Information, Answers & Reviews

Undercover Blues

ISBN: 
027616884558

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.

Bad Parent, Good Child

ISBN: 
9780307959539

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 »

Civil War Fiction

Killer AngelsThis 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 »

April's Books Plus

National Poetry MonthIn 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.

Read more »

Morningstar Investment Research Center

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Get real-time access to comprehensive data and independent analysis on thousands of investments, spanning mutual funds, stocks, exchange-traded funds, and closed-end funds.  Reports include analysis written by Morningstar's experts, up to 10 years of financials, bond information, ratios, SEC filings and information on insider actions and institutional holders.  You can also access daily market information, showing the day's most active stocks, complete with links to Morningstar reports on those companies.

Use the Investment Classroom to sharpen your investing skills or to learn new topics. Morningstar offers more than 100 courses on stocks, funds, and portfolio building. Each course can be completed in about 10 minutes and includes a quiz at the end.  You can also use their comprehensive suite of portfolio-planning tools to experiment with hypothetical investment strategies and to learn more about balancing investments and planning for retirement, college savings and more.

All you need to get started is your library card number! Access Morningstar's Investment Research Center any time, day or night, at the library or from the comfort of your own home. Just navigate to the research menu above Research, then click on A-Z Research Tools.

The Fault in Our Stars

ISBN: 
9780525478812

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 »

Classics as Graphic Novels

Interested inHound of the Baskervilles revisiting an old favorite classic in a new way?  Consider the graphic novel version of your old familiar favorite novel.  I recently read The Hound of the Baskervilles reimagined as a graphic novel by Ian Edginton and was pleasantly surprised.  This is the famous story of Sir Charles Baskerville who has suddenly died and Henry Baskerville, his nephew and the heir to his estate.  Henry is being warned of danger that might befall him as he takes ownership of the manor on the moor.  Sherlock Holmes and Watson travel with Henry to the moor to investigate the threat, made complicated by an escaped murderer, jealousy, mysterious family dynamics, and a possible hell hound. The characters were visually well represented including Watson, Dr. Mortimer and Mrs. Stapleton.  They mystery, though well known, has enough twists and turns to keep any reader going. The visual look and use of color does well to represent the haunting and atmospheric feeling of the moor and the danger lurking everywhere. For fans of dense novels, there is still quite a bit of dialogue which is slowed down further (for a modern reader!) by the original style.  I really loved the look of this graphic novel edition which often reminded me of an animated movie. Read more »

Beasts of Burden

Beasts of BurdenMaking yourself read outside your comfort zone can end up with some total misses and some excellent surprises. In all likelihood I would have missed Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites, a graphic novel about a talking pack of animals that solve supernatural mysteries in their seemingly sweet suburban neighborhood of Burden Hill. That description wouldn't peak my interest, but also doesn't do the graphic novel justice either.
The storytelling is episodic, in that there are chapters that are a complete story into itself which makes for a fast read. There is a pack of animal friends, all dogs and one orphan cat who start uncovering supernatural cases in their neighborhood. They eventually become apprentices in the Wise Dog Society to further their training in fighting these evil forces. The supernatural stories cover a wide range from an evil coven of cats, a rain of mutant frogs, werewolves, magical earthen golems, ghosts, and more. Read more »

The Violinist's Thumb

ISBN: 
9780316182317

OK, I selected this book based solely on its title, but boy did I luck out. What an incredibly gifted writer Sam Kean is.  In The Violinist's Thumb: and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code, he translates dense scientific concepts into lucid, beautiful prose.

He also knows how to tell stories. The first chapter contrasts the biographies of two of DNA's discoverers, Mendel and the less well-known, Johannes Friedrich Miescher, who because he studied fish slime had to work in very cold conditions so that his material would not deteriorate before he could examine it. And who knew that Mendel joined a monastery so he could secure a university education? His passion for raising peas taught us so much about human inheritance.

This book tackles and at least partially answers many of life's great questions including: Why did it take eons for life to become complex? What is our most ancient DNA? Why do humans have no more DNA than so many smaller, less complex creatures?  Why did we almost become extinct?  Why did we break away from monkeys? Is the impulse for art conveyed by our DNA? Why are identical twins not identical? Read more »

The Count 2012

Book ReviewsEvery year VIDA Women in Literary Arts conducts a survey to count female author representation in major literary periodicals.  This survey isn't about quality or good reviews, but just about the representation, number of reviews or general press coverage that women authors are getting.  The results can be viewed through a wide variety of lenses, but the graphs are admittedly a little shocking.

It would be interesting to know how the publishing numbers break down, but a quick peek at the New York Times Best Sellers hardcover list of the top 16 titles shows an exact 50/50 female to male representation.  Which to me (unsing completely unscientific methods) shows that books written by women are just as popular or being read in the same numbers as books written by men.  Read more »

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