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by Laura Hillenbrand

Library Journal The author of Seabiscuit now brings us a biography of World War II prisoner of war survivor Louis Zamperini (b. 1917). A track athlete at the 1936 Munich Olympics, Zamperini became a B-24 crewman in the U.S. Army Air Force. When his plane went down in the Pacific in 1943, he spent 47 days in a life raft, then was picked up by a Japanese ship and survived starvation and torture in labor camps. Eventually repatriated, he had a spiritual rebirth and returned to Japan to promote forgiveness and healing. Because of the author's popularity, libraries will want this book both for general readers who like a good story and for World War II history buffs; however, it's not essential reading for those who read Zamperini's autobiography, Devil at My Heels, with David Rensin, in its 2003 edition. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10.] (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand's heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it's just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he's a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life-whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the "theater of cruelty" that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright-his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie's cell, Louie saw on his face a "soft languor.... It was an expression of sexual rapture." And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe's victim of choice. By war's end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie's only thought was "I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!" But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird's clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, "there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path...." The book's final section is the story of how, with Cynthia's help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand's narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to "gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body") against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe's life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. (Nov.) -Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list A second book by the author of Seabiscuit (2001) would get noticed, even if it weren't the enthralling and often grim story of Louie Zamperini. An Olympic runner during the 1930s, he flew B-24s during WWII. Taken prisoner by the Japanese, he endured a captivity harsh even by Japanese standards and was a physical and mental wreck at the end of the war. He was saved by the influence of Billy Graham, who inspired him to turn his life around, and afterward devoted himself to evangelical speeches and founding boys' camps. Still alive at 93, Zamperini now works with those Japanese individuals and groups who accept responsibility for Japanese mistreatment of POWs and wish to see Japan and the U.S. reconciled. He submitted to 75 interviews with the author as well as contributing a large mass of personal records. Fortunately, the author's skills are as polished as ever, and like its predecessor, this book has an impossible-to-put-down quality that one commonly associates with good thrillers. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This departure from the author's previous best-seller will nevertheless be promoted as necessary reading for the many folks who enjoyed the first one or its movie version.--Green, Roland Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

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by Anthony Marra

Publishers Weekly Marra's sobering, complex debut intertwines the stories of a handful of characters at the end of the second war in bleak, apocalyptic Chechnya. Though the novel spans 11 years, the story traces five days in 2004 following the arrest of Dokka, a villager from the small Muslim village of Eldar. His eight-year-old daughter escapes, and is rescued by Dokka's friend Akhmed, the village doctor, who entrusts her to the care of Sonja, the lone remaining doctor at a nearby hospital. Why Akhmed feels responsible for Haava and chooses Sonja, an ethnic Russian keeping a vigil for her missing sister, as her guardian is one of many secrets; years of Soviet rule and the chaos of war have left these people unaccustomed to honesty. Marra, a Stegner Fellow, writes dense prose full of elegant detail about the physical and emotional destruction of occupation and war. Marra's deliberate withholding of narrative detail makes the characters opaque, until all is revealed, in a surprisingly hopeful way, but there's pleasure in reconstructing the meaning in reverse. As Akhmed says to Sonja, "The whole book is working toward the last page." Agent: Janet Silver, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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by Stacy Schiff

Publishers Weekly V?ra Nabokov was not only devoted to her husband's literary career; she was crucial to it. Schiff (Saint-Exup?ry) contends that Nabokov's public image was V?ra's doing: "we are used to husbands silencing wives, but here was a wife silencing, editing, speaking for, creating, her husband." For almost all their married lives, the Nabokovs were inseparable. Russian ?migr?s in Germany, France and then the U.S., they eked out a bare existence despite Nabokov's reputation as a stellar Russian novelist. With no market for his writing, he needed his wife to work as a translator so they could survive. After hours she also edited and translated his writings, conducted his professional affairs and maintained their marriage. Only the runaway international success of Lolita when they were in their later 50s freed the couple from scraping together a living. (A film advance gave Nabokov 17 times his annual salary at Cornell, a post that had taken years to secure.) Suddenly flush, the Nabokovs, by choice, again became ?migr?s, wealthy residents of a Swiss luxury hotel. Schiff's best pages evoke the years of adversity, as when the Jewish V?ra, regal even in penury, perilously remained in Nazi Germany until May 1937 (after non-Jewish Vladimir exited) because it was the only country where either one could legally work. Often described as "hovering" over her husband by his Cornell colleagues, V?ra was always close byÄeven working as his teaching assistantÄbecause, according to Schiff, he simply could not function without her. This book offers more than a peek at the famous author through his wife's eyes. When her 1991 New York Times obit called V?ra "Wife, Muse, and Agent" it only hinted at her role, which is rescued from obscurity in Schiff's graceful prose. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Choice The Vera Nabokov who emerges from Schiff's compelling book proves an even more complex character than hitherto suspected: a strong personality eager to sacrifice herself for her husband's art, without ever giving up even one iota of her own identity. Though Schiff of necessity covers the same events as Brian Boyd's monumental two-volume biography (Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years, CH, Jan'91; Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years, CH, Feb'92), she puts Vera at the center of the narrative, a spot Mrs. Nabokov always avoided and instead saved for her husband's talent alone. Schiff elaborates on Boyd's portrait of Vera, a difficult task, especially in light of Mrs. Nabokov's well-known reticence about herself. Only about 20 pages deal with Vera Nabokov before she met her future husband, but the marriage is truly the focus of the biography. The Nabokovs' loving union is legendary, and Schiff sheds light on the facts behind that legend. Relying on extensive research, scores of in-depth interviews, and meticulous documentation, Schiff offers an objective portrait of Vera Nabokov in all of her moods, good and bad. Accessible to the general reader, this biography also offers new insights and perspectives to students and scholars of Vladimir Nabokov's life and works. All collections. C. A. Rydel Grand Valley State University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Book list Vera's first encounter with her husband-to-be--a young, handsome, up-and-coming poet--prefigured the intensity of their artistically fruitful marriage. It was spring in Berlin in 1923 when the two Russian emigres rendezvoused on a bridge and Vera entranced Vladimir by wearing a black satin mask and reciting his poems. Even after she became his muse, soulmate, champion, translator, business manager, and bodyguard (she was a crack shot and carried a pistol in her purse), Vera remained concealed behind her alabaster beauty, unfailing discretion, and strict decorum, devoting herself utterly to her husband and his dazzling creations. Schiff, a gifted biographer whose first book was an insightful portrait of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, not only draws this fascinating and accomplished woman out from behind her cherished mask and celebrated husband, she illuminates the profoundly collaborative process by which Vladimir wrote his scintillatingly original and provocative works. Every page he composed passed through Vera's keen mind and tirelessly typing fingers. She was his first and foremost reader, his shrewdest editor, and the inspiration for his unique aesthetics, erudite wit, and deep sophistication. Schiff tracks their often precarious lives in increasingly dangerous Berlin, then in the wide-open U.S., focusing most energetically on Vera's extraordinary involvement in Vladimir's academic and literary careers. It was Vera who bullied publishers on Vladimir's behalf; Vera who negotiated contracts, oversaw translations, drove the car, and kept her hero free from all the nagging details of everyday life. She was the moon to his sun, and his dedication "To Vera" in every book quietly marks the immensity and magic of their passion. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Vladimir Nabokov's works have come to the attention of the public again with the publication of Library of America editions and the recent film version of Lolita. Several years ago, Brian Boyd produced a two-volume definitive biography: Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (LJ 10/1/90) and Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (LJ 8/91). Schiff's book distinguishes itself by focusing on the relationship between Vladimir and his wife V?ra, a marriage that lasted some 50 years. Schiff (Saint Exup?ry, LJ 10/1/94) traces the years in France and Germany before World War II, followed by a hurried immigration to the United States and Nabokov's eventual literary success. Schiff also handles the difficulties within the marriage, including affairs. Through it all, the couple forged a close alliance as V?ra oversaw the editing of manuscripts, translation, the negotiation of contracts, and much of Vladimir's correspondence. The result is a scholarly, readable look at a remarkable literary duo.ÄRonald Ray Ratliff, Chapman H.S. Lib., KS

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by Oppel, Kenneth

Book list That Victor Frankenstein must've been a handful as a teen, eh? The latest entry in the why-hasn't-anyone-thought-of-this-before category is this cunning take on Victor's formative years, which (no surprise) are filled with wild temper, intellectual passion, and an aptitude for renegade science. When 15-year-old Victor's twin brother, Konrad, is struck by a dire illness, Victor, his cousin Elizabeth, and friend Henry take advantage of the Dark Library they recently found hidden behind a bookshelf. Swiftly, they become confederates with Polidori, a shamed alchemist who sets before the trio the challenge of assembling three ingredients, each more harrowing to acquire than the last. Brash, jealous, and arrogant, Victor is sweet relief from today's introspective YA protagonists, and one can easily visualize how this teen becomes the mad genius of Shelley's Frankenstein. Elizabeth feels less like her literary counterpart, and the middle section drags in classic teen sleuthing. Thankfully and almost out of nowhere the final 50 pages explode into wild, gory theatrics that prove Oppel isn't afraid to reach into his characters' darkest hearts.--Kraus, Danie. Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly In this stylish gothic tale, first in a planned series, teenage Victor Frankenstein makes a desperate attempt to create the forbidden alchemical Elixir of Life, in order to save his beloved twin brother, Konrad, from an untimely death. Aided by his steadfast friend Henry and his adopted sister, Elizabeth, who both twins love to distraction, Victor sets out to acquire the necessary ingredients, scales the tallest tree in the Sturmwald during a lightning storm to acquire a rare and poisonous lichen, later descending into a dangerous Swiss cave in search of the equally rare and even deadlier coelacanth. Victor, already a mad scientist in training, is passionate and easily angered, and Elizabeth makes for a fiery love interest. Written in a readable approximation of early 19th-century style, Oppel's (Half Brother) tale is melodramatic, exciting, disquieting, and intentionally over the top. For the most part, Oppel hews closely to the Frankenstein mythos, and with a delicious mix of science, history, and horror, he peers into the psyche of a young man who is beginning to hunger for greater control over life and death. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Gr 7-10-When Konrad Frankenstein, the beloved twin brother of headstrong, quick-tempered Victor, falls inexplicably and deathly ill, Victor embarks on a dark quest to find a cure. Enlisting the help of his cousin/adopted sister, Elizabeth, and his best friend, Henry Clerval, he seeks a disreputable alchemist named Polidori who sends them to retrieve the ingredients for a potion that will supposedly restore Konrad's health. However, the potion also has a history of killing those who drink it. Despite the ambiguous nature of the remedy, Victor feverishly follows his course, pulling himself, Henry, and Elizabeth into greater danger with each relentless step. Sharp readers will find allusions to Mary Shelley, her literary circle, and classic horror films; for those simply wanting a good story with plenty of action, this book will not disappoint. Many details remain the same as in the original work; for instance, Victor's arrogant desire to overcome the power of illness and death makes him a slightly unlikable protagonist. But here's a sign of a good storyteller: readers may not like Victor, but they will certainly want to find out what happens to him.-Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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