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The Book Blog

profile-icon Randi Gibson

Agatha Christie, often hailed as the Queen of Mystery, has gifted the world with a plethora of captivating whodunits that continue to enthrall readers across generations. One such gem in her treasure trove of mysteries is "The Hollow," a novel that showcases Christie's unparalleled skill in weaving intricate plots, creating a tapestry of characters, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats. In this blog post, we delve into the enigmatic elegance of "The Hollow," exploring its captivating narrative, memorable characters, and timeless appeal.

Published in 1946, "The Hollow" boasts a classic Christie setting: an English country house nestled amid picturesque landscapes. The story revolves around the Angkatell family and their eccentric circle of friends, all of whom gather at The Hollow for a weekend getaway. The seemingly idyllic retreat, however, soon transforms into a stage for a perplexing crime when Dr. John Christow, a renowned physician, is found dead beside the swimming pool.

What ensues is a masterclass in intrigue as Hercule Poirot, Christie's iconic detective, is called upon to unravel the threads of the intricate web surrounding Dr. Christow's murder. The narrative takes unexpected turns, throwing suspicion on each character and keeping readers guessing till the final reveal. Christie's ability to craft such elaborate and multi-layered plots is a testament to her genius, leaving readers engrossed and eagerly turning pages to uncover the truth.

What sets "The Hollow" apart from mere crime novels is Christie's remarkable ability to explore the human psyche within the framework of a murder mystery. She delves into themes of love, jealousy, ambition, and the masks people wear to conceal their true selves. This timeless exploration of human nature lends the story a depth and complexity that resonates with readers across generations.

Moreover, Christie's impeccable prose transports readers to the idyllic English countryside, immersing them in a world of opulent charm and understated tension. Her attention to detail and knack for creating immersive atmospheres are key factors that continue to draw readers to "The Hollow" decades after its publication.

What first drew me to Agatha Christie's books was her brilliant creation of Hercule Poirot who stands as a testament to her genius in character design. Poirot's enduring appeal and impact on literature stem from a combination of carefully crafted traits that make him a truly exceptional and memorable character. In my opinion, Poirot is the definition of peak character design for a gentleman sleuth. Poirot's endearing quirks, such as his meticulousness and insistence on symmetry, contribute to his charm. His "little grey cells," a reference to his remarkable analytical mind, showcase his intellectual prowess while adding an element of whimsy to his character. These eccentricities make him relatable and human, despite his exceptional deductive abilities.

His appearance is also iconic among famous literary characters. At first glance, Poirot's meticulously groomed mustache, impeccably tailored suits, and precise mannerisms immediately set him apart. His meticulous attention to detail extends beyond his appearance, becoming an integral part of his investigative methodology. This distinct visual image not only aids readers in instantly recognizing him but also reflects his unyielding commitment to order and precision.

In conclusion, Agatha Christie's "The Hollow" stands as a shining example of her literary prowess and mastery over the mystery genre. With its intricate plot, memorable characters, and exploration of human nature, the novel retains its allure, captivating both new readers and die-hard Christie fans. So, if you're looking for a riveting tale that combines elegance, suspense, and a touch of psychological intrigue, "The Hollow" should undoubtedly find a place on your reading list.

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profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

Happy New Fall Semester everyone out there in the Reading Multiverse!

I feel so honored to be the first person who gets to blog in the new semester! As always, it can be a challenge when attempting to choose which book to discuss for the blog. Some of you who read this may or may not know, but I enjoy books on many different topics. I usually go for non-fiction, but this week I am going to the fiction route. We have many options in fiction to choose from at the library. Each library on each campus has its own Popular Fiction section, so please check that out sometime! The book that I will be discussing this week is also in that section, a new addition to the Orange Park Campus Library. The book is called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin.

I know, I know, I can hear you! This is a child’s show. These were toys. This was a long time ago. Yes, reader, I understand. But did you know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually began as a comic/graphic novel before it got insanely popular in the realm of all things Children??? Also, a new animated movie, co-written and produced by Seth Rogen has also just been released, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as a comic series 40 years ago in 1983. Two friends, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird had met and began illustrating together in New Hampshire. One night Eastman drew a turtle with a mask that had nunchucks. The two developed the funny drawing into a comic series using money from a tax refund and a loan from an uncle. They self-printed 3,000 copies of the first issue and advertised it in Comics Buyer’s Guide Magazine. It sold out in weeks, and the rest is multimedia history. Toys, books, games, cartoons, movies, and video games all helped us enter the universe of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin is a new story told by the original authors of the franchise, along with the help of some others. In this book, the final chapter of the original story is told. You may have heard of some of these characters before: Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Master Splinter, Shredder, April, Casey Jones, the Foot Clan. This story, set in post-apocalyptic New York City, tells you the fate of all of them, in the dramatic conclusion of a story that began back in 1983. Which one of the four original turtles manages to hold on to life and become the Last Ronin? The last warrior of his clan? Only you can find out!

If this blog has interested you today, you can also check out the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Compendium here at the Orange Park Library. This collection of Mirage Studios’ issues #1–7 and 9–14; the RaphaelMichelangeloDonatello, and Leonardo Micro-Series one-shots; Fugitoid #1; and Tales of TMNT #1–5 is perfect for new readers trying to learn more about the Turtles or longtime fans returning to the classics. All art and illustrations done by the original creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and their other contributors.

Welcome back Vikings! We hope you have a great fall semester!


Cover ArtTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: the Last Ronin by Kevin Eastman; Peter Laird; Tom Waltz; Robert Rodriguez (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781684058419
Publication Date: 2022-07-05
A New York Times Bestseller! Who is the Last Ronin? In a future, battle-ravaged New York City, a lone surviving Turtle embarks on a seemingly hopeless mission seeking justice for the family he lost. From legendary TMNT co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, get ready for the final story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles three decades in the making! What terrible events destroyed his family and left New York a crumbling, post-apocalyptic nightmare? All will be revealed in this climactic Turtle tale that sees longtime friends becoming enemies and new allies emerging in the most unexpected places. Can the surviving Turtle triumph? Eastman and Laird are joined by writer Tom Waltz, who penned the first 100 issues of IDW's ongoing TMNT series, and artists Esau & Isaac Escorza (Heavy Metal) and Ben Bishop (The Far Side of the Moon) with an Introduction by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez! Collects the complete five-issue miniseries in a new graphic novel, an adventure as fulfilling for longtime Turtles fans as it is accessible for readers just discovering the heroes in a half shell.
Cover ArtTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Compendium, Vol. 1 by Kevin Eastman; Peter Laird
ISBN: 9781684059317
Publication Date: 2022-10-18
Dive into the origins of your favorite teenage turtles with this collection of stories from the original Mirage comics! Cowabunga dudes! It's time to travel back to the '80s with the Turtles and discover where it all started. This collection of Mirage Studios' issues #1-7 and 9-14; the Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo Micro-Series one-shots; Fugitoid #1; and Tales of TMNT #1-5 is perfect for new readers trying to learn more about the Turtles or longtime fans returning to the classics. Witness for yourself iconic moments in TMNT history. Watch as Splinter unveils the mystery of the Turtles' past, and then cheer along as the brothers do battle with the villainous Shredder for the very first time. Joining co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird are contributors Michael Dooney, Ryan Brown, Jim Lawson, Steve Bissette, and Eric Talbot.

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profile-icon Kayla Cook

This summer provided me with the opportunity to read a lot of interesting books that I might not have thought to pick up otherwise. One of these was Alexandra Zapruder’s Twenty-Six Seconds: A Personal History of the Zapruder Film. The Zapruder Film was, as the book’s title implies, a roughly 26-second-long film-based video, originally created in 1963 by Abraham Zapruder, who was an immigrant to Dallas, Texas from Ukraine. His film is famous for being one of the most complete video recordings of the assassination of former US President John F. Kennedy. Since its creation, the Zapruder Film has been the subject of intense ethical and legal debates due to the nature of its acquisition by various media companies, including, initially, LIFE magazine. While Alexandra Zapruder’s book, published in 2016, does chronicle the history of the tape and of what happened to her grandfather and their family after the tape was investigated and bought from them, it does little to answer such insoluble questions as “Who owns a historically or culturally significant public moment?” and “What rights should creators of historical records and their families be granted?” In fact, it only seems to stir up even more debate. 

The handling of the Zapruder film as depicted in Alexandra Zapruder’s book was deeply disappointing and, at certain moments, disturbing. Throughout the second half of the book, I found myself siding with a member of the public who wrote to LIFE: “Money cannot buy everything; it certainly should not have bought the Zapruder film” (Zapruder, 2016, p. 188). While $150,000—the sum which LIFE paid for the film—is a lot of money, both in 1963 and today (even without considering the facts that this would apparently equal somewhere around $1.4million today, and, when the film was resold by the Zapruders in 1999, it went for $16million), I did not find the initial purchase of the film to be entirely ethical. Abraham Zapruder was deeply traumatized by what he had seen and was still trying to come to terms with the weight of the event in question when LIFE approached him just days after the assassination. It’s possible that he would have accepted any amount, signed any agreement, or followed nearly any suggestion. 

It’s also difficult to say whether the amount paid for film was fair as there was nothing of its kind to compare it to (as the author herself notes, the only comparable events, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, did not come until later in the decade). Not only that, it is impossible to place a monetary value on such a singularly horrific moment. Nevertheless, once the deal was made, legally, the film was out of the Zapruders’ hands. Ethicality, again, is another layer that should have been more carefully considered. After the transference of ownership, the creator or donor (if they are different people) of an item, or their estate if they are no longer living, should at least maintain some say in what is done with the item, especially one as monumentally significant as the Zapruder film. Even in times when the film belonged to agencies outside the family’s control, they should have had a vote, or potentially veto rights, when it came to decisions on use and distribution. 

Despite what we’ve learned from the Zapruder case, however, ownership of public moments, and the right to use or show recordings of these events in one’s work, remains highly controversial. In May of 2022, the creators of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, the latest of the franchise’s live action spin-off series, received backlash for featuring recordings of real-life protests in its series premiere. In one scene, Captain Christopher Pike addresses the world leaders of an alien planet on the verge of a global nuclear war to discuss Earth’s own history with global war and near self-annihilation. At the same time, he shows the citizens of this fictional planet footage from Earth taken in the years supposedly leading up to its Third World War. This footage included, but was not limited to, a video of a 2013–14 uprising in Ukraine, followed by another video of protests at the U.S. Capitol. 

Since its inception in the 1960s, Star Trek has always been about testing social boundaries, and has advocated strongly for peace and equality and a hopeful future while also warning viewers about the destruction humanity could bring upon itself if we do not stop our current violent behavior and overcome harmful prejudices. Nevertheless, the decision to show actual footage of recent real-world violence was, understandably, controversial, especially given the context in which this footage was being discussed. 

Personally, I do not disagree with the Strange New Worlds creators’ decision to include this kind of footage in this scene (though, I should note that I would very likely feel much differently if they had used footage of a moment when someone was killed on camera, like in the Zapruder Film). It was a bold move, and it got a lot of viewers’ attention as images they recognized, like American and Ukrainian flags, and protest signs featuring phrases about recent and current world leaders and global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic flashed across the screen. But the use of these videos, as well as the subsequent backlash, also brings into question the matter of who has the right to show and discuss these kinds of public historical moments. As a historian and a writer, and especially as someone who works in such close connection with an academic library in Florida in 2023, the answer to that is, of course, anyone. Regular citizens have just as much right to these moments as governing officials and news corporations do; to say otherwise would be censorship, which hinders learning, growth, creation, and the ability to strive towards peace and unity, things which are all crucial to the continued development of our culture and society, and of forthcoming generations of leaders, thinkers, and artists. 

Portions of this blog post originated in an essay I wrote for Prof. Mackenzie Beasley’s Preservation and Digitization of Audiovisual Materials (LIS 7506) course, which I took earlier this summer through LSU Online. 

Cover ArtTwenty-Six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder
ISBN: 9781455574810
Publication Date: 2016-11-15
The moving, untold family story behind Abraham Zapruder's film footage of the Kennedy assassination and its lasting impact on our world. Abraham Zapruder didn't know when he ran home to grab his video camera on November 22, 1963 that this single spontaneous decision would change his family's life for generations to come. Originally intended as a home movie of President Kennedy's motorcade, Zapruder's film of the JFK assassination is now shown in every American history class, included in Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit questions, and referenced in novels and films. It is the most famous example of citizen journalism, a precursor to the iconic images of our time, such as the Challenger explosion, the Rodney King beating, and the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. But few know the complicated legacy of the film itself. Now Abraham's granddaughter, Alexandra Zapruder, is ready to tell the complete story for the first time. With the help of the Zapruder family's exclusive records, memories, and documents, Zapruder tracks the film's torturous journey through history, all while American society undergoes its own transformation, and a new media-driven consumer culture challenges traditional ideas of privacy, ownership, journalism, and knowledge. Part biography, part family history, and part historical narrative, Zapruder demonstrates how one man's unwitting moment in the spotlight shifted the way politics, culture, and media intersect, bringing about the larger social questions that define our age.
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profile-icon Joyce Smith

Track of the Cat is the first book in the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr.  The novel introduces us to Anna Pigeon, a law enforcement ranger who takes a seasonal job at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas after a personal tragedy.  

While patrolling a remote trail in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Anna Pigeon discovers the body of fellow park ranger Sheila Drury.  The authorities quickly rule the cause of Sheila’s death as a mountain lion attack, but Anna has doubts. As she investigates the circumstances surrounding Sheila’s death, she encounters resistance from local authorities and some of the park’s staff who want to close the case quickly.  Determined to discover the truth and to seek justice for Sheila, Anna conducts her own investigation and discovers a web of deception and hidden motives along the way. 

Nevada Barr, a former park ranger herself, will take you to the center of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park with her brilliant writing. Her love for the outdoors and deep understanding of the national park system is evident as we become immersed in the surroundings and feel the cool mountain breeze, hear the movement of the leaves, and sense the massiveness of the open spaces. Through her extensive research and attention to detail, she brings the rocky landscape to life, making it an important part of the story. 

The Anna Pigeon series pays tribute to the men and women who work in America's national parks. It is a must-read for anyone seeking an exciting mystery and journey into the great outdoors. Through Anna, we gain a better understanding of the challenges and dangers that members of the National Park Service face as they protect our natural and cultural treasures and the people who visit them.

So, grab a copy of Track of the Cat, pack your backpack, and get ready to take a trip into the untamed beauty of Guadalupe Mountains National Park with Anna Pigeon. Happy reading and exploring!

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