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Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs  (1914)
Tarzan is not at all timid about telling he is a mighty warrior, killer of beast and men, but he is utterly confused by lessons in French speech when he speaks only Ape and reads only English. It’s a fun read and well written.

Going Postal

Going Postal (2010)
Based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Going Postal is the best movie between Color of Magic and Hogfather. It’s a nice balance of fantasy, humor, and soul-saving life observation. I believe it’s so good for teenagers!

You can also check out a 2010 review.

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris (2011) PG-13
It was so wonderful to see this Woody Allen movie. I have seen every Woody Allen movie, but this one is in a class with Annie Hall (1977) and Sleeper (1973). The time travel element really does the trick. Paris is a perfect background. I highly recommend this film.

Did you miss your chance to see the film on the big screen?  You're in luck -- the La Grange Theatre will be showing the movie for one night in March in conjunction with the Big Read 2012. Look for the program guide around February 1 for more details!

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (2003)
His name is really Odd. He sees dead people and he does something about it. Odd works as a fry cook in a small town in California. He gets visited by borachs (spiritual entities) that swarm over people and places where future violence will occur. This story is suspenseful, the characters are compelling, and the humor is dark. Check out more book from the Odd Thomas series.
Watch Odd star in a another new adventure.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (1997)
A silver dragon named Firedrake is on a mission to find a mystical land called “The Rim of Heaven” that only dragons believe in. Firedrake meets a new friend, a human named Ben. He joins Firedrake and a brownie named Sorrel. They meet other characters along the way on their journey who help them find The Rim of Heaven. The trio also encounters some opposition to their quest.

Funke also wrote Inkheart (2003) and The Thief Lord (2002).

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope OsborneIn Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, siblings Jack and Annie travel in a tree house. An enchantress from Camelot, Morgan, cast a spell on the tree house. Jack and Annie travel to places in time, space, and fantasy. They are fun books – I can’t stop reading them!

Start with Dinosaurs before Dark and The Knight at Dawn.

Visit the author's website and learn more about the series.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) PG-13
Pilgrim (Michael Cera from Juno and Superbad) plays bass guitar in a Toronto garage band. He’s dating a high school girl, but meets his dream girl, Ramona Flowers, a punky American girl closer to his own age. The story is told as an allegory of life as a video game, complete with extra lives and the need to out-fight one’s enemies. Scott soon finds out he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes before they can date. Not just another teen movie, the movie appeals to a much wider range of fans. Watch for an uncredited appearance by Thomas Jane (The Punisher) as one of the Vegan Police.

One of the writers of this film (Edgar Wright) also co-wrote the clever zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004). Bryan Lee O'Malley wrote the graphic novels the movie was based on.

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless by Gail Carriger (2009)
Set in Victorian London, Soulless follows Alexia Tarabotti – a spinster with a secret. She’s a preternatural – without a soul – and her abilities cancel out the powers of other supernatural creatures.

It sounds farfetched, but Gail Carriger creates vivid characters and sharp humor that draw you in. I admit I don’t usually read and enjoy books with vampires, werewolves, and alternate history, but I was hooked. There’s a mystery to solve, a romance to enjoy, and secondary characters to follow.

A fun read and a good introduction to steampunk! If you enjoy Soulless, check out the next two books in the Parasol Protectorate: Changeless and Blameless.

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow (1999) R
This Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci borrows characters and the setting from Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, but otherwise bears no resemblance to the story. Although I am usually unhappy when Hollywood drastically alters a classic, I was happily surprised with this film.

Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a New York City police detective rather than Irving’s schoolmaster. The time is 1799. Crane is despised by the New York authorities because he uses scientific methods to solve crimes as opposed to the old-fashioned methods of beatings and torture. To get him out of their hair, he is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate three grisly murders. All of the victims have been decapitated.

The film is very atmospheric and you get the feeling of gloom that sets in during the late fall after all the leaves have fallen from the trees, the days are short and dark, and winter will soon arrive. The Oscar nomination for best cinematography is well earned.

Sleepy Hollow is not for young children or sensitive viewers as there is a lot of blood and gore, but everyone else should enjoy this film – especially if viewed in late October or early November and of course at night.

Ghost Town

Ghost Town (2008) PG-13
This delightful romantic comedy stars Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, and Tea Leoni. A dentist named Bertram Pincus (Gervais) has zero people skills and in fact despises people so much, it is surprising he didn't choose a different career such as hermit or public executioner. And as though life isn't tough enough for Pincus, he acquires the ability to see and speak with ghosts as a result of faulty anesthetic.

The ghosts are people who had unresolved issues at the time of their deaths and they all want Pincus to help him. For a man like Pincus, this is a disaster, as he has spent most of his life avoiding the living and now he's being haunted almost nonstop. However, things get even more complicated when one of the ghosts, Frank Herlihy (Kinnear), pesters Pincus into helping him break up his widow's engagement. This is a particularly difficult task since her fiancé is handsome, fit, wealthy, and a great humanitarian, whereas Pincus is plain, plump, and spectacularly obnoxious. In addition, Pincus has offended and antagonized Gwen several times in the past.

There are a lot of laughs in this movie and it is very definite feel good romance.

Check out other reviews from The New York Times, CNN, Roger Ebert, and The Seattle Times.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (2010)
In this delightful confection of a novel, “strange and wondrous things” happen in Mullaby, North Carolina. Teenager Emily Benedict comes to her mother’s hometown to live with her grandfather (who happens to be eight feet tall). Her wallpaper changes to suit her mood. She sees the “Mullaby lights” (which no one will explain) in her backyard. When she meets Win Coffey, the locals won’t tell her why they shouldn’t be friends.

Julie Winterson is an avid baker running her late father’s BBQ joint with a plan to get out of town. Sawyer’s “sweet sense” is triggered whenever Julie is baking cakes. The two have a shared past – and Julie has her secrets – but can they move on?

In this magical town where not everything can be explained and strange happenings are simply accepted, two women find what they’ve been looking for.

Visit the author’s website for excerpts, tidbits, recipes, and more!

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart (1980)
The story of Merlin has been told often. Mary Stewart’s account, however, has Merlin's point of view and his magic. It is full of detail, vivid images and realistic characters in a time far from our own. The Crystal Cave (Book 1) shows Merlin, at age five, living in his grandfather's household with his mother. Merlin helps defeat the High King Vortigern by using his powers to foretell the future. The book continues the story of his young life until the conception of Arthur.

The Hollow Hills (Book 2) picks up with Merlin taking care of Arthur, teaching him and helping him attain the throne by setting the sword Caliburn in the stone. It ends with Merlin in middle age and Arthur as High King. In The Last Enchantment (Book 3), readers learn of Merlin's last years before he disappears from the legend.  Truly memorable books!

Preview the trilogy and read an interview with the author.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer (2008) PG
Based on the animated TV series, Speed Racer may start out slow, but it soon becomes engrossing. Race car driver Speed Racer (Emilie Hirsch) loves driving – it’s in his blood (and it’s the family business). When he makes it to the big leagues, Speed learns about the dark side of the sport that took the life of his older brother.

Costarring Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Matthew Fox, Speed Racer is psychedelic fun for the whole family.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) PG
Another Ben Stiller winner. Everyone will enjoy watching the authentic Smithsonian Museums' artifacts come alive! The story tells interesting historical facts about Amelia Earhart and General Custer.

I went to Washington, D.C., two years ago; therefore, the movie impressed me in that it was based on facts like the largest sea monster caught being at the Smithsonian and the use of the Air and Space Museum for action. Of course, you'll love seeing Abe Lincoln come to life walking and talking...and having recently climbed all those stairs up the Lincoln Memorial, I was impressed that the movie used Abe to great advantage.

See this on DVD for lots of laughs. And don't forget to check out the original Night at the Museum.

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart (2008)
When all of his regular customers are going bald or deserting him for a snazzy new barber in the next town, Guillaume Ladoucette gives up barbering for matchmaking. Trying to pair up his friends and neighbors, though, turns out to be harder than Guillaume imagined. Especially when he can't even manage his own love life. A charming story set in a magical town and chock full of good French food and eccentrics.

Read an interview with the author and explore the publisher's reading guide for this title.