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About the AARP Tax Help

It begins in January. The question is asked by young, old, in person and on the phone, “Are you taking appointments for tax help?”

If you are not aware, every year beginning in February, AARP offers free tax help at a variety of places in the area. Topsham Public Library is one of these places. Free tax help at Topsham Public Library is every Thursday morning for those who have an appointment. To get an appointment at Topsham Public Library you can call 725-1727 or visit us.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when using this service. First of all, the staff of Topsham Public Library only makes appointments. AARP provides trained volunteers that use our facility, but the staff of Topsham Public Library has nothing to do with the tax preparation. We do not assist people with their taxes. We will print IRS and State tax forms if you need them, though.

Secondly, the AARP tax preparers are volunteers. They are trained, but they are giving up their own time to help you with your taxes. They do the best they can to work efficiently, but sometimes things do get backed up. Be aware that you may have to wait even though you have an appointment.

By the overwhelming response every year, it is obvious this is a much needed service that we are happy to provide. So, make your appointment, bring the needed items, and be on time. The AARP volunteers will be with you as soon as they can. Thankfully, if you find yourself having to wait a little while, we have plenty to keep you entertained: public computers, wi-fi, magazines, newspapers, books, and art hanging in the gallery.

There are other locations in the area that are offering the AARP free tax help and you may contact them to see if they have any appointments available, too:

Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant Street, Brunswick, ME  (207) 725-5242

Patten Free Library, 33 Summer Street, Bath, ME  (207) 443-5141

People Plus, 35 Union Street, Brunswick, ME  (207) 729-0757

Tax time is not a fun time of the year for anyone, but we will get through it!

I Love a Good Cookbook

One of the pleasant surprises I have experienced since working in a library, is the plethora of cookbooks. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this resource before, but I hadn’t. Another little tidbit I’ll let you in on: the staff at Topsham Public Library talks a lot about food. From good places to eat to “you need to try this recipe!” Not all of us cook, but all of us like to eat and discuss food.

These two things have given me an idea. Once a month, I’m going to choose a cookbook and make something from it. I will tell you, baked goods are a weakness of mine. I will try and mix it up – baked goods, appetizers, meals, and sides, but if I end up heavy on the baked goods, I’m sorry. Well, not really. And let me also say, I’m not a chef, I’ve never gone to cooking school, and in many ways I’m a novice in the kitchen, so, who knows how this is going to turn out.

There are certain things I look for in a cookbook: pictures to go with each recipe, recipes that don’t have too many hard to find ingredients, and clear instructions for various cooking methods and techniques. If it meets these three criteria, I’ll give it a go, and if I find something I like that doesn’t meet the criteria, I’ll still give it a go.

The photo above is of a Boston Cream Pie that I made. I found the recipe in The Perfect Cake published by America’s Test Kitchen in 2018. It was delicious. Initially I borrowed the book from the library, but I did purchase it in the end because it met all my criteria. There are numerous photos – not just of the finished product, but also pictures of methods used in making the variety of cakes. I also made the Lemon Layer Cake (on page 138). It, too, was delicious. The cake itself is a white cake, but in between the layers there is a layer of lemon filling that is divine. The frosting is a type of cooked frosting that reminded me of marshmallow fluff but with a lighter texture. I return to this cookbook time and time again, and my family has been happy with the results.

 

 

 

Topsham Public Library is Good for Your Health. Seriously!

Keith Spiro Photography

Have you made New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle? Maybe resolutions to go on a diet, go to the gym more regularly, and/or stop smoking. Well, you can add “visit your local library” as a resolution because it is becoming more apparent that a library in a community is a health benefit for all.

In the January/February 2019 AARP Bulletin the cover story is “99 Ways to Add Healthy Years to Your Life” and number 98 is: Dust off that library card. A study of 3,635 older adults found that book readers had a 23-month survival advantage and 20 percent lower mortality risk compared with nonreaders. Reading was protective regardless of gender, education or health.

Wow! Reading has health benefits! You can read anywhere: on a treadmill, waiting for an appointment, at the airport, on an airplane, on a train, in a car (not while driving), in bed, on a couch, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, upstairs, downstairs and, well, you get the idea. And a library card makes that reading more accessible, more enjoyable, and it will expand your world.

Not only are libraries beneficial to the body, but they are a sign of a healthy community as well. On January 11, 2019 The Washington Post published an article: People Are Happier in States That Spend More Money On Public Places Like Parks and Libraries by Christopher Ingraham. Ingraham reports on a study published in the journal Social Science Research. The long and short of the study is that “the happiness boost from public-goods spending [parks, libraries, and nature preserves] is roughly the same across a wide range of demographic variables: race, income, education etc. That suggests public spending on categories accessible to everyone has a similar effect on the well-being of everyone.”

Absolutely, eat healthier and excercise your body, but add “visit Topsham Public Library “to your prescription for a happier you.

 

Staff Picks of 2018, Part 3

And to wrap up Topsham Public Library’s 2018 Staff Picks will be Linda, Susan, Mariah, Julie, and me. What are your favorites that you read last year? Have you already sunk your teeth into a good one this year?

 

Linda’s 2018 Top Picks:

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

I can’t help it! This Inspector Gamache book just has to jump to the top of the list. Louise Penny never disappoints. She has painted her characters with deep strokes and they just keep growing into themselves. There are no wasted words in her books and every sentence has depth beyond the obvious. This one is one of my favorites, as Gamache seeks to undo the consequences of his last investigation. The stakes are higher than ever. Just how far is Armand willing to go to stop the carnage? And why did a woman known as “the Baroness” make him an executor to her will, when he had never met her? Once again, I recommend that if you have not read these, you might want to start at the beginning of the series and read in order. The subplots running throughout the series make it far more interesting that way.

Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh

This is the first book in a series about Beatrice Stubbs, a British detective. Having been involved in ‘an incident’ Beatrice’s career has been stalling. Her superior knows that she is an exemplary officer and he assigns her to a puzzling case. Four high powered men have died on the continent and he sends Beatrice to head up the investigation. But can she trust herself? And can she prevent the next murder? This is an exciting romp around Europe after a clever and efficient killer. Beatrice Stubbs is a well drawn character, flawed though she is, and I found myself rooting for her all the way.

The Dry by Jane Harper

This mystery takes place in Australia, in a small farming town devastated by a multi-year drought. The people are struggling and tensions are already high when a young family is killed in an apparent murder/suicide. To make matters worse, the town bad boy, turned cop, returns for the funeral of his friend. Of course, not all is as it seems and a 20 year old case may be bleeding into the present. Jane Harper sets the scene well, placing the reader right in the dust with the characters and there are no easy answers. This isn’t a happy story but it is a good one.

Murder on the Oxford Canal by Faith Martin

This quintessential British police procedural is the first in a series previously published in Britain and more recently in the U.S. DI Hilary Greene was married to another DI, Ronnie Greene, who was recently killed. However, everyone knows that Ronnie was dirty and made millions in tainted money. Now circumstances have put DI Greene in charge of her own murder case, which she is determined to solve in order to save her own career and see justice done, while ducking the attentions of internal affairs.  Her team is a varied group including the young sergeant who has a crush on her, a female sergeant, aspiring to greater things, including hooking up with the Chief Inspector who oversees their unit, and an old-school detective who was almost certainly her wayward husband’s right hand man. All of this makes for an interesting stew of events, leading to an exciting climax.

Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen

This twelfth in the Her Royal Spyness series is pure charm and delight. Could Georgiana Rannoch, 35th in line to the British throne, actually be marrying the Honorable Darcy Fitzwilliam, handsome man of her dreams? With wedding arrangements getting more complicated by the minute and a secret assignment from the Queen on her mind, Georgiana is not so sure. And where are they going to live on their paltry earnings? Just in time Georgiana receives a letter from one of her mother’s past husbands, giving her his family home to manage in his absence. When she arrives to take residence something does not seem quite in order there and thus the adventure begins. Who is the new butler and who actually hired him? What are those strange noises from the closed off wing? And where are the family heirlooms she remembers from her childhood? Even more importantly, will she still be alive for her wedding day?

Susan’s 2018 Top Picks:

This year, my picks went back to the fantasy genre. I really enjoyed the V.E. Schwab Shades of Magic trilogy- A Darker Shade of Magic, A  Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light.  Schwab creates a mesmerizing world with strong characters.  I was sorry to see the story end and am among the fans who would love more.

This series led me to Witchmark by C.L. Polk , the first book in the Kingston Cycle Series. Another gripping read with amazing characters and a steampunk feel.  I can’t wait for the second book to come out in June of 2019.

Finally, another great guilty pleasure: Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness.  A separate story about some of the other characters in the All Soul’s Trilogy, this book was an unexpected visit with old friends.  I miss the major characters of the saga not being central to this story but enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mariah’s 2018 Top Picks:

In The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, a young boy survives an accident which kills his mother. Abandoned by is father, the young boy is taken in by family friends. As he grows, he is drawn back time and time again to a small painting that reminds him of his mother and leads him into the art underworld.

While serving he was President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie died at age 11. In Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Willie’s soul has gone to the bardo – a type of in-between place – where ghosts get together and hang out and perform acts of penance. During this time, a battle is waged over Willie’s soul.

In Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, abortion is illegal as well as in vitro fertilization. Right to life, liberty, and property is given to every embryo. Five women in the same community deal with this reality and what it means for them individually.

David Small is an award-winning children’s book illustrator, and in Stitches: A Memoir he tells the story of his dysfunctional childhood and surviving cancer but losing his voice.

 

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is the story of Nelson’s relationship with artist Harry Dodge who is fluidly gendered.

 

I Walk with Vanessa, illustrated and written by Kerascoët, is a children’s book about a girl who witnesses another girl being bullied and doesn’t know what to do.

 

Where the Woods End by Charlotte Salter tells the story of a 12 year old girl who lives in an endless forest. In order to escape she must overcome the monster who grows its body to reflect her biggest fear.

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans is about a boy who finds himself in a strange world with three weird companions and they have to solve clues, battle a cruel stuffed animal, and deal with three thousand Wimbly Woos.

As a servant of a powerful woman, it is Mara’s job to look for magical treasures in the ocean. One day she finds remains of an extinct being that is still humming with magic. Instead of being rewarded, Mara must go further and deeper than she has ever gone before and what she discovers on the way is more dangerous and more magical that anything she has experienced. City of Islands by Kali Wallace is sure to delight.

Julie’s 2018 Tops Picks:

Janie has lost her boyfriend, her job, and her apartment all in the same day, but her misery will not end when Quinn Sullivan, aka Sir McHotpants, makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid is a fun read.

Saga vol 9 by Brian Vaughn is a graphic novel about one family finding their place in the universe.

 

 

The Little Snake by A.L. Kennedy is the story of a friendship between a girl and a snake. The snake watches Mary as she grows from a little girl into a woman, and he watches her city be destroyed as war draws near. What the snake knows, that Mary does not, is that one day this friendship will end and they will be torn apart.

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews is book 10 in the Kate Daniels series. In this book, Kate sees that war is coming, and in order to save her child, Atlanta, and the world she must form alliances that she knows will lead to betrayal and possibly her death.

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson involves elves, goblins, spying, international intrigue and impending doom. This older children’s book won’t be what you expect, but will be well worth it.

Jen’s 2018 Top Picks:

I’m cheating a little bit. My first pick is actually an author. At the Friends of the Topsham Public Library Book Sale, I bought Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I was transported to another place and time, and I fell in love. I didn’t realize it, but that book is part of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series and I delighted in each book: Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven, and The Labyrinth of the Spirits. The books are set in Barcelona, Spain in the 1950s and have a gothic feel to them. The characters are well developed, real, witty, lovable and loathsome. He has written other books for adults and for children, too. Of his others, I’ve read Marina and The Prince of Mist. Though I do like some more than others, I have never been disappointed.

I happened upon a movie trailer for Child 44 starring Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman and Noomi Rapace. (I’m going to take a moment and unabashedly gush over Tom Hardy. I haven’t seen everything he is in, but I am impressed by his acting. It amazes me how his looks can change as well – he never seems to appear the same. I was introduced to Joel Kinnamen in the TV series The Killing and was excited to see him as he’s as entertaining to watch as Hardy. Now, back to the book review already in progress.) I discovered the movie was based on a book also titled Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Obviously, I had to read the book first, (actually I listened to it and the reader, Dennis Boutsikaris did a great job). Children are being murdered, but in a society that refuses to believe crime happens because that would reflect badly on their government, investigations are difficult to carry out. Set in the Soviet Union in the 1950s allows Smith to depict a society bound by fear  which adds intricacies and thoughtfulness to what otherwise might be just another thriller.

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman is a tale whose story is told as much in the illustrations by Eddie Campbell as in the written story itself. Gaiman is a storyteller that breathes new life into tales that you might think you already know. This story is about a father seeking to avenge the death of his daughter.

 

I am determined to read more non-fiction. One of my favorites from 2018 is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I will admit that I listened to the audiobook and that if I had read it, I might have given up in spots as it is quite dense and lengthy, but it is well written. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a leading theologian in Germany during Adolf Hitler’s rise. Metaxas details Bonhoeffer’s upbringing, his education, and his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. The life of such a complex character was interesting.

Another non-fiction read that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned much from was Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic. The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is the worst sea disaster in US Naval history. Vincent and Vladic take another look at the ensuing court martial and make a case that the captain inappropriately took the blame.

 

Michael Koryta is a new author for me and his book How it Happened was a pleasant introduction. Set in Maine, an investigator is attempting to solve a case, but all he has to go on is the word of a down and out heroin addict who may be the guilty one herself.

Staff Picks of 2018, Part 2

The 2018 Staff Picks continue. This week Dave, Cyndi, Liz and Lynne share their favorites from 2018.

 

Dave’s 2018 Top Picks:

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian is a thriller about a flight attendant that wakes up in the wrong hotel room with a dead man beside her in bed – and she has no idea what happened.

 

Sally Field, Academy Award winning actress shares her story in In Pieces. From her hard childhood, to the ways in which she found her voice, to her role as a daughter and a mother, Field is honest and vulnerable.

Lethal White is the next installment in the detective series by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a J.K. Rowling. In this mystery, Cormoran Strike is asked to look into a decades old crime that leads to the halls of Parliament and a country-side manor.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper is the sequel to The Dry. In this installment, five co-workers are forced to go on a corporate retreat. What is supposed to be an exercise in team building quickly turns ugly when one of the women doesn’t come out alive.

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger is #17 in the Cork O’Connor mysteries. A senator’s plane goes down on Desolation Mountain, but the mystery doesn’t stop there: some of the first responders go missing, too. O’Connor and his son work together to stop the forces behind the disappearances.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean plunges into the unsolved mystery of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire. At the same time that Orlean investigates the circumstances around the fire, she presents a case exploring the crucial role libraries have in our American society. For Dave’s more in-depth thoughts The Library Book, check out his past blog post.

The much anticipated Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny was released in November, 2018 and it still has over 300 holds on it in the Minerva system. In this mystery, Inspector Gamache discovers he has been named the executor of a will for a complete stranger.

Does Becoming by Michelle Obama need any explanation?

 

 

Cyndi’s 2018 Top Picks:

In The Nowhere Girls, by Amy Reed, three girls team up to avenge the rape of a girl they don’t even know with far reaching effects that none foresaw.

 

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson with illustrations by Emily Carroll, is based on the Young Adult novel Speak by Anderson. High school can be brutal especially if you call the cops on an underage party. Now Melinda is friendless and no one will speak to her, but what she has to say, if she can find the strength to say it, is the beginning of healing.

 

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is the third installmant of the Illuminae Files series. A science fiction story that follows Kady, Ezra, Hanna and Nik who left their home after it was invaded, and now find themselves refugees on a container ship because the station in which they had found shelter was attacked.

Another graphic novel, Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka tells the story of Krosoczka’s early life raised by his grandparents because his mother is an addict and he doesn’t even know who is father is.

Words We Don’t Say by K.J. Reilly is about a young man who, after a tragic event in his past, finds it difficult to speak to certain people. He writes numerous text messages but never sends them. But through volunteering at a soup kitchen he develops some friendships with other volunteers, and with those he serves as well.

What do you do when the death of a student in a school massacre, turns into legend, but there’s an eyewitness that knows the legend isn’t based on fact. Do you tell the truth of what happened that day? That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger explores the ideas of martyrdom and how and when to tell the truth about someone’s death.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is an elevator ride Will will never forget. Told in verse, Will sets out to avenge the death of his brother. While on the elevator down, Will is visited by ghosts all who knew his brother. Revealing truths about his brother’s death, have the ghosts done enough to steer Will off his present course?

 

Liz’s 2018 Top Picks:

Pet Sounds — The Beach Boys

I listened to this album for the first time during the first moments of springtime, right around late April when the air starts to feel warm and you can carry your coat when you walk around. It’s poppy, to be sure, but features orchestral arrangements, train sounds, and complex structures. Wear headphones!

Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself, by Sabrina Ward Harrison

One part sketchbook and one part intimate diary, this book shows the vulnerability of youth and creativity. This is a great read for anyone who feels unsure about themselves or their path in life, especially those interested in pursuing a career in the arts.

Just Kids: the Illustrated Version by Patti Smith

This new edition of Patti’s Smith’s elegiac autobiography about her life and relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe features full-color drawings, sketches, notes, and images that were not reproduced in the first edition. Essential for superfans and helpful for those who prefer a more multimedia approach to memoir.

The Harrow & the Harvest — Gillian Welch

I took my dad to see Gillian Welch and her partner Dave Rawlings this summer in Portland. They played a lot of tracks from this album, which is one that I hadn’t explored too deeply before. Rootsy, clean guitar tones with rich and soulful vocals. For fans of: Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Joan Baez, the Punch Brothers, etc.

Maniac (2018, Netflix)

This limited TV series for Netflix stars Jonah Hill (The Hangover, Superbad) and Emma Stone (La La Land, Easy A) in an 80s-tech inspired dystopian future. Gripping, snarky, nuanced, and quite a bit of a thinker, this show tells the story of Annie and Owen as they participate in a risky new pharmaceutical trial that promises to cure them of all emotional and psychological damage. Based off a 2015 Norwegian production, this version stays true to the gritty, darker vibes of Scandinavian drama.

 

Lynne’s 2018 Top Picks:

Every Heart a Doorway is the first book in The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire. In the first book readers are introduced to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children where children who disappeared through wardrobes, or down rabbit holes, or into shadows return eventually, and they’re not the same as when they left. They all want to return to their own fantasy land, but there is a darkness lurking and it is up to them to figure out what is going on, but what will it cost them?

 

There, There by Tommy Orange is a Native American coming home tale, but not everyone has returned with good intentions. Big Oakland Powwow is fast approaching and people are returning for the ritual and celebration. Some have overcome hardship and personal shame and seek forgiveness. Others come to be with family or to find family they never knew. Some come to perform in the powwow whether with instrument or to dance. But one returns who has the power to destroy the lives of everyone who gets in his way.

 

In Tangerine by Christine Mangan something happens to cause a rift between once inseparable roommates. Set in Tangier, these once best friends bump into each other, and all seems forgiven, but one of them may have sinister motives. This thriller explores the depths of female friendship and betrayal.

 

While serving as President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie died at age 11. In Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Willie’s soul has gone to the bardo – a type of in-between place – where ghosts get together and hang out and perform acts of penance. During this time, a battle is waged over Willie’s soul.

 

Michelle McNamara, a freelance writer and crime blogger, passed away in 2016, and her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, was released posthumously in 2018. The book is a true crime account about the serial killer, rapist and burglar in California in the mid-70s through the mid-80s who came to be known as the Golden State Killer. A bestseller when it was released in February, 2018, HBO has since bought the rights to develop into a documentary series.

 

In The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, three girls team up to avenge the rape of a girl they don’t even know with far reaching effects that none foresaw.

 

Sally Field, Academy Award winning actress, shares her story in In Pieces. From her hard childhood, to the ways in which she found her voice, to her role as a daughter and a mother, Field is honest and vulnerable.

 

 

Staff Picks of 2018, Part 1

Another new year is here, but we’re not quite done with 2018, yet. Today, and continuing for the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing Topsham Public Library’s Staff Picks of 2018. To qualify for a staff pick the staff member must have read/listened to/watched the staff pick in 2018, but it does not have to be a new release in 2018. The lists are in no particular order. I always enjoy seeing what made the cut. Enjoy!

 

Helen’s 2018 Top Picks:

Ararat by Christopher Golden is about the discovery of an ancient ship on Mount Ararat in Turkey. As archaeologists, scholars, and filmmakers rush to see what it holds the happen upon a coffin with the remains of a horned creature inside. As happens in the mountains, a blizzard blows in, trapping them all inside the ship.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris tells the story of Cass, a woman who didn’t help when she had the opportunity and now another woman is dead. She’s still not convinced she could have helped, but things have not been the same since that stormy night: from increasing forgetfulness to receiving calls with no one on the other end. Is she losing her mind?

One of the best things about camping is sitting around the fire at night talking and telling stories, but what happens if those stories told to spook and scare come true? Campfire by Shawn Sarles shows us, and you might postpone that camping trip you were planning.

 

First in a series, The Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green revisits the story of an isolated manor house and blizzard that traps all occupants inside. Amongst the guests is an investigator that has his own secrets, prefers to operate unnoticed, and is not above killing others if he sees fit. A great book to read on a cold, January day.

Bram Stoker has found himself in a tower with as many crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle. He must make it through one night, but he must confront an indescribable evil before the light of dawn. Bram writes while he waits, and bestselling author, J.D. Barker and Dacre Stoker, a descendant of Bram’s, tells the story in Dracul.

 

In Beauchamp Hall by Danielle Steele, a daughter puts her dreams on hold to care for her sick mother.

 

While 7-year-old Wen is outside playing, a large, young man appears who is friendly and the two of them talk a play. Suddenly, without warning the young man announces that what is about to happen is not Wen’s fault. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay is a thriller that will keep you turning the page.

A daughter of a wealthy tech giant goes missing. It’s assumed she is off on a wild adventure until her body, minus her head, is found in an abandoned warehouse. City of Endless Night is #17 in the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston.

 

Death of an Honest Man is the next installment in the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton. In this mystery, Hamish tries to warn the new comer that it might be best not to always tell the truth. He doesn’t listen, and he pays the price.

 

Kristin Hannah does it again. She is a favorite author here, and The Great Alone does not disappoint. A POW returns from the Vietnam War in 1974, and finding he can’t adjust, he decides to move him and his family to Alaska and live off the grid.

 

 

Emma’s 2018 Top Picks:

She Said Destroy by Nadia Bulkin

I read a lot of short story collections, and this one by critically-acclaimed weird writer, Nadia Bulkin, was my hands-down favorite this year. Original, raw and unapologetically socio-political, this is an astonishing range of stories that are unlike any you have read before.

 

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

This novelette merges the real-life plight of Topsy the elephant with the group of New Jersey female factory workers who slowly died of radiation poisoning in a dark alternate history. This book is beautiful: A distillation of anger and sadness and grief and injustice. I cried my heart out. I knew it was going to be heartbreaking but I WAS NOT PREPARED. ALSO YOU WILL NOT BE PREPARED. Read it anyway.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

A novella from McGuire’s Wayward Children series, a portal fantasy in which children who don’t fit in their own lives often tumble into other ones that are more suited to them. The problem comes when these worlds spit the children back. Forever changed, they may end up in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The beauty of this series is that is not linear and in takes place in many different worlds so it can be read in any order. This one is my favorite because of the world twin sisters, Jack and Jill, fall into—a world of windswept moors, forests full of werewolves, a mad scientist and a vampire who rules the villagers with fear. How will the sisters fare in this world?

Space Opera by Catherynne Valente

Image result for space opera catherynne valenteSo I was always going to love this book: wordy, hitchhiker’s-esque paean to Eurovision with a Bowie-worshipping glam rock hero? That’s like a list of all the things I love. What I didn’t expect was for it to exceed my (very high) expectations. I didn’t expect different kinds of northern British working class heroes and families that made me teary-eyed and a little bit homesick as well as laugh or biting social commentary along with a sense of hope and A LOT of glitter. If you mourned Douglas Adams and you mourned Bowie. Read this. It makes it not so bad.

Monstress #3 by Marjorie M. Liu

I don’t think that there is a more beautiful looking graphic novel series out there today than Monstress. Artist, Sana Takeda’s ultra-detailed depiction of an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia complete with art-deco steam punk, shark-pirate ladies, Lovecraftian monsters, historian cats and much much more, carries you through Liu’s sometimes horrific, sometimes heart-rending, sometimes confusing but ultimately compelling story of Maika Halfwolf, fox-kid Kippa and Master Ren, a two-tailed cat.

Saga #8 and #9 by Brian K. Vaughan

I used to think I wasn’t much of a sci-fi reader, turns out (looking at the list above) I am. Saga has definitely had something to do with that. This sweeping graphic novel sci-fi saga(!) of two enemy soldiers and the family they create and find as they go on the run from, well, everyone, has had my heart for years now. It is definitely not for everyone. It is highly subversive and very adult. Your favorite characters may die but you will care so much for this crazy, flawed space family that you will go along for the ride anyway. Just a message for the author from me: Vaughan, if you kill Ghus, we’re done, you hear me? I am not reading anymore if you do that.

The Rust Maidens by Gwendoline Kiste

It’s 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio and things aren’t looking good for the inhabitants of Denton Street—The mill they all depend on is going to be shut down and a group of girls are going through a grotesque transformation. The Rust Maidens, as they become known, are corroding, their skin withering away to reveal rusted bones, their nails turning to broken glass. I’d not finished this book by the time I had to hand in my picks but I knew it was one of my favorites of the year. There is an atmosphere to it that is reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides crossed with a unique type of body horror that gives these girls a sense of agency and power.

 

Dale’s 2018 Top Picks:

Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson is a horror story in graphic novel form. Buckaroo, Oregon has birthed a high number of serial killers and NSA Agent Nicholas Finch will team up with infamous serial killer, Nailbiter, to stop the carnage.

Another graphic novel, Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire, is about a building that appears and re-appears throughout history leaving death and madness in its wake. Now, a recluse and a washed-up priest are caught up in the mystery and neither of them are ready for what’s inside.

 

A Netflix film released in October,  Apostle is a horror story set in 1905. A drifter, played by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, sets out to rescue his kidnapped sister and takes on a religious cult isolated on an island.

Starring Bill Pullman, Jessica Biel and Dohn Norwood, The Sinner is a dark TV series airing on USA Network. This is an anthology series examining why seemingly normal people commit brutal crimes.

Released in October, The Silver Scream by Ice Nine Kills an American metal band, is the fifth studio album for the group. Each song on this album is based on a horror film. Can you match the song to the film?

 

Monique’s 2018 Top Picks:

Want to hone your observation skills? Try Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy Herman. Herman, an art historian, will help you develop skills you didn’t even know you have to better see and communicate at work and at home.

 

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It by Ian Leslie is a look at the ease at which we have access to information and how that is affecting our curiosity.

 

To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue is a collection of blessings for a variety of occasions, from joyful occasions to sorrowful times.

 

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a leading research biologist and a member of the Potawatomi nation, not only is she a student of nature as a scientist but her culture has taught her another knowing of nature. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer weaves these two kinds of knowing together to bring people back into a conversation about nature and how it is speaking to us.

 

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel is a new look at the way memory is used and knowledge retrieved and is not just beneficial in formal studies but for lifelong learners, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year End Thank You!

The following is a letter from Dave Mosley, Topsham Public Library Development Coordinator. 

Keith Spiro Photography

With the end of 2018 rapidly approaching, it seems a good time to look back over the past year. In reflection, there have been some challenges, but I find many more events that are positive and I am energized and excited.

A few months ago, I became the Development Coordinator for Topsham Public Library. Never technically being in development, I had the typical nerves and concerns about a new job. Luckily, I spent the past three years working at the front desk meeting and assisting patrons and I knew that we have the best group of patrons from any library I have worked at. Why? Simple! Because we all love this library and sense of community enjoyed by those who enter this building. I knew from speaking to all of you on a daily basis that our collective need for the library would translate to support.

This being the first annual appeal I am directly responsible for, I want it to be wildly successful. I am overjoyed to tell you that after the first six weeks, we are halfway to our goal of $90,000! This goal is our actual need in order to meet our commitment to the town to raise 15% of our budget.

For those of you who have already taken the time to donate, all of us at Topsham Public Library from the trustees, staff and myself give you our sincere thanks! The work we do here could not happen without your additional support.

For those who have yet to donate, please consider joining your fellow residents who have already shown their support. What you can donate is not as important as that you donate! You can send a check or stop by and use your charge card. You can even go to our website and donate directly from our support page, with either a one-time donation or a budget friendly monthly gift. Personally, I find it hard to fit a larger, one-time donation into my budget so we choose to give monthly. Soon we will be announcing a new program designed around this very form of support so stay tuned.

In the end, I don’t want this to be only about charitable giving. I hope you believe me when I sincerely say—Thank You! Topsham Public Library’s success is YOUR success, because this is OUR library!

And to everyone, Happy New Year!

2018 Book Lists

I have primed the staff at Topsham Public Library to get their Staff Picks of 2018 list done. Dave has already submitted his to me with the caveat that he may add one or two titles before the midnight on December 31 deadline. But below I have added a few lesser known sources (wink, wink) and their best books of 2018 lists.

For the Washington Post Best Books of 2018: https://wapo.st/bestbooks2018

The New York Public Library has released their Best of 2018 list: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2018/11/19/introducing-best-books-2018

The New York Times’ list is 100 Notable Books of 2018: https://nyti.ms/2zh3kPT

For Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans, Barnes & Noble have released their list of favorites from 2018:

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/best-science-fiction-fantasy-books-2018/

And last, but not least, Time released a list of books you may have missed this year:

http://time.com/5458670/best-books-you-missed-2018/

This is just a sampling of lists that are out there. Take a look. See what you think. They are a great source of suggestions. And don’t worry, come January the much anticipated Topsham Public Library Staff Picks of 2018 will be released. I know that’s what you’re all waiting for.

Our Annual Appeal

The following is a letter from David Mosley, Development Coordinator for Topsham Public Library

Can you believe it? It’s that time of year again. Dreary, post-fall/pre-winter weather with seemingly “shorter” days with less daylight and a colder climate. However, I always find myself a little excited about the Thanksgiving holiday, when good food and time with family and special friends come together. It brings to mind nesting at home, reading a good book and drinking something warm with my pets snuggling with me on the couch. This, in turn, makes me think about Topsham Public Library and how additions to the collection is funded. Especially now that I am, as the new Development Coordinator, charged with finding funds to make this happen!

Most likely you have, or will shortly, receive the annual letter from our volunteer Topsham Public Library Board asking for your financial help so we may continue operating our library with its current level of services. Sometimes people do not realize the library is responsible for raising 15% of its funding to augment monies provided by Topsham taxpayers. You may ask yourself, since I already contribute as a taxpayer, how can they ask for more? We ask because there is real need. Our 15% share of our budget this year is almost $130,000. We raise money many ways including grants, business support and from the Friends of Topsham Public Library. Even after this generous support, our remaining need and goal for this fiscal year is still $90,000!

Recently I finished one of my favorite books of 2018, The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief. Ostensibly, it discloses the tragic event where the Central Library of Los Angeles burns on April 29, 1986. As with most other books by Orlean, it is a more complex account. She brings readers along from the beginnings of the LA Library through today where it has become one of the largest library systems in the world. Not much in common with Topsham Public Library you may think, but you would be incorrect. Like all public libraries, LA’s is much more than a repository of books. Yes, it has a large and diverse collection managed by professional staff but it is also a place where people gather for community, education, job searches, tax preparation, art shows, crafts, general information, all this while being part of the greater social safety net. Our collection may offer a small slice of what LA’s does, but the Topsham Public Library staff of professionals provide all these services too, but only with your financial support.

I have had the pleasure of working at the circulation desk for the three years prior to my new role here at Topsham Public Library. I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of you in the community and I have always been struck, and thankful for, your support. I am sure you will agree that Topsham Public Library is a true community jewel.  As we begin celebrating our 15th anniversary in our “new” building, and our board, staff and residents begin looking at what the next 15 years may bring, the enthusiasm makes my new role even more exciting. Please join me in financially supporting a place we in Topsham cannot do without—our beloved public library!