IPPL Staff

This is a Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2013)

storyofahappymarriageThis is a beautiful collection of essays by one my favorite authors, Ann Patchett. The essays range from a humorous recounting of driving a Winnebago through the Badlands to her sage advice for writers. Patchett's insights into her own life and the world around her are moving. This is a Story of a Happy Marriage is a truly enjoyable read.
IPPL Staff

The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns (1997)

churchofdeadgirlsA series of disappearances of young adolescent girls in a small upstate New York town creates suspicion and violence amongst the town’s other inhabitants. From its truly creepy beginning to its end, Stephen DobynsThe Church of Dead Girls is one suspenseful story.
IPPL Staff

Nero Wolfe. Seasons 1 & 2 (2001-2002)

nerowolfeWith Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe (the brilliant detective) and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin (his leg man), this A&E television series is one of the best.

The TV series is based on the original stories by Rex Stout written between 1934 and 1958. It is beautifully shot with set design and costuming that reflects the time period of each story.

All of the episodes of Nero Wolfe include a climactic meeting of the suspects in Wolfe's office at his luxurious brownstone as he discloses the identity of the murderer, a classic mystery story devise; however in this series, it becomes a scene full of color, wit, and charm.

An unusual aspect of these Nero Wolfe shows is its reuse of supporting actors and actresses for different roles in the tradition of a repertory theater.
IPPL Staff

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (2014)

norawebsterIt took me a while to get into the story of the recently widowed Nora Webster in Colm Toibin’s latest novel, but I ended up enjoying this patient exploration of a woman’s life. After her beloved husband passes away, Nora struggles to take care of her four children while living on a meager widower’s pension.

Narrator Fiona Shaw's authentic Irish accent enriches the story that takes place in small town of Wexford, Ireland, where Nora raises her two young boys. Nora's sisters, aunts, and friends all offer assistance and advice as she navigates the unfamiliar terrain of her new life. In Nora Webster, the transition of Nora from grieving widow to resilient independent woman is a wonderful journey for the reader.
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IPPL Staff

Crime Story (1986-1988)

crimestoryCrime Story ran two seasons in the mid-1980s, but was set in the early sixties in Chicago, where it was filmed. Dennis Farina played tough cop Mike Torello, head of the police's major crimes unit. Each episode had a specific crime to solve, but always there was Torello's ongoing pursuit of gangland punk Ray Luca (played by Tony Denison of The Closer). The early sixties setting is marvelous from the skinny ties, sharkskin suits, brylcreamed hair, and narrow brimmed fedoras to the pre-Beatles pop soundtrack and the snazzy two toned cars.

With its Joe Fridayish opening narration and its film noir stylings and sensibility, the show was a throwback to an earlier time, but the violence and the story arc that lasted across the entire season made Crime Story ahead of its time.

Look for appearances (before they made it big) by David Caruso, Gary Sinise, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Christian Slater, Stanley Tucci, and many others.
IPPL Staff

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

neuromancerWilliam Gibson’s critically acclaimed Neuromancer tells the story of Henry Dorsett Case, a master computer hacker forced into a life of petty street crime after crossing an employer who wrecked his nervous system as payback. As Case spirals down a self-destructive path on the streets of near-future Chiba, Japan, a mysterious benefactor offers to repair his nervous system – allowing Case to once again explore the myriad gleaming pathways of Cyberspace – in exchange for a highly dangerous, confidential job. Case accepts, and is plunged into a tangled web of conspiracies with dire implications.

Neuromancer is fascinatingly paced: the first half or so reads like a series of connected short stories, while the latter half begs to be read in one sitting. The plot is a gripping tale of intrigue, and the characters are compellingly written, but where the novel really shines is in its prediction. Gibson’s deeply atmospheric prose envisages a world dramatically changed by incredible advances in computer science and biotechnology combined with growing corporate influence on political and legal matters.

Neuromancer’s frankly portrayed adult subject matter and occasionally unsettling themes definitely aren't for everyone. But for everyone else, it comes highly recommended to those looking for an engaging sci-fi thriller.
IPPL Staff

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (1994)

Bird by Birdbirdbybird is Anne Lamott's book on writing. She covers a wide variety on life and writing including chapters called "Sh**ty First Drafts," "Jealousy," and "Writer's Block." She begins with a simple example from 30 years ago of her then 10-year-old brother struggling with a report on birds that was due the next day. He didn't have any idea on how to even begin. Their father came to comfort him and said that he all he needed to do to complete the report was to take it "bird by bird." It is a simple and touching beginning that summarizes the entire book. This book is inspiring and hopeful to all writers and artists who are struggling to complete their writing goals. I recommend it to anyone who likes to create.
IPPL Staff

Vikings. Seasons 1 & 2 (2013-2014) TV14

vikingss1Imagine Game of Thrones but with Vikings. Action, political intrigue, and betrayals only begins to describe it. Simply put...it's amazing.

Viking farmer Ragnar Lothbrok dreams of sailing west to discover new lands, but timid and conservative Earl Haraldson refuses to consider his request. Ignoring his commands, Ragnar sets sail and opens the West to Viking raids and starts off a power struggle between him and his earl.

Check out both seasons 1 and 2 of Vikings from the library today. Visit History.com for a behind the scenes look at the show, including videos, pictures, and blogs.
IPPL Staff

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai (2014)

hundredyearhouseThis is the quirky and charming story of Laurelfield, a grand estate north of Chicago. Rebecca Makkai unfolds the history of the century old house in reverse order starting with Zee and Doug, a young couple struggling to find their place in the world of academia. At Laurefield, they encounter locked attics, Y2K fears, jealousy and plenty of ghosts. As the past is revealed in the subsequent chapters, you begin to understand that everything is connected in a mysterious way. I loved this unconventional story and you will want to read The Hundred-Year House again as soon as you finish.

Hey 20-30somethings -- GenLit will be discussing this novel on Wednesday, March 25 at 6:30pm at Phillies Pizza in Willowbrook. Join the conversation on Facebook.
IPPL Staff

The Princess Bride (1987) PG

princessbrideThe Princess Bride was adapted by William Goldman from his novel, which he says was inspired by a book he read as a child, but its transformation by his wicked adult imagination has made the story witty and irreverent. And the film adaptation has remained popular since its original release in 1987.

It is story within a story with Peter Falk as a grandfather reading a fairy tale to his reluctant grandson. This clever romantic comedy-fantasy-adventure film can be enjoyed by every member of the family.

And if you can’t get enough of The Princess Bride, check out Cary Elwes’ (Westley) recent book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.
IPPL Staff

Way Out West (1937)

wayoutwestIn Way Out West, Laurel and Hardy are at their comedic best as would be gold miners on a mission to deliver the deed to a rich gold mine to the prospector's daughter, Mary Roberts. Perfectly timed slapstick ensues when the deed is stolen by Mary's unscrupulous guardian and our two hapless heroes must get it back. Particularly charming is Laurel and Hardy's saloon door soft shoe.
IPPL Staff

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (2014)

murderatbrightwellIf you’re a fan of traditional mysteries, you’ll enjoy this one. Set at a fashionable hotel on England’s southern coast in 1932 with a cast of characters right out of an Agatha Christie mystery, Murder at the Brightwell is a witty and energetic who-done-it.

Amory Ames, wealthy and dissatisfied with her life, takes a holiday at the seaside and turns detective after a fellow hotel guest turns up dead and another is suspected of foul play. The plot takes on a new dimension when her husband Milo arrives unexpectedly. Amory and Milo Ames’ off and on again marriage seems to be laying the foundation for a lively and clever new series of mystery novels by Ashley Weaver. At least I hope so.
IPPL Staff

The French House by Don Wallace (2014)

frenchhouseThis is a charming narrative of a family claiming a piece of a beautiful French island for themselves. Don Wallace's description of the natural beauty of Belle-Ile makes you want travel to this remote island and climb the cliffs to the beach.

Despite the fact that Don and his wife Mindy are just barely scraping by in New York City, they decide to buy a ruined house in a small village on Belle-Ile. Repairing it enough to make it inhabitable takes 8 years and multiple trips to the island. There are ancient village rules for building a sane and moral house that take some serious negotiating. Wallace relays the bonds they form with the village neighbors, his struggle with the French language and their love of surfing with a humorous touch that make The French House an enjoyable read.
IPPL Staff

The Black Book (1949)

blackbookAlso titled Reign of Terror, The Black Book is a suspense film that is as film noir as you can possibly get.  Yet instead of being set in a large American city during the 1930s, 40s, or 50s, it is set in 1794 Paris during the reign of terror. Charles D’Aubigny (Robert Cummings), is a French patriot looking to overthrow Maximilian Robespierre (Richard Basehart).

Robespierre is planning to become dictator of France, so that he can more easily continue his reign of terror wherein he sends anyone opposed to him to the guillotine without trial or hearing. One of D’Aubigny’s coconspirators is Madelon (Arlene Dahl). D’Aubigny and Madelon have a past and D’Aubigny is bitter about it; neither is sure they can trust the other.

In fact, almost none of the characters in this film trust each other and with good reason.  And the man most in the middle the man who no one should trust and who trusts no one is Fouche (Arnold Moss), the chief of police. He would like to destroy Robespierre but he will happily kill a friend or foe of Robespierre if it will advance his career. Moss does a great job with this character.

I will borrow a sentence from a review on IMDB to describe this film: “The atmosphere is particularly effective, with the dark photography and claustrophobic settings helping to establish the rampant fear, uncertainty, and paranoia that characterized the era.”

This film is nonstop suspense.  About the only criticism I could make is this is a film badly in need of restoration. The current DVD was supposedly restored but it’s far from what I usually experience in a restored film; I have seen worse copies of this film so it is an improvement, but even in its not-so-restored state, it is wonderful film.
IPPL Staff

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (2014)

officerspyThis is a fictional re-telling of the infamous Dreyfus Affair which tore France apart in the late 1890s, and revealed a deep-seated anti-Semitism in French society. The novel is told from the point of view of Georges Picquart, an intelligence officer who came to believe in Dreyfus’s innocence and was himself persecuted for his refusal to let an innocent man die in prison without a fight.  Many historical novels based so closely on real events can be stiffly told with flat characters, but Robert Harris manages to fill An Officer and a Spy with real people in an era that he brings to life on the page.