It’s July! Celebrate summer, family, and freedom and enjoy the titles listed below.
Sue – Circulation
Grantchester starring James Norton and Robson Green, New DVD Grantchester, Series 1
This series is set in 1953 in Grantchester, a rural village outside of Cambridge, England. It focuses on Sidney, the young, handsome, and vibrant local vicar, and Geordie, the local police detective. Sidney is good at his job – his parishioners trust him and go to him with their problems, but he is a flawed hero. He drinks too much, his love life is complicated, and he is haunted by his service in World War II. Plus he is not above breaking one of the commandments or the law for the greater good. Geordie is a no-nonsense kind of man, married with a large family. Sidney and Geordie meet in the first episode of the series when a woman suspects a local death was not suicide, but murder. The two become best of friends and Sidney thereafter helps Geordie solve cases. As a trained detective, Geordie focuses on facts and procedure while Sidney is intuitive and quick-witted; together they make a good team. The show is highly entertaining, with a good balance of fun and seriousness. It has been renewed for a second season.
Palisades Park by Alan Brennert, Fiction Brennert
I enjoyed this book that mixes historical information about the now-closed Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey with the fictional lives of the character Eddie Stopka and his family. The book opens in 1922 when a 10-year old Eddie visits Palisades Park for the first time. From there on out, the park will have a profound impact on his life and the lives of his family, particularly his daughter Toni. We follow Eddie as he leaves home as a teenager, works in the South for a few years, and then returns to New Jersey to work at Palisades, eventually owning his own concession stand, marrying, and having two children who practically grow up at the park. As a very young child, Toni saw a high diver perform at the park and was inspired to become a high diver herself, against the wishes of her mother. The novel explores a number of important events in American history through the prism of the park and its employees, including World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Korean War. We watch Toni and her brother grow up and see the direction their lives take, influenced by their upbringing as concessionaires of the park and choices made by each of their parents. This book is entertaining with well-drawn fictional characters that we care about, as well as real-life characters that were involved in the actual operation of the park over the years, which closed its doors in 1971. A great blend of fiction and fact in a moving family story.
Rose by Li-Young Lee, New Nonfiction 811.54 Lee
Li-Young Lee is an award-winning poet, born in Indonesia in 1957 to parents who were political exiles from China. In the late 1950s, his family fled Indonesia, eventually emigrating to the United States and settling in Pennsylvania. He currently resides here in Illinois. His poetry is lush and sensuous, evoking feeling through descriptions of taste, smell, hearing, and touch, and celebrating small moments in time while focusing on meaningful issues like family, love, and memories. This collection is very reflective, being greatly influenced by the death of Lee’s father, whom Lee views as an almost mythical figure, having been the personal physician to Mao Tse-tsung, and later a political prisoner and then a minister in his new country. My favorite poem in this collection is “From Blossoms.” Its figurative language is tantalizing – you can almost taste the sweetness of the fruit. I like the way the poem goes from describing the lushness of the peaches to a broader meaning of the lushness and beauty of life. I love the last stanza of the poem, with its repetition, giving strong emphasis to those joyful moments of our lives, that we should hold on to and savor.
Mary – Youth Services
Carnivorous Plants by Tony Camilleri, Nonfiction 583.75 Cam
Some of us may have vague, nostalgic memories of being given a venus fly trap as a kid. But for some of us, the cultivation of carnivorous plants did not stop there…and instead, it turned into an obsession. I am a proud sufferer of carnivorous plant addiction, and Carnivorous Plants by Tony Camilleri hits the spot, it really does. Although this guide on carnivorous plants and their cultivation is a bit dated in terms of the latest growing tips, I do think it still stands as an important work on the topic. Also relevant are the stunning photographs taken of a variety of carnivorous plants. You will not believe your eyes. (Or that these plants are real!) After all, did you know that the seeds of the Byblis gigantea will only germinate after a fire? And if you want to grow these small plants, you must actually create a small fire? Or that the carnivorous plant called The Rainbow Plant (Byblis) is named after a woman in a Greek mythology, named Byblis, who cries so much that she turns herself into a fountain? Or did you know that some pitcher plants can digest small mammals? If these facts tickle your curiosity, then welcome to the family. Carnivorous plant cultivation and education ensures these endangered and mystifying plants survive for the future years to come.
The Tempest starring Helen Mirren and Felicity Jones, DVD Tempest
This modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s last work is an astonishing accomplishment by director Julia Taymor and Helen Mirren, who plays the leading role of sorcerer Prospera. This modern re-telling places a woman in one of the leading roles of Shakespeare, which works marvelously. The Tempest is a story of family, aging, the relationship between a person and their passion in life, and also, when it is time to let go of one’s power and place. It is the story of the transformation of a sorcerer into something much more tricky to be: a human being. With great performances from Felicity Jones, Ben Wishaw, Djimon Hounsou, and of course, Helen Mirren, this Shakespeare adaptation is incredibly memorable, and I will confess, when I saw it years ago, it was the first time I “got” Shakespeare.
Hubbell – Circulation
Tyrant starring Adam Rayner and Ashraf Barhom, New DVD Tyrant, Season 1
Tyrant is a modern drama whose plot is loosely drawn from the recent political revolutions in the Middle East. Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed reluctantly returns to his father’s kingdom, the fictional and politically fractured Middle Eastern country of Abuddin, for the wedding of his nephew. Barry has wiped away the memories of growing up as Abuddin’s prince, but returns with his American wife, Molly (Jennifer Finnigan), and their two children. During their stay, however, Barry’s violent and sociopathic brother Jamal (Ashraf Barhom) looks to gain control of the country following their father’s death and Barry chooses to stay to guide his homeland on a rough path to democracy. Tyrant was created by the acclaimed Homeland producer Gideon Raff and its second season just began in June of 2015.
Jacob – Circulation
Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg, Nonfiction 027.665 Ste
This memoir is about a young man who takes a job on a whim as a prison librarian. He thinks the job is going to be pretty straightforward and not too tricky. He learns rather quickly, though, that this is not your typical job. He must navigate the murky waters of helping inmates who want nothing more than to be out of prison and appeasing a prison system that want to keep them locked up and orderly. Steinberg details this dichotomy wonderfully, while also describing the numerous characters he encounters while at work. This is an insightful read with a touch of humor.
Brigitte – Circulation
Burning Love starring Michael Ian Black and Ken Marino, New DVD Burning Love, Season 1 and Season 2 & 3
Do you love The Bachelor? Do you hate reality television? Do you like comedy? Then this is the show for you. Burning Love is a satirical “reality show” based on modern dating shows. Produced by Ben Stiller and starring Michael Ian Black, Ken Marino, and June Diane Raphael, these DVDs will keep you laughing.