Monday, December 14, 2009

Lisa recommends "The Circle"

I could not wait for The Circle by Bon Jovi to come out as I have all of their cds and it did not disappoint. The musical style is similar to Lost Highway (summer 2007). Most of the songs are more ballad-like, rather than hard rock, but the overall effect is excellent. There aren’t many groups today that are as timeless as Bon Jovi.

Recommended for all ages.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Colette recommends "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova

One can NEVER presume to understand what it is like to have Alzheimer’s. That being said, "Still Alice" is not a memoir, but a well researched novel that provides the reader with the rare opportunity to see through the eyes of Alice Howland, PhD & Harvard neuro-linguistics superstar, from diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50 through the unrelenting progress of the disease during the following year.

The reader shares in Alice’s confusion and determination as she struggles to maintain control over the distorted reality that is Alzheimer’s. Most information available about Alzheimer’s is written from the point of view of family/caregivers. What a rare privilege to read this book and gain some insight and perception into what it like to lose yourself and know that it is happening. A tragedy.

Highly recommended for adults.

Brutally heartbreaking, but worth it. I couldn’t put it down.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kara recommends "Away We Go"

This was a great, quirky feel-good movie about a couple on an adventure to find “home”.

This movie is recommended for adults.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jamie recommends "State of Play"

If you're in the mood for a fast-paced, intellectual film, then State of Play might be the movie for you. Part political thriller, part "who done it," this film, made two hours fly by. Russell Crowe plays a reporter for the Washington Globe who takes an online reporter under his wing to investigate the death of a Congressman's aide. Complicating matters is the fact that Crowe's reporter is friends with congressman under investigation. The scenery in the film was great, as was the plot. The cast also includes a lot of great actors including Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman. There is a slight violence and language, but this film would be suitable for those 13 and up.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lisa recommends "The Big Storm : A Very Soggy Counting Book"

This is a great picture book to read in the fall. It tells the story of a bad storm coming and counts various animals as they head to hill hollow to keep dry and stay warm. Low and behold, as ten animals are huddled together in their tiny space, they hear a RUMBLE, GRUMBLE. This was not the sound of the thunder outside, but the snoring of two sleeping bears. They run out in a flurry to find a beautiful day awaiting them outside.

Recommended for children ages 3 and up.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Matt recommends "Wave"

A charming children’s book, Suzy Lee’s “Wave” uses lovely watercolor and charcoal images to tell the story of a young girl’s encounter with a magical, playful ocean wave. The book has no words, making it almost universally accessible. The illustrations beautifully convey a sense of wonder at the natural world, and are a reminder of how much can be expressed through simple means. Recommended for children, as well as adults who can forget their grown-up concerns for a few delightful moments.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Phyllis recommends "Nocturnes: five stories of music and nightfall"

Reading Nocturnes: five stories of music and nightfall was a good experience. Now, like listening to a song and having it repeat through one’s mind, I continue to reflect on Kazuo Ishiguro’s work. Those who have studied music may find a special appreciation for this collection but it is not a necessity to enjoy the short stories. Ishiguro composes his stories precisely with well-tuned characters as well as the sense of time (modern) and place. You may recognize a recurrent theme throughout the book though each entry is a complete piece. Again, if you’ve studied or appreciate music, it may be hard to close this book without hearing the stories’ arrangements over and over—and not in a bad way.

Nocturnes is appropriate for adults or young adults.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jamie recommends "The Beatles Rock Band" for Wii

“The Beatles Rock Band” is similar to all the other editions of the Rock Band franchise, which means that there are a variety of fun songs to choose from, but this time they’re all by The Beatles. The best part about this game is the ability to add up to three microphones for the vocal harmonies of The Beatles. Although this game does neglect a few hits that probably should have been included, most notably “Help,” it still contains a lot of great Beatles tunes along with band trivia. It is a great game to break out at parties not only for fun, but also for the fact that as long as you have three microphones, you band could have up to six members. Older children will like the game but adults might find it most entertaining since the songs are familiar.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lisa recommends "MySims Agents" for Wii

I am a big fan of the MySims franchise for the Nintendo Wii and this newest addition is a lot of fun. MySims Agents is great fun for kids, but isn't too cheesy for adults. Your player is a secret agent who has to solve mysteries in an attempt to thwart the evil Morcubus. You get a secret headquarters, your own jet, and a cool wardrobe. Plus, you get a chance to recruit new agents and send them out on missions. This is the perfect game for any secret agent wannabes or anyone else looking for a fun platform game!

Recommended for ages 7+.
Rated E for Everyone.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lisa recommends "Field Trip"

For those parents who are looking for something fun for their kids to listen to, then Recess Monkey’s Field Trip is for you! Recess Monkey is a great rock band for kids that parents won’t mind listening to. The songs are off-the-wall and fun with a great beat.

For ages 2+

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kathy recommends "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

Although a work of fiction, for those of us who remember the not too distant past, The Help by Kathryn Stockett is a vivid reminder of how events unfolded in the early to mid 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi. Told from the point of view of three women, one a privileged twenty-something white woman living on a cotton plantation, and two African American domestic maids, The Help is a riveting narrative of what life was like in the deep south during this turbulent time in history. Stockett’s writing is insightful - often troubling, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny but always thought provoking. Highly recommended.

For adults.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beth recommends "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"

Meet Flavia de Luce, one of the most engaging and precocious amateur detectives I have encountered in recent mystery fiction. Flavia lives with her widowed father and two older sisters in a crumbling English manor house. The year is 1950 and Flavia’s passion is chemistry – particularly the study of poisons. She uses her expertise and insatiable curiosity to solve two crimes – one that took place years ago when her father was in school, and the current one which has landed a dead body in her backyard. A couple of very rare – and missing - postage stamps figure into the story as well. This award-winner is the first book in a new series by Canadian author Alan Bradley. I found “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” a very enjoyable read!

Age – Adult, Young Adult

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kara recommends "The Devil's Paintbox"

This is a great book for teens! Full of history and adventure, it covers a slice of Aiden’s life as he travels west with a wagon train, works in the woods of Washington state, and helps his Native American friends defeat the smallpox epidemic that is ravaging their tribes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Juliane Recommends "It Sucked And Then I Cried"

Based on the title, I didn't know if I'd like this book or if I felt it was written for me. As a relatively new mother, I'm drawn to nonfiction memoirs from other mothers, but this one also tackles the heavy topic of post-partum depression and how the author struggled with major mental breakdowns. Even though I personally had a relatively easy pregnancy and post-partum recovery, I am so happy I read this book. The author's writing style is charming, self-effacing, and markedly real. She unabashedly discusses everything ranging from the sin of feeding your infant Pop Tarts to reconnecting with her dog after bringing home baby. She struggles with a fussy baby in ways that new mothers will easily relate to. One of my favorite passages is, "…I did consider parenthood a job. It was the most difficult job I ever had, a job where my boss had to approve my bathroom breaks, a job that required me to wipe my boss's ass. And not only was I really good at it, but I was also stupid enough to love it." Mothers and fathers alike will enjoy this book and will come to understand why the author, Heather Armstrong, was recently featured in the Forbes list of "The Most Influential Women In Media" for 2009. Her website and daily blog, is as equally enjoyable as her book.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jamie recommends "Suspense and Sensibility"

As a fan of Jane Austen looking for an Austen-related book to read before this year’s One Book, One Community program, focusing on the works of Jane Austen, when I stumbled upon this book. Author Carrie Bebris has written a set of mysteries that cast Mr. Darcy and Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, favorites from Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, as newlyweds thrown into a mystery. This novel is the second installment of the series. My curiosity was piqued to see if Bebris would in fact take the characters from Pride and Prejudice and have them mingle with my favorite characters from Sense and Sensibility. She didn’t disappoint. Having Elinor and Marianne Dashwood come face-to-face and interact with the former Miss Elizabeth Bennet was interesting to read. This novel takes Jane Austen, mixes it with elements of the supernatural and is a fun read for anyone who wants the stories of Jane Austen expanded in the most unexpected ways.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Marilena recommends "Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone"

Eduardo H. Galeano, noted Uruguayan author, runs through 5000 years of history taking snapshots of moments in time from a slightly different angle than one might find in a history textbook, if at all. Easy to read, some funny, some sad, always ironic, the vignettes are half page each. Only the title suggests their purpose to be mirrors to who we are today.

Suitable for an adult audience or young adults with strong knowledge of world history.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lisa recommends "Kidzapalooza"

Kidzapalooza is the family-friendly portion of the Lollapalooza festival that takes place in Chicago and Los Angeles. The lineup highlights the best of the best kids’ music performers. This compilation includes favorites, such as The Jimmies, Ralph Covert, and Lunch Money. It is a great addition to any family music collection that will have all ages rockin’ out.

Recommended for kids, but parents will enjoy it too!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Matt recommends "The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit"

This book is thirteen years old, but remains an invaluable resource for students of metro-Detroit’s history. Thomas Sugrue traces in careful detail some of the various, complex social factors that led to the decline of Detroit and the rise of the suburbs. He pays particular attention to the devastating effects of discriminatory housing and employment practices, both official and grassroots, as well as deindustrialization and racial violence. The book is academic, but moves at a brisk pace and held my interest throughout. Readers will come away with a more nuanced understanding of a complicated, troubling time in recent history whose effects continue to shape our lives.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jennifer recommends "Graceling"

In another land where people with different colored eyes a "graced" with a special talent, two of the most feared and respected come together and set out to save their world from corrupt kings. Readers will find themselves cheering for Katsa and Po to succeed. I have not read a book this excellent in a long time. I had a hard time putting this book down, not only because Katsa and Po are intriguing characters, but because the plot keeps you turning the pages. I loved this book and think it would be great for older teens or adults that love a good adventure with romance, struggle, a need to find out about yourself and some fantasy thrown in for good measure.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Deb recommends "Flygirl"

Ida Mae Jones faces more than the normal challenges of early women aviators, the prejudices of the South and the military to realize her dream. It’s 1941 and she wants to help the war effort not by collecting scrap metal and growing a victory garden but by becoming a pilot in the Women Airforce Service Program (WASP). Her daddy taught her to fly in his crop-dusting plane and she has the desire and determination that make her a good candidate. But the biggest hurdle is a personal one: she must pass for white. And with her light skin she just might be able to. In Flygirl Sherri Smith has crafted an exciting story about a little known part of our history during World War II. An afterword gives a brief history of the WASP. An excellent read for ages 12 and up; adults will enjoy it as well.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel"

The Sorceress is the third book in the series of “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel”.

Perenelle Flamel has been trapped on Alcatraz with a host of hibernating monsters. These monsters have been collected by “ The Elders” in an effort to retake the world from the humani.

Meanwhile Nicholas Flamel, Sophie and Josh, are trying to escape from England to rescue Perenelle. This book is as exciting and fast paced as the first two, The Alchemyst, and The Magcian. These are a little more edgy than Harry Potter.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Phyllis recommends "Lethal Legacy"

If you like mysteries and libraries, Linda Fairstein’s Lethal Legacy will give you entertainment and information. There may be moments of wondering exactly where Fairstein is going with the characters’ actions, dialogue and their importance or the author’s purpose and connections. Whether or not you agree with the how the author “maps” her writing, the book is still a good read that may have you looking at libraries and their collections with new eyes. You’ll come away from this reading with more than a little history about public libraries and the philanthropists who contributed to them, especially the New York Public Library. Fairstein provides her novel’s Assistant District Attorney Alex Cooper with an abundance of villains and stalwart companions. Appropriate for adults, Lethal Legacy will be fun for those who are curious about what goes on behind the stacks!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kathy recommends "Heavens to Betsy"

Reverend Betsy Blessing is looking for a good man. Having reached the ripe old age of thirty, Betsy is wondering if her chosen career path with all its restrictions will ever allow her to find someone with whom to share her life. While dealing with parishioners who keel over during her sermons, steal money from the collection box, and set her up with relatives who happen to be ex-cons, the Reverend doesn’t recognize what’s right under her nose, fellow seminarian and long-time friend David Swenson. This is a funny, heartwarming look at “a single girl’s life on the other side of the altar.” Appropriate for young adults and adults.

Lisa recommends "Under Her Skin"

There just aren’t many good chick lit books coming out right now so it was a great surprise to read Under Her Skin by Susan Mallery. This is the first book in the trilogy, with the 2nd and 3rd following at the end of May and June. Lexi Titan needs two million dollars in 30 days or she will lose her business and her chance at winning the contest for her father’s inheritance. The only way she can find to get the money is to pretend to be engaged to Cruz Rodriguez for six months. It was the first book in a long time that I didn’t want to put down!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bethany recommends "Jellicoe Road"

Jellicoe Road is the Printz Award Winner for 2008 and is an excellent read. The characterization is in depth and I was really intrigued by the story. This would appeal to Young Adults and Adults.

Jamie recommends "The Geography of Bliss"

I’m not usually a big nonfiction-reader, but the premise of defining happiness around the globe was intriguing to me. Eric Weiner, a self-proclaimed grump, offers an extremely interesting study in happiness. How is happiness in America different from happiness in places like Switzerland or Bhutan? Part travelogue, part research, this book is something of an anomaly because while it doesn’t explain how to concretely define happiness, it certainly goes to great lengths to find it. I found it interesting because geography has a lot to do with what constitutes the feeling of happiness. Although Weiner does sometimes get bogged down with the minutiae of certain locations , this book was a fairly fast and very enjoyable read. For those who have found happiness, are looking for happiness, or wonder just how you measure happiness, this book is a great choice.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Annie recommends "The Retirement Challenge" by Frank Armstrong III

Don't procrastinate any longer. This book will give you the reasons and tools to start saving for retirement. Considering the current economic downturn, we can't rely on the government or our employers to take care of us. WE have to take care of ourselves. Armstrong deciphers the complex world of IRAs, 401Ks, 457Bs, DB/DC plans - all in easy-to-understand terminology. The book includes suggestions for those early in their careers, those close to retirement and folks who are retired and need to maximize their investments. One of the helpful features is the link to his web site that provides a multitude of financial calculators that help with savings & tax planning. I found them easy to use and pretty accurate in predicting future savings and investment needs. It's never too late (or too early) to starting planning for your retirement!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Erica recommends "World War Z"

It’s the near future, a mere ten years after the official end of the world-wide catastrophe known as the Zombie War. The survivors (a shockingly small percentage of the pre-war population) are rebuilding their homes, nations, and cities. Militaries are still eradicating the last traces of the undead from oceans and arctic lands. Max Brooks collects a series of interviews with survivors, while their memories are still fresh. He begins with the doctor who first attempted to treat “Patient Zero,” the source of the outbreak. He continues into the Great Panic, relating stories of those who did not, could not, believe the first news reports, the government officials who crafted desperate plans for their citizens’ survival, and the refugees seeking safety anywhere they could find it. The next section focuses on the changing strategy of the world’s military forces, from defensive to offensive, and the humans and methods that finally defeated the undead. Each survivor has an important story to tell, and the interviewer does not get in the way. A fascinating tale, highly recommended for adults and older teens.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Juliane recommends "Life's Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom"

If you enjoy Mommy-Lit with an emphasis on wit over fluff, you will really enjoy this book. This is a collection of essays written by Lisa Belkin, columnist for the New York Times. Her writing style is very accessible and her thoughts are insightful. As a working mother I appreciated how she captured the competing desires to do it all, and at the same time, just get it done. The only down-side is that this book was written in 2002 and I wish it had more contemporary topics. However, if you want to continue following Lisa Belkin, she now writes a blog through the New York Times called "Motherlode." Check it out!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Matt recommends "Wabi-Sabi"

"Wabi-Sabi," written by Mark Reibstein and exquisitely illustrated by Caldecott-winner Ed Young, is a rare treat: a children's book that can be enjoyed and treasured by adults as well as kids. The book tells the story of Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese housecat who embarks on a quest to discover the meaning of her name after she overhears her owner telling guests that “wabi-sabi" is a difficult concept to explain. She encounters several other animals along her journey, each of whom tries to describe the elusive subject in haiku. As she comes to an understanding of wabi-sabi, a Japanese way of thinking that finds beauty in simplicity, transience, and imperfection, she realizes her own simple, unique beauty. It's a lovely book that’s a pleasure to read and that introduces curious people of all ages to a new way of seeing and thinking about what’s beautiful.

Colette recommends some fresh short stories

Short stories are particular favorites of mine because they are usually "pure" and not overwritten: they tell a slice of life and get in and out without overdoing it.

"The Drowned Life" by Jeffrey Ford is a strange and wonderfully written collection of short stories - they are odd and dream-like...not in the lush and fantasy sense, but rather in the depiction of disjointed surreal events, out of sequence, fascinating and bizarre. These are well written; a pleasure to savor. Ford makes the reader contribute from his/her fund of knowledge/imagination in order to invest and enjoy the process more fully. This is the first work of his that I have read and I can hardly wait to read his novels.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kara recommends "The Rest of Her Life"

This was a great read for a book discussion! The story deals with the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter and the how the relationship is altered my misconceptions of each other; especially after the daughter accidentally kills someone while driving. The story is shown through the eyes of the mother, enlightening the reader by showing us how her own experiences shaped the way she chose to "mother" her children. Both characters surprise and relate to each other in the story.

Kara recommends "Slightly Single"

This is the first book in the "Slightly…" series about Tracey, a young woman finding her way through life and love in Manhattan. It is both funny and heartfelt, but continues to stay a "light".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lisa recommends "Fire and Ice"

If you are looking for a fun romantic suspense book, Fire and Ice by Julie Garwood is for you. Sophie is the daughter of notorious Chicagoian Bobby Rose, while Jack is a member of the FBI. When they are forced to work together to solve the mystery and save the day, sparks will fly. Characters from Garwood's past books in the Buchanan series make reappearances. Once you get started reading, this is one you won't want to put down.

Recommended for adults.