Search: Vega Catalog  Website    

Warm news for cold times

I hope you all are doing well in the snowy weather we’re seeing, and have some hot Library updates today to help warm your spirits!

Design work on the new Friendsville Library continues, with the support of a great group of people in the community who have been dedicated to this project since before COVID hit.  The preliminary plans that we’re seeing from Murphy and Dittenhafer are very exciting, and we’re looking forward to making something great for that area!

As a reminder, the Library is still giving away Chromebook computers to income-qualified households while supplies last - for more information, take a look here. We continue to give out COVID test kits as well, thanks to the support of the amazing people at the Health Department!

And now for some new announcements:

  • First off, the Library has completed its new Strategic Plan, which can be found here.  In it, you can see the projects and improvements we’ll be pursuing over the next five years, which fall under four broad categories:  “Develop a Culture of Reading,” “Foster Human Connection in a Hybrid World,” “Serve the County’s Educational Needs” and “Look to the Future.”  These goals were based on our discussions with staff, Friends, the Board, our partners, and most of all you, the community - it’s going to be a busy next few years, but we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do for you!
  • Secondly, Nintendo Switch video games can now be checked out from the Library!  The Main Library, Grantsville and Accident all have a limited collection that we will continue to develop - adult cards can check out up to two games for three weeks each.  You can also take a look in our catalog to see what’s available and place holds on your favorites!
  • Third, in partnership with the great people at the Historical Society and at Garrett County Public Schools, we have begun the process of scanning all of the high school yearbooks in Garrett County and making them available and searchable - as well as 75 years of Vacation Guides.  We’ll have more to announce about this project in the future when it’s closer to completion, but our digitization projects will continue to make whatever we can available online for people wanting to research the County’s history!
  • And finally, once again I am conducting weekly Pub Trivia events at the Vagabond Taproom every other Friday night at 7:00 through the winter.  Come on by and get challenged, and see the book selections that tie in with each category!


Book Reviews

Under the Java Moon

By Heather Moore

Published by Shadow Mountain

Reviewed by Dr. Karl Schwalm

During the colonial era Indonesia essentially fell under the rule of the Dutch East India Company, and therefore under the rule of the Netherlands, who exploited Indonesia just as Great Britain exploited India.  This book tells the story of a Dutch family who lived and worked on the island of Java, with George serving as an engineer in the Dutch Navy.  Then WWII happened, and the Japanese easily overwhelmed the Dutch in Indonesia, putting them into internment camps, where thousands died of disease and malnutrition.  Following the war, the Indonesians asserted their independence and often treated the Dutch badly, at times killing them because of the ill treatment the Dutch had imposed for over a hundred years. Under  the Java Moon reminds us of how incredibly inhumane we can be to each other, especially when certain barriers are removed.  Although one can get tired of hearing these stories, it is important to be reminded that we need to treat each other with respect and compassion.


Mr. Dickens and His Carol

By Samantha Silva

Published by Flatiron Books

Reviewed by Michelle Richter

It is 1843 and Charles Dickens is finding his life in a downward spiral. His last book has failed, a new son has just been born, and many people are financially depending on him.  He has six weeks to come up with a new Christmas story in order to save himself from bankruptcy.  Although Mr. Dickens and His Carol is fiction, it is based on facts from this time of Dickens’ life. It beautifully portrays the time period of Victorian London. It is also so enjoyable to meet the figures that influenced the beloved Christmas Carol characters. Although it is dark at times, Mr. Dickens and His Carol is a fun (and at times a bit quirky) tale of redemption. It was a great addition to my annual reading of A Christmas Carol, and would be a fun read for fans of that book. 


Normal People

By Salley Rooney

Published by Random House

Reviewed by Dr. Karl Schwalm

This is a coming-of-age story of two bright and gifted Irish teenagers who want to fit in as “normal people,” but who are not in any sense of the term.  Marianne comes from a rich family, all of whose members are abusive towards her.  Connell comes from a poor background, with a loving mother who is a maid at Marianne’s home, and an absent father.  They find each other and become friends and confidants, but struggle to get along with their peers, and with each other, carrying so much baggage and insecurity that they don’t communicate, and therefore hurt each other.  The theme fits very well in highlighting the struggles teens today have with mental health.  I was also reminded how much that affects our lives runs below the surface and that we as parents, teachers, coaches, ministers, doctors and other mentors need to search and guide when we see that there are issues with youth.


Video Game of the Year:  A Year-By-Year Guide to the Best, Boldest, and Most Bizarre Games from Every Year Since 1977

By Jordan Minor

Published by Abrams Image

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

As a lifelong gamer, this book was a genuine treat for me.  Minor gives a panoramic overview of gaming history using one title to represent every year from 1977 to 2021, starting with Pong and ending with The Stanley Parable:  Ultra Deluxe.  While his choices may sometimes be odd (particularly 2019’s Sekiro, a game he outright dislikes) his writing is superb and the reader picks up his reasoning effectively.  Some games are represented for their sheer quality, others for their transformational influence on the medium or for their cultural impact.  Minor also includes guest essays from a wide range of gaming journalists and creators that pick up the torch for a lot of the games he would not otherwise have been able to include.   Whether you’re an old-school NES fan such as myself or someone who discovered gaming through Pokemon Go, there is something here for you to discover.


The Encyclopedia of the Weird and Wonderful

By Milo Rossi

Published by Wellfleet Press

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

Milo Rossi is a Youtube personality, but I won’t hold it against him.  The book reads as a little breathless and speculative, but Rossi is an engaging writer and it’s a great way to encourage readers to learn more about the world around them - a world that Rossi clearly appreciates in all its complexity.  Among the things he covers are the story of Ol’ Rip, the horned toad allegedly sealed in a courthouse for 30 years, the oldest jeans to be found, an analysis of the cave art found from prehistoric times that shows them to have been made by children, popular games from other cultures, and the pigeon that saved a regiment.  Books such as this are great for encouraging teens to develop and retain their natural curiosity about how the world works - parents should give it a look and see if it might be a good fit for their more nonfiction-y readers. 


Carter Beats the Devil

By Glen David Gold

Published by Hyperion

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

This book was the author’s debut, and I was first drawn to it by its cover, which evokes posters advertising magic acts from the beginning of the 20th century (Who says you can’t judge a book that way?).  I was inspired to read it having heard that the real Charles Carter performed at the Chautauqua in Mountain Lake Park during that period.  His fictionalized counterpart, whose story this describes, is a stage magician whose career sees him cross paths with a homicidal rival, a depressed President and a dogged Secret Service, the inventor of television, the developer of the BMW motorcycle, and, of course, Harry Houdini.  The story careens along wonderfully with plenty of twists and turns, and Carter makes for a charming protagonist, thought the ending is perhaps a little drawn out.  Fans of magic and vaudeville history will find a lot to like in this one.


The Remains of the Day

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Published by Faber and Faber

Reviewed by Clinton Bradley

Why did I read this book?  After all it is a 1993 movie, starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, nominated for a variety of significant awards, and winning several.  The book is in a world that few of us would ever know.  Set in England, it begins in 1956, but journeys back to before WWII, and is about the lives of an English Butler and the Housekeeper who were professional servants for Darlington Hall.  They are the focus of the book, and despite their surroundings the author takes us on a journey of how they relate or attempt to relate to each other.  Towards the end of the book a man suggests that it is best to seize the present, asserting that any “this evening” is, after all, the best part of the day.  This is my wife’s favorite book.  Reading a loved one’s favorite book is smart relations. 


The Shallows:  What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

By Nicholas Carr

Published by W.W. Norton and Company

Reviewed by Thomas Vose

In this brave new world of constant connectivity, where a device is constantly on hand and begging for your attention, the question must be asked - how is our constant reliance on technology changing who we are?  Carr’s book draws widely on neuroscience to establish his main points, demonstrating how the fragmented and distraction-filled environment of the online world inhibits memory, reflection and empathy, and the deeper understanding of topics that come from these.  Written in 2011, a time when smartphones were on the rise, streaming was just starting to pick up, and the promise of social media was still bright, it is particularly thought-provoking to read this book in 2023, with an eye to what has taken place since then.  The impacts of technology on education, AI’s intrusion into the arts, the disillusionment with social media and the isolation of modern life - this book puts a new spin on all of these and more.  Highly recommended.



The Secret Book of Flora Lea 

by Patti Callahan Henry

Published by Atria Books

Reviewed by Suzanne Bonser

Due to the threat of Nazi bombings in 1939, Hazel and her younger sister Flora are evacuated to a country home to keep them from harm.  Despite missing their own mother, they enjoyed their lives in the beautiful countryside with a kind woman and her son.  There Hazel entertains her sister with walks, games, and stories about an imagined fairytale land called Whisperwood.  However, one day Flora disappears near the banks of the river and is presumed drowned.  Hazel is overcome with guilt and grief, always wondering what truly happened to her sister.  In 1960, Hazel discovers a book titled “Whisperwood and the River of Stars” while working in a rare bookstore.  She has never told anyone else of this fantasy land, and so she soon embarks on an intriguing quest to discover if Flora might still be alive.  Patti Henry spins an amazing tale of sister loyalty as the search for Flora Lea takes many twists and turns.