It’s so lovely when a novel can turn a well-worn trope into a fresh, lively story. Just as she did with time travel in The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger turns cliches into something more in Her Fearful Symmetry. The story follows 21 year old twins Julia and Valentina, who inherit their aunt Elspeth’s London flat and fortune on the condition that they live in the dwelling, without their parents or any other chaperone, for one year. The catch: Elspeth, mute and invisible, has clung to her flat and haunts it – and she’s getting stronger every day. Don’t groan! It sounds horribly cliched – identical twins; an inheritance contingent upon ridiculous demands; London; ghosts – but it’s so much more than it seems. Elspeth is the estranged twin sister of Julia and Valentina’s mother, Edie; the elder sisters have a history of secrets that Niffenegger unravels throughout the tale. Even more impressive is the host of delightful secondary characters: Martin, an obsessive-compulsive neighbor who writes crossword puzzles for a living, and his estranged wife Marijke (pronounced Mah-RYE-Kuh); Robert, a cemetery historian and Elspeth’s former lover; even the white kitten the twins adopt has personality and verve. They call him “The Little Kitten of Death.”

It’s a beautiful, unusual tale that unfolds slowly and doesn’t pander to the reader. Both of Niffenegger’s novels tell the stories of ordinary, although perhaps quite unusual, people who must find a way to navigate a frightening, supernatural situation. She tells the tale at the pace she wants, rather than dropping in action sequences and extra dialog where they don’t belong. If you liked the style of The Time Traveler’s Wife, you’ll be pulled in by this ghostly, ethereal tale. I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was excellent in that format; a perfect companion for rainy springtime commutes!

March 6

Footloose – Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid

Ren MacCormack moves from Boston to the small town of Bomont, where loud music and dancing are prohibited. Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizes the town, and falls in love with the minister’s troubled daughter, Ariel. Rated PG-13

March 13

Melancholia – Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard

In this beautifully filmed movie about the end of the world, Justine and Michael are celebrating their marriage. A planet called Melancholia is heading directly toward Earth and threatening to collide. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting and relationships are fraying as the family deals with their fears. Rated R

My Week with Marilyn – Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne

In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, the film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. When his diary account was published, one week was missing. This is the story of that week: an idyll in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work. Rated R

March 20

The Muppets – Jason Siegel, Kermit-the-Frog, Miss Piggy, Amy Adams

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage the Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary, and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets. Rated PG

J Edgar – Leonardo DiCaprio

J. Edgar Hoover was head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. Hoover was feared, admired, reviled, and revered, a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted prize. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career, and his life. Rated R

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig

Hoping to distance himself from the fallout of a libel conviction, journalist Mikael Blomkvist retreats to a remote island where the unsolved murder of a young girl still haunts her industrialist uncle forty years later.  Blomkvist’s investigation draws him into the secrets and lies of the rich and powerful, and throws him together with one unlikely ally: tattooed, punk hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Rated R.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Gary Oldman, Colin Firth

At the height of the Cold War, a precarious operation goes deadly wrong, and the head of British Intelligence wonders if a double agent is leaking vital secrets. Brought out of retirement to expose the potential mole, master spy George Smiley is the only one who can be trusted to expose one of their own. Or can he? Rated R

 

 

Hillary Jordan’s novel When She Woke is often described as a new dystopian take on The Scarlet Letter.  It is set in a future where an epidemic has left the majority of women sterile and abortion has been made illegal to prevent a declining population.  Prisons are also wildly overcrowded, so to remedy this, criminals who aren’t considered dangerous to society are not locked up but are instead “melachromed”: their skin is dyed so that their crime is instantly recognizable to the population.

The novel’s main character, Hannah Payne, is a very religious young woman who broke the law by having an abortion in order to protect the baby’s father, world-famous Reverend Aidan Dale.  Hannah is caught and tried, and she wakes up a the beginning of the novel with scarlet red skin.  The book flashes back to how she ended up in this position and how she deals with entering society as a an outcast due to the color of her skin and the nature of her crime.

This book was very compelling, so much so that I found it a little painful to have to put it down at times.  It’s a very interesting take on a futuristic society; it’s unique, but not so out-there that you can never imagine it happening.  This might even be a fun pick for a book club because its controversial nature could bring up some very lively discussion!

February 11

Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn – Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

In the highly anticipated fourth installment of the Twilight Saga, a marriage, a honeymoon, and the birth of a child bring unforeseen and shocking developments for Bella and Edward and those they love, including new complications with young werewolf Jacob Black

Paranormal Activity 3 – Katie Featherston,  Molly Ephriam

In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home.

Rum Diary – Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckart

Tired of the noise and madness of New York, journalist Paul Kemp moves to Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper. Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Kemp becomes obsessed with the fiancee of Sanderson, a businessman involved in shady property development deals. When he is recruited by Sanderson to write favorably about his latest unsavory scheme, Kemp is presented with the choice to use his words for the corrupt businessman’s financial benefit, or use them to take him down.

Take Shelter – Michael Shannon, Jessia Chastain

Curtis LaForche lives in a small town in Ohio with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Hannah, a six-year-old deaf girl. When Curtis begins to have terrifying dreams, he keeps the visions to himself, channeling his anxiety into obsessively building a storm shelter in his backyard. His inexplicable behavior concerns those closest to him, but the resulting strain on his marriage and tension within his community can’t compare with Curtis’s privately held fear of what his dreams may truly signify.

February 21

Tower Heist – Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller

Queens native Josh Kovacs has managed one of the most luxurious and well-secured residences in New York City for more than a decade. Under his watchful eye, nothing goes undetected. In the swankiest unit atop Josh’s building, Wall Street titan Arthur Shaw is under house arrest after being caught stealing two billion from his investors. The hardest hit among those he defrauded? The tower staffers whose pensions he was entrusted to manage.

 

 

posted by Liza

Recently, the Eastern Avenue Branch book club, Between the Lines, read Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The Bridge tells the story of the deaths of a group of people who were standing on a legendary rope bridge when it collapsed. The rich characters include two young twins divided by a woman, a famous actress known worldwide and her descent into madness, and a monk who tries to make sense of the disaster. The novel tells the story as it happened, before it happened, and after it happened.

I was pleasantly surprised by Wilder’s winning novel. I remember reading Our Town in high school and thinking it was overly sentimental and sappy. What shocked me in doing research about The Bridge was that many people in Wilder’s day thought The Bridge was too optimistic and not literary enough. Now, I know times are different from the 1920s when Wilder crafted this tale, but I found it hard to think a book in which half a dozen people die in the first paragraph is too optimistic. Perhaps in the age of prohibition and flappers it was.

Wilder based the Peruvian tale on an actual bridge in South America, and his ability to capture a sense of place is remarkable. While Wilder did travel to Peru, he did so many years after writing The Bridge. Yet, it’s not hard to imagine the llamas, see the mountains, and fully feel the emotions of the characters, many of whom were based on real historical figures. I’m not adding The Bridge to my list of most favorite novels, but I have to say that this novel held my attention and interest much longer than Our Town.

Maybe it was the llamas.

January 3rd

Hangover Part II – Bradley Cooper,   Zach Galifianakis,

Two years after the bachelor party in Las Vegas, Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug jet to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Stu’s plan for a subdued pre-wedding brunch, however, goes seriously awry. (R)

 

 

The Guard – Don Cheadle, Brendon Gleeson

An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. (R)

January 10

Moneyball – Brad Pitt,  Johan Hill

The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players. (PG-13)

 

 

January 13

Ides of March – George Clooney,  Ryan Gosling

During the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency. (R)

January 24

Real Steel– Hugh Jackman,  Evangeline Lilly

Charlie Kenton is a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring. Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build and train a championship contender. (PG-13)

  

January 31

Drive–  Ryan Gosling,  Carey Mulligan

Driver is a Hollywood stunt driver by day, and moonlights as a top-notch getaway driver for hire in the criminal underworld. He finds himself a target for some of LA’s most dangerous men after agreeing to aid the husband of his beautiful neighbor, Irene. When the job goes dangerously awry, the only way he can keep Irene and her son alive is to do what he does best, Drive! (R)

 

More best books from our Blogging Librarians! Michelle and Lexie kind of cheated since they each picked two titles; however, they’re both so good at picking books we don’t mind a bit.

Michelle starts with a mystery. “Louise Penny’s quirky, yet endearing characters make A Trick of the Light one of my favorite mysteries of the year. Penny’s clever writing style combined with her main character, the legendary Inspector Armand Gamache, make for a superb mystery book (and the latest release in the series)”. Read more in her blog post from earlier this year.

A fiction book is Michelle’s second pick. “Katie Lee’s debut work of fiction, Groundswell was a favorite beach read in 2011. Groundswell follows a main character who becomes caught up in the glitz and glamour of stardom only then to discover what is important in life after a traumatic event”. Michelle’s blog post about this book is here.

Lexie says go big or go home with George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire. “An epic fantasy series set in a land where seasons can last for decades. The series is filled with political intrigue, plenty of shocking plot twists, romance, and engaging characters who don’t fit into a traditional mold of good or evil. This complex world that Martin created has become an absolute obsession for me; the fifth book was just released in July and I’m already eagerly anticipating the next installment”. Read more from Lexie about it in her earlier blog post.

Her second pick is Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. “31-year-old “carer” Kathy looks back on her youth, which was spent in an isolated English boarding school with her two best friends and plenty of secrets. This book is haunting and incredibly thought-provoking. I couldn’t put it down once I started, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it once I finished”. Lexie blogged about it here.

December 2

Friends with Benefits – Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis

While trying to avoid the cliches of Hollywood romantic comedies, Dylan and Jamie soon discover that adding the act of sex to their friendship does lead to complications.

 

 

The Smurfs – Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris

When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the tiny blue Smurfs out of their village, they’re forced through a portal, out of their world and into ours, landing in the middle of New York’s Central Park.

 

December 6

The Help – Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard

Mississippi during the 1960s: Skeeter, a southern society girl, returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives, and a small Mississippi town, upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. Aibileen, Skeeter’s best friend’s housekeeper, is the first to open up, to the dismay of her friends in the tight-knit black community.

 

Cowboys and Aliens – Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford

The Old West.. where a lone cowboy leads an uprising against a terror from beyond our world. 1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don’t welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde. It’s a town that lives in fear.

 

December 13

Kung Fu Panda 2 – Jack Black, Angelina Jolie

Po is now living his dream as the Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins in order to able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes – John Lithgow, James Franco, Frieda Pinto

During experiments to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, a genetically enhanced chimpanzee uses its greater intelligence to lead other apes to freedom.

 

 

 

 

November 1

Water for Elephants – Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson

Against all odds, a veterinary student and a beautiful circus performer from a bygone era meet and fall in love through their shared compassion for a special elephant. But their secret romance incurs the wrath of her dangerously volatile husband. Rated PG – 13

 

Cars 2

Star racecar Lightning McQueen and the incomparable tow truck Mater take their friendship on the road from Radiator Springs to exciting new places when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours, and hilarious surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage! Rated G

 

November 8

Change – up – Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds

Growing up together, Mitch and Dave were inseparable best friends, but slowly drifted apart. While Dave is an overworked lawyer, husband, and father of three, Mitch has remained a single, quasi-employed man-child. Both guys seem to think the other has it made. Following a drunken night out together, Mitch and Dave’s worlds are turned upside down when they wake up in each other’s bodies. The guys soon discover that each other’s lives are nowhere near as rosy as they once seemed. Rated R

November 15

Larry Crowne – Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts

When he suddenly finds himself without his long-standing blue-collar job, Larry Crowne enrolls at his local college to start over. There he becomes part of an eclectic community of students and develops a crush on his teacher. Now this simple guy will discover that when you think everything worth having has passed you by, you just might find your reason to live. Rated PG 13

Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides – Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush

A tale of truth, betrayal, youth, demise, and mermaids! When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past, he’s not sure if it’s love, or if she’s a ruthless con artist using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. Forced aboard the ship of the most feared pirate ever, Jack doesn’t know who to fear more, Blackbeard or the woman from his past. Rated PG 13. (WILL NOT BE RELEASED TO LIBRARY UNTIL DECEMBER 9)

November 22

Sarah’s Key – Kristin Scott Thomas

In modern-day Paris, a journalist finds her life becoming entwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel d’Hiv roundup, which took place in Paris, in 1942. She stumbles upon a family secret which will link her forever to the destiny of a young Jewish girl, Sarah. Rated PG 13

 

Super 8 – Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning

In the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witnesses a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon they suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local deputy tries to uncover the truth, something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined. Rated PG 13

 

 

 

 

 

Did all the hubbub over the Emmy awards make you want to check out some of the winners?  We have lots of them available for checkout at the library!  Stop by to pick one up or click the links to place holds on them today!

Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family (featuring Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series winner Ty Burrell and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series winner Julie Bowen)

Outstanding Drama Series: Mad Men (read my review of the series here)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series:  Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:  Kyle Chandler for Friday Night Lights (read Ann’s review of the series here)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series:  Margo Martindale for Justified

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series:  Juliana Margulies for The Good Wife

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie:  Downton Abbey (featuring Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie winner Maggie Smith. Read Ann’s review of the series here)

Check back later for additional winners Mike & Molly, Game of Thrones, and Mildred Pierce.