Mercury Column

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Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River”

Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River”

by Marcia Allen, Collections Services Manager

I just finished a wonderful new book that straddles a couple different genres.  Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River” is one captivating piece of fiction that manages to be both a riveting mystery and an intimate portrayal of damaged family dynamics.  Let me explain what makes this an outstanding read.

Mickey is a deeply troubled police officer.  Why the difficulties?   Her younger sister, Kacey, is a drug addict with a long criminal record.  Alternating chapters in the book are flashbacks to a childhood of neglect the two shared.  The mother of the girls died of a drug overdose, the father abandoned them to the girls’ grandmother when he could no longer tolerate the older woman’s hostility, and the grandmother is bitter and cold toward the girls, a woman who doesn’t want the children.  A school trip to a ballet when the girls were small is particularly poignant in its depiction of neglect. As a result, both girls flee home early: Mickey to a career in law enforcement, and Kacey to a world of crime and drugs that worsens over time.  Mickey lives each day in fear that Kacey will overdose as she has done a few times in the past.

And that’s where Mickey’s concern only deepens.  The section of Philadelphia where the siblings grew up is riddled with opioid-related crimes and deaths.  While Mickey is hardened to drug-related deaths, she’s now become aware that a predator is killing young women who use drugs and who are involved in prostitution, exactly like Kacey.  Several recent deaths have similar patterns of brutality.

What does this mean to Mickey?  She anticipates that soon she will find that Kacey has suffered the same fate as the other victims.  Since she hasn’t seen Kacey for some time and since another prostitute has said that Kacey is missing, she begins an investigation on her own, trying to locate her sister before another murder takes place.  Working solo as she does, she begins taking desperate measures in searching for her sister.

While the murders and the absence of Mickey’s sister are focal points for this tale, the character-building of this complicated story is equally compelling.  Mickey suspects her old partner might know more about the predatory killings, but when she attempts to shadow him, she learns about his compassion for those who live on the streets of Philadelphia.  When Mickey confronts her grandmother about hurt feelings of the past, she realizes the older woman had her own heartbreaks. When Mickey temporarily leaves her young son with her landlord, Mrs. Mahon, she learns about the woman’s amazing past.  And we learn, as does Mickey, that Kacey is much more than just another drug addict on the streets.

What else is so appealing in this story?  The revelations that Mickey confides in the book’s flashbacks.  We know, for example, the difficulties that Mickey has finding safe care for her son, yet we don’t know that full story until late in the book.  We know that the father of the girls abandoned them to the grandmother, yet we don’t know about a cache of letters and cards long concealed until the latter part of the story.  We realize that Mickey deeply loves her struggling sister, yet we don’t know the depth of Kacey’s suffering until we reach the conclusion.

This fine tale is gritty and ridden with betrayals and hard feelings, but it is also uplifting.  We discover with Mickey that there are those for whom love is always present.  Don’t miss this affecting tale of complex family relationships.

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Best of the Best in Children’s Books

Best of the Best in Children’s Books

by Jennifer Bergen, Programs & Children’s Services Manager

Looking for new children’s books with a range of styles, topics and diverse characters?  Try the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) list of Youth Media Awards for 2019.

In 1922, the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished American children’s book became “the first children’s book award in the world,” according to ALSC’s webpage. On the newer end, the Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 for outstanding books that portray the Latino cultural experience, and the American Indian Youth Literature Award was started in 2006. Getting a shiny sticker on the cover of your book means selling more copies, making it onto more booklists, and most importantly, reaching more readers and inspiring more young minds.

Here are a few titles from the amazing books on the awards list at ala.org/alsc.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, is a short but powerful work of art. The text is a poem which was first performed by Alexander in a video on ESPN’s website, theundefeated.com, a site that highlights “the intersections of race, sports and culture.” The poem’s video is inspiring on its own, but the poem paired with Kadir Nelson’s striking illustrations will leave readers in a dazzle of emotions — proud, angry, sad, amazed, hopeful. The Undefeated is a poem to be read aloud, and then studied again alone, feeling the power behind the bold, persistent, and talented black leaders, athletes, soldiers, slaves, musicians and children. It’s no wonder The Undefeated walked away with not one, but three impressive awards last week – the Caldecott Medal for best picture book, the Coretta Scott King Award for best art by an African-American illustrator, and a Newbery Honor for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

This year’s Newbery Medal winner is a graphic novel by Jerry Craft called New Kid, the tale of 12-year-old Jordan Banks’ entrance into a mostly white, elite middle school in a current day setting. Jordan finds out quickly that the new school brings many challenges, from racism and bullying to making new friends and trying new activities. His old friends don’t know what to think of him anymore. He doesn’t know what to think of girls anymore. Luckily, Jordan has his Dad and Mom to fall back on, as he humorously records his trials and failures by drawing in his notebook. Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, calls his book “funny, sharp and totally real!”

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael Lopéz, won the Belpré award for best illustration. Beautiful, bright scenes of Venezuela contrast with the dreary grays and browns of war, there and in the United States, when Teresa Carreño’s family is forced to flee her country in 1862. Teresa’s amazing talent at the piano is soon recognized, though, and at the age of 10 she had already performed with famous orchestras and large audiences when President Lincoln invited her to play for his family. The picture book focuses on her visit to the White House and the power of music to lift broken hearts.

Winning the picture book award for American Indian Youth Literature, Bowwow Powwow: Bagosenjige-niimi’idim celebrates an Ojibwe powwow through the eyes of a young child, Windy Girl, and her dog Itchy Boy. Brenda J. Child’s story, translated into Ojibwe by Gordon Jourdain and illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, brings together the historical and present day powwow traditions. As the dancing goes late into the night, Windy falls asleep and dreams of amazing dog dancers and all of their dance styles, fancy clothing and drum beats. The American Indian Library Association (AILA) also gives an award to best middle grade and young adult books, and lists several honor books, creating a great booklist for anyone wanting to read more stories with Indigenous characters.

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Talk About Literature in Kansas: “Living with the Land”

Talk About Literature in Kansas: “Living with the Land”

by Bryan McBride, Learning and Information Services Librarian

Image result for “Prodigal Summer”Join us at the Manhattan Public Library for Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) book discussions on March 19th, April 23rd, and May 21st.  The theme is “Living with the Land.” (The following descriptions are provided by Humanities Kansas.)

Much of human history viewed nature as an enemy to be tamed, conquered, or endured. Today, faced with accelerated loss of the natural world, increasing numbers of people have begun to recognize the natural world’s value and worry about how best to keep its ways – and the livelihoods and cultures that have specifically adapted to exploit a certain kind of environment – from being lost. The characters in this series ask themselves what the place of nature can or should be when the world is becoming increasingly complex and “unnatural.”

In Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth,” Wang Lung, a poor peasant who “makes good” by caring about and acquiring land, has unfailing help from his wife but values her only for her labor and sons she supplies. Their sons, brought up in an industrializing China, stray from their father’s commitment to the land and to older values.

Rachel Waltner Goossen will lead this discussion on Thursday, March 19, at 2:00 p.m. She is a history professor at Washburn University specializing in 20th century U.S. and women’s history. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Kansas. Rachel joined the TALK program in 2008.

The novel “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver focuses on three sets of intertwined lives. Forest ranger Deanna Wolfe tries to protect coyotes from a Wyoming rancher. City-girl Lusa Landowski must decide whether to take up her dead husband’s farm despite the in-laws’ disapproval. Long-time neighbors feud about changes and choices in the modern world.

Anne Hawkins will lead the discussion of “Prodigal Summer” on Thursday, April 23, at 2:00 p.m.  She teaches U.S. history at Washburn University, and U.S. and world history to homeschooled youth across northeast Kansas. She received her M.A. in History from the University of Kansas. Hawkins joined the TALK program as a discussion leader in 2012.

Set at the end of colonial Africa, Dinesen’s memoir, “Out of Africa,” idealized the African land and those living in harmony with it, as compared with what she saw as the failings of the industrialized West. The beauty of Africa and its animals, along with the relatively undisturbed life of its people, are all lovingly described.

The discussion of “Out of Africa” will be led by Anne Hawkins as well, and will be held at the Manhattan Public Library on Thursday, May 21, at 2:00 p.m.

All three books are now available to check out at the 2nd floor Reference Desk at Manhattan Public Library.  Take a look, and join us for these lively afternoon discussions, sponsored by Humanities Kansas and the Manhattan Library Association.

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Circadian Novels to Spend a Day with

Circadian Novels to Spend a Day with

by Crystal Hicks, Collections Librarian

Related image            Nothing feels quite as exhilarating as finishing a book within a single day, but circadian novels are almost as delightful. These are books in which the entire action of the title transpires within a single 24-hour span. Being the young adult novel lover that I am, now seems a perfect time to examine the library’s offerings of YA novels that occur within a single day.

This first one, “The Sun Is Also a Star” by Nicola Yoon, may already be familiar to you, but that makes it no less wonderful of a book. Natasha’s a science-minded teen whose family faces deportation to Jamaica, while Daniel’s a romantic optimist struggling against his family’s expectations for his future. When the two meet, they spend a day in New York City that may changes their futures. Yoon heightens an already engrossing story by including snippets of the lives of people Natasha and Daniel interact with, reminding readers that everyone around you is living their own multifaceted lives.

Maurene Goo’s “Somewhere Only We Know” is the perfect book for K-pop fans, as it follows fictional K-pop idol Lucky on a stolen day off in Hong Kong. With the help of Jack, an irresistibly cute boy with motives of his own, she explores the city and realizes all she’s missing. Goo’s writing thrums with the electric attraction between Lucky and Jack, making for a book good enough that I finished it within a day.

Jennifer E. Smith’s “Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between” provides a more melancholy take on the circadian teen romance. The night before they leave for their separate colleges, Clare and Aidan have to decide whether they should break up or try a long-distance relationship. Unlike most books in this article, which feature extraordinary circumstances or a meet-cute worthy of a rom-com, this scenario is heartbreakingly plausible and all the more bittersweet because of it.

For the full bittersweet, single-day experience, look no further than Adam Silvera’s “They Both Die at the End.” With the advent of Death-Cast, everyone receives a phone call the day they will die, so they can live their last day to the fullest. Mateo and Rufus both receive notice that they’re about to die and so connect on Last Friend, an app for people looking for a friend to share their End Day with. Though the title of this book may spoil the ending, it doesn’t make the journey any less meaningful.

This Is Where It Ends” by Marieke Nijkamp spans only 54 minutes, told from the perspectives of four different teens. It’s the first day of a new semester, and Opportunity High School’s principal has just wrapped up her welcome speech, when the students discover that the auditorium doors are locked. Shots are fired. Autumn, Claire, Sylv, and Tomás all know Tyler, but none of them would have expected him to be a school shooter.

Those wanting a more traditional thriller can try Caleb Roehrig’s “White Rabbit.” The same night Rufus’s ex-boyfriend shows up wanting to “talk,” he receives a cryptic call for help from his half-sister, April. When they find April, she’s covered in blood, clutching a knife, next to her dead boyfriend. April swears she isn’t the murderer, and so Rufus and his ex-boyfriend spend the night looking for the truth and fighting to stay alive.

Circadian novels can also cover rather ordinary days, like Jo Knowles’s “Read Between the Lines,” which uses a single day to explore the lives of nine teenagers and one teacher during a regular school day. The book works as interconnecting short stories, each examining the conflicting outer face and inner circumstances of every character. Knowles excels at depicting each character and making the reader consider how little we know about other people’s lives.

In “Release,” Patrick Ness follows the worst day of Adam’s life. In dealing with his fundamentalist Christian parents, rejecting sexual advances from his boss, untangling his feelings for his current- and ex-boyfriends, and attending a farewell party for his best friend and his ex, Adam faces a turning point in his life. His story intertwines with that of a ghost, bringing in an element of magical realism to a story already rife with references to Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and Judy Blume’s “Forever.”

For more circadian novels, YA or adult, or any other novels, feel free to stop by the library and ask for book recommendations.

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Resolutions

Resolutions

by Jared Richards, Technology Supervisor

Image result for molly on the rangeCarol singers and observant elves perched high on shelves are so last year. We’re now in the season of resolutions. I enjoy the process of resolving to do something, and then doing the research to make it a reality. Like many people, however, I’m not the best at following through. Lacking any immediate consequences for not succeeding in my resolve tends to have a significant impact on my motivation. Yarn piles, discarded devices, and dusty tools can attest to this.

One solution I have come up with this year to aid my motivation is library due dates. Unlike previous years, I’m going to take broader themes and break them into smaller goals, based on the due dates of my library books. Making things with wood and cooking more interesting meals are going to be my broad themes, but I’m going to break them into more easily attainable goals that I can accomplish within three weeks. At which point, I’ll have either accomplished my goal or I’ll return the book. Renewing will only be allowed if I complete my first goal. Regimentation is the key, but I also know myself, and know that concessions will be made. You get to make your own rules, though, that’s the best part.

More often than not, you’ll come across woodworking books and magazines at the library, both physical and digital, that are project-based. Easy-to-follow steps and copious images make these books a perfect solution for my three-week goals.

A classic first project is a birdhouse, and if that floats your boat, or flaps your wings, the library has got you covered. “Audubon Birdhouse Book” takes a deep dive and stresses the importance of building houses that are beneficial to the birds you’re trying to house, not just something that will look good in your yard. One stereotypical feature for birdhouses is a perch below the opening, like what you see on birdfeeders. It turns out the birds using the house don’t need that perch, but predators can use the perch to gain access to the birds inside. I also like this book for the detailed information they give about each bird, along with the appropriate house to build for each one. This book, along with many other birdhouse books, is not only available as a physical book, but can also be accessed digitally as an ebook through Hoopla, one of our online resources.

For the traditionalists, there’s “The Woodwright’s Shop” by Roy Underhill, which is only available on Hoopla. I grew up watching his show on PBS, and my fascination with his exclusive use of hand and non-powered tools has continued into adulthood. This particular book, first published in 1981, starts with finding the right trees for wood, moves on to building small projects, and ends with the timber-frame construction of his shop. That last one is a bit beyond my three-week scope.

Scaling back a bit, to the construction of individual meals, we have cookbooks. Like woodworking books, these are also project-based. I get easily overwhelmed by choice, and cookbooks are filled to the brim with choices. This year, however, rather than being moved to indecision by all the wonderful pictures, I’m going to flip through the book, find the first recipe that looks good, and make it.

The first time I had falafel, I was not a fan, but I recently had it twice and really enjoyed it. While flipping through “Molly on the Range” by Molly Yeh, I found a falafel recipe featuring coriander, and I’m looking forward to trying it. “Keepers” by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, has a recipe for Asian-style slaw that photographs very well. In my head, it just might work with the falafel, and there’s only one way to find out.

The book that piqued my curiosity most recently is “Vegan Cheese” by Jules Aron. As you might have surmised from the title, it’s a book entirely devoted to non-dairy cheese. I haven’t ever really given it much thought, but now I’m intrigued. Especially by the dark chocolate brie recipe.

As you can tell by the date, the year is young, and who knows what it’ll hold, but my resolutions are helping me feel all right about it. And several months from now, when I have forgotten my resolutions and I am questioning all of my life choices, I’ll check out a library book, and be reminded by the due date that, way back in January, I had this great idea to stick to my goals.

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Looking Back as We Look Forward

Looking Back as We Look Forward

by Chelsea Todd, LIS Librarian

Image result for amina's voiceI was watching the previews to a movie recently, when I noticed that almost every preview I saw was a re-make or continuation of a movie I’d already seen. Many of them based on books I read in my childhood. It seems to have become common in both media and literature to tell the same story- sometimes from different perspectives or in different time periods, but with the same themes that drew us in the first time around.

It got me thinking: what is it about these stories that we love enough to see them over and over? Aren’t there new and more exciting stories to tell as time passes?  I’ve concluded that, as time goes by, it is really about wanting to share something that influenced and molded us into the people we are today. It’s about preserving and passing them forward, but also looking at these stories with fresh eyes and new understandings of their relevance.  So, I will choose to enjoy and share each new telling of these stories, but also not forget where they originated or that there are also new stories to enjoy.

If you’re looking for some well-loved stories to dive back into, here are some of my favorites:

Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott is a story, set during the civil war, of four sisters learning to make their way in the world with very different talents and interests to guide them. Any of your historical fiction lovers would enjoy this one! Alcott’s follow-up novel, “Little Men,” continues the story of the March family.

The Princess Diaries” by Meg Cabot: This ten-book series revolves around the life of Mia Thermopolis as she strives to find balance between becoming a princess and being a normal teenager. These books are aimed at high school readers, but there is also a spin-off series for younger readers about Mia’s younger sister, called “From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess.”

Artemis Fowl” by Eoin Colfer is a series that begins with 12-year-old Artemis who is a self-declared criminal mastermind. This series has a wildly entertaining group of supporting characters such as Butler, Artemis’ bodyguard; and Captain Holly Short, a fairy who is a member of the LEPrecon unit determined to stop him. Colfer followed this series by releasing the books as graphic novels, as well as writing a book about Artemis’ younger brothers entitled “The Fowl Twins.”

The Story of Dr. Doolittle” by Hugh Lofting has also had some grand retellings, and will again in 2020, however its worth reading the original classic about the quirky doctor who works better with animals than he does with humans, and the adventures they go on together. There are several sequels to this classic.

The Call of the Wild” by Jack London is a naturalist piece set in the Yukon in the late 1890s that explores the motif Man vs. Nature, and centers around the harsh life of a sled-dog named Buck and his owner Thornton as they struggle to survive the wild unknown.

If you’re looking for some newer stories to love, you might try one of these more recent books:

The Loser’s Club” is written by the late Andrew Clements who has given us many realistic fiction books that humorously reflect adolescent life. Here he tells the relatable story of Alec, a boy who keeps getting in trouble for reading during class, which leads him to starting a club for readers called, you guessed it: The Losers Club.

Amina’s Voice” by Hena Khan explores the trials and tribulations of school, popularity, and finding oneself from the perspective of a Pakistani-American girl. This focuses on 11-year-old Amina who is discovering the importance of her culture amidst all the changes happening in her life.

 “Finding Langston” by Lesa Cline-Ransome is about a young African-American boy in the late 1940s who has lost his mother and moved to a new town where he must face a new school and new bullies, but also discovers the library and his namesake- poet Langston Hughes.

 “Paxby Sara Pennypacker is a recent William Allen White award winner, and tells the heart-warming story of a boy and the fox that he saved as a baby. Ultimately after being separated, both Peter and Pax know that they must find each other again.

Find all the classic or contemporary stories worth reading- or re-reading- at Manhattan Public Library. If you need even more suggestions, our staff are here to help.

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This Tender Land

This Tender Land

by Bryan McBride, LIS Librarian

Image result for this tender landAbout twenty years ago, William Kent Krueger began writing a Native American mystery series that takes place in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota with a main character named Cork O’Connor. In these books, Krueger introduces us to folklore of the Ojibwe tribe. The inclusion of Native American folklore places the series in one of my favorite mystery genres, alongside Craig Johnson’s Longmire and James Doss’ Charlie Moon mysteries. In 2013, Krueger set aside the Cork O’Connor series and wrote a book called “Ordinary Grace,” winner of the Edgar Award for best mystery. Despite it being an older book in our collection, patrons often still need to place a hold on the library copy and wait for their chance to read it. That’s the way it worked for me, but it was worth the wait.  American literature filled with common philosophy, theology, and insights into human nature.

This year, Krueger released a novel called “This Tender Land.” It is a coming-of-age story about four children, whose lives intersect in 1932 at the Lincoln Indian Training School, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River.  The school is a brutal place, where Native American children are taken from their families and placed to have their culture stripped away from them by whatever means necessary. The central character is Odie O’Banion, who is at the school with his older brother, Albert. They lost their parents at a young age and are the only white children at the school.  Albert fares okay because he toes the line. Odie, on the other hand, is always in trouble due to his rebellious nature and frequently spends a lot of nights in an isolation cell the Brickmans call “the quiet room,” where the evil DiMarco disciplines with a whip, and sometimes worse. A young Native American they call Mose is the third member of this friendship.  Mose’s traumatic life began at an early age when his tongue was cut, leaving him unable to speak.

One day, while the three of them are performing hard labor on a nearby work farm, they are swept away by the kindly Cora Frost, who has arranged for their daytime work to be transferred over to her. A short time later Cora has made preparations to take them in for the summer. Just as the boys are feeling like maybe something good is finally happening in their lives, a tornado rolls through Cora’s farm and kills her, orphaning her young daughter, Emmy. Odie and Albert’s hope is lost. The brutal headmistress Mrs. Brickman takes in Emmy, which is intolerable for the boys, who are concerned about Emmy’s welfare in Mrs Brickman’s home. One night, while out of the dormitory, they are caught out by DiMarco, and in a struggle he is accidentally killed by Odie.  Now Odie, Albert and Mose are on the run, but they refuse to leave Emmy behind with the headmistress, so they kidnap Emmy. An odd girl who has a gift for not only sometimes being able to look into the future, but somehow even affecting the future, she seems to be waiting on them when they show up to take her with them.

On the run from the Brickmans and the law, the four take to the river for their escape. They are a tight group of four children who learn about their strengths and weaknesses as they are forced into an early maturity.  Many adventures await them on the river, good and bad. It seems that Krueger is using the twists and turns of the river as a vehicle for the twists and turns their lives will collectively and individually take on their journey.  What Odie comes to realize is that these events test their friendship, ultimately pulling them in different directions as they all find new life following the river.

Those who enjoy coming-of-age stories and the bonds of youthful friendship should put this book on their reading list.  Historical fiction and theology from the Great Depression, as well the twists and turns and the “I didn’t see that coming” sensation, all combine to create time well-spent with “This Tender Land.”

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Remembering the Alamo

Remembering the Alamo

by Marcia Allen, Collection Services Manager

Sam Houston.  Davey Crockett.  Jim Bowie.  William Travis.  All are remembered in history because of their involvement in the siege of the Alamo in 1836, but of those four men, only one survived the struggle for Texas independence.  While many books have been written about that struggle, few have the vibrancy and the fast pacing of Brian Kilmeade’s new book, Sam Houston and the Alamo AvengersFor those of us who love history or tales of the West, this new narrative is a standout.

Kilmeade’s thrilling account opens with the recognition that the Mexican and American hostilities are already building.    Repeated skirmishes had left casualties on both sides.  General Santa Anna was determined to drive the Texians from the territory and reclaim the land for Mexico, but President Andrew Jackson and his friend Sam Houston were equally determined to claim the Texas territory for the United States.  As word of the hostilities began to spread, American frontiersmen and ex-military fighters traveled to the territory for their own patriotic reasons.  Many legendary characters, like Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett, vowed to fight for their country.  And they, like others, had run into difficulties elsewhere that made them want to seek new adventures.

The conflict came to a head at the city of San Antonio at the site of a missionary church.  American forces decided to defend the weak fortifications and await the arrival of more defenders, hoping that General Santa Anna’s forces would arrive later.  That was not to be.  Nearly 200 defenders lost their lives during the standoff, and to the shock of the nation, the Texian survivors were executed outside the walls of the fortress.  As Kilmeade tells us, battle losses were nothing new to the country, but General Santa Anna’s dispatching of the survivors was unforgiveable.

“Remember the Alamo” soon became a battle cry, perhaps coined by Sam Houston, to rally troops for further confrontations with the Mexican forces.  Though not in good health, Houston realized he would have to take responsibility for the defense of Texas, and so he began elaborate plans to change the direction of the war.  His followers were often dissatisfied with his leadership because he did not share his major plans with them and because they felt he was delaying  confrontation for too long, but Houston was determined to avoid another crushing defeat like that at the Alamo.

Ultimately, the clash took place at San Jacinto.  This time, there were plenty of American forces for the battle, and Houston’s lengthy training regime paid off.  Too, the Americans had a favorable geographical advantage and elements of surprise in their favor.  General Santa Anna was not only defeated but also captured while posing as a messenger.  This was the confrontation that turned the war in favor of the Americans.

There are many reasons to appreciate and enjoy this book.  One is that Kilmeade’s accounts of specific battles have an immediacy and drama that make them excellent stories.  Another reason is his careful research that allowed him to convey relatively unknown details, taken from memories of those who witnessed these moments of history.  And his clearly worded passages about those historical events make them easy to understand.

Perhaps the best reason for enjoying the book is depiction of characters.  We know why Bowie and Crockett are there; we know their histories and their wilderness skills.  We come to understand them, not as characters from a book, but as real personalities who were players in a particular period.  “Deaf” Smith, for example, is little known in history, and yet he appears again and again in the conflicts as a colorful messenger/fighter/planner who accomplished so much for a newly assembled fighting force.  He is one of many loyal followers for the American cause.

If you share my enthusiasm for this book, you will be pleased to learn that Kilmeade has written other equally captivating accounts of history.  George Washington’s Secret Six and Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans are also available at the library.  I’m sure that you will find them just as appealing as Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers.

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Most Popular Titles of 2019

Most Popular Titles of 2019

by Mary Swabb, Learning & Information Services Supervisor

Another year is almost in the books, and, betwixt all the holiday hubbub, you might have become aware that just sixteen days remain before we ring in the new year. Now might be a good time to look back and take stock of what’s happened, what you’ve read, what’s been written, and make plans for the future, like what books you’re going to read in the upcoming year. Here’re a few of this past year’s top titles that you won’t want to miss:

In her debut book, “Educated,” Tara Westover tells her coming-of-age story about growing up in a survivalist family residing in the mountains of Idaho, where she stockpiles canned goods, makes homemade remedies with her mother, and helps her father by working in his junkyard. Growing up, Westover was forbidden to seek medical attention, other than the herbalism provided by her mother, and she did not receive any formal education, so she began educating herself. Westover ending up attending Brigham Young University, and then went on to attend Harvard and Cambridge. Westover’s journey is one of self-invention, family loyalty, grief, and struggle. It’s a story that presents insight into what an education is, and what it offers- perspective on one’s life, and the opportunity to change it.

Helping women unpack their restrictive mindsets and embrace forward momentum, Rachel Hollis, lifestyle coach, seeks to share her tips for living a better and less fear-driven life in her first book, “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Hollis expands in more detail on how to let go of excuses, adopt positive behaviors, and believe in yourself in her new book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing.”

In “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” Sarah Smarsh weaves a lyrical and poignant tale of her fifth-generation wheat farming family, speckled with young mothers and people who understand a hard day’s work. Smarsh, primarily raised by her grandmother on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita, enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood but observed the economic hardships and limited opportunities surrounding her family. Combining personal narrative with cultural commentary, Smarsh challenges readers to acknowledge the class divide in our country and to re-examine the idea that if you make less, you’re worth less.

Jodi Picoult weaves a nuanced story that tackles complicated issues in “A Spark of Light.” Picoult entwines the narratives of a variety of characters who find themselves at the Center, a women’s reproductive health services clinic, on the day an avenging angel solicits vengeance at gunpoint. This unique narrative is told in a backward structure that shows how each person arrived at the Center. The novel’s directness combines with Picoult’s trademark sentimentality to engage readers in a dialogue on this difficult subject.

At a luxurious health resort in the Australian countryside, nine people gather for various reasons to relax and recover. They are all given blood tests upon arrival by the spa owner, Masha, an ominously beautiful women with huge green eyes who seems too beautiful to be real. But the blood tests don’t turn anyone away from the experience, and of course the nine guests are not strangers like the title would suggest. Obviously, something odd is going on. Read “Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty to find out what happens to these “strangers.” Moriarty’s dark humor does not disappoint.

In “Long Road to Mercy,” David Baldacci introduces readers to his newest protagonist, Atlee Pine, an FBI special agent assigned to the remote wilds of the western United States. Baldacci’s intricate plots, double crosses, and fast-paced suspense are hard at work as Atlee Pine investigates a string of disappearances, the most recent being the rider of a mutilated mule found in the Grand Canyon. Will Atlee Pine be able to unravel these missing persons cases in the canyon?

If you’ve already read all these titles, or they just don’t capture your interest, Manhattan Public Library has plenty of other titles to add to your 2020 reading list. Feel free to stop by the library and ask a staff member for a recommendation. We’d be happy to help you find your next great read.

by Luke Wahlmeier Luke Wahlmeier No Comments

Sit Back and Relax with a Good Book

Sit Back and Relax with a Good Book

by Rhonna Hargett, Associate Director

Some call the holidays the “most wonderful time of the year,” but it can also be the most stressful time of the year. In the midst of your planning, shopping, and socializing, take some time for yourself with a good book. According to research, reading is a great stress-buster, sort of a mini-vacation for your brain. Here are some great titles, perfectly designed to help you recharge.

The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware is the story of Rowan Caine, the new nanny at Heatherbrae House in the Highlands of Scotland. She thinks she’s gotten lucky when she lands the high-paying position in a sumptuous house and meets the attractive and ideal-seeming family, but it doesn’t take long before it becomes clear that something isn’t right. Consisting of her correspondence with her lawyer from jail after the death of one of the children, the novel details her growing trepidation as soon after her arrival, she is left alone with children that turn out to be nothing like the angels she was led to believe they were. Constant electronic monitoring and a “smart-house” system that randomly turns lights off and on increase her fear. Based on “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James, “The Turn of the Key” is a riveting and disturbing mystery.

In “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris, Lale Sokolov is a charming Slovakian Jew that is popular with the ladies. When he is sent to Auschwitz, he is given the advantageous job of tattooing his fellow prisoners with their numbers, a position that he uses for his own gain. When he tattoos the young beauty Gita, he falls in love. As their relationship grows, his hope to marry her inspires him to become a man worthy of her. Based on a true story, Morris’s novel portrays the horrifying life in the prison camps, as well as the power of love to survive in the worst of conditions.

American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson begins in 1992 with Marie Mitchell fleeing her home with her young sons. When she reaches a place of safety, she begins to chronicle the story of her career as an FBI intelligence officer so that her sons can read it when they are older. When she began her career in the mid-80s, her status as a black woman restrained her to desk duties, so she jumped at the opportunity when her race makes her the best candidate for the task of infiltrating the inner circle of Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso, in order to sabotage his position. A Communist-leaning trail-blazer, Sankara is more complex than he is portrayed by the bureau, and Mitchell spends the next year experiencing upended perceptions of herself and her career, even while accomplishing her mission. A mix of espionage and literary fiction, “American Spy” provides suspense along with an insightful exploration of family and race in the era of the Cold War.

In “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, Kya Clark raises herself from a young age in the marshes of North Carolina after being abandoned by her family. As she grows into a young woman, she encounters two men who befriend her. When one of them dies in a fall from a fire tower, Kya is the lead suspect. Although the mystery adds suspense, the true star of this 1970s story is the expressive language. Kya becomes intricately attached to the life in the marshes, and the descriptions of her relationship with the natural environment that surrounds her are accomplished. This is a good read-alike for those that enjoy Barbara Kingsolver’s work.

Take a few moments for yourself during this busy holiday season to stock up on a few fun reads at Manhattan Public Library, then put your feet up and escape into another time or place. You deserve it!

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