Friday, December 29, 2017

Kennedy Center Honors - 2017

The Kennedy Center Honors just broadcasted on Tuesday, December 26.

Carmen de Lavallade  - Dancer, choreographer, actress (Born March 6, 1931 in Los Angels, California)
de Lavallade made her debut at the age of 17 with the Lester Horton Dance Theater in the role of Salome.  She appeared in four films, including Carmen Jones (1954) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959).  She made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers, written by Truman Capote with music by Harold Arlen.  She has had ballets created for her by Lester Horton, Geoffrey Holder, Alvin Ailey, Glen Tetley, John Butler, and Agnes de Mille.  Carmen and her late husband, Geoffrey Holder, were subjects of the film Carmen and Geoffrey (2005). She has received the Dance Magazine Award in 1964, an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the Julliard School in 2007, the Duke Ellington fellowship award, and the Dance USA Award in 2010.

Gloria Estefan - Singer, songwriter, actress, businesswoman (Born Glira Maria Milagrosa Fajardo Gaarcia on September 1, 1957 in Havana, Cuba)
Estafan started as the lead singer in the group called "Miami Latin Boys.  Her signature song is "Conga" which she introduced in 1985 and led to the Miami Sound Machine winning the grand prix  at the Tokyo Music Festival in 1986.
She has won seven Grammy Awards and an Oscar-nominated performance for the song "Music of My Heart." She has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Las Vegas Walk of Fame.  In 2015, she receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American music.  Estefan also won an MTV Video Music Award, two ACE Awards and has been given the American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement.  On Your Feet! is the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical based on the lives and music of Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

LL Cool J - Rapper, actor, author, entrepreneur (Born James Todd Smith on January 14, 1968 in Hollis, Queens, New York)
He is a two-time Grammy Award winner and is known as one of the forefathers of pop rap.  He has released 13 studio albums and two greatest hits compilations.  Some of his hits are "I Can't Live Without My Radio," "I'm Bad," "The Boomin' System," "Rock The Bells" and "Mama Said Knock You Out."  In 2016, LL Cool J receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his achievements in music.
He has transitioned to television and currently stars in the CBS hit primetime drama series, NCIS: Los Angeles.  He has received six NAACP Image Award nominations for his role of Special Agent Sam Hanna.

Norman Lear - Television producer (Born Norman Milton Lear on July 27, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut)
Lear has produced such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude, and Mary Harman, Mary Hartman.  He founded People for the American Way in 1980, which remains a influential voice against the radical religious right.  In 1999, President Clinton bestowed the National Medal of Arts on Lear.  He is also among the first seven television pioneers inducted into the Television academy hall of Fame in 1984.  He was awards a Peabody Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Lionel Richie - Singer, songwriter, actor, record producer (Born Lionel Brockman Richie Jr. on June 20, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama)
Richie has sold more than 100 million albums and has had #1 records for nine consecutive years.  He has receive an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and four Grammy Awards. 
Richie first performed with the Commodores, where he had such smash hits as, "Three Times a Lady," "Still," and "Easy."  Other hits are "Endless Love," "Lady," "Truly," "All Night long," "Penny Lover," "Stuck on You," "Hello," "Say You, Say Me" (Won the Academy Award for Best Original Song), "Dancing on the Ceiling," and "We Are the World," written with Michael Jackson for USA for Africa.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

M.C. Beaton

If you like cozy mysteries, but not too cozy, try the Agatha Raisin series from M.C. Beaton. Agatha is Miss Marple with an edge. A retired PR exec, the feisty Agatha thought life in the Cotswolds of England would be picturesque and relaxing. Relaxing yes, but too boring for Agatha so she turns to solving the village crimes. Amusing and fast, these mysteries are a lot of fun. The series is up to 28 books and counting!

Start with Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death.

M.C. Beaton also writes the Hamish MacBeth mystery series, the first of which is Death of a Gossip, as well as historical romance novels under her real name, Marion Chesney.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker

Gregory Maguire is the author of "Hiddensee: A Tale Of The Once And Future Nutcracker."

It's that time of year — Sugar Plum fairies dancing in delight, the Mouse King, a gorgeous Christmas party, a prince, and that instantly recognizable music.

The Nutcracker ballet is a beloved holiday perennial, but Wicked author Gregory Maguire's new novel Hiddensee— which is based on the Nutcracker tale — is not exactly meant for kids. It tells the backstory of the powerful toymaker, Herr Drosselmeier, who gives the Nutcracker to Clara.

"Like most Americans, maybe people around the world, I saw the ballet," Maguire says. "And one of the things that captivated me about it was that scene where the Christmas tree grows 40,50, 60 feet high, and that seemed to be one of the most magical transformations I have ever seen on the stage, even if the rest of the story seemed to me demented. Yes. Well, it's crazy. It's broken. It doesn't make any sense." Maguire describes what  he wanted to accomplish writing the book:
Act 1 is traditional tale that you might find in Grimm, with the small powerless Clara fighting the great King of the Mice, and that makes sense and is dramatically strong. And we're rooting for the small girl, and all that is great.
Act 2 comes - the most gorgeous ballet music in the world, but it's as if we're sitting in an overstuffed living room looking at the photographs of our grandparents' trip around the world. It has nothing to do with the great drama of Act 1. It's all squandered. And I wanted to know what I could do with this story to make the two parts speak to each other.

It tells the story of Dirk Drosselmeier, the powerful toymaker. "Dirk Drosselmeier is a foundling, or that's what he's told. And he lives in the Bavarian Forest. He's born about 1800 or so, so he's about eight years old in 1808. Now, you may know that just about at this time, the Grimm brothers were combing the woods of Bavaria and Baden looking for those stories that would really cement German Romanticism and the German Romantic fairytale in our minds for the next 200 some years.

So Dirk Drosselmeier is born right at the heart of the German fairy tale in a sense. And I decided to take his life story as a small poor boy in the backwoods, as it were, of Europe and see how he grows up to be able to enter the salons of Munich and to be the one person who can stand between the little girl and the great darkness threatening her on Christmas Eve." The rest of the interview with Gregory Maguire can be read on NPR.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Librarian Favorites of 2017

Starting December 4th and lasting for 10 days, librarians across the country tweeted their top 10 favorite books of the year. Librarians are BIG readers and a list of their favorites is sure to give me great ideas to add to my personal “to read” list. Here are a few books that made it to the very top of the Librarian Favorites list.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This young adult novel for mature teens should not be overlooked by adults.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The audio version of this book is highly recommended.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You.

Eleanor Oliphant -- despite her social isolation and the rules she sets to survive weekends -- insists that she is just fine. But is she really? The gentle overtures of a coworker who accepts her as she is gives her the emotional support she needs when a horrific and embarrassing event forces her to reevaluate her life. As it turns out, Eleanor Oliphant is absolutely not completely fine... Though an emotional read, Eleanor's unique take on life offers plenty of humor.

The Dry by Jane Harper

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to his small Australian hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago, as a teenager, Falk was accused of murder and Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke's steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there's more to Luke's death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. 

The sequel, A Force of Nature, will be published in February 2018.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Readers can imagine the frustration of book editor Susan Ryeland: the final chapters are missing from author Alan Conway's latest mystery manuscript starring his Poirot-esque detective! Conway’s sudden, suspicious death means that Susan must piece together the ending by interviewing his friends and family; then she realizes that the novel’s characters are stand-ins for real people and that the book may be related to the author’s death. Containing a novel-within-a-novel, suspense, and plenty of details that Golden Age mystery fans will relish, the cleverly plotted Magpie Murders has something for everyone.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Catching Up on Star Wars Books

The Last Jedi, the newest entry to the Star Wars franchise, was released in theaters this weekend. Thirsty for more Star Wars, but don't know where to start?

Since the original release of the first Star Wars film in 1977, the franchise has been a pop culture juggernaut with countless spinoff novels, comics, TV Shows, video games, and more. For a long time, the Star Wars "Expanded Universe" (or EU for short) kept the story going, both before the movies were set, and long after Episode VI's conclusion.

However, when Disney bought the franchise, most of this Expanded Universe was declared "Legends", or unofficial. This was to make room for a new era of movies and books for a more unified universe.

How do you know what's official and what's not? Outside of the nine Star Wars movies and two Star Wars TV shows (Clone Wars and Rebels), only some novels and comics are deemed "canon". Here is a list of all of the canon Star Wars novels, as of the release of The Last Jedi in theaters.

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden - Based on an unfinished group of episodes from the Clone Wars TV show, this is the story of a Jedi mission to assassinate Count Dooku with the help of his former apprentice.

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn - Grand Admiral Thrawn was first part of the Expanded Universe rendered unofficial, but sees new life as a cunning villain in this novel. You can also see Thrawn in the Rebels TV show. Thrawn first appeared in the now unofficial Heir to the Empire.

Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp - Takes place after Revenge of the Sith and follows Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine as they are hunted by revolutionaries on an alien planet.

A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller - follows characters from the animated Rebels TV series, shortly after Revenge of the Sith.

Tarkin by James Luceno - the story of Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing in the first Star Wars movie.

Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston - Bridges the gap between the Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows, following Anakin Skywalker's former apprentice as she goes into hiding.

Catalyst by James Luceno - set after Revenge of the Sith leading up to Rogue One, tells the story of the development of the Death Star superweapon.

Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne - set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, chronicling the adventures of a young Luke Skywalker.

Twilight Company by Alexander Freed - Ties in with the Star Wars Battlefront video game, taking place right before The Empire Strikes Back. The titular Twilight Company is on the front line of the Rebel Alliance struggle against the evil Empire.

Inferno Squad by Christie Golden - Taking place after Rogue One, follows the Empire's elite Inferno Squad as they hunt down rebel extremists.

Aftermath by Chuck Wendig - Set just after Return of the Jedi, tells the beginnings of the New Republic's attempts to defeat the remaining forces of the Empire.

Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig - The sequel to Aftermath, follows a mission to find Han Solo who has gone missing on the wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk.

Aftermath: Empire's End by Chuck Wendig - The last of the Aftermath trilogy, leading into The Force Awakens.

Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson - The origin story of the villainous Captain Phasma, first introduced in The Force Awakens.

Bloodline by Claudia Gray - Takes place 5 years before The Force Awakens, and focuses on Leia's attempts to bring lasting democracy to the galaxy while struggling with the shadow of her family's legacy.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Los Lobos in the Windy City!

It looks like the cool LA band was in Chicago for a couple of shows recently. With more than 40 years in the business, this hard working, constantly touring band – David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin – extend an invitation to hear some tracks from their latest release, Gates of Gold (2015). If you like Los Lobos or want to get to know them better, here is a list of CDs in our collection, but don't forget you can put their sound in your pocket with Hoopla, without even leaving home. My favorite songs are Kiko and the Lavender Moon, Set Me Free (Rosa Lee), and La pistola y el corazón.
Available for download on Hoopla
And here is a list of CDs available for checkout.
Los Lobos CDs

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First Novels: 2017 Debut Authors

I really enjoy reading debut authors as they often bring something fresh and new to fiction. Here are a few from the class of 2017. Happy Reading.

American War by Omar El Akkad
In the near future, the United States is again at war with itself. Fossil fuels, which have devastated the environment, are banned, but the states rich in them refuse to comply with the Federal government and thus secede from the union. Biological warfare, drones as killing machines, and state against state fighting contribute to make this a prophetic novel.  Multiple narration and clashing viewpoints combine to make this an engrossing and        shocking read.

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
Narrated by autistic, newly adopted Ginny Moon, who, at thirteen can't forget her birth mother or sister, Ludwig's novel is an unforgettable page-turner about family and how special-needs children are treated.

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Living with her parents in a counterculture commune, 14-year-old Linda finds her perceptions changed by the scandal-marked arrest of a teacher and the secrets of a new neighbor family as she copes with the consequences of actions and failures in the name of love.

No One is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts
A story inspired by The Great Gatsby is set in the contemporary South and follows the difficulties suffered by an extended black family with colliding visions of the American dream.

The Gargoyle Hunters by John Freeman Gill
Enlisted into his estranged father's illegal architectural salvage business in 1974 Manhattan, young Griffin is given to steal 19th-century gargoyle sculptures while traversing the trials of his father's growing demands and his own changing views.

Monday, December 11, 2017


The latest film from Guillermo del Toro is now in theaters. If you liked this fantasy romance, you might also like these films:

Amélie: A quirky romance saturated in warm colors and lush sets - visually similar to The Shape of Water, but more grounded in the real world.

Creature from the Black Lagoon: The amphibious man at the center of The Shape of Water bears a great resemblance to this classic Universal Monster, and is one of the primary sources of inspiration.

The Lure: A horror flavored retelling of The Little Mermaid. More gruesome than The Shape of Water's romance, but similar in its treatment of music, color, and nautical romance.

The Red Shoes: Cited as an inspiration for the film, and a classic not to be missed (coincidentally, also similar to The Lure in that it is an adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale).

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg: The Shape of Water constantly references the works of Jacques Demy - start here, then try Donkey Skin.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mistletoe Meet 'n' Greet - New Holiday Love Stories

Enjoy GPL's new holiday love stories - perfect for the fireside easy chair accompanied by a mug of steaming hot cocoa on a cold snowy night.

Our top pick is -
Christmas at Two Love Lane by Kieran Kramer
While in Charleston for business, Yankee CEO Deacon Banks needs someone to line up some dates, but when he asks Macy Frost, part-owner of Two Love Lane  Matchmaking Agency, for help, Macy tells him she is going to find Deacon the love of his life. It's an engaging and heartwarming contemporary romance full of fast-paced fun. Brimming with sassy southern charm and an abundance of deliciously dry wit, this debut entry in Kramer’s Two Love Lane  series is a festive treat.

A sizzling spicy story -
Maybe This Christmas by Jennifer Snow
When her best friend NHL star Asher Westmore, sidelined from the ice due to an injury, returns home for the holidays, physical therapist Emma Callaway, while helping him heal, must keep her feelings in check after they add benefits to their friendship. The romance of the Christmas holiday season is enhanced by the backdrop of small-town Colorado. It's a steamy and engaging sports romance with well developed characters.

As sweet as a holiday treat -
Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber
With her family, the holidays, and  her difficult, by-the-book  boss all demanding her attention, Merry  Knight, a temp at a consulting firm, has no time for a social life. Her mother and  brother take matters into their own hands and  sign her up for an online dating site (under a pseudonym, with the family dog as her photo), leaving Merry  annoyed, then curious, and  finally amazed when she connects with a kindred spirit. But her cyberbeau is none other than her overworked, difficult boss Jayson Bright , something neither of them knows until they have almost fallen in love. It's a mildly sensuous and tender holiday delight and sure to please romance lovers of all ages.

Expect to shed a tear or two -
Holiday Spice by Samantha Chase
Ben Tanner is happiest alone in his woodworking studio, but he needs help writing a book . A friend suggests Darcy Shaughnessy, and they are instantly attracted but unable to act until a huge snowstorm forces them to face their concerns, including Ben’s difficulties with celebrating Christmas.
It's highly engaging and one of the strongest in Chase’s (A Sky Full of Stars, 2016) excellent Shaughnessy Brothers series. Though it's light and fun, it's an emotionally complex contemporary holiday romance.

Hope you find that these new romances can warm even the coldest heart!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

When we typically think of time travel, we envision hulking machines (or maybe just hulking Deloreans), blinking lights, and beeping alarms.  But sometimes, time travel isn't all whirring motors, blinking lights, and science fictional leaps through time and space.  Sometimes, you just happen to accidentally find yourself traveling through time, no extra equipment required.

Below are some of my favorite books dealing with unconventional time travel.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

As far as time machines go, a magic telephone is pretty useless.

TV writer Georgie McCool can't actually visit the past -- all she can do is call it, and hope it picks up.
And hope he picks up.
Because once Georgie realizes she has a magic phone that calls into the past, all she wants to do is make things right with her husband, Neal.
Maybe she can fix the things in their past that seem unfixable in the present. Maybe this stupid phone is giving her a chance to start over ...

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town.  Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke…Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

After Kivrin Engles, a twenty-first century Oxford University history student, is accidentally sent back through time to medieval England during the time of the Black Death, she becomes stranded in the past.

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

Waking up in a modern London hospital 200 years after meeting his death on a Napoleonic battlefield, Nick Falcott is indoctrinated into a time-traveling society and returned to the side of a woman he loves to reclaim a vital talisman, a mission that places the fate of the future in his hands.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The love story of Henry and Claire whose lives are punctuated by Henry's disappearance to different points in time--sometimes even back to visit Claire as a young woman. When Henry meets Claire, he is twenty-eight, and she is twenty. He's a hip, handsome librarian; she is an art student with Botticelli hair. Henry has never met Claire before; Claire has known Henry since she was six...

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mysteries for Christmas Part 1

Some folks like their mysteries all year round. Here are some suggestions for some newer Christmas titles.

When her holiday float is sabotaged, Merry Wilkinson, the owner of Mrs. Claus's Treasures, must discover who the Scrooge is in Christmas Town after the dead body of a reporter is found and the evidence points to her best friend, Vicky.

Death by Eggnog by Alex Erickson

When a murder halts the production of the local holiday musical extravaganza, bookstore-café owner Krissy Hancock, deciding to investigate, is faced with a pageant of suspects and must find the its curtains for someone else.

While serving as an assistant to the hostess of a large Christmas house party in Tiddleton-under-Lovey, Georgie gets the attention of her retired detective grandfather after dead bodies begin showing up.