Book review: Three Day Road

By , February 28, 2011

Three Day Road
by Joseph Boyden

Three Day Road tells the story of cousins Xavier and Elijah, Canadian snipers who serve with distinction during the First World War. The cousins are young Cree Indians who join the Canandian Expiditionary Force to prove their bravery to one another. Though both are excellent snipers, they have very different personalities. Xavier is raised by their aunt Niska, a medicine woman, and last Cree to live in a traditional manner in the wilderness outside of Moose Factory, Ontario. Xavier’s English is weak and he does not integrate well into Caucasian society. Elijah on the other hand is raised by nuns in a town orphanage. He is charismatic, has a gift for words, and easily navigates among whites regardless of the nature of his private thoughts. The atrocities of the Great War turn their provincial worldview upside down. Their different personalities are reflected in their divergent reactions to the death around them. Only one cousin returns to an elderly Niska. Healing her surviving nephew from the physical and psychological wounds he obtained during the war will test her magic.

I have an interest in the literature of indigenous peoples and WW1 history. Three Day Road provided a refreshing enough take on both to keep me enthralled. The story of the cousins was inspired by real life First Nations sniper Francis Pegahmagabow, or “Peggy.” Because the cousins are snipers, you’ll get all sorts of technical wonk about the guns they use, plus the drama of the highest stakes competition between Canadian and German snipers.  Through flashbacks we learn of Niska’s education in the healing arts and the Cree’s encounters with Europeans before the establishment of contemporary Canada. If you don’t know what a windigo is you’ll have to read the book to find out. Personally, I love a good windigo story.

If you get the book on CD the voices of Niska and Xavier are performed by two different actors so you’ll get the treat of both a mature female voice and a younger male voice. You’ll also get to hear the Cree words pronounced properly which, if you are like me, you’d just be mumbling through them otherwise.

DVD review: The Oscars

By , February 23, 2011

Get ready for this year’s Academy Awards by revisiting the Best Picture winners from the past ten years:

2000: Gladiator
2001: A Beautiful Mind
2002: Chicago
2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2005: Crash
2006: The Departed
2007: No Country for Old Men
2008: Slumdog Millionaire
2009: The Hurt Locker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for 2010, my head says The King’s Speech, but my heart says The Fighter.

-Beth

Book review: Gods in Alabama

By , February 19, 2011

Gods in alGods in Alabama
By Joshilyn Jackson

Don’t you love it when you find a new author who’s first book is surprisingly good? And when you finish that first book, you’re sad because it’s over, but glad because the book was good and you didn’t waste that time? Then the author comes out with a second book, and you think, I should read that. But for some reason or another you just don’t get around to it.  Then finally, FINALLY, you simply sit down and decide you are going to read the new book. And when you finish it, you think “Man, that was good, why did I wait so long to read it?” Do you ever feel like that?

Because that’s exactly how I feel about this book. I read Jackson’s first book, Between, Georgia when it came out and thought it was really good. Then I got lost in PNRUFy Land for a while, so I kinda missed when Gods in Alabama was released. But having just finished it, I can say it was definately worth the wait.

Our story starts in Chicago with Arlene on the phone with her Aunt Florence.  She hasn’t been back to Alabama to see her family ever since she left 10 years ago. Why, you ask?  Read the book and find out.

I love Jackson’s writing style.  She’s a great story teller.  I thought I had this one all figured out and then she twisted it yet again. I don’t know what else to say, besides it is just a good read.  If you’re looking for something that is good and won’t waste your time – check out any book by Jackson.  She now has four: Between, Georgia/ Gods in Alabama/ The Girl Who Stopped Swimming/ and Backseat Saints (which is a spin off of a characters from Gods in Alabama).  I’ve only read the first two, but I’m sure the others are just as good, and I’ma going there next…
:) Amanda

Book review: The Books of Childhood

By , February 16, 2011

In the middle of a dreary February, surrender to nostalgia and lighten your mood with these utterly charming old-school children’s books.

Betsy and the Great World
by Maud Hart Lovelace

Rejoice!  Some of Betsy’s adventures have recently been rereleased in beautiful new editions.  If you’re new to the Betsy-Tacy series, you may want to start with Heaven to Betsy/Betsy in Spite of Herself

 

The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories
by Joan Aiken

Many of these stories were originally collected in Armitage, Armitage, Fly Away Home (1968).  The title story remains one of my favorite short stories to this day.

 

Half Magic
by Edward Eager

I know these are fighting words, but Edward Eager’s books about magic trump Harry Potter any day, in my opinion.  If you like this one, try Seven Day Magic or The Time Garden.

 

Cheaper By the Dozen
by Frank B. Gilbreth

Read the book, then watch the 1950 movie featuring Myrna Loy.

 

The Westing Game
by Ellen Raskin

This 1979 Newbery Medal winner is a clue-filled masterpiece.

An Oscar for Helena Bonham Carter?

By , February 15, 2011

HELENA_BONHAM_CARTER_2From A Room With a View to Fight Club to Alice in Wonderland, Helena Bonham Carter always gives a fabulous performance.    This former “corset queen” remains one of the best actresses of her generation.  Helena has received many awards and accolades throughout her career, but never an Academy Award.  Will this be her year?  She received her first Oscar nomination (best actress)  for Wings of the Dove in 1997, but lost out to Helen Hunt in As Good As it Gets.   Helena has been nominated in the best supporting actress category for her role in The King’s Speech.    Catch up on the rest of her films, including my favorite Conversations with Other Women.  And may she take home an Oscar while wearing matching shoes!

GeekiLeaks: Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica Series Bible

By , February 14, 2011

Fans of Battlestar Galactica know that much of the show’s tone and direction was laid out in a “mission statement” written by the show’s creator Ronald Moore. This mission statement ended up being photocopied atop the show’s working scripts. This vision for the show is what convinced powerhouse actor Edward James Olmos to accept the central role of Commander William Adama. Leaked here is not only said mission statement but the entire “bible” of the show’s universe as envisioned by Moore. Within this concise document you learn all about the mystical planet of Kobol, the technology of the Cylons, and back stories of all your favorite characters. This is the holy grail for BSG fans.

This document just isn’t for fanbois.  This scan of Moore’s BSG bible is found at Harvardwood.org, a resource site for Harvard alumni in the entertainment industry, as a great example of a TV treatment. Indeed, BSG was likely so successful because it achieved the goals laid out in the mission statement; namely, being a military drama first and SF show last and in so doing attracted millions of fans that wouldn’t normally be interested in an SF series. So if you are interested in television production or screen writing check out all the TV writing resources on the site. Much like BSG, it is more than you ever expected.

Thanks to Jeremy at Edmonson Pike for turning me on to this document, and the show itself, and Harvardwood.org.

DVD Review: The Big Bang Theory

By , February 12, 2011

Big Bang TheoryThe Big Bang Theory

You know that a TV show is about smart people doing smart things when you have to look up a word in the show’s theme song (sung by the Barenaked Ladies, natch).  I give you Exhibit A…

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait…
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

Autotrophs?  What in the world is an autotroph?

Ok, according to dictionary.com, and autotroph is any organism capable of self-nourishment by using inorganic materials as a source of nutrients and using photosynthesis or chemosynthesis as a source of energy as most plants and certain bacteria and protists.  Fun, right? All theme show songs should have the word autotroph in them.

Don’t let all this academia scare you, though.  This show is incredibly funny and a little witty. From the first episode with Sheldon admitting that he would not like his child if the kid didn’t know whether to use the integral or the differential to solve for the area under a curve – to the fact that Raj can’t talk to girls without being drunk, The Big Bang Theory has something for everyone who has just a little bit of nerd inside. (The rest of you beautiful people won’t get it.)

I have to say that this is the only show I watch with any kind of consistency. (I can’t even say that about my beloved Glee – sigh.)  The library has the first three seasons, so you can get caught up and then join us at 7, Thursday nights on CBS.

And if someone can explain the spherical chicken joke to me, I’d really appreciate it…
:) Amanda

Book review: Simplify Your Life

By , February 9, 2011

Are you ready to downshift a bit?  Try one of these life-altering books:

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez

 

The Simple Living Guide : A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living
Janet Luhrs

 

 

The 50 Best Ways to Simplify Your Life : Proven Techniques for Achieving Lasting Balance
Patrick Fanning

 

-Beth

Book review: A Course Called Ireland

By , February 8, 2011


A Course Called Ireland  A long Walk in Search of a Country, a Pint, and the Next Tee

by Tom Coyne

Tom walked around the perimeter of Ireland with golf clubs on his back – played some 56 links courses, met up with friends and relatives, braved extremely rainy weather, narrow roads and roving dogs and had one heck of an unfortunate incident in one B&B – and captured it all with wit and fine understated writing.
I would dock this at least half a star for the paucity of photos included (and he described people taking pictures at various points) – the black and white snaps don’t do this justice. Inexplicable.I really like golf and armchair adventure travel so this book was a very satisfying read for me. Detailed enough but with some opportunities to read between the lines (and laugh out loud). He balanced the consumption of Guinness with a steadfast discipline in not taking rides ( “lifts” ) or shortcuts so I really commend the author for accomplishing this challenging (but rewarding in a once in a lifetime sense!) undertaking.   I’m also glad he didn’t hurl his clubs out to sea when it was all over, but found a better idea.More than just a golf book it’s a bittersweet reconnection with his past and a roaming, observant  adventure in today’s Ireland, hemmed in by arranged T-times but freewheeling just the same.  When I finished this book I looked over at a random golf course calendar I have and the February course pictured was  Ballybunion Old – the very course Mr. Coyne ended his travels with!

-Phil

 

Music review: Paul Desmond – Bossa Antigua

By , February 7, 2011

bossa antiguaBossa Antigua
By Paul Desmond featuring Jim Hall, 1965.

Paul Desmond may be best known for his memorable saxophone features on the seminal Dave Brubeck Quartet jazz album, Time Out. Follow Desmond, with his own quartet, on to Bossa Antigua, his first excellent foray into bossa nova music.

In contrast to the incredible frenzied rhythms on Time Out, Paul Desmond’s alto sax soars over the subtle samba rhythms set down by Connie Kay (Modern Jazz Quintet). The other treat in this session is Jim Hall’s muted guitar –  it compliments Desmond’s solos gracefully. The sax and guitar bounce off each other so effortlessly that the listener forgets there was a melody back there somewhere, until they remind him in perfect unison. Brubeck fans, don’t miss Bossa Antigua.

Check out Bossa Antigua on CD from Nashville Public Library. Or download Bossa Antigua (and Time Out), plus hundreds of other great jazz albums from Freegal, using the Nashville Public Library card.

- Kyle

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