Friday, August 28, 2015

Mini-Series: Prime for Binge-Watching (or Binge- Reading)

British television series are prime candidates for binge-watching by those who indulge in this wide-spread guilty pleasure. Recently, PBS has been showing the classic Jewel in the Crown, a 14-episode award-winning drama about the waning days of British rule in India. If you want to read the books it was based on, check out the library's copy of Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet.

Also proving popular is this new mini-series based Winston Graham's  historical family saga in twelve books published between 1951 and 2002. These novels of Cornwall take place from 1783 to  1820. Check out this link if you like to read before viewing: Ross Poldark

GrantchesterMasterpiece Mystery presented the first season of this story about a country vicar leading a quiet life in Grantchester until one of his parishioners dies under suspicious circumstances. The series is based on James Runcie's Grantchester Mysteries (1-4). 
The first of the Grantchester Mysteries is:
Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death

Wolf Hall   
This mini-series about Henry VIII , Thomas Cromwell, and Anne Boleyn is based on two books by Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies.

Coming October 2015: Keep an eye out for the new 8-part series based on the books of Bernard Cornwell. The first book in the Saxon Tales is The Last Kingdom, in case you want to get ready to be dropped into ninth century Great Britain.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Reader’s Bill of Rights

Daniel Pennac, author of Better Than Life, a book about the act and joy of reading, has penned The Reader’s Bill of Rights. While librarians intuitively encourage and champion these rights, many people do not even think of them . Or perhaps they think the opposite. For instance look at number 10: The right not to defend your tastes. Sometimes people come to the Reader’s Services desk and ask for a certain type of book and then apologize or say “This is my summer read.” The truth is that librarians do not judge people by the books they request or read. We all understand the vast array of reading tastes and we celebrate them all! If everyone read the same thing, libraries would have limited and boring collections.

It’s time for everyone to celebrate The Reader’s Bill of Rights, including children and young adults. So the next time you’re reading a book that doesn’t make you happy, remember numbers 1, 2, and 3. When you covet your favorite book, remember numbers 4, 6, 9. When you’re reading under the covers, celebrate number 7. And no matter what, always keep number 10 close to your heart and keep coming to the library.

The Reader’s Bill of Rights by Daniel Pennac

1. The right to not read 
2. The right to skip pages 
3. The right to not finish 
4. The right to reread 
5. The right to read anything 
6. The right to escapism 
7. The right to read anywhere 
8. The right to browse 
9. The right to read out loud 
10. The right to not defend your tastes


Monday, August 24, 2015

The foreign film challenge continues

If you like foreign films, you may want to review this list. This is how it works.  I am going through the newly-arranged (by language) foreign films and highlighting those that received a rating of 7 or better on

Here is a short list that includes Bengali and Chinese. In the next installment I will continue with the Chinese list. Happy Viewing!

The Clay Bird (Bengali 2002)  A family must come to grips with its culture, its faith, and the brutal political changes entering its small-town world.

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (Bengali 2006)  Forest fires burn in Sumatra and smoke covers Kuala Lumpur. Grifters beat up an immigrant day laborer and a young man named Rawang finds him. He carries him home and cares for him.

The Music Room (Bengali 1958)  Depicts the end days of a decadent landlord in Bengal, and his efforts to uphold his family prestige even when faced with economic adversity.

Aftershock (Mandarin 2010)  The epic story of a family separated as a result of the Great Tangshan Earthquake of 1976.

Blind Shaft (Mandarin 2003)  Two Chinese coal miners have hit upon the perfect scam to extort money from the boss.

The Blue Kite (Mandarin 1993)  Banned in China, this controversial film traces the fate of a Beijing family and their neighbors through the political and social upheavals in 1950's and 60's China.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lyric Opera of Chicago lectures - 2015

This year we will be featuring six operas from the Lyric Opera of Chicago and they will be led by former docents.  Every lecture will be held in the Multipurpose Room at 7:00.

Thursday, September 3     
The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The Marriage of Figaro continues the plot of The Barber of Seville several years later.  Resourceful Figaro, the count's valet, and Susanna, the countess's maid, are desperate to marry, but the count has designs on Susanna himself, even though he has his own bride

On one occasion the Count finds that the nuptial apartment for Figaro and Susanna is cluttered with pieces of furniture covered with dust sheets.  Because he was not at the rehearsal, he did not know where Cherubino was hiding and had to search each piece of   furniture.  Cherubino had to voluntarily jump out of hiding because the Count could not find him.

Thursday, October 1  
Cinderella by Giachino Rossini

Cinderella is dressed in rags and destined to toil away for her nasty stepsisters and horrible stepfather - who is scheming to convince the Prince to marry one of his "real" daughters.  There is a happily-ever-after though for the maid with the heart of gold.

There is no glass slipper, fairy godmother, pumpkin coach, or wicked stepmother.  The wicked stepmother is a wicked stepfather, Don Magnifico.  The Fairy Godmother is Alidoro, a philosopher and the Prince's tutor.  Cinderella has a bracelet.

Wednesday, November 14
The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar

Beautiful Hanna Glawari is a very rich widow and her homeland's entire economy rests on her marrying a "local" instead of a Frenchman.  So the ambassador springs into action, determined to save his country by convincing his attache, the dashing playboy
Count Danilo (who is an old flame), to make Hanna his bride.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath--10 Years Later: A Reading List

Ten years ago on August 25th Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, causing breaches in levees and leaving unbelievable destruction in its wake. Since Katrina, there have been a number of excellent books written about the disaster. Some of the best are listed below.


Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum (2009)
Nine Lives explores New Orleans through the lives of nine characters over 40 years, bracketed by two epic hurricanes. It brings back to life the doomed city, its wondrous subcultures, and the rich and colorful lives that played themselves out within its borders.

The author, a physician and reporter, 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. She reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.

The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Douglas Brinkley (2006)
This account of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it left in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast documents the events and repercussions of the tragedy and its aftermath and the ongoing crisis confronting the region.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2009)
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, longtime New Orleans resident Abdulrahman Zeitoun was cast into an unthinkable struggle with forces beyond wind and water. In the days after the storm, Zeitoun traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, delivering supplies and helping those he could. A week later, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared--arrested and accused of being an agent of Al-Qaeda.

1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina by Chris Rose (2007)
1 Dead in Attic is a collection of stories by Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose, recounting the first harrowing year and half of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Rose provides a rollercoaster ride of observations, commentary, emotion, tragedy, and even humor in a way that only he could find in a devastated wasteland.

Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City by Jed Horne
Hurricane Katrina shredded one of the great cities of the South. As levees failed and the federal relief effort proved lethally incompetent, a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe. As an editor of New Orleans' daily newspaper, the Times-Picayune, Jed Horne has had a front-row seat to the unfolding drama of the city's collapse into chaos and its continuing struggle to survive.

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (2009)
This graphic novel depicts the events of Hurricane Katrina through seven true stories of survival in the days leading up to and following the storm and flooding that occurred in its aftermath.

The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina by Ken Wells (2008)
Details the experiences of the Robin family of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, who chose not to evacuate in advance of Hurricane Katrina. The book discusses how they survived the dangerous swells in their fishing boat docked in Violet Canal.


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011)
Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.

The Tin Roof Blowdown: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke (2007)
Follows the adventures of detective Dave Robicheaux, who struggles with alcoholism and rage while fighting to protect lives in Katrina-devastated New Orleans.

City of Refuge by Tom Piazza (2008)
Uprooted from their New Orleans homes by Hurricane Katrina, the Donaldson and Williams families--one black, the other white, make their way to Houston and share disparate experiences trying to rebuild their lives.

Look for more books about Katrina this August and September as we come up on the tenth anniversary of this significant event.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tony Music Awards - 2015

Based on Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic memoir. Fun Home introduces us to Alison at three different ages. We learn of her dysfunctional family, mother, brothers and father. We follow her journey to understand her father, Bruce's closeted life and how it relates to her.

Best Musical
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Michael Cerveris)
Best Book of a  Musical (Lisa Kron)
Best Original Score (Jeanine Tesori - music, Lisa Kron - lyrics)
Best Direction of a Musical (Sam Gold)

Tells the story of Anna, a British governess, who tries to help an Eastern king come to terms with the modern world.

Best Revival of a Musical
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Kelli O'Hara)
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Ruthie Ann Miles)
Best Costume Design of a Musical (Catherine Zuber)

Set in the 1590s, brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom set out to write the world's first musical.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Christian Borle)

The romantic story of a young American soldier, a beautiful French girl and an European city, Paris, each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Bob Crowley and 50 Productions)
Best Orchestrations (Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliot)
Best Choreography (Christopher Wheeldon)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Man Booker Longlist Just Announced

The Man Booker Prize is a highly coveted award which annually honors the author of an English language novel published in the United Kingdom in the current year by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. It was established in 1968. It promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world's most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortune of the author as well as the publisher.

The longlist is a baker's dozen - thirteen contenders for the 2015 Booker Prize for fiction. It was just announced on July 29. The shortlist will be announced on September 15. The winner will be announced on October 15. So, stay tuned. . .
What I found very interesting is that five of this year's nominees are American novels and they are here on the shelves at GPL. They are as follows:

A Spool of Blue Thread (Feb 2015) by Anne Tyler
In this book, we come to know three generations of Whitshanks--a family with secrets and memories that are sometimes different than what others observe. The book’s timeline moves back and forth with overlapping stories, just like thread on a spool. Most readers will find themselves in the story. Once again, Tyler has written an enchanting tale.

Lila (Oct 2014) by Marilynne Robinson
Abandoning her homeless existence to become a minister's wife, Lila reflects on her hardscrabble life on the run with a canny young drifter and her efforts to reconcile her painful past with her husband's gentle Christian worldview.

Did You Ever Have a Family (Sep 2015) by Bill Clegg
Lit by the clarity of understanding that true sadness brings, Did You Ever Have a Family is a story that reveals humanity at its worst and best, through loss and love, fracture and forgiveness. At the book’s heart is the idea of family – the ones we are born with and the ones we create – and the desire, in the face of everything, to go on living. This title is on order and you can place a hold.

The Moor's Account (Sep 2014) by Laila Lalami
This is a work of historical fiction following Estebanico, a Moroccan slave, who is one of four survivors of the failed Narváez expedition to colonise Spanish Florida in the sixteenth century. Of the four, his was the only testimony left off the record.

A Little Life (Mar 2015) by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life is a depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

The remaining titles and author (nationality) are as follows:
The Green Road by Anne Enright (Ireland)
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Jamaica)
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (UK)
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)
The Illuminations by Andrew O'Hagan (UK)
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy (India)
The Year of the Runaways (UK)
The Chimes by Anna Smaill (New Zealand)

Read one or all and see if you can predict the winner of this prestigious award!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book of the Year- Christy Awards 2015

And the winner is...Thief of Glory by Sigmund Brouwer!

For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the privileged son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies, his idyllic childhood comes to a halt in 1943 after the Japanese invade the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah must take on the care of his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are forced into an internment camp and separated from the rest of the family. Life in the camp is especially difficult for Jeremiah's mother who is frail and fragile adding to Jeremiah's burden. Amid starvation, violence, loss, Jeremiah draws upon all of his strength and cunning to fill in for his troubled mother. Life in the camps is made more bearable as Jeremiah's boyhood crush with Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.When evil threatens to overpower Jeremiah and Laura, they draw upon God's grace to help them. Time and war will test them and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the greatest bond of all.

Sigmund Brouwer is not only the author of over 40 novels, he is also an inspirational speaker and the co-founder of the Young Writers Institute. He is married to Christian recording artist, Cindy Morgan and they have one daughter Olivia.