Wednesday, July 1, 2015

John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt

John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt
Reviewed by Laura the Librarian

It is hard for me to believe that "The Breakfast Club" celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It is one of the seminal teen films of the 80s that launched the careers of a few Brat Packers as well as a brash, young filmmaker named John Hughes. Honeycutt offers a behind-the-scenes look at the rise and eventual withdrawal from the spotlight for Hughes. The illustrated book features great pictures and plenty of first-hand accounts from people who worked with Hughes. This is a warts-and-all look at the talented filmmaker who could be gracious and collaborative one minute and quite mercurial the next. There is plenty of dish about the stars of the movies and what happened on set. John Cusack instead of Judd Nelson as John Bender in "The Breakfast Club?" Jennifer Beals instead of Molly Ringwald as Andie Walsh in "Pretty in Pink?" Hard to imagine. The book also details Hughes start at "National Lampoon," his close friendship with star John Candy and his retreat from Hollywood. This book is a fun trip down memory lane, particularly since we still see Hughes' far-reaching influence today from "The Breakfast Club" as a plot point in "Pitch Perfect" to the reboot of "National Lampoon's Vacation" with Ed Helms. Yep, the original was penned by Hughes. After you read this book, you will want to re-watch many of his films or catch them for the first time. Head to our catalog to start watching.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wild Tales (Foreign Film / Argentinean)

Wild Tales (Foreign Film / Argentinean)

The title is perfect.  This is a film that collects six wild tales.  The tales have nothing in common except their exploration of vengeance and the violence it produces.  All six tales were entertaining but two were standouts.  Even if you are not a foreign film fan I do suggest watching the first tale.  It’s short, only about ten minutes, and it’s amazing.  I watched about half wondering what was going on and then my mouth hung open in shock for the duration.  Like any well-crafted short story by O. Henry I can’t tell you what it is about because I’ll ruin it for you. The third tale was tied in my mind for first place in the anthology.  It is all about the dangers of road rage.  Again, that is all I will say. 

This is a black comedy, if there was a shade darker than black I would use it.  These tales show the dark places vengeance sends humans.  It is by turns violent and disturbing, but so often it was so over the top I found myself laughing and then scolding myself for finding it funny.  Typically I don’t really agree with Academy Award Nominations, but this film deserved a nomination, maybe even a win.

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Inspector Kari Vaara is back and instead of being the chief of police in a small town above the Arctic Circle he is now a detective with homicide in Helsinki.  Kate, Kari’s wife, is thrilled to be in bustling Helsinki but Kari never missed the city.  However he would do anything to make his pregnant wife happy.  Kari is assigned a partner, an outcast like himself, but a unique individual unlike Kari in many ways.  The duo pick up a murder in their first few days of the job and what looks clear cut is anything but simple.  Kari must decide what resolution he and his conscious can live with as he solves the murder, investigates a national hero for war crimes and deals with a prolonged visit from his brother and sister-in-law.

Thompson manages to keep all the storylines interesting and ties them up well.  How the murder investigation is resolved is great because it’s unlike anything I’ve read before.  The best part of the book for me was learning the ways Finnish culture, law, everything, is different than here.  Get accused of a crime in Finland and your arresting officer doesn’t like you?  Doesn’t matter if you aren’t guilty, they can keep you for days just because they want you there.  Having a baby?  All new mothers receive a care package from the government with enough clothes for your child for a year plus diapers and other necessary baby items.  The glimpses of recent Finnish history, especially concerning activities during WWII, were very interesting as well.    

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

Mazie Phillips moves in with her sister and her husband in New York City at the dawn of the Jazz Age.  She loves to have a good time but her brother-in-law thinks she needs to help out the family.  So he installs her as the ticket taker at The Venice, a movie house he owns downtown.  She struggles with the idea of being stuck in a small glass box all day, but learns to like her job and all the people she meets.  Mazie makes some interesting acquaintances at The Venice and through her eyes we experience Prohibition and the Depression as they come to the Big Apple.

Mazie’s story is told in interesting ways.  The book is mostly entries from Mazie’s diary, but there are also excerpts of interviews from those that knew her, postcards and other short pieces interspersed throughout.  What I liked even more than the interesting format?  The unanswered questions!  Like who is the narrator and why is she so interested in Mazie?  What was Mazie up to during the gaps in the diary? 

If you like headstrong women with a heart of gold (she is a hero to the homeless in the Depression) and stories based on the lives of real people you will enjoy everything about this book.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book was the cover.  This is one of those love it or hate it covers.  Do not judge this book by its cover!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway

Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway

Three years have past and the man convicted of beating Hanna’s husband to death and beating her so badly she has been disfigured is up for a retrial.  Hanna has no memory of the beatings and in order to make sure Rud is kept behind bars for the rest of his life she will need to remember so she can testify.  Her daughter, Dawn, was Rud’s girlfriend at the time of the crime. While Hanna is convinced Dawn had nothing to do with it popular opinion, and that of the prosecutor’s, has always been that Dawn was involved.

After receiving the news of the retrial and learning that her mother is trying to get her memory back Dawn returns home to help her mommy out.  (She always refers to her as mommy even though she is in her twenties.)  Hanna is happy to have Dawn back, but uneasy as well.  Dawn always had a way of seeing things the way she wanted to, like mishearing the doctor tell her she has a lazy eye and calling it the much more attractive and mysterious “lacy eye.”  Is Dawn as innocent as she claims?  Will Dawn help or hinder Hanna’s memory coming back?

If anyone ever wants a suggestion for a creepy audiobook this one is right up there (Mind of Winter by Kasischke and Bird Box by Josh Malerman being especially creepy as well).  I don’t think I would have enjoyed it (or been nearly as disturbed) if I read this book.  It’s so much more on audio.  The way the reader makes Dawn’s dizziness/craftiness/cluelessness come alive through her voice is so wonderfully unnerving you just want to scream at the main character to run, but it’s her daughter so she doesn’t have the ability to distance herself from the situation.  Dawn is her child, her favorite child; she knows she is safe with Dawn.  It’s just us listeners that are freaking out over and over wondering if we should trust her judgment or not.   

Monday, June 22, 2015

Armada by Ernest Cline

Armada by Ernest Cline

My absolute favorite book of 2011 was Ready Player One so when I found out that Cline was coming out with a new book I was overjoyed.  So much so I bothered my co-worker to please please please grab me a copy at Book Expo.  Not only did he get me an advance copy, he got me a personalized signed copy!  Woo hoo!  Added bonus, the author added the inscription: MTFBWYA.  If you know what that means this is a book for you.  Even if you don’t (hint: think Star Wars) but you enjoy science fiction alien movies you’ll find something to like here too.

Zack Lightman is an ordinary teen getting ready to graduate high school and thinking about going to full time employment at his local videogame store.  He feels he isn’t really good at much, but he excels at playing Armada, a videogame where you pilot drones to take down alien drones trying to invade Earth.  One day Zack is daydreaming and staring out the window of his classroom when he sees a Glaive fighter straight out of his favorite game hovering above the schoolyard.  The ship zooms away before he can alert his classmates and needless to say Zack is a little disturbed.  As he thinks about what this could mean (alien invasion, he’s going crazy?) he remembers his dead father’s notebooks from the attic that point to a conspiracy to cover up alien invaders.  Could his dad have been right?

The videogames Zach and his friends love are actual drone operating software that will be used by the Earth Defense Alliance to repel the alien invasion that is happening in, well, about six hours.  The action is fast and furious and the references to many beloved science fiction movies and books (Last Starfighter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ender’s Game) pop up often.  A really enjoyable story that is the perfect geeky beach read.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

Lovell and Hannah Hall have been married for a number of years and their marriage is far from perfect.  Opposites in so many ways it is difficult to know what is holding them together, and they are each finding it difficult to remember what it was they loved about the other years ago.  One night they have a fight that could have become violent.  The next morning Hannah disappears and naturally her husband is a suspect.

Told in alternating chapters from Lovell and Hannah’s perspective we learn the backstory of the marriage and what is happening in the present.  It’s a believable albeit dark story.  Lovell and his two children need to continue on with their lives as well as they can with their wife and mother out there somewhere.  This is the book that I think many expected Gone Girl to be; a straightforward thriller focused on the lives of the family more than the mystery surrounding the disappearance.