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.
It’s been a good book week in my house. I just devoured The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, the newest novel by V. E. Schwab. This story is about a young French woman in the 18th-Century, who makes a deal with the Devil in order not to marry. Consequently, she can live forever but cannot be remembered by anyone whose life she touches. It’s a little spooky, a lot romantic and has just the right amount of slow-building tension, making it perfect for these chilly, rainy October days.
What else is good for chilly, rainy days? Baking, of course. I like simple recipes like this Beer Bread from Food.com. Even better that it doesn’t require too many ingredients or too much time spent in the kitchen. This bread will be going into my oven in a couple of hours and will make a delicious and hearty snack along with a hot cup of tea later this evening while I tuck into the new Tana French novel, The Searcher. I can’t wait!
2020 has been something else! To escape, lately I’ve been reading one historical fiction novel after another. Not only does taking a peek at the trials and tribulations across centuries help me feel like we really don’t have it that bad, but it is also really entertaining.
The atmospheric The Lost Orphan by Stacy Halls is set in 1754 in London. Bess is a street hawker of shrimp who is forced, due to poverty, to give up her illegitimate day-old daughter to the nearby foundling hospital, with the intention to reclaim her one day. Six years pass before Bess has enough money to do just that, but instead learns that the girl has already been taken, years previously, by someone claiming to be Bess. As she seeks to find out what happened to her little girl, Bess’s story is contrasted with that of a wealthy woman who, under the guise of protecting her own young daughter from the dangers of London, does not allow her to leave the confines of their home. This captivating novel about family, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood is a good reminder that the struggle between the haves and have-nots is indeed a very old story.
The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline is another page-turning historical about the plight of less fortunate women. It is set in the early 19th-century in Van Diemen’s land, a penal colony in Australia, where thousands of convicts were shipped from overcrowded English prisons and forced to provide free labor to the settlers there. This novel follows the journey of two such young English women, Evangeline and Hazel, both of whom were wrongly accused and imprisoned. Their stories intertwine with that of an Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, who at the age of eight is adopted as a “curiosity” by white colonists who attempt to “civilize” her. Impeccably researched, this novel educates and enthralls. I read it in one sitting.
Perhaps you also need an escape. Find it in these and other books when you Reconnect@RRPL.
For me, the answer to “why democracy?” is an easy one. America’s democratic system of government grants me many freedoms that other countries’ citizens are not automatically given.
Two of my favorites are my freedom of speech and the right to vote for my choice in our elections. And while I admit that it’s hard for me sometimes when I see neighbors’ yard signs in support of a candidate running against the one I support, I’m sure glad I’m able to put up my own yard sign. When I feel myself getting aggravated by such a display, it’s important for me to take a step back and realize that this disagreement is actually our country’s Constitution at work. I take a deep breath and know that it’s not just okay that my neighbor might not agree with me, it is their right, too!
During these five days for democracy, think about how opposing yard signs make you feel. And then take your own deep breath and be grateful that you too live in a country where you can express such a thing.
So, help celebrate these 5 Days for Democracy and sign up here to receive emails this week that will help you better understand, celebrate and think of ways to improve what democracy does for you. Oh, and don’t even think about stealing any yard signs!