreads.

“”The Martian” by Andy Weir tells the story of a NASA crew member’s struggle to survive on Mars after being stranded alone. Starring Matt Damon, this SciFi film is sure to be as popular as the book.

In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathan Philbrick is the terrifying, true account of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820 by a sperm whale, and the hardships encountered by the crew as they try to survive months at sea in small boats.

The Revenant” by Michael Punke is a novel based on a true incident in 1823, when mountain man Hugh Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear and was left for dead by his partners. His desire for revenge pushes him to survive a harrowing journey through the wilderness. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this film will be released July 25.This is a great selection of both books and films—read the books and watch the films and decide which you like best!

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