Tag Archives: science fiction

April 2017

april2017coverIt’s April! Spend a rainy day inside with some of our picks! April 9-15 is also National Library Week, so show your local library some love by stopping in for special activities!

Michelle – Administration

eyeintheskyEye in the Sky starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, and Alan Rickman, DVD Eye in the Sky

This fast-paced movie is an interesting look into drone warfare and the politics behind war in the electronic age. It appears to take place in mostly real-time and shows the tense conflict between ethics and military casualties. Eye in the Sky stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul and Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role.

silence_fallen_layout.inddSilence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, New Fiction Briggs

This is the 10th book in the Mercy Thompson series and it is still as fun to read as the first. The series follows shape-shifting coyote Mercy Thompson as she finds her way into trouble in the supernatural world and works to save herself. While she is surrounded by those more powerful, including werewolves, vampires and the fae, Mercy is an exceptional heroine who never waits to be rescued.

Chris – Technical Services

unlikelycatladyAn Unlikely Cat Lady: Feral Adventures in the Backyard Jungle by Nina Malkin, Nonfiction 636.8 MAL

A born and raised “Brooklynite” (New York) writes of her true adventures as an indoor cat lover and outdoor caretaker of a feral cat family that chooses her backyard as home base.

Chris – Circulation

Awake by Tycho, CD 781.63 TYCHO

awakeTycho is one of those bands you listen to when you just want to chill out. In a genre appropriately labeled chillwave, Tycho creates dreamy compositions using synthesizers, guitars, and other electronics. A steady and driving but not overbearing beat supports the rest of the instruments. Completely instrumental, this is a perfect soundtrack to a lazy night in with friends or a cruise down the highway after long day. Awake is Tycho’s third album, each one becoming a bit more electronic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

January 2017

january2017coverIt’s January! Start off the new year by reading some good books!

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

andeverymorningAnd Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

From the author of the beloved A Man Called Ove comes another tender story about love, family, and loss that will touch your heart. This is a novella of under 100 pages that is told in a dream-like state: you need to read it all the way through before it will all make sense and then you will want to go back and re-read certain parts to absorb the wisdom. The book opens with an elderly man and his young grandson sitting on a bench in a town square. Each day, the square gets smaller. As you read, you realize that the bench and the square are a metaphor and we are really inside the man’s brain: he is beginning to suffer from dementia and he is looking back on his life, trying to cling to each precious memory before it is lost. The book touches on the man’s relationship with his son, his grandson, and his late wife of more than 50 years. There are touching moments when he remembers himself and his wife together when they were young and when he talks to his wife in the present, trying to come to terms with the loss of his memories, his regret over his difficult relationship with his son, and how to explain to his adored grandson that he will lose his grandfather before he is actually gone due to the dementia. Heart-breaking but beautiful, this story brings home the realization that at the end of a life, what matters the most is your relationships with your loved ones. The greatest gift we can leave behind is to be loved and remembered.

youhadmeatwoofYou Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness by Julie Klam, Nonfiction 636.7 Kla

This is a very funny, heartfelt book about how adopting a Boston terrier named Otto helped the author mature and find fulfillment in her life. Before Otto, she was in a rut in her professional life and also thought she would never find love, but caring for him and sharing her life with him gave her the courage to try new things and also taught her that she could compromise in a relationship. Single when she got Otto, she was married and expecting her daughter when he passed away. She also discovered her true calling as a writer during her time with him. She later became involved in dog rescue, which, along with her marriage and child, gave her life purpose and meaning. She relates her experiences with rescue: some hilarious, some heart-breaking, and some that make you angry at people’s cruelty or life’s unfairness. A wonderful story of one woman’s life with dogs and how every dog is special and unique and leaves his or her own mark on our hearts. (By the way, the incredibly adorable dog on the cover is Otto.)

siriusSirius: The Little Dog Who Almost Changed History by Jonathan Crown, New Fiction Crown

This book offers a light take on a dark subject. It is an alternate history, putting a dog named Sirius in the midst of some of the darkest events of the 20th century. Sirius is a charming fox terrier belonging to a Jewish family in 1938 Berlin. Sirius’s family is lucky enough to escape Germany shortly after Kristallnacht. Through a connection with the actor Peter Lorre, they immigrate to Hollywood where Carl, the head of the family, works for Jack Warner, of Warner Brothers. Sirius becomes a famous movie star and hobnobs with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart until a mix-up separates him from his family and sends him back to Berlin, where he ends up the lap dog of Hitler himself and plays a role in the downfall of the Third Reich. Whimsical and absurdist, this is an entertaining book that is ultimately about the love and dedication of family.

Chris – Technical Services

rocketgirlsRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt, Nonfiction 629.407 Hol

The women of NASA, this overlooked group of American women, these female scientists, finally get their story told. Inspiring…a hidden history of our race to space. An easy read for a very complicated subject.

 

borntorunBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, Nonfiction 796.425 McD

I don’t even like running or am a fan and I loved this book. What a bunch of crazy characters! Students of running or anthropology will want to read this book.

 

Dagmar – Circulation

devouredDevoured: From Chicken Wings to Kale Smoothies – How What We Eat Defines Who We Are by Sophie Egan, New Nonfiction 394.12 Ega

This is an interesting book to read, especially after consuming all the holiday food and in conjunction with our New Year’s resolutions. Except, as I learned from the book, those resolutions don’t really start until after the Super Bowl. The book, written by a food writer and Culinary Institute of America director, has been called “a provocative look at how and what Americans eat and why.” Egan takes us for an eye-opening journey about American food culture and examines our changing eating habits – the good as well as the bad ones. The author puts together facts from food science and psychology and creates a powerful yet entertaining and engaging look at diverse food in America. There is a chapter for everyone – it does not matter if you are a curious cook, casual eater, or student of food marketing and psychology. The book is both very entertaining and highly informative. She talks about the phenomenon of sad office lunches and about our obsession with the latest trends (low-fat, organic, gluten free, etc.) My favorite was a very insightful chapter on Democratization of Wine in which the author explores the role that Trader Joe’s played on changes to the American food market. Thank you, Trader Joe’s!

Chris –  Circulation

fireflyJoss Whedon’s Firefly. The Complete Series starring Nathan Fillion, DVD Firefly

Before he was crime novelist Richard Castle in ABC’s Castle, Nathan Fillion portrayed space pirate Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly. Shrewd and clever, he is willing to do whatever it takes to survive on the edges of civilization. The best way to describe this short-lived show is space western–it’s what you would get if you set a western in the future. Mal assembles a crew aboard his aging Firefly-class ship, Serenity, and unintentionally develops a fondness for them he never thought possible. This crew is portrayed by Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Adam Baldwin (not related to the other Baldwin brothers), Sean Maher, Summer Glau, and the late Ron Glass. Critically acclaimed and a cult classic, it unfortunately fell victim to its episodes being aired out of order and thus confusing audiences. This collection contains every episode that aired (in the proper order) plus three more that never saw broadcast television, a total of fourteen. I highly recommend this series to anyone interested in sci-fi. The pilot is a bit slow, but if you continue on, it only gets better. For closure, creator Joss Whedon reassembled the crew for 2005’s feature film, Serenity.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

December

dec2016newcoverIt’s December!  Celebrate the holiday season with your loved ones and enjoy the recommended titles below.

 

 

Sue – Circulation

breakfastattiffanysBreakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories by Truman Capote, Fiction Capote

This collection includes “A Christmas Memory,” a beautiful short story set in the early 1930’s that tells of Truman Capote’s tender and loving relationship with Sook Faulk, a distant cousin of his. Capote spent his early childhood in Monroeville, Alabama, with four cousins – three sisters and their brother, while his parents were divorcing and fighting over custody. Sook was more than 50 years older than Capote and simple-minded. The two developed a strong relationship that greatly influenced Capote. The story tells of the last Christmas they spent together before Capote was sent off to school. It is written in an enchanting, evocative language that gives you a feel for the time and place and shows you how deeply Capote and Sook bonded and really captures their personalities. The story describes Capote and Sook’s experiences during the Christmas season, including gathering the ingredients for their annual fruitcake baking, flying kites, cutting down a Christmas tree and decorating it with homemade ornaments, exchanging homemade gifts at Christmas, and generally supporting one another against life’s injustices, as they were both considered misfits in society. It is a touching story that will leave you feeling warm and cozy. Sook is such a loving and gentle woman with an innocence and kindness that makes me wish I could have known her in real life. It is a perfect story for reading aloud each Christmas. There are two other stories Capote wrote about his life with Sook, not included in this volume, but worthy of reading: “One Christmas” and “A Thanksgiving Visitor.”

shepherdangelThe Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry, Fiction Barry

This short novel is laugh-out-loud funny in parts and also tender and nostalgic. The book is narrated by Doug Barnes, a junior high student in 1960, and it revolves around his church’s annual Christmas pageant. This year Doug is playing a shepherd. He and his buddies enjoy pulling pranks that drive the director of the play crazy. His little brother and sister are playing angels in the pageant and Judy, the girl Doug has a crush on, is playing Mary this year. This Christmas season has been somewhat melancholy for the Barnes family because their beloved dog, Frank, is elderly and is not doing well. On the night of the pageant, a series of events come together to create happy endings all around. A warm, feel-good Christmas read.

missreadchristmasMiss Read’s Christmas: Village Christmas and The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read, Fiction Read

Miss Read (the pen name of Dora Saint) wrote two charming, old-fashioned series about English country life: The Fairacre series and the Thrush Green series. These two novels are part of the Fairacre series and are published in one volume as a special Christmas edition. In Village Christmas, the conservative residents of Fairacre are not as welcoming as they could be to a new family in the village: Mrs. Emery, her husband, and their three young daughters. Mrs. Emery dresses flamboyantly and is too familiar according to the older residents of the village. But then something happens on Christmas Day that brings the village together and acceptance of the Emery family. In The Christmas Mouse, Mrs. Berry lives with her widowed daughter and two granddaughters. Late on Christmas Eve, she receives two unexpected visitors. Mrs. Berry’s actions towards these two intruders exemplify the Christmas spirit in this gentle read.

Melissa – Technical Services

mistletoepromiseThe Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans, Fiction Evans

In order to combat the loneliness and questions that come with being single during the holidays, two work associates agree to accompany each other as boyfriend and girlfriend to holiday events. They draw up a contract that details what is to be expected, and the contract ends on Christmas Day with no strings attached or hard feelings. As the two get to know each other, however, they find that not only do they enjoy each other’s company, but that this unusual agreement may have brought together two people who understand each other as no one else can.

jamestaylorchristmasJames Taylor at Christmas by James Taylor, CD 781.72 Taylor

Call me crazy, but Christmas music is lovely to listen to all year round. Christmas music inspires the warmth and generosity of the holiday season, and I see no reason to delegate such wonderful attributes to only one-twelfth of the year. That said, James Taylor’s holiday album is simple and sincere, smooth and endearing.

Chris – Technical Services

rememberRemember starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, New DVD Remember

Remember is a movie I will not soon forget. It stars two well know elder actors, Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau, as Auschwitz survivors looking for revenge and retribution.

 

Dagmar – Circulation

skippingchristmasSkipping Christmas by John Grisham, Fiction Grisham

With the upcoming holiday season upon us, many may have mixed feelings about all the fuss that is often associated with Christmas. Especially if you are a new empty nester like Luther and Nora Krank. Their only child, 23-year-old daughter Blair, fresh from graduate school, was inspired to dedicate the next two years of her life helping others. Her assignment with the Peace Corps took her to Lima, Peru. This was the first time in her young and sheltered life she would spend Christmas away from home. This was quite hard on all of them, especially on her mother Nora. The father, trying to come up with a solution, decided to skip Christmas that dreadful year altogether. No need to shop in crowded malls for unwanted presents, no big annual party, not even a Christmas tree. The decision was made to sail on December 25th on a Caribbean cruise instead. It was a good plan, but, as the Kranks later discovered, it was not that simple to follow through. Skipping Christmas was much harder to do and had many more consequences than they had previously imagined. The story, which is now being hailed as the new modern Christmas classic, offers a “hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition.”

youwantitdarkerYou Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen, New CD 781.63 Cohen

On October 17th, the New Yorker published a lengthy article, “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker,” celebrating Leonard Cohen’s 82nd birthday and his latest album, You Want It Darker. Cohen, who is known for such iconic songs as Hallelujah, If It Be Your Will, and Suzanne, made his last recording already quite ill. As he put it, his situation was bleak and the discomfort acute. His son Adam sensed that Cohen’s “recovery, if not survival, was dependent on …getting back to work.” The new record opens with the title track, You Want It Darker, and in the chorus, the singer declares: “Hineni, Hineni, I’m ready my Lord.”
Hineni, as I later learned, is Hebrew for “Here I am,” Abraham’s answer to the summons of God to sacrifice his son Isaac. According to the New Yorker, “the song is clearly an announcement of the readiness, a man at the end preparing for his service and devotion.” Leonard Cohen died the following month in November 2016.

Chris – Circulation

doctorwhoDoctor Who, The Complete First Series starring Christopher Eccleston, DVD Dr. Who 2005- Season 1

The British television staple Doctor Who was fully revived in 2005 after being canceled in 1989 and spawning a TV movie in 1996. This time around, Christopher Eccleston portrays the Doctor (the ninth iteration of the character). He brings an intensity and brooding nature to the role, appropriate to the plot and themes of the show, along with the signature whimsicality of the Doctor. The Doctor is a time-traveling alien (who just looks like a human) that stumbles into enemy plots to change the course of history or take over the universe. Some are just out to stop his meddling. But being the last of his kind and traveling through the whole of space and time can get lonely. So he comes to Earth and chooses a worthy companion, Rose Tyler, a shop girl from London, to travel with him and reveal the wonders and perils of the universe to her. A science fiction classic, Doctor Who is made for the whole family, though it can get a bit scary for the younger viewers. The Doctor is always ready to teach a life lesson in humanitarianism, compassion, empathy, and the power of well-reasoned thought over violence. Jump aboard the TARDIS and take a trip to Victorian Cardiff, London, in 1941, the present day, the near future, and the end of the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

August

Augustdogdays2016The dog days of summer have arrived! Enjoy the remainder of the summer and check out the recommended titles below.

 

 

 

Sue – Circulation

allgirlfillingThe All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg, Fiction Flagg

This is a delightful book, full of warmth and humor. It tells the story of Sookie in present-day Alabama and Fritzi in the World War II years in Wisconsin. Sookie is a dutiful mother and daughter, looking forward to some down time after getting the last of her daughters married off. Her mother, Lenore, is the leading citizen of their small town and quite a handful. In her eighties, but still going strong, she is narcissistic and makes Sookie feel that she is inferior. There is a history of mental illness in the family and Lenore seems to be losing her marbles, something that Sookie fears is in her future too. When Sookie receives a registered letter from the Texas Department of Health, the news therein is shocking to her and sends her on a quest to learn more about herself and her family history. This is where her life and Fritzi’s life intersect. In alternating chapters, we follow Sookie’s story in the present and Fritzi’s story in the past. The book includes a fascinating history of a part of WWII that I knew nothing about and the interesting history of the development of filling stations in the U.S. after cars became more popular. Sookie is an absolutely charming character – so funny and good-natured. This is a feel-good read about strong women finding their own path in life, very humorous and endearing.

drblakemysteriesThe Doctor Blake Mysteries starring Craig McLachlan, New DVD Doctor, Season One

This is an Australian mystery series set in the late 1950’s. Dr. Lucien Blake returns home to Australia after being away for 30 years to take over his late father’s practice while also serving as the police surgeon. Lucien suffered much during WWII, losing his family and being a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He is a very private man with a stoic disposition and he doesn’t care what the locals think of him, but he is a fine doctor and tenacious while on a case to find the truth. Lucien is looked after by Jean, a war widow who was also the receptionist and housekeeper for his father. The district nurse and Jean’s nephew, a police constable, also board in the house.

The show has a serious tone to it. The colors are washed out so everything appears drab, almost black and white. The writing and acting is strong and the period detail is authentic. Dr. Blake is interested in forensics and is ahead of most of his peers in its use, but he also delves into the psychology of the victims and suspects to find motives, giving the show a human touch.

Mary – Reference Services

waypointkangarooWaypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen, New Fiction Chen

Kangaroo is sent on a mandatory vacation to Mars after he bungles yet another mission. On the interplanetary cruise, he finds himself involved in solving a double murder. Since nothing is ever easy for Kangaroo, he learns that it is actually a massive conspiracy which threatens peace between Earth and Mars. This is a fun summer read for anyone who loves a good spy story. It contains intrigue, action, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and lots of humor.

secondlifenickmThe Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton, New Fiction Hamilton

Steve Hamilton has created a new anti-hero, Nick Mason. In the past, Nick made some poor choices in life – largest amongst them being poor judgement and robbery. He is now paying for those big-time.

The story begins with Nick in prison, serving time for a robbery and the death of an FBI agent. He had been happily married with a 4-year-old daughter. Now he’s divorced and has five years under his belt in the maximum security prison when an offer granting his early release comes his way. He accepts, but the deal comes with deadly terms. Darius Cole, working his empire from his jail cell, now controls Nick. He’s given a new house, new car, and money to burn. The only stipulation is that when his cell phone rings, he must answer and do as directed. As the crimes become more dangerous, Nick’s anxiety and turmoil increases to the point that he is willing to risk all to break free.

Dagmar – Circulation

dinnerwithedwardDinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent, New Nonfiction 921 Vincent

Isabel Vincent is an investigative reporter who just moved to New York from her native Canada. She is new to the city, not quite happy at her job and lonely in her unfulfilling marriage. As an act of kindness, she promises to keep an eye on her friend’s aging father, a recent widower, who just lost his wife after a long and happy marriage of 69 years. Edward, who dearly misses his beloved wife Paula, accepts the newcomer to his life with open arms and agrees to host intimate dinner parties for Isabel, who enjoys their get-togethers tremendously. An unexpected, very unique and precious friendship and a special bond develop between the two. It is not only about the exquisite food and drink that Edward prepares for Isabel so carefully, it is his lessons about enjoying and appreciating good company, beauty, love and life in general, that Isabel is after. Soon Edward plays an important role of mentor in many ways to Isabel, teaching her to slow down, to respect herself, and to live in the moment. “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drank,” Isabel quotes the famous food writer M.F. K. Fisher, and agrees with her that dinner with a friend “can sustain us against the hungers of the world.” The book is a tribute to food, to life, to love, and to Edward.

Hubbell – Circulation

boysinboatThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown, Nonfiction 797.123 Bro or New CD 791.123 Bro (audiobook)

At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany, the American eight-oared crew team shocked the world and won an improbable gold medal. The varsity crew from the University of Washington did so against powerful, more experienced, older crews, especially the hand-selected German boat. This is more than a story about sport, though. The book mainly tracks one member, Joe Rantz, from his Depresssion-era childhood and unstable family life to his success on the world’s stage. Brown’s account also frames the story within the East vs. West mentality still prevalent in America at the time. The crew’s success put Seattle on the map and the Washington crew still remains a national powerhouse.

truthTruth starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, New DVD Truth

One of the first in a string of controversies affecting national news anchors, Truth is about Dan Rather and CBS News’ fall from grace following their story about George W. Bush’s national guard service leading up to the 2004 election. It provides a refreshing retrospective on the story that brought down Rather and is anchored by great performances by Robert Redford (Rather) and Cate Blanchett (60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes). The story centers around what came to be proven as forged documents suggesting Bush had lied about his national guard service. They were, however, presented to 60 Minutes as authentic and unadulterated. The movie raises questions concerning journalistic responsibility and ethics, as well as the rise of corporate interest in the news media.

pentagonsbrainThe Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top-Secret Military Research Agency by Annie Jacobsen, Nonfiction 355.07 Jac

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, is informally known as “the Pentagon’s brain.” It is the top-secret military research department which is responsible for advances in American military capabilities. From the first nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll to the space race, Agent Orange, and drones, Jacobsen’s book chronicles DARPA’s role at the forefront of these new technologies. The agency was created by President Eisenhower, the same man who warned the country of the so-called military-industrial complex taking shape at the end of his term. Since then, DARPA has decidedly become part of that group. In addition to DARPA’s historical role, Jacobsen examines the moral quandaries facing the agency responsible for some of modern warfare’s most devastating weapons.

Chris – Circulation

agaetisAgaetis Byrjun by Sigur Rós, New CD 781.66 Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós is one of the monsters of post-rock, a broad genre that is usually characterized by long songs, ambient sounds, and non-traditional use of the guitar. Hailing from Iceland, they sing in their mother tongue, Icelandic, and in a completely made-up, meaningless, scat-like language called Hopelandic. But don’t worry, you don’t need to learn a new language to appreciate their music. Singer Jónsi uses his voice as another layer of instrumentation to convey the melody on top of the humming synths and violin-bow-strummed guitar.

Their second album, Ágætis Byrjun, “A Good Start” in Icelandic, is the product of the band reworking themselves into what they originally envisioned. Coming in at over an hour of music with only two tracks under six and a half minutes, this is an album meant to be experienced. If you have the time, I highly recommend listening to it straight through. Each track blends seamlessly into the next, causing it to feel like one masterwork rather than a collection of individual songs. It is a journey transcendental in nature. You will be transported to a realm where nothing of this world is of any significance. If you only have time for a few songs, I recommend “Starálfur” for its iconic piano and strings, “Svefn-g-englar” for its mantra-like vocals, and “Flugufrelsarinn” for a calming experience. This is a perfect album if you want to slow down, reflect, and experience something new.

kveikurKveikur by Sigur Rós, New CD 781.66 Sigur Rós

Kveikur is the most recent release from Sigur Rós. Compared to Ágætis Byrjun, Kveikur is darker and a bit more aggressive. This is evidenced by titles translated as “brimstone,” “obsidian,” “iceberg,” “storm,” and “kindling.” Immediately, this is apparent to the listener from the opening of the first track “Brennisteinn” (Brimstone) with several hard blasts of sound, followed by heavy drums and, appropriately, a general atmosphere of fire and brimstone. The title track “Kveikur” has a similar feel. Never fear, there’s still plenty of atmospheric arrangements on here. “Isjaki” (Iceberg) even provides a cool down with a nice pop-like sound. Fans of Sigur Rós will find this a welcome addition to their discography. This might be an appropriate introductory album for new listeners, too. There is enough rock sound to segue into Sigur Rós’s unique brand of alternative rock.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

August

augdogdays2015possible The dog days of summer have arrived! Enjoy languid days reading and watching the recommended titles below.

 

 

Mary – Youth Services

gosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, New Fiction Lee

Go Set a Watchman begins when Scout (now called “Jean Louise”) returns from college in New York, to visit her aging father in her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. All seems to be, at first, as it always had been. A childhood friend, named Henry becomes a determined romantic pursuer; Jean Louise’s Aunt Alexandra oversees that Jean Louise is getting in touch with young girls who never left town for college. Maycomb itself is enclosed in in a quiet standstill, and this childhood stomping ground still holds Jean Louise’s past like a time-capsule. But this mirage is broken, and it is broken fairly quickly as Jean Louise discovers that many individuals within her town – most notably her father, lawyer Atticus Finch – harbor terrifying ideals on race, and what constitutes an ideal American South.

The first thing one needs to know about this book is that it is not To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a very different story. In fact, Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird. After reading this book, I firmly believe Lee wrote it, and it appears to be largely unedited. I also believe that this work was published with her consent. If you are looking for a nod to Mockingbird, however, there is a reference within Go Set a Watchman to the events of that famous trial, with one major plot point changed. It seems like whatever happened to have Mockingbird published before Watchman rests largely with the fact that publishers wanted an earlier version of the famous social-justice lawyer, Atticus Finch. Simply put: they wanted a hero.

In many ways, this work opens a Pandora’s box filled with many of our country’s deep-set problems. Not one character within this story exhibits a healthy perspective on race, an issue which the work is largely concerned with. Even Jean Louise, who can be considered the best of the lot, has a view of race which is problematic, at best. And yes, this will make many people uncomfortable. But because of this, I would argue that Go Set a Watchman is the story that we need for our modern age. This book challenges one to see that even if you believe you have healthy perspectives on race, on sexist attitudes, on religion and bigotry, you better look closer.

But as Atticus’ brother, Dr. Finch, points out, it is time and time again that history will repeat itself. Wars are fought. Lives end. And still, we attach ourselves to heroes. To this, Dr. Finch poses the most interesting question of the novel: When we see our hero’s true face, why is it then we turn away?

stillaliceStill Alice starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart, New DVD Still Alice

Dr. Alice Howard is a celebrated linguist and professor at Columbia University. Only in her fifties, Alice begins to think that something is terribly wrong when small instances of forgetfulness progress to her inability to remember important events and people. Thinking she has a brain tumor, she sets out to find a neurologist, only to find out that she has a rare diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. There are few works which cover the pure confusion and rage at the loss of personal identity to Alzheimer’s disease. An uncomfortable topic for many to openly discuss, individuals with Alzheimer’s are often at odds with their diminishing sense of identity, and the loss of their ability to convey their experiences to others. Julianne Moore gives what was an Oscar-winning performance of Dr. Alice, and it was well-deserved. She brings an astounding performance to this film which challenges the boundaries of what we think is identity, what it means to be alive, and what it means to lose and love. Astounding film that all should see.

Chris – Technical Services

zookeeperswifeThe Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman, CD 940.53 Ack (audiobook) or Nonfiction 940.53 Ack (book)

Drawing on Antonina’s Zabinski’s diary and other historical sources, naturalist Diane Ackerman re-creates life at the Warsaw Zoo before, during, and after WWII. A not particularly brave person, she finds herself responsible for her own extended family, the zoo animals, resistance activists, and the refuge Jews, many smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto. A Polish Christian, she, her husband Jan, and young son believe it is their duty to help all, both animal and human, to survive the Nazi terror. Ackerman, the author of the bestselling A Natural History of the Senses, examines the role of nature in both kindness and savagery, and explores the disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism.

Sue – Circulation

holycowHoly Cow by David Duchovny, New Fiction Duchovny

David Duchovny (yes, that David Duchovny, who has a Master’s degree in Literature from Yale in addition to his acting skills) has written a funny and impactful novel. Holy Cow tells the story of Elsie, a cow on a family farm in upstate New York who discovers that she and the other animals on the farm are destined for slaughter. Upon learning this horrifying news, she decides to run away to India, a country where cows are not eaten, but revered. As she makes her plan to escape, she is joined by a pig named Jerry who wants to go to Israel (no pork in the diet) and a turkey named Tom who wants to go to Turkey (where hopefully he will be respected in a country named after him and not eaten for Thanksgiving.) The three animals’ zany adventures around the world are recounted by Elsie with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, including puns and pop culture references, as well as little nuggets of wisdom. The book is written to be humorous and quirky, but the points Duchovny makes about the horror of factory farms and mankind’s role in the destruction of the environment are valid and worthy.

longmire

Longmire starring Robert Taylor, DVD Longmire, Season 1-3

This series stars Australian actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire, an old-fashioned county sheriff in Wyoming. Walt recently lost his wife and is returning to work. Walt is a very honorable man, hard-working and trustworthy and deeply caring and loyal. Through the first three seasons of the series, his wife’s death and its effect on Walt and his daughter Cady is explored. His wife was suffering from cancer, but dark circumstances surrounding her death are revealed as the series goes on. Walt is running for re-election and his deputy, Branch, is running against him, financed by his rich and unscrupulous father. Unbeknownst to Longmire, his daughter is also romantically involved with Branch. The show co-stars Lou Diamond Phillips as Longmire’s best friend Henry, part Cheyenne and proprietor of the local tavern, and Katee Sackhoff as Walt’s trusted deputy Vic, a transplant from Philadelphia with a storied past. Walt’s jurisdiction runs up against a Cheyenne Indian reservation and he sometimes clashes with the chief of the tribal police. The show stands out from standard crime dramas because of the rural setting, which includes cowboys, Native Americans, cattle, and wide open spaces. It is also slower-paced than most detective shows, befitting its Wyoming setting where life moves at a different pace than big cities. I enjoy the show because of the richly developed characters and intriguing mysteries. It is an intelligent, well-made series with an outstanding cast. Unfortunately, A&E cancelled Longmire after Season 3, but it was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season, which is scheduled to air this fall.

grandmotheraskedmeMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, New Fiction Backman

The second novel from the author of A Man Called Ove. Seven-year old Elsa is different and gets cruelly picked on at her school. Her eccentric grandmother is 77 and Elsa’s best and only friend and stalwart defender. Every night, Elsa and her grandmother journey to a magical place called the Land of Almost Awake – a fairy tale world created by Granny that consists of a number of different kingdoms, all with their own purpose and heroes. In this magical world where being different is celebrated, Elsa feels safe and happy. When her grandmother dies after taking ill, Elsa sets out to deliver a series of letters her grandmother left behind for various people from her life, most of whom are residents of the apartment building owned by Granny where Elsa lives. As Elsa proceeds through each delivery, she learns much about her grandmother’s life before she was born and about the lives of the people around whom she has grown up without really knowing or understanding. She realizes that the stories she has heard her whole life in the Land of Almost Awake are actually pieces of the truth of Granny’s amazing life. This book is a bit complex, with the fantasy world of the Land of Almost Awake colliding with the real world, but it all comes together in the end. I didn’t enjoy it as much as A Man Called Ove, which was wonderful and one of the best new books I’ve read in years, but it is a worthy read, more serious-minded and sadder than Ove, but with a hopeful ending.

Brigitte – Circulation

wolfinwhitevanWolf in a White Van by John Darnielle, New Fiction Darnielle

Wolf in a White Van is the first novel by musician John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. It tells the story of Sean Phillips, a young man with a severe facial disfigurement who is attempting to grapple with the humdrum of every day life as a disabled person. This novel has been described as a deep meditation on escapism, especially through the means of role-playing games. It’s definitely a must-read for the summer if you are looking for something a little heavier.

softskinThe Soft Skin starring Jean Desailly and Francoise Dorleac , New DVD Soft Skin

The Soft Skin is the latest of Francois Truffaut’s films to receive acclaim. This movie follows Jean Desailly, a bored literary scholar, married to his wife but wanting more. He is charmed by Nicole, a flight attendant, and soon they begin an affair. As their relationship grows, the film becomes more frantic. As Jean’s life begins to fall apart, so does the world around him. The ending of this fast paced French film will leave you breathless.

 

Michelle – Administration

exmachinaEx Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, New DVD Ex Machina

This movie took a very interesting look at the creation and use of Artificial Intelligence and the place for AI in the world. It was beautifully acted and kept my full attention until the end. It also gave me something to think about long after the movie was over.

 

chappieChappie starring Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, New DVD Chappie

This movie also delved into the world of AI and what it means to be human. Chappie was completely unexpected. I’d seen the advertising far too many times and I don’t think it captured what this movie is truly about. I cared more about the AI in this movie than I did most of the human characters. As a bonus, it is fun to watch Hugh Jackman play the villain!

 

Hubbell – Circulation

wildtalesWild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) starrring Ricardo Darin and Oscar Martinez, New DVD Wild Tales

A 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Wild Tales is a collection of six distinct vignettes set in modern day Argentina showing everyday people thrown into emotionally charged situations. Produced by Academy Award-winning director Pedro Almodóvar, Wild Tales plunges the viewer into life-or-death situations and presents moral dilemmas where good intentions are not what they seem. You will find yourself unclear about whom to support as the characters take justice into their own hands. The movie’s stories include an episode of lethal road rage following a casual insult, a man’s crazed revenge on a towing company, a family’s plan to do whatever it takes to protect their son from a long prison sentence, and a bride’s maniacal wedding night retaliation on her cheating fiance. Wild Tales is simultaneously hilarious, violent, shocking, and humanizing.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

March

Marchcoverdog

March is here. We’ve almost survived another winter! Enjoy the thaw with a good book.

 

 

Jacob – Circulation

wintersboneWinter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, Fiction Woodrell 

Facing the prospect of losing the family home, a young girl must track down the whereabouts of her deadbeat dad. On her search, Ree discovers a lot about herself, her father, and her rural community. Set in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks, Woodrell crafts a chilling story that leaves you astounded by the courageous actions of the story’s heroine. A very good read.

blueberryyearsThe Blueberry Years: A Memoir of Farm and Family by Jim Minick, Nonfiction 634.737 Min

Jim Minick has a dream of owning and operating an organic blueberry farm. This is his story. It details everything from his struggles with pesky critters and hot Virginia sun to the triumphs of the first berries and the people who pick them. Because Jim chronicles his experience with humor, the book is entertaining and informative.

Sue – Circulation

thehumansThe Humans by Matt Haig, Fiction Haig

I loved this funny, compelling, and deeply touching novel. When a Cambridge mathematics professor named Andrew proves a complex mathematical hypothesis, an advanced species from a distant galaxy comes to earth and kills him. They feel that humans are not ready to handle the consequences of the knowledge this breakthrough would lead to. They send an alien of their species to earth to impersonate the professor. His job: to kill anyone with whom the professor shared his knowledge, as well as his wife and son. This species is devoid of emotion; they are completely logical. Much of the humor in the book comes from the alien Andrew interacting with humans. For example, when he first arrives, he is nude and he can’t believe the uproar this lack of clothing causes. As alien Andrew continues to live on earth and among humans, including the wife and son, he begins to feel emotions for the first time, which confuses him greatly. He has been told that humans are destructive and greedy. He sees this, but he also begins to see more: he listens to music and is moved by the beauty of it; he enjoys eating peanut butter; he finds wisdom in the poems of Emily Dickinson. When he grows to love the family dog, he is in serious trouble. Now that he knows love – completely illogical, yet wonderful, and like nothing he has ever experienced on his home planet, how can he fulfill his mission and kill the two humans closest to him?

hill top farmThe Tale of Hill Top Farm: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert, Fiction Albert

The first book in an eight-book series, this is a gentle read featuring Beatrix Potter, the author, illustrator, and naturalist, set in the Lake District of England, where Potter in her later life became a farmer. Her farms have been preserved by the National Trust and can still be visited today. This series is a fictionalized account of Potter’s life, with many accurate historical facts. It takes place from the time she buys her first farm in the Lake District to her marriage of a local man. In each book, Potter solves a mystery in the community. The local animal population plays a large role in each book and helps to solve the mysteries. A charming series, especially for animal lovers and those who appreciate life in the country.

broadchurchBroadchurch, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, DVD Broadchurch, Season 1

This British drama is set in Dorset, England, along the coast. It tells a single story across eight episodes. The body of an 11-year-old boy is found on the beach in the small, close-knit community of Broadchurch. DS Miller and her new boss, DI Hardy, investigate the case. Miller is a local and close friends with the mother of the murdered boy, while Hardy is a newcomer to the area with a questionable past. The show is powerful and intense, dealing with such a terrible event, and each episode is gripping as the story deepens and we see how many lives are affected by the murder and watch as the community is torn apart. The show is extremely well-done and deals honestly with the emotions of the characters caught up in the drama. We see the press descend on the town and innocent people suffer as gossip and suspicion grow. The show had a shocking ending that I didn’t foresee. A second season will air in 2015, with many of the cast members from season one returning.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, Fiction Todd

dutyThe first in a mystery series by the excellent historical fiction author Charles Todd. This series centers around the life of Bess Crawford, an English colonel’s daughter who grew up in India and is now serving as a nurse on the battlefields of World War I. In this story, a dying soldier asks Bess to deliver a message to his family. While on leave, Bess visits the family and becomes suspicious about their reactions to the message. As she investigates further, she becomes involved in a murder mystery involving the dead soldier’s brother and uncovers years of lies and deception. The book evokes the atmosphere of the age and the mysteries are compelling and complex. I also highly recommend Todd’s Ian Rutledge mystery series, set in the immediate years after World War I and focusing on a Scotland Yard detective who returned from battle suffering from shell shock and his struggles to return to society as he investigates cases.

Mary – Youth Services

goodomensGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Fiction Gaiman

This book was definitely out of my comfort zone. But sometimes, that’s quite a good thing. In this seamless collaboration, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett create a story about our world, but in what appears to be the not-so-distant future of the impending apocalypse. The story focuses on an angel named Aziraphale (part-time antique book dealer, full-time angel) and Crowley (demon who inspired Eve to eat the forbidden fruit). Both Crowley and Aziraphale come to an unlikely partnership because – after all they have done to meddle in human affairs – they find that they quite like living a mortal human life. (The sushi restaurants, mostly.) Filled with irreverent humor, and a British touch for linguistics, I would recommend Good Omens to any fantasy lover, or any fan of quite clever British humor.

affinityAffinity by Sarah Waters, Fiction Waters

Recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has been urged to look into charity work as a remedy for her failing mind. She agrees, and volunteers in the women’s ward of Millbank Prison, London. While at the prison, Margaret meets an enigmatic prisoner, Selina Dawes, who is a self-proclaimed spiritualist and medium. Both Margaret and Selina grow close in each other’s company, and finally, they try to find a way for them both to escape their suffocating lives – and against all odds, to set Selina free. Set in the Victorian Era, this novel is a whirlwind of desire, lies, desolation, and most of all, the hope for freedom that those on the fringes of society long for.

 thisisallyoursThis is All Yours by Alt-J, New Music 781.66 Alt-J

Here we are again reviewing another Alt-J album, but you can’t help it; their music is phenomenal. This is All Yours is an otherworldly blend of dull melancholy, combining elements of rock, indie, and electronic sounds that is sure to be unlike anything you have ever heard. Alt-J is a new sort of Radiohead; a quiet place in a noisy world.

1 Comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

November

novemberIt’s November. Winter is on the way. Enjoy the last days of fall and be thankful for books!

 

 

Linda – Technical Services

lockinLock In by John Scalzi, New Fiction Scalzi

If you’re worrying about Ebola and identity theft, read John Scalzi’s new book for a whole new outlook on these popular 21st Century anxieties. Lock In takes place not too far in the future where a new flu has left some of its victims locked inside their own heads. Computer networks and carbon-fiber technology have created a new breed of humans who live and work along with their biological brothers, but there are huge amounts of money to be made. And there are hackers for sale.

This is classic science fiction, enhanced by Scalzi’s deft characterization and intelligent plotting. Another plus, by reading carefully I was (almost) able to understand the computer stuff, which made me feel smart. So read the book. You’ll feel good about it.

Sue – Circulation

seagardenThe Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson, New Fiction Lawrenson

This mysterious, atmospheric novel interweaves the stories of three women, two who lived during World War II and were active in the French Resistance and one who lives in the present. The book opens in the present as Ellie, an English landscape designer, travels to an island off the coast of France to restore a memorial garden on an estate owned by a man and his elderly mother. The mother’s behavior is erratic and disturbing and Ellie feels unwelcome and even threatened and decides to pass on the job and makes plans to leave. The book then takes us back in time to the war and the efforts of British and French agents in the Resistance movement in France. It follows Marthe, a young blind woman in occupied France who works at a perfumery and discovers that her employers are leaders in the Resistance, and Iris, a British intelligence officer in London who becomes romantically involved with a Frenchman working on behalf of the Allies. As the book unfolds, we discover how the lives of these three women are connected and how the events of the war still reverberate decades later. An exciting story of love, sacrifice, and bravery, as well as the difficult choices that must be made during a time of war amidst confusion and uncertainty.

landofsteadyThe Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson, Fiction Thompson

Sixty years old, with two grown sons, Anders decides he needs to make a change in his life, so he retires from his job, leaves his wife, Helene, and buys a condo. Anders spent his whole life following the rules – working hard, supporting his family – but now he feels like he missed out, spending his life doing what he had to do and not what he wanted to do. Living in a Connecticut suburb, he commuted to the city each day for his job in finance, in which he witnessed corporate greed that has left him disgusted with his former career. His children are a disappointment to him: his older son is a boring corporate drone and his younger son an unemployed wastrel. During his first Christmas since his divorce, he receives an invitation to a party given by his former neighbors. He attended this party for years with his wife. They are really her friends, but he decides to go to the party anyway and it is a disaster. He discovers that Helene is now living with his former college roommate in their marital home. Seeing her doing so well and apparently over him makes him wonder if he made the right decision. Also while at the party, he throws his normal cautious nature to the wind and does drugs with Charlie, the son of the hosts of the party. This action sets off a chain of events that will deeply affect Anders as well as his wayward younger son Preston. Both funny and sad, the book is filled with characters that are neither good nor bad: they feel like real people just struggling to do their best and make sense of their lives. Although I didn’t always agree with the decisions Anders made, especially one near the end of the book, he was a sympathetic character to me – I felt for him and rooted for him to find happiness. I was pleased with the ending.

casehistoriesCase Histories, starring Jason Isaacs, DVD Case Histories, Series 1 and 2

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, this mystery series revolves around Jackson Brodie, a former soldier and police detective, who is now a private detective. Jackson is divorced with a young daughter. He had a tragic childhood, losing his sister and then his brother in acts of violence that have left him psychologically scarred. Jackson is tough, but with a tender heart. He is more interested in seeing justice done than always following the letter of the law, so private detection suits him, as it gives him more leeway than the police. He is an excellent detective because he knows how to read people. The story lines focus more on the relationships among the characters than police procedure. Jackson does, however, frequently call on his former partner in the police force, Louise, in order to get access to police databases. He and Louise have an intense relationship, with unresolved sexual tension between them. She is often exasperated by his unorthodox methods, but has great respect for him. Jackson takes on all sorts of cases, from lost cats to trailing spouses suspected of adultery to murder investigations. Although Jackson sometimes skirts the law, he is a decent man with a strong code of ethics. Isaacs gives a nuanced performance, showing Jackson’s strength and his tenderness. The cases are all interesting with well-drawn characters. I also love the soundtrack to this series. Gritty, soulful rock/folk ballads add to the emotional intensity of the show.

Corky – Circulation

madbadMad, Bad, and Blonde by Cathie Linz, Fiction Linz

When Faith West, a children’s librarian, is jilted at the altar via a text saying her fiance wants adventure and excitement, but not her, she gets mad. Faith goes on her scheduled Italian honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast alone, but doesn’t stay that way for long. She meets Caine Hunter, an ex-Marine, and the sparks fly. (She is oh so bad.) But when Faith finds out Caine lied to her, she doesn’t put up with it, dyes her hair blonde, and the romance is on.

Cathie Linz, a local author, writes a light, funny book with clever dialogue and characters that are both quirky and memorable. This is a steamy romance with a stormy relationship and some suspense thrown in with twists and turns. Mad, Bad, and Blonde is a cute and fun contemporary romance.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews

March!

Our March began pretty snowy this year. Here’s to hoping Spring will come soon!

Cate – Youth Services

sleepwalkSleepwalk With Me – Starring: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, and James Rebhorn, Carol Kane NEW DVD: SLEEPWALK WITH ME

An up-and-coming standup comedian begins to experience intense and often hilarious sleepwalking incidents cause by the anxiety of his stalled career, sister’s impending wedding and uncertainty about the future of his current girlfriend. Based on the real-life experiences of Mike Birbiglia (director, star and writer) and his NPR This American Life special by the same name, this movie is as Time Magazine describes as “Woody Allenesque” is both insightful and funny.

Melissa – Reference

rebeccaRebecca – By: Daphne du Maurier – FICTION: DU MAURIER

“Rebecca” is a gothic classic that seems to permeate the boundaries of time and diction.  Rebecca is the late wife of Max de Winter, yet remains ever present to his new wife, who is never even given a name.  The struggle to overcome Rebecca’s legacy is a situation any new wife would dread.  But this book opens with an awful situation that morphs into something far more dreadful.

My favorite elements of this book and the writing are the characters and theme of interpretation.  The characters are so well-developed and complex, particularly that of Max de Winter.  What will stay with me from this story is the power of misinterpretation of even that of an uncomfortable silence.

supernaturalH. P. Lovecraft’s Book of the Supernatural – By Stephen Jones, et. al. – N_AUD: CD LOVECRAFT’S BOOK…

H. P. Lovecraft has compiled some of the most popular works of the horror genre, and has written introductions to each, noting the most powerful elements of the tale as well as the strengths of the author.  It was insightful to hear Lovecraft, notorious for his own horror writing, give his views on other writers.

While I was familiar with many of the stories, some I was not and found a few I truly enjoyed, including “Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson and “Who Knows” by Guy de Maupassant.

Matt – Circulation

getzGetz/Gilberto – By: Stan Getz, João Gilberto, featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim – CD 781.65 Getz

This is one of my favorite jazz albums fusing jazz with samba and bossa nova into a smooth and breezy sound. Stan Getz brings his knack for smooth, memorable phrasing and mastery of the tenor saxophone with the sweet samba of Gilberto’s guitar and vocals with Jobim on piano. Its an excellent record to just put on and listen to with each song complimenting the next and these three masterful musicians making beautiful sounds together to make an excellent blend of styles.

monkThe Columbia Years: ’62-’68 – By: Thelonious Monk – CD 781.65

Thelonious Monk is one of the most important figures in the jazz scene, if not one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. Emerging from the Be Bop movement as an eccentric genius, Monk was someone whose level of talent was so astronomical that his ideas about compositions and style were hard for other musicians and fans to grasp. His genius shines through on original recordings like “Nutty”, “Blue Monk”, “Epistrophy” as well as standards like “April In Paris”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, and “Bright Mississippi”. A great compilation of Monk’s mid-to-late career.

Check back next month for more picks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Music, and Movie Reviews