IPPL Staff

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (2013)

daughtersmarsIn Thomas Keneally’s The Daughters of Mars, two Australian sisters go first to Gallipoli and later France as nurses during the Great War. They are, as they themselves would say, reserved and non-demonstrative girls who have never been close. The title, meaning women who go to war, is accurate. These women are not in battle, but still see and experience harrowing events. A theme running throughout the book is that any event has at least two outcomes and, especially in war, who will live or who will die or is not preordained. And life, in the larger sense, is like that too. How can someone survive the war then die of flu? How can someone who is a jeweler lose his sight but someone who is an artist lose their non-dominant arm? How can someone survive a horrible shipwreck and die in a simple car accident?
IPPL Staff

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) PG

nbcburtonTim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas  is timeless movie magic and a visual delight. Burton created this stop-motion animation film in which Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of dreary Halloweentown, finds a secret passageway to Christmastown. He likes what he finds so he decides to better himself by taking over for Santa! This ghoulish fairy tale is in no way mean-spirited. It is more playful than nasty so go ahead and add it to your Christmas movie list!
IPPL Staff

Spotlight: A. S. King

IMG_2660Did you know author A.S. King is coming to the library this fall? Her upcoming visit on Tuesday, November 10th has inspired me to complete the A.S. King Book Challenge (i.e. read all her books). After flying through Ask the Passengers, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Everybody Sees the Ants, and Reality Boy, I can safely say that I haven’t been reading these books – I’ve been devouring them! With perfectly integrated magical realism and bomb resolutions, they are just that darn good.

Realistic in well-developed characters and tone, King deploys a bit of magical realism in the majority of her books that helps convey characters’ emotions and plot points in a unique manner. In Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, Glory discovers information about her family and members of the cult that live next door from getting glimpses into their futures after drinking a petrified bat. The other books include appearances from Socrates' ghost and an army of anthropomorphic, sassy ants. These bizarre devices help build well-defined characters and settings in such a seamless manner that the reader may forget that Socrates’ ghost and sassy ants are not a common occurrence in our world.

The magical realism will invest you into her characters' wellbeing to the point that you’ll dread parting ways with your new fictional friends. Luckily, King is also a master at perfectly satisfying resolutions. While other authors may rely on a Hollywood blockbuster finale that explodes in the reader’s face, King’s endings seem to glide to a slow stop for a perfect landing. Astrid, from Ask the Passengers, and Lucky, from Everybody Sees the Ants, both struggle with an underlying life challenge. Astrid wants her family and community to give her the opportunity to discover and accept her sexuality. Lucky wants protection from a bully who humiliates him in some of the most egregious and nauseating scenes I’ve ever read in a YA book. Both books’ endings diverge from the assumed happy ending conclusions, and yet both end with such optimistic notes that I can now say I’ve experienced the ever allusive tears of joy.

Magical realism and perfect resolutions are just the icing on the cake in King’s books. When you come to the library and head to the Ks in the teen fiction section, beware that just one King book will leave you craving for more. So grab an IPPL basket and a few tissues from the Ask Us desk, and cancel your weekend plans so that you too can complete the A.S. King Book Challenge!
IPPL Staff

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe (2015)

manatthehelmIn the early 1970s, a woman from a wealthy background suddenly finds herself divorced and living in a small English village, where divorced women are suspect (it would seem for good reason). The book is told in the first person by ten-year-old Lizzie (looking back as an adult) and has quite a funny tone and wonderfully set pieces. Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm is very funny, but sad too.
IPPL Staff

Psycho-Pass. Season 1 (2012-2013) TV-MA

psychopassIn Season 1 of Psycho-Pass, the year is 2113. Akane Tsunemori has just become a Police Inspector. It is her job to identify and subdue criminals. Her job is made more complicated by the Sibyl System. It evaluates whether or not someone is a latent criminal by scanning you passively as you go about your everyday life. The darker your hue (the higher your number), the closer you are to being arrested. Just having a string of a few extremely stressful days could be all that it takes to cloud your Psycho Pass and peg you as a latent criminal. Your life is now over. Keep your hue clear, everyone.
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IPPL Staff

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon (2014)

killjoysGerard Way and Shaun Simon’s piece is not your run-of-the-mill graphic novel; its story chronologically takes place after My Chemical Romance’s album: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. That’s one of the best parts about it! Since its precursor was a music album, as you are reading through it, there are references to MCR’s lyrics and you can actually hear what some characters are intended to sound like. As you’re reading Dr. Death-Defying’s lines, his voice appears in your head like magic. It’s a surreal experience to have when you’re reading a graphic novel that doesn’t have a TV or movie adaptation!

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a great read for anyone who is (and even isn’t) a My Chemical Romance fan. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to Danger Days but stands on its own as well with no pre-knowledge of the music. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young girl who was previously under the protection of the Killjoys. After their deaths in Danger Days, she struggles to find her place in the unforgiving world she was left in. Why were they protecting her? What was it about her that made them so willing to risk their lives? In The Fabulous Killjoys, the reader finds the answers that they are seeking and so much more.
IPPL Staff

The High Divide by Lin Enger (2014)

highdivideUlysses Pope embarks on a journey that will lead him far away from home for an indefinite period of time. He may not even come back. But the only explanation for his departure that he gives his family is vague and left to be discovered in a note inside a locked trunk. Set in the late 1800s, The High Divide follows the members of the Pope family as they travel across the Great Plains—the father’s departure prompting first his young sons, and then his wife to go on their own quests.

The story unfolds as three different narrators (Ulysses, his wife Gretta, and his older son Eli) give accounts of their adventures—each searching inwardly and outwardly for answers, and encountering many colorful, and sometimes dangerous, individuals along the way. The High Divide is sure to be an entertaining read for lovers of fiction set in this era, as Lin Enger has created authentic voices for his characters and woven some intriguing historical personages and events into his tale.
IPPL Staff

The Straight Story (1999) G

straightstoryBased on the true story of Alvin Straight, The Straight Story is a beautiful homage to America’s heartland—its landscape and its people. Alvin, a World War II vet, has a childlike spirit and nerves of steel. To visit his brother who just had a stroke, he bravely embarks on a journey across Iowa and Wisconsin despite the fact that he can’t drive and that he has to use two canes to walk. His mode of transportation? An old John Deere lawn mower. Sleeping arrangements? In the makeshift trailer he’s hauling. Meals? Taken in the cornfields he pulls into--and cooked in the campfires he builds!

Despite experiencing setbacks throughout his journey, Alvin’s faith and resolve are unshakable. After all, he has a great purpose: to see the brother he hasn’t spoken to in ten years. He is also lucky to find people along the way who are willing to lend a helping hand. But this story’s real charm is that Alvin gives as much as he receives, leaving all the strangers he encounters better off for having met him.
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IPPL Staff

Princess Jellyfish: The Complete Series (2010)

princessjellyfishAre you looking for a rom-com anime about characters who aren’t in high school? In the anime world, this is hard to find! Princess Jellyfish is the answer to your prayers. It has love, drama, but also plenty of comedy to keep everything light. The story follows Tsukimi, who lives in a women-only apartment called Amamizukan; all the residents are otakus, people who have obsessions with one particular thing. Tsukimi, our protagonist, is obsessed with all things jellyfish. Her world is turned upside down when she meets a woman, one night, while gazing longingly at the jellyfish in a pet store.
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IPPL Staff

The Ghost Writer by John Harwood (2004)

ghostwriterA young Australian boy searches out the mysterious past of his mother in postwar England based on the clues revealed in the ghost stories composed by his great-grandmother. A few of the ghost stories are included, and it becomes increasingly hard to discern if art is following life, or life is following art in John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer.
IPPL Staff

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh (2005)

bakertowersJennifer Haigh’s family saga takes place in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. Baker Towers exudes family love, pain, and pathos, as the children of Italian/Polish immigrants go out to meet the world to find their calling, a sense of happiness, and directions to their lives.
IPPL Staff

The Judge (2014) R

judgeOne of the best movies of 2014!

Great acting from all, especially Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, in a very compelling story from beginning to end about the messiness of life and the complexity of family relations. Downey, a young, cocky, but successful Chicago lawyer goes home to small town Indiana to attend his mother's funeral. Reconnecting with his estranged father (Duvall), the town's judge, proves a challenge.

The aging judge is accused of murder in a hit-and-run of a biker on a dark, rainy night and Downey ends up representing his cantankerous father. One surprise after another unfolds and we are drawn into the drama hook, line, and sinker. Well written, excellent acting, The Judge is a winner you should see.
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IPPL Staff

The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis (2014)

IMG_0983I grabbed this quirky graphic novel on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. Rob DavisThe Motherless Oven contains a story of friendship as three teens go on an adventure to solve the usual mysteries of life. Can someone escape their assigned death day? Where did Scarper's robot father go?

It was the world building in this book that intrigued me the most though. Why on earth does it rain knives instead of water? Read this on a day you are FEELING WEIRD. Or ready to feel weird. Or weirder than you already feel.

 
IPPL Staff

A Beautiful Mind (2001) PG-13

beautifulmindThis Oscar-winning film directed by Ron Howard is based on the life of the brilliant mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe). It follows Nash’s career, starting with his years at Princeton in the late 1940s and ends in the early 90s when he wins the Nobel Prize in Economics. There is a little bit of everything in this drama: mystery, romance, and—surprisingly—humor. There are even aspects of a thriller is this film, with Cold War intrigue intruding upon the math professor’s quiet life. Are Russian spies out to get him?

Ultimately though, what makes A Beautiful Mind special is that despite all the competing elements in it, there is a tender and inspiring love story at its core. Nash is a flawed hero who, like all geniuses, loses himself in his work. But then along comes Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). She is a grounding force for him, his saving grace.
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IPPL Staff

Spotlight: Olivia de Havilland, Comedic Actress

oliviadehavillandWhat, Olivia de Havilland, Melanie of Gone with the Wind, Maid Marion of The Adventures of Robin Hood in a comedy? Several, actually. Try these.

It's Love I'm After (1937)

Leslie Howard plays Basil, an egotistic Broadway star in a drama filled relationship with Joyce, his leading lady, played by Bette Davis. Enter Marcia, a star struck society girl played by de Havilland, and the fireworks begin.

Hard to Get (1938)

Maggie Richards, played by de Havilland, is a spoiled rich girl who storms out of her house in a rage, borrowing a car in her escape. When she runs out of gas, she finds she doesn't have the means to pay up and spends the rest of the day cleaning the motor court cabins. Vowing revenge against Bill, the motor court attendant, she plots an elaborate plan to build him up and then bring him down to size.

The Male Animal (1942)

Henry Fonda plays Tommy, a literature professor at Midwest University, and Ellen, played by de Havilland, is his lovely young wife. When her old beau Joe, the former star of the football team, played by Jack Carson, visits for homecoming weekend, Tommy gets jealous. What do women want from the male animal, brains or brawn?