Books

Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Marco and Celia vie in a magical duel devised by their guardians as a way to determine who is more powerful.  Their arena is a circus.  The one thing the guardians never considered in their plans was Marco and Celia falling in love.

I loved this book! It was magical and beautifully written.  The richly detailed descriptions made the story come alive.  I listened to the audio book through Media on Demand.  Jim Dale’s narration was wonderful.  This is one of the few books that when I finished, I didn’t immediately pick up something else to read.  I had to let it settle.

“Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent”

-Kate

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One in Thirteen

It was a sad book indeed. It explores the hidden (often non-reported) and very difficult to log statistics/sources for our young population.

She interviews family members and circles of friends to try to help understand and explain the frightening topic.

Many children become victims of an ever-increasing number of mental health disorders, the breakdown of the traditional family, the role of the media, etc. Nearly 8% of all teens across all socioeconomic backgrounds have had to handle this issue without strong support.

I was amazed at the high statistics. I was very sad to hear that gay teens are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. It is nice to know that Gay-Straight Alliances are increasing with only 6 in 1990 growing to over 600 by the year 2000.

I often think about Leo Buscaglia’s college course on “Love” and how he was deeply affected by a student who at a college age decided that death was her answer to stress.

–Lucille

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giant george

Giant George: Life with the World’s Biggest Dog by Dave Nasser

 

Newlyweds Dave and Christie Nasser adopt a cute Great Dane puppy. As George grows, they realize he is no ordinary Great Dane. Between trying to start a family, work, and getting George certified as the “World’s Largest Dog”, life gets crazy. If you like animals, you’ll surely like this book.

– Kate

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The Book of Blood and Shadow

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

In a world filled with popular titles like Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, some really great YA books are often overlooked. Robin Wasserman’s The Book of Blood and Shadow is one. Four teens, under the direction of their professor, work on translating and deciphering The Voynich Manuscript (which, by the way, is real). That is, until some of them end up dead. With the survivors using the manuscript to search for answers in Prague, you wouldn’t be wrong if you thought that this sounds like a teen version of The Da Vinci Code. It is. Only better crafted. Ahem.

–Sam

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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

In this entertaining book an unemployed Web designer takes a job working the graveyard shift in a bizarre 24-hour San Francisco bookstore owned by the eccentric Mr. Penumbra. Books borrowed by regulars are written in a certain code, known only to the members of a 500-year-old secret society.  This book has components of  a love story, a detective story, a mix of old books and new tech, and a behind-the-scenes look at Google.  Did I mention that the book cover glows in the dark?

–Daina

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The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Earth’s rotation around the sun is considerably slowing down with each passing day. Days and nights are growing longer, drastically changing the way people live their lives. This  is the extraordinary setting for the coming-of-age story of 11-year-old Julia. This beautifully written novel haunted me for days.

–Daina

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Music

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.

–Gabe

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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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Movies

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!

–Gabe

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The Master

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.

–Gabe

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Battleship

Battleship

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.”

–Gabe

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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!

-Gabe

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Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

From Wes Anderson, director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and more, comes a storybook tale of two slightly iconoclastic kids who fall in love and run away together. It features an all-star cast (Bruce Willis! Bill Murray! Bob Balaban!?!); meticulously detailed costumes, props, and sets (Khaki Scout merit badges!); and more whimsy than you can shake two sticks at (though if you’re familiar with Anderson’s films, you probably already figured that out). This is one of the sweetest movies of recent times, and was my favorite movie released in 2012. (It might even be my favorite movie by Wes Anderson, but don’t let Rushmore know!)

-Gabe

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The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption

This Indonesian film, about a police team tasked with, yes, raiding an apartment block housing a drug lord and about a thousand of his lackeys, features some of the butt-kickingest martial arts action in years! Roger Ebert hated it, but if you like movies like Die Hard or Hard Boiled and enjoy watching specially trained men pretend to kick, punch, and stab each other in inventive, athletic ways, this kinetic flick might be for you.

-Gabe

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