eBooks at Union County Public Library, NC

Union County now has ebooks available for their patrons. If you are already familiar with using ebooks, you will find this a welcome new service. If you are new to reading in this way, it is very simple to start and you will find that you can read on several different devices.

For those who are new to ebooks and downloading, there will be an introductory class on Saturday at the Monroe branch. However, as of this writing, there was only one opening left.

Ebooks have been available at different public libraries for quite some time, but it was not until this past September, that Kindle books became available. Since that time, there have been many controversies between publishers and libraries. Expense and privacy issues have been the main concerns. Different publishers have put certain restrictions on their books and some have gone so far as to ‘take their books’ back. Penguin, for a time, withdrew all of their Kindle titles from libraries. Harper Collins put a restriction that their ebooks could only be checked out a total of 26 times. With their restriction of only being able to check out books for 2 weeks at a time, this would mean their titles would expire in about a year’s time. 

Still, with all the controversies and issues to be worked out, this will be a convenience that many can enjoy. In my library science classes at ECU, the question of ‘will ebooks ever totally replace paper ones?’ is constantly discussed. I don’t see ebooks totally replacing paper books for some time, if ever, but they are here to stay, so it is good for them to be available at our public libraries.

For more information about using ebooks and what devices you can use to read on, check out the library website: www.union.lib.nc.us

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Imagine a circus that just appears  in your town one day, is only open at night, and everything is in black and white. Imagine a circus that has so many tents that you will want to come every night to try and see them all. Imagine a circus that smells of caramel and cinnamon, has a bonfire that never goes out, an ice garden, and characters with names like Poppet, Widget, Celia, and Marco. Imagine the circus is gone one morning and you don’t know if it will ever be back.

I’ve never really been one for circuses, but this one is different. Why it is so different makes the story the compelling fantasy that it is. Who is really running the circus? Is it all illusion and mirrors or is there real magic involved? Is it all good or is there some kind of hidden evil involved?

Two children are trained and prepared for a trial or test. What kind of trial? How does one win? What does that have to do with the circus?

I loved this book. It has magic, love, and complicated characters. One that I wanted to finish to see how it would end, yet hated for it to be over. This is Erin Morgenstern’s first book and I hope she is working on another!

The Meaning of Marriage–Timothy Keller

The recently published The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller is a book I would highly recommend for any married couple, no matter what stage of life they may be in. My 15-yr old daughter saw me reading this book & wondered if it might not be a little late for me to be reading such a book. I’ve been married almost 25 years, have a great marriage, but realize there is always room for growth and improvement.

Keller wrote this book from a series of sermons he preached at his church in Brooklyn, NY; a church made up mostly of ‘singles’. So if you’re single, don’t write this off as a book that would not pertain to you or be of interest. There is even a whole chapter just for you.

Keller sees our culture’s view of marriage as slightly off. He says people are looking too hard for that ‘perfect’ mate & not willing to realize that God is working in us. Of course, it’s important as believers to seek  a mate who is also a believer, but once we’re married, we need to see our spouse as someone that God is working on. Part of marriage is helping our mate, and letting them help us, become the person He created us to be. In his chapter, “The Mission of Marriage”, Keller states: “What, then is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us.”

About Ephesians 5:31-32 and that mysterious statement, ‘the two shall become one flesh’:  “Jesus’s sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with Him and He with us. And that, Paul says, is the key to not only understanding marriage but to living it.”

From the chapter “The Power of Marriage,” Keller reminds us that it is not our spouses who give us the power to live the Christian life, nor are they able to meet all our needs. Depending on our spouses for what only the Holy Spirit can give us will prove disastrous. “After trying all kinds of other things, Christians have learned that the worship of God with the whole heart in the assurance of His love through the work of Jesus Christ is the thing their souls were meant to ‘run on’. That is what gets all the heart’s cylinders to fire. If this not understood, then we will not have the resources to be good spouses. If we look to our spouses to fill up our tanks in a way that only God can do, we are demanding an impossibility.”

If you, like myself and Timothy Keller, believe that “there’s no relationship between human beings that is greater or more important than marriage” and if you want to learn more about what God really meant for us when He created this relationship, you will want to read and reread this book.

A Wrinkle in Time–50th Anniversary

A Wrinkle in Time celebrates its 50th year in print this year. A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962 and won the Newberry Medal in 1963.

A Wrinkle in Time was my first introduction to science fiction. I was probably in the 3rd grade when our class listened to WiT being read. It made such an impression on me that when I ran across it in high school, I had to read it again; then I gave it to my sister to read. I’m sure I didn’t understand too much about the math & science involved, but the characters of Meg Murray and her brother, Charles Wallace, are characters that have stayed with me. Reading it again made me realize that the book is full of interesting characters & reminded me of what I loved about the book. From the grand entrance of Mrs. Whatsit to Mrs. Murray–a mother who knows how to encourage & love her children–the characters all have personalities anyone can relate to and just appreciate.

A Wrinkle in Time begins with the famous, or infamous, first line: “It was a dark & stormy night.” Really. This line is originally from the novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, first published in 1830. It has been considered the worst first line in literature & is frequently parodied, most famously by Snoopy of the comic strip, “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz. There is even a contest to write a bad opening paragraph for the worst novels ever written, held every year by the English Department of San Jose State University. The contest is called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Meg is a frustrated young girl who feels out of place at school believing she isn’t as smart and ‘normal’ as others. Her brother, Charles Wallace, is a precocious 5-yr old; though others find him odd, believing he doesn’t even know how to talk. Their worst problem, however, is that their scientist father has been missing for quite some time, and the rest of the town believes he has abandoned his family.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and their new friend, Calvin meet three very different ladies: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. These ladies take the children on a journey to find Mr. Murray. This journey will take them to another world where they will have to fight an evil by learning more about themselves and their strengths.

Anna Quindlen writes an appreciation of the book for this latest issue. “On its surface this is a book about three children who fight an evil force threatening their planet. But it is really about a more primal battle all human beings face, to respect, defend, and love themselves. When Meg pulls the ultimate weapon from her emotional arsenal to fight, for her little brother & for good, it is a great moment, not just for her, but for every reader who has ever felt overlooked, confused, alone.”

From Progeny Press: “Although A Wrinkle in Time can be classified as science fiction, it also contains elements of fantasy, philosophy, Biblical truth, and a glimpse of the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil waged in a distant galaxy.”

L’Engle often incorporated her faith in her books. In her book, Walking on Water, she said, “I often seek theological insights in reading science fiction, because this is a genre eminently suited to exploration of the nature of the Creator and the creation . . . to think about worlds in another galaxy is a theological enterprise.”

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea is an historical novel, with a bit of fantasy mixed in. Carolyn McClelland is an author, doing research for a book she is writing which takes place in Scotland in the early 1700’s. The Scots are plotting with the French to put James Stewart, whom they see as their rightful king, on the throne. The English and their queen are quite opposed to this plot.

This is really two stories in one as Kearsley tells McClelland’s story–her writing and her love interest in a certain Scot–and the story McClelland is writing. McClelland’s main character, Sophia, becomes involved with those plotting to bring  James back from his exile in France. It also turns out that Sophia is a real, historical figure; a distant ancestor of the writer, McClelland.

What makes The Winter Sea unique is the way McClelland does her ‘research’. She has the idea of what she wants to do, but until she finds a certain place in Scotland to write, it doesn’t seem to work. Once she finds herself in this place, the characters and their lives come to life in her imagination. People and details that she hasn’t yet found in her research, begin to ‘tell’ her their story. Is there a such thing as ‘genetic memory’, she begins to wonder? If not, how can she know so much about these characters? How have they managed to come so alive for her as she writes?

I enjoyed The Winter Sea for its characters and the way Kearsley intertwined the two stories. Not being very familiar with this time period of English/Scottish history, that part of the story was a little harder to get into; but once I got my characters straight, it made for a fun way to learn some history. Having McClelland connect with her own characters in such an unorthodox way made it a story within a story, and added to the romance and suspense.

Kearsley has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. The Winter Sea was a finalist for a RITA award and the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award. This book is available at the Union County Libraries.

Happy Birthday, Luci Shaw!

Today is the poet, Luci Shaw’s 83rd birthday. Ms.Shaw was born in London on 12/29/1928. She is the author of ten volumes of poetry and a charter member of the Chrysostom Society of Writers. Ms. Shaw became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1995. She graduated with high honors from Wheaton College in 1953. She has been the Writer in Residence at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada since 1988.

I posted one of Shaw’s poems a few days ago: “Mary’s Song”. This poem is included in the book Accompanied by Angels.  For over 50 yrs, Ms. Shaw wrote and included a poem with her Christmas cards. These poems of the Incarnation were gathered together and published in this book.

One of Ms. Shaw’s books, The Crime of Living Cautiously, is introduced in this video made when Shaw was 68. For any of you who think you may be too old to try new adventures, you need to watch this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL2PExlczrU

To learn more about Ms. Shaw and her writings visit her website at: lucishaw.com                                                        

“Judas, Peter”

Because we are all

betrayers, taking

silver, and eating

body and blood, and asking

(guilty) is it I, and hearing

him say yes, 

it would be simple for us all 

to rush out

and hang ourselves.

But if we find grace

to cry and wait

after the voice of morning

has crowed in our ears

clearly enough

to break our hearts,

he will be there

to ask us each, again,

do you love me?

Shakespearean Teaching Aids II

The Shakespeare Stealer  by Gary Blackwood is an enjoyable way for upper elementary and middle school students to learn about the historical background of Shakespeare’s time. In this book, a young boy, Widge, is taught to write in a special cipher by his master. He is bought by another man, who instructs him to sit in on a play (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) and to take down every word in this cipher.

Widge tries to do as he instructed, having little choice, but gets in various amounts of trouble and ends up being part of the players themselves. To his surprise, he discovers he actually has some acting talents. More importantly, he learns about friendship, loyalty, and how to make some hard decisions.

The Shakespeare Stealer is geared toward middle schoolers, but I don’t believe it is too young for those in high school. I enjoyed reading it myself and found it a good way to learn more about that time period, and seeing it from a young person’s point of view.

The Shakespeare Stealer won the ALA Notable Children’s Book Award, and Blackwood followed this book with two other books: Shakespeare’s Scribe and Shakespeare’s Spy.

There are several study guides available. There is one online that was created by some students at Salisbury State University in Maryland intended for middle and high school teachers. It includes various activities, websites, an author study, and other links pertaining to Shakespearean study. You can access this site at: www.faculty.salisbury.edu/~elbond/stealer.htm