City of Thieves by David Benioff

This is one of the best books I have read this year. It is set in Leningrad during the Nazi siege. The main character, Lev, is arrested and thrown into a cell with a handsome and charismatic “deserter” named Koyla. The relationship that builds between these two characters is delightful and humorous even though they are sent out on a near impossible mission that puts them in dangerous situations.
The books is funny, moving, and thrilling.

- Roberta

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Summer Read Bibliography

Our adult Summer Reading Program readers read a great variety of books this summer.  Here’s the list:

AD 30 by Ted Dekker

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Alphabet House by Jussie Adler-Olsen

The Amazing Adventures of Kavailer and Clay by Michael Chabon

And Then You Dye by Monica Ferris

Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley

Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen with Recipes, Photographs and Personal Stories by Luca Dotti

The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The Dragon of Handale by Cassandra Clark

The Dead Play On by Heather Graham

Dead Wake: the Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lesson From an Extraordinary Life by Louis Zamperini

Dorothy Must Die by D.M. Paige

Down the Darkest Road  by Tami Hoag

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Driving with the Top Down by Elizabeth Harbison

The Elephant Man by Christine Sparks

Euphoria by Lily King

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Flora & Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamilo

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis by Garry Wills

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

Gone to Earth by Mary Webb

House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

Huck Finn’s America: Mark Twain and the Era That Shaped His Masterpiece by Andrew Levy

I Am America (and So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Killer in Crinolines by Duffy Brown

The Land of Stories Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfor

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Last Word by Ellery Adams

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson

Off The Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: the Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

Purge by Sofi Oksanen

Ragtime by E.L.Doctrow

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Rogue by Mark Sullivan

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill LePore

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Summers at Blue Lake by Jill Althouse-Wood

Theodore Bone: The Abduction by John Grisham

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott

Trust No One by Jayne Ann Krentz

Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

The Women Code by Alsa Vith

Yell Less, Love More: How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too!  by Sheila McCraith

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

The basis behind this #1 bestseller is the idea that everything in your household should be evaluated under the premise of, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is yes, you keep it. If the answer is no, then it’s time for it to go. Kondo teaches readers that they absolutely can live in perfection by getting rid of all the clutter in their home in one big process, which she states should take about 6 months. After you get rid of everything that you don’t need then you go on to organize in such a way, that you only have to do it once. Kondo promises that if you follow her method, than there will be no more backsliding. This certainly is a radical way to look at cleaning, and perhaps that’s why the book has been so successful. I enjoyed a lot of what Kondo said, and she does give great advice on how to fold clothes to fix even the messiest of t-shirt drawers. Beware of her advice about books however. The author recommends tearing out your favorite page from a book and then tossing it to save space. Yikes! We here at the library recommend just checking the book out from us!

- Stephanie


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The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

I always enjoy Sy Montgomery’s books.  Her writing style brings her subjects to life.  This time it’s octopuses. I never thought of an octopus as anything more than a strange blob. Now I know they have unique personalities, play, and can even change their color at will.  The scientific facts are interlaced with Ms. Montgomery’s own journey to understanding to make an interesting read.

I’m off to the Shedd Aquarium as soon as possible to get a look at these fascinating creatures for myself.

- Kate

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orhan's inheritance

Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, commemorating the massacre of as many as 1 million Armenians, who were forcibly deported from the territory that is present day Turkey and massacred by the Ottoman government.

The author was inspired by her grandmother who told her about her own horrific experiences of that time.

Orhan’s grandfather has left the family estate to a stranger who lives thousands of miles away. The dutiful grandson travels to California to unravel the secret of this woman. This is the story moves between the last years of the Ottoman Empire to the 1990′s and is a story of first love, ancient betrayals, missing parents and war crimes.


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all the old knives

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

This little, but powerful book was written by the spy novelist whom many are calling John Le Carre’s successor.

Almost the entire book is set in a secluded restaurant in Carmel-by-the Sea, California, where former CIA agents and former lovers share a meal. They discuss a mission that went tragically wrong in Vienna six years prior to their dinner, when militants took over a commercial jet and the ensuing hostage rescue went terribly wrong. He is here to find out if she is the double agent who gave key information to the militants. What happens next is surprising and unexpected.


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Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits

Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits

Ever wonder what a ’90s alternative rock band would sound like covering a favorite Saturday morning cartoon theme song from the ’60s or ’70s? Apparently someone else wondered this too back in 1995 and the result is surprisingly charming. Theme songs from such classics as Scooby-Doo, Josie & the Pussycats, and Spider-Man are given fresh (for 1995) takes by the likes of Matthew Sweet, Juliana Hatfield & Tanya Donnelly, and even punk rock pioneers The Ramones. As dated as this may sound for an album that  is officially 20 years old as of this year, these interpretations are nearly every bit as timeless as the originals.


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Alright, Still by Lily Allen

This album is clearly a 37 minute and 12 second snapshot of what it was like to be Lily Allen in her early 20s. Produced by superstar producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Bruno Mars), Alright Still is a slightly filthier throwback to the kind of albums that such ’60s singers like Lulu, Petula Clark, and Cilia Black used to make. However, while she seems sweet at first, upon a closer listen it is clear that Allen possesses an acid tongue. Anecdotes of drinking, boys, and general partying are filtered through nonchalant sass and sarcasm throughout. Highlights include the misleading “Smile,” the playfully confrontational “Knock ‘Em Out,” the rambunctious “Friday Night,” and the unexpectedly tender “Littlest Things.”

- Dean

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Modern Love

Modern Love by Matt Nathanson

This is Matt Nathanson’s 8th album, but I’ve just found his music. He is a talented songwriter and has a great voice. This CD is filled with upbeat songs and heartfelt ballads. Each time I listen I come away with a new favorite.

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Songs without Words

Songs without Words: Classical Music from The War A Ken Burns Film

This CD features a number of interesting excerpts, including a lovely movement from a trio by the modern composer Gyorgy Ligeti and Edward Elgar’s impossibly gorgeous “Nimrod,” from the Enigma Variations (ask me the story behind that sometime; it’s fun). But the big winner on the disc might be the excerpt from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which was written while the composer was a prisoner in a Nazi camp. It’s a beautiful piece, and if you enjoy the bit on this CD, you might just want to seek out a recording of the whole thing.


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Throwing Copper

Throwing Copper by Live

One of the first CDs I put on my iPod was “Throwing Copper” by Live. It’s one of my favorites. It’s not new (1994), but I think it’s good rock music. I especially like the hidden track at the end, which is a little different than the rest of the CD.

-Debbie Z.

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Based off of the James Sallis novel of the same name, Drive tells the story of a part-time stunt driver and mechanic by day who also just so happens to be a freelance getaway driver by night. His only real friend is Shannon (Bryan Cranston), his boss at the garage where he works and the man who sets him up with both his stunt and getaway jobs. Everything changes for our protagonist known only as Driver, however, when he meets his next door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan). Despite developing feelings for her, Driver agrees to help the father of Irene’s son with a robbery after their lives are threatened, but when his two world’s collide, Driver must take drastic action to ensure everyone’s safety. As Driver, Ryan Gosling is a man of few words, and is mostly expressionless throughout. While this may sound like a criticism, it’s not, because when Driver does emote, it’s either suitably subtle and sweet like in scenes with Irene and her son, or calculatingly brutal when he has to deal with the Los Angeles underworld. The real star here, however, is director Nicholas Winding Refn. Combining iconic cinematography and moody synth-pop music, it’s probably not an exaggeration to state that Refn has created the standard of which every subsequent neo-noir crime film will be compared.


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Community Season 2

Criminally under appreciated, Community Season 2 ups the ante from season one for the pop culture obsessed series. Following the antics of Greendale Community College’s most notable study group, the eccentric, yet likeable cast that includes Joel McHale (host of the E! series “The Soup”) and Chevy Chase often get their biggest laughs when paying homage to some of their favorite film and television tropes.

While it’s difficult to narrow it down to just a few episodes, one of the season’s earliest highlights is “Epidemiology” where the student body begin exhibiting zombie-like symptoms at Greendale’s annual Halloween dance due to discount taco meat. Later in the season “Critical Film Studies” simultaneously pays homage to Pulp Fiction and My Dinner with Andre while “Paradigms of Human Memory” pokes fun at the clip show trope by presenting viewers with clips from past episodes that were never actually produced. By far, though, the most ambitious and hilarious moments come from “A Fist Full of Paintballs” and “For a Few Paintballs More.” As one would no doubt expect, spaghetti western director Sergio Leone was a big influence here as the school participates in an epic game of paintball. The game takes a turn towards the stars in part two, however, when an evil mastermind of Darth Vader proportions reveals himself and the scheme he has concocted to destroy the school.

- Dean

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The Bay

The Bay

Creepy-crawlies? Check. Moderately disgusting “special makeup effects”? Check. Things popping out of nowhere, loudly? Check. A relevant environmental message? Check?! This movie is a sort of weird hybrid of found-footage horror (think Paranormal Activity-style, or, if you’re an old like me, Blair Witch-style) and what I lovingly refer to as feel-bad activist documentary (King Corn, Food, Inc., etc.). The only previous entry in this hybrid genre, to the best of my recollection, is The Cove (note the similar title, even!), the one about how some people just can’t stop eating delicious, delicious dolphin meat, but it turns out that was actually just straight documentary. If you’re a fan of silly horror movies, as I am, and maybe give a hoot about the state of our planet, this movie will offer you a good time. And it’s short, so even if you’re not the biggest fan of it, it’ll be over before you know it. Except in your creepy-crawly-infested nightmares, of course!


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The Master

A lot has been written about The Master and it certainly inspired an interesting discussion at our most recent Film Discussion Group. I was particularly taken with the film because I like movies that are open to interpretation. And, boy, is this one ever open to all sorts of readings! One of the reasons I like it so much has nothing to do with its story or theme or anything like that, but rather has to do with its aesthetic qualities. It was filmed in 70mm, which is uncommon these days, and was clearly composed to be seen on a big screen (though it looks good on a smaller one as well). This, coupled with its interesting score, makes it a movie that is a pleasure to simply watch. Of course, one shouldn’t disregard the great performances or the thematic content! The Master is one of the best, most endlessly fascinating, and most beautiful movies of 2012.


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I know what you’re thinking: Battleship?! That movie is supposed to be awful! Surprisingly enough, it’s a good deal less terrible than you might expect. It’s dumber than a bag of really stupid hammers, for sure, but it easily surpasses its obvious inspiration (the Transformers movies) with coherent action sequences, a plot that is relatively easy to follow, and a third act that is absurdly hilarious. Also, it manages to pay homage to the original board game in a couple of small ways, one of which is at least slightly clever. I’m not saying that this is a masterpiece or anything, but if you ever want to turn off your brain and watch some stuff get blowed up real good, you could do a whole lot worse. On a scale of 1-4 stars, I give it: “Big dumb fun.”


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Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths

This pitch-black comedy, from writer-director-playwright Martin McDonagh (director of the criminally underseen In Bruges, which I should probably also be reviewing, so: go see it!), stars Colin Ferrell as an aspiring screenwriter trying to write a movie called, weirdly, Seven Psychopaths. Pretty soon, he finds himself entangled with all manner of psychopaths: some real, some imagined, some Christopher Walken, and many complications and much lavish violence ensues. For all the copious bloodletting, the movie ends up coming off in a pretty genial manner. It’s a hilarious good time for all the non-squeamish adults in the family!


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