Happy Birthday, Severus Snape!

Yes, today, January 9, is the birthday of perhaps the bravest man Harry Potter ever knew. Of course, all true Potter fans of all ages know that already. 😉 . What you may not know is that we’ve got several books and series that Snape fans may enjoy. Some of these are adult, others YA, but both teens and adults who love fantasy and SF should enjoy them.

Jonathan strange

In an alternate England, during the Napoleonic Wars, young Jonathan Strange becomes apprentice to Mr. Norrell. Their goal is to bring magic back to England.  But who is the Raven King? At once a comedy of manners, an alternate history, a coming of age, and a tragic love story, this book is beautifully written and unique.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Severus Snape!”

The Intense Humanity of Robert Crumb

A movie review by Caleb Brown.

Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb is an intimate documentary. Its subject is an eccentric and often abrasive personality, but he still has a peculiar and captivating humanity. The film’s greatest success is that it portrays his flaws unflinchingly, and contextualizes his deeply felt alienation through the lens of his comics. While the content is oftentimes shocking, the film thrives on the very tension leveraged from this voyeuristic element. The film is not interested in passing moral judgement on Crumb but instead challenges the audience to understand him. It doesn’t ask for sympathy, but instead asks the audience to find humanity in art that’s deliberately crass. It gives us a psychological profile of the man Robert Crumb and also shows us how that psychology, in addition to the environment which constructed it, reflects in his creative process. In doing so the documentary digs into the nature of the creative process itself, and the suffering that often drives the people behind the art.Crumb self-portrait

While my first paragraph may paint Crumb as a relentlessly bleak, uncompromisingly stern piece, it’s not as intimidating as one would imagine. The film is in fact primarily a comedy. Offbeat jokes, humorous anecdotes and a slew of editing gags give the film a breezy pace. Much of the humor comes from the titular Crumb himself. He is a constantly self-effacing and eccentric fellow, whose humorous asides ride the thin line between playful self-deprecation and a coping mechanism for his own anxiety. Continue reading “The Intense Humanity of Robert Crumb”

The Great Courses – Available Digitally Here at North Castle Public Library

Did you used to get those delicious looking catalogs in the mail from The Great Courses?  Maybe you still do.  I used to look through them and wish that I could buy them all – the topics, ranging from the Bible to Astronomy, History to Economics, Self-Help to Leisure and Hobbies and everything in between were all so enticing.  And I had my choice of videotape or CDs!

Well, did you know you can now find The Great Courses, digitally, right here at the North Castle Public Library website?  Under the heading Your Virtual Library you can find a link to just over 200 Great Courses and a wealth of other resources available to you for free just because you have a library card!  You won’t find a better bargain anywhere!  Start here and keep learning and exploring.  And then sit back and relax and enjoy your guilty pleasure – some Acorn TV.

‘Tis the Season to be Reading a Holiday Novel!


This year, as I was adding books to the library’s holiday display, it occurred to me that I have never actually read one of the “seasonal novels” that come out every December.  My resistance to them was, admittedly, strong, but I decided to experiment with a few that I thought “were not for me.”  I began with two authors who write many books in this genre: Richard Paul Evans and Debbie Macomber.

Within five minutes of reading Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans, I was hooked. A young man and woman meet at a distressing time for both of them. She was adopted at age 7 and separated from her sister, whom she’s been trying to find. He has been forced to drop out of college following the death of his mother, who had been keeping dark secrets from him. The book kept me guessing until the end and was surprisingly enjoyable.  Starry Night by Debbie Macomber is a much more predictable romance.  In this novel, a newspaper reporter’s promotion depends on whether she can get an interview with a popular, reclusive author who lives in the Alaskan wilderness. There are no surprises here, but I was entertained by it nonetheless.

My new adventure with holiday novels has convinced me that these books can be a great way to relax during the stressful holiday season. They make you feel good, are fairly light and easy to read, and have a happy ending.  Maybe you’ll even come to believe in holiday miracles! Make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy. Here are some of the new ones at the North Castle library:

Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 2.35.15 PM The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini. The Elm Creek quilters work tirelessly to make sure the Christmas boutique happens, but it may take a holiday miracle to make it the success they want it to be.


Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 2.43.51 PM

Noel Street by Richard Paul Evans. A single mother finds healing in her relationship with a recently returned Vietnam POW whose personal demons have created a stir in their small Utah community.



A Mrs. Miracle Christmas by Debbie Macomber. A woman who is struggling with her inability to have a child receives help from a kindhearted stranger and at the same time, her dreams start to come true.



All I Want for Christmas is You by Miranda Liasson. When a one-night stand results in pregnancy, Kaitlin and Rafe pretend to be engaged just for the holidays to please their friends and families.


December Observances!

It’s time for another poll! There are lots of Holidays and Observances in December, including Christmas, Hanukkah (which starts this year on the evening of December 22), Kwanzaa, and New Years, of course.  But we also celebrate things like International human rights, Write a Business plan month, and much more. MUCH more! In the poll below, see if you can guess what we don’t celebrate in December. You might be surprised. 🙂

Here’s a link showing all those December holidays and observances.


Continue reading “December Observances!”

Staff Picks Added For 2019: Ck Them Out!

More than 50 book titles are now designated the 2019 Staff Picks at the North Castle Library and may be found in the curated collection.  Curated is a fancy word for staff choices.  This collection is located to the right of the main circulation desk in Armonk. How many you have read?*    Check them out! 

  1. Give Me Your Hand(Abbott, Megan)     FIC
  2. The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir (Ahmad, Aeham)     B AHMAD
  3. House of Spirits (Allende, Isabel)      FIC
  4. Words of My Father: Love and Pain in Palestine (Bashir, Yousef Khalil)     B BASHIR
  5. November Road (Berney, Louis)      FIC
  6. The Fledgling (Butler, Octavia)     SCI FIC
  7.  I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives (Canessa, Dr. Robert) 363.124 C
  8. The Luminaries (Catton, Eleanor) FIC
  9. To Be Taught, If Fortunate (Chambers, Becky) SCI FIC
  10. Verax: The True Story of Whistleblowers, Drone Warfare, and Mass Surveillance  (Chatterjee, Pratap) GN 327.1273
  11. Odysseus Abroad (Chaudhuri, Amit)     FIC
  12. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Clarke, Suzanna) FIC
  13. The Water Dancer: A Novel (Coates, Ta-Nehisi) FIC
  14. Passage (Cronin, Justin) FIC
  15. Dutch girl: Audrey Hepburn and WWII (Dotti, Luca/Matzen, Robert) B Hepburn
  16. Rebecca (DuMaurier, Daphne) CLASSICS
  17. Riding the Elephant: A Memoir of Altercations, Humiliations, Hallucinations, and Observations (Ferguson, Craig)  (B Ferguson)
  18. Outlander (Gabaldon, Diana) FIC
  19. Fire Sermon (Haig, Francesca) SCI FIC
  20. Healthy Eating, Healthy World: Unleashing the Power of Plant-based Nutrition (Hicks, J. Morris) Non-fiction
  21. Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston, Zora Neale) CLASSICS
  22. A Doll’s House (Ibsen, Henrik) 839.82 I (also available in Project Gutenberg)
  23. An American Marriage (Jones, Tayari) FIC
  24. Pachinko (Lee, Min Jim) FIC
  25. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Levitt, Steven) 330 L
  26. Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (McBride, James) B McBRIDE
  27. The Good Lord Bird (McBride, James) FIC
  28.  Dreamsnake (McIntyre, Vonda) SCI FIC
  29. Red, White and Royal Blue (McQuiston, Casey) FIC
  30. Delta of Venus (Nin, Anais) FIC
  31. Library Book (Orlean, Susan) 027.479 O
  32. The Dutch House (Patchett, Ann) FIC
  33. Nineteen Minutes (Piccoult, Jodi) FIC
  34. The Overstory: a Novel (Powers, Richard) FIC
  35. River of Fire (Prejean, Sister Helen) B PREJEAN
  36. Daisy Jones and the Six (Reid, Taylor Jenkins) FIC
  37. A Woman Is No Man (Rum, Etat) FIC
  38. Incomplete Book of Running (Sagal, Peter) 796.425 S
  39. Strong Poison (Sayers, Dorothy) MYST
  40. Accidental Veterinarian: Tales From a Pet Practice (Schott, Philipp) 636.089 S
  41. An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11 yo Panhandler, A Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny (Schroff, Laura)      974.71 S
  42. Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (See, Lisa)      FIC
  43. Murder Wears a Little Black Dress (Sennefelder, Debbie)  (see reference librarian)
  44. Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks(Skloot, Rebecca) 616.027 S
  45. Secrets Between Us (Umrigar, Thrity) FIC
  46. The Third Hotel (Van Den Berg, Laura) FIC
  47. The Temple of My Familiar (Walker, Alice) (see reference librarian)
  48.  In a Dark Dark Wood (Ware, Ruth) FIC
  49. The Martian (Weir, Andy) SCI FI
  50. The Summer Wives (Williams, Beatriz) FIC
  51. Robopocalypse (Wilson, Daniel H)  (see reference librarian)
  52. Before We Were Yours (Wingate, Lisa) FIC
  53.  Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (Wohlleben, Peter) 582.16 W

*Note: hyperlinks may have purchase information, but know that your local library system should have them for you!

For a Few Dollars More: How Leone and Eastwood Changed the Western

Westerns are a genre with a peculiar place in the American national consciousness. The iconic image of John Wayne in Stagecoach, with his rifle in one hand and his saddle in the other, framed against the vast American frontier became an enduring fantasy for moviegoers across the country. American audiences loved the mythologized American West, of Cowboys and Indians and insidious bandits all caught in the crossfire of America’s manifest destiny.. In an era of constant remakes few styles of filmmaking have been as open to reinterpretation and genre evolution. While the style of filmmaking that was made popular by the likes of Howard Hawks (Red River, Rio Bravo) and John Ford (The Searchers, Rio Grande) ruled the box office for decades, cultural trends demanded new styles and stories from their genre fiction. We discussed this transformation in my last piece about Bonnie and Clyde, and just like the crime film the Western underwent a radical transformation in the 60’s. The frontier myth-making and clearly defined sense of good and evil failed to resonate with the new counter culture. The Spaghetti Western represented both a stylistic and narrative shift in the Western genre, handing over  the director’s chair for the time honored American genre to Italian visual stylists. Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More is not the most well known of Leone’s westerns, but it’s perfectly emblematic of the changing aesthetics of the Western genre at the time. It illustrates the distinct vision of the American frontier conjured by filmmakers from an entirely different culture.

To understand the deviations from formula that make Leone’s movie special, it’s also important to also understand the common elements it shares with its influences. While Leone’s approach to the narratives and subject matter of Westerns moved away from formula, aesthetically Leone’s films draws from the likes of The Searchers and Rio Bravo. Long wide landscape shots establish a grand sense of scope and scale, the absence of developed civilization very much the point. Like the rest of Leone’s dollar trilogy,the American frontier itself is framed as equal parts beautiful and dangerous. Above all,it’s indifferent to the seedy antics of the story itself.

For a Few Dollars More isn’t the most radical of the 60’s Westerns. It doesn’t embrace the genre’s fatalism as much as Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch or even Eastwood’s own The Outlaw Josey Wales. It’s still noticeably grittier than the films that preceded it however. The film depicts frontier El Paso as a squalid, desperate place. Criminals roam the town, prostitutes line the streets and everyone seems caught up in a scheme. This anarchy is what makes Clint Eastwood the ideal protagonist as The Man With No Name. Eastwood, who’s made a career out of his quiet intensity and instant credibility as both an action star and figure of authority, reprises one of his most iconic roles in this film. While little differentiates his portrayal of this character in comparison to the more well known films in the Dollars trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars and The Good The Bad and The Ugly) the presence of Lee Van Cleef as Colonel Douglas Mortimer allows a solid, almost buddy-cop like character dynamic to carry the emotional core of the film. Despite how cutting-edge much of the violence and taboo subject matter may appear, the film still has the fundamental humanity that defines most Westerns.For A Few Dollars More is a sadly overlooked gem, sandwiched between the explosive beginning and iconic conclusion of Leone’s Dollars trilogy. It’s a movie brimming with character and style, from the casting of the delightfully unhinged Klaus Kinski to the vintage tense final duel. What resonates with people the most about Leone’s Westerns: the careful attention to atmosphere, the deliberate but tense progression of his stories and the explosive climax are all present. In addition, without the expectations of the first film or the scope of the third, For a Few Dollars More represents Leone’s style at its purest.