There’s still plenty of summer left regardless of all the Back to School merchandise and the (GASP!) snow blowers that appear to be creeping into the patio section of your local Target. Summer is my favorite time of year to relax with some great reading material. Here are a few recent selections of mine for you to consider.

The Cold Nowhere by Brian Freeman

Detective Jonathan Stride has his hands full with the mystery surrounding a supposed murder/suicide when a decade later he finds the lone survivor of the case, Cat Mateo in his home, dripping wet from what she describes to him as a narrow escape into the icy water of Lake Superior from an unknown pursuer. The fact that her clothes are bloodstained and her story questionable appears to be lost on the guilt ridden detective whose partner Maggie Bei must now work both sides of the case to satisfy her own doubts about the homeless teen, the lost decade, and Stride’s safety from the knife wielding, deeply damaged girl.

A fast pace and a steady introduction of characters may provide Stride (and the reader) with the key to helping Cat with her immediate threat and finally solving the case that he just couldn’t let go of involving the murder of her mother 10 years earlier.

There are additional novels if you enjoy the main character Detective Jonathan Stride, so check them out!

Bountiful: Recipes Inspired by Our Garden by Todd Porter and Diane Cu

I have a large backyard perennial garden, but during the long cold winter of 2015 my husband and I decided to dedicate a section of our yard to growing vegetables in raised beds – I could probably do a whole BiblioBites on the books we gobbled up to prepare our raised beds for the season, but that’s for another day! Suffice to say that good preparation makes for great results and so we are enjoying our home grown produce immensely! As every gardener knows once the initial crop is harvested and the thrill of “our first (fill in the veggie)” wears off, there’s still a lot of summer left and the produce keeps rolling in and so a cookbook like Bountiful is perfect for solid, easy to prepare dishes with accents on what’s ripe and ready. Let me start by telling you that authors Todd and Diane are multi-talented. They are the authors of the White on Rice Blog and are also food photographers. The recipes are easy to follow and you will have most of the produce/spices/seasonings and herbs either on hand, in your garden, CSA share or at your local farmers market. The multi-cultural culinary influence that this couple brings to food preparation has made book a “must purchase” for my personal collection.  Warning: the photographs of the food are so amazing you may find yourself turning the pages with a fork.

The Martian by Andy Weir

This book is the current Somerville Reads (our community reading program) selection.

True Confessions (Part 1) – ok, so truth be told, when I found out that the section committee chose a Sci-Fi story I groaned while reading the email announcing the book choice. My natural tendency for reading material very seldom (wait, since this is TRUE confessions ) NEVER leans toward Sci-Fi. So with a few planned days off, I decided to grab a copy and give it a try.

True Confessions (Part 2) – Who was it that said “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” and actually it’s not the cover in this case it’s the genre! This is SCIENCE-fiction. And well what do you know – I loved it!

Author Andy Weir’s original self-published story became an online phenomenon that led to print publication and a movie deal (soon to be released). The Martian tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars after a sequence of events during a huge dust storm forces the evacuation of the rest of the crew who presume he is dead, the victim of a satellite dish which becomes untethered during 150 mile an hour winds, which knocks him backwards down a hill and impales him with its antenna. This is a man vs nature vs impossible odds adventure that will captivate the reader while educating the lay person in “how to live vicariously through Mark Watney and survive on Mars.”

Weir is a brilliant scientist who just happens to have written a novel about space and in my opinion that makes all the difference. He has created a very human character whose survival instincts are pushed to the limit, and beyond his education and training. You will find yourself rooting for Mark, and as the story develops wondering how it will come to its conclusion. The last 20 pages are literally edge-of-your-seat. A perfect beach read!

The Martian circulation is gaining speed as the Somerville Reads Program begins its preliminary event planning so get on the waiting list, grab a copy, and enjoy this Sci-Fi selection even if it’s your first!

Other selections to consider:
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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OOo_Application_256x256I recently met with a young patron of the library who was trying to learn the Ins and Outs of Microsoft Excel. He was using Windows Live to learn the program. If you know Windows Live, you also know you need internet access to use it. This particular patron didn’t always have internet access. He told me that his mom didn’t want to pay for Microsoft Office, so I suggested downloading Open Office onto his laptop. Sure enough, once he downloaded the program, he started practicing and using Excel at home.
That being said, do you think Microsoft Office is too expensive? Don’t want to pay? Try OpenOffice! OpenOffice is a free downloadable open source software that is similar to Microsoft Office. Files will convert over from one format to the other. For example, if you only have OpenOffice on your laptop, but would like to work on your document here at the library, have no fear! The document will convert from Microsoft to Open! Download it here at: https://www.openoffice.org/download/.
Of course, most open source software has its differences and may not have the end user in mind. So Beware User! Documents may lose formatting during the conversion part. Keep in mind Toolbar differences and certain features may be different in Microsoft Office than in Open Office.
Some other Free Open source Software similar to Microsoft Office includes: Kingsoft Office, download a mobile and IOS version of Office @ http://www.kingsoftstore.com/ -and/or- LibreOffice which is a  Community Driven type of Software, also similar to Office, download @ https://www.libreoffice.org/.
Still need help deciding or have questions? Feel free to contact a librarian!

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Here are a few more stories you’ve shared with us about how the Library has affected you:

I am a life-long library goer, but it is only recently that I have really dug into the amazing resources available to me through my local library in Somerville. Six months ago, I started a blog about Somerville’s history. The library’s archive of Somerville Journal newspapers (going back to the late 1800s) has been invaluable and the librarians have been extremely helpful, showing me how to use the card catalog, microfilm reader and online databases. It’s also thanks to the Somerville Library’s genealogical resources that I have been able to learn more about my own family and find relatives I never knew existed.

And this one: brief, but music to our ears:

The library and librarians taught me the value of exploration, imagination, and self-education at a young age and sparked a love of reading I still carry to this day.

Would like to share your story (and qualify for a chance to win a $25 gift card)?  Email Glenn Ferdman, Director of Libraries, or click here to fill out a short online form. You can also fill out a paper form at any SPL location.

Thank you so much for sharing your stories, and for making our day once again.

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TuscanTunaSalad1Let’s face it. It’s too hot to cook. Too darn hot, as Cole Porter would say. Below are some links to recipes ideal for the hottest days of summer, most of which require little or no cooking:

Weeknight Summer Dinners from the Food Network.

Hot Weather Meal Ideas from the Good People at Pinterest.

Recipes for Hot Weather Eating from The Kitchn.

And my personal favorite, Mark Bittman’s Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

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As promised, here’s another tale of library love, recently submitted by a Somerville Library user.  We’ve been absolutely delighted by the stories you’ve been submitting and would love to hear more.  If  you would like to share your story (and qualify for a chance to win a $25 gift card) email Glenn Ferdman, Director of Libraries, or click here to fill out a short online form.  You can also fill out a paper form at any SPL location.  Thank you!

The public library has been a crucial part of my life for all of my 50 years. My library experience started when I was very young and my mother would take me and my sister to the children’s section of the JP library on a regular basis. I was thrilled to be able to pick out multiple books to take home – what a treat!

As I grew older I used the library (pre-internet) for school research projects and personal reading material. And now I use the Somerville library’s Minuteman online system to request books for my e-reader — how times have changed! I love the library and would not have had the life of reading adventures I’ve had without it.

Thank you to all the librarians out there – your work is so appreciated!

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backJoin us at the Somerville Public Library this Friday for a 30th anniversary screening of an eighties classic, the time travel movie Back to the Future, starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. Back to the Future, which the New York Times called “sweet and ingenious,” soon drew a cult following, and inspired two sequels, a theme park ride, an animated series, and a forthcoming musical.

Time travel is a theme of perennial fascination to both movie directors and audiences.  The result has been hours of pleasure for moviegoers everywhere. Below are some recommended titles.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). This is one of the funniest, napoleonsilliest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s great for an evening when you just want to laugh. The two dim-witted teenagers named in the title are going to fail history class unless they ace the final. Fortunately for them and for us, George Carlin comes from the future with a time machine disguised as a phone booth (because, you know, that’s just the sort of thing George Carlin does) so they can visit the historical events they need to know about for class. It’s the ideal history class prep. Admittedly, they do almost get beheaded in Renaissance England and Ted’s little brother leaves Napoleon in a bowling alley, but they get to bring Joan of Arc and Genghis Khan to class for extra credit.

Time After Time (1979). It appears that H.G. Wells not only wrote about time machines, he actually invented one. At least that’s the premise of this quirky time travel movie. At a London party in 1893, Wells (Malcolm McDowell) is showing off his invention to his friends, one of whom just happens to be (unbeknownst to Wells) Jack the Ripper.  And when the police show up at Wells’ house looking for the murderer, Jack uses the time machine as his getaway car. Wells pursues Jack to 20th-century San Francisco, where the Ripper starts another killing spree. The scriptwriters also find time to work in a love interest for Wells (Mary Steenburgen) that doesn’t take away too much time from trying to bring the Ripper to justice (hey, it’s Hollywood). And if you want to find out what else happens, you’ll have to watch it (or read the Wikipedia summary). New York Times film critic Janet Maslin called Time after Time “a movie that’s as sweet as it is clever, and never so clever that it forgets to be entertaining.”

Midnight in Paris (2011). Aspiring novelist (Gil) (Owen Wilson) is midnightparisvisiting Paris with his self-centered fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her insufferable parents. One night he’s out walking on Montmarte, when at the stroke of midnight some strangers drag him into an antique car and take him to a party. He soon realizes he’s been taken back to the 1920s. In a re-imagining of the Lost Generation so flawless it’s almost impossible to believe, Gil gets to know Hemingway, Buñuel, Gertrude Stein and Zelda Fitzgerald. Each night Gil escapes his horrible fiancée and nasty future in-laws for a literally magical experience. Midnight is a marvel of casting and direction and a compelling meditation on nostalgia. It’s a movie I find very hard to write about. It must simply be seen.

Star Trek (2009).  This dramatization of how the original crew of the starship Enterprise came together is a total geek’s delight, with a fast-paced plot that grabs you and doesn’t let you go until the final credits. The cast does stellar work, with particularly great performances by Zach Quinto as young Spock, Leonard Nimoy as old Spock and Simon Pegg as young Montgomery Scott. You might be wondering where the time travel comes in. Hint: Spock meets Spock.

twelveTwelve Monkeys, this  superbly acted and directed film is Terry Gilliam at his bleak best. Most of humanity has been wiped out by a pandemic.  James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a prisoner who has been selected to travel back in time and collect information on the disease that will help scientists in the present find a cure. Unfortunately he gets sent back to the wrong time repeatedly (including briefly appearing on the Western Front during World War I–just long enough to get shot). But in Philadelphia in the early 1990s Cole encounters a psychiatrist (Madeline Stowe) who stumbles on the truth of what’s been happening to him. Then Cole’s handlers in the future make contact with him and change his assignment, ordering him to carry out a deadly mission that will haunt him the rest of his life. Twelve Monkeys is a gripping, thoroughly disturbing meditation on the nature of memory and humanity’s self-destructive impulses.

 

 

 

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Last week we asked you to share your stories of how the Library has impacted your life or the life of a loved one.  Over the last few days we’ve received some amazing responses, and they’re too good to keep to ourselves.  Here’s one for a start, and we’ll post more soon!

When I was a senior in Somerville High School in 1957, I applied for a job as a librarian in the Somerville Public Library on Highland Avenue near the high school.  I was hired part-time to help repair the plastic covers of the records in the library’s music department.  Although my parents loved music and were knowledgeable about classical music a young man who also worked in that department introduced me to modern composers I did not know.  He showed me their albums – Bartok, Schoenberg, Bloch and Mahler.  When he talked to me about Mahler a darkness passed over his face, and his gaze deepened inward in front of me.  Music had not been introduced to me like that before.  He told me to take the records home and listen to them. I never forgot the names of these composers.  Another time, someone else in the library pointed out where the banned books were kept.  Peyton Place by Grace Metalious was off limits, high on a shelf in a librarian’s office.  The women who worked as librarians at the check out desks were polite when they asked people to lower their voices.  The library was a very quiet place, people were reading there by the slant of light that came through the old windows on the top of the hill.  We lived next door to the library director, Mr. Kelly, on Central Street in Somerville.  My father was the Rabbi in Somerville.  He had great respect for Mr. Kelly and was always reminding us to play quietly outside, so not to disturb the Kelly family.  Among the many things learned that summer, were the music of those composers, the fact that books were banned, and the value of quiet. 

Would you like to share your story (and qualify for a chance to win a $25 gift card)?  Email Glenn Ferdman, Director of Libraries, or click here to fill out a short online form.   You can also fill out a paper form at any SPL location.  Thank you!

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deepwebAs I noted in a blog post last month, only about 0.03 % of all the information stored on the Internet is accessible via search engine. For the majority of what’s stored on servers around the world, you have to use databases. Most of them were created by publishing companies, which in turn lease access to libraries. However, a surprising number are available for free. You just have to know that they exist and what they’re called.

Like MedNar, a database I wrote about last time, BizNar is another product of Deep Web Technologies that uses federated search to retrieve information on business topics or specific businesses from news sources, trade magazines, social media, and government bureaus. Whether you want to learn about real estate, solar energy, llama ranching, or leasing commercial aircraft, this is the place. However, as with MedNar, a broad search can retrieve an overwhelming number of results.  After a search, you’ll see the results subdivided on the left-hand side of the screen by topic, source, author, and publisher, which can help you find what you want.

Yummly.com‘s slogan is “explore the world’s recipes,” and Yummly did offer an impressive variety of results for some of the searches I tried.  You can filter search results by (for example) season, allergies, dietary preferences (e.g., “ovo vegetarian”), publisher, cuisine, and technique. Recipes include calories, number of ingredients and time required. I’m definitely going to try some of the recipes I found, including one for Szechuan noodles and another for Punjabi chicken. Warning: Yummly requires you to create an account or login via Facebook or Google before letting you see search results.

If you love American history there’s no better virtual place to spend time than American Memory at the Library of Congress. The scope of this collection is staggering: you can browse eighteenth-century broadsides, listen to interviews with former slaves, read about Spanish folk theater in New Mexico, look at photos of Chinese newcomers to nineteenth-century California, and read Abraham Lincoln’s letters. And that’s just the smallest glimpse of what’s available here.

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Just a reminder.

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..for today, July 1.

1863: The Battle of Gettysburg begins, three bloody days that ended Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North, which Lee had hoped would force the North to sue for peace. Union General George Meade’s army of 90,000 took on Lee’s invading force of 75,000 resulting in three days of grueling fighting that resulted in roughly 51,00o casualties and forced Lee to return to Virginia. The battle has inspired a number of award-winning books, including the eminently readable Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and  Twilight at Little Round Top. For a fictional treatment of Gettysburg, try Michael Shaara’s critically acclaimed novel The Killer Angels.

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