Wednesday, June 7, 2017

To Binge or Not to Binge

I have to admit, I have on occasion binged my way through entire television seasons. The temptation is just too great, sometimes it is hard to stop, there are no commercials to tolerate and you can easily fast forward and find out what happens next without having to wait a week. Here is a mix of drama and comedy, in no particular order, that may make it hard to get up off the couch.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Who's Your Wonder Woman?

The new Wonder Woman movie is now out in theaters. Below is a list of movies with strong women: they may not have super powers, but they're all superheroes in their own way. Who's your favorite? 

  • Aliens: Ellen Ripley survives the events of the first Alien film, only to go back to a hive of the dreaded creatures! 
  • Arrival: A linguist (Amy Adams) attempts to decipher the strange language of a visiting alien race. Don't miss the novella, "Story of Your Life".
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Lisbeth Salander, hacker extraordinaire, aids a journalist in unraveling a snarled mystery. You might also try the original Swedish film, or the book.
  • Hanna: Hanna, now 16, was raised to be the perfect assassin, and now is on the run across Europe.
  • Jackie: An account of Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of her husband. 
  • Kill Bill: Left for dead, "The Bride" (Uma Thurman) seeks revenge on her employer and his underlings. 
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Max (Tom Hardy) might be the title character, but Charlize Theron steals the show as Furiosa in this non-stop post-apocalyptic action movie.
  • Miss Sloane: An ambitious lobbyist (Jessica Chastain) works to pass gun control legislation in this thriller. 
  • Princess Mononoke: The fearsome title character fights to protect the forest, which is being corrupted by an industrial village, in this epic anime. 
  • Room: Try the book, too! Brie Larson is set to get her own superpowers in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, as well. 
  • The Silence of the Lambs: Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) enlists the aid of a psychotic cannibal to catch another serial killer. Read the book!
  • Stoker: India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) begins to suspect that her mysterious uncle is not all that he seems in this Hitchcockian thriller. 
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane: Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes from a car accident in an underground bunker. Her rescuer claims that there was a massive attack and everyone outside is dead, but parts of his story don't quite add up...
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day: 10 years after a Terminator from the future was sent to assassinate her, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has been targeted again - but this time she's ready. 
  • Wendy and Lucy: Penniless drifter Wendy (Michelle Williams) is on her way to Alaska in search of gainful employment, but when her dog goes missing her plans are put on hold. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Remembering Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day: War Novels

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Celebrated on the last Monday in May many people visit cemeteries and memorials to honor those who have died in military service. Did you know that there are ten national cemeteries in Illinois? Below is a list of  novels organized by war, pick one up for the long holiday weekend.

 American Revolution
Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly
The Hornet's Nest: A Novel of the Revolutionary War by Jimmy Carter
Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara
Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell

Civil War
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
North and South by John Jakes
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
March by E.L. Doctorow

World War I
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
To the Last Man by Jeff Shaara
The First of July by Elizabeth Speller

World War II
The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara
The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
Battle Cry by Leon Uris
Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th by Newt Gingrich

Korean War
War Trash by Ha Jin
The Frozen Hours: A Novel of the Korean War by Jeff Shaara
The Marines of Autumn: A Novel of the Korean War by James Brady
The Hunters by James Salter

Vietnam War
Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Word of Honor: A Novel of Vietnam by Nelson DeMille

Persian Gulf War/Iraq War
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Redeployment by Phil Klay
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pirtre

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

April Showers Bring May Flowers and Darkness Brings Light!

When I hear this old cliche, I think of beauty and light emerging from gloom and darkness. Then I reflect on flowers and books and the idea that out of tragic circumstances, an unexpected brightness can appear. Characters often struggle, triumph over adversity and eventually find unexpected happiness. Very often, books about growing up in the foster care system end with the hope of second chances. I've listed some of my favorite satisfying reads that embody this theme.

The Language of Flowers by Vanesssa Diffenbaugh 
This is a story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own past.

A Good Year for the Roses by Gil McNeil
Recently divorced and struggling to support her three boys, Molly is stunned when she inherits her aunt's manor house, a house that includes her eccentric old uncle, an ailing bed-and-breakfast, and a beautiful rose garden.

White Oleander by Janet Finch
At the age of 12, Astrid has her world blown away when her mother is sentenced to life in prison for murdering her lover. Sharpened by harsh foster home environments, Astrid remakes herself as a survivor, and ultimately, an artist.

Like Family by Paula McLain
An account of growing up as a foster child describes how the author and her two sisters were abandoned by their parents, her next fourteen years in a series of temporary homes, and the impact of her unrooted life.

Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
Having suffered abuse and misfortune for much of her life, a young child searches for a better life and finally gets a break in the home of a loving woman with several foster children.

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
A successful divorce lawyer, Paula’s carefully constructed life starts to fracture when family secrets come to light, forcing her to try to come to terms with the power of her story to hurt and heal, and a growing need for family connections.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

After ALIEN: COVENANT, Try These...All on Hoopla!

Are you a fan of the Alien franchise? Just got back from the latest box office hit in the franchise, Alien: Covenant? Check out these similar titles, all available FREE on Hoopla!

  • Dead Ringers: This Cronenberg horror features twin brothers who take advantage of the fact that nobody can tell them apart - just like Michael Fassbender's android role in Covenant
  • Europa Report: An international crew of astronauts makes the long journey to Jupiter's fourth moon, seeking alien life.
  • The Last Days on Mars: The discovery of fossilized evidence of life on Mars is not as innocent as it seems in this Sci-Fi thriller. 

  • The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer: Area X, a mysterious quarantine zone of the unexpected, has had eleven expeditions. The first returned with reports of the beautiful landscape. The third expedition self-destructed and murdered each other. The eleventh expedition died of cancer months after returning. Annihilation, the first book in this acclaimed trilogy, begins with expedition number twelve. The spooky atmosphere, hiding unknowable horrors, is a perfect fit for Alien: Covenant's sense of dreaded discovery.  
  • At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft: This classic Lovecraft novella follows an expedition to the Antarctic and the chilling discoveries they make there. It's not as interstellar as the Alien franchise but the scares are just as cosmic. 
  • The Manitou by Graham Masterton: Karen Tandy discovers a mysterious lump growing under her skin that baffles all of her doctors. This chilling piece of body horror was the debut novel of eminent horror novelist Masterton. 


  • Aliens: Hoopla has more than enough Alien comics to keep you busy for a long time. A great way to dive into the extra mythology of this popular franchise. 
  • Hellboy: Mike Mignola's acclaimed series is all available on Hoopla! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

David Downing

David Downing’s series featuring British journalist John Russell, is set in Germany under Nazi occupation. While fictional, these books are filled with vivid descriptions of places, characters, and situations that ordinary people faced. Russell and his girlfriend, famous film actress Effi, must navigate the difficulties of life during wartime as John tries to work with the Allies yet remain in Germany. Gritty, but human, each title is the name of a Berlin train station. Begin with Zoo Station set in 1939 Berlin.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Literary Moms

With mother's day coming up, it brought to mind some of the moms that appear in novels.  Here are s few books (both classic and contemporary) featuring some memorable literary moms.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith

~ Katie Nolan

Young Francie Nolan, having inherited both her father's romantic and her mother's practical nature, struggles to survive and thrive growing up in the slums of Brooklyn in the early twentieth century.  Katie Nolan, her mother, is a proud woman who will do anything in order to make the lives of her children better.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

~ Mrs. Bennet

From Jane's Austen's classic, Mrs. Bennet is a silly, ill-mannered lady whose sole focus is to see her daughters marry well.

Life after Life - Kate Atkinson

~ Sylvie Todd

Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. Her mother is an equally compelling character who is deeply devoted to her daughter.

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

~ Marmee

The classic tale of the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young women in mid-nineteenth-century New England.  Their mother Marmee is a strong, loving presence holding the family together acting as head of the household while their father is away fighting in the Civil War for much of the story.

The Fifth Season - N.K. Jemison

~ Essun
Essun, masquerading as an ordinary schoolteacher in a quiet small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Mighty Sanze, the empire whose innovations have been civilization's bedrock for a thousand years, collapses as its greatest city is destroyed by a madman's vengeance. Essun has remembered herself, and she will have her daughter back. She does not care if the world falls apart around her. Essun will break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.

Friday, May 5, 2017

While you wait for Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Are you patiently awaiting your turn to read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See?  Try these read a likes while you wait!

The Kitchen God's Wife
by Amy Tan
For forty years, in China and in San Francisco, Winnie Louie and Helen Kwong have kept certian confidences. Suddenly, those shattering secrets are about to be revealed. So begins a series of comic misunderstandings and heartbreaking realizations about luck, loss, and trust; about the things a mother cannot tell her daughter, the secrets daughters keep, and the miraculous resiliency of love.

Where Women Are Kings
by Christie Watson
After being taken away from his birth mother, seven-year-old Elijah, who is covered in scars, is moved from one foster parent to the next before finding a forever home with Nikki and her husband, Obi, who work tirelessly to help him overcome his tragic past despite many disastrous challenges.

The Bridegroom: Stories
by Jin Ha
A collection of twelve short stories captures the daily lives and experiences of Chinese women and men who struggle to deal with the influx of Western influence into a society that attempts to control their every thought and move.

Beneath the Lion's Gaze
by Maaza Megiste
An epic tale of a father and two sons, of betrayals and loyalties, of a family unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia's revolution.

Desirable Daughters
by Bharati Mukherjee
Chronicles the journeys of three Brahmin women as they follow divergent paths from their home in Calcutta and a rigid Indian society to seek new lives for themselves on two separate continents.

Monday, May 1, 2017


Marvel's latest blockbuster comes out this Friday, May 5th - here are some similar titles to sate your appetite!

  • Super: Directed by James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy Movies, Super follows everyday guy Frank as he dons a slapdash superhero outfit and attempts to rescue his estranged wife. Look for hints of the superhero formula that Gunn uses in both Guardians movies! 
  • Men In Black: Two members of a secret organization established to police alien activity on Earth find themselves in the middle of an assassination plot. While the action is less galactic than Guardians, the imaginative alien designs and sense of humor makes this a perfect double feature. 
  • Galaxy Quest: This loving spoof of the Star Trek series shows what might happen if the cast of the series were suddenly forced into real action - to hilarious effect! 
  • Starman: A road movie, a romance, a science fiction drama - Starman, directed by horror legend John Carpenter, is a perfect companion to Marvel's latest adventure. 
  • The Usual Suspects: A twisting crime caper, The Usual Suspects is a classic thriller due to its fantastic ensemble cast. The Guardians might be slightly more heroic, but they have a lot in common with the crew here. 
  • Serenity: The cinematic conclusion to the cult classic television series Firefly, this space-faring adventure features a renegade crew on the run from a galaxy-spanning government. 
Music: Here are just a few of the artists featured on the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 soundtrack:
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: Tired of your science fiction stories always featuring a galaxy-threatening, world-ending terror? Try the first entry of the Wayfarers series, a pleasant adventure through a richly detailed galaxy. 
  • The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: Moments before the Earth is destroyed, everyman Arthur Dent is rescued by a friend and sent on a universe-spanning, hilarious adventure. Try the movie, too.
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan: Two soldiers from opposite sides of an eternal war find themselves in love and with child. This epic graphic novel series features an endless parade of alien species and a beautiful, sometimes heartbreaking, story. Pick it up now and you'll be clamoring for the next volume - of which there are currently 7. Also available on hoopla
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey: In this first book of The Expanse series, Captain Holden and Detective Miller find that their mysteries are interwoven into a terrifying conspiracy. A fresh take on space opera, not to be missed! 
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: A dystopic, page-turner sci-fi adventure packed to the absolute brim with 80's pop culture references. 
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: Locke Lamora, leader of an infamous gang of thieves and con artists, finds that his confidence games have finally caught up to him in this first entry to a popular fantasy series. Trade Guardians' science fiction for fantasy, but keep the humor and fun character relationships. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Get Your Calendars Ready! Book Festivals in the Chicago Area.

Getting ready for some book festivals? There are many book and author opportunities throughout the Chicago area. Check with your local independent or chain bookstore to see what is happening there. But here are some bigger festivals on the horizon.

What are you doing this weekend? From April 29 to May 11th is the Evanston Literary Festival. Events, lectures and documentaries are scattered throughout the town and held at various venues and bookstores. Go to their website for more details.

A little further afield is Printer's Row Lit Fest. This event is held the weekend of June 10- 11th, with sessions, readings, and discussions held in the Harold Washington Library and tents along S. Dearborn.  They feature local and nationally known authors. And if you are not into fiction - there are many opportunities to listen to non-fiction authors speaking on their topic.

And did you know there is a food tent? That's a great time to see some of Chicago's renowned chefs.  Things take place rain or shine. Depending on the weather, my tip is to plan for some air-conditioned sessions throughout the day. It's great fun. For more details on this year's schedule and authors go here.

Just want to buy some cool older titles? The 2017 Newberry Library Book Fair takes place at the library July 27 - 30.  For more details see their website. You never know what titles you will discover there.

If you're a long distance planner - Keep an eye out for Columbia College's Chicago Book Expo this fall. Chicago Book Expo's mission is "to celebrate Chicago’s vital independent publishing scene." Columbia College’s Creative Writing Department helps to sponsor it. Take a peek at last year's website to get a feel for what they offer.

So there is no excuse! Lots of book activities at the Glenview Public Library and beyond.

Monday, April 24, 2017

After THE CIRCLE, Try...

The Circle, based on the novel by Dave Eggers, comes to theaters this Friday, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. Here are some titles to try either before or after the movie.

  • The Circle by Dave Eggers: Try the book first! A young tech worker takes a job at a powerful Internet corporation, quickly rises up the company’s ranks, and soon finds herself in a perilous situation concerning privacy, surveillance and freedom. 
  • The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan: Years after the digital cloud “bursts” and exposes all of our worst secrets, THE PRIVATE EYE is set in an inevitable future where everyone has a secret identity. Following an unlicensed P.I. who is thrust into the most important case of his life, this sci-fi mystery explores the nature of privacy with frightening prescience.
  • The Terranauts by T. C. Boyle: As climate change threatens the earth, eight scientists, four men and four women dubbed the “Terranauts,” have been selected to live under glass in E2, a prototype of a possible off-earth colony.
  • 1984 by George Orwell: The original novel warning about the dangers of surveillance - Big Brother is watching! 
  • Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier: Learn the truth behind the novels and all about the digital information and surveillance age. 
  • Children of Men: In 2027, in a chaotic world in which humans can no longer procreate, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary. You might also try the novel
  • Gattaca: A slick science fiction drama in a world where your DNA determines everything about the course of your life, starring Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. 
  • Her: Your phone might be watching you...but what if you fell in love with it? This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance.
  • The End of the Tour: Directed by James Ponsoldt, the director of The Circle, this is the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Paranormal Romance Author Chloe Neill

Chloe Neill is the New York Times bestselling author of the Chicagoland Vampires Novels, the Devil's Isle Novels, and a YA series, Dark Elite. Chloe was born and raised in the South, but now makes her home in the Midwest. When she's not writing, she bakes, works, and scours the internet for good recipes and great graphic design. Chloe also maintains her sanity by spending time with her boys--her husband and their dogs, Baxter and Scout. 
Neill's series Chicagoland Vampires is fun and the heroin is all Chicago-Girl sassy. You will enjoy that Chloe mentions many of Chicago's amazing locations and delicious eateries.

Dark Debt  Book 11
Springtime brings new challenges to Chicago’s vampires, as Merit, the Cadogan House Sentinel, and her Master and paramour, Ethan Sullivan, face personal threats from Balthasar, Ethan’s presumed-dead creator, and a shadow organization headed by Merit’s ex, Morgan Greer. The cooperative skills of the newly minted Assembly of American Masters are tested, and Merit’s previous immunity to vampire glamour can’t withstand assault by Balthasar, creating intimacy issues for her and Ethan. Merit and Ethan are aided (and occasionally hindered) by magical allies, the Cadogan House staff, and Merit’s father and grandfather, as they engage in overt and covert battles for control over the powerful vampire houses. Little characterization details like Merit’s enthusiasm for refreshments, destructive tendencies toward formal wear, and complicated family emotions enhance this brisk adventure.

Midnight Marked Book 12
In book 12 of the Chicagoland Vampires series, vampire Merit attempts to attend a Cubs night game with her Master (and lover), Ethan, along with her best friend, Mallory, and Mallory's husband. When Mallory senses some strange magic, she leads them to the dead body of a shape-shifter. They arrive just in time to give chase to the killer, another vampire. He eludes capture and, to save the alliance with the shape-shifters, they investigate the murder. Sorcery, alchemy, and a friendly necromancer contribute to the supernatural fun. The comradely banter between the characters and the continued hot romance between Merit and Ethan add to the enjoyment of the book.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2017

On Friday, April 7, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, performer inductees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Artists are eligible for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twenty-five years after their first recording is released.  Inductees include Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Joan Baez, Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, and Yes.

The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) is an English rock band from Birmingham, West Midlands, England.  It was formed in 1970 by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood with drummer Bev Bevan.  Lynne and Wood wanted to create modern rock and pop songs with classical overtones.  Their first single "10538 Overture" was released in 1972 as a homage to the Beatles.  Some of their albums include Eldorado, a Symphony (1974) and Time (1981)  They have sold over 50 million records worldwide.

Joan Chandos Baez, and American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist was born on January 9, 1941 on Staten Island, New York.  Her contemporary folk music includes songs of protest or social justice.  She has performed from 1960 and has released over 30 albums.  Her first three albums, Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2 and Joan Baez in Concert have all achieved gold records.  Some of her songs include, "Diamonds & Rust", "Farewell, Angelia", "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word", "Forever Young", "Joe Hill", "Sweet Sir Galahad" and "We Shall Overcome" (which became prominent during the Civil Rights Movement).

Journey is an American rock bank from San Francisco, California.  They formed in 1973 with former members of Santana and Rumious Bandersnatch.  "Don't Stop Believin'" (1981) was one of their top hits.  They have had two gold albums, eight multi-platinum albums, one diamond album, and 18 top 40 singles in the United States.  Their style is Arena Rock, Stadium Rock, and Concert Rock.  In the United States they have sold 48 million albums and worldwide close to 90 million records.

Pearl Jam, also known as Mookie Blaylock originated in Seattle, Washington in 1990.  They play alternative rock, grunge, and hard rock music.  Its debute album was Ten in 1991.  Members included Eddie Vedder (lead vocals), Mike McCready (lead guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Jeff Ament (bass), and Matt Cameron (drummer).  They have refused to make proper music videos, give interviews, and have boycotted Ticketmaster.  They have sold nearly 32 million records in the United States and 60 million worldwide.

Tupac Amaru Shakur (Lesane Parish Crooks) was born on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem, New York, and died on September 13, 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He was an American rapper who was also known as 2Pac, Makaveli or Pac.  He had sold over 75 million records worldwide, with All Eyez on Me and his Greatest Hits best-selling albums.  His themes are about violence and hardship in inner cities, racism and other social issues.

Yes (originally Mabel Greer's Toyshop) are an English rock band from London that began in 1968 by singer Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire.  They began playing covers to progressive and art rock in the 1970s and then pop in the 1980s.  They have sold 13.5 million albums in the United States.  Their most successful albums are The Yes Album (1971) and Close to the Edge (1972).  They disbanded in 1981 and reformed in 1983 with new musicians.  Their highest-selling album was 90125 (1983), which included "Owner of a Lonely Heart".  In 1985, they won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Performance with "Cinema", and received five Grammy nominations between 1985 and 1992.

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Are You Reading Lately?

I recently listened to and have now become an enthusiastic promoter of comedian Trevor Noah’s incredible coming-of-age memoir, “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood". 

Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy’s Central’s The Daily Show, relates tales of his growing up during the final years of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. Because his father was a Swiss-German white and his mother an African black, Noah was "born a crime”. Relations between whites and blacks were strictly prohibited under apartheid law. Noah, a light-skinned child, struggled to find his place in world that seemed determined to cast him as an outsider. While there are certainly funny moments in this memoir, Noah’s book is a fascinating and, at times, sobering look at life inside apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa.

Noah is a masterful storyteller with an extraordinary facility with accents, dialects and languages. His narration of the audiobook makes the listening experience particularly intimate and very powerful.

What books have you been enjoying lately?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Motion Picture Music

Often when I watch a movie, it is the music that makes an impression on me. I love how they use a certain song to invoke an emotion or demonstrate the character's feelings. I find myself thinking what a great choice or I wonder what song I would have chosen. Right now I can't stop listening to the soundtrack from 500 Days of Summer. I think I like the music more than the movie. Artists include the Smiths, Doves, Temper Traps and Feist to name a few. Many of the songs take me back in time, which I love, they make me feel a little lighter, like I did when I was younger. My favorite tracks are 3-9, and since I love all things foreign, the French song by Carla Bruni makes me smile. I love singing along to it even though I don't speak French. Have a listen, you won't regret it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Animation - Not Just for Kids!

When we think of animation or cartoons, the first images conjured to our minds are frequently children's films or television shows, Disney and Dreamworks and the like. But there are plenty of animated films made for adults. Below is a list of just a few animated titles you might enjoy.

Cover image for Anomalisa

Cover image for Persepolis
  • Grave of the Fireflies: The story of two orphans struggling to survive in Japan during World War II, based on a semi-autobiographical short story. 

Cover image for Waltz with Bashir
  • A Scanner Darkly: A science fiction thriller starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr. based on the novel of the same name by Philip K. Dick. This film uses an animation style called "rotoscoping": it was filmed with the actors as a normal live action movie, then painted over with traditional animation techniques. 

  • Waltz with Bashir: Based on the graphic novel. A story of the 1982 Lebanon War that blends documentary and drama as a man searches for his lost memories as a soldier. 
Cover image for Watership down

  • Watership Down: The story of a group of rabbits searching for a new home after their home is destroyed by humans. Based on the novel

Stop by the Audiovisual desk for more great animated titles. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

It's Spring and Nature Beckons! Check Out A Year of Reading - April 2017: the Natural World

By now, I hope the GPL community is familiar with the Year of Reading 2017 brochure that lists thematic monthly book recommendations. If perchance, you're not, you will find them at the Reader Services desk ready for the taking. Pick up a copy - the year is young!

It's April and as the signs of Spring emerge, my literary thoughts turn to the particular genres of eco-fiction and nature writing. How fortuitous then that the theme for April is The Natural World. There are several titles listed. I've read some of them and maybe you have too. So, I've listed some additional titles that you and I might enjoy as well.

Goodnight, Texas by William J. Cobb
In this novel people struggle to survive job loss, severe over-fishing, and a looming hurricane. A lyrical, romantic, comic, and redemptive story about wanting what you cannot have, love amidst the ruins, survival, connection, and hope.

That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx
Assigned to locate land in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma that can be purchased and converted into pig farms for his employer, Bob Dollar meets the residents of Woolybucket and comes to respect their fierce desire to retain their land.

Anthill by Edward O. Wilson
Presents the adventures of Raff, a modern-day Huck Finn in Alabama, whose love of ants transforms his life and those around him as he fights condo developers intent on destroying an endangered tract of land.

An Inconvenient Truth by Albert Gore
The former vice-president details the factors contributing to the growing climate crisis, describes changes to the environment caused by global warming, and discusses the shift in environmental policy that is needed to avert disaster.

Half-earth by Edward O. Wilson
A conclusion to the trilogy by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the National Book Award-finalist The Meaning of Human Existence argues that humanity must consider the histories of millions of other Earth species and increase the planet's regions of natural reserves in order to prevent future mass extinctions.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Age is Just a Number: Novels Featuring Older Adults

The books on this list feature older adults as the main character.  Some of these titles are fun reads featuring older adults who shatter the negative stereotypes that old people are just silly old fools or useless. Many are set in nursing homes or retirement communities and follow the misadventures of quirky and amusing characters. And some of these novels address more serious topics such as; grief, loss, second chances, widowhood, aging, or love and friendship. Great books you'll enjoy no matter what your age!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cantankerous and quick-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors whose chattiness and habits lead to an unexpected friendship.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Maude sinks into a confusing world in this riveting psychological mystery written in the voice of an aging woman with Alzheimer’s. She can’t remember what she’s doing or where she is, but she is fixated with one thought–her good friend Elizabeth is missing.

On his 100th birthday, hesitant centenarian Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of his nursing home and embarks on a hysterical and entirely unexpected journey.

82-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. One morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers from rural Saskatchewan to Halifax. Her husband, his oldest friend, who has loved Etta from afar for 60 years, insists on finding her, wherever she's gone.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
 As Poland falls to the Nazis, Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in San Francisco. There she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by others, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are torn apart as Ichimei and his family are relocated to internment camps. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forced to hide from the world.

In this delightful debut, 69-year-old Arthur Pepper stopped engaging with life a year ago, when his wife of 40 years died. But the discovery among her things of a charm bracelet he'd never seen before prompts a quest to discover the origins of the bracelet and all of its charms. 

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Widower Louis Walters is initially thrown when his neighbor Addie suggests they spend time together, in bed, to stave off loneliness, but soon they are sharing confidences and memories.
The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules by Catharine Inglelman-Sundberg
Bored with her dull, dreary life in a retirement home, Martha and four of her best friend’s rebel against the rules imposed on them.

Harriet Chance receives a phone call informing her that her recently deceased husband, Bernard, has won an Alaskan cruise. Deciding to go on the trip, she is given a letter from her close friend Mildred, with instructions not to open it until she is on the cruise. The contents of this letter shatter Harriet and she begins to reexamine her life and her relationships. 

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle
The staff and residents at Fulton, North Carolina's retirement facility, share the realities of their lives, from a successful lawyer who feigns memory loss to escape life with his son, to a woman who keeps a scrapbook of every local crime.

Monday, April 3, 2017

After GHOST IN THE SHELL, try...

Did you see the live-action remake of GHOST IN THE SHELL, starring Scarlett Johansson, this weekend? Here are some movies and books to try after seeing the newest sci-fi blockbuster.


  • Ghost in the Shell: While the franchise originally started as a manga, this classic anime is a must-see for both science-fiction and anime fans alike! 
  • The Matrix: Urban legend has it that when the Wachowskis pitched their groundbreaking sci-fi action movie to producers, they showed them the Ghost in the Shell anime as their primary inspiration. 
  • Appleseed: Another science fiction anime, Appleseed follows a newly recruited female soldier as she begins to see cracks in the "utopia" she lives in. 
  • Lucy: Ghost in the Shell isn't Scarlett Johansson's first sci-fi blockbuster! In Lucy, she unlocks the full capacity of her brain power, making this a kinetic and crazy action movie.
  • Robocop: More than just another 80's action movie, the original Robocop explores human identity as it becomes fused with advanced technology - just like Ghost in the Shell. 
  • Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan: In the first novel of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, we're introduced to a world where your consciousness can be downloaded into a new body...making death all but obsolete. Good for mystery fans who want some sci-fi bite to their hard-boiled detective. Soon to be a Netflix series. 
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick: Famously adapted into Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner, Dick's novel takes place in a grim science fiction world where androids look just humans, but are hunted down by the police. 
  • Neuromancer, by William Gibson: Often credited with single-handedly creating the "cyberpunk" sub-genre of science fiction, Neuromancer follows a cutting-edge cyber heist. 
  • Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami: Prefer your science fiction a little more literary, a little less science-y? Try Murakami's acclaimed exploration of identity as one man delves into a strange vision of Tokyo's underworld. 

Looking for even more? Stop by the Reader Services or Audiovisual desk and talk to a librarian today! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The History of Our Food

Why do we eat the things we do? And how did this come to be the case? Read the fascinating histories behind some of our most common and beloved ingredients.

Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova
From the ancient butter bogs of Ireland to the sacred butter sculptures of Tibet, Khosrova details its surprisingly vital role in history, politics, economics, nutrition, even spirituality and art.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Only Kurlansky, winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing for Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, could woo readers toward such an off-beat topic. Yet salt, Kurlansky asserts, has "shaped civilization." A piquant blend of the historic, political, commercial, scientific and culinary, the book  is sure to entertain as well as educate.  

While this book does not claim that garlic saved civilization (though it might cure whatever ails you), it does take us on a grand tour of garlic's fascinating role in history, medicine, literature, and art; its controversial role in bigotry, mythology, and superstition; and its indispensable contribution to the great cuisines of the world.  

In a recipe book that is part cultural critique and part culinary history, Mendelson reaps nearly 400 fascinating pages from that most elemental of ingredients. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fiction Featuring Historical Women

Historical fiction often features the more well known figures in history, particularly when it comes to women.  Here are some works that highlight the lives of less well known, but very important women figures in history.

Mitza Marić has always been a little different from other girls. Most twenty-year-olds are wives by now, not studying physics at an elite Zurich university with only male students trying to outdo her clever calculations. But Mitza is smart enough to know that, for her, math is an easier path than marriage. And then fellow student Albert Einstein takes an interest in her, and the world turns sideways. Theirs becomes a partnership of the mind and of the heart, but there might not be room for more than one genius in a marriage.  Fictional account of the wife of Albert Einstein who was also a brilliant physicist.
A Palace concubine, young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget. Mei's intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.  Mei, also known as Wu Zetian, went on to become  Empress Wu, was involved in the expansion of China. 
Margaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and Utopian science fiction at a time when 'being a writer' was not an option open to women. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was "Mad Madge," an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London--a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution--and the last for another two hundred years.
Tells the story of Saint Hilda of Whitby.  Daughter of a poisoned prince and a crafty noblewoman, quiet, bright-minded Hild arrives at the court of King Edwin of Northumbria, where the six-year-old takes on the role of seer/consiglieri for a monarch troubled by shifting allegiances and Roman emissaries attempting to spread their new religion.

A fictional portrait of one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century follows the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, who sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom.