Hello Challenge Readers!
How is your month of Science reading going? I have to admit, I’m lagging a bit behind. The book I chose (Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler) hasn’t completely grabbed my interest but it’s early yet and I’m going to keep reading. Some books just take time.
If you’re struggling to check off Science in this year’s Challenge, why not try a movie instead? Here are some good ones.
Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightly. Cracking the code the Germans used in World War II was vital to the success of Allies. Even after one of their Enigma machines was captured, untangling the complex code, which changed every day, was next to impossible, until the genius of Alan Turing finds the solution. Based on historical fact, this film is equal parts tense and heartbreaking.
Hidden Figures starring Octavia Spencer and Taraji P. Henson brings us the true story of the African-American women who were vital to the success of NASA and the space race. Struggling against prejudice – both because they were women and because they were African-American – they persevered with courage and stubbornness as well as having brilliant minds.
The Martian with Matt Damon. And exploratory team on Mars leaves Mark behind, believing he was killed in the sudden storm that has forced them to leave. Mark is very much alive and relatively well except, he’s alone on Mars with limited supplies and little hope for rescue. How he copes, using intelligence and ingenuity and sheer pluck makes for a tense and fascinating movie.
The Big Bang Theory television series. I have to admit, I started watching this series quite late in it’s run, but once I did I was hooked and it was easy to catch up with reruns on cable and DVDs from the library. Yes, it’s pretty silly and really, who in their right mind would ever want to live with Sheldon, but it also celebrates intelligence and education and the sciences. The characters all grow and mature over the course of the series (something that doesn’t always happen on tv) and they’re always good for a laugh. Bazinga!
Hello Fellow Readers!
How is August treating you? Have you found something great to read for the month of Art? I’ve already finished my book (Stolen Beauty by Laurie Albanese) which I’ll talk more about at the end of the month, but if you’re still looking, I recommend you take a look at this title.
If you haven’t found anything yet for August and are looking for something relatively quick, I have some movie suggestions for you.
Monuments Men with George Clooney and Matt Damon (and many other famous names) follows the World War II platoon that went into Germany to try and save and recover some of the thousands of art and artifacts stolen by the Nazi’s. Not the greatest film ever made, but the history of this real life group of men (based on fact) is riveting.
Mr Turner stars Timothy Spall as J.M.W. Turner, Britain’s most famous and revered landscape painter. Turner wasn’t exactly the most pleasant fellow, and this film doesn’t gloss that over.
Pollock with Ed Harris depicts the story of Jackson Pollock, the first great American modern painter. With success comes fame and fortune, but a volatile temper and emotional instability brings self-doubt and threatens his life’s work.
Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 10 – “Vincent and the Doctor”. OK, this one is not a movie, but an episode from the television series Doctor Who and even if you’re not a Doctor Who fan (Really? Come on!), this is well worth tracking down. The Doctor and his companion Amy travel back in time and try to help Vincent Van Gogh. He is plagued by terrible visions (which turn out to be a terrible monster from another planet only he can see, but just go with it) While the story is science fiction, the human elements – Van Gogh’s suffering, the Doctor and Amy’s compassion, the impact of Van Gogh’s legacy is brilliant, beautiful and ultimately, heartbreaking. Highly recommended.
How is your Reading Challenge month going? Have you found a great crime novel, or are you still searching? July can be a crazy busy month so if you find yourself short of reading time, or would just like something quick and relaxing, why don’t you try a movie? There are some great options.
The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Maybe the perfect movie with a nuanced plot, a clever scam, amazing acting and great atmosphere (and ragtime music!), this one is hard (impossible!) to beat.
Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio. The ultimate crime – mind theft – comes to life in this amazing, twisty, stylish film. I find it best to just sit back and enjoy the show and not worry too much about all of the plot twists. It’s very much worth the ride!
Catch Me if You Can with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. Based on the true story of a con man and the FBI agent who pursues him, Frank W. Abagnale, Jr. passed himself off as a pilot, a lawyer, and a doctor all before his 21st birthday.
White Collar. This charming television series stars Matt Bomer and Tim DeKay about a con man and an FBI agent that team up to solve white collar crimes. Except, just who’s side is the con man on?
Of course, there are several hundred (ok, I exaggerate!) Law and Order seasons and spin-offs and multiple series about detectives from Miss Marple to Sherlock Holmes. Your choices are almost endless!
Hello Readers! How was your June reading about the movies? Did you find a hidden jewel (reading-wise)? Please let us know.
I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and enjoyed it immensely. I was actually pretty skeptical about this one; the reviews were good, but it’s a subject (the glitz and glamour of Hollywood) that doesn’t really interest me. Boy am I glad I gave it a chance!
Starting during the last days of the Golden era of the Hollywood movie industry when the studios still controlled everything up to and including how each movie star would look and behave, Evelyn is determined to get out of New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and make it big in the movies. She will – and does – do anything to make her dream come true. Blessed with good looks and grim determination, Evelyn schemes and manipulates her way to the top. She’s not always likable, but she is honest and forthright about what she wants and most of the people she uses know exactly what they’re getting (they often benefit too). Evelyn is also talented, a bombshell that can act, and she works very hard.
Of course, there is a price to be paid for this somewhat brutal approach to life. She has, at most, two or three friends, the public make assumptions about her based on scandal sheets and she is unable to be with the one person she does love. Despite the veneer of glamour and money, she does not escape pain or heartbreak – a husband that beats her, another that cheats on her, a difficult relationship with her daughter.
The book devotes a section to each husband. It’s fascinating to see her reasoning for marrying each – some she truly loves, some she marries to further her career, some she marries for convenience. Each marriage reflects a stage of her career, another step in the cultivation of her image. The writing is sharp and snappy and just a bit hard-edged, very fitting for a woman that won’t back down from her dreams despite the odds.
Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?
Challengers! It’s a new month! That means it’s a new subject for our Reading Challenge and this month it’s: Movies!
In many ways, this will be the easiest Challenge month ever – technically, you can simply watch a movie or television show and BAM! you’ve completed the month of June. Remember, there are no Library Police – no one will come knocking on your door and drag you off to Library Jail if you fail to read something heavy and serious! Read/watch something that interests you and enjoy!
That said, if you’d like to explore the world of movies (I’m including television as well), here are a few suggestions for interesting books.
The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is a novel about Hedy Lamarr who, in addition to being a great actress and famous beauty, was a brilliant scientist. Another novelization of a famous actress is Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates, about Marilyn Monroe.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter moves between 1960s Italy and present-day Hollywood and a romance lost and found again.
Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a tense and atmospheric exploration of one of Hollywood’s most famous murders.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel follows a ragtag group of musicians and actors traveling through a not-too-distant dystopian future (I loved this book!)
As always, stop by any Davenport Library location for lots more suggestions on our displays!
I am planning on reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid in which an aging actress tells the story of her career (and all those husbands) It’s getting rave reviews and I have high hopes for a great read.
What about you? What are you planning to read this month?
Hello! How is your reading going with this month’s Reading Challenge subject, Fashion? Have you found something you’re enjoying, or have you hit a dead end? If you’re still looking, here are a couple of movie s to consider.
Phantom Thread with Daniel Day Lewis in his final role before retiring from acting about an exclusive London fashion house in the 1950s.
Coco avant Chanel starring Audrey Tautou about the early life of Coco Chanel and how it influenced and affected her life and career.
McQueen a documentary about the extraordinary life, career and artistry of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.
Dior and I is another documentary, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection as artistic director of the House of Dior.
Hello Challenge Readers!
How is your month of Books about Books going? Have you found something you just can’t put down? Please let us know if you have!
If you’re still struggling to find something for the April Challenge, how about trying a movie? There are some fun ones!
Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Ah, the classic rom-com. A famous actress stumbles into a tiny, quaint bookstore in London, meets the charming and diffident owner and the rest, after the resiquite obstacles are overcome, is history. Lovely.
You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Another classic, this time set in New York City. A major bookstore chain moves into the neighborhood and pushes out the tiny children’s bookstore. It’s a blast-from-the-past with aol and dial-up (and big bookstore chains aren’t doing so well now) but still sweet and funny.
The Princess Bride with Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. It’s a storybook brought to life! One of the best films ever, with lots of scene-stealing funny bits and and an endless supply of great lines.
The Bookshop with Emily Mortimer. In 1959 England, a young widow follows her dream and opens a bookshop in a small, conservative coastal town.
And you can always watch a movie made from/inspired by a book! (The book is almost always better, but that doesn’t mean the movie can’t be fun too) My favorites are some of the many adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, but there is almost a limitless list to choose from!
How is your reading going this month? Have you found something great to read? If you’re still looking, you might want to consider a movie instead. Here are a few ideas.
Ben-Hur starring Charleston Huston set in ancient Rome at the birth of Christianity.
Schindler’s List with Liam Neeson tells the inspiring and heartbreaking story of what one person can do against unfathomable evil.
The Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou. Enjoy a lovely if fantastical scavenger hunt through some beautiful churches and archives.
The Handmaid’s Tale with Elisabeth Moss. A chilling look at a future ruled by a religion-based autocracy.
9/11 starring Charlie Sheen and The Looming Tower with Jeff Daniels, both of which examine the consequences of religious fanaticism and the attack on the United States.
Film lovers, rejoice! Letterboxd is a super-slick social app for tracking your favorite movies! As a lover of film, I found myself wondering where to locate the “Goodreads of film,” and low-and-behold: I found it. Letterboxd gives users the options of importing data from other social sites that you use (IMDB, Delicious, iCheckMovies, etc) if you don’t want to start from scratch. Personally, I have never tracked my favorite movies despite watching several per week! Up until now, IMDB had been my go-to for online film discussion but I view the discussion component of Letterboxd as more robust (though I’ll still turn turn to it for go-to information on actors/actresses and filmography).
Letterboxd describes itself as follows on it’s “About” page:
Letterboxd is a global social network for grass-roots film discussion and discovery. Use it as a diary to record and share your opinion about films as you watch them, or just to keep track of films you’ve seen in the past. Showcase your favorites on your profile page. Rate, review and tag films as you add them. Find and follow your friends to see what they’re enjoying. Keep a watchlist of films you’d like to see, and create lists/collections on any given topic. We’ve been described as “like GoodReads for movies”.
As you begin to navigate the app or site, you’ll notice
You can browse by:
- List: browse lists or create your own! Examples include: 2019 Oscars, From Willem Dafoe to Willem Dafriend, Men/Boys Crying, Transgressive/Weird Films, Praise-worthy, beautiful, mesmerizing, deserving, diversity-bred movies that were made by people with lots of talent with a ton of effort solely for the purpose of making something good that were snubbed over movies made by people with no talent, and Recommendations For Everyone Who Wants To Watch More Movies By Female Directors But Doesn’t Know Where to Start.
- People: Like any other social app, you can browse and track new film by drawing on your network and browsing the lists of other individuals who are using Letterboxd.
- Year: You guessed it. Explore by decade!
- Popularity: Browse by weekly, monthly, yearly, and “all-time” popularity ratings (based on user feedback). This week’s most popular films are: Fyre, Favourite, Glass, Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma, Green Book, Spider Man: Into The Spiderverse, A Star Is Born, Black Klansman, Vice, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Keep in mind that the film most likely to be most popular during the week will be the most current titles where-as the “of all time” category lends itself to a larger historical spectrum: La La Land, Get Out, Mad Max, Pulp Fiction, The Dark Knight, Whiplash, Moonlight, Alien, The Shape of Water, Silence of the Lambs, etc.
- Rating: You’re probably familiar with making decisions based on ratings. I know I am! Browse by Highest & Lowest ratings!In looking at the lowest-rated films listed, I’ve gotta say I’m in agreement with my fellow Letterboxd users as Krampus, for example, was easily among the most terrible movies I’ve ever endured. Definitely don’t recommend.
- Other: This browsing category includes “Most Anticipated”, “Coming Soon” and an A-Z list (or you conduct a good, old-fashioned title search as well).
- Genre: Most genres listed are typical and traditional (Action, Adventure, Western, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction Thriller, Fantasy), so if you’re looking for avante guard, weird/transgressive, cult classics, documentaries, or films made by Black directors, specifically, you might want to have a look at some of the lists or create your own!
Additionally, the sorting feature is pretty cool as you can skip quickly to genre ratings sorted from Highest to Lowest. According to the Letterboxd community, the Top 3 Horror films in order are: Get Out, The Shining, and A Quiet Place. Fun fact: A Quiet Place was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, local Quad Cities natives!.
Film lovers and anyone who wants to discover great (or awful) film should definitely check out Letterboxd and start your film diary so you have your newest recommendations and favorite stand-bys at the ready anytime you’re chatting up friends and fellow film buffs! Check out the Official Letterboxd Top 250 List (updated weekly) to get some inspiration!
Hello Fellow Challengers!
How is the month of February going for you challenge-wise? There have certainly been plenty of snow days which invite lots of cozy reading and movie watching. Unfortunately, it also requires a fair amount of shoveling and scraping-off-the-car time too!
If you’d like some more suggestions for this month’s Food theme, how about trying a movie? There are some great ones!
Ratatouille – Rats in the kitchen is not appealing at all, but somehow Disney makes it adorable. Animated.
The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren. Can two very different restaurants learn to exist across from each other? And even learn from each other?
Chef starring Jon Favreau. A discouraged, out-of-work chef starts a food truck allowing him to regain his creative purpose as well as his estranged family.
Burnt starring Bradley Cooper. A chef who had it all then loses it because of his reckless lifestyle attempts a comeback. A great look at the chaotic professional kitchen.
Food, Inc – A hard look at the industrialization of our nation’s food supply and how it’s affecting farmers, consumer health, worker safety and our environment.