The Guilt Trip (2012) PG-13

guilttripJoyce and Andrew Brewster embark on a cross-country trip that tests the limits of their mother/son relationship. Underneath all the overbearing mothering and the know-it-all son attitude, they discover some basic truths about life and each other. Barbra Streisand's comedic timing makes The Guilt Trip a fun pick. All it's missing is a good sing-along on the road!
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The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (2013)

interestingsSix teens meet at Spirit in the Woods, a camp for the arts, in the 1970s. Julie Jacobson's life is altered in ways she never imagined. As she becomes part of The Interestings, her name is permanently changed to Jules and it is mainly from her point of view that we follow the lives of the six through the next several decades. A crime, a betrayal, and a secret bring the group down to four. Jonah's story is interesting and he remains close to the core group, but chooses never to reveal a tragic incident in his past which holds him at a distance.

Ash and Ethan marry each other and remain close to Jules. Jules has a good marriage with Dennis. He loves her deeply, but can never quite compete with the Interestings' bond. Illness, financial challenges, and even death confront the two couples. Throughout the backdrop of American history, the Interestings test the bonds of family and friendship.

In The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer has created a microcosm of life for the generation that came of age in a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate world, tried to enter the job market at the start of Reaganomics, and have a foot in two centuries: the tail end of the baby boomers who are trying to make sense of their lives.
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Out of the Deep I Cry by Julia Spencer-Fleming (2004)

index.aspxOut of the Deep I Cry is another suspenseful installment of drama in the small town of Miller's Kill. This mystery spans decades and Julia Spencer-Fleming skillfully goes back and forth naming her chapters - Then and Now. Having this advantage, the reader begins to piece things together even before Rev. Clare and Russ crack the case. Jane Ketchem, mother of Mrs. Marshall from St. Alban's vestry, is still supporting the local clinic thirty years after her death. When Mrs. Marshall decides to give the money to the church, a series of events is put into motion that uncovers family secrets that have been hidden since before her birth.

As Rev. Clare and Russ work closely to uncover the truth and bring the proper people to justice, they find their friendship and their mutual attraction growing stronger. Soul mates is the only term that comes to mind as Spencer-Fleming describes the depth and pureness of their love through beautifully written dialog. The scripture passages and details of the religious ceremonies serve to solidify the morality of the characters.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011)

From flowers to foster care, from motherhood to mental illness, Vanessa Diffenbaugh takes them all on and creates a very special character by the name of Victoria. She creates the perfect setting for a book about the meaning of flowers - San Francisco! The reader cries for Victoria and roots for her to succeed. She is her own worst enemy. In The Language of Flowers, Diffenbaugh keeps us in suspense until the last minute as to what Victoria's fate will be.

The Longest Road by Philip Caputo (2013)

Caputo, his wife, and his two hunting dogs travel from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the U.S. trying to answer the question: what is the glue that holds Americans together? We are such a diverse people spread out over such a diverse landscape from sea to shining sea.

Historical trivia, local color, and a few laughs follow Philip Caputo on his long trip. It's all in the journey, not the destination. Also, it is a very personal journey. Each one of us could write a very different memoir about the same trip. I anxiously await my opportunity.

The Longest Road is the 2014 Big Read selection. Find discussions, programs, and author visit information here, he’ll be at Ashton Place on May 1.

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer (2011)

In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer recounts his experiences preparing for the U.S. Memory Championship. He includes extensive information on the brain as well as his personal anecdotes and personalities encountered along the way. With Kevin Trudeau behind bars, we may be looking to Foer for tips on how to develop a superior memory.
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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (2013)

This is my first taste of Neil Gaiman as a writer for an adult audience. The same master storytelling and ability to keep you on the edge of your seat is there. The Ocean at the End of the Lane seems like a child's novel at first. The main character is reminiscing about a nightmarish memory from his childhood. After a while, it becomes quite apparent that the content is straight from a nightmare and also for mature audiences.

Gaiman keeps the reader questioning. Is this reality, fantasy, or are we dealing with mythical creatures as old as life itself? As a consolation to readers, no matter how horrible the nightmare gets, we know our hero survives to recount the story as an adult.

 

12 Angry Men (1957)

This film took me by surprise. It's black and white. Most of the action takes place in a small room with the same twelve people for 90 minutes. The story is so well written, well directed, and well acted that the viewer doesn't mind its simplicity.

In 12 Angry Men, the characters and plot evolve in a jury room. The jurors identified only as Juror #1, #2, etc., must decide the fate of an eighteen-year-old man accused of murdering his father. One brave man among the twelve votes innocent. He doesn't necessarily believe he is innocent, but desperately believes he deserves some thoughtful discussion before being sent to the electric chair.

A thoughtful, angry discussion ensues. Eleven men are ready to write off this young man as a slum dweller who could easily commit murder. All the evidence points to the son as the killer, yet one man insists they examine the details. As a result, the personalities of the twelve begin to unfold.

We've created a list of films featuring Lawyers in the Movies. For more on 12 Angry Men, check out Robert Ebert's review and the American Film Institute's feature.
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The living matrix: a film on the new science of healing (2009)

TLM-Cover_frontDespite somewhat of an infomercial look and feel, The Living Matrix captures the viewer's attention. The opening scene of a child with Cerebral Palsy tugs at one's heartstrings. Anyone who has a chronic illness, disease, or an afflicted loved one is gently persuaded to continue listening to the success stories.

Experts in their fields share research on bioenergetics, quantum physics, reconnective healing, energy fields, the placebo effect, and other cutting edge scientific developments. The term miraculous is used loosely, but the spiritual aspects are never explored. Those interested in holistic health and alternative methods of healing owe it to themselves to watch this 83 minute documentary. Find additional resources on The Living Matrix website.

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2012)

Had enough of summer heat and humidity? Why not escape to Lake Eden, Minnesota, in February and help Hannah Swensen solve another murder! Hannah’s adventures are intriguing, yet light. That's why the cliff hanger ending at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder surprised me. Is it finally time for Hannah to choose between her two suitors?

I enjoyed the mystery and my family enjoyed Hannah's delicious Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bars and Chocolate-Covered Raisin Cookies. Fluke's character uses chocolate to soothe murder induced stress and pry information out of potential suspects.

Check out Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook for all of Hannah’s recipes.

Paris in Love by Eloisa James (2012)

Eloisa James wrote this memoir based on her blog and Twitter posts during a sabbatical in Paris. The entries are filled with wit, wisdom, and insights into motherhood and life in general. Tidbits on daily life in Paris abound. The patient reader is rewarded with a sense of character development in each of her family members over the year. The author even throws in a few recipes, reminiscent of Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard, but it is a very different type of memoir.

After the last tear has been shed, the last laugh chuckled, and the family is safe and sound stateside, James adds "My Very Idiosyncratic Guide to a Few Places in Paris" for all of us who dream of visiting Paris someday. She recommends museums, galleries, boutiques, salons, eateries, chocolate shops, and the like that she frequented during her stay in the acclaimed city. Many include websites, just in case we can't wait for our next trip abroad.

Paris in Love is my first taste of the author's work and seems to be atypical. I may have to read one of Eloisa James's (also known as Mary Bly) essays on Shakespeare or romance novels to complete the picture.

Death is a Cabaret by Deborah Morgan (2001)

This is the first book in the Antique Lover's Mystery series. Both the premise and the characters have potential, but the plot drags in parts. Jeff Talbot is a retired FBI agent who has turned his passion for antiques into a business. He retired early from the FBI for a little peace and quiet with his wife who suffers from agoraphobia and cannot leave their home. His antique buying trip to Mackinac Island is anything but peaceful and quiet. Jeff finds himself using his FBI skills once again when dead bodies turn up at the Grand Hotel. Morgan adds authenticity to the story with her extensive knowledge of antiques. Download the audiobook of Death is a Cabaret today.

 

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin (2013)

Melanie Benjamin mixes history and conjecture into an epic story of love, triumph, heartbreak, and betrayal. In The Aviator’s Wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh is portrayed as a strong woman, accomplished in her own right, who stood behind her hero husband even when he didn't act like much of a hero. Through tragedy and scandal, she held her head high as she silently grieved.

This excellent piece of historical fiction makes the reader want to delve further into the biographies, histories, and actual literary works of one of the most famous couples of the twentieth century.

Lorna Raver's rich mature voice reminds listeners of the audio version that this story is told from Anne's perspective in her later years as Charles is dying. The story begins and ends in 1974. Flashbacks have Anne recalling her life with Charles with the wisdom of having already lived through it.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (2010)

A unique love story set in a picturesque English village, Simonson has a talent for bringing it all together. The characters, the setting, societal values, religion, aging, parenting interweave into a engaging story.

Major Pettigrew might at first appear to be a stiff old English gent stuck in his ways. He is so much more and he gets to prove it with his love, courage, and wisdom. Mrs. Ali gives him a second lease on life. His relationship with his grown son develops through the course of events set in motion with the death of his brother. To say this is a late in life love story is selling it short. It is a great piece of fiction that happens to contain a beautiful romance between two mature adults.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a phenomenal first effort for the author. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Simonson's unique voice.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009)

I finally see what all the fuss has been about. The Help is an excellent book. Stockett pulls you into another world, long ago and far away. The story unfolds through the eyes of three very different woman and the reader grows to love and root for each one of them. They are good women caught in a cultural trap that seems to have no escape. Working together and risking their lives, they manage to make a small difference.

When you finish the book don't forget to watch the movie!