Molly Hagan is a 40 year old mother with a 6 year old son and a husband–soon to be ex-husband, who dumped her for a younger woman. He has lost his job and has fallen behind in his child support payments, forcing Molly to look for work after being a stay-at-home Mom for several years. Feeling insecure about her abilities, her age, her skills and her body, Megan takes a job offered by a friend as a copy writer, designing the menu and name for a new bakery near the New York Public Library. The owners want a tie in with books, and Molly uses her ability to create puns as a source for the name of the bakery–Vanity Fare. Molly is a wonderfully written character and we see her change and grow through the book, becoming more confident in who she is and what she wants out of life. Molly’s circle of friends and supporters are likeable characters and are well-drawn. There is romance and humor, and the names for the baked goods at the bakery–”Tart of Darkness”, “Of Mousse and Men” for example, are tied to literary references. This is a delightful story, filled with fun, descriptions of wonderful desserts and starring a woman who struggles to turn into the person she aspires to be.
Manhattan Public Library
What are the ten best Western films of all time? Well, that depends on who you ask. You can find many lists of top Western films on the Web, but Classic Western Films no two lists will include the same films. Gayot.com, Reelz.com, Amctv.com, IGN.com, the American Film Institute, the Internet Movie Database, Rotten Tomatoes, and many other websites have their own opinions on which are the best Westerns. Since there doesn’t seem to be any consensus among the experts, I’ve come up with my own list of favorite Westerns. My own top ten, in no particular order, are:
“The Magnificent Seven,” 1960, directed by John Sturges. In this western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai,” seven American gunmen take on the job of defending a Mexican village against marauding bandits. Elmer Bernstein composed the film’s iconic theme music, later used in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes. The film stars Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Eli Wallach to name a few.
“The Searchers,” 1956, directed by John Ford. Based on the novel by Alan Le May, the film stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Civil War veteran who spends years looking for his niece (Natalie Wood), who has been abducted by Comanches. Major themes running through the film are the issues of racism and genocide towards Native Americans.
“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” 1969, directed by George Roy Hill. Loosely based on actual events, the film tells the story of outlaws Robert Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman), and the Henry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” 1966, directed by Sergio Leone. One of the “Spaghetti Westerns,” filmed in Italy and Spain, the plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold: Blondie, The Good (Clint Eastwood); Angel Eyes, The Bad (Lee Van Cleef); and Tuco, The Ugly (Eli Wallach). Ennio Morricone composed the recognizable and haunting film score.
“The Oxbow Incident,” 1943, directed by William Wellman, and starring Henry Fonda. Based on the novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, the film explores the theme of mob justice and vigilante law as two drifters are drawn into a lynch mob to find and hang three men presumed to be rustlers and the killers of a local man.
“Shane,” 1953, directed by George Stevens. Based on the novel by Jack Shaefer, with a screenplay by Western author A.B. Guthrie, the film tells the story of Shane, a drifter and reluctant gunslinger. Shane (Alan Ladd) stumbles into an isolated valley in Wyoming and becomes embroiled in a land conflict between a homesteader and a ruthless cattle boss.
“True Grit,” 2010, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. A remake of another classic Western from 1969, “True Grit” directed by Henry Hathaway, and based on the novel by Charles Portis. Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross hires Deputy U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne in the original; Jeff Bridges in the remake) to bring her father’s murderer to justice.
“Unforgiven,”1992, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. A dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and the myth of the Old West. The film tells the story of William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had hung up his guns and turned to farming.
“Little Big Man,” 1970, directed by Arthur Penn, and based on the novel by Thomas Berger. At age 121, Jack Crabb (played by Dustin Hoffman) recounts the story of his life, including capture by the Cheyennes and participation in the Little Bighorn fight against George Armstrong Custer.
And last but not least, “Blazing Saddles,” 1974, directed by Mel Brooks, because it’s always fun to spoof the things you love. The campfire scene alone qualifies this film as “classic.” This film satirizes the racism obscured by myth-making Hollywood accounts of the American West, with the hero being a black sheriff in an all-white town.
All of my top ten appear on one or more lists of best Westerns. Most of these titles are available in DVD format at Manhattan Public Library.
Julie Kibler has written a debut novel that won my heart. I could not put this tragic love story down without continuing to dwell on the power of love and the tragedy of racial discrimination. In the south during the 1930′s, a wealthy white doctor’s daughter, Isabelle, falls in love with the handsome black son of their family maid. This story combines two time periods as years later now ninty year old Isabelle, asks her young black hairdresser, Dorrie, to drive her to a funeral 1000 miles from their homes. The two women share their troubled family stories with Isabelles secrets unfolding at the same time Dorrie’s teenage son calls with his own life changing problems. Calling Me Home kept me mesmerized till the very end. I hope for more by Julie Kibler!
Something just didn’t add up as I read this story, I knew there was a mystery lurking in the background, but I wasn’t sure what it was or why. Secrets were behind every turn. Willa Jackson had just moved back to Walls of Water, North Carolina. Her grandmother, Georgie Jackson, was in the nursing home there and seemed to be worried about peaches.
Paxton Osgood, now lived in The Blueridge Madam mansion, which at one time had belonged to the Jackson family. Paxton’s grandmother, Agatha Osgood, was Georgie’s best friend. Paxton decided to have a grand party to celebrate the social woman’s group that Agatha and Georgie had started years ago. Willa wasn’t interested in the event to honor both grandmothers, but when the peach tree was taken out and a skeleton was found, the secrets come out. Then we find out about the traveling salesman, Tucker Devlin, who had worked his charms on the town when Agatha and Georgie were young women. By the end of the book, both Willa and Paxton fall in love, secrets are unraveled, and everyone lives happily ever after.
C. J. Box’s complex and likeable character Joe Pickett returns in this latest novel by Box, Breaking Point. Pickett is a Wyoming Game warden, responsible for a huge area in the state, a job which regularly takes him away from his family and places him in danger often, but is a job that he loves as well. In this latest addition to the series, Pickett becomes involved in a dispute between a landowner and the EPA, which escalates into a manhunt, wild fire and government interference in local responsibilities. Box has written another fast-paced thriller, with perfect character development and a sense of place and community in and around the small town of Saddlestring, Wyoming. Joe Pickett is a character we come to care about in this series–an honest family man trying to do a responsible and fair job for his family, for his community and as a game warden and often finding himself in the middle of situations that he neither wants to be involved in or that he has created. Start this award-winning mystery series at the beginning with Open Season.
Manhattan had the privilege of a visit by Kent Haruf in 2006 for our first One Book/ One Community Read. His novel Plainsong was a finalist for the National Book Award and was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie in 2004. Many in Manhattan delighted in meeting the author and reveled in his engaging talks. Fast forward to this year and find Kent’s newest novel destined for a prestigious award. Benediction is set once again on the eastern high plains of Colorado in the small town of Holt. Dad Lewis has just been given the death sentence of a cancer diagnosis. His daughter comes home to help her mother, Mary, care for him, but his distant son is no longer a part of their lives. The secondary characters in the story all have issues and lives that are familiar to all of us. I found his latest book to be captivating and poignant as it drew me into a story that came so close to my personal experiences with my mother’s recent death. We all can feel the pathos of loss as none of us escape life’s sad transitions. Read Benediction also for the love shown to a small girl being raised by her grandmother and the hilarious skinny dipping scene.
For those of you lucky enough to get a few days off from work or school, Spring Break is a great time to relax with a stack of books or have a movie marathon. Why not celebrate your inner nerd by focusing on techie books or movies?
There are many great techie books out there, but here are a few of my recent favorites:
“Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline
It is the year 2044, and the world is a pretty bleak place. Like many others, Wade Watts prefers to spend the majority of his time in the virtual reality world of OASIS, rather than his poverty-stricken real world. For years, Wade and countless others have been searching OASIS for hidden clues that will lead to the billions of dollars amassed by the late OASIS creator, James Halliday. To find the clues, Wade has immersed himself in the life of Halliday, including his obsession with 80’s pop culture. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, suddenly the whole world is watching him, and Wade realizes that some will stop at nothing ,including murder, to be the first to find Halliday’s fortune. If you grew up in the 80’s, this book is particularly enjoyable, since it is filled with references to video games, movies, TV, and music from the 80’s.
“Robopocalypse” by Daniel Wilson
Set in the near-future, this chilling read recounts the history of a massive war between machines and humans. Dr. Wasserman has created an artificial intelligence named Archos who finds a way to kill off his creator and begin his plan to destroy humankind from the earth. Archos slowly takes control of machines all over the world, including toys, factory equipment, domestic service robots, cars, and military equipment. Few humans notice until it is too late. By then, Archos has launched a full-scale coordinated attack all over the world. Millions are killed instantly, and human annihilation seems likely. Be aware that reading this could lead to significant paranoia!
“Epic” by Conor Kostick
Welcome to a planet where violence has been banned and disputes are settled in the fantasy computing game, Epic. Status and wealth are also dependent upon winning in the gaming world. Things seem to be running along smoothly, until Erik’s dad is unfairly punished by the Central Allocations committee that rules the entire planet. Erik and his friends embark on a quest to bring an end to Epic, but must face dangers within Epic and in the real world. This book is great for middle school grades and older, so after you read it yourself, share it with your teens.
If you need a break from reading, check out some movies. Revisit one of these classic techie movies:
In a future world, Sam Lowry, a bureaucrat, tries to correct an administrative error and inadvertently becomes entangled in a revolution.
Deckard is a blade runner, a cop who tracks down replicants (human clones) and terminates them. He comes out of retirement to track down four replicants who have escaped from an off-world colony and returned to earth.
A cyborg is sent from the future to find and kill Sarah Connor, whose son will grow up to lead humanity in a war against machines.
“2001: A Space Odyssey”
Humans find a mysterious artifact buried on the moon, and with the intelligent computer HAL 9000, set off on a quest to Jupiter to try to find the source of the artifact.
Or, try a newer techie movie like one of these:
“The Social Network”
This is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard student at the time, created Facebook and became the youngest billionaire in history.
“Star Trek” (2009)
Newly commissioned James T. Kirk and his crew of the USS Enterprise head to Vulcan when an emergency arises. Watch this before “Star Trek Into Darkness” comes out in theaters in May.
At the end of the nineteenth century in London, two famous rival magicians battle it out to be the greatest, which results in tragic consequences.
All of these techie books and movies can be found at Manhattan Public Library. Be sure to check out the techie books display in the young adult area for other great techie reads.
Faith Holland is heading home to upstate New York and her family, after having been jilted at the altar 3 years earlier by her fiancée Jeremy, who chose their wedding day to inform her that his sexual preferences were geared to men rather than women. His Best Man at the wedding, Levi Cooper, is the one who convinced Jeremy to cancel the wedding and Faith has resented him since. Levi is now the Chief of Police in Manningsport and still Jeremy’s best friend. Faith returns to her family and it’s winery and her friends in this small town where everyone knows everything that happens. Both Levi and Faith have issues in their past that keep them from building relationships, and both must deal with them before they can move on with their lives. The Best Man is a typical Kristan Higgins novel, filled with quirky characters, laugh out loud scenes, funny dialog and characters you grow to care about. The path to finding love is a bumpy one for Levi and Faith and their vulnerability and likeability make this a perfect romance!
The wonderful books of Maeve Binchy have come to an end with her death last July in Ireland. This last delightful book, A Week in Winter was finished just a few weeks prior to her becoming ill. Those of us who are her fans will miss her common sense and creative approach to life’s obstacles and trauma. Maeve has written about every kind of personality imaginable in her Irish tales. Her stories unite characters bringing support to each other and finding answers to difficulties. Whether it be divorce, unwanted pregnancy, lover’s who run off, death, senility, Maeve’s characters learn to journey on.
In her last novel we are experiencing the windswept coast of western Ireland where Chicky is turning an old estate into a bed and breakfast. She has returned to her home town after many years in New York hiding the fact that her love deserted her after convincing her to leave home. The following chapters each tell the story of a person who finds themselves at Stone House that first week.
Maeve was a journalist for the Irish Times for many years. When interviewed about her books she shared this bit of philosophy that was evident in her wonderful books, “I don’t think you’re happier if you’re thin or beautiful or rich or married. You have to make your own happiness,” Binchy told Australia’s Illawarra Mercury newspaper in 2000. “My heroines do not become beautiful elegant swans, they become confident ducks and get on with life.”
Chris Honeysett, artist and private investigator from Bath, is tired of the cold, snowy weather of England. When offered the opportunity to investigate a missing woman in the sunny, Greek island of Corfu he borrows an old motorhome and starts driving south. Chris stays with an old friend from the past who lives on a remote part of Corfu where she struggles to make a living boarding tourists and giving painting lessons. Her warm welcome doesn’t compensate for the barren, austere, backward living arrangements. Soon Chris is feeling the hostility of the locals as he snoops around for the missing business woman. Strange things begin happening such as snakes appearing in bedrooms and turtles turned into walking incindiaries with lit candles on their backs. As Peter continues to investigate the danger increases and he wonders if he has taken on something he will regret. An Inch of Time is Peter Helton’s fourth Chris Honeycutt novel.
Adriana Trigiani has authored the Big Stone Gap series, a delightful character-rich, witty story of a spinster living in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Walking through the young adult section, I found Triginani had authored two books for teens. The Viola Chesterton books begin as quick peeks into boarding school life in South Bend, Indiana for a 9th grader whose parents must relinquish that year as they travel to Afghanistan to film a documentary. Again, these books are character driven with teen foibles, fears and funny situations. Viola must figure out how to extend herself to a new environment with peers very different from herself, and find where her talents as a filmmaker can be used. Definitely teen material, but good for adults to see into a stage of life that may have been long- forgotten.
Will Clark–once an active sportsman and businessman– has been injured in an accident and is a quadriplegic–in a wheelchair and bitterly unhappy about his circumstances. Into his life comes Louisa Clark–a quiet young working class woman whose previous job was working as a waitress until the closing of the cafe. Due to the financial circumstances of her parents, Louisa is forced to look for any employment she can find, and she takes a position as Will’s caretaker. His mother hopes that Louisa can devise a way to life Will’s spirits and involve him in life again. Unsure about her role, Louisa realizes that “Shoved up so hard against someone else’s life forces you to rethink your idea of who you are.” Louisa becomes more assertive and expands her interests, thanks to Will’s influence. Their unique relationship grows and challenges Louisa’s perceptions of herself and what she can accomplish with her life. In Me before You, Moyes has created a surprising beautiful love story, both funny and heartbreaking–a thought-provoking story about the meaning and value of life. This engaging, touching and powerful novel will stay with you long after finishing the last page (and probably after finishing a box of kleenex as well!!)
The Fault in Our Stars was chosen by Time Magazine as the Best Fiction Book of 2012. This compelling novel tells the story of Hazel, a 16-year-old girl who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 13 years old. With her lungs riddled with tumors that she and her family are hoping to keep at bay with a new experimental drug, Hazel is forced to carry an oxygen tank everywhere and is isolated from friends her own age. She attends a cancer support group, where she meets Augustus Waters, a young man in remission with osteosarcoma but has had to have part of his leg amputated to survive. Both are intelligent, sarcastic, funny and mature and they form a strong friendship then a romantic bond. This is a touching, at times humorous and at times heart-wrenching , brilliantly written story about young people wanting to be remembered and wondering what legacy they will leave behind. Although categorized as a Young Adult book, this is a novel for anyone who loves exceptional writing and beautifully drawn characters. A truly amazing story and one that will linger with you for a long time. A favorite quote from Hazel about the many platitudes that cancer patients must endure hearing: “Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and it’s stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate”.
Christmas in January? Well, I’m just catching up from an overly busy holiday season so that means that I’m just finishing my books that were intended to put me in the holiday mood. Marcia Willett’s Christmas in Cornwall easily can be enjoyed at any time of year. Her charcter-oriented novel overflows with interesting people, including a young widowed father, his endearing five year-old son, Jakey, a cast of nuns (some with halos and some without), and a widowed caterer who is always looking for love in the wrong places. The picturesque English countryside, descriiptions of quaint homes and decades old architecture add to the charm of this sweet story. There is a side story of unscrupulous real estate dealings that add a bit of mystery to this engaging cozy.
Malcolm Bannister is a lawyer that got caught-up in an unfortunate money laundering scheme. Never intending to help a client hide ill-gained money he now is in a federal prison camp in Maryland. As a lawyer and the camp librarian, Malcolm meets and helps many of the inmates challenging the system and hoping to find a loophole to get out. Now Malcolm is working the system as he applies the ‘rule of 35′. Rule 35 allows for the reduction of a sentence if a defendant provides “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.”. Malcolm is put in a witness protection program after identifying the killer of a federal judge. Now known as Max, and with a new face courtesy of plastic surgery, we are lead on a wild storyline with unusual schemes never knowing if this is trickery or truth.