Overboard on DVD

Guest post by Laura V

I remember seeing the original Overboard movie starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn when it was released. I thought it was entertaining but not remarkable enough for a reboot so I was surprised to learn it was remade. This version stars Eugenio Derbez as Leonardo Montenegro and Anna Faris as Kate Sullivan. As far as I remember, it was basically the same plot with reversal of roles, Derbez plays the rich guy and Sullivan plays the poor woman. Eva Longoria plays Kate’s best friend, Theresa, and Mel Rodriguez plays her husband, Bobby.

I recently watched How to be a Latin Lover starring Derbez and was disappointed. There was potential for that movie to make fun of stereotypes and it was squandered at every turn while reinforcing some negative stereotypes along the way. Overboard was better. While it had the predictability that everyone should expect from a remake of an original that wasn’t highbrow cinematography to begin with, it took a huge chance, culturally speaking. To me, that was enough to make it interesting.

We got to see the family to which Derbez’ character belongs speaking Spanish with English subtitles. Yes, they are millionaires who are basically the telenovela (soap opera) portion of the movie, but their over-the-top drama is what makes them absurdly entertaining, just like actual TV telenovelas. They couldn’t have been a more realistic wealthy family because then the story wouldn’t have had the material for the plot. I also enjoyed seeing the more authentic portrayal of Latinos with the banter among the construction workers on Bobby’s job site. The romance felt a bit forced. I felt the daughters developed more of a relationship with Derbez’ character than Faris’ character.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted romp with the courage to include characters of color with their culture still intact, I recommend this movie.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check-in

Hello Readers!

How is the month of September going for you? Are you reading something inspiring/thoughtful/entertaining? If you’re still looking or are short on time, maybe a movie would be a good option. Here are some to consider.

Places in the Heart. Starring Sally Field, John Malkovich and Danny Glover, this film takes a look at surviving the Dust Bowl. Battling prejudice, injustice and devastating weather, the three main characters – a recent widow, a blind man and a black man – form an unlikely alliance.

Cinderella Main starring Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger. No longer able to box after breaking his hand during a fight, James Braddock turns to manual labor. Desperate for money, he agrees to one more fight which, to everyone’s surprise, he wins, returning him to the violent and unpredictable sport. Based on a true story.

The Grapes of Wrath starring Henry Fonda. An American classic, this film takes a hard look at the reality of the struggle to survive during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. Heartbreaking and often difficult to watch it is nevertheless highly recommended.

Water for Elephants starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson is set against the backdrop of a small-time circus operating during the Great Depression. A secret romance threatens to destroy many lives and nearly ends in tragedy.

A Quiet Place on DVD

I don’t like horror movies (or books for that matter). I guess I scare too easily. And I’m pretty strict about this – they simply don’t interest me and I like sleeping without nightmare interruptions. And yet – here I am. Talking about a horror movie. That I actually watched. And, yeah, it’s a good movie. Really good.

A Quiet Place was directed and co-written by John Krasinski and stars himself and his wife Emily Blunt. The movie opens several months after whatever created this dystopian world has already happened as a young couple and their three children search an abandoned store looking for medicine and supplies. They walk home through what seems like an idyllic, autumn countryside but not all is as it seems. Everything is silent – no birds, no animals, no other people. And something horrific is lurking nearby. Because the creatures hunt by sound, you must remain absolutely silent in order to survive. Your introduction to the monsters is shocking and horrific. And terribly sad.

The movie then jumps about a year ahead and we can see the extreme care that the family has taken to be as quiet as possible. Despite the hardships and horror of their current situation, they have carved out a life of love and care – a beautiful if primitive home, lessons for the children, a stockpile of food. When the unthinkable happens and the creatures come for them, they band together to protect and save each other.

The movie is really quite beautiful with superb acting and clever directing. The dialogue, not surprisingly, is minimal, but the emotions and thoughts of each character is clear. It’s astonishing how quickly you come to care for each of them and how easy it is to imagine yourself in their situation and wonder how you would react. It’s also fun to pick out some plot holes (Iowa girl that I am, I kept wondering “How did they plant all that corn silently?” – there are a lot of cornfields and they’re all in perfect, noisy-tractor-made straight lines!) There are other questions that make you wonder, but it never ruins the story or the suspense.

So yeah. I watched a horror movie. No nightmares (so far) I think it helps that, at its core, this movie is about family and people and, while there is some blood and gore, it’s not really the focus of the story. The people are. Highly recommended.

Library Closed for Labor Day

The Davenport Library will be closed on Monday, September 3 in observance of Labor Day. All of our locations will reopen on Tuesday, September 4 with regular business hours: Main (321 Main Street) will be open 9am to 8pm, Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) will be open 9am to 5:30pm and Fairmount (6000 Fairmount Street) will be open noon to 8pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Online Reading Challenge – September

Hello! It’s September! Time for our next Online Reading Challenge! This month the theme is: the Great Depression.

Well, that isn’t a very cheerful thought, is it? A devastating economic crash coinciding with severe drought and dust storms brought a decade of struggle and suffering. Yet this time period also gave rise to what Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation”, a generation that would make it through the Depression and go on to fight in World War II. It also produced some great literature and the time period continues to be popular with authors. There’s lots to explore and experience through books (and movies), but I have expanded this month’s definition to “between the wars” which will include the Roaring 20’s. The choice is yours! Here are some ideas to get you started.

If you want to go classic/literary, you’ll find lots and none of them are “stuffy”. If you have never read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck first of all, shame on you. Second, go read it now. (The movie, starring Henry Fonda, is also excellent). Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls is set during the Spanish Civil War, a precurser to WWII. Surely everyone has read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee by now, but if not, it’s highly recommended. Lost Horizon by James Hilton is an adventure story about the discovery of the mysterious Shangri-La.

The 1930s saw a dramatic rise in the popularity of professional and organized sports. One of my favorite books (easily in my top three) is Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, not only for the tales of horse racing (which I love) but for the setting. Under Hillenbrand’s skillful hands, the 1930s come to life with the reality of a hardscrabble existence, the vivid characters, the hopes and dreams of people fighting for a better life. Another favorite is The Boys in the Boat by Dan Brown about a team of scrappy rowers that go to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Both of these qualify as can’t-put-down.

For many years my go-to book recommendation for patrons was Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Everyone loved it, no exceptions. The movie took away some of it’s shine (the book is better), but it’s still very much worth reading.

More great fiction set during the 1930s include Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas. There’s lots of great non-fiction too including Little Heathens by Mildred Kalish about farm life in Iowa, A Square Meal: a Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.

See? I told you – lots of great books to choose from! Be sure to visit our Davenport library locations for displays of these and many more titles.

As for what I’m going to read, I’m planning on reading Love and Ruin by Paula McLain which is about Martha Gellhorn, a famous war correspondent and Hemingway’s third wife. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind!

Now, what about you? What are you going to read this month?

Online Reading Challenge – August Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Fans-of-Reading!

How was your August? Did you find something wonderful to read that was set during the Edwardian Era? Or maybe you watched a movie – tell us about you read or watched!

I started the month planning to read The Alienist by Caleb Carr, a book that has been popular for several years and now has a television series based on it on TNT. I tried to read it, I really did. But. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. I’m a strong believer that, if a book isn’t working for me, I abandon it. I know some people will stick with a book to the bitter end, disliking it the whole time, but there are too many titles on my “to read” list. So I dropped The Alienist and instead picked up The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. Much better.

The Summer Before the War starts in June 1914 and is set in the idyllic English countryside. Beatrice Nash, whose father has recently died, has come to Rye to be a Latin teacher. She soon becomes involved the lives of the people around her, learning about their secrets and dreams. When war is declared in late July, there is a burst of patriotic fervor and excitement with men and boys joining up to “advance their careers” and proclaiming that they’ll “be home by Christmas”. The reality of the war soon begins to creep into their lives, both on a national and personal level, and the old ways of thinking are slowly torn away.

I very much enjoyed this book. It wasn’t necessarily ground-breaking, but it is much more than a simple, quaint story. It was interesting to read about the very constricted lives women were allowed and how Beatrice had to fight for her job even though she was far more qualified than her (male) competition. I was also fascinated by how the strict codes of society dictated everyday life, such as who could dine with who, and how merely talking to someone considered disreputable could ruin your own standing. The war eats into these rules as death and pain impact everyone no matter your place.

Beatrice is a wonderful main character – witty, smart and confident in her abilities but struggling to make her way on her own in a world that scorns spinsters. She finds compassion from unexpected sources and strength from within to face a time when everything changed.

Now it’s your turn. What did you read this month and how did you like it?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check In

Hello Again!

How is your month of Edwardian reading going? Have you found something that has grabbed your interest? If you’re still looking, maybe a movie would be the ticket – there are some gorgeous films set during this time period. Here are a few to consider:

A Room With a View – From the famous production team of Merchant and Ivory, this gorgeous film of love and romance stars Helen Bonham-Carter and Daniel Day-Lewis and is set in the idyllic Italian countryside.

Howard’s End – Another beautiful Merchant and Ivory production, starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, brings the rigid rules of Edwardian society into sharp focus.

Edwardian Farm – Find out how the other half lives when two archaeologists and a historian recreate farm life for a full year using practices from 1906 England. Fascinating!

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – So beautiful! Filmed on location in England and Scotland, this drama follows artist Edith Holden through the changing seasons.

Murdoch Mysteries – Follow Detective William Murdoch as he solves murder mysteries in Edwardian Toronto using the latest scientific methods.

Parade’s End – From the end of the Edwardian era through World War I, this epic story of romance and betrayal stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.

Mary Poppins – For something much lighter and happier, you can’t go wrong with Mary Poppins. It’s magical and fun and surprisingly thoughtful. Don’t miss it.

Miss Potter – The charming story of Beatrix Potter’s efforts to publish her first books and gain some measure of independence as a single woman in Edwardian England. Lovely and heartbreaking. Starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

What would you do to save your family? To break free of the narrow path set before you? Would you be able to make the sacrifice, stand against the terrible fear? What about the people affected by your actions? Would you have the courage to step forward and make amends?

In Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik we follow three young women as they face these difficult questions. Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. While her grandfather is very successful, her father is not and she is forced to take over their business. Wanda is the daughter of a poor woodsman who takes out his anger and frustration on his surviving children, gambling and drinking away what little money they have and forcing her to work off his debt. And Irina is the daughter of a powerful Duke, disappointingly plain and awkward with no suitors and no future. These three lives, seemingly with little or no connection, weave and entwine as they each find their purpose and in the process save their country.

Events are set into motion when Miryem, who turns out to be very good at collecting debts and turning a profit, boasts that she can turn silver into gold. This catches the attention of the King of the Staryk, whose northern winter kingdom is slowly engulfing the surrounding lands, bringing poverty and hardship. The Staryk demands that Miryem turn a handful of silver coins into gold and in exchange, agrees (reluctantly) to make her his (also reluctant) Queen. And from that beginning, spins the tale.

Beautifully written, Novik creates a complex, convincing world that is part fantasy, part dark fairy-tale, part love story, part heroic quest with a dash of Game of Thrones (without the Red Wedding or incest, thank goodness) There are many “real” aspects (Miryem and her family are Jewish and experience much of the same history as in our world and the country, with it’s ever encroaching winter, feels like Siberia) but it is also uniquely it’s own. One caution – the narrator of the book changes frequently and other than a small symbol before each change, there is no indication of whose point-of-view you are now reading. It can be momentarily confusing but I found that it became clear quickly. Don’t let this slight challenge keep you away from this mesmerizing and suspenseful novel!

Online Reading Challenge – August

It’s August already, Reading Fans! Time to take a look at our next challenge!

This month we’re exploring the Edwardian Era. Technically, the Edwardian Era lasted from 1901 to 1910, which is the time that Edward VII ruled England following the death of Queen Victoria. However, it is popularly considered to run from the 1890s to the start of World War I in 1914.

The coming of war lends a certain bittersweet feeling to this time period, the last golden days of the English Empire and the innocence that would soon be shattered. The Summer Before the War by Simonson embodies this “on the brink” time beautifully, set in a small English village. Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford is a novel about the intrigues of a wealthy family and their servants (think Downton Abbey). Rutherford Park by Cooke is another English country house family drama set in this time period.

It’s not all about the landed gentry in England though. The Titanic sank in 1912 and there is lots of fiction and non-fiction about the sinking and its consequences. The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott is gives us a personal account of the disaster and the aftermath when an accomplished seamstress joins a famous fashion designer on the Titanic as her personal maid. Or try A Night to Remember by Walter Lord, a classic about the ships final hours.

Other notable events during this time include the first manned flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (The Wright Brothers by David McCullough) and the golden age of arctic exploration (Shackleton’s Heroes by Wilson McOrst). American classics by E.M. Forster (Howard’s End and A Room With a View) or Edith Wharton (The Buccaneers) are great choices. For mystery lovers, check out the Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen.

I am planning on reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr about the beginnings of forensic science set in New York City. This is a little outside of my comfort zone, so we’ll see how it goes!

What about you – what will you be reading this month?

Online Reading Challenge – July Wrap-Up

Hello Reading Challengers!

How did your reading go in July? Did you read something wonderful set during the time of Westward Expansion?

I set out to read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. Real world disclaimer here: I haven’t finished it yet. But – but! – not because I didn’t like it – in fact I’m loving it! It’s just that other obligations got in the way. I have every intention of finishing it and soon. I’m about a third of the way through, so here are my impressions so far and why I’m loving it so much.

Undaunted Courage is about Lewis and Clark’s “voyage of discovery” when they crossed the western half the North American continent, beyond the known frontier. Before their journey, most of the information about the land was made up of myths and legends and less-than-reliable reports of itinerant fur trappers.

The book opens with an in-depth look at Meriwether Lewis’ youth and upbringing in Virginia where he managed his family’s plantation. He also served in the militia and then worked as an aide to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson who was a neighbor back in Virginia. I had not realized how well Jefferson and Lewis knew each other, and how much they worked together. At first, already pressed for time, I had planned to skim this part of the book, thinking it would be dull but it isn’t! It’s fascinating! It shows the unique circumstances that shaped Lewis, what they taught him, how they influenced his life viewpoint and how one day they would prepare him for this great adventure. It is also a eye-opening insight into how and why the Founding Fathers thought and operated. It’s like reading about the building blocks of this new nation that would become America.

Jefferson, President, diplomat and political strategist, was also an enthusiastic amateur scientist. He wanted to create friendly relations with the Indians and find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, but he also desperately wished to find out what the land was like – the soil, the weather, the plants and the animals. Jefferson, like most scientists of his day, believed that mastodons still roamed the land, that there were active volcanoes and that the mountain range between the Mississippi River and the Pacific was no higher than the Appalachians.

Lewis was the perfect choice to lead the expedition and Jefferson undertook to teach him as much science as possible before he left including astronomy, rudimentary medicine, botany, preservation of specimens and map making. Lewis engaged an army friend William Clark (brother of Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark) as co-commander and, after a great deal of planning and several setbacks the Corps of Discovery set off.

I’ve just read to the part where they will make their first winter camp, about six months into the journey. They have encountered the Sioux and other tribes, have already discovered many new species of birds, animals and plants and have seen sights never before known to white Americans. Lewis writes about flocks of carrier pigeons so numerous they block out the sun, of the great migration of buffalo, elk and antelope – something not seen by a living person for 100 years now, plentiful game and fruit, endless rolling prairie under a sea of grass. I try to imagine what they must have seen, the wildlife, the endless prairie untouched by fences or roads and am awed (I also think about the difficulty of traveling where there are no roads, no hotels, no GPS and progress on a good day was 30 miles and am grateful to living in the present.)

It’s kind of a cliffhanger that I’ve left it at – after this winter camp they will venture into truly unknown territory – so yes, I look forward to reading the rest of this adventure. What about you? What adventure did you read about this month?