Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Last Station

                There are always movies that make you think about your existence, make you feel sad or happy, or just make you laugh. I am an avid movie watcher.  One of my all-time favorite movies is Last Station. When I first decided to watch this movie it was because it starred James McAvoy (yep, I said it).  I didn’t know what to expect from this movie because I am not really into period pieces.  However, Last Station was an excellent film with superb acting and a great storyline.  It is about Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and it has a couple of risqué scenes that add depth to the movie.

                There are quite a few films that are based on books and this is one of them.  Last Station: A Novel of Tolstoy’s Final Year is a biographical novel written by Jay Parini.  It shows the relationships between Tolstoy, his wife, and his lead disciple.  I think the movie, which stars Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy, Helen Mirren as his devoted wife, and James McAvoy as his personal secretary, did a great job following the flow of the book.  In order to enjoy the films completely, I prefer to watch the movie before reading the book.  I am more of a visual person and I don’t like to know what is going to happen in advance.

                If you want to watch something really good, I would highly recommend Last Station.  It’s a movie that will keep your interest and in the process you’ll learn something about the iconic Russian writer Leo Tolstoy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

TV Series Based On Books (and One Comic)

This month check out our very diverse collection of TV series--on both DVD and Blu-ray!

The following are series that are based on books and one comic:

Friday Night Lights--based on the book Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dream by H. G. Bissinger

House of Cards (US Version)--based on the book House of Cards by Michael Dobbs

Sherlock--based on the Sherlock Holmes series of books and stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle--a good start is A Study in Scarlet.

Outlander--based on the series by Diana Gabaldon--start with Outlander.

Rizzoli and Isles--based on the series by Tess Gerritsen--start with The Surgeon.

Longmire--based on the series by Craig Johnson--start with the Cold Dish.

Boardwalk Empire--based on the book Boardwalk Empire: the Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City by Nelson Johnson.

Orange Is the New Black--based on the book Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman.

The Walking Dead--based on the comic series by Robert Kirkman.

Justified--based on some short stories and the novels Pronto and Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard.

Dexter--based on the series by Jeff Lindsay--start with Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

Masters of Sex--based on the book Masters of Sex: the Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson... by Thomas Maier.

Game of Thrones--based on the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin--start with Game of Thrones.

Bones--based on the Tempe Brennan series by Kathy Reichs--start with Deja Dead.

Call the Midwife--based on the book Call the Midwife: a Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Circle, revisited

If you're a movie hound, then maybe you've heard that David Eggers' The Circle will be hitting the big screen on April 28. Starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, Bill Paxton, and more, it promises to be an entertaining way to pass two hours or so. But have you read the book? I wrote about it a few years back, but if you've forgotten, well, read on.

Have you ever wanted to just grab someone by the shoulders and shake them awake because they seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the things happening around them--or worse, the things happening to them?  If not, allow me to introduce you to Mae Holland (Emma Watson), the naïve young protagonist of The Circle. Trust me, you'll want to do more than just shake her by the book's end.

Truthfully, I really liked Mae at first. I especially enjoyed her excitement and wide-eyed wonder at landing a dream job at one of the world's most powerful tech companies, the Circle. Like most new employees, Mae is eager to please her superiors, including her friend Annie (Karen Gillan), who pulled strings to get her the job, but in doing so she seems almost as eager to give herself away in the process. For example, all Circle employees are expected to participate in various company activities (there are hundreds to choose from) and contribute to the company's social-network feeds (Zing, InnerCircle, OuterCircle, etc.), all of which is taken into account when calculating an employee's "Participation Rank." Okay, whatever: The food in the cafeteria today was excellent. Zing! But when Mae is dressed down for spending a weekend at home rather than staying on campus and "participating," not to mention having the gall to go kayaking without documenting any of it on her social feeds, I was bothered by her acceptance of these criticisms as valid. Unfortunately, Mae telling her supervisors that what she does on her own time is her own business would have been useless, because at the Circle, everything you do is the Circle's business. Rather than rebel, Mae acquiesces, and in doing so, she begins to lose herself.

By the time we reach the second act of the story, Orwellian slogans are being trotted out at a company pep-rally--SECRETS ARE LIES, SHARING IS CARING, and PRIVACY IS THEFT. (Seriously, didn't any of these people read 1984?) Mae finds herself rising quickly through the company ranks and becoming a star both inside and outside the Circle--and, of course, chief rival to Annie for the attention of their social-network overlords. The price is Mae's sense of self and any remaining scrap of privacy she might have held onto, as well as her friendship with Annie. Admittedly, much of what happens in this half of the book is so over the top that I found it silly, but with the ever-growing reach of surveillance, it may not be beyond the realm of possibility.

So there you have it. I can't promise that the movie will do the book justice (they almost never do, understandably), but if your interest is piqued, give it a shot. And by all means, read the book!


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February's In the Queue

No matter if it's freezing rain or snowing outside you are sure to enjoy one of these fantastic new books from this month's In the Queue! I recommend sitting inside and forgetting the weather, while you are entranced by one of these great stories. 

Garden of Lamentations: A Novel by Deborah Crombie
Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are drawn into separate investigations that hold disturbing and deadly complications for them.

Most Dangerous Place: A Jack Swyteck Novel by James Grippando
This spellbinding tale of suspense is based on a true life story. Jack Swyteck defends a woman accused of killing the man who raped her and must separate the need for vengeance from the truth.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan MastaiLiving in an alternate world of flying cars, moon bases, and plentiful food, aimless Tom Barren is blindsided by a time-travel mishap that lands him in the year 2016. Filled with humor and heart this debut novel has Tom asking himself, "Should I stay or should I go?".

The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak
A dazzling debut novel--at once a charming romance, a hilarious crime caper and a moving coming-of-age story about what happens when a boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a magazine and then discovers she is his soul mate.

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan
This debut novel tells the story of an all women's choir in England who refuse the vicar's edict to shut down the church choir, when the men go off to war. The women of this small village use their songs to lift up themselves, and their community as WWII tears through their lives.

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm which is both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln's eleven-year-old son, finds himself in purgatory, where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, and quarrel. A monumental struggle erupts as the ghosts try to determine what to do with Willie's soul.

New Books By Best Selling Authors
Vicious Circle by C.J. Box
The Devil's Triangle by Catherine Coulter
The Cutthroat by Clive Cussler
Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
A Perfect Obsession by Heather Graham
Mississippi Blood: A Novel by Greg Iles
Man Overboard by Judith A. Jance
Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
If Not For You: A Novel by Debbie Macomber
A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates
The Black Book by James Patterson
Humans, Bow Down by James Patterson

Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less by Tiffany Dufu
An inspiring memoir counsels women on how to cultivate the essential skills of reevaluating expectations, setting realistic goals and meaningfully engaging with others in order to thrive.

Cesar Millan's Lessons From the Pack: by Cesar Millan
Cesar shares heartwarming stories about dogs that have inspired him the most. He reveals the many ways that dogs and people can enrich each other's lives, sharing the lessons he has learned from the dogs he has trained.

Pretend I'm Not Here by Barbara Feinman Todd
Revealing what it's like to get into the heads and hearts of some of Washington's most compelling and powerful figures, Feinman Todd offers authentic portraits that go beyond the carefully polished public personas that are the standard faire of the Washington publicity factory. At it's heart this is a funny and forthcoming story of a young woman in a male-dominated world trying to find her own voice while eloquently speaking for others.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Top 10: Best Medical Nonfiction

January is Healthy Mind, Healthy Body month here at the Library and seemed like a great time to draw attention to the high-quality and highly-readable medical nonfiction that has been written in recent years. From memoirs about struggles with mental illness and baffling diseases, to a book about the use of cadavers in criminal forensics, below is the list of my top 10 medical nonfiction books (in no particular order):
Top 10: Medical Nonfiction Books
1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Emperor of All Maladies, now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.

2. The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks
A memoir of paranoid schizophrenia by an accomplished professor recounts her first symptoms at the age of eight, her efforts to hide the severity of her condition, and the obstacles she has overcome in the course of her treatment and marriage.

3. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
A dramatic account of a young New York Post reporter's struggle with a rare brain-attacking autoimmune disease traces how she woke up in a hospital room under guard with no memory of baffling psychotic symptoms, describing the last-minute intervention by a brilliant doctor who identifies the source of her illness.

4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks, a poor, uneducated woman who is a descendant of freed slaves, and the development of the unique and miraculous HeLa cell line, which launched a medical revolution, saved millions of lives and generated vast profits for everyone except Henrietta or her descendants. It also raises the questions: Where are the blood and tissue samples we routinely give today, and who owns them?

5. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
A look inside the world of forensics examines the use of human cadavers in a wide range of endeavors, including research into new surgical procedures, space exploration, and a Tennessee human decay research facility. Entertainment Weekly raved, “One of the funniest and most unusual books of the year....Gross, educational, and unexpectedly sidesplitting.”

6. The End of Illness by David B. Agus
Do we have to suffer from debilitating conditions and sickness? Is it possible to add more vibrant years to our lives? In the #1 New York Times bestselling The End of Illness, Dr. David Agus tackles these fundamental questions and dismantles misperceptions about what “health” really means. Presenting an eye-opening picture of the human body and all the ways it works—and fails—Dr. Agus shows us how a new perspective on our individual health will allow us to achieve a long, vigorous life.

7. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths, teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues.

8. The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
Winner of more than a dozen awards, The Noonday Demon “takes readers on a journey of incomparable range and resonance," revealing the subtle complexities and sheer agony of depression. Andrew Solomon interviews patients, doctors and scientists, policy makers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers to describe the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has on various demographic populations—around the world and throughout history.
9. The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida
A journey into the mind of a remarkable thirteen-year-old Japanese boy with severe autism shares firsthand insights into a variety of experiences associated with the disorder, from behavioral traits and misconceptions to perceptions about the world. Andrew Solomon of The Times says that “The Reason I Jump is a Rosetta stone. . . . This book takes about ninety minutes to read, and it will stretch your vision of what it is to be human.”

10. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher
Vivid, honest, and emotionally wrenching, Wasted is the memoir of how Marya Hornbacher willingly embraced hunger, drugs, sex, and death—until a particularly horrifying bout with anorexia and bulimia in college forever ended the romance of wasting away.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Get Physical!

January is a time for new beginnings, or so I always hear. If you are thinking of making a lifestyle change for the new year, whether it be eating healthy, getting in shape or improving your mental health there's a book for that!

Here are a few books that will help you get back into good physical shape again. Most of these books offer a nutritional guide and also mind/body wellness.

The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferris
This is not just another diet and fitness book. If you are looking for a healthy lifestyle change you have to read this book and then take action.  Unfortunately, reading the book will not get you the desired results you'd like. The 4-Hour Body is a result of more than a decade of research and focuses on one main question, " What are the tiniest changes that will produce the biggest result?" The answer is in this book. You've got to read it, get physical and follow the advice to find amazing results. You'll look better, feel better and most importantly you'll enjoy it.

Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Michael Matthews
If you want to be toned, lean and strong as quickly as possible without crash dieting, spending hours in the gym or purchasing expensive supplements you need to read this book.  

Young and Slim For Life by Frank Lipman
Dr. Lipman share the 10 key steps to help you live your best life! He breaks through the common myths around, aging and dieting and zeroes in on what you need to do in order to feel great!

So if you are ready to jump start your new year. I encourage you to pick up one of these great books and get physical!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lift : Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors by Daniel Kunitz

Lift : Fitness Culture, from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors by Daniel Kunitz

In Lift, Daniel Kunitz has two main goals, to trace the culture of fitness throughout history and to explore the impact that this culture had on politics, technology, philosophy, women's rights, and many, many other aspects of life. He does so with a blend of journalism, history, and memoir. The memoir sections are some of the most interesting, focusing on Kunitz own exploration of what is called New Frontier Fitness, that is a functional approach to fitness rather than one aimed at body-weight and waistlines that We are all likely more familiar with. 

 While I knew that many cultures highly prized and idealized many forms of fitness, it was fascinating to read how fitness could in turn shape technology, politics, and other aspects of various societies. I especially enjoyed the easy, anecdotal writing style  as it would have been easy to get mired down in technical jargon of exercise and history. His message, informed by his own journey in CrossFit, that fitness is currently not decided by a scale or mirror, but by functional movement will likely ring true to many. If you are at all interested in history or in fitness, this is a fascinating read, full of memorable stories.