Jennifer

Late Night

You can't go wrong with a movie starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling.  I adored the workplace comedy Late Night.  Katherine Newbury (Thompson) is a seasoned talk show who is being replaced.  Molly Patel (Kaling) is a rookie writer who shakes up the status quo in the previously all-white male writers' room. The humor in this 2019 film written by Mindy Kaling was spot on and relevant (rated R).


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Jennifer

The Radium Girls

Be prepared: this book is heartbreaking and infuriating. But it is so worth the read. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women (2017) tells the true story of a tragic time in American history. In the early 20th century, advertisements touted radium as a miracle cure. During World War I, factories in the U.S. were employing women to paint watch faces. Their method? Lip, dip, paint.

The constant exposure to radium eventually led to workers' horrific pain and suffering—and the companies denied any wrongdoing. Author Kate Moore shares the personal stories of these women, their fight for justice, and the impact their perseverance had on workers' rights and labor laws.

There is a local thread about a radium plant in Ottowa, Illinois. Check out the NPR Illinois article for more details.

If you enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks or The Girls of Atomic City, try this book. It has a mix of hidden history and compelling characters—and it's great for book clubs.



Jennifer

A Few Good Men

When I think of A Few Good Men, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic scene of Jack Nicholson shouting, "You can't handle the truth!"  But since that was about all I could remember, I decided it was time to re-watch the classic 1992 film.  

Tom Cruise is Lt. Daniel Kaffee, a young and cocky Navy lawyer assigned to defend two Marines accused of murder while on duty at Guantanamo Bay. The film includes conspiracies, political machinations, and many shades of gray.

Featuring that signature Aaron Sorkin dialogue (it's his first movie screenplay), A Few Good Men was directed by Rob Reiner (rated R). Costarring Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, and Kevin Pollak.  You'll also spot a young Kiefer Sutherland, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Noah Wyle.

If you enjoy films featuring lawyers, check out Great Movies: Lawyers in the Movies and Great Movies: More Lawyers in the Movies to discover what to watch next.  A Few Good Men is also on the American Film Institute's list of top courtroom dramas.

Jennifer

Where Am I Now?

Did you enjoy Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire, or the remake of Miracle on 34th Street? These 90s films feature a delightful performance by the adorable Mara Wilson. She's all grown up now, and has written an engaging series of essays. In Where Am I Now?True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame (2016), Wilson covers her childhood in the spotlight (both good and bad), her struggles with OCD and depression, and coming of age as an aspiring storyteller in New York City.

Don't let the childhood stardom fool you. Wilson pursued the creative arts (both performing and writing) in high school and in college at NYU. She is a gifted writer and experienced storyteller, and those talents shine throughout her memoir. It is full of heart, featuring both heartbreaking and humorous stories.

Listen to her memoir via Overdrive. Watch a video with Mara on mental health for Project UROK. 



Jennifer

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (2018)

In this lyrical and leisurely novel, debut author Fatima Farheen Mirza introduces us to a Muslim Indian family gathering for a wedding. The story is nonlinear, jumping forward and backward, giving us glimpses of the siblings' childhood, their parents' initial meetings, and their post-wedding relationships.

A Place for Us is a moving story shared from multiple perspectives. This interesting narrative structure might sound challenging, but the story is not difficult to follow. Read this book when you have a chance to delve deep into a story and emotionally invest in characters.

A great pick for book clubs: discuss familial relationships and expectations, cultural heritage and traditions, and characters and their choices. 


Jennifer

Pitch Perfect Trilogy

For lighthearted movies featuring a charming mix of comedy, music, and girl power, try Pitch Perfect (2012) and its sequels Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and Pitch Perfect 3 (2017).  In the first film, freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins a collegiate acapella group.  Heartwarming hilarity ensues. The performances feature catchy music, a range of voices, and a variety of styles.

Each sequel gets more ridiculous, but it is worth going along for the ride.  Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson star in all three with Hailee Steinfeld added in the second film.  The first two films also feature a pre-Dear Evan Hansen Ben Platt.

If you enjoy the music featured in the films, check out the soundtracks on Hoopla.


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Jennifer

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2019)

This uplifting novel got me out of my reading slump! The Flatshare features a perfect blend of delightfully quirky humor and lovable characters. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Leon and Tiffy, who share an apartment but haven't met (Leon works overnight and is home from 9am to 6pm; Tiffy has an opposite schedule). The pair begin a correspondence via post-it notes and slowly are drawn into each other's lives.

Beth O'Leary's charming debut is my favorite read of 2019. It's perfect for fans of romantic comedies, Sophie Kinsella, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, and One Plus One by Jojo Moyes.

Jennifer

The Vienna Berlin Music Club by Philharmonix (2018)

I recently had the chance to see Philharmonix live—and what an experience!  Listening to the album is the next best thing—and you can do so via Hoopla.  The Vienna Berlin Music Club is an eclectic mix of classical, jazz, and pop music.

The ensemble features two violins, a viola, a cello, a double bass, a clarinet, and a piano (from the Vienna and Berlin philharmonics).  Primarily instrumental, the album also features a singing violinist (in German).  Songs I particularly enjoyed include "Russian Overture," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "A New Satisfaction."  Watch the YouTube video to get a behind the scenes look from the group (and samples of their music).



Jennifer

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter (2014)

Set in 1974 Atlanta, Cop Town follows rookie police officer Kate Murphy and her partner Maggie Lawson. In this gritty suspense, the women investigate The Shooter—a marksman picking off police officers—despite not being detectives because of their gender. Karin Slaughter's standalone novel is not for the faint of heart, featuring derogatory language and violence (along with racism, sexism, and homophobia). With flawed yet sympathetic main characters and a compelling story, you'll keep reading to solve the case alongside Kate and Maggie.

The novel won the 2015 Ian Fleming Steel Award from the British Crime Writers' Association.



Jennifer

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (2019)

No sophomore slump here! Following The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang delivers another sparkling gem of a romance. Khai is autistic, doesn't think he can love, and avoids relationships. So his mom returns to Vietnam and finds Esme: a hardworking single mother with a limited education and fewer opportunities. I loved watching this nuanced pair grow as individuals and as a couple--and learning about Vietnamese culture. The Bride Test presents a modern twist on the arranged marriage trope.



Jennifer

Fumbled by Alexa Martin (2019)

Another smart sports romance from newcomer Alexa Martin. This second chance romance is filled with sparkling wit and vivid characters (along with serious discussions of brain injuries in football). Fumbled is engaging and memorable. For fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jasmine Guillory, and Rachel Gibson.




Jennifer

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren (2018)

onesDon’t be alarmed by the premise: this second-chance romance is a story worth reading. The protagonists of The Ones Who Got Away survived a school shooting twelve years ago. Finn and Liv reconnect after participating in a documentary about the tragedy. Yes, there’s grief—but there’s also hope and healing in this moody and engaging novel.

Named a best romance of 2018 by Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus, this is book one in the series by Roni Loren. If you enjoy reading about strong groups of friends, continue with the subsequent titles: The One You Can’t Forget and The One You Fight For.
Jennifer

The Greatest Showman: Reimagined (Deluxe) (2018)

81hhv8sdrql-_sl1200_I enjoyed the movie The Greatest Showman, but I LOVED the music.  And to my delight, The Greatest Showman: Reimagined has been released.  Along with the original cast recordings, the soundtrack has been enhanced with artists including Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Sara Bareilles, and Panic at the Disco! performing songs.

My favorites include Zac Brown Band’s rendition of “From Now On” and Kesha’s take of “This is Me.” Let this rousing album lift your spirits (listen instantly on Hoopla). And check out a Billboard article for how these artists joined forces.

 
Jennifer

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jonny Sun (2018)

gmorninggnightThis delightful gem is the perfect way to kick off a new year. Gmorning, Gnight is comprised of brief motivational reminders that Lin-Manuel Miranda shared on Twitter at the beginning and end of the day. Paired with illustrations by Jonny Sun, this short book can be read cover to cover, or flipped through at leisure. Find the uplifting words that you need to improve your outlook that day.

The longest part of the book is the introduction, which you can read courtesy of Vulture. Below, I’ve shared one of the most memorable affirmations:
Gmorning.
YOU ARE SO LOVED AND WE LIKE HAVING YOU AROUND.
*ties one end of this sentence to your heart, the other end to everyone who loves you, even the ones you haven’t heard from for a while*
*checks knots*
THERE. STAY PUT, YOU. 
Gnight.
YOU ARE SO LOVED AND WE LIKE HAVING YOU AROUND.
*ties one end of this sentence to your heart, the other end to everyone who loves you in this life, even if clouds obscure your view*
*checks knots*
THERE. STAY PUT, YOU.
TUG IF YOU NEED ANYTHING.
Jennifer

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home by Denise Kiernan (2017)

jacketI adored Denise Kiernan’s first book (The Girls of Atomic City) on a little known piece of history. Now, she turns her attention to the creation of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

In The Last Castle, Kiernan details the lives of Edith and George Vanderbilt (grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt) along with the construction of the massive house and the development (and protection) of the surrounding forests and land. The author effortlessly weaves the threads of the stories of people, places, and events in American history from the Gilded Age to WWII. An engaging and fascinating slice of history.