Friday, February 28, 2014

It's almost Oscar Sunday

It's Oscar time again! The 85th Annual Academy Awards will air this Sunday at 7:30 PM with Ellen DeGeneres taking another turn as host. Unlike last year's awards, this year's crop of films still has many critics scratching their heads and wondering which movie will capture the best film category. 12 Years a Slave? Gravity? American Hustle? Tune in Sunday to find out -- and keep in mind you can always check out the nominated films (in any category) that have already been released on DVD right here in the audiovisual room at the library. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sting's The Last Ship premiers in Chicago

I first heard about Sting's new Broadway production last summer when he was here for the Printer's Row Book Fair. He gave an impromptu sample of one of the songs from the the play The Last Ship. I am a big fan of Sting, I have seen him in concert more times than any other performer and he never disappoints. So I have been following the news about his latest project and it turns out that the play is premiering here in Chicago this summer.  AND WE ALREADY HAVE THE CD, SO CHECK IT OUT!

The Last Ship by Sting

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Academy Award for Best Original Song

The Academy Award for Best Original Song is presented to the songwriters who have composed the best, original song written specifically for a film.  The original requirement was only that the nominated song appear in a movie during the previous year.  Jerome Kern got the Academy to change the rule after he won for "The Last Time I Saw Paris."  The song was not written specifically for the film Lady Be Good.

The songs nominated this year are:

"Alone, Yet Not Alone" from Alone Yet Not Alone 
Music by Bruce Broughton and Lyrics by Dennis Spiegel

"Happy" from Despicable Me 2Music and Lyrics by Pharrell Williams

"Let It Go" from FrozenMusic and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

"The Moon Song" from Her
Music by Karen O *Karen Lee Orzolek) and Lyrics by Karen O and Spike Jonze

"Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton (U2) and
Lyrics by Paul Hewson (Bono)

Some previous winners are:

 "Skyfall" from SkyfallMusic and Lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
"Man or Muppet" from The MuppetsMusic and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie
"We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
"The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart - Music and Lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett
"Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire - Music by A. R. Rahman and Lyrics by Gulzar
"Falling Slowly" from Once - Music and Lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
"I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth - Music and Lyrics by Melissa Etheridge
"It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow - Music and Lyrics by Juicy J. Frayser Boy
     and DJ Paul (Three 6 Mafia)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Personal Book Group Selections for 2014

I am fascinated with book discussion groups—how they are organized, their traditions, what books they choose to read, how they choose those books… I belong to a women’s book group that is just beginning its 22nd year together. The group is not affiliated with the library. At the moment we have 11 active members. Our group has almost always been about this size or just slightly larger. We are a remarkably stable group. Of the current 11 members, 8 of us have been with the group since the beginning. And the remaining 3 of us have been around quite a long time. We meet monthly in each other’s homes--except for August when many of us are vacationing. The hostess always provides food and drink, which may or may not relate to the book being discussed. We have read and discussed 233 books together!

Each January our tradition is to have a pot luck dinner, where we enjoy food, one another’s company and select books for the upcoming year. Each member may choose any book that they wish, though some of us may bring a few titles to the table for consideration.  Here are the books we will be reading in the upcoming year.

This February we are reading The Lotus Eaters (2010) by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters tells the story of an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War as she captures the wrenching chaos and finds herself torn between the love of two men.

Our group typically avoids science fiction and fantasy titles, but this March we will read the award-winning
title Among Others (2010) by Jo Walton.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. In April, our group will acknowledge this anniversary by reading Three Day Road (2005) by Joseph Boyden.

In 1916, two Cree Indians enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and are sent to the western front as sharpshooters.

A fairy-tale-like title, The Snow Child (2012) by Eowyn Ivey, will be our May 
discussion book.

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart--he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm, she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone--but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees with a red fox as a companion. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this girl who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love the strange, almost-supernatural child as their own daughter. 

Orphan Train (2013) by Kristina Baker Klein will be our June discussion book.

Close to aging out of the foster care system, Molly Ayer takes a position helping an elderly woman named Vivian and discovers that they are more alike than different as she helps Vivian solve a mystery from her past.

In July our focus will be on the recent history of Chechnya when we read the novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) by Anthony Marra.

The author sets this story in a rural village in Chechnya during the region's civil war with Russia. Eight-year-old Havaa is witness to the abduction of her father by Russian soldiers. Her neighbor, Akhmed, a kind, though incompetent doctor, rescues Havaa and delivers her to a nearby bombed-out hospital. He hopes to persuade Sonja, the hospital's only remaining surgeon, to care for her. Sonja, however, is preoccupied with treating the area's sick and injured and desperate to find her missing sister, Natasha. While the main focus of this novel is five eventful days in 2004, the story shifts back and forth in time, allowing for a more complete understanding of the complex relationships among ordinary people living under the brutal stress of war.

The award-winning title, Life After Life (2013) by Kate Atkinson will be our August/September book. One of the longer books of our reading year at 529 pages, it will help to have two months to read it.

"What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? Ursula Todd is born on a cold snowy night in 1910 -- twice. As she grows up during the first half of the twentieth century in Britain Ursula dies and is brought back to life again and again. With a seemingly infinite number of lives it appears as though Ursula has the ability to alter the history of the world, should she so choose. 

In October we will read The Lowland (2013) the most recent book by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra pursue vastly different lives--Udayan in rebellion-torn Calcutta, Subhash in a quiet corner of America--until a shattering tragedy compels Subhash to return to India, where he endeavors to heal family wounds. 

In November we will discuss Amy Falls Down (2013) by Jincy Willett

The endearingly bitter writer, Amy Gallup, 60, has happily isolated herself from the world spending the last two decades teaching and reviewing. She has done a lot of thinking, but very little writing. Suffering a head injury after decades of being alone, Amy participates in a newspaper interview by a journalist who perceives her post-injury confusion for the rambling of a genius, a mistake that catapults her to fame and rekindles her literary ambitions.

Our book for December is And the Mountains Echoed (2013) by Khaled Hosseini

In this multigenerational novel revolving around parents and children, brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, the author explores the many ways in which family members love, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another.

Our only nonfiction selection of the year, Five Days at Memorial (2013) by Sherri Fink, will be read in February 2015

Fink provides a landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina-- and a suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice. After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. Fink unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

I am very much looking forward to this year of reading and discussing. What will your book group be reading this year?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Olympic Fiction: Reading for Champions

There are  many volumes about the history of the Olympic Games and lots of biographies of Olympians.  However, I enjoy reading fiction about the Olympics - Winter Games or Summer Games, or stories which have the Olympics as a central element. Hopefully the following titles will get your adrenaline pumping for the Sochi games. I recently led a book discussion on the first title, Gold, which is a riveting and suspenseful story from start to finish of athletic ambition, Olympic glory, sacrifice, and the mightily tedious sport of track cycling.

Gold by Chris Cleave (07/2012)
This is a story about three track cyclists whose lives are intertwined and complicated by the others as each of them races and competes - with London as the ultimate goal. The Olympics are always part of the conversation for them, even as their personal lives are upended and tumultuous. But beyond that, Cleave really gets inside the head of these elite athletes, what it's like to be on the verge of over training and really hurting yourself, and the kind of mentality it takes to compete at that level and what it does to you emotionally.

Another new book, Flight from Berlin by David John (07/2012)
This novel reaches back to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and sets up a plot that's full of intrigue and mystery set against the backdrop of Hitler's Games. With Jesse Owens as a central figure in those games, this one promises to deliver plenty of Summer Olympic detail with mystery and history thrown in.

A Game of Lies by Rebecca Cantrell (2011)
Set in 1936, Cantrell's well-paced third mystery featuring German crime reporter Hannah Vogel (after 2010's disappointing A Night of Long Knives) returns to the high level of her debut, 2009's A Trace of Smoke. Sought by the Gestapo for kidnapping the son of a high-ranking Nazi official, Vogel has assumed the alias of Adelheid Zinsli, a Swiss reporter, to cover the Olympic Games while spying for the British. Vogel arranges to meet with her old mentor, Peter Weill, at the Berlin Olympic Stadium, but right after Weill tells her that he needs to get some information out of the country, he keels over. While the death appears to be the result of a heart attack, Vogel believes that poison was responsible. Her search for the truth, aided by an SS officer of uncertain trustworthiness, leads her to a deadly secret. While not in Philip Kerr's league, Cantrell does a fine job evoking the period.

The Games by Ted Kosmatka (2012)
In a future where genetically engineered monsters represent competing nations during the Games, U.S. Games Committee head Dr. Silas Williams worries when the computer-designed U.S. gladiator shows signs of hyper-intelligence and violent tendencies that threaten more than athletic opponents.

Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron (2012)
Rwandan runner Jean Patrick Nkuba dreams of winning an Olympic gold medal and uniting his ethnically divided country, only to be driven from everyone he loves when the violence starts, after which he must find a way back to a better life.

Again to Carthage by John L. Parker Jr. (2004)
After several personal tragedies, Quenton Cassidy decides to return to competitive running and makes one last attempt to qualify for the Olympic team.

Swimming by Nicola Keegan (2009)
Haunted by an agoraphobic mother, a lost father, and a drug-addled sister, Philomena, reluctantly known as Pip, transforms her suffering and rage into beauty, grace, and purity in the swimming lane as she rises to the Olympic level.

Enjoy the excitement of these titles from the comfort of your easy chair and read like a champion!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Heavenly Fiction

Perennial best-seller Mitch Albom goes heavenly again with his latest novel The First Phone Call from Heaven (2013). Sully Harding a disgraced pilot returns to Coldwater, Michigan his hometown after being released from prison for an act of negligence he did not commit. Depressed and still grieving for his wife, Sully tries to start a new life with his young son Jules. As Sully tries to cope  select townspeople begin receiving telephone calls from deceased family members and acquaintances. A local television station reporter does a story on the "miracle phone calls from heaven" and a media-frenzy ensues and quiet Coldwater becomes a hot-spot for religious and anti-religious zealots. Sully's skepticism compels him to find out if these phone calls are a hoax or truly a miracle from heaven. "What if the end is not the end?" A beautiful and smart page-turner about the nature of miracles and enduring love.  Be sure to check out these other heavenly novels.

Can't Wait to get to Heaven: a novel by Fannie Flag
Golfing with God by Roland Merullo
The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Ray in Reverse by Daniel Wallace

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snow, snow go away

I think everyone can agree on one thing: we're all very done with Winter! Personally, I'd like to imagine
myself on a beach somewhere. Here's some titles to help you feel like you're there too!

Frangipani by Celestine Hitiura Vaite
Revered as one of Tahiti's wisest women, Materena Mahi, a professional cleaner, finds her resolve challenged by her young daughter, who questions her at every turn and resists Materena's efforts to mold her into an ideal young woman.

Caribbean by James A. Michener
An epic tale of Caribbean history from the 15th century to the present, following the Rastafarians, Cuban revolution, and nationalism.

Flight of the Swan by Rosario Ferre
During Russia's political upheaval of 1917, Madame and her ballet troupe must remain in Puerto Rico, during which time Misha watches as Madame falls in love with a local revolutionary, forcing her to choose between her love for a man and for her dance.

Sweet Life by Mia King
Looking forward to moving to Hawaii from Manhattan when her husband gets a new job, Marissa Price views the change as a chance to find herself, save her marriage, and reconnect with her daughter, but her plans go awry when they move into a fixer-upper and her husband announces that he needs time away to find himself.

The singer/songwriter displays his gift for creating witty, laid-back Southern stories in a collection of bizarre tales and thoughtful essays.

Still Summer by Jaquelyn Mitchard
Twenty years after a shared childhood marked by their considerable popularity, Tracy, Olivia, and Holly reunite on a luxury Caribbean cruise during which a chance mistake triggers a series of devastating events that puts their survival in jeopardy.

The Beach Club by Elin Hilderbrand
Mack Peterson, a hotel manager at a beach resort, knows something has to give--his boss is pressuring him, his girlfriend wants to get married, an old rival is making deadly threats, and a hurrricane is headed their way.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Laughter – the cure for cabin fever

When the weather is still damp and gray, many of us in the Chicago area could use a good laugh. Experts say laughing helps us stretch our muscles and sends more oxygen to our tissues, so it’s good for the body and the mind.

Luckily many well-known comedians and nonfiction writers have made it easy to laugh along with them through the pages of their books. If you can’t make it out to a comedy club because of the snow and slush, you might enjoy some of these titles from the Glenview library’s shelves.

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
So, here is the deal. Gaffigan has five children, even though for years he doubted he would marry, much less be a father. And he’s a father who takes his kids on the road (not the actual nightclubs and arenas where he performs his droll shtick) by driving across the country in a huge mobile home. Luckily for Gaffigan, his wife is the model of calm in the storm and keeps the family chugging along. Gaffigan is totally upfront describing his shortcomings when it comes to keeping kids in line. His life is preposterous, and that’s why it’s so entertaining. Gaffigan also narrates the audiobook.

You’re Not Doing it Right (Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death and other Humiliations) by Michael Ian Black
Who hasn’t had this kind of day? His wife, his therapist and his friends are telling him he needs to pull it together. And he’s not at all sure where it came apart. Black’s often crude approach to exposing his personal foibles makes for a relatable memoir from a comedian who has found success as a writer, director and actor on television and in film. With a treasure trove of memories about growing up in a household headed by his feminist lesbian mother and tales of his less-than-noble dating history, his entertaining stories make for roar-out-loud entertainment.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
Veteran journalist and travel writer Bryson may not set out to be hilarious. It just turns out that way. This nonfiction tome sets Bryson amid the frightening creatures and rugged geographic features of the Australian outback. Running out of potable water? He has no problem; he’ll find a way to track down some beer. His descriptions of the killer wildlife can make your skin crawl, but keep your funny bone intact all the way through. Bryson’s thorough research is evident without making you aware you are learning a great deal about a largely uninhabited continent. Bryson also narrates the audiobook.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Wearing the mantle as her generation’s Lucille Ball, Fey reminisces about her childhood, her college years as a self-described dork and then marvels at her own success. Without a bit of ego, she gives readers a little insight into the cult that is Saturday Night Live. Fey’s memories are not of the tell-all variety;  instead she offers up a more wistful look at where life has taken her. Before the fame and fortune there were a lot of crummy gigs, which make for some of the most interesting and entertaining reading. Fey also narrates the audiobook.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Forthcoming Fiction for March

Here are some titles coming out this March. You can reserve them by clicking on the links to our Online Catalog

Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer
Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black
City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen
Stone Cold by C.J. Box
The High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks
Steeped in Evil by Laura Childs
Missing You by Harlan Coben
To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie
The Bootlegger by Clive Cussler
The Alpine Yeoman: an Emma Lord Mystery by Mary Daheim
Don’t Look for Me: An Amos Walker Novel by Loren D. Estleman
Tempting Fate by Jane Green
Black Horizon by James Grippando
Kindred of Darkness by Barbara Hambly
The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb: a Berger and Mitry Mystery by David Handler
Why Kings Confess by C.S. Harris
False Diamond: an Abbot Agency Mystery by Veronica Heley
Mentats of Dune by Brian Herbert
Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber
Killer Physique by G.A. McKevett
NYPD Red 2 by James Patterson
A King’s Ransom by Sharon Kay Penman
Death on Blackheath: a Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel by Anne Perry
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
Children of the Revolution: an Inspector Banks Novel by Peter Robinson
Power Play by Danielle Steel
Bone Deep by Randy Wayne White