Staff Choices

Posted by Uncle Will on 05/10/17
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It's been a while since I ran across a good TV series that stars the U.S. Navy. The Last Ship is an action-packed, apocalyptic, tale told in the near future. A pandemic has occurred and billions of the world's population has been annihilated, save for one American warship. 
The warship's commander has a crew of 216 - all who have been on a mission to the artic, observing strict radio silence, for 4 months. When a genius biologist and her lab partner are attacked by Russian helicopters, the "science data" mission changes radically. Eric Dane plays CO CDR Thomas Chandler, happily married, father of two. His character is somewhat like a cross between John Wayne and The Terminator. Rhona Mitra plays Dr. Rachel Scott, who is set on saving the world. Big, bad boy and former My Bodyguard, Adam Baldwin, rounds out a strong cast who are all dedicated, creative, and honorable. In a second season episode, I actually found myself standing up when our flag was raised on a front porch in a Norfolk neighborhood.
The episodes run about 46 minutes - so it's easy to speed through several at a sitting. Since they are located in the TV section of the DVDs, they each are a 2-week checkout. Five seasons are already planned for this TNT series. Currently, we own 3. With how the world is spinning these days, I found this series to be uplifting and hopeful.
Posted by Lucy S on 05/09/17
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Moonglow is a fictionalized memoir . . . with footnotes. The narrator/grandson visits his taciturn, dying grandfather who has turned into an open book. The grandson tries to fill in the gaps of what he remembers to this new information brought forth. Michael Chabon creates a bit of an eccentric world spanning decades, a story of a family.
Throughout the narrative, the love of the grandfather for his wife does not waver despite him sensing that something was broken within her when they first met. The passing years would tell the extent of it and of how it filters down through generations. How do you explain what love is? The grandmother is French and spent the war in France suffering traumas that haunt her entire life. Today we might call it PTSD. The grandmother’s cultural differences also make for amusing peculiarities when the grandson, as a child, visits his grandparents. His grandmother would bring out tarot cards to tell him stories. Separated by two generations yet connected.
The novel is told back and forth between the present and the past. It covers religion, rocketry, the race to the moon, a war, Werner von Braun, mental illness, a prison stint, standing up for yourself, a villainous uncle harmed at the hand of a family member, great sadness, love and humor. It is told with a tinge of the surreal but also with a warmth that can cocoon a family despite what the world throws at you. The story is very engaging; the author writes with a vocabulary that is rich, but not flowery, forcing me to pay attention and to enjoy the phrasing.
Those who like to read traditional memoirs and fans of Michael Chabon’s other work may enjoy his newest novel.
Posted by Lucy S on 04/17/17
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Aisholpan Nurgaiv is 13 years old at the time of the filming, the daughter of a Kazakh nomad family living in Mongolia. Monday through Friday she lives in a dorm while attending school, her father transporting her via a small motorcycle. She is a typical schoolgirl except that she is determined to learn how to train golden eagles, a traditionally male role. Eagle hunting is a form of falconry that involves riding on horseback and catching small prey with a trained bird.
Among many memorable moments, Aisholpan and her father climb a cliff to take a three month old eaglet from its nest for her to train. Aisholpan is tethered to her father and safety only by a single rope tied around her waist as she clambers down into the eagle’s nest. The scenes when she is training with the eagle are striking. The force of it landing on her gloved arm from full flight just about spins her completely around. She is not afraid and she is strong; she has to be as she and her father ride for miles with their eagles perched on their arms to attend the Golden Eagle Festival competition. These birds can weigh up to 15 pounds with a 5 foot wingspan.
Working with a small film crew, the cinematographers beautifully capture the sweeping steppes of Mongolia; seemingly desolate but also full of life. Classified as a documentary, there are scenes that appear to be timed fortuitously for the camera yet there is no denying Aisholpan’s abilities and the events that took place. Most memorable to me is the support of her family, her father empowering his daughter, and the relationship she has with her eagle. It is beautiful to watch this culture’s traditions and their respect for these majestic birds. The Eagle Huntress is breathtaking to watch.
Actress Daisy Ridley lends her voice to the narration.
Posted by Uncle Will on 04/12/17
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Nowadays there is a lot of competition among TV and filmmakers. Netflix and Amazon appear to be winning over more and more viewers from the 4 major American television networks. One of the problems for American series shows is that they never seem to know when to call it quits. Some shows keep dragging out the story-line until audiences get bored with the redundancy. Why do series from the BBC, Australia, Ireland, and Canada seem to know how to produce tightly written shows year after year?

I recently stumbled upon a gem from BBC Ireland called The Fall. It is a compact 17-show series that stars Gillian Anderson (from The X-Files' fame.) I know that this series has come and gone, but for those of you who missed's not too late to jump aboard.

The story is about a police "huntress" who is brought to Belfast, from the London MET, to hunt for a serial "hunter" of women. The pacing is methodical. The suspense is earned by great scripts and acting.

Unlike most American shows, the key plot points are not described in detail repeatedly; since the producers don't think their audiences can add 2 plus 2 and get 4. The stars of this series spend a lot of time in deep thought before they speak. One might find this irritating; however, so much if left to one's imagination while they deliberate. Remember the "eyes are the window to the soul."

Season 3 (the final season) is now in our catalog with not to long of a waiting list. Season's 1 and 2 are ready on the shelves to be checked out. The ADULT thriller is dark and disturbing, but worth the watch.
Posted by BARB W on 04/09/17
The film Uncommon Grace: The Life of Flannery O’Connor is a revealing portrait of one of the most remarkable authors of the 20th century. O’Connor died at age 39, but in her short life, she left behind a series of stories that continue to captivate her readers and draw the attention of scholars and devotees alike.

The reason? A body of short fiction that will knock the wind out of you. A Southern Catholic in a primarily Protestant region, O’Connor‘s questions of faith are always at the root of her stories. Her characters will be familiar to you: mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children. She will lure you in with these characters, and as she reveals their eccentricities, get ready for these stories to take you to some very dark, violent places in their search for faith and redemption.

Before you watch this, you might want to check out one of her short story collections, Everything That Rises Must Converge, or A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. There was also a film made from one of her two novels, John Huston’s Wise Blood, with Brad Dourif in the starring role of Hazel Motes, a crazy character in conflict with his faith.

From the violent encounter between Grandfather Fortune and Granddaughter Mary Fortune Pitts in A View of the Woods, to the bible salesman who steals Joy’s leg in the barn loft in Good Country People, you will be drawn into the peculiar and curious world of Flannery O’Connor. Indulge yourself with these flawless stories. 
Posted by SherriT on 03/27/17
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It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany packs a lot of emotional impact into a relatively short read. The story centers around two best friends, Tyler and Amber, who have helped each other through rough times in their lives. You meet them as teenagers dealing with issues like body images, eating disorders, anxiety, broken families and strained relationships, and unrequited love. The story is told from both perspectives so you see the characters grow up and their friendship expand over the years, as they get older. Then one horrible night in their twenties, something happens that changes not only their relationship but also their lives forever.

For me, this book read as a very real story. The blurry details, the guilt, and the emotions -- the reader feels all these things from both characters. Unfortunately, this story happens all over the world and is often never reported nor discussed. The topic of consent is one every parent must discuss with both their daughters and their sons. This novel vividly highlights the strength it takes to move beyond an assault. The pages Hatvany wrote capture the emotional toll that rape takes on an individual, their family, and sometimes their assailant.

Hatvany describes what it is like to be on both sides of the date rate spectrum, and her story drives home why it is so important to have conversations with both our sons and daughters. Every high school and college student should read this book to see how one very serious act could ruin the lives of both involved.
Posted by jonf on 03/26/17
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 Nick Mason is in Terre Haute federal prison serving 25 years to life for covering a friend who killed a federal agent. Nick then gets an offer he can't refuse, Chicago cartel kingpin, Darius Cole offers him his release and conviction overturned if he will sign his life over to him for 20 years. Nick must answer his special phone and perform whatever task Darius demands.
Nick is set free and set up in a Lincoln Park townhouse with a vintage mustang and 10 grand a month.
The first call Nick gets reveals how deep he is in with the Cole empire and his handler Quintero, the story brings Nick back to his days in Canaryville and to the man he covered for. Great story, realistic Chicago locales and Steve Hamilton is just a great storyteller.
Posted by Uncle Will on 03/24/17
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Trevor Noah was born in South Africa to a black mother and a white father at the time when a union such as that was a crime under Apartheid rule. Noah's mother had to hide and shelter him for much of his childhood. In a place where Browns were only allowed to live with other Browns; Black only with Blacks; Whites with Whites; etc., a light-skinned African was a beacon of hatred and persecution. Young Noah did not make things easy for his mother, but she taught him to be proud and devout. Most times, she would have to chase him down and beat some sense into him, but his love for her never wavered. This book is humorous and sometimes sad. I had no idea who Noah was before reading this book and wasn't aware that he is a stand-up comic and that he has his own late night TV show in America. Add successful author to his resume. This book has a nice flow to it. I picked it up in our Marketplace just to review it and ended up not being able to put it down. 
Posted by Lucy S on 03/09/17
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Lillian Boxfish was always drawn to the thriving energy of New York City and to the lure of poetry and words; her imagination sparked by postcards her Aunt Sadie mailed to her when she was a child. She moved there as soon as she could despite her mother's disapproval. It is now 1984, New Year’s Eve and Lillian is an elderly woman in years but not in her outlook. She is planning to eat dinner alone, her son far away in Maine with his family.
As she walks across Manhattan on her way to accept a new friend’s party invitation, she meets several people along the way. Not every encounter is pleasant and she handles it in her direct, no-nonsense manner. Life in her beloved city is told through flashbacks. A journey from the Jazz Age to her work writing advertising for R.H. Macy to being a published author of poetry to her marriage and to her grappling to maintain her identity. 
Don’t rush through life seems to be the predominant message but the tone is a little bittersweet to me. I always like a strong female character in a novel who still has vulnerabilities. Her reminiscences reveal how much living can go on in one person's life.
Author Kathleen Rooney lives in Chicago, teaches at DePaul University and has written several books.
Posted by ahenkels. on 03/06/17
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Two by Two is the latest novel by Nicholas Sparks and to me, it did not disappoint. I’ve been a fan of the author since I was in middle school, when I first read A Walk to Remember and The Notebook.  When I picked up Two by Two, I expected something just like Sparks’ other novels, but this one was different for me.

The story is about Russell Greene, a 32 year old marketing executive who thinks he has it all. A beautiful wife and daughter and a great job. This is the story of how it all falls apart for Russ and how he pulls everything together. There is a little bit of everything in this story: love, second chances, betrayal, family values, and successes. It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once I was hooked, it was totally worth it. By the time I was halfway through the story, I could not put the book down. 

The next time you want to grab a book that will touch you in an unexpected way, check out Two by Two. You will not be disappointed.
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