I’ve always liked playing video games but in the past, could walk away from the action pretty easily. In this last year, though, I’ve become more of a gamer than I ever have been, and now I find that my husband and I are constantly vying for the controller, especially when it comes to the newest game in our household, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
Released at the end of 2020, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is an action role-playing video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the twelfth major installment and the twenty-second release in the Assassin’s Creed series, but players don’t have to have be familiar with any of the franchise’s previous story lines to enjoy it. Set in 9th-century Europe, this game allows its players to take control of a Viking warrior who is embarking out from the frozen lands of Norway to (violently) raid the shores of England and to start a new settlement there. Not only is this game a visual treat, it has finely crafted story content. I love the mysteries I am encouraged to solve as the viking Eivor, the high-seas adventures I get to take on my longboat, and the open-world exploration that the game encourages.
That said, it can be hard to make a commitment, even when you know you love a franchise and have read all the good reviews. Why not ‘try before you buy’ when it comes to your next video game? Did you know that Rocky River Public Library has an impressive selection that you can borrow? It’s true. Search our catalog and discover your own new obsession. -Carol
I usually make New Year’s Resolutions and, like many, don’t keep them. One regular resolution of mine that I usually keep, however, is reaching my set goal of reading 52 books annually. While this might sound like a lot of reading, I know many people who put my numbers to shame, and that’s okay. Everyone’s reading pace is different. And, is it cheating to turn up the speed of audiobooks? (I say no!)
So, while I’ve been keeping this resolution over the last few years, I’ve kept a little blank book with lists of the books and the year that I’ve read them. I’ve been very proud of my little notebook and was sure I could keep up this pace…until 2020 happened. Oddly enough, in a year where I should have had more time to read than ever due to lack of socializing, I failed, and stalled somewhere around book #47! Even worse, it’s January 11th and all I can do is stare at screens (and no, they are not the screens where I have loaded e-books). I haven’t downloaded an audiobook, cracked a book cover, or even (gasp!), written the year down on the fresh page in my aforementioned precious notebook that mocks me from across the room.
How can I face that notebook knowing my intentions have changed? Yes, I will read. Yes, I likely will even read 52 books this year. And yes, I’ll likely record these books somewhere. But first, I’m going to be kind to myself about this. And, when I’m ready to turn a page, I’m sure I’ll find myself immersed in my next favorite novel.
Until I have a book to recommend, be kind to yourselves and one another. And, if you are feeling like I have been feeling, know that when you are ready for distraction, information, entertainment and connection, the library will be here waiting for you. ~Carol
I can’t let 2020 end without sharing two of my most recent obsessions with you, that you too, ahem, can also realize courtesy of your local library.
First up is a book that would have made my “Top Ten of 2020” post, had I read it earlier. Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen was my Christmas weekend read and I’m still reeling from this gut-puncher of a debut. This dark and darkly comic novel is told over the course of a single work-week through eyes of Majella, a 27-year-old woman who works at the local chip shop. Majella lives with her alcoholic mom in fictional Aghybogey, Ireland, a depressed border town where tensions between Catholics and Protestants run deep and violent. Majella, who might be autistic, is just trying to figure out the changing world around her. In the week after her grandmother has been murdered, Majella is desperate to carry on with her usual routine, and returns to work. There, her descriptions of a typical night in the chip shop provide a razor-sharp commentary on her small-town and its inhabitants, and on her own life’s painful history. I laughed. I cried. I laughed some more. Place your hold in our catalog.
My second new obsession has been watching A Suitable Boy, a BBC television drama based on a (over 1,300 page!) 1993 novel by Vikram Seth, set in 1951 in a newly-independent India. This six-part miniseries is the coming-of-age story of Lata, a university student who is torn between her family duty, religious loyalty and love, as three very different men try to win her heart. This show has it all: lush settings, a lesson in Indian history, great music, and romance, of course! Acorn released episode five today and I cannot wait to watch it. Did I mention that I stream Acorn (including this show) for free from the library? You can, too! Click here to get started.
And, until next time, Happy New Year! ~Carol
In case you didn’t know it, today, December 21, 2020 is the day we mark the beginning of Winter, when we have the least amount of hours of daylight and therefore, when it is also the longest night. But this year is different (enter your ‘you can say that again’ joke here), not only because of the pandemic, but because of an event in tonight’s sky forecast that people are calling the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn, or the “Christmas Star.”
While it looks pretty overcast right now, perhaps you will get lucky enough to witness this rare astronomical event– specifically, the positions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky closer than they have in nearly 400 years. If that isn’t jaw-dropping enough for you, it has been nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will this year.
Learn more about when to start looking up by reading this article by NASA, because they know more about space stuff than I do.
And, until next time, Happy Winter Solstice. ~Carol
Here’s one good thing I’ll say about 2020 – at least I had the opportunity to read and enjoy some pretty fantastic books this year! And for that, I am grateful and ready to share.
Here are my top ten of 2020 (along with links to our library’s catalog):
The Searcher by Tana French
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips
The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley
Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman
And, now, I’m off to make merry and to add my name to waiting lists for all of my coworkers’ favorite books that I haven’t read! Happy Holidays. -Carol
True confession: while I love to read, buy books, talk about books, borrow and lend books, I find it challenging to purchase books for adults, and so I usually choose to purchase (or make) something else for them. I do, however, absolutely love to give books to the kids in my life, and lucky me, I know some wonderful little ones who will be getting some great selections this year.
Here are some titles I recommend that you consider for the half-pints in your life:
The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper
Where’s Prince? by Kev Gahan
Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave by Jessica Hische
Find Frida Hardcover by Catherine Ingram
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
All Kinds of Kindness by Judy Carey Nevin
Draw Here by Herve Tullet
Inspired? You can order these, and books about practically anything else you can imagine, at Bookshop.org. While you’re there, maybe pick yourself up something to get into the holiday spirit.
Happy Reading and Happy Holidays! -Carol
Goodbye November 2020.
Perhaps I used up all of my “thankful for”s last week but I’ll confess that not only am I am not sorry to see this month go, I’m actually eager to turn the calendar’s page. Are you feeling drained by this year, too? Why don’t we right now decide to take it easy on ourselves on this grey and rainy Monday and last day of November evening blog post (or whenever you are reading this) and seek out a way to shut down for a spell and to relax?
My way tonight will be popping in The Return of the King, the third and final film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. We (re)watched the first two films over Thanksgiving weekend, and despite the fact that we were not able to gather with loved-ones, we were still reminded how nice it is to spend some of our other “old friends.” Gandalf, Frodo, Sam and the rest of the Middle Earth gang helped fill an obvious void, and time spent with them was a bit of a respite from scrolling through news and dodging the already prevalent holiday shopping ads. It helped, too, that we chose a favorite where we know the good guys win in the end.
Do you need a brain-break too? Why not pick up your favorite ‘oldie but goodie,’ or put your favorite titles on hold and see if your DVD player still works? ~Carol
If you are looking for a smart and funny mystery, put The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman on your to-read list.
This delightful story takes place in the peaceful town of Kent, England, where four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room at Coopers Chase, their retirement village, to keep their “grey cells” working. Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce and Ron are members of The Thursday Murder Club, a group of septuagenarians who meet not for book club or bridge, but to pore over old cold crime case files to see if they can solve them.
It’s like Christmas for these four when the developer of their very own senior complex is found murdered, and they set out to catch the killer. The club uses their years of experience and diverse backgrounds to start digging for clues, and with their powers of persuasion and perfected coffee cake recipes, they also manage to cleverly rope a new young local policewoman into revealing key facts to them about the ongoing investigation. Will this unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before he or she strikes again? You’ll have to read this complex, intelligent and engaging mystery to find out.
With a cast of diverse characters, tight plotting, and plenty of red herrings, The Thursday Murder Club is a laugh-out-loud cozy mystery that has already made it on my “favorite reads” list this year. Check it out today! -Carol
In need of a pick-me-up? Pick up What You Wish for by Katherine Center!
In this novel, Samantha Casey is a school librarian in Galveston, Texas who loves her job and brings joy to all she does. But she wasn’t always that way. At her last school in California, Samantha was quiet, less confident and secretly in love with a enigmatic teacher who didn’t know she existed. Because she couldn’t be with this man, Samantha felt as though she needed to leave in order to change– she did, and she didn’t look back.
When the beloved principal at her Texas school dies, Samantha learns that his replacement will be Duncan Carpenter, the very same man she worked with (and loved from afar at her last school)! Samantha knows this former teacher-turned-principal will be perfect for the job. After all, this was “the guy,” her old crush, whose own wacky outlook, positive energy and love of life and teaching inspired her transformation into a more outgoing person.
But when Duncan arrives on the scene, he is nothing like the man Samantha remembers. He is no longer carefree, fun, or full of laughter. Instead, he is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing, scowling stick-in-the-mud who seems eager to change everything good about the school and destroy its legacy. Is it Samantha’s turn now to help Duncan rediscover who he really is, and teach him to take chances in life and love?
Pick up What You Wish For if you are in the mood for a light romance, but know that it also has some real substance to it. The engaging characters in this novel experience difficult situations and show personal growth, even as the book’s witty dialogue speeds the story along to its ultimately happy ending. Sounds like the perfect read to me. –Carol
If you are looking for a thrilling series to watch after the kids go to bed, dive into The Americans and be prepared for six seasons of excitement. This spy thriller series from the FX network is set during the Cold War, and follows Elizabeth (played by Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (played by Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB intelligence officers posing as an American married couple living in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., with their two unsuspecting children.
Season One, which premiered in 2013 begins in the aftermath of the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981, and the series’ final season takes place in December 1987, shortly before the leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Not only does the action and suspense in this Golden Globe and Emmy-award winning show refuse to disappoint, the nostalgic treats it delivers with its pitch-perfect 80s soundtrack, outrageous costume design of wigs and clothes and gas-guzzling cars will make you glad the ‘80s are over, even as you can’t help but love this walk down memory lane.
Make no mistake: This show is dark in theme and execution. The protagonists are constantly forced into no-win scenarios, in which they must make choices about how to follow their orders and complete their missions, how to raise their children, and how not to get caught, all while trying to balance their loyalties and maintain their relationship to one another. History says they are the “bad guys” on the losing side but I think you’ll find yourself rooting for them anyway.
Place a hold for the first season on DVD today.