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Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham

Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham (2005)
This novel tells three stories interrelated with Walt Whitman's influence being woven in each. In "In the Machine," 13-year-old Lucas spouts Whitman's verse, faces grief and finds love only to be tormented by his dead brother's voice in the machines in the Ironworks where he is employed during the Industrial Revolution of the 1920s in New York.

The next story, "The Children's Crusade," is in 21st century New York City with African American police detective Cat investigating a band of Whitman quoting children terrorizing the city. The final story is "Like Beauty," dealing with the futuristic android with a Whitman poetry chip implanted in its circuits and its journey with Luke, a young boy, to find its maker. The novel is artistically constructed and showcases Cunningham's flair for language and developed characters.

Visit the author's website, read reviews at Amazon.com, or listen to a review on NPR.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (2008)
Twenty-six year old Josey still lives with her mother in the family mansion in the mountains of North Carolina. Acting as her mother’s cook, caregiver, and chauffeur, Josey has no life of her own until she wakes up one morning and finds local waitress Della Lee hiding in her closet. Through Della Lee, Josey meets and befriends Chloe, becomes involved in Chloe’s romantic problems and goes on a date with the man of her dreams. A charming romance with a touch of magical realism and maybe a touch of just plain magic.

Visit the author's website for an excerpt, deleted scenes, tidbits, discussion questions, and a preview of all of the candy mentioned in the book.

Ladyhawke

Ladyhawke (1985) PG-13
Visually a work of art, this film is based on a 13th century European legend about a beautiful maiden (Michelle Pfeiffer), a stalwart knight (Rutger Hauer) and a pickpocket (Matthew Broderick). The knight and the lady were once lovers, but a curse by the jealous Bishop of Aquila has left them "always together, eternally apart." By day, she is a hawk; by night he is a wolf.  
          
This one has a great storyline and interesting characters. Philipe's (Broderick) conversations with God add a wonderful dimension to the film as does Leo McKern as the old monk. Check out the original trailer.

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green (2003)
ATTENTION MYSTERY LOVERS -- don’t let the “science fiction” sticker on the spine scare you away! This book is just as much a mystery as a work of fantasy. A private detective, with a few special powers, works in London’s other-world, the Nightside. Take the adventure. You won’t regret it!

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (1995)
Three generations of a family form the core of this novel. Sisters, Gillian and Sally, are raised by their aunts Frances and Jet, also sisters. Sally’s two daughters, Antonia and Kylie, create the third generation. Magical realism is woven into the storyline which focuses on the issues of fate, trust, love, sibling rivalry, and family ties. I highly recommended Practical Magic for readers of multigenerational tales, magical realism, and stories where love, both romantic and between family members, can conquer all.

The movie has much more “magic” to show off the special effects department.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke (2006)
If you've read or seen the Jane Austen books/movies, you will like this witty, suspense-driven story about Jane Austen. Contemporary and historical alternating settings make for an enjoyable story. If you do not know Mr. Darcy and the other Jane Austen characters, you’ll still enjoy the novel, but you may not get the references to Austen’s novels. Fast, fun, female read for all Jane Austen's fans and new readers.

Xena, Warrior Princess: Season 3

Xena, Warrior Princess: Season 3 (1997-1998)
Join Xena and Gabrielle (Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor) in this action-packed comedy adventure. Set in Ancient Greece, Xena decides to reform her outlaw ways by wandering the country to fight evil. Learn a bit about Greek mythology. Watch Xena come up with clever solutions by the end of each show.

During season 3, Gabrielle gives birth to a daughter, who ages quickly and soon becomes a source of contention. Follow the drama throughout the season. Also check out the musical episode in season 5 – it's hilarious.

If you like this, you’d also like Buffy – same action packed comedy adventure, but with a vampire slant (and high school kids).

Stardust

Stardust (2007) PG-13
Feuding princes, witches, pirates, flying ships, and falling stars – what more could you want?

To prove his love to Victoria (Sienna Miller), Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) crosses the forbidden wall to retrieve a fallen star. Instead of finding a celestial rock, he discovers an injured Yvaine (Claire Danes).

Yvaine reluctantly follows Tristan after he promises to get her back home. What should be a simple trek turns into a fast-paced adventure as Yvaine becomes the target of evil witches (including Michelle Pfeiffer) and feuding princes.

Fighting to stay alive, Tristan and Yvaine eventually find an ally in the cultured pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro). During their journey, Tristan and Yvaine begin to fall for each other, but will true love be enough?

Narrated by Ian McKellen. Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman.

A Dance for Emilia by Peter Beagle

A Dance for Emilia by Peter Beagle (2000)
Part fantasy, part study of male friendship, and part story of dreams fulfilled, this one’s a well-written charmer.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (1982)
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." If you can resist an opening sentence like that, you have more willpower than I. The Gunslinger begins The Dark Tower series, which follows Roland’s quest to reach the nexus of all universes. Since King finished the seven volume series in 2004, it’s safe to start reading! I also would highly recommend George Guidall or Frank Muller’s narrations.

(Nota Bene: This is NOT a horror series or story. King may be best known for writing horror novels, but he is a masterful storyteller and writer in other genres too!)

It's Superman! by Tom De Haven

It's Superman! by Tom De Haven (2005)

Coming of age in rural 1930s America with unusual skills like X-ray vision and the power to stop bullets, Clark Kent takes us along on his coming-of-age journey of self-discovery. Covering years (May 1935 through February 1938), the story takes him from Smallville to New York (Metropolis). A Young Clark Kent, newly hired "Daily Planet" reporter; Lois Lane; and evil criminal mastermind Alexander "Lex" Luthor come to life in It's Superman! This is a fascinating idea. The story is as inventive and thrilling as it is touching and wise.

See what Powell's and the New York Times said about the novel. Other books by Tom De Haven include Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies (1996), Dugan Under Ground (2001), Funny Papers (2002), and the graphic novel Green Candles (1997).

The Secret of Roan Inish

The Secret of Roan Inish (1995) PG

The Secret of Roan Inish is an American independent film written and directed by John Sayles; Sayles is a wonderful storyteller. This is a good “family” movie.

It is magical story, beautifully filmed, of the legend of a small Irish fishing village in the 1940s and its neighboring island, Roan Inish. The island is a deserted place inhabited only by seals. The legend is of "Selkies," in Irish mythology. Selkies are half-human/half-seal creatures.

The central character is a 10-year-old girl named Fiona who is sent to live with her grandparents. She learns the truth of her parents and Roan Inish. She discovers she has baby brother named Jamie who apparently was pulled out to sea in his cradle by Selkies and is determined to bring him home.

Check out what Roger Ebert has to say about the film that was part of his 7th film festival in 2005.

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride (1987) PG
The Princess Bride has action, comedy and romance all wrapped up in the ultimate adventure fairy tale. Adults and children will enjoy this classic film that features sword fighting, revenge, an evil prince, a giant, mythical beasts, and, of course, true love. Actors include Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Making MoneyMaking Money by Terry Pratchett (2007)
As one of the Discworld series, the book follows the continuing adventures of Moist von Lipwig, “reformed” con man, as he takes over Ankh-Morpork’s banking industry. With his usual flair for sadistic characters and dry humor, Pratchett has produced another book that makes you laugh out loud!

Also check out the author's website for a Discworld travel guide, characters and themes by title, and miniseries information.