PLACE BEYOND THE PINESThe Place Beyond the Pines – Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling

A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective. Rated R


OBLIVIONOblivion – Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman

Jack Harper is the lone security repairman stationed on a desolate, nearly ruined future Earth. When he rescues a beautiful stranger from a downed spacecraft, her arrival triggers a nonstop chain of events that forces him to question everything he knows, and leaves humanity’s fate in his hands. Rated PG-13

now you see meNow You See Me – Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo

An elite FBI squad in a game of cat and mouse against ‘The Four Horsemen’, a super-team of the world’s greatest illusionists. ‘The Four Horsemen’ pull off a series of daring heists against corrupt business leaders during their performances, showering the stolen profits on their audiences while staying one step ahead of the law. Rated PG-13


into darknessStar Trek – Into Darkness – Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto

When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find that an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving the world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction.Rated PG-13

peeplesTyler Perry’s Peeples – Craig Robertson, Kerry Washington

Sparks fly when Wade Walker crashes the preppy Peeples annual reunion in the Hamptons to ask for their precious daughter Grace’s hand in marriage. Wade might be a fish-out-of-water among this seemingly perfect East Coast clan, but he’s not about to let himself flounder. Instead, in a wild weekend of fun, dysfunction and hilarious surprises, Wade is about to discover there’s room for all kinds of Peeples in this family, no matter their differences. Rated PG-13


wwzWorld War Z – Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos

Gary Lane travels the globe in an effort to eliminate the zombie pandemic that is endangering the existence of humanity. Rated PG-13



bling ringBling Ring – Emma Watson, Israel Broussard

Inspired by actual events, The Bling Ring tells the story of a group of fame-obsessed teenagers living in the suburbs of Los Angeles who use the Internet to track celebrities’ whereabouts in order to rob their empty homes. Ringleader Rebecca leads the group of misfits including Marc, Nicki, Sam, and Chloe on the ultimate heist for designer clothes and jewelry. What starts out as teenage fun quickly spins out of control. Rated R


iron man 3Iron Man 3 – Robert Downey, Jr, Gwenth Paltrow

When Tony Stark/Iron Man finds his entire world reduced to rubble, he must use all his ingenuity to survive, destroy his enemy, and somehow protect those he loves. But a soul-searching question haunts him: Does the man make the suit, or does the suit make the man? Rated PG-13



soul all living creaturesBased on the author’s twenty-five years of experience as a veterinarian and veterinary behaviorist, The Soul of All Living Creatures delves into the inner lives of animals – from whales, wolves, and leopards to mice, dogs, and cats – and explores the relationships we forge with them.

As an emergency room clinician four years out of veterinary school, Dr. Vint Virga had a life-changing experience: he witnessed the power of simple human contact and compassion to affect the recovery of a dog struggling to survive after being hit by a car. Observing firsthand the remarkably strong connection between humans and animals inspired him to explore the world from the viewpoint of animals and taught him to respect the kinship that connects us. With The Soul of All Living Creatures, Virga draws from his decades in veterinary practice to reveal how, by striving to perceive the world as animals do, we can enrich our own appreciation of life, enhance our character, nurture our relationships, improve our communication with others, reorder our values, and deepen our grasp of spirituality. Virga discerningly illuminates basic traits shared by both humans and animals and makes animal behavior meaningful, relevant, and easy to understand.

Insightful and eloquent, The Soul of All Living Creatures offers an intimate journey into the lives of our fellow creatures and a thought-provoking promise of what we can learn from spending time with them. (description from publisher)

moosewoodMoosewood Restaurant Favorites is a delicious collection of classic recipes in brand new versions, from the beloved restaurant. Founded in 1973, the Moosewood Restaurant revolutionized vegetarian cooking by introducing delicious soups, satisfying sandwiches, warming casseroles, zesty entrees, spiffy salads, and divine desserts.

Moosewood Restaurant Favorites contains 250 of their most requested recipes completely updated and revised to reflect the way they’re cooked now – increasingly vegan and gluten-free, benefitting from fresh herbs, new varieties of vegetables, and the wholesome goodness of newly-rediscovered grains. This mouthwatering cookbook includes favorites like: Red Lentil Soup with Ginger and Cilantro, Sweet-Potato and Black Bean Burrito, The Classic Moosewood Tofu Burger, Caramelized Onion Pie, Peruvian Quinoa Salad, Confetti Kale Slaw, Vegan Chocolate Cake, Moosewood Restaurant Brownies, and Apple Spice Cake with Sesame Seeds.

Including a guide to natural-cooking techniques, Moosewood Restaurant Favorites is the next classic book on their much-loved cookbook shelf. (description from publisher)

Believe it or not, I don’t usually seek out libraries while I’m on vacation. I’m a big fan of libraries, of course, but when I’m visiting a new place I’m usually preoccupied with non-Iowa sites, like skyscrapers and world famous museums and mountain vistas. However, I was lucky enough to be in New York City earlier this month and my friends and I made it a point to stop in at the New York Public Library; it was a visit that was both fun and inspiring.

At the main entrance you’re greeted by the library’s famous lions, named Patience and Fortitude, and the grand facade of the beautiful Beaux-Arts building which opened in 1911. The building is very museum-like, with it’s marble columns and sweeping staircases, murals painted on the ceilings, fine art decorating the reading rooms, glittering chandeliers and ornate windows. It is also very library-like, with it’s bustling crowds (it was very busy), rows and rows of reference books and public computers, busy families in the Children’s Center and hushed silence in the research rooms. It is obviously a much-used, much-loved building.

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We were lucky enough to be visiting while a special exhibit was on display, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.” Beautifully curated, the exhibit was a walk down memory lane for the child in anyone – an Alice with a neck (made from books) that slowly expanded, then retracted, a charming re-enactment of the web Charlotte made to save Wilbur as well as recordings of E.B. White reading passages from his famous book, a cut-out of the Wild Thing to climb on, a life-size room from Goodnight Moon, the original Winnie-the-Pooh and friends (who are usually on display in the Children’s Center), an umbrella donated by P.L. Travers just like the one Mary Poppins carried, an original watercolor by Eric Carle and many more treasures.

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Another fun attraction was the NYPL Photo Booth in the soaring main lobby. Anyone can answer a few simple questions, then have your picture taken to commemorate your visit. The photo is later emailed to you and are also on view on the NYPL Facebook page and Flickr account. It’s a wonderful blend of old and new, something libraries all over the world practice every day.

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eurekaI’m a latecomer to Eureka.  It was recommended by friends and Netflix, and still I resisted.  When I finally yielded and started watching (from the beginning, of course), I was disappointed that it had taken me so long.  It reminded me of a hybrid of three of my favorite shows — Warehouse 13, Psych, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Like the town of Eureka, Warehouse 13 is top secret.  Rather than being a town filled with the top brains in the country, it is a storage facility filled warehouse13with artifacts with ties to history and literature. The employees of Warehouse 13 are tasked with traveling the world to retrieve these supernatural objects and prevent them from causing harm to their owners and protecting the objects once they’re in the Warehouse. A mixture of humor, clever references, and strong character development makes this the strongest contender for Eureka fans. 

Psych is a comedy detective show focused on Shawn Spencer and Burton “Gus” Guster, two childhood friends that own a psychic detective agency.  Neither one of them is a psychic, but Shawn’s strong detective skills make him pretty impressive at psychpretending to be one.  Psych is filled with lots of cultural references and silly capers.  Eureka fans have to suspend disbelief pretty often, and this skill will be useful when watching Psych.

You’ve probably already seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  A show about a normal high school girl that happens to be the one chosen slayer, endowed with strength and skill mismatched to her petite frame.  The show follows her and her group of friends (and Watcher/Librarian Giles) from high school to college, as she fights vampires and demons. But let’s say you haven’t seen Buffy, or you’re thinking, “Why would someone suggest that Buffy and Eureka are watch-buffyalikes?”  I have one word for you — camp.  Some may call them cheesy, breathlessly pointing out how saccharine the dialogue can be or how ridiculous the special effects are (something that can be said for Warehouse 13, as well), and I understand those arguments.  But these self-aware, absurd shows are fun in many of the same ways.

Might I also recommend Castle and Angel (and point out that I probably watch too many television shows?)

smitten kitchenDeb Perelman has garnered a pretty significant following from her blog Smitten Kitchen, and has transformed cooking in her 42-square-foot Manhatten kitchen from a feat to a pleasure.  She crafts everything from unique desserts to one pan entrees to sophisticated appetizers, and more; documenting her accomplishments with beautiful photographs and detailed instructions.

One of the primary things that sets Perelman apart from other food bloggers is her excellent conversational writing style.  She is witty and warm, and provides a healthy mix of anecdotes and edification.  That is why I was ecstatic to see that she had released a cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  This charming cookbook features a diverse array of recipes, accompanied by exceptional tips and explanations. Much of the cookbook features vegetarian friendly recipes — as Perelman was a vegetarian for a large chunk of her life — but there are definitely recipes for the carnivores included as well.

When I saw this book at the library, I promptly checked it out.  And then a few days later, bought it. It now sits in my kitchen with a fine layer of bread flour on it from repeated use (the recipe for homemade pizza dough is now a family favorite.)  I bought it because it met my two cookbook criteria: Providing photographs of every dish and using fresh and affordable ingredients.  I recommend checking this cookbook out as soon as possible.  And then you have to make the pizza dough, the sesame-spiced turkey meatballs and smashed chickpea salad, and, of course, the apple-cider caramels.

cuckoo's callingBack when Deathly Hallows was hot off the presses, I remember reading an interview with J.K. Rowling; when asked what she would write next, she answered: mysteries for adults. I’ve been looking forward to The Cuckoo’s Calling ever since. After her first post-Potter foray into literary fiction, Jo is back in the realm of genre, and I think it’s where she belongs. Her imagination is so fierce and wild and her observations about the real world are so raw and true that the juxtaposition of them is magical. We all saw it in Harry Potter, I missed it in The Casual Vacancy, and now it’s back in The Cuckoo’s Calling. This is a phenomenal book: thrilling and elegant and a little cheeky. The characters are vibrant, true, and endlessly entertaining. Even the dead model at the heart of the mystery, Lula “Cuckoo” Landry, has a personality, and a life, beyond her infamous lifestyle and her undignified death; the living characters, private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, are even better.

Cormoran lost his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, and back home in the UK, he’s facing a life that’s deteriorating rapidly as his debts mount, his relationships waver, and his stream of clients dries up. When Robin appears, the product of an expensive contract with the temp agency that he tried to cancel, Strike is vexed: how can he hide from this clever, intrepid young woman that he’s sleeping on a cot in his office? But Robin and Strike are a great team, as they both tentatively realize: Strike is a gifted detective whose shadowed past has removed him from the military police for complex, unclear reasons, and Robin is a whip-smart HR rep with a natural talent for investigation.

As Robert Galbraith, Rowling wastes no words. This is a long book, but not an overlong one. There are a lot of characters, a lot of red herrings, and a lot of plot developments, but they layer on top of each other seamlessly and the payoff is extremely satisfying. The scenes are so descriptive, you’re absolutely there – I was completely drawn into this book. The best part about it was how genuine and true it all was: when Robin and Cormoran use their cell phones and the internet to track down clues, it doesn’t feel forced or fake, it’s completely natural. The same thing happened in The Casual Vacancy: whenever technology is used, it’s employed seamlessly, artfully, expertly into the plot. I propose that this comes from treating it with the same rules you’d use to write about magic wands. It was painful to set The Cuckoo’s Calling down and heartbreaking to reach the end: if Rowling wants to write any more about Cormoran Strike, I’ll be gleefully pre-ordering every new Galbraith title.

Relevant Fun Fact: the common European cuckoo reproduces by parasitic brooding, where they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and the other birds raise the baby cuckoos – leaving the adults free to flit off and do whatever birds do.

This is How you Lose HerPulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Díaz writes with a kind of swagger and cool that makes it pretty hard to believe that he’s a creative writing professor at MIT.  Having recently finished reading his third published book, a collection of short stories called This is How You Lose Her, I am convinced that he knows every dirty word in English and Spanish.  Particularly if the words are referencing female anatomy.  So be warned, this is not the novel for anyone offended by salty and sexual language.

But if you can get beyond that, I can’t recommend this book enough. Díaz, himself a Dominican immigrant, tells stories about immigrants that help create a full picture of why someone is who they are. He shows that machismo is often a projection due to a lack of respect, and poor behavior isn’t something to be excused, but it can sometimes be explained. This is never more true than in his semi-autobiographical character, Yunior, the protagonist of most of this collection.

Readers may have met Yunior in Díaz’s The Brief Life of Oscar Wao (winner of the aforementioned Pulitzer) or in his first published collection of short stories, Drown, but I met Yunior for the first time after he cheated on Magda in This is How You Lose Her.  As he cheats his way through many of these short stories — and continues to imprison himself in grief and regret following the discovery of his transgressions — Yunior’s story becomes less about each individual relationship and more about how Yunior’s relationships reflect his own self-image and cultural identity.  The most powerful passages in the novel occur in his home, when we meet his family and see the effects of his father and brother’s infidelity on the family. Equally funny and frustrating, Díaz has written a complicated novel that feels both universal and unique.


Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water introduces the reader to two eleven-year-old’s from Sudan, Salva and Nya.  The story is primarily about Salva, a real-life Sudanese Lost Boy and his struggle to survive after the second Sudanese Civil War lands outside of the doors of his school in the 1980s.  Nya’s story comes in smaller bits, explaining what it is like to live in Sudan today, in the aftermath of the civil war. Park was able to accomplish a remarkable feat in this novel, taking a hard to understand, emotionally charged story, and making it relateable and digestible for middle grade readers.

That isn’t to say that this book isn’t emotionally challenging, because it is.  Salva saw most people that he loves die, and understanding war, death, and famine are hard concepts for adults, let alone children.  But Park laces this brief little book with hope and kindness.  Nya’s story gives readers a vision of the hope of the future, showing that a program called Water for South Sudan is helping change the lives of the Sudanese people, providing safe drinking water for entire communities which helps free up time for school and community growth.

unterzakhnUnterzakhn (yiddish for ‘underthings’) by Leela Corman tells the story of Jewish twin sisters at the start of the 20th century in New York City.  Esther and Fanya’s stories are told in graphic novel form, spanning more than a decade from childhood through adulthood, with black and white illustrations reminiscent of Russian folk art. The sisters make decidedly different decisions in their lives, but they both chose career paths outside of community and family expectations of them and drift apart from one another (forcefully in one scene).

Fanya starts this story when she finds a woman bleeding in the street and is instructed to go find the “lady doctor”.  This encounter brings her to Bronia, a feminist obstetrician who performs illegal abortions, and convinces Fanya’s mother to let Bronia teach Fanya to read.  Fanya then begins to apprentice for Bronia, and adapts to the strident expectations of her teacher.  While her sister is learning to work as an obstetrician, Esther begins working at the local burlesque theater and brothel — running errands and cleaning up.  As she grows toward adulthood, her work changes and she loses her family in the process.

This is a quick, but in no way a light read.  The writing and the illustrations show a lot of darkness and pain.  The sisters always seem better when they’re together, showing the quick wit and love that seems to be reserved for each other. I had a difficult time putting this book down, because Corman made it easy to care about Fanya and Esther.  This is a good read for fans of David Small’s Stitches or anything by Charles Burns.