Thursday, June 28, 2018

Tony Awards - 2018

The 72nd Annual Tony Awards was held on June 10, 2018 at Radio City Hall in New York City.  Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles served as hosts.

The Band's Visit
Musical about an Egyptian police orchestra stranded for a night in Israel.  From the musical - "Nothing is as beautiful as something you don't expect."

Best Musical
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Tony Shalhoub)
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Katrina Lenk)
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Ari'l Stachle)
Best Book of a Musical in a Musical (Itamar Moses)
Best Original Score of a Musical (David Yazbek)
Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Tyler Micoleau)
Best Direction of a Musical (David Cromer)
Best Orchestrations of a Musical (Iamshied Sharifi)
Best Sound Design of a Musical (Kai Harada)

Once on This Island
Best Revival of a Musical

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Lindsay Mendez)
Best Choreography of a Musical (Justin Peck)

SpongeBob SquarePants
Best Scenic Design of a Musical (David Zinn)

My Fair Lady
Best Costume Design of a Musical (Catherine Zuber)

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child, Parts 1 and 2
Best Play

Angels in Heaven
Best Actors (Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane)

Three Tall Women
Best Actresses (Glenda Jackson and Laurie Metcalf)

Lifetime Achievement
Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Monday, June 25, 2018


The fifth movie in the Jurassic Park franchise debuted this weekend. If you like dinosaurs, disasters, and more, try these materials:


Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton: Where it all began. Crichton's first novel in this series (he only wrote two) starts the saga of genetically re-engineered dinosaurs wreaking havoc on an island. You might also want to revisit Spielberg's adaptation, as well.

Meg by Steve Alten: The megalodon was a prehistoric shark estimated to have reached a length of nearly 60 feet and weighing up to 38 tons. Jonas Taylor, deep sea diver and paleontologist has seen one alive today - but nobody believes him. A movie adaptation is due out this August.

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle: Doyle's first novel featuring Professor Challenger sees the hot-headed professor travel to the Amazon basin where many extinct creatures still live.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes: It's the ape's world, we're just living in it. At least, that's the premise for this prequel to the lengthy Planet of the Apes franchise. Genetic engineering, man against animal, and action-packed disasters!

12 Monkeys: This gloomy scifi flick also deals with an animals rights organization bent on releasing captive animals, much like Fallen Kingdom.

The Impossible: The second film from Fallen Kingdom director Juan Antonia Bayona, is loosely based on the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

Friday, June 22, 2018

World War II -German POWs on the American Homefront?

I just finished facilitating the May Page Turner's book discussion of the book entitled The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna. It's a memorable, suspenseful coming-of-age and love story which explores a hidden side of the home front during World War II when German POWs were put to work in the Wisconsin farm community of Door County. Struggling to feed their family while keeping their farm going, Thomas and Charlotte Christiansen persuade local authorities to allow German prisoners of war from a nearby camp assist with their upcoming cherry harvest.This is a great book for readers who like historical fiction and family drama. I decided to blog about this when I discovered that the majority of our group, myself included, did not realize that during WWII thousands of WWII prisoners ended up in mills, farm fields and even dining rooms across the United States, especially in the Midwest. Once military base camp labor needs were met, POWs were placed in other areas to be employed by private business owners. In Wisconsin, POWs worked primarily in seasonal agricultural employment, although some worked in the lumber industry or manufacturing. Their labor filled a desperate worker shortage. In fact, there was a prisoner-of-war camp, Camp Skokie Valley in Glenview.
This realization piqued my interest in other books on this topic.

For nonfiction, check out -

Nazi Prisoners of War in America by Arnold Krammer which tells the full story of how the U.S. government between 1942 and 1945, detained nearly half a million Nazi prisoners of war in 511 camps across the country. Krammer describes how the handling of these foreign prisoners led to the hasty conversion of CCC camps, high school gyms, local fairgrounds, and race tracks to serve as holding areas.

For fiction books similar to The Cherry Harvest that share the same genre (historical fiction) and subjects of the World War II and family relationships, check out -

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This novel is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of WW II.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This novel is about two sisters struggling to survive during World War II in France. One sister is rebellious and intent on fighting for France while the other simply wants to survive the war with her family intact. Both sisters learn who they are and what they are capable of as the war wages on.

The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
This is about the Ravensbruck Rabbits: seventy-four women prisoners in the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Using alternating first-person narratives, the characters relate their experiences from 1939 through 1959. Drawing upon a decade of research, Hall reconstructs what life was like in Ravensbruck. More than a war story, this is a tale of how the strength of women’s bonds can carry them through even the most difficult situations

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff
This is an emotional, heartwarming, and heartbreaking story about a traveling circus in Europe during WW II and the friendship and sorrow of two women aerialist performers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Reading takes you everywhere...Time Travel

The Library's annual summer reading program is underway. Have you mapped out your reading strategy? If not I have a couple of great selections for our Sci-fi/Fantasy readers. Check out one of these Out of This World novels.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffengger
Passionately in love, Clare and Henry vow to hold onto each other and their marriage as the struggle with the effects of Chrono-Displacement Disorder, an illness that casts Henry hesitantly into the world of time travel.

Replay by Ken Grimwood
Jeff Winston is feeling trapped in a bad marriage when he suddenly dies of a heart attack. He awakens at Emory University and he's 18 years old again. Miraculously he remembers what happened during his life and what the future holds. He has no idea how this happened to him or what to do with the lifetime of knowledge he has acquired. 

 Kindred by Olivia Butler
Dana, an African-American woman, finds herself recurrently transported to the antebellum South, where she must make sure that Rufus, the plantation owner's son, survives to father Dana's ancestor. 

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Receiving a horrifying essay from a GED student with a painful past, high-school English teacher Jake Epping is enlisted by a friend to travel back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a mission for which he must befriend the troubled Lee Harvey Oswald. 

Timeline by Michael Crichton
In an Arizona desert a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within a day he's dead, his body quickly cremated.  Halfway around the world archaeologists make an astounding discovery at a medieval sight.  Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed amazing technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but enter it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Weird-But-True Story Takes Flight In 'The Feather Thief'

The Feather Thief  by Kirk Wallace Johnson is one weird-but-true story. It's a story that leads readers from 19th century scientific expeditions into the jungles of Malaysia to the "feather fever" of the turn of the last century, when women's hats were be-plumed with ostriches and egrets. And it's a story that focuses on the feather-dependent Victorian art of salmon fly-tying and its present-day practitioners, many of whom lurk online in something called "The Feather Underground."

Johnson takes up fly-fishing as a way to manage his PTSD which is a consequence of years of aid work in Iraq. While fishing in the Red River of New Mexico, Johnson's guide began telling him about his own hobby of Victorian salmon fly-tying. The ornate flies, the guide explained, were more of an art form than a fishing tool; they're composed of the iridescent jewel-toned feathers plucked from many of the rarest birds in the world, like the Indian crow and the king bird of paradise.

Then, the guide went on to tell Johnson the bizarre story of a master fly-tier named Edwin Rist. In 2009, Rist — who was then a 20-year-old American student at the Royal Academy of Music in London — broke into the Tring Museum, a suburban outpost of the British Natural History Museum that was established during the Blitz. Once inside, Rist stuffed hundreds of rare bird skins into a suitcase he'd brought along. Many of those birds bore tags identifying that they'd been collected 150 years earlier by a naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace, who was a colleague of Charles Darwin.

It turns out that what started off for him as an escape from the strains of refugee aid work became a mission to alert readers to the vulnerability of natural history collections like the Tring that may hold answers to the problems of extinction and climate change. These days, scientists can study those bird specimens to learn about rising mercury levels and other changes in the ocean and atmosphere. The Feather Thief is a real-life story that reads like classic thriller.

Monday, June 11, 2018

After OCEAN'S 8 and HEREDITARY, Try...

Ocean's 8 follows up the Ocean's 11 trilogy of fun heist flicks with a new Ocean, this time played by Sandra Bullock (playing Clooney's brother). The film also stars Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway. If you liked Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy, this new entry to the series, or even just fun heists in general, try these:


The Heist by Janet Evanovich: In this first entry to the "Fox and O'Hare" series, a notorious thief teams up with an FBI agent to bring a corrupt investment banker down.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: Have you ever wondered, "What if Ocean's 11, but set in the Game of Thrones universe"? You might try this first entry to Lynch's fantasy series, full of fast talking thieves, exhilarating heist sequences, and a totally unique fantasy world.


The Heat: Sandra Bullock plays a thief in Ocean's 8, but an FBI agent in this well received comedy.

Nine to Five: A group of female co-workers work together to get revenge on their boss.

Ghostbusters (2016): Another male-led comedy franchise re-imagined with female leads.

Hereditary has been getting rave reviews, especially for a debut from director Ari Aster. It's billed as one of the scariest movies in recent memory - are you brave enough for a trip to the theater? (This writer was, and agrees with the critics: this one is terrifying!) You might also try these frightening movies:

The Babadook: Both Hereditary and The Babadook deal with family trauma by turning them into haunted-house style scares - while still providing a profound exploration of that trauma.

The Witch: Both films are slow burns until the last act. If you like your horror films more atmospheric and suspenseful than full of things that jump out to scare you, you might like The Witch!

Don't Look Now: Another slower horror film that deals with family trauma at the same time as terror: after the death of their daughter, a couple travels to Italy where they are told their daughter may still be alive.