Monday, October 31, 2011

What We're Watching: Jan

The Best Years of Our Lives

Directed by William Wyler.
Starring Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell.

In time for Veteran’s Day, this 1946 classic about the readjustment of World War II veterans into American society is a moving choice. Homecoming is, of course, joyful and a celebration. However, problems of changed relationships, disability, unemployment, flashbacks, and even complexities of the G.I. bill are also a reality. Fredric March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell portray ex-servicemen from the same town that share the bond of being changed by the challenges and brutality of war. Air Force Captain Fred returns home to a shaky marriage and poor job prospects because, after all, “who needs the services of a hero bombardier?” Army Sergeant Al is a family man and successful banker whose children have grown up without him and whose former bank employer is less than understanding to veterans needing financial help. Navy Seaman Homer is an amputee who misunderstands help from those around him as pity and builds a wall distancing himself from those who love him. Are the best years of these men’s lives still ahead as they dreamed they would be? Being made in 1946, the movie’s setting is authentic to the time and the film is a history lesson about actual emotions at the end of the war. The hopes, struggles and triumphs portrayed by the characters earned the film the Best Picture Oscar of 1946 and it's considered by many sources to be one of the best films about war veterans ever made.

What We're Reading: Tracy

Pumpkin Moon, by Tim Preston, illustrated by Simon Bartram.

In this dreamlike tale, Halloween jack o' lanterns come magically to life after midnight and drift over the town, through the woods, and up to meet the brightly glowing pumpkin moon. Richly done, folksy paintings carry the story. A beautiful book to share on a dark October night!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What We're Reading: Edward

"City of Fear: a novel"

by David Hewson

Sovrintendente Nic Costa and his team are on the security detail for the G8 conference in Rome. The kidnapping of a governmental official involved in the security for the conference begins the trail to the Blue Demon. The Blue Demon was a terrorist group that existed until after World War II. Nic's father and the current Italian Prime Minister were involved in the extermination of the group. The new head of the Blue Demon believes that he is the embodiment of the ancient Etruscans and that he should be ruling Rome. His terror attacks strike at the heart of Rome. Nic and his team are frozen out of the investigation by forces inside other police agencies. But Nic's private conversation with the Prime Minister puts the team on the right track to prevent further deaths. This eighth adventure for Nic is a good mixture of political intrigue, a murder mystery, a historical mystery, and a thriller.
Read the whole series!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What We're Reading: Tracy

Halloween Sky Ride, by Elizabeth Spurr.

Mildred is on her way to the Witches' Wobble, "a Halloween festivity where witches go to gobble." Speeding along on her broom, she encounters a skeleton, ghost, mummy, jack 0' lantern, black cat, and bat who all want to come too. But can they fit on Mildred's slender broom? The anticipation builds as the broomstick fills in this not-too-creepy cumulative tale.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What We're Reading: Edward

"Hanging Tree: a Starvation Lake Mystery"

by Bryan Gruley

Starvation Lake is a Michigan resort town that has seen better days. It is a small town where everybody knows everybody else's secrets. Gracie McBride has returned from Detroit to start life over again. After a snow storm she is found hanging in the local lover's tree. Is it a suicide or murder? Gus, the editor of the local newspaper, is asked by his mother to get to the truth about Gracie. Gus and Gracie are cousins and frienemies. Gus worked for a Detroit newspaper before he returned to Starvation Lake. Even when they both lived in Detroit, Gus and Gracie rarely saw each other. Gus is running a series of articles on a millionaire lawyer who has moved to a lush estate outside of town. His son is the star goalie for the local hockey team. The lawyer promised to build a new hockey rink for the town. But the rink is not being built as quickly as promised. Everyone in town is willing to give him more time and the town's money to complete the project. Gus's research turns up a link between the lawyer and Gracie. Gus works to restore Gracie's reputation in the eyes of Starvation Lake.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What We're Reading: Tracy

Pumpkins, by Ken Robbins.

Simple text and crisp photographs reveal the life cycle of pumpkins, from seeds to jack o' lanterns. Especially intriguing are images of giant pumpkins so large they are lifted by forklifts! Children will enjoy sharing this book with their favorite grownups before taking a trip themselves to a local pumpkin patch.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What We're Reading: Tracy

A Vampire Is Coming To Dinner! Ten Rules to Follow, by Pamela Jane.

What would you do if you knew a vampire was coming to dinner? The boy in this story sets a series of clever traps based on ten things he knows about vampires (like their inability to cross running water and their dislike of garlic.) Contemporary illustrations and a ghoulish color palette make this a hip choice for Halloween.

What We're Watching: Cathy

The Conspirator

This is the story of of the trial of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) who was accused of being part of the conspiracy to kill president Lincoln. She is defended, reluctantly at first, by Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) who was a Union war hero. Aiken is at first certain of her guilt, but that slowly changes to uncertainty and he fights for her right to get a fair trial, thwarted by the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton (Kevin Kline) who believes he is justified in doing anything that will preserve the Union - even possibly convicting innocent people. All of the performances are excellent and the costuming and lighting are wonderful. You really feel that you've been given a window back to that time and place. Robert Redford (director) and the American Film Company are planning on more films of this sort and I can't wait.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What We're Reading: Edward

"Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising: Edge of War"

by Larry Bond

Those of you who read the first part of the "Red Dragon Rising" series, will remember that scientist Josh MacArthur witnessed the Chinese invasion of Vietnam.The United States is trying to covertly get him out of the country and to help the Vietnamese. A female CIA agent and a SEAL TEAM join forces to get Josh to safety. Their journey from Hanoi to Saigon finds them avoiding both the Vietnamese army and Josh's Chinese nemesis from the first book. But nothing is easy in a country paralyzed by war. Both an Army Major and a Navy Captain use the newest technology to support the aims of the President. But will it be enough to stop the Chinese?
Can't wait for the next part of the story!

Friday, October 7, 2011

What We're Reading: Tracy

I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett.

Great Britain has long produced some of the finest fantasy writers in the world of books. One of my modern favorites is Terry Pratchett, who was recently knighted by the Queen for his "services to literature."

Pratchett's classic fantasy series Discworld is at once original, literate, moving, thoughtful, irreverent, and hilariously funny.
Pratchett has done an equally fine job with his youth series set in the same universe, the Tiffany Aching Adventures.

Tiffany Aching is a young witch charged with caring for the inhabitants of the Chalk, a region reminiscent of southeast England, complete with loads of sheep, colorful villagers, a beneficent Baron, and a fairy mound, or, rather, a Feegle mound. (Those are Feegles on the book cover.) In this, the fourth novel of her adventures, Tiffany must handle the mundane problems of her steading (everything from sick sheep to social work) while trying to defeat a more sinister dilemma: the coming of the Cunning Man, the ghost of a witch hunter who reappears with despairing regularity over the centuries, poisoning the minds of the people and stirring up witch hunting fevers.

Best read in order, the other Tiffany Aching books are:

The Wee Free Men
A Hat Full of Sky

Monday, October 3, 2011

What We're Reading: Edward

"Pericles Commission"

by Gary Corby

In 461 B.C., democracy is coming to Athens through the work of Ephialtes. Nicolaos, the older brother of Socrates, is walking near the base of the Acropolis. Suddenly, the body of Ephialtes, pierced with an arrow, falls to his feet. Soon Pericles arrives and commissions Nicoloas to find the murderer of his colleague.While trying to find the murderer, Nicolaos is followed, beaten up, offered a good job, and almost killed. He interviews all the famous people of the time. He is smitten by Diotima, the daughter of Ephialtes and a hetaera. Together they work to solve the murder. Meanwhile all of Athens is in turmoil. Will the newly founded democracy be crushed by the ruling Areopagus? Nicolaos hopes that he can solve the murder and become an important man in Athens.
Hopefully, the start of an interesting historical series.

What We're Reading: Tracy

Boo! by Joe Fenton.

Luminous ghosts seem to float across the pages of this wordless story. The lack of text encourages young readers to study the illustrations: what are the ghosts doing? What will happen next? Careful observation will reveal the plot (a ghostly costume competition) just before the clever ending. Boo!