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All the Hoopla about the Holidays!

8 Dec

I find Hoopla is my go to for fun holiday reads, movies and more.  I often recommend it to patrons for holidays from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Lunar New Year since Hoopla has lots of enjoyable holiday books.  Since my family celebrates Christmas, I thought I’d look at a few of the things I’ve been checking out this holiday season.

The Twelve Jays of Christmas
by Donna Andrews
Donna Andrew’s avian themed mysteries are always a hoot.  This year I’m listening to her latest audio book of The Twelve Jays of Christmas narrated by Bernadette Dunne who brings Meg Langslow, a blacksmith and mom of twins, and her extended family of quirky characters to life.  In this book, Meg must juggle a troublesome wildlife artist, Roderick Castlemayne, and her brother Rob’s surprise elopement plans along with the usual holiday festivities.  Many of Andrews other Meg Langslow mysteries are also available including several holiday themed audiobooks. You can read my blog post about her previous novel, Murder Most Fowl.

Inside Lyndey’s Kitchen:  Celebrating Christmas
If you are always looking for new holiday dishes to wow your friends and family like I am, then you may enjoy Inside Lyndey’s Kitchen: Celebrating Christmas.  They star Australian cooking host, Lyndey Milan. Broken down into three half hour episodes, she looks at classic, contemporary, and “lazy” dishes you can prepare.  On my must try list are her appetizers featuring duck breast with sour cherries and white gazpacho with scallops.  Also beautiful looking and delicious sounding is a raspberry terrine for dessert.  My favorite food, mushrooms, are featured in a Christmas morning mushroom custard.  Several other of Lyndey’s baking and travel series are also available from Hoopla.  As mentioned in a previous post our library patrons also have access to a variety of cooking and crafting videos from Craftsy that feature everything from roasting to bread making.

Midwinter Graces
by Tori Amos

I can remember as a freshman in college having to get up at 4 AM to stand in line for tickets for a Tori Amos concert.  I may not be willing to do that anymore, but she has always remained a favorite.  In Midwinter Graces, Tori puts her own unique spin on classic carols with her versions of Star of Wonder, Coventry Carol, and Emmanuel.  Plus enjoyable are her lush original songs like A Silent Night with You.  You can also borrow Tori’s latest Ocean to Ocean from Hoopla.  Also check out my previous blog post on eclectic holiday albums you can enjoy.

What favorite holiday items have you checked out from Hoopla for the upcoming winter holidays that you celebrate?

And don’t forget you also can check out a variety of holiday related items from our other ebook and streaming media services including Kanopy and Freegal!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Information and Digital Services

Quirky Characters, a Charming Setting and Topical Issues: Louise Penny’s A Better Man

4 May

A Better Man
Take a small rural Canadian village. A bistro serving almond croissants and café au lait. A quirky cast of core characters, with a few new faces mixed in each new book of the series.

Mix in some current topical issues, in this case the effects of environmental change, social media reality and the how impressions can be shaped there by anonymity, doctored videos and the viral nature of opinions. Add other dark aspects of life, like violence against women.

What you get is a somewhat cozy mystery with enough rough reality mixed in that you won’t gag from the sweetness.

It’s a formula that is repeated throughout this now 15 book long series. Armand Gamache, an officer of the Surete du Quebec lives with his extended family in the (fictional) village of Three Pines in Quebec. He deals with various crimes (a rather shocking amount, for such a backwater) as well as issues within the Surete du Quebec. He carries the baggage of decisions he has made in his career in each new book. In this one, he is looking into the disappearance of a woman known to have been abused by her husband. He is helped by his son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and other Surete agents that have appeared in previous books in the series.

I hesitate to make the suggestion, because it is a rather substantial reading commitment, but it really is best to read the series in order. There is enough explanation of the backstories of the major plot developments to get you through each book as a stand-alone, but your enjoyment will be deeper for seeing characters develop over time. Penny doesn’t pull any punches. She is not afraid to write main characters out of the script or involve plot twists that will shock you.

A list of the series in order from the first to the most recent is: Still Life, A Fatal Grace/Dead Cold (same book, different title), The Cruelest Month, A Rule Against Murder/The Murder Stone (same book, different title), The Brutal Telling, Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery, How the Light Gets In, The Long Way Home, The Nature of the Beast, A Great Reckoning, Glass Houses, Kingdom of the Blind, and A Better Man.  You can find them as ebooks and/or digital audiobooks to checkout from eLibraryNJ, eBCCLS, and Hoopla.

If you require s bit more convincing, take a look at Louise Penny’s web site, which features reviews and more describing the books in detail.

What I enjoy about the series is the morality of Armand Gamache and the plotting that keeps each book both familiar and surprising. And the food! The characters frequently indulge in food and drink at the bistro or at get-togethers at the villagers’ homes that sound awesome.

Written by:
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

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