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The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin (2004)
This nonfiction book portrays an important but painful time in the development of the United States. In 1888, when the Great Plains were being settled by European immigrants and Eastern transplants looking for a better life for their children, their biggest battle was against the weather. This book recounts the momentous events when a blizzard swept down out of Canada and caught many schoolchildren on their way home from school.

View the reading guide and author's interview.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) R
The cast -- Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei -- rise to the occasion in this recent film by director Sidney Lumet. Like an ancient tragedy, it is a melodrama told in out-of-sequence episodes (with captions so you know where you are) of the botched robbery of a mom-and-pop jewelry store. Lumet's tale seems rooted in the new middle-class money hunger and its deeply emotional consequences.

See what The New York Times said about the movie.

The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin

The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin (2008)
Adelia, the heroine of Ariana Franklin's bestseller, Mistress of the Art of Death, finds herself again in the service of King Henry II, who wants to know who murdered his mistress, Rosamund Clifford. Rosamund was poisoned in the tower in which she lived. Just as in her previous novel, Franklin's story is great fun. Adelia is part CSI investigator and part medieval detective. The story moves forward in this second book of the Adelia Aguilar series. Adelia has given birth to Allie whose father is Rowley Picot, king Henry's staunch supporter.

Read an excerpt, visit the author's website, and read reviews.

Bells are Ringing

Bells are Ringing (1960)
Telephone operator Ella Peterson (Judy Holliday) becomes involved with the lives of all the customers at Susanswerphone, including handsome playwright Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin). When Ella finally meets Jeffrey, its love at first sight, but she can't tell him who she really is--the motherly voice on the phone who has been listening to his problems and giving him advice. Includes the songs "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over." Also with Jean Stapleton (of All in the Family) and directed by Vincente Minnelli. See it at the library on Friday, December 5 at 7:00.

Small Miracles by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum


Small Miracles by Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum (1997)
With its moving, heartwarming, and inspirational stories of serendipity and coincidence, this book leaves you with the feeling that just maybe someone is looking over our lives and “making things happen.” There is a second edition, which I also enjoyed: Small Miracles II.

Read an excerpt from another title in the "Small Miracles" series (Small Miracles of Love and Friendship).  Discover more about the author in a New York Times article.

Caravaggio by Christopher Peachment


Caravaggio by Christopher Peachment (2002) Caravaggio was an audacious painter of the Renaissance. He was a rage-filled man who self-destructed. The blunt prose describes historical violence with candor. Peachment provides an adventure into the mind of a creative genius. But, be warned, painters can be scary people.

You can read an excerpt or go to Amazon.com to read reviews.

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland


The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland (2004)
Turn of the century historical novel about the life and paintings of Emily Carr. Emily Carr has been compared to Georgia O'Keefe and other female painters who have a distinguished artistic style. Emily Carr's subjects are the primitive British Columbia native tribal cultures, which her paintings preserved as the cultures disappeared. Emily lived until 1945: long enough to know her bold, huge, impressionist paintings were hung in Canadian museums and recognized as works equal to the male impressionists of the same period. The author creates interesting characters which are the backdrop for Emily Carr's history. The first third of the story starts out slowly, but becomes interesting so that the last two thirds make the book an interesting, educational, good ending read.

 



Preview this book and check out the reading guide and author's interview.

 

The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Epstein


The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein (2008)
Reminiscent of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, this novel is a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and how she went from prostitute to post-Impressionist artist. Pan Yuliang was actually one of the most talented and provocative Chinese artists of the twentieth century. The background of historical events make The Painter from Shanghai an irresistible story.

Visit the author's website, read an interview with the author, and check out the reviews.

Amelie = Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain

Amelie  = Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001) R
Amelie is a young woman with a keen imagination and an active fantasy life. She works in a cafe where she steps into the lives of others around her to help them out…in her uniquely whimsical and romantic way.

In French with English subtitles.

Are you there, Vodka? by Chelsea Handler

Are you there, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler (2008)
Comedian and talk show host Chelsea Handler tells funny stories about her life. Topics include getting pulled over one week after her 21st birthday, taking a trip to Costa Rica with her father, and her love for vodka. A quick, enjoyable read.


Check out the author's fansite and read an excerpt from the book.

August Rush

August Rush (2007) PG
This story of star-crossed lovers will lift your spirits. When an Irish guitarist meets a beautiful cellist in New York, they fall deeply in love. Their child, a musical prodigy like Mozart, runs away from his orphanage (that story is a subplot since neither parent knows he’s alive…) and he sets out to find his parents through his gift of music.

He takes the name of August Rush and so their song of faith and love and happy endings begins. The journey has a few jolts and there is a touch of Oliver Twist in the characters, but it is definitely a fun movie.

Foul Matter by Martha Grimes

Foul Matter by Martha Grimes (2003)
Foul matter is the name given by editors to an unedited manuscript. In this tongue-in-cheek caper, a best selling author agrees to change publishers if said publisher will drop their best, most literary writer. The publisher’s solution? To hire two hit men to knock off their talented but slender-selling writer.

Visit Book Reporter to read an excerpt and an interview. Check out the San Francisco Chronicle author interview.

Warm Springs

Warm Springs (2005) PG
This HBO original movie follows the development of a self-pitying Franklin Roosevelt, recent polio victim, to a man ready to enter back into politics, making a speech at the 1928 Democratic convention. Helping him to make the transition are the many ordinary people, also polio victims, who make their way to Georgia with hopes of healing. With Kenneth Branagh and Cynthia Nixon.

America (The Book) by Jon Stewart

America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart (2004)
Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show fame, has written a very funny book that might also teach you something about the way our government works. However, some readers may be offended by some of the crude language used throughout the book.

You can read an excerptlisten to segments on NPR, or go to Amazon.com to read an interview and watch a video message.

Audition by Barbara Walters

Audition by Barbara Walters (2008)
Barbara Walters "tells all" in this biography/memoir and doesn't come across as being exemplary in her personal life with her parents, sibling, daughter and husbands. But oh, what a life she has lead! Her retelling of her travels and the multitude of interviews she has done is mesmerizing. This woman has lived a full life and has taken us on her journey through the pages of this book. It was a great read.

On ABC's website, read an article about the book and view her photo album, which details various stages of her life. Read the New York Times review or listen to the NPR interview.