In college, I often dreamed of tsunamis. The waves were enormously high and transported me far inland but were amazingly gentle behemoths that if I did not fight against, eventually landed me upon the shore without any damage. The tsunami that struck Sir Lanka the day after Christmas 2004 was nothing like these, but was instead brutal, fierce, and deadly.
Imagine losing your husband, two sons, and both parents on the same day. This unbelievable tragedy happened to this British economist. The memoir starts quietly with her description of a typical morning at a beach resort in Southern Sri Lanka that her family had been visiting since her childhood. Sonali knew all the hotel staff and park rangers; the place meant home to her and her family. Ironically, the family was packing to go home later that day.
As her children are dressing, she speaks to a close friend who has accompanied them on their holiday outing. Suddenly, both women notice an unusual wave in the far distance. Sonali calls to her husband in the bathroom, but Read more about Tsunami Trauma
There is nothing like the adventure of a good spy movie. Undercover Blues is nothing like a good spy movie, it is however a spy parody. This 1993 movie stars Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid as Jane and Jefferson Blue, two spies out on maternity leave in the city of New Orleans, who are called back into action with their newborn in tow. The Blues are the type of people you want in a tense moment, nothing fazes them and they always seem to be in control, even if they aren't
Undercover Blues is not a fall on your face laughing parody like Spy Hard, or Top Secret which try to hit you with one joke after another hoping that if you didn't like the last joke you'll like the next one. It is more like watching the James Garner Western parody Support Your Local Sheriff. The humor is a little dry and will make you chuckle. It is willing to take its time to build a joke and wait for the pay off. Dennis Quaid plays Jefferson Blue as a little cocky and sure of himself. Kathleen Turner seems more like a typical housewife, but with a bit of sultriness to her as well. They want to give the impression they are just like everyone else when it is obvious they are not. Undercover Blues is lighthearted comedy with villains that are more than a little over the top. You'll find a little violence and a touch of sexiness, but nothing out of the PG range. In all Undercover Blues is a film that you don't have to think about too hard and that you can sit back and enjoy.
I picked up Richard Russo's latest book with some hesitation. I knew Elsewhere was a memoir about his relationship with his mother, but I remembered that in his last novel, That Old Cape Magic, he had created a decidedly crazy "mother" character. But as is so often the case with memoirs, the first sentence hooked me.
Because he was an only child and his parents separated when he was very young, Russo and his mom shared an extremely close relationship. In the 50s she had a job for General Electric, dated engineers, and dressed elegantly. Her independence was extremely important to her, but it took Richard years to understand that she depended on her parents bail-outs to survive. It didn't help that Russo's dad contributed almost nothing to the household or that women were paid poor wages.
This book is also an exploration of a place - the town of Gloversville where Russo grew up and which he's fictionalized in his novels. It was a town built on making gloves; in fact, his grandparents did this. It was hard, polluting work and when the government cracked down on water pollution, the whole operation moved overseas. But in small-town Gloversville surrounded by relatives, Russo felt secure and loved. Read more about Bad Parent, Good Child
This summer will be the 150 year anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, one of the deadliest periods of the Civil War. The three days saw record causalities and is also considered one of the turning points of the war. Instead of breaking out a dusty nonfiction tome, consider The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. This fiction book does a good job at adequately describing the events that did occur, but shines at getting into the heads of the major players. We meet Lee, Longstreet and Chamberlain and start to understand their thoughts, positions, opinions and fears as they prepare and head into battle. This is well researched, and really readable. The maps give you a good visual perspective as well.
One of the things I love most about history is not only learning the outcomes and the details of the events that took place, but investigating the other possibilities, thinking about the what-ifs, and figuring out the decisions that went into what really happened. Read more about Civil War Fiction
In April, as poets have for centuries, we'll celebrate poetry. For our next Books Plus discussion program, we'll be highlighting sonnets - one of the shortest and most versatile of poetric forms. Did you know what King James I, Prime Minister William Gladstone, American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, President John Quincy Adams, and Edith Wharton all had in common? They loved to write sonnets!
Now you don't need to compose any of your own, but if you have a favorite that you'd love to read aloud, please come and share. Or sit back and let language flow around you. We'll explore this little song's history, discuss its variations, how contemporary poets have made it their own, and why a sonnet is still a sonnet even if it doesn't rhyme.
We hope you can join us this coming Sunday, April 7 at 2:00 p.m. in discovering anew one of our best creations--the sonnet. All are welcome and refreshments are provided. More information about this and upcoming Books Plus discussions below.
This young adult novel by the popular John Green fell into my arms at the YMCA. An exercise buddy suggested that I read it; she was turned on to it by her teenage son. The novel opens at a cancer support group in a church. Because it's set in Indianapolis some of the landmarks will be familiar. A 16 year-old girl suffering from stage IV thyroid cancer is returning at the insistence of her Mom. "Go out and meet somebody" her mom suggested and without any hope that she will, Hazel does.
Asked to speak about what she's thinking, Hazel describes how everyone on earth is going to die. It is the only end we can expect and that we have. Her speech is more philosophical and much more eloquent but totally lacking in hope. Afterwards, handsome Augustus who's on the mend from osteosarcoma - 80% chance of survival--tells her he likes what she said. Not only that but she looks like Natalie Portman. Augustus and Hazel have a mutal friend, Isaac, who is about to lose an eye from another form of cancer.
Hazel can't leave the house without her oxygen tank. Her prognosis is poor; it's not a matter of if but when. Her parents are extremely kind and protective. She overhead her mom say once that when Hazel dies, she will no longer be a mom.
If The Fault in Our Stars sounds depressing, amazingly it isn't. Green has created a sardonic, wise beyond her years, poetry-loving heroine with an edgy sense of humor. She finds a soul-mate in Augustus who has already lost one girlfriend to death. Hazel holds back. She doesn't want to die and be another "exploding torpedo" in his life. Read more about The Fault in Our Stars