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Monday, August 27, 2018

I Feel Pretty (Comedy - 2018)


Amy Schumer delivers a smart, heart-warming, and absolutely hilarious piece of comedy in her new movie "I Feel Pretty." She is raw and real and in true Amy Schumer fashion, holds nothing back.  A refreshing comedy with great laughs throughout the film.  Renee is working as a sysadmin for a Lili LeClair, a large beauty conglomerate. But she longs to be part of the action at the company's 5th Avenue headquarters.  There's only one problem, Renee doesn't look like the waifish model-types who grace the halls of Lili LeClair.  Lacking self confidence, she decides to let a dream job opportunity pass her by until a well timed wish "to be pretty" gives her the some mojo and she decides to follow her dream. Schumer displays brilliantly what it feels like to be bigger in this society and what it feels like to lack self confidence. A hilarious movie that wasn't just inappropriate raunchy jokes the whole time. This film gives laughs the whole time, provides a great message, and will leave you smiling long after the movie is finished.  

Recommended by Monica Shine

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy : The Story Of Little Women And Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux

A passionate and serious writer, Alcott dreamed of literary success, but she didn’t imagine she would attain it with a children’s book. She wasn’t above writing for the sake of money, though, and so Alcott accepted her publisher’s request that she write a book for girls. This project would eventually become Little Women.

In the generations since its release, the book has been adapted for stage and film and has influenced children’s literature and produced literary heroines who follow in Jo March’s footsteps (Katniss Everdeen, anyone?). Little Women’s feminist undertones also continue to encourage readers to reimagine expectations for women and girls.
Rioux’s extensive research invites lifelong Little Women fans and new readers alike to dive deeply into the worlds of Alcott and the Marches. Along the way, they’ll uncover the novel’s inspiration and influence and grow to appreciate its ongoing significance, even 150 years later.
Recommended by Monica Shine

*Portions of this review was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage.  It was published with their consent.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Perhaps the three scariest words in the history of human imagination were cast in iron atop a gate leading directly into the closest approximation of hell ever erected on earth: ARBEIT MACHT FREI. “Work sets you free.” The banal words that were nothing more than a cruel and tragic joke for thousands turned out to have a deeper meaning for Lale Sokolov, an Auschwitz survivor and the real-life hero of Heather Morris’ extraordinary debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Like the Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel’s Night, Morris’ work takes us inside the day-to-day workings of the most notorious German death camp. This tale weaves a heart-rending narrative of a Jew whose unlikely forced occupation as a tattooist put him in a position to act with kindness and humanity in a place where both were nearly extinct.  

Just as a flower can grow through a sidewalk’s crack, so too can love spring and flourish in the midst of unspeakable horror, and so it is that Lale meets his lifelong love, Gita, when he inscribes the number 34902 on her arm.  Amidst the horrors of the camp, Lale and Gita must figure out how to survive and keep secrets in this ruthlessly cruel environment.

For decade upon decade, Lale’s story was one that desperately needed to be told. And now, as the number of those who witnessed the terror that was Nazi Germany dwindles, it is a story that desperately needs to be read. The disgraceful words that once stood over Auschwitz must be replaced with others: Never forget. Never again.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

*Portions of this review was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage.  It was published with their consent.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Caraval and Legendary by Stephanie Garber



Caraval and its recently released sequel, Legendary, have the transporting quality that makes me consume a book in only one or two sittings.  Open them and you will step into a jewel-bright fantasy world full of intrigue, complex heroines, and their dashing consorts.  Each novel is a mystery set during Caraval, a week-long, invitation-only game set up in a magic-filled arena of the creator’s (Legend’s) design.  Caraval centers on Scarlett, oldest daughter of the governor of a remote island.  Scarlett receives a coveted invitation to Caraval, but is reluctant to risk the wrath of her abusive father by going.  When Scarlett’s younger sister, Donatella, is apparently kidnapped and taken to the Caraval arena, Scarlett’s choice is made for her.  Thus begins her quest to free Tella from Legend’s clutches; a tale of sisterly love and devotion reminiscent of Disney’s Frozen.  Of course, nothing within the walls of Caraval is as it seems, from the bewitching dresses to the mysterious young man who dogs Scarlett’s footsteps.  Scarlett must not lose herself, however—if she doesn’t win the game, she may never see her sister again.
What a delight it is, as a reader, to be swept away by the high-stakes mystery and romance of Garber’s storytelling. The metaphors are often heavy-handed, and the descriptions a little florid, but what is Caraval if not steeped in excess at every turn?  The bright, saturated settings are matched by the protagonists’ keenly-felt emotions, which are often overly angst-ridden for my taste, but these are teen novels, after all.  If you are a lover of enchantment, you will find something to enjoy in the lands of Caraval and Legendary.  
 
Recommended by Sophie

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The tale of Achillies and the Trojan War (as chronicled in Homer’s Epic Poem “The Iliad”) told from the point of view of his steadfast companion Patroclus. Starting from their shared childhood, it presents a comprehensive view more than could ever be told in that classic tale. “The Iliad” tells only the events that happen in the last year of the Trojan War. So Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achillies” is a refreshing and totally innovative retelling of the great hero throughout his childhood and his relationship with the man that would bring about his fate prophesied since birth. Their friendship and love for each other transcends the eons and is still “sung” of today in this brilliant novel. (I’ll mark this as a spoiler even though the poem dates back to the 8th Century BC just as a precaution) Even after Patroclus’ death on the fields of Troy, the novel lives on through his ghost. Told with longing, and often heartbreaking prose this book should live on as long as the poem and a true testament to not only the great hero Achillies, but of his friend, lover and closest confidant, Patroclus.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn


A taut and eerie thriller from debut Author AJ Finn. This was dubbed “One of the best books of the Year” and rightfully so. This reader flew through the audiobook in a mere two days because it was impossible to put down (or hit pause in my case).

Anna is agoraphobic, and has not left her brownstone in almost a year. She spends her days watching her neighbors, playing chess, attempting to help others like her online and drinking red wine. The the Russell’s move across the park from her. She becomes obsessed with their comings and goings and even makes friends with the lady of the House, Jane Russell. When she witnesses a crime from her window, everything she knows is cast into doubt.


The parallels to a Hitchcockian film are really justified here. There’s the unreliable narrator, mistaken identity, and most importantly, the single tension filled setting.

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

This was a fun read--well, listen. I picked up this title because the third in the series just came out and it has been optioned for a movie. It will make a fantastic movie. This is the story of Rachel, an ABC--American Born Chinese (except she isn't), taken to Singapore by her long-term boyfriend Nick for the wedding of his best friend. He doesn't tell her many things--it's the wedding of the year (so she brought one dress to an event that required four); his family is filled with gossip and distrust of anyone they haven't known for generations; he and his family are crazy rich--not just rich, crazy rich; and most of all the family puts the "Fun" in Dysfunction (as the saying goes). As to be expected--things go wrong and get bad (and will make you laugh out loud). In an effort to not spoil, I'll say this is a good, fun, read that made me want to read book two right away. 

Recommended by Monica Shine
Click here to view in the catalog.