Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar for Best Foreign Film goes to.....

The other movies nominated for the Foreign Film Award:  Biutiful from Mexico; Dogtooth from Greece; In a Better World from Denmark; Incendies from Canada and Outside the Law from Algeria. This year's Oscar went to In a Better World.

The DVD will soon be coming to a Library near you. But, did you know that you have 38 Oscar winners to choose from? Here are a few titles: The Bicycle Thief  (Italy
) directed by Vittorio de Sica; Black Orpheus (Brazil) directed by Marcel Camus; War and Peace (USSR) directed by Sergei Bondarchuk; Fanny & Alexander  (Sweden) directed by Ingmar Bergman and  The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina) directed by Juan Jose Campanella

And aside from the award winners, there are many others to choose from in the foreign language category. The Library offers films in French, Chinese, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and more. Come in and stop by the Audiovisual Desk for more information.

Friday, February 25, 2011

83rd Academy Awards

We're barreling through awards season and the 83rd Academy Awards presentation is now upon us. The library's Audio-Visual Room is a great place to visit to catch up on some of the films you haven't seen yet. Come check out the Best Picture nominee titles that are already available on DVD. Try Winter's Bone, Toy Story 3, The Social Network, Inception, or The Kids Are All Right. A few of the films that are nominated for best picture are still playing in theaters with DVD releases coming soon: 127 Hours will be out the first week of March. Black Swan will hit library shelves at the end of March and The King's Speech will follow around mid-April. True Grit and The Fighter have DVD release dates that are still on the horizon. But don't let that stop you from seeing some of the films and performances nominated in other categories as well. Drop by the Audio-Visual desk soon and let us know about some of your favorite cinematic moments of 2010.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

President's Week Reads

Somehow President's Week turned into a terrific sales event for stores as well as the perfect long getaway weekend with kids. Spring break often comes too late so the long break in February offers a perfect time to escape the winter doldrums. Here are some reads about American presidents, their lives, wives and history, plus a novel about being first lady that make for good reading on cold February days.

Inventing George Washington: America's founder, in mythand memory by Edward G. Lengel (on order, place your hold today)
An entertaining and erudite history that offers a fresh look at America's first founding father, the creation of his legend, and what it means
for our nation and ourselves.

The promise by Jonathan Alter
One of the country's most respected journalists and historians, uses his unique access to the White House to produce the first inside look at Obama's difficult debut.

My Father at 100 by Ron Reagan (on order, place your hold today)
Ronald Reagan's son presents an assessment of his father's life.

A Being So Gentle: The frontier love story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson
by Patricia Brady (on order, place your hold today)
Chronicles the forty-year love affair between Rachel and Andrew Jackson during a tumultuous period in American history.

American Wife: a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
An epic and intimate fictional story of an ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances when she becomes firstlady.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spotlight on International Fiction: Egypt

In light of recent history-changing events in Egypt in the past couple of weeks, I thought it would be appropriate to focus this month's "Spotlight" on the North African country. There are many great award winning Egyptian authors translated into English as well as some great fiction that takes place in Egypt.

Here are some works of modern Egypt you may want to check out:

Friendly Fire: stories by Alaa Al Aswany
Alaa Al Aswany has won resounding critical acclaim for his deft and moving portrayals of the lives of contemporary Egyptians who constantly examine their relationship with Egypt's history, religion, class, and gender distinctions. In Friendly Fire he once again demonstrates an extraordinary empathy for lost and searching souls as he focuses on the exquisite emotions of everyday life.

Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz
Egyptian Nobel laureate Mahfouz follows the fortunes of a Cairo university graduate eager to make his way in a venal imperialist society. In 1930s Cairo, Mahgub agrees to marry the mistress of a high government official in return for a job, discovering that his wife-to-be is Ihsan--his best friend's beautiful former girlfriend, a poor student whose life has been ruined by her seductiveness--and the newlyweds become partners in a precarious plot to make their way in Cairo's high society and outwit their ill fortune.

Mahfouz is the only Arab writer yet to receive the Nobel Prize in literature.

Chicago: a Modern Arabic Novel by Alaa Al Aswany
Post-September 11 Chicago becomes the site of a cultural collision of Egyptian and American lives, including a Ph.D. candidate whose traditional upbringing is challenged by her American experiences, and an Egyptian émigrés whose western values are countered by questions about his daughter's honor. Egyptian politics and President Mubarak's repressive society affects the lives of all expatriates, as evidenced by one of the students who is actually an Egyptian security agent. Beautifully rendered, Chicago is a powerfully engrossing novel of culture and individuality from one of the most original voices in contemporary world literature.

A young American student living in the Garden City district of Cairo has come to study Arabic and learns far more from the Egyptian women, young and old, she meets within the swirl and tumult of Garden City. Living, loving, and flourishing amid the fierce inflexibility of tradition, these women reveal a fascinating world of arranged marriages, secret romances, and the often turbulent bonds between four generations of Arab mothers and daughters. A deeply moving story of mothers and daughters, in the tradition of "The Joy Luck Club."

Nadia's Song by Soheir Khashoggi
Alexandria, Egypt. Born a humble servant girl on a cotton plantation owned by a wealthy British family, Karima Ismail never imagined how far her dreams would take her-nor the heartache and passion she would experience. Although her doomed love for her employer's handsome son ends in tragedy, their brief romance leaves her with a beautiful daughter, Nadia, who is the joy of her life.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2011

The Rock and Roll of Fame 26th annual ceremony will take place on Monday, March 14 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Here are some of this year's inductees:

Alice Cooper Band
Born Vincent Furnier, Cooper and his mighty band of the same name - lead guitarist Michael Brucee, bass player Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith - pioneered the dark spectacle of heavy metal with their huge blues-rock sound and extravagant stage show. Alice Cooper was the starting point for the glam rock of the 1970s. The band influenced such bands as Sex Pistols and Guns n' Roses.

Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond started his career in 1962 when he was offered $50 a week to write songs at the Brill Building. His songs "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" were sung by the Monkees in 1966. He rocked the Hot 100 in 1966 with "Solitary Man" and "Cherry, Cherry" folllowed in 1967 by "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," "Thank the Lord for the Night Time" and "Kentucky Woman." He has had more that 70 U.S. chart entries to date, including "Sweet Caroline," "Holly Holy" and "Cracklin' Rosie."

Dr. John
New Orleans' own Dr. John has been recording for more than 50 years. Born Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, he learned piano and guitar as a child. He states, "New Orleans music is part of whatever I'm about. The importance of it is beyond anything I do." In 1965, Rebennack created the Dr. John the Night Tripper character, a tribute to New Orleans' musical and spiritual traditions that meshed perfectly with psychedelia.

Darlene Love
Darlene Love was a high-school sophomore in California when she joined the popular girl group the Blossoms as their first lead singer in 1958. With "He's a Rebel" and "He's Sure the Boy I Love," she turned into a familiar voice on radio and records. Darlene's own 1964 hits - "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry," "Wait Till My Bobby Gets Home," "A Fine Fine Boy," "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - made her a household name. She starred in the Broadway "jukebox" musical Leader of the Pack. U2 later invited her to sing on their 1987 remake of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

Tom Waits
Beginning with his first album in 1973, Tom Waits has a unique place in rock and roll. His music mixes Chicago blues, parlor ballads, beat poetry, pulp-fiction parlance and heart-breaking tenderness. His live shows combine elements of German cabaret, vaudeville and roadhouse rock. Waits has also composed film scores, musical theatre and an operetta. He has recorded with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, the Replacements and roy Orbison. Many of his songs have been recorded by other artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Tim Buckley, Johnny Cash, Bob Seger, T-Bone Burnett, Tori Amos, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello and Rod Stewart.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Water for Elephants

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to be sure to read the book Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen before the movie is released. It’s scheduled to premier in New York on April 17th, opens around the country on April 22nd, and will star Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Weitz.

I remember being asked to lead a book discussion for this book when it was first published in May of 2006. I didn’t think it was something that would appeal to me. Once I started reading it, however, I found I couldn’t put it down as I was swept into the world of the circus during the depression.

The novel’s main character is a cantankerous, 93-year-old man. Still sharp, but trapped in an old man’s body, he reflects on the story of his incredible life and adventures with the Benzini Brothers circus. His story is emotionally wrenching, filled with richly drawn, eccentric characters as well as the alarming treatment of animals and circus performers and animals.

There is something in the novel for everyone – adventure, romance, mystery, history, and fiction memoir. Check out a copy today – before you see the movie.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Books into Movies for 2011

Read the book BEFORE you see the movie. Here's a list of some films based on books slated to open in 2011:

Barney's Version (January 2011) is based on Barney's Version by Mordecai Richter (1997). Sixty-seven-year-old Barney has led a rich and notorious life, but the years have taken their toll, and so, before his memories fail him, he decides to set down his side of the story.

The Way Back (January 2011) is based on the memoir, The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slawomir Rawicz (1955). This book describes the 4,000 mile journey across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas of seven men who escaped from a Siberian prison camp.

From Prada to Nada (January 2011) is a loosely-based Latina comedy spin on Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811). Two sisters, one practical and conventional and the other emotional and sentimental, find that they can get along only through compromise of their mutual differences.

The Rite (January 2011) is based on The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by journalist Matt Baglio (2009). This book portrays the phenomenon of demonic possession, the history, rites, and rituals of exorcism, and one man's path toward a terrifying and perplexing world which transforms him from a skeptical apprentice to a practicing exorcist.

The Eagle (February 2011) is based on The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Suttcliff (1954). A young centurion ventures among hostile tribes beyond the Roman Wall to recover the eagle standard of the Ninth, a legion which mysteriously disappeared under his father's command.

Desert Flower (March 2011) is based on the autobiography by Somali model Waris Dirie entitled Desert Flower: the Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad (1998). The author describes growing up in a traditional Somali family and her fulfillment as a humanitarian.

Water for Elephants (April 2011) is an adaptation of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (2006).
Ninety-plus-year-old Jacob remembers his time in the circus a a young man during the Great Depression, and his friendship with Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie, the elephant who gave them hope.

The Lincoln Lawyer (March 2011) is based on The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly (2005).
Representing some unsavory characters in his work a a defense lawyer, Mickey Haller takes on his first high-paying and possibly innocent client in years, but finds the case complicated by events that suggest a particularly evil perpetrator.

I Am Number Four (February 2011) is based on I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (2010).
In rural Ohio, friendships and a beautiful girl prove distracting to a 15-year-old who has hidden on Earth for 10 years waiting to develop the Legacies, or powers, he will need to rejoin the other six surviving Garde members and fight the Mogadorins who destroyed their planet, Lorien.

What's Your Number? (September 2011) is based on the romantic novel 20 Times a Lady by Karyn Bosnak (2006). After a drunken orgy with her disgusting ex-boss, who had fired her the day before, 29-year-old Delilah Darling, obsessed with the fact that she has had sex, with her personal limit of twenty men during her life, is faced with a future lifetime of celibacy, unless she can track down one of the men she has slept with and make it work with one of them.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Blogger Books

While I was snowed in during our blizzard, I read The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway. In an attempt to save money, the author decides not to eat in restaurants, despite the fact that she lives in the restaurant capital of the world, New York City. She tackles daily dilemmas such as ‘what to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner?’ and larger dilemmas such as ‘how do you date if you can’t go out to eat?’ She also provides an insider account of the vibrant underground foodie culture in New York like indie cook-offs, secret supper clubs, foraging for food in city parks and dumpster diving for food. She chronicles her observations, insights and recipes on her blog Not Eating Out In New York and expands on them in her book The Art of Eating In.

Several other bloggers have written books that expand on their popular blogs. If you like engaging personal accounts written in an informal tone, here are a few other books written by blog authors:

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond Drummond’s memoir is a true romance about how she fell in love, became a ranch wife and mother of four, wrote about her daily life on her blog The Pioneer Woman.

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Colin Beavan
Beavan goes to extremes to leave no mark on the earth, so you don’t have to. He becomes a locavore, turns off the electricity, bans toilet paper and volunteers for environmental groups. He shares what he learns with the readers of his book and on his blog No Impact Man.

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather Armstrong
Her 10 year old blog made her famous for her humorous, irreverent and personal stories about pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood. She elaborates on these themes in her book.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Brrrr! Blizzard Fiction

I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with slogging through the snow and slip-sliding my way to work. What I really want to do is curl up on my couch with my fuzzy afghan around me (I might be the only person who doesn’t own a Snuggie!) and read. And I don’t mind reading about the snow and cold, as long as I’m not in it! So how about some novels that take place during blizzards? You can compare your experiences with the protagonists in these stories.

A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor.
A wealthy and depressed man bound for Christmas in the tropics is abruptly summoned home to North Dakota to visit an ailing aunt, arriving just in time to be trapped there by a blizzard.

Chill Factor by Sandra Brown.
When a serial killer who leaves a blue ribbon at the site of his victims’ last sightings appears in the peaceful town of Cleary, North Carolina, police chief Dutch Burton finds the case complicated by his ex-wife’s disappearance during a blizzard.

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz.
Assisting the farmer throughout a bitterly cold late-winter lambing season, Rose, a tough and dedicated sheep dog, finds her job complicated by a terrible blizzard, during which the farmer is injured, supplies are dwindling, and the coyotes are circling.

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman.
A tale based on the deadly 1984 North Dakota blizzard follows the experiences of a small rural community devoted to its high-school athletics and its citizens’ minor scandals, until a dangerous storm impacts the town in unsettling and powerful ways.

Silent Snow by Steve Thayer.
In the midst of a Minnesota blizzard, investigative reporter Rick Beanblossom searches for clues in the Lindbergh kidnapping that may help him find his own kidnapped son.

Aunt Dimity, Snowbound by Nancy Atherton.
After being caught in a blizzard, Lori Shepherd takes refuge in Ladythorne Abbey, the former home of the late Lucasta DeClerke, where she uncovers a plot to steal a priceless DeClerke family heirloom.

Catalogue of Death by Jo Dereske.
Determined to keep the library open during a fierce blizzard, librarian and amateur sleuth Miss Wilhelmina Zukas becomes an eyewitness to the explosive death of billionaire Franklin Harrington and, fearing that the local philanthropist’s plans to fund a new town library are in jeopardy, sets out to investigate his murder.

Cast A Blue Shadow: An Ohio Amish Mystery by Paul L. Gaus.
When a college-aged Mennonite girl with a checkered past turns up bloodied and battered during the worst blizzard of the year, the subsequent investigation will implicate her in the killing of the wealthy mother of her boyfriend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sleeping Freshman Never Lie

Scott has made the transition to high school and found his world spinning. His friends are not in the same classes and their group seems to be separating. His mom and dad have just announced that they are having a baby. His older brother, who he hopes will show him the ropes, keeps leaving home. And he has fallen for a former classmate who now looks like "a goddess." The only place this book worm feels comfortable is in his English class. He gets himself involved with student council, the newspaper and the class musical because he wants to be near his "goddess", but his plans keep back firing. Now he has ended up on the football team’s most wanted list because of some of his articles. It’s a good thing he’s a lowly freshman that nobody knows.

In Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, David Lubar writes with skill and humor to bring the reader, the experience (and the terror and the fear) of being an underclassman. He provides us a great look into Scott’s home life including the pressure he feels with the new baby coming and his anxiety about his changing place in the world. He uses Scott’s writing to his unborn sibling as a chance to show Scott’s sense of humor and his thoughtfulness about being the first in his family that might have a chance to go to college. He deals delicately with the subject of being different by having Scott interact with a quirky cast of characters who are both funny and troubled.

This is a fun book for those who are interested in writing because Lubar does a wonderful job of incorporating Scott’s English class topics within his articles for the school newspaper. This coming of age story is highly recommended for younger readers who are looking for a glimpse of what to expect in high school and it can be enjoyed by those readers who already know high school can be a comedy of errors.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reality Check By Peter Abrahams

Cody Laredo is the star quarterback for his high school's football team plus he is dating the prettiest girl in school. Not only is Clea pretty and an honor student, her father is the most powerful man in town and he does not approve of Cody dating his daughter. In an attempt to keep Clea away from Cody, he sends her to Hong Kong for the summer to live with her uncle and then he enrolls her in an elite private boarding school thousands of miles away. The separation takes a toll on Clea and Cody's relationship and they break up after a fight. During a game, Cody tears his ACL which ends his hopes at a college football career and an education. The injury and the break up with Clea are too much for Cody, and he spirals into a depression. He eventually drops out of school and gets a job. When Cody finds out Clea is missing, he drives out to Vermont to help in the search. Cody is in way over his head, putting both himself and the investigation in danger. While “on the case” Cody meets Clea’s new boyfriend, makes friends with some of Clea’s new friends, and has a few encounters with the police. The ending is somewhat predictable however, Abrahams generates a fair amount of suspense that both teens and adults will like. There is a hint of sex in the book, but nothing explicit. There is strong language and some violence, so sensitive readers beware. Reality Check is a solid mystery from a great storyteller.

Check out some of these other books by Peter Abrahams:

Up All Night: a short story collection
Bullet Point
Nerve Damage
Lights out