Twilight of the Gods, Ian Toll

Media has changed warfare. Thanks to Matthew Brady, photos of the brutality and hopelessness of war affected people in an entirely new way. At the time, the Civil War was the most documented war in history - yet it had nothing on World War II, just 75 years later. Movie film captured every last horror of that war, by both those who wanted to document the atrocities and those who wanted to bask in what they saw as glory. By Viet Nam, with Kodak Instamatics fitting in a soldier’s pocket, the grit was documented by everyone, not just official sources. In today’s internet era, conflicts are documented and uploaded to the world live, before officials even know they’ve happened. It will take decades to sort through available data and make viable conclusions on modern conflicts.

Media has changed warfare. Thanks to Matthew Brady, early photographer, photos of the brutality and hopelessness of war affected people in an entirely new way. At the time, the Civil War was the most documented war in history – yet it had nothing on World War II, just 75 years later. Now movie film captured every last horror of that war, by both those who wanted to document the atrocities and those who wanted to bask in what they saw as glory. By Viet Nam, with Kodak Instamatics fitting in a soldier’s pocket, the grit was documented by everyone, not just official sources. In today’s internet era, conflicts are documented and uploaded to the world live, before officials even know they’ve happened. It will take decades to sort through available data and make viable conclusions on modern conflicts.

German Sub U-755 is sunk by an RAF rocket, 1943

But World War II was no slouch. In doing a bit of research the other month on my grandmother’s little-known younger brother (they were 16 years apart), within 10 minutes, my sister and I were able to pull up information that stunned us. All anyone knew had been “Uncle Laurie was on a Coast Guard ship that was presumed lost at sea, possibly due to a German Sub, during World War II.”  Well, thanks to unfailing documentation, we found out that Laurie had been a radioman on the USS Muskeget, a weather ship, which was shot at 3 times by the German sub U-755 at 3:15 in the afternoon of September 9, 1942. Two torpedoes hit, killing all aboard. They even had the coordinates off Greenland. Not only that, but there’s a photo of U-755 being sunk by an RAF plane several months later!  No one in the family had ever known any of those facts.

With that type of minutiae now available, Ian Toll brings together his final tome on the history of the Asian Theater in WWII, Twilight of the Gods (I know, I just switched from the European front to the Asian one, but our family knows less about the Asian front: Uncle Art was a Marine at Iwo Jima, but not the famous flag raising, and my psychiatrist grandfather was stationed in California as a Navy Captain treating shell-shocked soldiers returning from the lines). In his third installment of the war, Toll covers the months between  June of 1944 and the Peace Treaty in 1945, after the dropping of the bomb. 

The Asian theater is an anomaly: this is the part of the war that actually attacked US territory, the act of aggression that finally drew us into the war despite the incomprehensible acts going on in Europe, and yet, we tend to teach only the European aspect of the war, beyond the two facts of 1) Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, and 2) we dropped the first (and only) nukes on them in retaliation. Is it because of the difference of a Navy war vs. an Army land war? It’s easy to follow Maginot lines on a map, but ships bouncing from island to island around a massive ocean isn’t as visual: We can understand where France is, but where exactly is 7.1315° N, 171.1845° E? (It’s the Marshall Islands. Can you picture them? Neither can I.) How can people fight over water, which has no country? Far more people had relatives affected somewhere in Europe, vs no one was taking up collections to send to Vanuatu. Yet the battles were the largest naval battles in history, and the cruelty and aspirations no less than that of Hitler. 

Toll spares no fact from his relentless research, and the brutality and heartbreak can inure the reader – much as it did those who lived through it. He covers the infighting among leaders – no one thought highly of Admiral Halsey – and the waste of young men literally being thrown at ships as kamikaze pilots – a tactic that eventually wore thin even among the Japanese. Good or bad, Toll covers it in a narrative style that will give you a far greater appreciation for the lesser-known side of a war that literally covered the world.  Whew.

If you don’t have time to sit and read a thousand pages, Twilight of the Gods is now available at CPL on audiobook, to make that commute just a little more interesting!

Twilight of the Gods

Audio book Print

The Conquering Tide

Audio book Print

Pacific Crucible

Diverse Romance

People of all ethnicities, body types, sexual orientations, and interests fall in love every day in real life, but until pretty recently it hasn’t been easy to find romance books that reflect that reality. While straight white male/female protagonists are still the mainstay of the romance genre, more diverse authors and story-lines have been getting some attention lately, which is all for the good. Here are some recent examples of love stories with different perspectives.

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

The Trouble With Hating You by Sajni Patel

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Homeschooling and Remote Learning Resources at the Library

Hey, parents and teachers at home- we see you. You’re working hard to educate remotely, and most likely dealing with your own kids at the same time. We’re committed to helping you, whether you’re a caregiver, educator, or both. We have some great resources for distance learning and homeschooling, and we have lots of information that can make your life a little easier right now.

We’ve scheduled timely and informative virtual programs about homeschooling coming up in January and February:

So You’re Thinking about Homeschooling?

Monday, January 11, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30pm

Join Linda Hincks, East Hampton homeschool mom and owner of Wren Homeschool Consulting, to learn the basics of homeschooling and the laws in Connecticut. She will provide information to help you decide if it is right for your family.

Tips and Tricks for Remote Learners from a Homeschool Veteran

Monday, February 1, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30pm

Schooling at home and homeschooling are different, but there’s also a lot of overlap. Get some tips and tricks for remote learning from 20 year homeschool veteran, Linda Hincks. We’ll talk about how to relieve stress for kids and adults alike and revive energy for learning. Bring your questions and concerns.

Homeschooling: What’s Next?

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 6:30 – 7:30pm

You’ve decided to homeschool. What’s next? Join Linda Hincks of Wren Homeschool Consulting to find out not only what to do, but how!

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We also offer virtual Toddler and Preschool Storytimes featuring interactive songs, stories, and other fun learning activities.

What about books? Or access to e-books? We’ve got a variety of materials for at-home reading and studying needs for all ages!

 

 

Homeschooling Books. If you’re unsure where to begin, these books are a good starting point! Get tips and resources from people in the know.

Lit Kits are a great way to take storytime and learning home with you!  Each kit contains 3-4 books on a theme, toys or manipulatives, and a caregiver guide with suggested songs and activities. Our Lit Kits are designed for children 3-5 years old, but they can be adapted or modified for use with almost any age group.

Audiobooks (both digital and on CD) offer many benefits for children. As a child hears an audio book, they enter a journey where reading seems friendlier and more approachable. A young reader listening to an audio book is more apt to establish a pattern of concentrating on the sounds of words without being interrupted by personal reading obstacles.

Playaway is a pre-loaded audiobook that gives kids the portability and freedom to listen to audiobooks anytime, anywhere. It promotes literacy, bridges the digital divide, and makes technology accessible to everyone, with high-quality audio productions of titles from the industry’s best publishers.

VOX™ Books combine outstanding picture books and non-fiction with audio recordings that capture children’s attention and make learning and literacy development fun. The permanently attached VOX™ Reader transforms an ordinary print book into an all-in-one read-along. There’s no need for computers, tablets or CDs. Children simply push a button to listen and read.

Books on DVD – audiovisual adaptations bring outstanding children’s picture books to life and help children fall in love with books and reading. Our DVDs are word-for-word adaptations of the books they are based on, and help all readers improve their fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

NEW! Launchpad Reading Academy, a fun and focused way to help kids improve their reading skills. This multi-media tablet contains interactive storybooks, videos, and apps that help kids learn to read, progress through reading levels, and fall in love with reading. This 5-level guided reading system helps kids master verbal, reading, and writing skills — starting at any level. Every app, storybook, and video has been hand-selected to help kids gain the knowledge they need to transition from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn.

Mango offers over 70 world language courses expertly designed to adapt to a diverse range of learning needs, styles, and backgrounds. Mango prepares learners for realistic conversations and communication and the confidence needed to communicate in a new language.

researchIT CT online reference databases: newspapers, magazines, journals, genealogy & more. researchIT CT provides all students, faculty and residents with online access to essential library and information resources. Through researchIT CT, a core level of information resources including secured access to licensed databases is available to every citizen in Connecticut.

Many families are pursuing distance learning – at least part-time, and while it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for families to learn together, we know it can also feel overwhelming to find the right tools and resources that will help your child succeed. Libraries are here to help!

A Double Dose of Girl Power: Enola Holmes and Flavia de Luce

When the Enola Holmes movie was recently released on Netflix, I decided to read the book that it was based on (The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer) before watching the movie. As I read the book, I was struck by two things. #1, though this book series is found in the Children’s Room, it has surprisingly sophisticated themes and I found it very appealing as an adult reader. #2, the protagonist, Enola Holmes, precociously adept at solving mysteries, reminded me of another young sleuth I loved, the delightfully quirky Flavia de Luce from Alan Bradley’s series.

I quickly devoured The Case of the Missing Marquess, and immediately checked out the rest of the series. I’m happy to report that all six books are wonderful, quick reads that will appeal the fans of dear Flavia, or cozy mysteries in general. Let’s take a look at the young protagonists from each series.

Enola Holmes is the much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, whom she admires but rarely sees. Raised by her mother in a very unconventional way, and often left to her own devices for extended periods of time, Enola has a skill set not normally found in young ladies of her era, with a particular talent for cryptology. In 1900, on her 14th birthday, her mother mysteriously disappears, leaving coded clues behind. Enola sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance, much to the consternation of her brothers, who want to put her into boarding school and make a proper lady out of her. She is in hiding from them for most of the series, and it’s fun to watch Enola outsmart the brothers who think themselves so much smarter than her.

Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old girl in 1950 who lost her mother when she was a baby. She lives with her largely-absent father and two annoying older sisters on an English country estate that’s seen better days. Flavia’s upbringing is also quite unconventional, and she spends much of her time indulging her passion for chemistry, becoming quite an expert in poisons through the many experiments she conducts in her laboratory. Flavia’s obsession with the gruesome and deadly along with her need to get to figure out why things happen is a by-product of losing her mother at such an early age; indeed Harriet de Luce remains a presence in the sad little family throughout the series. While this could be maudlin, it is never overdone, and Flavia’s determination to make sense of events in the world around her drives everything she does. She is the definition of “pluck”.

Both girls are motherless and do not follow the social norms of their times. Both have older siblings who are the banes of their existence.  Both are whip-smart and often underestimated by the adults around them. And both have the uncanny knack for landing in the middle of trouble, over and over again, and are able to survive largely by their wits.

The Flavia de Luce stories are longer and a bit more complex than the Enola Holmes stories, but watching both of these unconventional sleuths get to the bottom of each mystery they land into is pure delight. I’ll add an additional plug for the audiobooks, the narrators of each series are pitch-perfect in their portrayals, and really bring the characters to life.

It’s recommended to read the books in both series in order, as each book builds off the previous one. Get a double dose of girl power with these terrific mysteries!

Flavia de Luce Mysteries:

  1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  2. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
  3. A Red Herring Without Mustard
  4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
  5. Speaking from Among the Bones
  6. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches
  7. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
  8. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d
  9. The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place
  10. The Golden Tresses of the Dead

Enola Holmes Mysteries:

  1. The Case of the Missing Marquess
  2. The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
  3. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
  4. The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan
  5. The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline
  6. The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye

Magic, Mayhem… and Laughter? 15 Tales of Fantasy and Humor

Our teen librarian, Kelley, has some book recommendations for those who like their fantasy with a dash of humor.

 

While most folks may not head to fantasy novels for the laughs, there are lots of fantastical books out there that provide some escapism and comic relief at the same time. Here are fifteen delightfully funny fantasy books that shake up the genre– there are high fantasy parodies, taking on tropes of faux-medieval fantasy worlds, sometimes with a meta-fictional twist. Then there are satirical takes on urban fantasy and the paranormal, tongue-in-cheek updates of myths and fables, and books that are just plain funny and/or weird. So if you need a break from the darker end of the fantasy spectrum, consider one of these triumphs of fantastical humor and get ready to fall down a rabbit hole of laughter and wonder!

 

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud . If you somehow missed out on reading the Bartimaeus Sequence when you were younger, now is the time to read it. If you read it as a kid, now is the time to read it again (and pick up on all the historical jokes that whizzed over your head the first time around). It all begins when a magician’s apprentice decides to skip ahead in his studies and secretly summon a 5,000-year-old djinni for his own purposes. Unfortunately for him, this djinni happens to be the snarkiest magical being the world has ever known, and he is none too happy to be working for a bratty kid. A novel of alternate history, magic, and sarcasm which successfully bridges the divide between children’s and adult fiction.

 

The Big Over Easy : a Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde. Humpty Dumpty, a known ladies’ man, has been found dead next to a wall. Did he fall… or was he pushed? It’s up to Inspector Jack Spratt, head of the Nursery Crime Division, and his partner, Mary Mary, to find out all the dirty details. The Big Over Easy is brimming with wit and word-play, as well as clever references to pretty much every fairy tale or fable out there (and also there are aliens, somehow?). It’s a smart, literary, pun-laden riot, with a genuine mystery at its heart.

 

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken. Keeley is a blacksmith who doesn’t pay much mind to the old king’s passing and a prophecy declaring that the new sovereign will be a queen to usurp the kingdom’s princes. War is good for her business. But she has to start caring when she discovers that the prophesied queen is her younger sister, and a band of mountain warriors are determined to see her on the throne. Powerful women, irreverent snark, and humor are layered into bloody battle scenes- it sounds unlikely but somehow the author pulls it off. Romance takes a back seat to the main storyline and the hilarious interactions between all of her characters- sit back and enjoy a sometimes gory, truly funny feminist romp that just screams girl power.

 

Carry On : the Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell. Simon Snow and his roommate Baz are mortal enemies. Simon is the Chosen One, and Baz is evil, but they have their routines and when Baz goes missing, Simon is concerned. It’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

 

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.  Set on an abandoned space station, Gideon is a sword-fighting cavalier sworn to protect her worst enemy as she uses necromancy to figure out how to win the emperor’s competition. The winners get immortal life, but it’s not an easy prize to obtain, especially when the murders begin. Gideon the Ninth is too funny to be straight horror, it’s a mix of science fiction and fantasy, and is much more gory than your average romance. It is gothic and irreverent- brilliantly original, messy and weird straight through with surprising depth and appeal.

 

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  Someone has misplaced the Antichrist. But, according to “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” the world is to end next Saturday. And only Aziraphale, a finicky angel, and Crowley, a chilled out demon, seem to have any problem with that. Comedic fantasy great Terry Pratchett teamed up with Neil Gaiman, another all-time master of the genre, to create top-notch apocalyptic humor. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and it doesn’t skimp on the plot, either. Plus, not only is the situation a hilarious, horrifying mess, but the characters are some of the most memorable in any genre. (Check out the BBC series once you’ve read the book!)

 

The Hike by Drew Magary.  An epic fantasy adventure with a simple premise: a guy gets lost in the woods. But getting lost turns into a journey across a strange world populated with hungry giantesses, witheringly sarcastic crabs, dog-men, and dwarves. In short, things get very, very weird. One of the strangest and funniest fantasy sagas unlike any you’ve read before- weaving elements of folktales and video games into a riveting, unforgettable tale of what a man will endure to return to his family.

 

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. Linus Baker works in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and his latest assignment is rather odd: He must travel to Arthur Parnassus’s orphanage and evaluate six children to determine what the chances are that they’ll bring about the end of the world. But when Linus arrives, it’s clear that Arthur is safeguarding some pretty big secrets about these children, and will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. A balance of crazy humor, a keen sense of storytelling, and a gentle romance infuses this tale of found family, the importance of kindness and the courage to speak up for those who need it most.

 

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames.  Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help–the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for. It’s time to get the band back together! A comedy, an adventure tale, a consideration on growing older, and rock ‘n roll all rolled into a fantastically original romp of a book.

 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman.  Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that’s home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.” This is one of the most unique books you will ever read: a cynical, ironic, hysterical, and somehow stunningly romantic fantasy novel (and don’t miss out on watching the movie!).

 

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett is the master of the fantasy humor genre, so it’s hard to go wrong with any book from his Discworld series. The Discworld is, of course, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which are standing on the back of a giant turtle, and it’s populated with some of the funniest oddballs that fantasy has to offer. Small Gods is not the first book in the series, but it’s a stand-alone novel set in the Discworld, and it’s got some of Pratchett’s absolute sharpest wit. The Great God Om has run into a bit of a problem: How do you go about being a god if no one believes in you?

 

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho.  In Zen Cho’s witty debut novel, Zacharias Wythe is the Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, tasked with overseeing that all magic in England is kept in balance. But when magic drains away, he goes to the edges of fairyland to discover the cause–and meets a young woman with formidable powers that he won’t soon forget. A wonderful and charming book that combines regency romance and fantasy while at the same time exploring some of the problematic aspects of those genres in regards to race and gender. It examines the relationship between politics and power all the while managing to remain light, delightful, endearing, and funny.

 

Soulless by Gail Carriger.  All of Gail Carriger’s Victorian steampunk novels populated with vampires and werewolves are hysterically funny, but you might as well start out with her debut novel and the first in the Parasol Protectorate series. Lady Alexia Tarrabotti is a spinster, and she’s soulless- her touch renders an immortal mortal. For that reason she’s feared, but when someone tries to kill her, she must work with a brooding werewolf earl in order to get to the bottom of the mystery. Light-hearted and fast-paced, Soulless is a mix of historical fantasy and paranormal romance with a touch of screwball comedy you won’t want to put down.

 

To Say Nothing of the Dog : or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis. The invention of the time machine has opened up the past to historians in a way that their forebears could only dream of. There are rules, though: You aren’t supposed to bring anything back with you from the past- least of all a cat. Now an overworked Oxford Don has to return to the 19th century to set things right. A comedic frolic through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel.

 

Welcome to Night Vale : a Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.  Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. Whether you’re a fan of the strange and upsetting Welcome to Night Vale podcast or you’re new to Night Vale and its quaint desert conspiracies, it’s never a bad time to visit Night Vale. As their tourism board says, “We’ll show you the fun in a handful of dust!” Night Vale is the hysterical, paranormal Gothic novel you never knew you were looking for (but it’s most certainly been looking for you).