People! Why haven’t you been watching this show? It is one of the best shows on television – ever. And now this ratings-challenged, critically acclaimed show is gone (episodes originally aired on Direct TV; now showing on NBC, the final season is nearly over) Fortunately, the library has the DVDs – learn from the error of your ways and watch Friday Night Lights now.
Let me make this clear right from the start – Friday Night Lights is not about football. OK, sure, there are several scenes with shots of football games, and life in Dillon, Texas seems to revolve around the local high school football teams and the lead character is a football coach. The truth is, this show is about people – how they live, how they fall into and out of love, how they care for other people, how they try to be the best they can with what resources they have. For the younger people, it’s about how you think high school is the be-all and end-all of your life, only to realize it’s barely the beginning and you have some decisions to make that will affect the rest of your life. For the older people, it’s about how those decisions have shaped you and how you’ve learned to live – or not live – with those decisions. It’s poignant and funny and sad and beautiful – kind of like real life.
Brilliant acting (especially Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton), innovative photography, compelling story lines and characters that you can love and understand (even if you think they’re making dumb decisions), Friday Night Lights is both classic and modern, showing us who we are and what we are capable of. The fifth and final season does not disappoint and includes a bittersweet reunion of many of the characters from previous years. Also included in the DVD is a heartfelt retrospective of the series – there won’t be a dry eye in the house after watching this.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a delightful little love story. Judging from the cover art, I was expecting it to take place earlier in the century, but it is definitely set in the present day, in a charming English country village called Edgecomb St. Mary.
Major Pettigrew, though retired, is the personification of a very proper English gentleman, fond of all things British, including a cup of freshly brewed tea. When his brother dies unexpectedly, he is surprised to find himself drawn into a friendship with Mrs. Ali, a local Pakistani shopkeeper. As their friendship develops into something more, they discover that many of their friends and neighbors have trouble accepting their new relationship. Throw is some scenes from some recalcitrant family members and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged drama. Well, okay, it’s not a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, but it is sweet, it is sensitive and it is a refreshingly real love story featuring more “mature” participants. But then, love is not only for the young – and we can all choose to be young at heart.
On his way to dinner with his wife Emily where he intends to ask her for a divorce, Sandy Portman – wealthy, sophisticated, self-centered – is hit by a car and dies. Furious that someone as important as himself should die so young, he makes a deal with the angel sent to retrieve him – a second chance to make things right. The only string attached? He’s coming back as a dog. An old, smelly, not-very-attractive dog to be exact.
Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee is a charming story with both laughs and heartbreak. Now known as Einstein (and as a dog) Sandy struggles to come to terms with who he was as a man. Emily learns to become her own person, not defined by her Mother or sister or husband and to move on with her life. Einstein is very funny and sarcastic (he calls the angel that’s assigned to him “old man”) and Emily’s struggles are realistic. Some might label this as “chick lit”, but the issues are deeper and have more resonance than merely “getting the guy”. This is a love story on several levels, and also a story of forgiveness both of the people in your life and of yourself. You’ll cheer for both Emily and Einstein, because everyone deserves a second chance.
David Levithan is a prolific YA author whose books I normally enjoy, so I was very interested to see that he released his first novel geared towards adults, called The Lover’s Dictionary. The format of this book is very unique, as the story is told in short “dictionary” entries. In each entry, the unnamed narrator defines a word like “ubiquitous”, “autonomy”, and ”idea” by describing profound moments (big and little) in his longtime relationship with a woman, who is also unnamed. Since it’s told through dictionary entries, which are of course alphabetical, the story isn’t told chronologically and it is up to the reader to determine which events happened when. It’s filled with romance, humor, and heartbreak.
The way this story is told reminds me a lot of the movie 500 Days of Summer, which I loved. The mixed-up timeline is interesting and makes sense with the story rather than feeling like a gimmick. It allows Levithan to pair the sad moments in the story with the more lighthearted and fun moments of their relationship, which gives the story a nice balance and feels more realistic. It’s no sugar-coated love story; it feels gritty and real, and Levithan knows how to make you feel it right along with the main character. If you have enjoyed Levithan’s other books or are looking for a unique and realistic love story, I recommend picking up a copy of this book.
Neil Gaiman’s fairy tale novel Stardust is a charming story of love and adventure. Tristran Thorn is a young man who has for years pined away after the most beautiful girl in the village of Wall, Victoria Forester. One night Tristran bravely asks to kiss her, and though she refuses, she tells him that she will fullfill his greatest desire if he can bring her the falling star they just saw. Tristran at once sets off on this journey, which starts with the forbidden action of leaving Wall and venturing into Faerie, a realm filled with creatures and magic Tristran never imagined. Little does Tristran know he has been to Faerie before, and on the course of his adventure he will learn shocking truths about his heritage, as well as what it means to find true love.
This book was an absolute joy to read. It has a little bit of something for everyone: romance, action, adventure, humor, and so much more. There are a lot of storylines that don’t initally seem to be related (Tristran’s journey to find the star, an old witch looking to restore her youth, brothers fighting over who will rule their kingdom now that their father has passed, and a woman selling glass flowers at the local faerie market), but they all come together beautifully in the end. Gaiman does a lovely job of crafting a new and unique world, and the details really make both Wall and Faerie come alive. I recommend Stardust to anyone who loved fairy tales in their youth, because Gaiman has done a great job at creating one for grown-ups.
Would you rather have a romantic night at home for Valentine’s Day instead of going out in the cold? Check out any of these romantic movies at the library for the perfect Valentine’s Day date!
Casablanca – The timeless story of a nightclub owner and the one who got away back in World War II.
The Notebook - One of my favorites! An elderly gentleman tells the story of a summer romance between two teens.
Love Actually – Intertwining stories about Brits in love. Funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking all at once. A modern classic.
Pride and Prejudice – The classic novel brought to life with Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett, falling in love where she least expected it. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this one.
When Harry Met Sally – Can a man and a woman just be friends? That’s the question at the heart of this iconic rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.
Shakespeare in Love – The fictionalized story of a young Shakespeare who, while suffering from writer’s block, finds love with beautiful actress Viola.
Dirty Dancing – Because let’s face it, we’ve all imagined ourselves doing that dance at the end.
Now it’s your turn – what’s your favorite romantic movie?
Devastated and haunted by guilt after the death of her best friend, Phoebe Swift breaks off her engagement, quits her job at Sotheby’s and starts over by opening a vintage clothing store in London in A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff.
Phoebe’s new shop soon takes off and she’s kept busy with customers and finding and purchasing new stock. This includes navigating auctions at Sotheby’s, assessing treasures her dealer in America finds, and meeting directly with owners of vintage clothes. Part of the fascination of this book is the peek behind the scenes – the work and skill and knowledge required to run such a shop from assessing the quality of fabric and workmanship, to understanding how an old dress can be fashionable again, with or without changes. Phoebe’s work brings her into contact with various people with a wide range of interests – vineyards to classic Hollywood cinema to Paris during World War II.
Light but not frothy, this charming book may be just the antidote for those “life changing” books on your list that we’re all supposed to be reading. Here, there’s a little romance, some mystery, interesting characters, history (nicely tied to the vintage clothing that Phoebe deals with) all in lovely settings in London and France. Just the ticket for something fun to read.
In Heart of the Matter, the latest novel by the popular Emily Giffin, Tessa is a former professor turned stay-at-home mom. Her husband, Nick, is a renown pediatric surgeon, and in all appearances, the two seem to enjoy a charmed life. On an evening out to celebrate their anniversary, Nick is suddenly called away to attend to a six-year old burn victim. The boy’s mother, Valerie, is a high-powered attorney and a single parent, and though both families live in the same Boston suburb, the women seem to have little in common. In the course of caring for Charlie, through several skin grafts and other surgeries, Nick ‘s devotion to his work soon becomes complicated by his attraction to Valerie. Meanwhile, Tessa is left on the home front, trying to figure out why Nick is suddenly so distant, and imagining the worst scenario.
Giffin claims that she draws from her own personal experiences and this seems evident in the relationship the women have with their friends and other characters in the novel. For example, the subtle judgment and conflict often felt by both career women and their soccer-mom counterparts is realistically portrayed. Plus, one can’t help but wonder if Giffin used her own career days as an attorney in Manhattan to help flesh-out Valerie’s personality. In all, an enjoyable read, with believable characters caught in untenable circumstances.
In the searing debut novel The Lotus Eaters, author Tatjana Soli captures the devastation of war-torn Vietnam from 1963-1975, but also beautifully balances it with complex relationships and passionate romance.
Helen Adams has dropped out of college to come to Vietnam to work as a freelance photographer and to find answers about her brother’s death. She soon falls in love with a charismatic Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer, who takes her under his wing. As a female covering combat in this age of new-found womens liberation, Helen’s gender draws as much attention as does her cover-quality work. But Helen, just like the lotus eaters in Homer’s Odyssey, finds herself unwilling or unable to leave, even in the final chaotic days of the U.S. military’s evacuation from the conflict.
There’s romance (with two very different men) — there’s danger (with every mine-filled step) and there’s that anxious tension that keeps you hoping for their survival right up to the very end. The book is thoroughly researched (it includes a lengthy bibliography) with a perspective that only 40 plus years of history could provide.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that until recently, I had no idea that the movie The Princess Bride was a book first. So this is one of those rare instances where I saw the movie before I read the book. Typically that hinders my enjoyment of the book, but I can solidly say that this wasn’t the case with The Princess Bride.
Everyone knows how the movie The Princess Bride goes: Buttercup realizes she loves the farmboy Westley just as he is about to leave the country to make a name and fortune for himself. After receiving word that he is dead, and knowing she will never love again, she agrees to marry the dreadful Prince Humperdink. When Buttercup is kidnapped shortly after the announcement of their engagement, the story pushes forward with adventure, romance, and many surprises and beloved characters along the way. It’s fun, romantic, and easily quotable. I know I’m not the only person who at any mention of the movie must say, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
I’m happy to say that even though I saw the movie first, I found the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman even more enjoyable. The movie followed the book’s plot very closely, but the book has lots of valuable extra detail and backstory that you miss out on in the movie. The book also included many fun little asides by the author, who wrote the book as though it’s an abridgement of a classic tale. His little notes peppered in about what parts were so dreadful he had to cut them out and what happened when the original tale was read to him as a child made the book such a fun read that I couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking for a book with a little bit of everything (humor, adventure, sword fights, romance, and so much more), I highly recommend checking out this book and then watching the very faithful film adaptation.