Book Review – Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Suzanne Collins wrote a brilliant book called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It is a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy. This is the story of how President Snow’s ruthlessness and cruelty was shaped. In this book he is known as Coriolanus and he was a pretty ok guy until he decided to let his ambition rule his heart and mind. Sorry if that was a spoiler for those of you who haven’t read the Hunger Games. Yes, the president is a bad guy…

The author skillfully wove in so many elements from her trilogy that explain so well why Snow hates certain thing so much. Also the thing about the roses really makes much more sense after reading this book. His humanity is displayed in how he was brought up and by the things he was taught at his school. It was disappointing that he chose not to be vulnerable and open to what could have been a great love story. But this simply is not the story of Snow and his legacy.

This book had a great ending and tied up neatly how evil was allowed to take deep root in Snow’s heart.

In the about the author section of this book, I discovered that she wrote a book called Year of the Jungle, a book based on the year her father was deployed in Vietnam. Even though it is a picture book, I plan to read it the next time I’m in the library. One is never to old for an occasional picture book! Especially if it is one by a brilliant author like Collins.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Bullet Journaling

“Growing up with Aloha” is the first book in the Dear America series.

Journals and diaries have always held a fascination for me. I started my first diary at the age of 7.5; it was a small day-per-page diary with a glossy cover, and my parents cut out the horoscope pages because it was against their beliefs. Books like those in the Dear America series and its spin-off Royal Diaries stoked my interest in journals, while also teaching me things about history no one else was telling me at the time. To this day, the cover images are in my memory. I would go through stages, of course, as any self-respecting diarist does; when inspired by books or anger I would write many pages, and at other times I would go weeks or even months without picking up my notebook.

In my early teens there was a line of journals with a lovely cover, an inset with a paper panel that contained a decoration, and thick lined pages. These became my favorite; I could use my inky pens in them, and the cursive my mother made me learn spooled across page after page. In my teens I graduated to The Diary of Anne Frank on the one hand, and the Princess Diaries series on the other. Around the same time, I started my reading practice of always having more than one book going at a time, though always different types.

I didn’t write much during my first year of marriage, or before my daughter’s birth. I dealt with postpartum depression, and a few months after she was born I found myself frantically filling an entire journal in about two weeks. I can hardly bear to open it now, as the amount of feeling I poured into it radiates from the words in such a way that I lose myself in the past for a moment. Perhaps a book like Writing as a Way of Healing could have helped me out in those days.

I healed from my PPD, and kept on journaling. For the first time it occurred to me to Google journaling, and I was excited to discover multiple websites by others who also enjoyed it. I also found a few books, foremost among them being Creative Journal Writing, whose principles I took to heart. As time passed, I found myself doing less and less emotional journaling; I had learned those were usually not fun to look over. What I enjoyed most was reading about the small moments, the details that would prompt the memories more vividly than anything else.

A few years after that, Ryder Carroll put his Bullet Journal video online and the world snatched it up and ran with it. I embraced the techniques he laid out for brief journaling. Liberated from the need to compose a paragraph and remember every detail, I found myself recording more information about my life than I had before. I also drooled over the artistic variations on the Bullet Journal found online, and in books like Beyond Bullets and Dot Journaling. In more traditional avenues, I enjoyed the beautiful art journaling portrayed in Draw Your Day, but found myself still lacking natural artistry and did not copy her. Naturally, when The Bullet Journal Method came out in 2018, I bought and read it. I found myself pleasantly surprised; when I had expected a rehash of a productivity method, Ryder Carroll brought so much more to the table – mindfulness, intention, good advice for living.

I continue to journal, and to seek out books about journaling – one of my more recent reads was Ongoingness, a poignant meditation on recording life. I read The Golden Notebook based purely on the fact that it involved multiple notebooks being used for journaling, and I ended up enjoying it very much, though I know that I did not appreciate it fully – it is a complex novel and worth rereading. I am still fascinated by journals themselves, and when I find published journals such as The Diaries of Sylvia Plath I add them to my reading list. This personal recordkeeping will be with me as long as I have paper and pen.

As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Library Secrets, part 1

The library can seem like a strange place to people. And we are a little strange; we offer many different resources (not just books!), we host programs and events. But I’m here to let you in on a secret or two.

Today we’ll chat about the “Last Chance” display.

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Every now and then, we must make space on the library shelves for all the new materials that arrive almost daily. There’s only one way to do that: take something else off the shelves. We have criteria for deciding which materials are to be taken off: number of checkouts, condition, age, etc.

But here’s the secret: sometimes we want to save them. Maybe it’s something that’s considered a “classic” that just hasn’t checked out in a while. Or it could be a prize-winning book that nobody noticed because it was on an inconvenient shelf. Or it’s a sequel to an item that does check out. Or… there are lots of reasons to want to save something.

That’s where the “Last Chance” display comes in handy.

We’ll relocate those items to the display and give them a chance to prove they should be allowed to stay. All those items need is someone to check them out and take them home.

Here are some of the interesting books that have just been waiting to be checked out.

The gluten-free gourmet bakes bread : more than 200 wheat-free recipes / Bette Hagman.

Gluten free is very “in” right now. And who doesn’t love bread?

The Thin Man / Dashiell Hammett

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A classic of the hardboiled detective mystery genre.

When we were orphans / Kazuo Ishiguro

This author won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Recommendations don’t come much higher than that.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Creepy-crawlies

Wicked Fun

Here we are in the middle of another Texas summer. Blistering heat and bugs flying about. In my yard I have many cicadas buzzing their summer song. I remember as a kid I would collect the skins and terrorize my slightly younger cousins with them. I would line the skins up and play whatever game with the husks that popped in my head. I’ve been trying to get my 9-year-old kid to pick them up and have his own adventures with cicada skins, but alas, he is creeped out by the brown husks. I recently found one hanging out on the mailbox. I brought it in with the day’s mail and watched my son cringe at me as usual. So, I went and put it on my husband’s shoulder. How hilarious it was to see him jump. The funny thing was that he saw me with the thing but was still startled when I placed it on his shoulder while he was watching TV.

And those who kill the fun…

Lately I’ve noticed these guys flying about.

Their coloring and size make you want to duck and run because they look like a wasp that means to hurt you, but apparently, they live to hunt cicadas for their young. I wanted to learn more about cicadas and their killers, so naturally I went to the library shelves for more information.

Books are the best for info

In Backyard Bugs by Jaret C. Daniels, I learned that the female cicada killer will deliver a powerful sting if provoked. They are the ones who hunt down cicadas, sting them, and bury them with the eggs they lay so that their young can feed on the cicada carcasses.

In The Songs of Insects by Lang Elliot and Wil Hershberger, I learned that the songs cicadas make are produced by special organs called “tymbals.” I also learned that the cicada eggs are laid in the bark of a tree, and the nymphs that hatch from the eggs fall to the ground and burrow to eat roots. The skins that are found all over the place are the last skin that they shed after they emerge from the ground.

Personally, I’d rather have the cicadas around and will try to eliminate their killers from my garden.

Come on by and check out our books on insects to learn more about the creepy crawlies and flying nuisances that are around your place.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Book review – Seveneves

I read this book because I love disaster movies. The premise sounded really good.

Summary: Five thousand years later after a catastrophic event rendered the Earth a ticking time bomb, the progeny of a handful of outer space explorers–seven distinct races now three billion strong–embark on yet another audacious journey: to return to Earth.

All of the characters were interesting. I liked Dinah because she understood Morse code and that’s something that I’ve always found fascinating. Another great character was Doob, who’s basically a “personality” who explains science to the regular people. The first two thirds of the book are the “origin story” of the different peoples in the last third of the book.

There’s a section towards the end where one of the characters is flying a glider. But it’s not a glider like we have, it’s much more advanced and is almost an extension of the pilot. I loved the description of her flying, beginning at the ground and ending when she’s almost out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

I did enjoy the story, but I’m not a big fan of the author’s writing style. So, at times, I had to make myself keep reading. Not because the story was boring me but because the writing felt detached from the story.

I was kind of let down by the ending. Mostly because there was a plot thread from the middle of the book that I really wish had been picked up again. It never was, so I’m just left wondering about that. Maybe the author will write another book about that thread.

I’ve never read any other books by this author but I know that he is very well respected. So I will give another book by him a try. I think I’ll go with Cryptonomicon. It sounds like sci-fi crossed with an adventure novel by Clive Cussler.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Covid-19 adventures, part 1

Mask Making

My family needed face masks to protect them against Covid-19 and I thought that was something I could cobble together. I had bits of fabric from other projects and I bought a bit more. My forays into sewing haven’t been all that ambitious, but I felt confident that I could successfully make masks. After all, the curtains and pillowcases I made came out looking like curtains and pillowcases.  

The thing is, it had been awhile since I’ve tackled a sewing project, and my poor neglected sewing machine needed a little TLC (like dusting) before I could begin. I fumbled and fiddled with the machine trying to remember how to thread a bobbin and the machine itself. My husband fished out the operator’s manual after listening to me grumble. I made myself sit down and study the manual familiarizing myself with all the settings. I managed to get the feed dogs stuck and had to open up the area under them to figure out what I did wrong.  I had to use this key like screw driver thingamabob to remove the needle plate.

I carefully put aside the screws and the thingamabob along with the needle plate. Under I found a mess of lint all over the place. I cleaned it all off and oiled the parts as the manual described. I even managed to unstick the feed dogs. I replaced the needle plate and reached for the screws and discovered the thingamabob went missing. How frustrating! I proceeded to look all over my work space, muttering bad words under my breath. My husband and daughter joined in the search looking all over the floor on hands and knees. I decided a break was in order and went to get a refill of ice water. As I put my glass under the ice maker on the fridge; I noticed the thingamabob stuck to the magnetic wristband of my watch. Everyone had a good laugh at my misfortune. With a bit of grumbling I went back to the sewing machine determined to get the masks made.

Well, before I could actually begin I needed a pattern. I hunted for the simplest pattern on YouTube. The one I found required tracing a circle on paper. The person on the video used a dinner plate. Alas, my plates are square, so with my husband’s help we went around the house measuring pot lids, serving bowls, lampshades, whatever round thing we could find. The video said it should be 26 centimeters across. After much finagling and math figuring we came up with three different sized patterns to fit the different sized faces in my little family.

A few hours later I finally had success!

How The Library Can Help

In the library we have many wonderful sewing books to help you learn sewing. If you already know how to sew you can come to the library to find new sewing ideas. Here are a few that I recommend:

50 Fat Quarter Makes

This book has so many cute projects that you can make out of a fat quarter. Little stuffed toys, skirts, pot holders, aprons, and so much more.

Machine Sewing: Top Tips and Techniques for Successful sewing by Debbie Shore

This is a fantastic book for beginners. Shore goes over all the different parts of a sewing machine, how to maintain it, and what different products are used for. There is a page that explains what to do when things go wrong.  She goes over what to do with different stitches and at the end of the book there are a few projects to tackle.

101 Ways to Use Your First Sewing Machine by Elizabeth Dubicki

There are many reasons to look over this book including instructions on how to make a t-shirt quilt! This is something I plan to do someday with the mounds of jerseys, and shirts, that I have from all the different camps, sports teams, schools, etc. my kids have been in.

Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop by Joi Mahon

This book has many different exercises to practice in order to improve your sewing skills. If you want to dive into making tailored clothing this book is for you.

As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Dorothy’s walk

This is Dorothy; she likes to go for walks in her human’s arms. She sees him come out the front door and follows yowling until she is picked up and taken for a walk. Her nose twitches catching the scents from the neighborhood and she switches her tail at the neighbors who smile at her, charmed by the novelty of a cat going along for a walk.

She likes to stalk around the yard and hide in the neighbor’s bushes. She has an abundance of fresh meat from the birds she catches. And is unconcerned, as only a cat can be, by the mess she leaves for her human to clean up.

Many neighbors regularly stop by to pet and love on her. She shamelessly revels in the attention. With such a big audience she thinks that she is the queen of the street and is pampered by her favorite human who only exists to feed her, pet her, and walk her. (she thinks)

This is a typical Dorothy encounter:

I heard the door open and spied the man come out of the house. I raced to him in hopes of some cuddles and scratches. What’s this? He is heading down the street for a walk! I chase after him running through the thick dewy grass feeling the cool morning air rustle through my fur. “Here I come, wait, waaaaiiiiittttt,” I call out. “Go back home cat,” the man said, “I left food for you.” How rude! He thinks he is going without me! “You can’t leave me behind,” I demanded. “Oh, all right, come along, goofy cat,” the man said.

This was how the morning started out for my husband and I. My husband being Dorothy’s pet or the other way around depending on how you want to look at it.


Erin Hunter, author of the Warrior series does cat stories a whole lot better. She has created a fantasy world full of cat clans.

The first book in the Warriors series.

Here is an excerpt:

Quietly he asked, “Is survival here really so hard?” “Our territory covers only part of the forest,” answered Bluestar. “We compete with other Clans for what we have. And this year, late newleaf means prey is scarce.” “Is your Clan very big?” Rusty meowed, his eyes wide. “Big enough’” replied Bluestar. “Our territory can support us, but there is no prey left over.” “Are you all warriors, then?” Rusty mewed. Bluestar’s guarded answers were just making him more and more curious. Lionheart answered him. “Some are warriors. Some are too young or too old or too busy caring for kits to hunt.” “And you all live and share prey together?” Rusty murmured in awe, thinking a little guiltily of his own easy, selfish life. Bluestar looked again at Lionheart. The golden tabby stared back at her steadily. At last she returned her gaze to Rusty and meowed, “Perhaps you should find out these things for yourself. Would you like to join ThunderClan?” Rusty was so surprised, he couldn’t speak. Bluestar went on: “If you did you would train with Graypaw to become a Clan warrior.” “But kittypets can’t be warriors!” Graypaw blurted out. “They don’t have warrior blood!” A sad look clouded Bluestar’s eyes. “Warrior blood,” she echoed with a sigh. “Too much of that has been spilled lately.”

If you like cats and their cattish personalities, then I highly recommend the Warrior series. Try them out and let us know what you think.


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.

Book review – Lit Stitch

Lit Stitch is a book of patterns for cross-stitchers. All the patterns are literary themed. The best part of the book are the different pattern designs included. I’m definitely going to make at least three of them. One of the patterns that I’m planning to cross-stitch is the pride rainbow bookmark. By reading this book, I learned a new way to finish bookmarks and now it’s time to try making my very first one.

We have several books of different cross-stitch patterns and designs. Some are themed, like Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch, complete with designs based on Frida Kahlo and Hillary Clinton.

One I particularly recommend is Do-It-Yourself Stitch People. It’s excellent for teaching yourself to create custom cross-stitch portraits. Those portraits are, in turn, excellent for giving as presents.

And hey, isn’t the holiday season coming up in a few months?


As always, catch us on social media or comment below. If you have a library question, call 972-780-5052 or email librarians@duncanville.com.