Last Chance Harvey

Last Chance Harvey (2008) PG-13
I just had to see this film starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson – two actors I have always respected and love to watch. Yes, the story is predictable, but their gifted acting makes this a genuine film with a lot of heart, not overly dramatic or sappy. The scenes of London provide a charming backdrop throughout the film. Overall, it’s a wonderful “mature” love story that you can just sit back and enjoy.

See what the reviewers said -- check out Roger Ebert and USA Today.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn (2009)
If you like mysteries, love dogs, and have a sense of humor, you’ll enjoy this book. It’s a quick, easy read with an interesting plot and a cast of intriguing characters. Getting to know the characters and seeing the plot unfold from a dog’s perspective is quite entertaining. Chet, the dog, is owned by, and partner to, Bernie, a private investigator. This is the first of hopefully more Chet and Bernie mysteries. I’ll be looking for the next one to be published.

Visit Chet the dog's blog.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad by Pat Conroy (2009)
In my opinion, Conroy is a master at developing characters (often damaged) and telling their stories in a fascinating and elegant manner.  I loved his previous books, Prince of Tides and The Great Santini.  This book is filled with many interesting and diverse characters living in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1990.  It follows an unlikely group of friends from high school in the late 60s and into adulthood.  He touches on many social and personal issues in a way that everyone can find something to relate to.  His dramatic depiction of Charleston and the South Carolina coast stirred an interest in me to visit this area sometime soon.

Visit the author's website, read the N.Y. Times review, and view an excerpt from the book.
Tags:

Bopha!

Bopha! (1993) PG-13
This film takes place in South Africa in 1980, in the midst of the Apartheid uprisings. It focuses on a particular African American family. Danny Glover plays the husband, a policeman, who is employed by the government. Unbeknownst to him, his teenage son starts to engage in anti-apartheid activities. It provides interesting and often disturbing insight into this time period, and how it affected the residents of South Africa.

Visit NPR.org for a series of articles and audio clips recounting South Africa's struggle for democracy.
Tags:

Twisted by Jeffery Deaver

Twisted by Jeffery Deaver (2003)
I don’t usually like short stories, but decided to read this book based on a patron’s enthusiastic recommendation. I really loved it. Within a few pages, Deaver is able to develop each story with captivating characters in stimulating situations. And, each has a twisted or surprise ending. For those who like to, or are only able to read in short spurts, this is a great find!! I’m also planning to read the follow-up, titled More Twisted.

View the author's website, preview the book, and read reviews at Amazon.com.

Doubt

Doubt (2008) PG-13Doubt is an excellent, engaging film with a great cast led by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film is set in 1964, in a Catholic elementary school in New York City. Streep plays the principal of the school, a very traditional and rigid nun. Hoffman plays a priest in the parish, with more progressive views. The story focuses on a conflict between these two characters. It is one of those thought-provoking films that compels you to talk about it afterward, since it allows the viewer to absorb the story based on one’s own background and perspective.

And you can talk about it! Join us this Friday -- December 4 -- at 7:00 to watch and discuss the film. Sign up online, in person at Readers Services, or by phone at 630/887-8760, ext. 239.

Breach

Breach (2007) PG-13
Breach is great film, based on the true story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was convicted of treason. The movie portrays the events that took place surrounding the investigation and arrest of Robert Hanssen. There’s not a lot of action, but it definitely held my interest, as it was well-written, well-paced, and thought-provoking, especially knowing that it’s true.

Listen to an interview on NPR with the man who caught Hanssen -- Eric O'Neill -- and with screenwriter Billy Ray. Also check out an article featuring Chris Cooper, who portrays Hanssen in the film.

Lomax and Biggs Series by Marshall Karp

Lomax and Biggs Series by Marshall Karp (2006-2009)
I rarely listen to books on CD, but picked up The Rabbit Factory on CD based on a patron’s zealous recommendation.  After listening to The Rabbit Factory, I immediately got Bloodthirsty, then Flipping Out.  I loved them all!  They are all laugh-out-loud funny, with unforgettable characters.

I’ve recommended them to several other people, who all agree that they are very entertaining to read or listen to. These are the first three books in the “Lomax and Biggs” mystery series by Marshall Karp.  I anxiously await the next book in the series.  Lomax and Biggs are LAPD detectives, who are very smart, witty, and engaging.  To top it off, the narrator on the CD does a great job with all the characters’ voices.

Visit the Lomax and Biggs website, read an interview with the author, and find reviews of the series at Amazon.com.

Taken

Taken (2008) PG-13
Fast-paced action thriller that touches on a topic that is frightening for any parent. Liam Neeson plays a former government agent whose teenage daughter is abducted while in Paris with a friend. He relies on his old skills to try to rescue his daughter and seek revenge on the criminals who kidnapped her.

Vertical Run by Joseph Garber

Vertical Run by Joseph Garber (1995)
This is not a new book, but it’s still a great read! I found it hard to put down, with fast-paced, nonstop action and suspense. It’s a thriller about a man trapped in a Manhattan office tower where he works. Upon his early arrival to work one day, he quickly discovers that nearly everyone he encounters, including his boss, is trying to kill him. The plot centers on his attempts to determine why these people want him dead and to do everything in his power – especially using techniques learned during his combat experiences in Vietnam – to save himself.

The main character's sense of humor and the flashbacks to his days in Vietnam really add to the appeal of this story.

Read a review at Amazon.com and visit FantasticFiction to see other books by the author.

Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans

Finding Noel by Richard Paul Evans (2006)
This book touched my heart and soul in so many ways. The characters were so believable and relatable. I couldn’t put it down, despite that fact that I was overcome with emotion at various times throughout the book. It was one of those books that kept me thinking about the characters long after I finished it. The book is narrated by a young man. Each chapter opens with a brief entry from his diary. A few of my favorite entries are:
  • “My mother used to tell me that angels walk the earth disguised as people. Tonight I’m a believer.”
  • “Sometimes you can’t go home again.”
  • “I have learned firsthand that one well-placed truth can counter a lifetime of ignorance.”
  • “Usually life’s greatest gifts come wrapped in adversity.”
Although this is considered a Christmas book, it certainly can be read at any time of the year.

Read a review at Bookreporter.com, visit the author's website and check out the reading guide. You may also read an excerpt from the book.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (2008)
This is a must read for every dog lover! It’s a touching and inspiring story narrated by a dog named Enzo. He tells funny, and often sad, tales of his family from his perspective. When you think about it, a family dog hears lots of things that many people do not. After all, people will talk about anything in front of a dog! And, as Enzo says, dogs are great listeners – they don’t interrupt, or make comments about what is being said. He also learns a lot from watching TV channels such as the Discovery and History Channels.

Enzo's owner is a race car driver. Although I’m not a fan of racing, I appreciated Enzo's insights into the principles of racing and how they relate to life in general. I must warn you...there are emotional, heartbreaking moments that made me cry. But it sure made me look at my own dogs in a whole new light!
--Denise

This is a story from the perspective of a dog who is dying. He reflects back at his life and his loved ones – both good and bad experiences.


Visit the author's and book's website, read reviews at Amazon.com and check out the reading guide.
--Judy

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter (2008)
A moving and eye-opening story of resilience! This memoir recounts the author’s horrific experiences during her nine years in the foster care system. As a foster parent myself, I know firsthand the injustices and often appalling condition of the system.

I found this book engrossing, yet quite disturbing in many ways, especially her stories of abuse and neglect at the hands of foster families. I personally know many devoted and compassionate foster parents, and cannot imagine anyone becoming a foster parent with malevolent intentions. While this book may not be of interest to everybody, I think it’s a must read for anyone involved with children in foster care: foster parents, birth parents, social workers, therapists, teachers, judges, etc. Although this book is filled with many disturbing and tragic scenes, it is also filled with hope and love. That is what kept me reading it.

Visit the author's website and preview the book before you visit the library.

Lions for Lambs

Lions for Lambs (2007) R
As a huge fan of Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, I had to see this movie. Redford stars in and directed this film. Tom Cruise also does an impeccable job playing an ambitious politician.

Unlike any film I’ve seen recently, it relies primarily on dialogue, rather than action, to deliver its message. Although the main subject of the film is U.S. involvement in a war in Afghanistan, it uses three different story lines, all taking place simultaneously, to portray how the media, government, and education systems can shape and/or manipulate our attitudes about so many things.

Each story line is interesting and thought provoking in a unique way. Although not a documentary, you can’t help but draw many parallels to the current situations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mostly, it asks us to examine our own personal responsibility and choices to take action, rather than remain apathetic or indifferent.

I also enjoyed the special features - hearing the views of the writer, director, and other actors. Check out TIME Magazine's conversation with Redford, Streep, and Cruise.
Tags:

Mistaken Identity by Don Van Ryn Family and Newell Cerak Family

Mistaken Identity by Van Ryn and Cerak Families (2008)
This book was written by the families involved in the much-publicized, tragic incident in which two college students involved in a car accident were mistakenly identified for one another. One girl was killed in the accident; the other survived, but was in a coma for many weeks. For five weeks, one family kept a constant vigil at their daughter’s bedside, only to discover that she was not, in fact, their daughter. The other family memorialized, buried, and grieved for their daughter, then learned five weeks later that she was alive.

Both families tell of the incredible outpouring of love, support and prayer that family, friends, and strangers provided. Their deep faith and trust in God enable them to gracefully cope with these almost unimaginable events. The grace with which these families deal with this tragedy is truly awe-inspiring.

Read an excerpt, watch a video clip, or listen to an audio clip at the publisher's website; read reviews at Amazon.com.