The young king Tamar was awakened in darkness by the sound of elephants in his courtyard. Their jeweled tusks and golden banners proclaimed them the property of a great maharajah. In short order, a dark figure strode into the palace and demanded an immediate audience.
Tamar sighed heavily.
As his tutor reminded him, the principles of Dharma--the code of honor, conscience, and the obligation to do what is royally virtuous, meant that he could not refuse an audience to another king, no matter the lateness of the hour. Indeed, in the long-ago world of ancient India recreated in Lloyd Alexander's The Iron Ring, a king's honor is his most important possession.
The mysterious visitor, King Jaya, ruled the distant land of Mahapura where, he grandly informed his host, all was much better than in Tamar's own kingdom of Sundari. Musicians, dancers, food, all were better in Mahapura, King Jaya purred. The only distraction he sought from Tamar was a simple game of aksha. Pure luck would determine the rolls of the dice.
In all hospitality, Tamar could not refuse, although the stakes Jaya proposed would have fed the court for a month. Die-roll after die-roll, Tamar won. Then the king of Mahapura yawned and made a final wager: "Life against life."
This time the dice seemed to jump from Tamar's fingers of their own accord.
"King of Sundari," Jaya said, "you have lost."
This is a work of fiction that is actually closer to the truth than not. Sharyn McCrumb’s careful research has resulted in an exciting and informative book about the well-known story of Tom Dooley. You may remember The Kingston Trio's hit song called Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley. His actual name was Tom Dula, pronounced Dooley in the local dialect of the North Carolina mountain residents of the 1860s. Many of us know the story--or think we do, but Sharyn McCrumb’s research has revealed a slightly different story, well-backed up by her evidence. This in itself makes The Ballad of Tom Dooley worth a read.
On September 12, 2012, Apple announced the release of the new iPhone 5. For some avid Apple technology fans, there is no doubt. They must immediately upgrade to the latest version. But if you’re like me, the decision is a bit more complicated. The more I learn about the features of the iPhone 5, the more my geeky side wants to play with the new toy. However my practical side says that in spite of the fact that my iPhone 4 is now technically two generations out of date, it is only two years old and still does everything I want it to do. Apple’s website has a handy chart that compares the features of the iPhone 5 with the iPhone 4 and 4S. But I find that lists of specifications don’t really convey the true impact of the changes. So I did some research to try to understand what the changes mean in real terms.
If you’ve never managed to make it all the way through this “great American classic,” NOW is the time to give it one more go! Wait, don’t click away! Hear me out! I’ve tried at least three times in the past to read Moby Dick & always get bogged down after a few chapters. All that whaling! All that boiling down of blubber! And, what is Ahab’s problem anyway?! So I’ve never “gotten” Moby Dick & never finished the book. I always abandon the Pequod, Ishmael, Ahab, & the gang and leave them floating in the middle of the ocean somewhere.
But NOT this time! You may have heard recently that writer, Philip Hoare, is leading a "big read" of Moby Dick, or, in this case, more like a “big listen.” He’s offering a chapter per day in free downloadable audio. There’s a different reader and a different artist’s illustration for each chapter. I know about this because I have been reading, not a chapter per day, but a PAGE per day, of Moby Dick since August 9th , 2012, and writing a blog about it. So, several people who’ve been following my blog have told me about the big read project. “This guy stole your idea!” they say indignantly.
There was a dragon in the sky the night the stranger came to Smolsund farm. A girl named Ran saw it and feared it. She clutched the tiny silver hammer, a talisman for Thor's protection. Amma, her father's mother, had placed it around her neck. She knew that her grandmother was worried for her, too. The Fated Sky, by Henrietta Branford, tells of how Ran's fears for her destiny came to be realized.
A child still in some ways, Ran shared her name with a sea goddess, and she also loved the sea. Her father was away now across the ocean with her brothers, and they might bring back riches when they returned, for that was the way of the Vikings. Ran dreamed of the day her father would return. She was so much like him: his dark hair and his proud features. Ran prayed for his safe homecoming. She prayed he did not feast with that other Ran at the bottom of the ocean.
When the storm blew in at dawn, Ran climbed the slope to the house. She saw her mother, still a beautiful woman, kissing a handsome man who was not her father!
As a long-time user of Instructables, I can attest to the certain charm that comes with being able to find a recipe for bacon-topped caramel cupcakes and directions to build a robot, all in the same place. Instructables is a website born from several creators in the MIT media lab. What started as a project focused purely on engineering prototypes has branched into a website featuring user-generated D.I.Y. projects in a near mind-boggling array of categories. There are projects that range from wood-fire heated hot tubs to a collection of recipes on “What to do with Day Old Bread.”
Writing a blog posting for a book that you love is as hard as describing a person whom you love. Sometimes everything that you write about a wonderful book doesn’t sound good enough. Writing about Unsaid by Neil Abramson has been one of the hardest blog postings I have ever written. That is how much I loved this book.
Neil Abramson’s debut novel is about love's power to heal grief. Dr. Helena Colden, a 37-year-old country veterinarian, dies of cancer and leaves her husband David with a menagerie of rescued animals. She can see him struggling from the other side. Helena is helplessly watching him trying to cope with his grief, as well as take care of the emotionally and physically damaged animals that he cannot relate to. David is a lawyer in New York City, so his commute and his work day are exhausting. However, he still has to deal with the demands of the dogs, cats, horses, and pig that need his care, too. These animals are also missing Helena's gentle love, and now they are left with David who doesn't understand them.
Did you know that dogs are the top pet owned by U.S. households (46.3 million dogs, to be exact), and that beetles have the most species identified of all insects? How about the fact that extreme weather in January 2012 broke U.S. records for cold, snow, and heat? All of these facts, along with colorful pictures, are contained in the 2013 Almanac for Kids from Scholastic. Kids ages 8 and up will love to tote around this compendium of trivia, which puts more than 300 pages of statistics, charts, tables, maps, and more at their fingertips.
The Yugo was a small car made in the former nation of Yugoslavia that survives in the American consciousness as the ultimate automotive failure. Poorly engineered, ugly, and cheap, it survived much longer as a punch line for comedians than it did as a vehicle on the roads. The story of how this particular car became the most hated vehicle in the U.S. is a comedy of errors detailed in Jason Vuic’s book, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History. A bewildering array of capitalist hucksters and impoverished communists desperate for revenue collaborated to create the Yugo, and what could have been a great international relations victory of the Cold War was ruined the moment consumers and auto critics actually got to drive it. Vuic examines the many failures of the Yugo venture and the people involved with a keen journalistic eye and a razor-sharp wit, making this a great read for anyone interested in automotive history or 1980s nostalgia.
This interview airs beginning September 19.
Award winning storyteller Willy Claflin delighted audiences here and abroad with humorous tales and song. Willy and friend Maynard Moose delivered a sampling of the performances that garnered raves when he originally appeared at the library and on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production, with host Debby Klein.