All branches of the Ruth Enlow Library will be closed on Wednesday - June 19th in observance of Juneteenth. We will reopen at our regular hours on Thursday - June 20th.

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Updates, Chromebooks and Reviews

As the temperature rises and events across the County heat up, your Library has what you need - whether it’s great free activities through our Summer Reading Club (for adults and kids!), books for stealing a quiet moment for yourself at the beach, free movies your streaming services can’t take away on a whim, or just a quiet air-conditioned place to hang out!

And we’re actively looking to improve!  In my last post I mentioned our recent survey, which 229 of you filled out - we appreciate the input you provided and will use it to help determine our course in the next few years with the new Strategic Plan we’re creating.  And for those who missed the survey, or who want to contribute more directly, we’re going to be holding a series of Focus Groups, one at each Library location, over the course of the next several weeks.  Here are the dates for those who can make it!

Not only is Summer Reading in full swing, we have more big news as well - as many have seen, we’re partnering with the County to help provide Chromebooks for low-income families!  The County acquired these devices with a very generous grant, and we want to make sure everyone in the County has access to the technology they need to access the Internet and eliminate the digital divide in Garrett County for good.  More information can be found here.

I’m also very happy to announce that design work has begun on a new and much-anticipated library for our patrons in Friendsville!  If our current schedule holds, we hope to break ground in a year.  We especially want to thank former Senator George Edwards and former Delegate Wendell Beitzel for their support in getting the State’s funding formula changed to make this project possible - thank you so much!

And as a new feature to this blog, I’ll be posting the monthly book reviews we provide to the Republican, so those of you who miss it or who want to see older ones can do so here.  That said, here are:

Recent REL Reviews

The Devil’s Atlas:  An Explorer’s Guide to Heavens, Hells and Afterworlds

By Edward Brooke-Hitching

Published by Chronicle Books

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

Map lover Edward Brooke-Hitching has written several previous books on all kinds of fascinating subjects - strange sports, odd books and maps of all shapes and sizes - and his works are always a great read for those that love to read about the stranger paths of history.  His newest book is a look at how the afterlife is viewed across cultures - from the Divine Comedy to Valhalla to the Book of the Dead, and all points in between.  The author does a great job of describing as well how views on the afterlife changed over time.  This book is supplemented by incredible art pulled from throughout history and across cultures - some beatific, others downright horrific.  An excellent read, but one with some annoying editing errors - the book actually has an errata page for the edition at the Library to remedy them, which isn’t something you see much these days.

 

Homecoming:  A Novel

By Kate Morton

Published by Mariner Books

Reviewed by Michelle Richter

Homecoming by Kate Morton is a beautifully written historical mystery. Taking place in Australia and spanning the lives of three generations of women, it is richly detailed and has an intricate plot.  Nora is the beloved grandmother of Jess and has kept the secret of a family tragedy from her for her entire life. After Nora is hospitalized after a fall, Jess finds a true crime novel in her grandmother's home and is left to unravel how this book involves her own family. The book that Nora finds, “As If They Were Asleep”, is included within Homecoming, making it a book within a book. This only adds complexity to the plot. Jess is determined to resolve the mystery and while doing this restore the complicated relationship that she has with her own mother.  This story is written in vivid detail and deals with love, loss, tragedy, family secrets and deception.

 

The Black Stallion

By Walter Farley

Published by Random House

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

This is a great read for parents - a 12-year old boy and a 7-year old girl both enjoyed it immensely, which is a crossover one doesn’t always see.  Journeying back from visiting an uncle in India, Alec Ramsay is shipwrecked, surviving thanks to the power of an untamed horse he befriends and names “the Black.”  The Black proves to be a genuine marvel despite his unknown parentage, and Alec teams up with a retired champion jockey to see what he can really do.  From there, the boy and the horse’s lives intertwine as each brings out the best in the other, becoming an unbeatable team (that goes on for quite a while with additional and increasingly strange sequels). In addition to being a great book on its own, this one is also eligible for one of the Library’s “Classics Buttons” for those who read it. 

 

The Life of the Automobile:  The Complete History of the Motor Car

By Steven Parissien

Published by Thomas Dunne Books

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

From the beginnings of the automobile with the 1886 Benz Motor Wagen there have been a lot of fascinating stories about the ebb and flow of companies vying for success in the auto industry - sometimes creating amazing engineering and artistic masterpieces, and other times churning out lemons that bring down a company with them.  Parissien’s book does a great job of telling these stories in a very readable and fun way, describing as well how the personalities of the major figures of automotive history - from the tyrannical Henry Ford to the incompetent Roger Smith - saw such things as the rise of Japanese and German imports, the spectacular collapse of the British auto industry (the author being a Brit really informs this one), the “golden age” of car design in the ‘50s and the wartime entanglement of auto makers with the Axis powers.  A great read for both history folks and gearheads.

 

Travelers to Unimaginable Lands:  Stories of Dementia, the Caregiver, and the Human Brain

By Dasha Kiper

Published by Random House

Reviewed by Karl Schwalm

Dasha Kiper offers a different slant on dementia, particularly as it affects the caregiver, using real-life examples of cases that she has worked with as a clinical psychologist.  She goes through why it is difficult for those closest to the Alzheimer’s patient to initially realize that there is a problem.  We are so involved that we attribute changes to aging, other health issues or stresses, rather than thinking that the changes could be dementia.  Even when the caregiver understands that the patient has the disease, he/she may at time have trouble acting, seeing the old personality coming out, so the caregiver falls back into the same patterns as pre-Alzheimer’s and treats the patient as before.  Kiper well makes the point that there is tremendous stress on the caregiver, who may at times exacerbate the problems with the caregiving.  This is a book well worth reading if you are dealing and living with a dementia patient.

 

Black-Eyed Susans:  A Novel of Suspense

By Julia Heaberlin

Published by Ballantine Books

Reviewed by Lori Stemple

Tessa Cartwright was 16 when she was found in a Texas field, along with the remains of other young women, all victims of a serial killer. Tessa spent long hours working with a therapist, but she wasn’t able to remember what happened to her or the face of her attacker. The police believe they caught the killer and she testified at his trial. Now his execution is looming, and she thinks the wrong man was convicted.  With chapters that alternate between 1995 and the present day, the story moves quickly and stays fresh. The crimes are brutal, but most of the violence happens off the page, with the details kept relatively vague. The suspense builds as she gets closer to remembering what happened, and as she tries to learn who she can trust. This is an interesting mystery/psychological thriller with a sympathetic main character and questions about who the villains in our lives really are.